NBArank 2023: Player rankings for 2023-24, from 50 to 11

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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

NBArank is back for its 13th season counting down the best players in the league.

Which stars made and missed the cut? Which rookies are already making noise in the top 100? Where did MVP contenders such as Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and reigning winner Joel Embiid check in?

Where did LeBron James land as he enters season No. 21?

To get the final NBArank prediction, we asked our expert panel to vote on player vs. player matchups from more than 15,000 possible pairings. Voters were asked, "Which player will be better in 2023-24?" and had to predict how each player will perform this season.

One Tuesday, our countdown kicked off with players Nos. 100-51and continues with Nos. 50-11, a list that includes two thirds of the new big three in Phoenix, a former MVP guard and one of the most-hyped rookies in NBA history.

Note: ESPN's NBArank panel, comprising nearly 150 reporters, editors, producers and analysts, was asked to rank players based on their predicted contributions -- quality and quantity -- for the 2023-24 season only.

No. 50: Jarrett Allen

Cleveland Cavaliers | C

2022 NBArank: 52

Why he rose two spots:Allen remains a throwback center in today's jump-shooting NBA. But so long as the league has a handful of dominant big men still playing with a more traditional approach to the 5 in Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid, Allen will be a coveted player to try to stop them.

Swing skill: Cleveland went 13-3 last season in games Allen recorded at least 10 rebounds and two blocks. Allen missed 14 games and the Cavs still finished No. 1 in defensive rating, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions. The more he can stay on the court and be aggressive protecting the paint, the higher the Cavaliers can climb.

-- Dave McMenamin

No. 49: Deandre Ayton

Portland Trail Blazers | C

2022 NBArank: 51

Why he rose two spots: Drafted as the No. 2 option in Phoenix behind Devin Booker, Ayton saw his touches diminish more and more as Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and finally, Kevin Durant, were added to the mix. He should be more of a focal point in Portland.

One game to watch in 2023-24: Nov. 21 at Phoenix. The Blazers visit the Suns a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and Ayton will get his first chance to feast against his former team. The former No. 1 pick helped the Suns reach their first NBA Finals in nearly 30 years in 2021, but the blockbuster trade that sent Ayton to Portland could work out for both sides, as the developing 25-year-old center will surely get more touches now than he would have with the win-now Suns squad.

-- McMenamin

No. 48: LaMelo Ball

Charlotte Hornets | PG

2022 NBArank:41

Why he fell seven spots: A series of ankle injuries limited Ball to 36 games and dropped the Hornets toward the cellar. Ball's per-game stats improved from 2021-22, when he made his All-Star debut at age 20, but he inevitably suffered what ESPN's Zach Lowe described as a "looseness" to his game at both ends.

Why he could exceed his ranking: Ball has healed up and just recently turned 22, an age at which players develop rapidly. With the return of Miles Bridges (after his 10-game suspension for pleading no contest on a felony charge of domestic violence), Ball will have more support. He's an easy bet to move up next year.

-- Kevin Pelton

No. 47: Victor Wembanyama

San Antonio Spurs | PF

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he debuts at No. 47: Wembanyama is unlike any prospect we've seen enter the NBA. Wembanyama averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in the French Pro A League last season on his way to winning MVP honors. Still, how much of that translates to the NBA right away remains to be seen.

One huge question for the season: How exactly will the Spurs use Wembanyama? Coach Gregg Popovich said one of the cool questions to be answered in training camp is figuring out if Wembanyama is a power forward, center or even a small forward. Wembanyama said there are no limitations on his role. What's clear is that San Antonio will use the rookie in different ways.

-- Andrew Lopez

No. 46: Khris Middleton

Milwaukee Bucks | SF

2022 NBArank: 31

Why he fell 15 spots: Injuries derailed Middleton's 2022-23 season from the start. He did not play in his first game until December and played in just 33 games, never quite looking like the three-time All-Star Bucks fans had grown accustomed to in recent seasons. Yet, he returns to Milwaukee on a new three-year contract hoping for a bounce-back season.

Why he could exceed his ranking: Staying on the floor will be a key factor for Middleton this season if he wants to climb back up this list. But his role in Milwaukee will also be much different this year after the team acquired Damian Lillard. Middleton can slide into his wing position as the No. 3 option and should benefit from the enormous attention Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo will command.

-- Jamal Collier

No. 45: Julius Randle

New York Knicks | PF

2022 NBArank: 71

Why he rose 26 spots: Randle bounced back from a disappointing 2021-22 season by once again making the All-Star and All-NBA teams and helping the Knicks not only return to the playoffs for a second time in three years, but win a playoff series for the first time in a decade.

Swing skill: Randle's efficiency has yo-yoed from year to year with the Knicks. In the two years he has made the All-Star team, he has had an effective field goal percentage of over 50. In the year in between, it was under 46%, and the Knicks missed the playoffs. With how much he'll continue to have the ball under coach Tom Thibodeau, remaining an at least somewhat efficient player is going to be crucial for the Knicks to replicate last year's success.

-- Tim Bontemps

No. 44: CJ McCollum

New Orleans Pelicans | SG

2022 NBArank: 45

Why he rose one spot:McCollum stays close to where he was a season ago simply because of the consistency he has shown throughout his NBA career. McCollum has averaged 20.0 PPG or more in eight consecutive seasons -- yet he hasn't been named an All-Star.

Why he could exceed this ranking: McCollum has had the longest offseason of his NBA career. For the first time, his team didn't make the playoffs. Both Pelicans executive David Griffin and coach Willie Green have talked about the outstanding shape McCollum has entered camp in.

-- Lopez

No. 43: James Harden

Philadelphia 76ers | PG

2022 NBArank: 11

Why he fell 32 spots: Harden led the NBA in assists for the second time in his career last season, forming a potent partnership with Joel Embiid. But he lacked the same sort of burst he displayed earlier in his career as a scorer, and Philadelphia once again saw its season end in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Boston Celtics. Harden's trade request and uncertain future with the 76ers makes predicting the former MVP's impact this season a tricky task.

One huge question for the season: This one is simple: Where is Harden going to play this season? So far, it appears he will be in Philadelphia, despite asking for a trade away from the 76ers and calling the team's president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey, a "liar" this summer. But if Harden is on the court and engaged with the 76ers, they have a chance to compete with Milwaukee and Boston atop the East.

-- Bontemps

No. 42: Tyrese Maxey

Philadelphia 76ers | PG

2022 NBArank: 44

Why he rose two spots: Maxey continued his impressive start to his career by eclipsing 20 PPG for the first time in his career and once again improving both his 3-point percentage (43.4) and his attempt rate (6.2 per game). If he can make a leap yet again this season, he could put himself in contention for an All-Star spot.

One huge question for the season:What will Maxey's role be this season? Not surprisingly, that answer is tied in part to the fate of Harden in Philadelphia. If Harden is around, Maxey will remain in a role as a secondary playmaker focused more on scoring. If Harden is either traded or not playing, however, Maxey will need to take significant steps forward as a playmaker for Philadelphia to remain a threat in the East. Improvement in that area is something he has stated as a goal for this season, and worked on this summer.

-- Bontemps

No. 41: Klay Thompson

Golden State Warriors | SG

2022 NBArank: 37

Why he fell four spots:Thompson didn't drop in the rankings because of a down year. He did have a slow start to the season, but he led the league with 301 made 3-pointers. For Thompson, it's about adapting his game as he gets older and as other guards come up in the league.

One huge question for the season: Can he make the kind of defensive impact he used to? Thompson used to be an elite two-way player. And no, it's not entirely fair to compare the pre-ACL and Achilles-injured Thompson to who he is now, but his defense will be very important. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he expects Thompson to guard opposing 4s more often this year, so if he can battle bigger players with the same tenacity he used to have and pair it with his shooting, the Warriors will have a major boost.

-- Kendra Andrews

No. 40: Evan Mobley

Cleveland Cavaliers | PF

2022 NBArank: 36

Why he fell four spots: After looking like a future superstar during his rookie campaign, Mobley was solid in his sophomore season but didn't unlock a new level to his game as quickly as the Cavs hoped.

Why he could exceed this ranking: Mobley's statistics improved across the board from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign, and the 7-footer is still only 22 years old. After the Cavs' roster improved around the margins in the offseason, adding Max Strus and Georges Niang, Mobley's efficiency should only get sharper with those floor spacers making it harder for opposing defenses to pack the paint to stop him.

-- McMenamin

No. 39: DeMar DeRozan

Chicago Bulls | SF

2022 NBArank: 28

Why he fell 11 spots: It would have been hard for DeRozan to follow up on a career year during his first season in Chicago, but DeRozan was still an All-Star in his second season with the Bulls. However, the Bulls did not win at the same level as they did two seasons ago.

One huge question for his season: DeRozan is entering the final season of his contract with the Bulls, although both he and the team have expressed interest in an extension. However, if the Bulls do not have more success this season after missing the playoffs in 2022-23, will DeRozan's tenure in Chicago continue?

-- Collier

No. 38: Zach LaVine

Chicago Bulls | SG

2022 NBArank: 27

Why he fell 11 spots: LaVine was not himself at the start of last season after undergoing offseason knee surgery and did not play with the same offensive punch for most of the first half. But he picked it up after the All-Star break, averaging 27-5-4 down the stretch to get the Bulls into the play-in tournament.

One game to watch in 2023-24: Nov. 18 vs. Miami. It's the first chance the Bulls have to face the Heat after losing in the second play-in game. The Heat claimed the No. 8 seed as a result and went on to upset the top-seeded Bucks en route to the NBA Finals. Despite an excellent showing in the 9-10 play-in game win over Toronto, LaVine struggled against Miami.

-- Collier

No. 37: Bradley Beal

Phoenix Suns | SG

2022 NBArank: 19

Why he fell 18 spots: Beal went from being the No. 1 option with the Wizards to No. 3 for the Suns. His willingness and ability to sacrifice for the greater good will dictate whether this ranking was fair.

New face in new place: Beal left the Washington Wizards just 160 points behind Elvin Hayes as the franchise's all-time leading scorer. He was Washington's sun, moon and stars for years. Now he's going to have to fit into a constellation that also includes Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. The title expectations should be a welcome change for Beal after he won only three playoff series in 11 seasons with the Wizards.

-- McMenamin

No. 36: Darius Garland

Cleveland Cavaliers | PG

2022 NBArank: 46

Why he rose 10 spots: Still just 23 years old, Garland has improved each of his first four seasons in the league. He was one of just six players in the NBA last season to average at least 21.6 points and 7.8 assists per game.

Swing skill: Garland has hit the fifth-most 3s from 30 feet or beyond in league history, according to Stat Mamba, joining a group that includes LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Trae Young and Damian Lillard. That ability to stretch the floor and extend the defense also sets him up as a playmaker, as he's able to put the ball on the floor and find teammates when his defender overcommits (his 7.8 APG ranked 10th in the NBA).

-- McMenamin

No. 35: Ja Morant

Memphis Grizzlies | PG

2022 NBArank: 9

Why he fell 26 spots: Morant's off-court issues have overshadowed his brilliant play on the floor. He missed out on an All-NBA selection last season -- and the supermax contract escalator it would have earned -- in large part because he served an eight-game suspension. He'll serve a 25-game suspension to start the season.

One game to watch in 2023-24: Dec. 19 at New Orleans, a game that was circled as soon as the schedule came out. That is the Grizzlies' 26th game of the season and Morant's debut, barring any more missteps that commissioner Adam Silver determines merit further disciplinary action.

-- Tim MacMahon

No. 34: Kyrie Irving

Dallas Mavericks | PG

2022 NBArank: 33

Why he fell one spot: A team-issued suspension and Brooklyn's eventual granting of Irving's trade request added to the eight-time All-Star's turbulent track record. But he remains one of the NBA's most skilled and productive guards, averaging 27.1 points and 5.5 APG with a 61.3 true shooting percentage last season.

One huge question for the season: Can Irving impact winning in Dallas? It didn't happen after his arrival in a midseason trade last season, when the Mavs fell from the middle of the West playoff pack to the lottery following the blockbuster deal with Brooklyn. Dallas has upgraded the supporting cast around Luka Doncic and Irving, especially defensively, and expects to be elite offensively with that duo leading the way.

-- MacMahon

No. 33: Mikal Bridges

Brooklyn Nets | SF

2022 NBArank: 49

Why he rose 16 spots: Already valuable for his defense and spot-up shooting, Bridges added shot creation -- which accelerated after he was traded to Brooklyn. Already averaging a career-high 17.2 PPG in Phoenix, Bridges pushed that to 26.1 with the Nets, which would have ranked 16th in the NBA.

Swing skill: Late-game scoring. Bridges played well in Brooklyn, but the missing piece was maintaining his shot creation down the stretch. In 36 clutch minutes (score within five in the last five minutes of regulation or OT) after the trade, Bridges scored 11 points on 2-of-9 shooting, per NBA Advanced Stats.

-- Pelton

No. 32: Jalen Brunson

New York Knicks | PG

2022 NBArank: 67

Why he rose 35 spots: Brunson was everything the Knicks ever could have hoped for -- and then some -- after joining them as a free agent from the Dallas Mavericks last summer. He set career-highs across the board, led the Knicks to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade and established himself as one of the biggest stars in the Big Apple.

Swing skill: After shooting 41.6% from 3-point range on more than 4.7 attempts per game -- a career-high -- if Brunson can again boost his 3-point rate, it will give him a chance to exceed his career year last season. After bumping his stats up across the board last season while taking on a bigger role, the goal for Brunson will be to prove he can do all of it again.

-- Bontemps

No. 31: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Memphis Grizzlies | PF

2022 NBArank: 53

Why he rose 22 spots: Jackson made his first All-Star appearance, became the second-youngest Defensive Player of the Year winner and had by far the best offensive season of his career. At age 23, Jackson put up career-best numbers in scoring (18.6 PPG) and rebounding (6.8), and led the league in blocked shots (3.0).

Why he could exceed this ranking: Jackson has plenty of room to grow offensively and will get a lot of opportunity, especially while Morant serves his suspension for the first 25 games of the season. Jackson averaged 23.5 points in his last 18 games of 2022-23, shooting 53.2% from the floor and 39.3% from 3-point range in that span.

-- MacMahon

No. 30: Paolo Banchero

Orlando Magic | PF

2022 NBArank: 82

Why he rose 52 spots: Banchero became the first No. 1 pick since Ben Simmons in 2017-18 to win Rookie of the Year, leading all first-year players with 20 PPG. Banchero especially excelled at drawing fouls. He was just the third rookie this century to average more than seven free throw attempts per game (7.4).

One game to watch in 2023-24: Jan. 13 at Oklahoma City. Chet Holmgren's Lisfranc injury -- suffered playing alongside Banchero in the CrawsOver pro-am -- prevented us from seeing the top two picks of last year's draft square off as rookies. This will be their first meeting since Banchero's Duke beat Holmgren's Gonzaga in November 2021.

-- Pelton

No. 29: Trae Young

Atlanta Hawks | PG

2022 NBArank: 16

Why he fell 13 spots: While Young saw an uptick in his assists to a career-best 10.2 per game, his efficiency was not the same with his field goal (42.9%) and 3-point percentages (33.5%) dropping to lows he hadn't seen since his rookie season.

One game to watch in 2023-24: March 5 at the Knicks. Broadway Trae makes only one visit to Madison Square Garden this season. After his playoff performance in 2021, Young's games visiting the Knicks are must-see TV. Young struggled there last season -- 17 points on 7-of-22 shooting and 19 points on 9-of-20 shooting -- but the promise of Young putting on a show is always there.

-- Lopez

No. 28: Lauri Markkanen

Utah Jazz | PF

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he rose from unranked: Markkanen emerged as an All-Star and earned the NBA's Most Improved Player award in his first season in Utah. His scoring average soared to 25.6 PPG, an increase of 10.8, which was the biggest jump in the league last season. His 16 30-point outings were one more than he had in his first five seasons combined.

Swing skill: Markkanen proved last season that he's an all-around scorer, not just a 3-point threat, but that's still his best skill. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Markkanen became the first 7-footer ever to make at least 200 3s in a season, and he did so while shooting 39.2% from beyond the arc.

-- MacMahon

No. 27: Brandon Ingram

New Orleans Pelicans | SF

2022 NBArank: 29

Why he rose two spots: Despite his performance in the FIBA World Cup, there's some confidence that Ingram's NBA performance last season (24.7 points, 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds on .484/.390/.882 splits) will carry into the 2023-24 season. That player could be an All-NBA type if he stays on the court for more than 45 games like he did a season ago.

Why he could exceed his ranking: Here are the only players to put up the numbers Ingram did a season ago with the same shooting splits: Larry Bird (four times) and Stephen Curry. If Ingram stays healthy, he could return to being an All-Star like he was in 2019-20, his first season in New Orleans.

-- Lopez

No. 26: Jrue Holiday

Boston Celtics | PG

2022 NBArank: 26

Why his ranking was unchanged: Holiday remained a steady two-way presence in 2022-23, emerging as Milwaukee's No. 2 option with Khris Middleton hampered by injuries, while remaining one of the league's best perimeter defenders.

New face in new place: After three years and a championship in Milwaukee, Holiday is now a member of the Boston Celtics. Holiday slots right into the point guard spot occupied by Marcus Smart for years and should be a strong complement next to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on both sides of the ball.

-- Collier

No. 25: Pascal Siakam

Toronto Raptors | PF

2022 NBArank: 30

Why he rose five spots: Siakam led the NBA in minutes per game for a second consecutive season, putting up another impressive stat line while just missing out on an All-NBA spot -- one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season in Toronto that ended with a loss to the Bulls in the play-in tournament.

One huge question for the season: After Fred VanVleet left the Raptors as a free agent last summer, the fact that Siakam is entering the final year of his contract is going to be an ongoing storyline in Toronto this season. If the Raptors struggle under first-year coach Darko Rajakovic, Siakam's future -- and whether he'll be in Toronto after the trade deadline -- could easily become a big theme.

-- Bontemps

No. 24: Kawhi Leonard

LA Clippers | SF

2022 NBArank: 12

Why he fell 12 spots: Leonard started last season slowly after missing all of 2021-22 because of an ACL injury, then early-season injuries slowed him even more. But Leonard came on strong in January and returned to the dominant playoff form that made him a two-time Finals MVP, averaging 34.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in Games 1 and 2 against Phoenix before his postseason was cut short by a right knee injury.

One huge question for the season: Leonard enters his fifth season as a Clipper but has played no more than 57 games in a season in L.A. Like Paul George, Leonard is eligible for an extension, but it appears the two stars will have to prove they can stay healthy and take the Clippers deep in the postseason. Can Leonard bounce back from a meniscus tear to the same right knee that suffered his ACL injury? And how will he handle the NBA's new player participation policy?

-- Ohm Youngmisuk

No. 23: De'Aaron Fox

Sacramento Kings | PG

2022 NBArank: 54

Why he rose 31 spots: Fox's huge year helped propel him in our rankings. It also didn't hurt that, withDomantas Sabonis, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Malik Monk, the Kings were the most complete team Fox has played with during his tenure in Sacramento. It led to the Kings snapping a 16-season playoff drought.

One huge question for the season: How can he follow up his breakout year? Fox was a first-time All-Star and named to the All-NBA third team. He also won the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year Award. His coach, Mike Brown, was named Coach of the Year. Fox's general manager, Monte McNair, was named Executive of the Year. Sacramento is looking to take another step forward. To do that, Fox has to take another leap as well.

-- Andrews

No. 22: Domantas Sabonis

Sacramento Kings | PF

2022 NBArank: 47

Why he rose 25 spots: In his first full season in Sacramento, Sabonis became the Kings' engine, making everything click for the team on both ends on his way to his first All-NBA third-team selection and becoming one of the premier bigs in the league.

Swing skill: While the Kings ranked 20th in the league in rebounding, Sabonis led all players in that category -- 12.3 per game and 973 total rebounds. And with the incredibly strong presence on the glass, Sabonis also converted 75% of his attempts at the rim on more than 500 attempts. With the addition of JaVale McGee and the return of Alex Len, Sacramento has good depth at the center spot and should have a dominant presence on the glass, but no one is better at that for the Kings than Sabonis.

-- Andrews

No. 21: Tyrese Haliburton

Indiana Pacers | PG

2022 NBArank: 59

Why he rose 38 spots: Haliburton made his first All-Star game, averaged 20.7 points and 10.4 assists and shot 40% from 3 before signing a five-year rookie max extension, making him the face of the Pacers.

Swing skill: Haliburton has emerged as one of the league's best passers. He nearly led the league in assists, averaging 10.4 per game (just behind James Harden's league-best 10.7) and earned praise for his playmaking with Team USA this summer.

-- Collier

No. 20: Karl-Anthony Towns

Minnesota Timberwolves | C

2022 NBArank: 13

Why he fell seven spots: Adjusting to the addition of Rudy Gobert, Towns was off to a slow offensive start when a serious calf injury sidelined him for nearly four months. His 37% 3-point shooting was his lowest since his rookie campaign, and Towns took a back seat offensively to budding star Anthony Edwards.

Why he could exceed his ranking: It's entirely possible a healthy Towns will remind us why he was an All-NBA third-team pick in 2021-22. He represented the Dominican Republic in this summer's FIBA World Cup, and the Timberwolves have another training camp to figure out how he and Gobert can coexist.

-- Pelton

No. 19: Jaylen Brown

Boston Celtics | SG

2022 NBArank: 22

Why he rose three spots: Brown posted career highs in PPG (26.6) and field goal percentage (49.1) to make his first All-NBA appearance. That earned him a five-year, $303.7 million supermax extension -- the largest in NBA history -- tying him to the Celtics for the next several years.

One huge question for the season: After shooting just under 40% on seven attempts from 3 per game two years ago, Brown dropped to 35.8% in 2021-22 and then down to 33.5% this past season on the same volume. If he can get back to around 40%, it would do a ton for his efficiency and make an already potent Celtics offense even more difficult to stop.

-- Bontemps

No. 18: Paul George

LA Clippers | SF

2022 NBArank: 15

Why he fell three spots: PG returned to the All-Star Game last season and was playing some of his best basketball before Oklahoma City's Lu Dort collided with him and ultimately ended George's season with a sprained right knee in late March. George had three separate stretches where he missed five or more consecutive games due to injuries.

One huge question for the season: George is entering his fifth year with the Clippers and would love to sign an extension. But he understands this is a pivotal season for LA, during which he and Kawhi Leonard have to prove they can not only stay healthy but meet championship expectations. George has vowed to be "on my bully s---" this season. Can he remain healthy for the entire season?

-- Youngmisuk

No. 17: Jamal Murray

Denver Nuggets | PG

2022 NBArank: 50

Why he rose 33 spots: "Bubble Murray" was no fluke. After sitting out the entire 2021-22 season with an ACL injury, Murray showed why he is one of the game's best when fully healthy, averaging 26.1 points, 7.1 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 39.6% shooting from 3 in 20 postseason games en route to Denver's title.

Why he could exceed his ranking: Nuggets coach Michael Malone has challenged his point guard to build from his postseason tear and become a first-time All-Star and first-time All-NBA selection. If he does that, his rise through these rankings will continue.

-- Youngmisuk

No. 16: Bam Adebayo

Miami Heat | C

2022 NBArank: 23

Why he rose seven spots: Adebayo averaged a career-high 20.4 PPG, earning his second career All-Star nod. Still, let's be clear: This move up the rankings is entirely about Adebayo's key role in the Heat's unlikely run to the NBA Finals.

Swing skill: Defensive versatility. Adebayo excels matching up with smaller opponents after a switch. Of the seven regular seasons in the Second Spectrum era (back to 2013-14) where the player defending the screener has switched at least 500 times, Adebayo owns three of those marks -- each of the past three years.

-- Pelton

No. 15: Donovan Mitchell

Cleveland Cavaliers | SG

2022 NBArank: 24

Why he rose nine spots: After topping the 40-point plateau nine times in his first five years in Utah, Mitchell did it 13 times in his first season in Cleveland, including his legendary 71-point night against Chicago. He can dominate on any given night.

One huge question for the season:Will this be Mitchell's last season in wine and gold? Mitchell opted against signing an extension with the franchise in the fall. While he's still under contract through 2024-25 (with a player option for 2025-26), if the Cavs don't make a leap this year after last season's first-round flameout, could Mitchell become a trade chip in the summer if an extension agreement isn't made then?

-- McMenamin

No. 14: Damian Lillard

Milwaukee Bucks | PG

2022 NBArank: 14

Why his ranking was unchanged: Lillard outplayed his ranking in the 58 games he played last season before being shut down with the Trail Blazers out of play-in competition, averaging a career-high 32.2 PPG and scoring 50-plus points three times. Only Lillard's age (33) prevented him from moving up this year.

New face in new place: In case you missed it, Lillard was traded to the Bucks, where he'll team with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. There will be an adjustment period for both Lillard and Antetokounmpo, but they figure to develop unstoppable pick-and-roll chemistry.

-- Pelton

No. 13: Anthony Edwards

Minnesota Timberwolves | SG

2022 NBArank: 25

Why he rose 12 spots: Edwards' star continues to ascend. After a slow start last season, he averaged a career-high 24.6 PPG, maintaining his efficiency while using 30% of the Timberwolves' plays. That earned Edwards his first All-Star appearance and a spot on Team USA's World Cup team, where he finished as its leading scorer.

One huge question for the season: Is Edwards ready to make the leap into All-NBA territory? He certainly looked the part in Minnesota's competitive first-round loss to the eventual champion Nuggets, averaging 31.6 PPG. Having recently signed a max rookie extension, Edwards would add a projected $40 million-plus to his next deal by making All-NBA.

-- Pelton

No. 12: Jimmy Butler

Miami Heat | SF

2022 NBArank: 17

Why he rose five spots: Did you watch the playoffs? If anything, Butler might still be too low. Only Antetokounmpo has been more valuable over the past four postseasons in terms of my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric than "Playoff Jimmy." Butler also ranks sixth in the regular season in that span.

One huge question for the season: Will age ever catch up with Butler? He turned 34 last month and recently surpassed 25,000 career regular-season minutes. It's rare for stars to peak as late as Butler has, but so far he shows no sign of slowing down.

-- Pelton

No. 11: Devin Booker

Phoenix Suns | SG

2022 NBArank: 10

Why he fell one spot: On the verge of turning 27, traditionally looked at as the age when players enter their prime, Booker is a top-10-caliber talent. A dangerous scorer who has grown as a playmaker, Booker is simply one of the best the league has to offer, but the addition of star guard Bradley Beal could cap Booker's usage in 2023-24.

One huge question for the season: Can Booker make a run at MVP? He has already long been considered one of the most fundamentally sound players at his position, and after finishing fourth in voting for the award in 2021-22, his scoring, shooting percentage and assist averages all went up last year. The key will be staying on the floor: Booker missed 29 games because of injury last season.

-- McMenamin

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