NBArank is back for its 12th season ranking the best players in the league.

Where are the MVP candidates? Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid And Nikola Jokic? What about the rookies and young stars who are ready to break into the top tier of NBA players?

For the ultimate NBArank prediction, we asked our expert panel to vote on a pair of players: LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant., Stephen Curry vs. I MorantLuca vs. Jason Tatum … and the list goes on.

“Which player will be better in 2022-23?” We asked. Voters had to predict what to expect from each player during the season.

We’ve already featured player numbers 100-26, 25-11 and a surprising 10-6. Today, our rankings feature the top five stars in the league.

Note: ESPN’s NBArank panel of more than 200 reporters, editors, producers and analysts were asked to rank players based on predicted contributions — both quality and quantity — for the 2022-23 season only.

Golden State Warriors | PG

2021 NBArank: 5

If the Finals MVP was an undisputed piece of hardware missing from Curry as one of the all-time greats, that’s now taken care of, as Steph led the Warriors to their fourth title in six years to claim the elusive prize. Heading into training camp, Curry is looking in shape and ready to pick up where he left off, sources told ESPN.

Why his status has not changed

Curry is in the same position he was at the start of last season. After averaging 25.5 points per game on 43.7% shooting, Curry by no means had a super season — he was an early contender for MVP — but an ankle injury kept him off the floor for the final month of the regular season. In his absence, his teammates stepped up and kept the Warriors afloat to secure the West’s No. 3 seed. Perhaps that — in addition to the rise of MVP contenders below — is why he’s in the same spot in our rankings.

A big question for 2022-23

Can Steph and the Warriors do it again? Despite the strength of their superstars and supporting cast, their title hopes rest largely on Curry’s shoulders. As mentioned above, Curry is said to be ready to start this season when he finishes last. And despite talk of Curry’s age (he’ll turn 35 before the end of the regular season) and how big his remaining window is, his performance suggests he’ll continue to play at this level for the foreseeable future.

Why was he able to finish the season number 1?

Based on Curry’s 2021-22 campaign, there’s no clear reason to believe he can’t finish as the No. 1 player in the league this season. Barring an extended absence, Curry should be able to put together a strong and complete season that will allow him to win another championship and possibly even more personal hardware.

— Kendra Andrews

Philadelphia 76ers | C

2021 NBArank: 7

After two straight narrow second-place finishes behind Jokic in MVP voting, Embiid is once again the favorite to claim the award as the anchor of what should be one of the better teams in the league.

Why three places arose

Embiid was dominant last season, averaging 30.6 points per game to lead the league in scoring for the first time in his career — a center since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 and leading the league in scoring for the first time a center has averaged at least 30 points per game since then. Moses Malone In 1981-82.

Embiid averaged the fewest minutes of any player at 33.8 per game, surpassing Curry’s mark of 34.2 in 2016 and 2021. He has easily become a complete player who can score at all three levels. He is one of the league’s most impressive rim protectors.

A big question for 2022-23

At this point in his career, the only question left for Embiid isn’t just about him: Can he make it healthy after the postseason?

To this point in his career, he’s had just one injury setback, including a facial fracture and sprained thumb during Philadelphia’s playoff run in the spring. Embiid is healthy and available, and there may not be a more dominant player in the NBA today. After playing a game-high 68 games last season, Embiid is looking at both a healthy regular season and playoff run this season. If it does, it’s heaven.

Why was he able to finish the season number 1?

After years of having to compensate for the shortcomings of a flawed roster around him, this season is the first time Embiid will be surrounded by a team built to facilitate him. His Strengths. That only increases Embiid’s chances of claiming that elusive MVP award and leading Philadelphia to a deep playoff run that’s been missing from the spotlight.

If those things happen, it could rise to the top of this list.

— Tim Bontemps

Dallas Mavericks | PG

2021 NBArank: 4

Doncic should report to training camp for the first time in a few years after spending the season playing for the Slovenian national team. If conditioning isn’t a concern, Doncic is one of the NBA’s dominant forces.

Why did he get up somewhere?

At the age of 23, Doncic has undoubtedly established himself as a superstar, a perennial All-NBA selection and MVP candidate. He cemented that status when he was the only star on a Dallas team that went to the West Finals.

Due to a calf strain in the first three games of the first round, Doncic led Dallas in points, improved to 10 wins in a playoff game – the most in a single season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

He’s the best offensive weapon in the NBA — a threat to score and help defenses pick titles with a mix of power, skill and intelligence. He’s also a fierce competitor in his memorable Game 7 demolition of the top-seeded Suns when he single-handedly matched his first-half total against Phoenix.

A big question for 2022-23

How well can Doncic lead a team without other stars? Dallas’ roster was hit hard by the time it arrived. Jaylen BrunsonThe Mavs’ second-best player last season, he was traded to New York in free agency. Mavs management is confident that Brunson’s scoring void can be filled. Tim Hardaway JrRecovering from injury and Christian woodComing through business.

But in a league loaded with star duos, Doncic carries the burden as much as anyone. Doncic has led the league in usage rate the past two seasons, a trend that could continue through 2022-23.

Why was he able to finish the season number 1?

Doncic has finished fourth, sixth and fifth in MVP voting the past three seasons, respectively. This could be the season Doncic climbs to the top of the polls, especially if he gets off to a strong start and Dallas claims a top-four spot in the competitive West.

Mavs 32-12 — 60-win streak — Doncic returned to uniform after three weeks off to heal his sprained ankle and work on conditioning.

— Tim MacMahon

Denver Nuggets | C

2021 NBArank: 6

Despite Jokic averaging 31.0 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists, the Nuggets had no matchup against Golden State in the first round. But in Jamal Murray And Michael Porter Jr. Expected this season, Denver will be led by the two-time MVP.

Why four places rose

How did Jokic follow up his MVP season? It’s better. Jokic capped a historic campaign by becoming the 13th player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards. He is the first player to average 25 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists in a season, and is the first player to lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and field goal percentage.

Jokic beat Embiid for MVP by posting the highest PER (32.8) in a single season in NBA history. Jokic has 19 triple-doubles — the most since a center. Wilt Chamberlain — and Murray and Porter Jr. led Denver to one more win than last season.

A big question for 2022-23

The Nuggets are whole again, but can Jokic and a new-look roster recapture the form that helped Denver reach the West Finals in the 2020 bubble? Murray missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and Porter Jr. has been sidelined since early November with back surgery.

Nuggets welcome both but have gone through some changes during the game, namely by adding Kentavius ​​Caldwell-Bishop, Bruce Brown and marketing Monte Morris The second-year point guard is clearing playing time for the Washington Wizards Bone Highlander.

Why was he able to finish the season number 1?

If he can put together a historic season without Murray and Porter Jr., what can he do with them back on the court? Jokic was double-teamed 191 times in the postseason last season, the most in the league. With a full complement of contributors around him, Jokic doesn’t face the same defensive focus.

While points may decrease, assists and other categories may increase this season. And if he can three-peat as MVP, Jokic will top Larry Bird, Chamberlain, and Chamberlain alone. Bill Russell They did it — that seems like a recipe for being the league’s No. 1 player.

— Ohm Youngmisuk

Milwaukee Bucks | Pf

2021 NBArank: 2

As Antetokounmpo turns 28, his list of accolades makes him one of the most prolific scorers in league history. So the question remains how to add to that list. Can he win a third NBA MVP? The Bucks will be among the favorites to win another NBA championship, but can Antetokounmpo secure another Finals MVP? Expectations are high every season, but Antetokounmpo usually finds a way to overcome them.

Why did he get up somewhere?

With pure consistency and reliable dominance every night, Antetokounmpo’s claim to being the best player in the world has only strengthened over the past year. No player in the league can match his impact on both ends of the floor.

Antetokounmpo averaged 29.9 points (third in the NBA), 11.6 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game en route to his first Finals MVP win. Although Milwaukee does not have the second best player Chris MiddletonIn the second round of their playoff series against Boston, the Bucks extended the streak to seven games at Antetokounmpo’s discretion.

A big question for 2022-23

What new skills does Antetokounmpo bring to the table? After each season, Antetokounmpo emerges with a new skill in his arsenal. Over the years, he’s improved his vision as a passer, improved his outside jump that anticipates defenders and has become increasingly unstoppable in the paint and in the post. Could Antetokounmpo be even better?

— Jamal Collier

NBarank 2022: No. 100-26 | No. 25-11 | No. 10-6 | Number 5-1

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