The Washington Post’s Top 100 of 2021 list projects the premier NBA talents for the 2020-21 season. The rankings, compiled by national NBA writer Ben Golliver, are meant to assess each player’s relative value without regard to his specific role or teammates. Among the factors considered: last year’s performance (as judged by traditional per-game statistics and advanced metrics), current health, injury history, age, consistency, contributions to winning, ability to make teammates better, postseason performance and offensive and defensive impact.
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Salary, expected earning power and projected growth or decline beyond the 2020-21 season were not considered. All rookies were excluded. So, too, were veterans with severe ongoing injuries expected to cost them all of 2020-21, such as Golden State’s Klay Thompson. Stats shown are from the 2019-20 season (or the last season played by Kevin Durant and John Wall). Rankings were set on Dec. 15.
1. LeBron James
James outmaneuvered and then outlasted all challengers in 2020, winning his fourth title and fourth Finals MVP in the bubble to extend his reign atop the NBA.
2. Kevin Durant
Concerns about Durant's health are warranted after a 17-month absence because of an Achilles' tear, but his big-game experience, killer instinct and extraordinary skill level are undeniable.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Despite a rocky stint at Disney World, Antetokounmpo was a deserving back-to-back MVP thanks to his incredible productivity, durability and two-way impact.
4. Anthony Davis
Davis checks every box as a big man, but the premium value of ball-handlers and wings in the modern NBA caps his ceiling on this list.
5. Stephen Curry
PG, Golden State Warriors
Curry's durability will decide Golden State's fate this season, and it could determine whether he holds off Damian Lillard as the league's consensus top point guard.
6. Kawhi Leonard
This season will be a referendum on Leonard's leadership capabilities after the Clippers crumbled in the postseason on his watch.
7. Damian Lillard
PG, Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard's shot-making, poise and leadership make him an ideal franchise player, as evidenced by Portland's seven consecutive playoff trips.
8. Luka Doncic
Big things are coming for the mesmerizing Doncic, who should contend for 2021 MVP and the top spot on this list next year.
9. Nikola Jokic
Jokic's improved conditioning led to a monster 2020 postseason that solidified his standing as the NBA's best true center.
10. James Harden
Harden's demanding personality and unimpressive responses to playoff adversity undercut his exquisite scoring ability.
11. Jimmy Butler
What Butler lacks in polish and outside shooting, he more than makes up for with his physicality and relentless spirit.
12. Jayson Tatum
Thanks to his smooth shot and prototyptical two-way game, Tatum might well be battling Doncic for the No. 1 position on 'The Top 100 Players of 2026.'
13. Paul George
George remains one of the most gifted and complete wings in the game, even if his shaky postseason play and candid interviews have earned him more than his share of critics.
14. Chris Paul
Age will eventually send Paul tumbling down this list, but not yet: His masterful orchestrating ability continues to turn bad teams into good ones.
15. Joel Embiid
Embiid has correctly acknowledged the difficulty of dominating in the modern NBA as a low-post center, but he still needs to improve his shot selection and physique to fulfill his immense potential.
16. Ben Simmons
Simmons's versatile defense during his first three seasons has surpassed expectations, but he hasn't yet developed into an all-world playmaker like many pre-draft analysts projected.
17. Rudy Gobert
Gobert, who returned to good health after his positive coronavirus test led the NBA to halt games in March, has seen his value dip slightly with teams preferring mobile big men rather than traditional rim-protectors.
18. Bam Adebayo
Miami's breakout star looked like a future defensive player of the year during the run to the 2020 Finals.
19. Pascal Siakam
While Siakam fizzled in the bubble, his length, athleticism and development as a lead scoring threat should make him a perennial all-star for years to come.
20. Bradley Beal
Washington's dysfunction has made Beal a forgotten man, but his natural scoring ability and improved playmaking would make him an easy fit on virtually any contender.
21. Kyle Lowry
Lowry might have been a late bloomer, but he is aging gracefully as the driving force behind the Raptors' steady success despite significant roster changes.
22. Khris Middleton
It took most of his 20s, but Middleton has finally gotten his due for his complete, if understated, game with back-to-back all-star nods.
23. Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell is now the face of the Jazz after a string of scoring explosions in the bubble revealed an even higher offensive ceiling than previously thought.
24. Devin Booker
With years of high-volume scoring on losing teams under his belt, Booker finally appears poised to reach the playoffs in Phoenix.
25. Kyrie Irving
Irving's career has been on a downward trajectory because of injuries and personality concerns, but his new pairing with Kevin Durant could get him back on track.
26. Karl-Anthony Towns
C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Towns, a well-rounded scorer and skilled offensive force, returns to the court with a heavy heart after losing his mother to covid-19.
27. Jaylen Brown
Brown is not quite qualified to carry an offense, but his advancing offensive game and rock-solid perimeter defense make him an ideal second option to Jayson Tatum.
28. Jamal Murray
Murray still must prove that he can carry a high-level offense every night like he did in the bubble across a full regular season.
29. Zion Williamson
The 2019 No. 1 pick was a major disappointment in the bubble because of conditioning issues, but he was a game-changing dunk machine before the hiatus.
30. Russell Westbrook
All these years later, Westbrook remains the most polarizing player in the NBA: His box score stats say "superstar," but his inefficiency, turnover problems and shaky playoff performances say "overrated."
31. Brandon Ingram
Ingram's limited defensive impact made him a questionable selection as a first-time all-star in 2020, but he's made real strides as a dependable isolation scorer.
32. Jrue Holiday
The Bucks bet big on Holiday, whose fierce on-ball defense and ability to run the offense will be valuable come playoff time.
33. Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis will miss the start of the season as he recovers from knee surgery, but his floor-spacing, scoring instincts and rebounding ability make him an ideal sidekick for Luka Doncic.
34. Draymond Green
PF, Golden State Warriors
Green is a defensive player of the year and a three-time NBA champion, but he must repair his damaged reputation after mailing it in last season.
35. CJ McCollum
SG, Portland Trail Blazers
McCollum is a rock-solid secondary scorer, averaging 20-plus points per game for the past five seasons and enjoying near-perfect health along the way.
36. Fred VanVleet
The hard-nosed, undrafted guard took home a well-deserved $85 million payday this offseason after performing well throughout the 2019 title run and 2020 playoffs.
37. Ja Morant
The ultra-quick and ultra-explosive Morant established himself as a top-10 player in terms of watchability during his remarkable rookie campaign.
38. Malcolm Brogdon
Brogdon's steady, controlled game lacks flash, which could help explain why he's one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA.
39. Domantas Sabonis
A worthy first-time all-star in 2020, Sabonis is an efficient, skilled, physical and relatively mobile big man who even inherited some passing chops from his father, Arvydas.
40. Trae Young
Young's popularity and per-game stats vastly exceed his impact on wins and losses, but Atlanta finally got him some proven offensive weapons to work with this offseason.
41. Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic's overall skills remain underrated by the masses, but building an elite offense around his more traditional shot profile has proven difficult.
42. Gordon Hayward
Hayward's disappointing, injury-ravaged Celtics tenure ended after three years when he chased the money to Charlotte during the offseason.
43. De'Aaron Fox
The Kings didn't hesitate to sign Fox to a max rookie extension this offseason, locking in the quicksilver point guard as their franchise centerpiece.
44. Jusuf Nurkic
C, Portland Trail Blazers
Something of a forgotten man because he played just eight games last season, the Bosnian Beast has recovered from a serious leg injury and should help lift Portland in the standings.
45. Kemba Walker
Walker injected a much-needed dose of joy after the failed Kyrie Irving experience, but his troublesome knee could be the X-factor for the Celtics' 2021 title hopes.
46. John Wall
There's no way to know what Wall will look like after a two-year absence with an Achilles' injury, but he arrives in Houston with a chip on his shoulder.
47. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
The lanky Gilgeous-Alexander has found success at a young age with a herky-jerky game, emerging as the centerpiece of Oklahoma City's full-scale rebuilding effort.
48. Victor Oladipo
Oladipo's stock has plummeted during two injury-plagued seasons marred by rumors of his unhappiness, but a strong contract year could make him a top free agency target next summer.
49. LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge remains a reliable source of offense and a capable defender, but he would be better suited to playing a complementary role on a contender at this stage of his career.
50. Danilo Gallinari
An efficient frontcourt scorer who doesn't need to dominate the ball, Gallinari cashed in as a free agent after a successful one-year pit stop with the Thunder.
51. Blake Griffin
A bounceback season is needed for Griffin, the former high-flying all-star, after injuries limited him to just 18 games last season.
52. Al Horford
Horford's fit alongside Joel Embiid in Philadelphia was unexpectedly terrible, but a move back to center for the Thunder should help resuscitate his perceived value.
53. Bojan Bogdanovic
With a healthy Bogdanovic balancing the offense and stretching the floor, Utah almost certainly would have beaten Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
54. Tobias Harris
While Harris is a consummate pro who gets his scoring numbers in the regular season, he tends to disappear in the playoffs.
55. Dennis Schroder
Schroder was a savvy pickup for the Lakers, who can use his attack-minded personality on the ball and his quickness on defense.
56. Marcus Smart
Smart's status as one of the league's top role players owes to his aggressive, multipositional defense and an improving outside shot.
57. Montrezl Harrell
The reigning sixth man of the year was a shell of himself in the bubble, but he should thrive as a high-efficiency finisher alongside Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
58. Deandre Ayton
Maturity issues have masked Ayton's talent at times, but Chris Paul's arrival should set up the athletic center for a career year.
59. Eric Bledsoe
Although Bledsoe couldn't handle the playoff heat in Milwaukee, he's a superior on-ball defender who can create some offense, too.
60. Kevin Love
Love had a frustrating season for the basement-dwelling Cavaliers, but he enjoyed better health and remains a reliable source of offense as a skilled stretch four.
61. Steven Adams
The burly Adams will form a "Bash Brothers" pairing with Zion Williamson in New Orleans after spending his first seven seasons in Oklahoma City.
62. Zach LaVine
With six seasons of evidence, It's safe to say that LaVine is who he is: a quick-trigger scorer who can't carry an offense or make his teammates substantially better.
63. Caris LeVert
With better health and a trade to a team that needs scoring more than Brooklyn, the late-blooming LeVert could theoretically become a No. 1 option.
64. OG Anunoby
The low-key Anunoby is a textbook 3-and-D wing and could emerge as a most improved player candidate if he continues to make steady progress in his fourth season.
65. D'Angelo Russell
PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Russell's play left a lot to be desired during his brief stint in Golden State, and a midseason trade to Minnesota has given him every opportunity to sink or swim as a lead playmaker.
66. John Collins
After wasting last season with a 25-game drug suspension, the phenomenally athletic Collins must reestablish his place in Atlanta's core or risk becoming a trade piece.
67. Goran Dragic
An ill-timed foot injury kept Dragic from making his mark on the Finals, but the crafty veteran point guard played at a high level throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
68. P.J. Tucker
Tucker deserves a new home after handling high-level defensive assignments and doing the dirty work the past three years in Houston.
69. Bogdan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic, a swaggy gunner, can count on the largest role of his career after a much-ballyhooed move from Sacramento to Atlanta in free agency.
70. T.J. Warren
With Bojan Bogdanovic gone and Victor Oladipo battling injuries, Warren's career-high scoring average was a key factor in keeping the Pacers' offense from falling off a cliff.
71. Josh Richardson
While Richardson's efficiency dipped in Philadelphia's cramped offense, it's reasonable to project a career year from him as Luka Doncic's backcourt mate.
72. Marcus Morris Sr.
Morris parlayed strong shooting in the bubble into a whopping $64 million cashout with the Clippers this offseason.
73. DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan's inability to evolve past isolation scoring and his love of the mid-range will catch up with him as he progresses deeper into his 30s.
74. Robert Covington
PF, Portland Trail Blazers
Covington's length and versatile frontcourt defense will be greeted with a hero's welcome in Portland after an offseason trade.
75. Brook Lopez
Lopez played heavy minutes on the NBA's best defense, but his shooting took a big step back last year and his limited mobility remains an issue in the playoffs.
76. Seth Curry
Desperate for shooting, Philadelphia moved quickly to acquire Stephen Curry's younger brother, who shot a blistering 45.2 percent on three-pointers last season.
77. Christian Wood
A newfound darling of the advanced stats community after his productive stretch run for the Pistons, the undrafted Wood was a major offseason winner thanks to a $41 million contract from the Rockets.
78. Joe Harris
Harris turned his elite shooting and steady improvement as a two-way wing into a $72 million contract to stay with the Nets this offseason.
79. Clint Capela
Pushed out of Houston, Capela landed on his feet with the Hawks, who need his interior defense and lob finishing ability.
80. Spencer Dinwiddie
In Kyrie Irving's absence last season, Dinwiddie earned some faint all-star buzz with his ability to create a shot and run the Nets' offense.
81. Jaren Jackson Jr.
When Jackson isn't being bitten by the injury bug or mired in foul trouble, he looks like a franchise big man in the making.
82. Serge Ibaka
Ibaka has transitioned from an ultra-athletic four into a more traditional five on defense as he's aged, but it helps that he can stretch the court with a dependable three-point shot.
83. Andre Drummond
Dumped by the Pistons at the deadline, the lumbering Drummond struggles to make a winning impact despite his gaudy stats and elite rebounding skills.
84. Mike Conley
Did Conley, who struggled after a late-career trade to Utah, need a season to settle in or did Father Time catch up with him?
85. Buddy Hield
Hield's high-efficiency, high-volume three-point shooting looks good on paper, but he has yet to develop other aspects of his game that would contribute to winning.
86. Evan Fournier
Fournier enjoyed a career year in 2019-20, but his individual scoring production has never translated to an elite impact on his team's offense.
87. Tyler Herro
The darling of the Eastern Conference finals, Herro is an adept shot creator who will be called on to carry a heavier load in his second season.
88. Davis Bertans
Bertans cashed out with an $80 million contract thanks to high-volume three-point efficiency.
89. Jonas Valanciunas
A beastly low-post center, Valanciunas struggles to keep up defensively with pace-and-space offenses.
90. Myles Turner
Turner's stagnating offensive development has been a bummer, but his elite shot-blocking and defensive impact can't be denied.
91. Michael Porter Jr.
Porter has poor defensive habits and questionable takes on science, but his natural scoring ability gives him a very high long-term ceiling.
92. Devonte' Graham
Graham's second-year breakthrough as an undersized scoring guard was the best thing to happen to the forgettable Hornets last season.
93. Aaron Gordon
Gordon, an athletic combo forward and former top-five pick, needs a change of scenery after six underwhelming seasons in Orlando.
94. Gary Harris
Harris, a skilled on-ball defender whose scoring game vanished last season, is due for a bounceback in 2021.
95. Ricky Rubio
PG, Minnesota Timberwolves
A beloved teammate and capable defender, Rubio just never found a way to expand his offensive game beyond his flashy passing.
96. Lou Williams
Williams, a perennial sixth man of the year candidate, lost his trusted pick-and-roll partner when Montrezl Harrell left for the Lakers.
97. Tim Hardaway Jr.
With Seth Curry traded and Kristaps Porzingis injured, look for Hardaway to pick up the scoring slack next to Luka Doncic in Dallas.
98. Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson found a home with the Jazz after a midseason trade, providing instant offense in a super-sub role.
99. JJ Redick
Redick remains one of the game's most reliable shooters even though New Orleans has shifted him into a backup role.
100. Daniel Theis
The undersized Theis aces the advanced stats thanks to a heady all-around game predicated on versatile defense and taking care of the little things.
Photographs and images used in photoillustrations by The Washington Post, AP, Getty Images, USA Today Sports. Virginia Singarayar, Brianna Schroer and Brian Gross contributed to the design of this page.