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NBArank: Which stars made the cut? Where’s Zion? Our countdown begins

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NBArank: Which stars made the cut? Where’s Zion? Our countdown begins

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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.

Our countdown kicks off with our rankings of players Nos. 100-51, which include star guards, elite rim protectors and plenty of faces in new places.

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

New York Knicks | C

2022 NBArank: 98

Swing skill: Robinson is an elite offensive rebounder, providing the Knicks with plenty of second-chance opportunities. His 4.5 offensive boards per game last season were the second highest in the league, behind Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams. That, paired with Robinson’s 67.1% field goal percentage thanks to a plethora of dunks, makes him exactly the kind of big man coach Tom Thibodeau looks for.

— Tim Bontemps


New Orleans Pelicans | C

2022 NBArank: 84

Swing skill: Valanciunas saw a significant drop in his minutes last season (30.3 to 24.9), but he remained one of the league’s premier rebounders. He led all qualified players in rebound percentage (20.4%) and averaged 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds last season — the sixth time in NBA history a player averaged a double-double in under 25 minutes per game.

— Andrew Lopez


Utah Jazz | PG

2022 NBArank: NR

One huge question for 2023-24: Can Sexton convince Jazz management he should be considered part of the franchise’s long-term foundation? He hasn’t been on Utah’s short list of players who were off-limits in trade discussions. The vision for Sexton in Utah is him being a sixth man who provides scoring punch, not the go-to guy he was for losing teams in Cleveland before suffering a knee injury.

— Tim MacMahon


Dallas Mavericks | PF

2022 NBArank: 99

New face in new place: Dallas prioritized defense, intelligence and toughness last offseason, which is why they deemed Williams worthy of a four-year, $54 million contract and gave up 2030 first-round swap rights in a three-team sign-and-trade deal. He joins stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving as the three players who are locks for Dallas’ starting lineup.

— MacMahon


Sacramento Kings | PF

2022 NBArank: 74

One huge question for 2023-24: What will his role be this season? Barnes signed a three-year, $54 million extension over the summer, and on a younger team looking to continue its rise, he is a trusted veteran voice for reigning Coach of the Year Mike Brown. However, Barnes’ minutes declined last year, and the addition of EuroLeague MVP Sasha Vezenkov could impact the way Sacramento uses Barnes in 2023-24.

— Kendra Andrews


Oklahoma City Thunder | F

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Williams was one of the best surprises from last year’s rookie class. He averaged 14.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, shooting 52.1% overall and 35.6% from 3. There’s no reason to believe he can’t take another step forward.

— Ohm Youngmisuk


LA Clippers | PG

2022 NBArank: 65

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Westbrook proved his doubters wrong after finding a new home with the Clippers. (The Clippers don’t win Game 1 at Phoenix without Westbrook’s impactful plays.) After his ill-fitting tenure with the Lakers, Russ has a full training camp and season to facilitate for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

— Youngmisuk


Minnesota Timberwolves | PG

2022 NBArank: 89

One huge question for 2023-24: Can Conley help solve the offensive puzzle with the Timberwolves’ big men? Minnesota needs savvy point guard play if the combination of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert is going to click on the offensive end. Conley didn’t get much time to work with the tandem after arriving in a trade last season, as the trio played only 124 minutes together during the regular season.

— MacMahon


New York Knicks | SG

2022 NBArank: NR

One huge question for 2023-24: What is his future in New York? Quickley was a finalist for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year last season, but his contract status will be worth watching over the next few weeks. If he and the Knicks can’t come to an agreement on a contract extension between now and the start of the regular season, Quickley’s name will come up in trade talks.

— Bontemps


New York Knicks | SG

2022 NBArank: NR

Swing skill: Hart’s energy proved to be a difference-maker for the Knicks last season when he came over in a trade deadline acquisition from Portland, partnering with Quickley to revitalize New York’s second unit. The Knicks outscored teams by a staggering 11.9 points per 100 possessions in Hart’s 750 regular-season minutes on the court after the trade deadline last year.

— Bontemps


Utah Jazz | PF

2022 NBArank: 73

New face in new place: Collins, finally traded after years of rumors, should benefit from a change in scenery after posting career lows in field goal percentage (.508) and 3-point percentage (.292) in 2022-23. Getting Collins back to his career averages (.551 and .356) would be a boost for Utah.

— Lopez


Portland Trail Blazers | C

2022 NBArank: 58

One huge question for 2023-24: After being traded to Portland in the Jrue Holiday trade, the question hovering over Williams now is: What exactly, does his future look like in Portland? Perhaps the Trail Blazers will attempt to play him alongside Deandre Ayton, whom they also acquired as part of the Damian Lillard trade. What’s more likely is Williams coming off the bench, which at least leaves open the possibility Portland will try to turn the defensive force into more future assets sometime this season or beyond.

— Bontemps


Golden State Warriors | C

2022 NBArank: NR

Swing skill: As the Warriors’ lone true center, Looney has to be dominant on the boards, which he has been for Golden State over the past two seasons. Looney led the league in offensive rebounds during the regular season (274), and the Warriors scored a league-best 349 points off the second-chance opportunities he created.

— Andrews


Indiana Pacers | SG

2022 NBArank: 90

One huge question for 2023-24: Will Hield finish the season with Indiana? He is entering the final season of his contract with the Pacers after joining the team during the 2021-22 season in the Tyrese Haliburton trade. But Hield could be a valuable addition to a contender. Over the past five seasons, no one in the league has made more 3-pointers.

— Jamal Collier


Washington Wizards | PF

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Kuzma made strides last season, averaging 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and a career-high 3.7 assists. Now that Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis have been traded, the Wizards will lean on Kuz even more. While they also added Jordan Poole, Kuzma’s scoring load should only increase.

— Youngmisuk


Portland Trail Blazers | SG

2022 NBArank: 91

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Any time former teammate Damian Lillard was out of the lineup, Simons put up Lillard-like numbers. He averaged 22.0 PPG and 5.5 APG in the 30 games Lillard missed in 2021-22, then boosted that to 27.9 PPG and 5.7 APG in 11 such games last season.

— Kevin Pelton


Atlanta Hawks | C

2022 NBArank: 79

Swing skill: Capela remains one of the league’s top offensive rebounders. He has finished top three in offensive rebounds in each of the past three seasons and is the only player with at least 250 offensive boards in each of those campaigns. Also, in 19 games under coach Quin Snyder, Capela’s offensive efficiency took a jump; he shot 73.0% over that stretch on 7.2 attempts a game.

— Lopez


Philadelphia 76ers | SF

2022 NBArank: 56

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Harris hasn’t always had it easy in Philadelphia, but he has now been with the 76ers for 4½ seasons and has admirably filled whatever role asked of him. With coach Nick Nurse in charge and James Harden‘s future in question, Harris could get more opportunities to have an impact on offense, something that was not often available to him last year, when he averaged fewer points (14.7) than he had in any season since he played for Orlando and Detroit in 2015-16.

— Bontemps


Brooklyn Nets | SF

2022 NBArank: NR

Elite skill: Johnson was rewarded with a four-year deal worth up to $108 million by the Nets, who acquired him in the Kevin Durant trade, because of his prolific and accurate 3-point shooting. Among players with at least 500 attempts over the past two seasons, Johnson’s 42% 3-point shooting ranks fifth.

— Pelton


Milwaukee Bucks | F

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Portis has been a consistent reserve for Milwaukee the past few seasons, but perhaps this is the year he captures Sixth Man of the Year? The Bucks shipped away some of their depth to acquire Damian Lillard, which means they could lean on Portis even more off the bench.

— Collier


Houston Rockets | SG

2022 NBArank: 62

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Green has displayed the potential to be a premier scorer, averaging 22.1 points per game in his age-20 season a year ago. With the arrival of Fred VanVleet, Green will play alongside a true point guard for the first time in his career, which should help boost his efficiency.

— MacMahon


Miami Heat | PG

2022 NBArank: 61

One game to watch this season: Feb. 27 at Portland. The much-discussed deal for Damian Lillard never materialized this offseason as the Trail Blazers sought out something more than what the Heat could offer. Herro’s name was thrown out in trade talks, but Portland ultimately went another way. Herro might want to show out in his first chance against the Blazers.

— Lopez


Portland Trail Blazers | PG

2022 NBArank: NR (Rookie)

One game to watch this season: Dec. 28 vs. San Antonio. The Victor Wembanyama-Scoot rematch at NBA summer league was scuttled by a minor shoulder injury Henderson suffered in his Blazers debut, making this the first head-to-head meeting between two of the top three picks in the draft since their October 2022 exhibition matchups.

— Pelton


Utah Jazz | PG

2022 NBArank: 85

One huge question for 2023-24: Does Clarkson stay in the starting lineup? Clarkson, the 2020-21 Sixth Man of the Year, has a claim to be the best bench scorer in NBA history. In fact, his career average of 15.2 points per game off the bench is the highest for any player since the ABA-NBA merger, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, but he thrived in his return to a starting role last season, averaging career bests of 20.8 points and 4.4 assists per game. His long-term role likely depends in part on the development of Utah’s young guards.

— MacMahon


Golden State Warriors | PG

2022 NBArank: 21

New face in a new place: Will anyone ever get used to seeing Paul in a Warriors jersey? Maybe not. Beyond the strangeness of him in the uniform, it will be interesting to see how Paul fits. Will he start? How will he and Draymond Green coexist? How will he impact the play of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson?

— Andrews


Chicago Bulls | C

2022 NBArank: 57

One game to watch this season: Nov. 4 at Denver. “There is something really cool about the name Nikola,” Vucevic posted on X shortly after the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic won the NBA championship. The two big men are friends, but Vucevic brought something extra when the two matched up last year, putting up 25 points and 15 rebounds in a Bulls win in Denver.

— Collier


Detroit Pistons | PG

2022 NBArank: 35

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Cunningham’s fall in the rankings comes after he played 12 games during the 2022-23 season because of injury. His season got derailed before his sophomore season ever really got started. If he can build off his rookie season, Cunningham should rise in the rankings next season.

— Collier


Oklahoma City Thunder | PF

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Holmgren could be a huge difference-maker for the Thunder. His potential to impact the game on both ends of the floor with his height and length is tantalizing. If Holmgren can make shots and erase them on the other end — and isn’t pushed around by stronger bigs — he could certainly exceed this ranking.

— Youngmisuk


No. 72: Jordan Poole

Washington Wizards | SG

2022 NBArank: 55

One game to watch this season: Dec. 22 at Golden State. Poole will face his old team for the first time since he was traded for Chris Paul in January — and at his old stomping grounds, no less. Even if he doesn’t admit there is extra motivation for him in this game, it will be an opportunity for Poole to show how he can be the offensive focal point on a team.

— Andrews


New York Knicks | SG

2022 NBArank: 63

Swing skill: Barrett shot 40% from 3-point range in his second NBA season. His percentages in his other three seasons with the Knicks, though, are underwhelming: 32%, 34% and 31% last season. The difference between Barrett being an adequate player and one who can be a real impact player is him becoming a league-average-or-better 3-point shooter.

— Bontemps


Utah Jazz | C

2022 NBArank: NR

Swing skill: “The Sheriff” instantly established himself as one of the NBA’s best rim protectors. He ranked fourth in the league in blocked shots (2.3 per game) as a rookie despite not starting until midseason. Opponents shot only 51.5% inside of six feet against the 7-foot-1 Kessler, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Only Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. was stingier among the 102 players who challenged at least 300 shots within that close range.

— MacMahon


Milwaukee Bucks | C

2022 NBArank: NR

Swing skill: The Bucks’ perimeter defense will be less sturdy this year without Jrue Holiday, which makes Lopez’s shot-blocking and rim protection even more important this season. He was excellent last season defending the rim, with a league-leading 193 blocks and 1,225 contested 2-point shots. (Brooklyn’s Nic Claxton contested the second-most shots … with 700).

— Collier


Denver Nuggets | SF

2022 NBArank: 72

One huge question for 2023-24: Porter struggled with his shot in the NBA Finals, shooting just 14.3% from behind the arc, but he did come up big in the Nuggets’ title-clincher with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Understanding what it takes to win a title, can Porter improve defensively and find ways to impact games when his shot isn’t falling, like he did in Game 5? Coach Michael Malone hopes so.

— Youngmisuk


No. 67: OG Anunoby

Toronto Raptors | SF

2022 NBArank: 75

Swing skill: Anunoby is an elite defensive player, strong and skilled enough at that end to guard virtually any player or position. What goes unnoticed at times, however, is that he’s become a very dependable 3-point shooter, hitting more than 38% on more than six attempts per game over the past three seasons. If Anunoby keeps that up, he’s going to be in for a massive payday next summer — either in Toronto or elsewhere.

— Bontemps


Los Angeles Lakers | SG

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: USA Basketball did not medal in the World Cup over the summer, but Reaves showed how he thrives in an iron-sharpens-iron environment. Reaves was Team USA’s second-leading scorer on 57/50/95 shooting splits while ranking third in assists and third in steals. We’ve seen plenty of players parlay stars-and-stripes service into a leap the following season — Reaves could be the next name on that list.

— Dave McMenamin


Indiana Pacers | C

2022 NBArank: 66

One huge question for 2023-24: After signing a two-year contract extension in January, Turner is finally free from the constant trade speculation that has swirled around his name for years. Coming off one of his best and healthiest seasons — 18.0 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 62 games — how does Indiana’s longest-tenured player factor into the team’s future next to Tyrese Haliburton?

— Collier


No. 64: Rudy Gobert

Minnesota Timberwolves | C

2022 NBArank: 18

One huge question for 2023-24: Can Gobert fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns? The calf injury suffered by Towns last season prevented the Timberwolves from getting a large-enough sample size to provide a definitive answer, but the limited results weren’t encouraging. Minnesota averaged only 106.2 points per 100 possessions in the 529 minutes the two big men played together. (The league-worst Charlotte Hornets offense checked in at 108.4 last season.)

— MacMahon


Toronto Raptors | SF

2022 NBArank: 39

One huge question for 2023-24: Will the real Scottie Barnes please stand up? After an impressive debut season culminated with the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, Barnes struggled to replicate that success as a sophomore. As Toronto adjusts to a new era after Fred VanVleet left in free agency and Darko Rajakovic replaced Nick Nurse as the team’s coach, whether Barnes can take a leap forward this season is arguably the biggest question facing the franchise in 2023-24.

— Bontemps


No. 62: Kristaps Porzingis

Boston Celtics | C

2022 NBArank: 86

One huge question for 2023-24: How will he handle heightened expectations? There have been few more fascinating trades in recent memory than the Porzingis-Marcus Smart swap this summer, a move that completely remakes the identity of the Celtics, who have more playoff wins than any team but the Golden State Warriors since the start of the 2016-17 season. Porzingis, who only has 10 playoff games in his entire career, will now be judged on how he performs next spring.

— Bontemps


Memphis Grizzlies | SG

2022 NBArank: 68

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Elite shooters whose games are as well-rounded as Bane’s are hard to find. He joined Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant as the only players in the league to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range. It’s a good bet that Bane, 25, will keep getting better. His scoring, rebound and assist averages have increased significantly each season.

— MacMahon


Atlanta Hawks | SG

2022 NBArank: 42

Swing skill: Despite a drop in his steals per game and steal percentage a year ago, Murray still proved to be one of the NBA’s leaders in thievery. Murray, who led the NBA in steals in 2021-22, is the only player in the NBA to have at least 100 steals in each of the past four seasons.

— Lopez


No. 59: Marcus Smart

Memphis Grizzlies | PG

2022 NBArank: 34

One game to watch this season: Feb. 4 at Boston. This will be a day to remember inside TD Garden, where one of the most beloved players in recent Celtics history will make his return. It will be a guaranteed lovefest for No. 36, who had been the heart and soul of the Celtics for the past nine years.

— Bontemps


Portland Trail Blazers | SF

2022 NBArank: 64

One huge question for 2023-24: How does Grant fit on a rebuilding Blazers team? His new five-year, $160 million deal — the most total money of any free agent — was announced as Damian Lillard was asking out. At 29, Grant is now nearly three years older than any other player on the roster.

— Pelton


New Orleans Pelicans | PF

2022 NBArank: 40

One huge question for 2023-24: It has seemingly been a big question for Williamson throughout his career: Can he stay healthy? The Pelicans forward’s drop in the rankings is directly tied to his games played. He played 29 games last season and has played more than 30 just once in his four-year career.

— Lopez


No. 56: Fred VanVleet

Houston Rockets | PG

2022 NBArank: 38

New face in new place: The Rockets recruited VanVleet to be the leader of what they’re referring to as Phase 2 of the franchise’s rebuild, signing the point guard who averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 assists per game for Toronto last season to a three-year, $130 million deal. The expectation is VanVleet will instill structure and toughness while providing Houston’s young players a role model for professionalism.

— MacMahon


No. 55: Draymond Green

Golden State Warriors | PF

2022 NBArank: 43

One huge question for 2023-24: As the fallout from him punching Jordan Poole followed the Warriors all season, Green admitted he didn’t feel he could be the vocal, and sometimes abrasive, leader the Warriors needed him to be. Green said he couldn’t hold his teammates accountable, which in part led to defensive issues and wild home-road splits. For the Warriors to rebound this year, they need Green to be the leader he always has been — without crossing the line while doing so.

— Andrews


Golden State Warriors | SF

2022 NBArank: 32

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: Last season was the toughest year for Wiggins since he arrived in Golden State around the trade deadline in 2020. Between injuries and a family matter, Wiggins missed a total of 45 games and could never find the consistency that made him such a crucial part of the Warriors’ title run in 2022. As long as he’s able to find a rhythm, he should be a top-50 player in the league.

— Andrews


Oklahoma City Thunder | SG

2022 NBArank: 81

One huge question for 2023-24: The Thunder are expected to take a leap forward this season. If so, Giddey will have to take another one himself. The point guard is entering his third season after finishing 2022-23 strong, averaging 20.2 points, 6.7 assists, 9.1 rebounds in his final eight games. But can Giddey show big improvement in his shooting after averaging 48.2% from the field and 32.5% from 3?

— Youngmisuk


Orlando Magic | SF

2022 NBArank: NR

Why he could exceed his ranking in 2023-24: A strong summer performance could be something Wagner builds on after helping Germany to the FIBA World Cup championship. Wagner, who was on the World Cup’s All-Tournament second team, averaged 18.6 points in his sophomore campaign last year for an Orlando squad that went 29-28 after a 5-20 start.

— Lopez


Denver Nuggets | PF

2022 NBArank: 83

One huge question for 2023-24: Often overshadowed by Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, Gordon finished the Finals with a plus-61 plus/minus, tied for seventh best since the start of play-by-play tracking (1996-97). With key player Bruce Brown gone, could Gordon see an uptick in opportunities? Gordon showed what he can do when he is a focal point, with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in Game 4 of the Finals against Miami.

— Youngmisuk

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