The NBA Playoffs are underway with 16 teams battling their way to the NBA Finals, beginning on June 1. It’s a highly-anticipated time of year, with the best players in NBA playoffs all focused on the path to winning the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
For many of the top NBA players, this is familiar territory. The likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard have won multiple championships during their careers. As they all try to win another, the likes of Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Jayson Tatum will try and capture their first ring.
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It’s a sure bet that we’ll see some all-time great performances from some of the biggest stars during the NBA playoffs. Curry, Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry delivered 40-point games in the playoffs just a year ago. With the stage set, it’s time to look at the field of talent in the postseason this year.
Let’s dive into our rankings for the best players heading into the NBA playoffs in 2023.
Top 10 players in NBA playoffs
10. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
- LeBron James stats (2022-’23): 28.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.8 APG, 50% FG, 32.1% 3PT, .138 WS/48
- LeBron James playoff stats: 7,631 points (28.7 PPG), 2,391 rebounds (9 RPG), 1,919 assists (7.2 APG), 49.5% FG, 33.7% 3PT
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James already enters the 2023 NBA playoffs with his legacy defined. He is one of the three best players in NBA history and his track record in the postseason is stellar. James is the all-time leading scorer in the NBA playoffs (7,631) and he will become just the second player in NBA history (Magic Johnson, 2,346) with 2,000 career assists in the playoffs.
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This will also be the 16th time LeBron has made the playoffs, meaning he has played in more postseason games than nearly half the NBA. In his age-38 season, James averaged nearly 29 points per game with his highest rebounding average since 2018-’18. Since returning from a lengthy absence for a torn tendon in his foot, James is averaging 25.3 points and shooting 40.4 percent from the perimeter. He remains capable of carrying a team on any given night, but the injury risk and declining defensive ability (0.124 Defensive Win Shares) put him 10th in the rankings.
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9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
- Devin Booker stats (2022-’23): 27.8 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.5 APG, 48.4% FG, 35% 3PT, .157 WS/48
- Devin Booker playoff stats: 834 points (26.1 PPG), 172 rebounds (5.4 RPG), 144 assists (4.5 APG), 44.8% FG, 35.6% 3PT
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Hooker boasts an excellent track record in the NBA playoffs. In his age-26 season, the three-time All-Star has already helped Phoenix reach the NBA Finals once before. During his 2021 playoff run, Booker averaged 27 points per game, shooting 44.4 percent from the field with a 17.1 Game Score average, then followed that up with two 40-point games and a 28.2 PPG average in the 2021 NBA Finals
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The 26-year-old will be playing a slightly different role this time around. With Durant in the lineup, Booker averages 27 points and 55 assists per contest and shot 47.1 percent from the field. While he remains a bit of a liability on the defensive end (115 Defensive Rating), Booker has four 40-point games and 13 30-point games in his postseason career.
8. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
- Kawhi Leonard stats (2022-’23): 23.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 51% FG, 41% 3PT, .194 WS/48
- Kawhi Leonard playoff stats: 2,865 points (21.2 PPG), 815 rebounds (7.9 RPG), 240 steals (1.8 SPG), 51.1% FG, 39.9% 3PT
Kawhi Leonard didn’t play last season and hasn’t eclipsed 60 games in a regular season since 2018-’19, explaining why he isn’t talked about as much as he used to be. However, the 6-foot-7 forward proved this year why he’s one of the best players in the NBA playoffs. Leonard and Durant are the only two NBA starters to average 50/40/80 this past season.
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Leonard’s track record in the postseason also speaks for itself. A two-time NBA Finals MVP, the 31-year-old has five 40-point games and 33 30-point games in his playoff career. While Los Angeles is unlikely to make a postseason run without Paul George, Leonard has carried a team to a championship before, so he will give the Phoenix Suns a fight.
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7. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stats (2022-’23): 31.4 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1 BPG, 51% FG, 34.5% 3PT, .226 WS/48, 125 Offensive Rating
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playoff stats: 196 points (16.3 PPG), 53 rebounds (5.3 RPG), 48 assists (4.1 APG)
Selected with the 11th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is now one of the best players in basketball. The 6-foot-6 guard earned his first NBA All-Star Game appearance this season, but that’s only a sample of the player he has become.
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Leading a team that most expected to be tanking for Victor Wembanyama, Gilgeous-Alexander took Oklahoma City to the NBA playoffs. He dominated in the first half of the season (30.8 PPG, 50.8% FG), but was even better after the All-Star Break (33.3 PPG, 1.7 SPG). While this won’t be his first time in the postseason, he will fare a lot better than he did in 2020.
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6. Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns
- Kevin Durant stats (2022-’23): 29.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.4 APG, 1.4 BPG, 56% FG, 40.4% 3PT
- Kevin Durant playoff stats: 4,559 points (29.4 PPG), 1,205 rebounds (7.8 RPG), 635 assists (4.1 APG), 47.6% FG, 35.6% 3PT
It took longer than he wanted, but Kevin Durant finally got his way to the Phoenix Suns. A freak injury in early March prevented the future Hall of Famer from having a full month to get acclimated with his new teammates. Then again, it might not be necessary considering Phoenix went 8-0 with Durant in the lineup. One of the best shooters in NBA history will also roll into the postseason having shot 53.7 percent from the perimeter since putting on a Suns’ uniform.
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Depending on how far Phoenix advances, Durant has an opportunity to climb up the NBA’s all-time leaderboard. He enters the 2023 NBA playoffs just 441 points shy of becoming just the seventh player in NBA history to score 5,000 career points in the postseason, putting him in rarified air with LeBron, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan. Considering Durant’s efficiency this year and how wide open the West is, it’s very possible he joins the 5,000-club.
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Best players in NBA playoffs – Top 5
5. Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
- Nikola Jokić stats (2022-’23): 24.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 9.8 APG, 63.2% FG, .308 WS/38
- Nikola Jokić playoff stats: 1,2269 points (26.4 PPG), 551 rebounds (13.2 RPG), 306 assists (5.8 APG, 51.9% FG
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić is a top-two player in the NBA regular season and there’s an excellent argument to make for him winning NBA MVP again. Jokić set a career-high in Win Shares per 48 minutes (WS/48), posting the 10th-highest mark in NBA history. He leads the NBA in FiveThirtyEight’s WAR (20.3) by a wide margin and had the highest Value Over Replacement Player (8.8) I the league. Jokić is unstoppable in the regular season.
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It’s time for him to prove himself when it matters. Whole Jokic averaged 31 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks-plus steals in the 2022 playoff, Denver lost in the first round. Before that, Jokic’s Nuggets were swept in the 2021 Western Conference Semifinals, with a 15.75 average margin of defeat, If you want to be called one of the best players in NBA playoffs, at least win the conference.
4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
- Stephen Curry stats (2022-’23): 29.4 PPG, 6.3 APG, 6.1 RPG, 49% FG, 42.7% 3PT, .192 WS/48
- Stephen Curry playoff stats: 3,570 points (26.6 PPG), 833 assists, (6.2 APG), 210 steals (1.6 SPG), 45.2% FGm 40.1% 3PT
Stephen Curry might not have been one of the five best players in basketball this season, but it’s a very short list of players we’d take over him in the NBA playoffs. At times, it’s almost hard to choose which stats or performances to choose that highlight why. Curry has seven 40-point games in the playoffs and he could pass Hakeem Olajuwon (53) and Karl Malone (54) on the all-time leaderboard for 30-point games in the NBA playoffs. If that’s not enough, remember this is the same guard who averaged 31.2 points and 2 steals per game, while shooting 43.7 percent from beyond the arc in the 2022 NBA Finals.
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There’s another reason to bet on Curry. He seeks out opportunities to prove analysts and the NBA world wrong. It happened last year when many were debating just where he ranked among the all-time greats, responding directly to critics. There are plenty of skeptics when it comes to Golden State, who went 11-30 on the road this season. All of this is just an opportunity for Curry to prove himself once again, winning another NBA championship only this time as a No. 6 seed.
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
- Jayson Tatum stats (2022-’23): 30.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 46.6% FG, .185 WS/48
- Jayson Tatum playoff stats: 1,693 points (22.9 PPG), 503 rebounds (6.8 RPG), 325 assists (4.4 APG), 43.8% FG
Everyone remembers how Jayson Tatum performed in the NBA Finals last year. He shot just 36.7 percent from the field, while averaging nearly four turnovers and only 21.5 points per game. It was even worse in the final three matchups, with Tatum’s assist-turnover ratio at 17-15. However, we also can’t forget how he played before that series.
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Tatum’s playoff line during the Eastern Conference playoffs – 27 PPG, 6.7 RPG< 5.9 APG, 44.6% FG – captured what he is capable of at this time of year. He eviscerated the Brooklyn Nets (29.5 PPG) in a four-game sweep then averaged 27.6 points per game and 2.1 steals-plus-blocks in a seven-game series win over the Milwaukee Bucks. Combine that with his defense and you’ve got one of the most dangerous players in the NBA playoffs.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
- Joel Embiid stats (2022-’23): 33.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 54.8% FG, .215 WS/48
- Joel Embiid playoff stats: 1,058 points (24 PPG), 488 rebounds (10.7 RPG), 68 blocks (1.5 BPG), 46.8% FG
Joel Embiid is one of the best NBA centers of the modern era, but he has never even reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Injuries and the supporting cast around him have certainly played a part, but the All-NBA center should be under just as much pressure to win as Jokić.
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Why is Embiid over Jokic? Because defense matters even more in the NBA playoffs. Embiid finished with the sixth-highest Defensive Win Shares (3.9) in the NBA. Furthermore, Philadephia allowed the seventh-fewest points in the paint per game (48.1), whereas Denver ranked 21st (52.5). Most importantly, the head-to-head matchup speaks for itself. Both are MVP-caliber players, but Embiid is the better bet to dominate for an extended run in the postseason.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
- Giannis Antetokounmpo stats (2022-’23): 31.1 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, 55% FG, .204 WS/48
- Giannis Antetokounmpo playoff stats: (26.8 PPG), 12 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 5.2 APG, 52.7% FG
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best NBA player today. The Milwaukee Bucks star arguably should have more MVPs by now, but his focus is clearly on winning champions. Quite frankly, he likely would have a second ring right now if not for Khris Middleton’s injury that kept him out of the 2022 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Incredibly, Milwaukee took that to a Game 7 because Antetokounmpo – 33.9 PPG, 14.7 RPG, 7.1 SPG – almost single-handedly beat Boston.
The playoff resume speaks for itself. In the 2022 NBA Finals, put the Bucks on his back. In a legacy-defining moment, he averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3 steals-plus-blocks per game, all while shooting 61.8 percent from the field in the NBA Finals. When you can get that player and add in Antetokounmpo’s All-NBA defense, you have the best player in the NBA playoffs.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is ranked 75th on the list of the 100 greatest basketball players of all-time, according to ESPN. Of those 75 players, LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant are all considered to be among the best ever.Who made the NBA Playoffs 2023? ›
The Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves entered the postseason for the second consecutive season. The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers entered the postseason for the first time since 2021.How many NBA teams go to the playoffs? ›
Sixteen of the 30 league teams make the playoffs, eight teams from each of the two conferences. This produces 8 first round matchups.Who is number 1 all time NBA? ›
According to an ESPN report, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is ranked 75th on the list of the all-time greatest basketball players. According to polls, the three most likely candidates are LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant.Who has the biggest NBA contract 2023? ›
|1||Curry Stephen Curry GSW||$51,915,615|
|2||Embiid Joel Embiid PHI||$46,900,000|
|James LeBron James LAL||$46,900,000|
|Jokic Nikola Jokic DEN||$46,900,000|
The Oklahoma City Thunder were a win away from making the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2020, but it wasn't to be. In the finale of the NBA play-in tournament, the Thunder lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-95.Is Lakers out of playoffs? ›
The 2021-2022 season played out as most expected: with Westbrook struggling all year long, the oldest team in the NBA battling a myriad of more injuries, and bouts of inconsistency that saw the Lakers once again miss out on the postseason.How long is an NBA game? ›
Each quarter makes up a 12-minute session, meaning that in total a game of basketball will last for 48-minutes at NBA level. Some major European and international setups, though, will use a 10-minute quarter instead, making the whole match 40-minutes in length.
LeBron James is the NBA's all-time scoring leader. Does that finally tip the balance to him from Michael Jordan as the sport's GOAT? With each passing game, LeBron James, the newly crowned all-time scoring champion, puts more distance between himself and all those enshrined in basketball's hall of fame.Why LeBron is better than Jordan? ›
Jordan is also recognised as the better defender, averaging more steals and making the all-defense team three more times and playing more minutes per game. However, James averages more assists and rebounds than Jordan - which some state makes James the better overall player.Which NBA team is the richest? ›
The latest ranking reported that the Golden State Warriors is the most valuable NBA franchise after the 2021–22 NBA season.Is Giannis a 5 time All-Star? ›
The seven-time All-Star is able to impact the game in many different areas. He has carried the Bucks to the No. 2 seed prior to the All-Star break. Antetokounmpo is third in the NBA in points (31.8) and second in rebounds (12.2).What rank is LeBron James in top 75? ›
- LeBron James. Points: 38,390. NBA 75 ranking: 2. ...
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Points: 38,387. NBA 75 ranking: 3. ...
- Karl Malone. Points: 36,928. ...
- Kobe Bryant. Points: 33,643. ...
- Michael Jordan. Points: 32,292. ...
- Dirk Nowitzki. Points: 31,560. ...
- Wilt Chamberlain. Points: 31,419. ...
- Shaquille O'Neal. Points: 28,596.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and James Harden are three of the top 75 players in NBA history.Who will win most improved player NBA 2023? ›
|Lauri Markkanen||-400||-360 🔥|
|Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||+260||+310 🔥|
|Jalen Brunson||+2000||+2400 🔥|
|Mikal Bridges||+7000||+11000 🔥|
Stephen Curry is currently the highest-paid NBA player.Who will win NBA 2023 predictions? ›
2023 NBA Championship Odds.
|Milwaukee Bucks||+265 BET NOW|
|Boston Celtics||+310 BET NOW|
|Phoenix Suns||+425 BET NOW|
|Golden State Warriors||+950 BET NOW|
It's believed that the first-ever dunk in organized basketball occurred in 1936 (before that it was all one-legged push shots and layups). Joe Fortenberry, a 6ft 8in Texan, performed one in the Berlin Olympics for the US basketball team on the way to winning the sport's first-ever gold medal.
The youngest player ever to play in the NBA was Andrew Bynum, a centre who was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005. Bynum made his NBA debut on 2 November 2005 at the age of just 18 years and six days, and went on to also play for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers.Who is the youngest NBA player ever? ›
The youngest player ever to play in the NBA was Andrew Bynum, who played his first game only six days after his 18th birthday.Who is most likely to win MVP NBA 2023? ›
BetMGM consistently offers excellent value in this market, so we have listed its current NBA MVP odds:
- Joel Embiid (-600)
- Nikola Jokic (+700)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (+800)
- Jayson Tatum (+25000)
Who Has the Best Odds to Win the 2023 NBA Finals? The Milwaukee Bucks are the favorite to win the NBA title at +250 odds, followed by the Boston Celtics at +360 odds. Third place has been claimed by The Phoenix Suns with +460 odds. The Golden State Warriors have rose to the fourth-best odds with + 800.Who picks NBA Rookie of the Year? ›
The NBA on Friday unveiled the three finalists for the Rookie of the Year award based on the voting results from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.Has an 8 ever beat a 1? ›
Yes, an 8-seed has upset a 1-seed in the NBA playoffs.How many times has a 16 beat a 1? ›
A No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament twice: UMBC defeated Virginia in 2018, and Fairleigh Dickinson defeated Purdue in 2023.Has a 7 seed ever beat a 2 seed NBA? ›
The 1986-87 Seattle SuperSonics were the first seven seed to accomplish the feat. After a regular season where they posted a losing record of 39-43, the SuperSonics eliminated the No. 2 Dallas Mavericks in four games. Seattle lost to Dallas by 22 points in Game 1 before reeling off three straight wins.Did Lakers make playoffs 2023? ›
All five teams from the Pacific Division - Sacramento, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State and the Los Angeles Lakers - have made the playoffs, which start Saturday. But Miami, the champion of the Southeast Division, almost missed out.How many games LeBron didn't play? ›
LeBron James back for Lakers after missing 13 games for foot.
With their loss to the Suns Tuesday night in Phoenix, as well as the Spurs' win over Nuggets, the Lakers were eliminated from 2022 playoff contention.Who is the fastest NBA player to 20000 points? ›
LeBron James reaches 20,000 career points
James eclipsed 20,000 career points in the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors, becoming the youngest player to score 20,000 points in NBA history (28 years, 17 days). He broke Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant's previous record of 29 years, 122 days.
Lowest Scoring Game: Pistons vs.
22, 1950 than there were points scored on the court. In the lowest scoring game of all time, the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 that day.
Nba 2K21 is the latest title in the world-renowned, best-selling NBA 2K series, delivering an industry-leading sports video game experience on Nintendo Switch.Is Giannis top 10 power forwards of all time? ›
10 Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is certainly in the middle of his NBA career, but it is already safe to say that he is one of the best power forwards of all time.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has played in 6 games with 50+ points.Who has the most points ever top 50 in the NBA? ›
He is also the only player in NBA history to lead the league in all five major statistical categories in a single season. With his combination of size, skill and athleticism, Giannis Antetokounmpo is undoubtedly one of the best power forwards in the NBA.Is Giannis already top 20? ›
Not yet. He still needs at least 3-4 season of greatness, as he showed in the last 5-6 years, to be considered a top 20 BNA player. Look at the players ranked 19-24 in ESPN top players.Where does Giannis rank all-time in points? ›
Giannis Antetokounmpo, All-time ranking in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks.
|Height:||6-11 / 2.11|
|Weight:||242 lbs. / 109.8 kg.|
Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for most 50-point games in NBA history with 118. Michael Jordan ranks second with 31 50-point games, followed by Kobe Bryant (25), James Harden (23) and Elgin Baylor (17). Among active players, Damian Lillard is the closest to cracking the top five.How many 50-point games LeBron have? ›
James has recorded 50-plus points in 14 games over the course of his career.Who has 15 all stars in the NBA? ›
|Tim Duncan*||15||1998; 2000–2011; 2013; 2015|
|Kevin Garnett*||15||1997–1998; 2000–2011; 2013|
|Shaquille O'Neal*||15||1993–1998; 2000–2007; 2009|
|Michael Jordan*||14||1985–1993; 1996–1998; 2002–2003|
Final Mock Rosters.
|Team James||Team Antetokounmpo|
|LeBron James (starter)||Giannis Antetokounmpo (starter)|
|Jayson Tatum (starter)||Nikola Jokic (starter)|
Tim Duncan, 15:
Tim Duncan wins co-MVP with Shaquille O'Neal at the 2000 NBA All-Star game in Oakland. Duncan once said he'd “rather be laying on a beach somewhere” instead of attending the All-Star Game. It's not that he was being disrespectful or unappreciative — it was just Duncan being Duncan.
Wilt Chamberlain scored 70-plus points in a game twice over a 13-day span in 1962. Chamberlain has accounted for six of the NBA's 13 70-plus point games, including his single-game record of 100 points.How many 70 point games in NBA history? ›
This feat has been accomplished 82 times in NBA history. 34 players have scored 60 or more points in a game, while just eight players have joined the 70-point club.Who has the fastest 10,000 points in NBA history? ›
On Tuesday night, Mitchell joined the 10,000-point club and became the fastest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 career points and 1,000 career 3-pointers made. It was his 410th career game for the six-year vet. The feat occurred in the opening minute of the third quarter against the Atlanta Hawks.