April 15, 2023

Ranking the best players in this year’s playoffs


The NBA playoffs are where the best players shine. But who are those players? We turned to our experts to find out, asking them to rank the top 25 players participating in the 2023 NBA playoffs, then created a composite ranking from those individual lists.

It’s been nearly seven months since we published our preseason list of the top 100 players in the NBA, and a lot has changed since then. Among the players who ranked in the top 25 who aren’t on this list are Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, whose teams didn’t make the postseason, and Paul George, whose sprained right knee has his status for the LA Clippers’ series against the Phoenix Suns up in the air.

Still, there are plenty of great players preparing to take the floor.

MORE: Everything you need to know about the 2023 NBA playoffs

2022-23 regular season: 18.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.0 BPG in 63 games
Career in playoffs: 15.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG in two appearances
Preseason rank: 53

Jackson is considered one of the front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year, but his offense could be the key to a deep playoff run for the Grizzlies. Jackson shot 50.6% from the field this season, tying his career high.

2022-23 regular season: 21.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 7.8 APG in 69 games
Career in playoffs: First appearance
Preseason rank: 46

Garland is set to make his playoff debut coming off a season in which he averaged 21.6 PPG, just 0.1 shy of his career-high mark from a season ago, when he was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

2022-23 regular season: 20.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG in 75 games
Career in playoffs: 14.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.2 APG in four appearances
Preseason rank: 23

Adebayo and the Heat have alternated early exits with deep playoff runs, reaching the Finals in 2020 and the conference finals last season, but losing in the first round in 2018 and 2021 (they missed the playoffs entirely in 2019).

2022-23 regular season: 25.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 4.1 APG in 77 games
Career in playoffs: 18.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 4.0 APG in one appearance
Preseason rank: 71

Randle missed the last five games of the regular season with a sprained left ankle, and his status for the playoffs remains in question. If he can play, the Knicks are hoping things go better than in 2021, when they were ousted by the Atlanta Hawks in five games.

2022-23 regular season: 20.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.8 APG in 29 games
Career in playoffs: 18.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.2 APG in two appearances
Preseason rank: 13

Towns missed most of this season with a strained right calf, but he returned in time to help the Timberwolves make a push into the postseason. Now they’ll look to pull off an unlikely upset of the top-seeded Denver Nuggets, which would mark Minnesota’s first postseason series win since 2004.

2022-23 regular season: 26.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 10.2 APG in 73 games
Career in playoffs: 25.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 8.7 APG in two appearances
Preseason rank: 16

Which Trae Young will show up this postseason? The one who averaged 28.8 PPG en route to the conference finals in 2021, or the one who was held to 15.4 PPG on 31.9% shooting in a first-round loss in 2022?

2022-23 regular season: 24.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 6.2 APG
Career in playoffs: 17.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG in two appearances
Preseason rank: 67

Brunson struggled as a reserve in his first playoff appearance in 2021, but he shined during the Dallas Mavericks’ run to the conference finals last year, averaging 21.6 PPG.

2022-23 regular season: 24.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.4 APG in 79 games
Career in playoffs: 25.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.0 APG in one appearance
Preseason rank: 25

Edwards dropped 36 points in his playoff debut last season and scored 30 as the Timberwolves were eliminated in Game 6, shooting 40.4% from 3-point range for the entire series.

2022-23 regular season: 21.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 10.7 APG in 58 games
Career in playoffs: 22.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.2 APG in 13 appearances
Preseason rank: 11

Harden has made the playoffs every season of his career but hasn’t reached the Finals since 2012, when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder. This season, he led the NBA in assists per game while posting his lowest points per game average since his OKC days.

2022-23 regular season: 25.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.1 APG in 73 games
Career in playoffs: First appearance
Preseason rank: 54

Fox made his first All-Star appearance this season and averaged 25.0 PPG, just shy of his career high of 25.2 set in 2020-21. That helped end Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought, the longest in the major North American professional sports.

2022-23 regular season: 19.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 7.4 APG in 67 games
Career in playoffs: 17.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.8 APG in six appearances
Preseason rank: 26
Championships: 1 (2021)

When the Bucks won the title in 2021, Holiday averaged 8.7 assists per game, his best in any single postseason. He has struggled from behind the arc, where he shoots just 33.6% in the playoffs, including 30.8% as a Buck.

2022-23 regular season: 19.1 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 7.3 APG in 79 games
Career in playoffs: 9.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 APG in three appearances
Preseason rank: 47

While the Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, this won’t be the first postseason rodeo for Sabonis, who reached the playoffs with the Thunder in 2017 and with the Pacers in 2018 and 2019. This is the first time, however, that he’s entering the playoffs as a starter.

2022-23 regular season: 26.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.5 APG in 67 games
Career in playoffs: 17.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG in five appearances
Preseason rank: 22

Brown averaged 23.1 PPG in the playoffs last year, including 23.5 PPG in Boston’s Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors. He has scored at least 20 points in 38 of his 85 career playoff games.

2022-23 regular season: 22.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.3 APG in 64 games
Career in playoffs: 20.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 4.4 APG in 10 appearances
Preseason rank: 17

Butler’s potential series-winning 3-pointer in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics last season came up just short. Now he and the Heat return to the playoffs as the 8-seed, looking to pull off an epic upset of the Bucks to get back to the Finals for the first time since 2020.

12. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

2022-23 regular season: 26.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 8.1 APG in 61 games
Career in playoffs: 28.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 9.2 APG in two appearances
Preseason rank: 9

Morant has yet to play enough playoff games to qualify for the all-time leaderboards, but his 28.2 PPG average would rank among the top 10 in NBA history. He has scored at least 30 in six of his 14 career playoff games.

2022-23 regular season: 28.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.4 APG in 68 games
Career in playoffs: 28.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.7 APG in five appearances
Preseason rank: 24

When it comes to the playoffs, Mitchell is best remembered for his epic duel with Jamal Murray in the Orlando bubble, when he topped 50 points twice and averaged 36.3 PPG in a seven-game series loss.

2022-23 regular season: 25.9 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.6 APG in 56 games
Career in playoffs: 27.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 2.8 APG in four appearances
Preseason rank: 20
Championships: 1 (2021)

Davis’ scoring average has actually declined in each of his playoff appearances, going from 31.5 PPG in 2015 to 30.1 in 2018, 27.7 in 2020 and 17.4 in 2021. That’s a trend the Lakers would like to see reversed this season.

2022-23 regular season: 27.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.5 APG in 53 games
Career in playoffs: 26.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.5 APG in two appearances
Preseason rank: 10

The last time we saw Booker in the playoffs, he was getting memed into oblivion as the Suns got blown out at home by the Mavericks in Game 7 of their second-round series last season. Now he returns to the playoffs with Kevin Durant, looking for the first title in Suns history.

2022-23 regular season: 28.9 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.8 APG in 55 games
Career in playoffs: 28.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 7.2 APG in 15 appearances
Preseason rank: 6
Championships: 4 (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020)

James is the all-time playoffs leader in games played, minutes played, field goals, free throws, steals, turnovers and points (among many other categories). But he’s still looking for his first postseason series win outside of the bubble as a Laker.

2022-23 regular season: 23.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 3.9 APG in 52 games
Career in playoffs: 21.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.8 APG in nine appearances
Preseason rank: 12
Championships: 2 (2014, 2019)

Leonard missed the entire postseason last year as the Clippers reached the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. Now he returns — sans the injured Paul George for the time being — looking to add a third ring to his trophy case.

2022-23 regular season: 30.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 4.6 APG in 74 games
Career in playoffs: 22.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 4.4 APG in five appearances
Preseason rank: 7

This season, Tatum became the first player in Celtics history to average 30 points per game. Now he’ll look to end the franchise’s 15-year title drought, the second longest in Celtics history.

2022-23 regular season: 24.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 9.8 APG
Career in playoffs: 26.4 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 6.4 APG in four appearances
Preseason rank: 2

Jokic is a two-time MVP and one of the top candidates to win this year’s award. And while he’s yet to reach the Finals, his Nuggets have won at least one series in three of the past four seasons.

2022-23 regular season: 29.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 6.3 APG in 56 games
Career in playoffs: 26.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 6.2 APG in eight appearances
Preseason rank: 5
Championships: 4 (2015, 2017, 2018, 2022)

Curry, the reigning Finals MVP, is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made in the playoffs. He also hasn’t been on the losing end of a Western Conference playoff series since 2014, advancing to the Finals in each of his past six playoff appearances.

3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

2022-23 regular season: 33.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 4.2 APG
Career in playoffs: 24.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.8 APG in five appearances
Preseason rank: 4

Embiid has won the NBA’s scoring title each of the past two seasons, but is still looking for his first NBA title — something the 76ers last won 40 years ago. The last NBA scoring champ to win the title in the same season was Shaquille O’Neal with the Lakers in 2000.

2022-23 regular season: 29.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG in 47 games
Career in playoffs: 29.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.1 APG in 11 appearances
Preseason rank: 8
Championships: 2 (2017, 2018)

Durant is coming off one of the best shooting regular seasons in NBA history and hasn’t lost a game he’s played since being traded to the Suns in February. But a sprained ankle limited him to just five games over the past two months.

2022-23 regular season: 31.1 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 5.7 APG in 63 games
Career in playoffs: 26.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 5.2 APG in seven appearances
Preseason rank: 1
Championships: 1 (2021)

In 2021, Antetokounmpo capped his title run by scoring 50 points in the Finals-clinching win over the Suns. Then last year he averaged a career-high 31.7 PPG in the playoffs, but the Bucks lost Game 7 on the road in Boston. This year they set out to claim home court advantage and they got it, so both Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee enter the playoffs at the top.

Just missed the cut: Mikal Bridges, Draymond Green, Evan Mobley


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