10. Dejounte Murray (Atlanta Hawks)
More or less freed from his health problems, he took a big leap forward by asserting himself as an All-Star for the first time last season. Dejounte Murray still flirted with the triple-double average: 21 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and even 2 steals on average. So why not put it higher? Already because he will discover a new role in Atlanta, with a leader who monopolizes the ball a lot.
Murray should even have been ranked among the “point guards.” But he will alternate with position two. And he can establish himself as one of the best in the league in this position. His athletic qualities and his defense make him a very interesting player, as does his quality of percussion with the ball in hand. Afterwards, was it really worth dropping three first draft rounds to bring him to the Hawks? Answer in a few months or a few years.
9. Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)
He starts low in this ranking but he could grab a few places by the end of the coming season. It is in any case one of the conditions for the Timberwolves, very ambitious, to grab the top-4 of their Conference. It’s not win. They’re going to need a great Anthony Edwards.
The first choice of the 2020 draft is asserting itself more and more as a leader and its offensive panoply has grown. But this third season could – should – be the blast for the 21-year-old. Journalists and the player announce everywhere that he worked hard during the offseason. So we can’t wait to see the result.
8. Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls)
He doesn’t have much to envy to players ranked a little higher. But we still have a little mistrust – perhaps unjustified – towards Zach LaVine. Even today, it’s hard to know if his stats truly reflect his abilities. He can score, shoot, even make others play. But not sure that he will win for all that.
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7. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
Seniority still comes first for Klay Thompson. The experience but also the prize list. Yes, he didn’t return to his best level last season, and that’s logical after more than two years of absence, a tear in the cruciate ligaments and another in the Achilles tendon. And yet, he still had a strong influence on the success of the Warriors, returning to the top of the league.
Thompson will be even better this season, that’s for sure. More in rhythm, more in legs. And therefore potentially sharp again in defense while being a permanent three-point threat in attack. He’s a different player from the other backs in this top but he’s still a safe bet.
6. Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
The observation could be the same as for Zach LaVine except that Bradley Beal, is theoretically a cut above. At least when he’s healthy, which wasn’t really the case last season. He remains a top scorer like there are few in this league.
5. Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
He may be underestimated. Or overstated. This is paradoxical. Kind of like the Celtics actually. Jaylen Brown was Boston’s strongman for most of the series against Golden State. Sometimes even when he had Draymond Green on his back. He seems to be able to assume a franchise player status. As a result, it was difficult to dismiss him from the podium.
4. Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers)
It is much higher in most rankings made by our American colleagues. And it is true that he is a great player. A great scorer anyway. But Donovan Mitchell still has things to prove to really integrate the elite of the league in his position. He must be able to defend better, of course, but also to create for others. Overall, it can even gain in efficiency.
Playing with a point guard like Darius Garland should help him. If the two players do not step on each other. If they collaborate, each could pull the other up. Having one of the top 10 point guards and one of the top 10 full backs is still quite a luxury.
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3. Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
His style of play is perhaps less flashy than the other named players. It is therefore less popular. Probably not even fully appreciated at its fair value. But there are very few fullbacks more effective than Khris Middleton in the NBA. If he hadn’t been injured, the Bucks might even have lifted a second trophy in a row.
Middleton knows how to do everything well. Shoot, pass, defend, attack, finish close or halfway. He’s not necessarily as strong as Beal or Mitchell in some areas, but overall he’s still a more impactful player while being almost as statistically productive as he plays with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
2. James Harden (Philadelphia Sixers)
We give him the benefit of the doubt. For a long time, James Harden was the best fullback in the league. But it visibly lost its edge last year. He puts it down to physical glitches and he swears he’s going to get back to his best. If so, it will be number one. Otherwise, it could lose several places.
Because in good health, Harden remains an exceptional attacker. Much too strong even. A buffalo, strong on its feet, lively without being swift, skilful, clever, creative. A nightmare for the defenses of the other 29 teams. This player, we haven’t seen him since his arrival in Philadelphia. On the contrary, we saw a blunt type, a step inside. The next few months will be decisive.
1. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
It’s crazy but it’s almost a number one by default. Devin Booker is the most talented fullback in the league. But how long will it be the best? For now, it is holding up. 5 seasons in a row around 25-26 points. He has even progressed alongside Chris Paul, both in leadership and in game intelligence. He is no longer quite just a scorer. He is very valuable to the Suns. But he still has a step to take to lead his team to the title. Not sure it’s completely within reach.