Are you ready for some playoff basketball? Well, sort of. The NBA Play-In Tournament begins this week, and eight teams will be fighting for a chance to advance to the NBA playoffs. Each game will have plenty of stars in it, too.
However, of those stars, who are the best players suiting up in the games this week? Below is a list of the top four players competing in the play-in tournament. The rankings are based on each player’s past postseason success and their 2020-21 regular-season performance.
How does the NBA Play-In Tournament work?
The NBA first introduced the play-in tournament in 2020 and decided to bring it back this year.
Here are the upcoming matchups:
- No. 7 LA Lakers vs. No. 8 Golden State Warriors
- No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies vs. No. 10 San Antonio Spurs
- No. 7 Boston Celtics vs. No. 8 Washington Wizards
- No. 9 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 10 Charlotte Hornets
The winners between the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds clinch the seventh spot in the actual playoffs. The losers then play the winners of the No. 9-No. 10 matchups. Whoever wins those final play-in games in each respective conference then clinches the No. 8 seeds in the playoffs.
Here are the top four players playing in these NBA Play-In Tournament games.
Who are the Nos. 2–4 players in the NBA play-in tourney?
Many great players have arguments to make this list.
Of course, there are stars like Jayson Tatum of the Celtics and Bradley Beal of the Wizards. However, while both of these guys had great seasons — and both have had some playoff success — they barely missed the cut. The top four players either have significantly more playoff experience or have won a championship.
4. Russell Westbrook, Washington Wizards
We have never seen a point guard quite like Russell Westbrook. He not only scored 22.2 points per game for the Wizards this year, but he also led the NBA in assists (11.7) to go with his 11.5 rebounds per contest. He has also been extremely hot in May, averaging 26.3 points, 16.1 assists, and 13.8 rebounds.
Given his past playoff success, that stellar play is likely to continue as the former UCLA Bruin has played in 106 career postseason games. He has averaged 24.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 7.0 rebounds in those games, and even helped lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals.
3. Anthony Davis, LA Lakers
Anthony Davis had a disappointing season due to injury but was one of the best players in the NBA when on the court. He averaged 21.8 points for the Lakers to go with 7.9 rebounds per game.
Davis actually doesn’t have a ton of playoff experience, but last season’s postseason performance is why he’s third on this list. He ultimately averaged 27.7 points and 9.7 rebounds, and he led the Lakers to an NBA championship.
2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry clearly deserved one of the top two spots.
He is one of the leading candidates for MVP this season after averaging a league-leading 32.0 points. He also recorded 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. What really helps him, though, is that he is a three-time NBA champion and has played in the NBA Finals five times.
Curry is the greatest shooter ever and the second-best player in the NBA Play-In Tournament.
LeBron James is the No. 1 player in the NBA Play-In Tournament
Was the No. 1 spot really in question? LeBron James missed time due to injury this year but still played like a 25-year-old when on the court, averaging 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists.
James is also a four-time NBA champion and has played in the NBA Finals in nine of the last 10 seasons. Overall, he has suited up for 260 playoff matchups in his career and has averaged 28.8 points, 7.2 assists, and 9.0 rebounds in those contests.
The King is one of the NBA’s GOATs and is the top player in the play-in tournament.
LeBron James can lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals … if he’s healthy
A No. 7 or No. 8 seed isn’t often the favorite to make the NBA Finals. But if James stays healthy, that’s certainly the case for the Lakers.
James missed six weeks this year due to a high ankle sprain, which is ultimately why the Lakers fell into the play-in tourney. However, he is one of the NBA’s GOATs, so if he can stay healthy and play at the level he has played at his entire career, LA has a chance to reach the NBA Finals and even win the whole thing. This is due to the fact that the Lakers aren’t just the reigning champs; they are also deeper this year after adding Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, and Andre Drummond.
If James and Davis can stay healthy, they can win their second consecutive NBA title. If either of them aggravates their injuries, though, LA’s championship hopes would go out the window.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference