Welcome to our list of the ten best players left in 2021 NBA playoffs this season. Even though we had major eliminations, the list is still packed with talents. Let’s roll:
It is no secret that the biggest stars in basketball are largely missing from the playoffs: but what is shocking is that only three players on the All-NBA teams will appear for the rest of the postseason.
The All-NBA First-Team consisted of MVP Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The first three were eliminated in earlier stages of the playoffs, and Leonard is likely out for a significant period with a knee injury, leaving Antetokounmpo as the last man standing. His Milwaukee Bucks beat the Brooklyn Nets in seven games and will take on the Atlanta Hawks in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night.
The Second-Team featured LeBron James, Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, Julius Randle, and Chris Paul. CP3 did not appear in the first two games of his team’s conference finals matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers as he is stuck in the NBA’s Health and Safety protocols, but he will return at a later date. The other four cannot say the same, having been eliminated from the playoffs already. There is arguably even more star-power on this Second-Team, and experiencing the playoffs without them is strange.
The Third-Team featured Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, and Rudy Gobert. Again, there is only one player, Paul George, that has survived elimination up to this point, while the others have flamed out. All in all, there is only one member from each of the NBA’s all-league teams still competing for a championship.
Who Else is Left?
Trae Young, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton have made All-Star games in their career, and are playing between pretty and very well for their teams.
The 2021 playoffs have completely shifted course from years past and turned into a team-focused contest between cohesive units, rather than simple assemblies of overwhelming talent and prestige. It is refreshing to see and could help increase the parity within the league.
Ten Best Players Left in 2021 NBA Playoffs
Giannis Antetokounmpo: You cannot argue with the Greek Freak’s resume, nor his 40-point, 13-rebound performance to close out the Nets away from home. He may not have the best postseason reputation, but he is well on his way to changing his fortunes.
As good as Chris Paul has been for this team, Devin Booker is supremely talented. He is averaging 28.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in the playoffs and has a lethal mid-range that he has used to bury the Clippers and take a 2-0 lead in the conference finals.
“Ice Trae” has put the Hawks on his back in his postseason debut, turning in memorable performances and hitting a couple of game-winners to lead the fifth-seeded Hawks past two highly-favored teams. Young has been effective in scoring and passing the ball and is single-handedly dragging his team more than anyone else is.
CP3 had to make the list somewhere for his excellent poise and effectiveness in the playoffs. Having put a shoulder injury behind him, Paul scored 37 points in an elimination game against the Denver Nuggets and has been all that the Phoenix Suns hoped he would be when they acquired him in the offseason.
PG13 has put up an impressive stat-line at 26.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 5.3 APG, but is yet to really be “the guy” for LA in Kawhi Leonard’s absence. George was bailed out by 39 points from Terance Mann in Game Six against the Utah Jazz, scored one point in the fourth quarter of Game One against Phoenix, and missed two decisive free throws with 8.2 seconds left in Game Two. He is the most talented of this crop of players but is missing a career-defining performance.
Middleton is not shooting the ball incredibly well, but he had two 30-point games against Brooklyn and is a consistent defender with explosive scoring ability. Middleton will be the man to watch against Atlanta because of the attention that Giannis will receive attacking the smaller Hawks, which should free the two-time All-Star.
If we are emphasizing postseason performances, Ayton is a must for this list. The third-year center is averaging 16.3 PPG and 10.8 RPG on 72.6% field goal shooting, including a game-winning dunk in Game Two against the Clippers. Ayton has elevated his play when it matters, which is the mark of a true star.
Excluding a two-point dud in the first game of the playoffs, Jackson has not only been fantastic for the Clippers, but he has also been their best and most reliable player for stretches. He is averaging 18.4 points and shooting over 42% from three, and has morphed into an integral member of the Clippers’ attack.
As surprising as his inclusion may be ahead of others, Collins has been really good for Atlanta in the playoffs. He is averaging just under 14 points to go with 8.3 rebounds per game and has shot 54.3% from the field and 38.9% from three. Above all else, Collins was great in the waning moments of close games with Philadelphia, routinely coming up with stops on Joel Embiid and clearing the boards for Atlanta.
Collins also showed his spirit by wearing a shirt of him dunking on Embiid to a postgame press conference and will need to perform at a similar level against the Greek Freak.
Holiday is a former All-Star and a more recognizable figure than any of the past three players, but he has not performed up to his level of expectation. Holiday is averaging 15.2 PPG, 7.5 APG and 5.9 RPG but is shooting 39.8% from the field, 24.8% beyond the arc, and has a horrendous player efficiency rating of 11.11.
Holiday is the Bucks’ best perimeter defender and will be forgiven if he can slow down Trae Young at the point of attack.