The 70th season of the NBA season tipped off Tuesday night with one team dominating the list of top players in the league. The Golden State Warriors have one of the most starred-studded teams since the 1960s Boston Celtics, and should dominate again this season after posting a league-record 73 wins in 2015-16.
Sharpshooter Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the offseason as a free agent, much to the dismay of the rest of the league. Joining Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors may have the three best outside shooters in the league, and they have an all-around star in the front court in Draymond Green.
The NBA still has plenty of stars on other teams, though. The league is loaded with talent, particularly after a draft that includes future stars Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.
But two big names are no longer on the list of top players. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, with 10 championships between them, retired after spectacular careers and their next stop will be Springfield, Massachusetts. Kevin Garnett, who was among the elite players in the league for a majority of his career, also called it quits.
Meanwhile, Chris Bosh's career may be in jeopardy and Khris Middleton will miss six months due to a hamstring injury.
Here is how we project the 50 best players in the upcoming 2016-17 season. Let the debate begin.
1) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers It's certainly tempting to put Curry at No. 1 after his unprecedented MVP season, but this living legend continues to be the ultimate leader on the court. James has been the best player in the league for quite some time and chasing Michael Jordan has kept him from slowing down. Expect another big season for James as the Cavs pursue the No. 1 seed in the East. The league belongs to King James.
2) Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors It might be fair to call Curry the greatest shooter ever to have played at this point after back-to-back MVPs, and after such an extraordinary season. Now he will have to share the ball a bit more with the addition of the No. 3 player on the list. Curry can expect a dip in production from his spectacular season, but it won't be by much.
3) Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State Warriors He's hungry to win his first NBA title and it seems all-but-certain he will have another excellent season. It will be interesting to see how Durant handles playing with Curry and Thompson next season and how they handle all of the outside shooting. Durant is a good teammate and an unselfish player so the transition might not be as difficult as it seems. His numbers won't be as big as they were in Oklahoma City, but he'll have more wins, which is what matters.
4) Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder Does Westbrook go into a hole after losing Durant in OKC, or does it inspire him to play harder? It's a difficult guess. But there is no denying that Westbrook is among the most athletic players ever to have played the game. Expect plenty of triple-doubles again this season.
5) Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans Might be higher on this list if there was more assurance he is over his injury setbacks. Staying healthy is the 23-year-old's top priority. It wouldn't be surprising if he finishes with averages of 24 points and 12 rebounds. Davis is a very consistent player, and has a great attitude.
6) Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs Few players have made greater strides since they entered the league than Leonard. He is particularly strong along the baseline, and his long arms and tenacious play separate him from the competition. But now Duncan is retired and Manu Ginobili is not expected to last much longer. Leonard still has the system and the talent around him to thrive. He does all the little things that help a team win, especially on defense and on broken plays.
7) DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings You can feel Cousins' frustrations. The Kings are a long shot to reach the postseason, but Cousins should have another big year. A hard-nosed player, he is exceptional in the paint and is a very good rebounder. The big question surrounding Cousins is whether he can put everything aside to get the Kings to play better team basketball.
8) James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets A scoring machine but there are questions about his defense and ability to lead Houston deep into the postseason. But the talent is there, and so is his desire. Harden is coming off his highest-scoring season (29.0 ppg), and it will be hard to match that, but the sharpshooter appears to be a man on a mission. He can't do it alone, though.
9) LaMarcus Aldridge, PF San Antonio Spurs With Duncan gone, Aldridge takes over as the Spurs' most important big man. The Texas native didn't seem to have any problems transitioning into the Spurs offense, though his numbers took a hit because he took fewer shots. Now he has Pau Gasol next to him, and there will be more of an interest in his team leadership. Aldridge consistently posts strong numbers and looks ready for a big second season under Gregg Popovich.
10) Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers An athletic big man, Griffin might have digressed a bit. He will be out to prove he can help carry a Clippers squad that has frequently underachieved. Griffin is a hard worker so he can turn things around. A model for consistency, it won't be surprising if he reaches his career averages once again.
11) Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers He answered the big questions that surrounded him after Aldridge bolted in the summer of 2015, averaging a career-best 25.1 points per game. Even his assists per game (6.8) went up. Lillard isn't a great defensive player, but he is extremely athletic and is a fearless competitor. There's no reason to believe he won't continue his hot streak into this season.
12) Draymond Green, PF, Golden State Warriors The hardest working player in the league, he has emerged as a triple-double machine. Green might be the most intriguing player the game has ever seen. He's scores from everywhere on the court, rebounds, dishes out assists and is a defensive star. Meanwhile, he's a great team player on a squad loaded with scorers.
13) Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers What a recovery. After a gruesome injury in the summer of 2014, George had his best season of his career, averaging 23.1 points per game. He will have to carry the load again in Indianapolis. Green can do just about everything, and the future remains bright for the 26-year-old.
14) John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards He was once dogged by a poor supporting cast, but all that has changed in recent seasons. Wall is a force on both ends of the court and should build off a very good season. He's hitting his stride and has a very good chance of finishing with 20 ppg/10 apg—a stat that just barely eluded him last season.
15) Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers He played big when it counted and after more time with James, Irving looks very comfortable in the offense. The 24-year-old is not afraid to penetrate or knock down a jumper in his defender's face. Expect more big things from Irving this season as the defending champs make another run at the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
16) Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers Time might be catching up to Paul, who is among the game's all-time great floor generals and one of the smartest players in the NBA. He's coming off another excellent season, on both ends of the court, but the Clippers look predictable to opponents and Los Angeles did little to upgrade the players around him. There's no taking away his importance to the team, but the 31-year-old might finally have trouble competing with so many athletic young guards in the West.
17) Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks Detractors love pointing out his inability to bring team success to the Knicks, but it's hard to name a better scorer. Anthony is coming off his worst season in years, but he has a better supporting cast this season and that likely means bigger things from Melo. Expect another big scoring season for the veteran.
18) Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors Imagine the open looks he's going to get with Durant and Curry on the floor and with Green in the paint. It's a scary thought. Thompson is a classic shooter and when he gets hot he looks unstoppable. Though his stellar numbers (22.1 ppg/47.0 FG%/42.5 3P%) will likely tick down with Durant on the floor, he will remain a dominant perimeter force.
19) Andrew Wiggins, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves He's not the next LeBron James as some had tried to label him (who is?) but he's a very talented and has a knack for scoring. The Wolves seem ready to take the West by storm with Karl-Anthony Towns, Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine, but the undoubted star is Wiggins. It won't be long until he's in the top 10.
20) Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies A defensive star, Gasol is a force on offense with a nice touch. He would be higher on this list but is dealing with right foot injury. He led a balanced attack last season and it will likely continue into this season.
21) Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls His numbers basically stayed the same from his breakout season of 2014-15. It doesn't really matter because Butler is so aggressive on both sides of the court that his statistics often seem meaningless. He has had a positive influence on young players like Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott and enters next season without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, two players with whom he reportedly had some friction. Now Butler will be teamed with veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. It should be an interesting season in Chicago.
22) Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors A smart player who can score in different ways, Lowry is coming off by far his best season (21.2 ppg) after 10 seasons. The 30-year-old has been a positive influence on his teammates since arriving in Toronto in 2012-13. Don't be surprised if his scoring ticks down a bit this season, because he will probably defer more to his improving teammates.
23) DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers An absolute monster in the paint, Jordan basically scared the world with his athleticism at the Rio Games on both ends of the court. He plays with so much passion and is actually is a solid offensive player (12.7 ppg in 2015-16). His free-throw shooting is terrible, but it has improved a bit over the years.
24) Andre Drummond, PF, Detroit Pistons Drummond says he's in the best shape of his life and claims he will win the rebounding title again. Who is going to disagree with him? Drummond, 23, has the potential to be a Top 10 player but needs to improve his pathetic free-throw shooting (35.5% in 2015-16) like DeAndre Jordan, and add to his low-post repertoire.
25) DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors He can flat out score and has a good partnership going with Lowry. DeRozan should be comfortable entering the season and has a good chance of duplicating his career-best stats. Now that he's in his prime and has the comfort of his big contract, DeRozan seems focused on the upcoming season after competing for Team USA in Rio.
26) Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves It was very obvious that Towns was the best rookie last season, and the future seems bright for the 7-footer. There might be a bit of a sophomore slump, but it's hard to envision Towns taking much of a step back. He's got good instincts and plays well with his teammates. The Wolves are on the rise, and it has a lot to do with Towns.
27) Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics The secret is already out that Thomas is a star. The 27-year-old is so difficult to guard and plays with so much heart. Thomas should lead the Celtics to the playoffs, but he needs to improve on his shooting and shot selection. The best thing the 5-foot-9 guard has going for him is his confidence. There aren't many players who have as much competitive drive.
28) Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks Maybe you can't pronounce his name, but you can recognize his skills. He's 6-foot-11 and has long arms, which is scary because he's also very athletic. The 21-year-old had a very good third season, and it seems clear that he will be even better this season. He shot 50.6 percent from the field while grabbing 7.7 rebounds. Expect big things from the Bucks simply because Antetokounmpo seems poised for big things.
29) Eric Bledsoe, PG, Phoenix Suns Lifted his scoring average and still dishes out 6.1 assists per game. Bledsoe has joined the league's elite point guards. Needs to take on more of a leadership role on a young Suns squad.
30) C.J. McCollum, SG, Portland Trail Blazers One of the most underrated players in the league, the 25-year-old had a breakout season after the departure of Aldridge. McCollum can flat out score, can catch and shoot, create his own shot, and isn't afraid to take it to the hole. Still, McCollum needs to prove that he can continue at the same pace as he did last season.
31) Gordon Hayward, SF, Utah Jazz The star swingman gets better every year and enters the season with a player option. Hayward is dealing with a finger injury but when he returns Jazz fans can expect another quality season. The 26-year-old plays hard every night and is coming off a season in which he averaged 19.7 ppg.
32) Al Horford, PF, Boston Celtics On one of the top up-and-coming teams, Horford should shine in his new gig. He's been one of the most consistent players in the league and there's no reason to suspect he will slow down. Partnering with Thomas and Avery Bradley may mean his fifth All-Star appearance this winter.
33) Derrick Rose, PG, New York Knicks It's been a tough road for Rose, but a fresh start in New York, where he will compete with hungry players like Anthony, should be just what the doctor ordered. His off-the-court issues will likely translate into more focus on the court. The former MVP has exceptional court vision and should make the players around him better.
34) Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Hornets Had surgery on his left knee and didn't look particularly sharp in preseason. Walker will still have a very good season and should build off his 20.9 ppg season. He can shoot (37.1 3P%), and is a low-maintenance star on a team with a lot of cohesion.
35) Jahlil Okafor, C, Philadelphia 76ers There is no denying his talent, but there are questions about his right knee and his desire on a team that is as consistently terrible as the Sixers. Head coach Brett Brown will like to see more aggression on the boards, but there is plenty to like about this young big man. He could form a great combo with Simmons.
36) Reggie Jackson, PG, Detroit Pistons Jackson's knee problems might be more serious than anticipated, but when healthy, the 26-year-old has an excellent pick-and-roll combo with Drummond. Jackson needs to prove his breakout season last year was not a fluke.
37) Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks Is this the year Nowitzki fades off? Probably. But he knows how to conserve energy, and still has scoring moves that are difficult to defend. Nowitzki is still among the most competitive players in the league, and Dallas has a chance to sneak into the playoffs, so he should have another strong season.
38) Kristaps Porzingis, C, New York Knicks He is ready to perform after a solid rookie season and with expectations growing in Gotham. The 7-foot-3 Latvian has good moves and can expect some good passes from Rose. He averaged only 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in his rookie season. Those numbers will grow under head coach Jeff Hornacek.
39) Bradley Beal, SG, Washington Wizards Coming off a rough season, the 23-year-old suffered a lower right leg injury and a sprained pelvis. Yet, he still set career bests in scoring (17.4 ppg) and field-goal percentage (44.9). Beal is a talent and is part of one the best backcourts.
40) Paul Millsap, PF, Atlanta Hawks The three-time All-Star had yet another quiet and productive season. Millsap doesn't do anything all that flashy. He simply scores and rebounds on teams that win. In his entire career, Millsap has only missed the playoffs once (Utah Jazz in 2010-11).
41) Brook Lopez, C, Brooklyn Nets Sure he's on one of the worst teams in the league, but that shouldn't detract from what Lopez brings to the game. There are few centers who can score as consistently as the 28-year-old. There's no reason to believe he won't lead Brooklyn in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage once again. That is, of course, if he doesn't get traded.
42) Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs Yes, he's 34, but he continues to shine on arguably the most consistent roster in the league. Parker is still a quality shooter (49.3 FG percentage) and his court vision has always been among the best in the league. His stats dipped last season, but they should see an increase.
43) Nikola Vucevic, PF, Orlando Magic A highly polished big man, Vucevic makes up for some of his defensive shortcomings with excellent scoring. He missed 17 games last season and will be competing alongside Serge Ibaka and an improving Aaron Gordon this season.
44) Dwyane Wade, SG, Chicago Bulls The local kid comes home and will want to impress his friends and family. Father time might be catching up to Wade despite coming off a solid final season in Miami. His numbers will likely dip from the 19 ppg and 45.6 FG percentage, but Wade plays with pride and should be an important contributor on his new team.
45) Pau Gasol, PF, San Antonio Spurs Gasol still cracks this list because he's so consistent and knows how to score in different ways. It's unclear how much longer the 36-year-old can continue to play, but he's a perfect fit into San Antonio and should do a fine job replacing Duncan.
46) Devin Booker, SG, Phoenix Suns Booker is a potential All-Star but may continue to have some shooting woes as he only turns 20 on Oct. 30. The former Kentucky star put up big numbers in the final two months of the season, with five games of 30 points or more.
47) Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies Conley's statistics aren't particularly impressive (15.3 ppg/6.1 apg/42.2 FG%) but Conley remains a reliable a floor general. He only played in 56 games last season though it probably won't affect him much after a solid preseason. Conley should fit in well under new head coach David Fizdale.
48) Greg Monroe, PF, Milwaukee Bucks Monroe puts up solid numbers on a team filled with promising young players. There's a good chance the Bucks make the postseason, and it will likely have plenty to do with Monroe's steady presence. Expect an uptick from his 2015-16 stats.
49) Brandon Knight, PG, Phoenix Suns He's on one of the most interesting teams in the league, with a group of solid young guards. Knight, 24, should raise his game after receiving a demotion from new head coach Earl Watson. If Knight remains a reserve and stays healthy, he should be a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
50) Al Jefferson, C, Indiana Pacers He's not going to be posting career numbers at age 31 and after playing only 47 games last season with the Hornets. However, Jefferson brings a lot of offense to a roster that's going to need it. His career 16.7 ppg is misleading because he battled nagging injuries.