Flashscore's Top 40 NBA players to watch this season: 6-4 - Heavyweights of the game

Could it be back-to-back MVPs for Joel Embiid?
Could it be back-to-back MVPs for Joel Embiid?AFP
Until the start of the season, Flashscore will bring you our rankings of the Top 40 players to watch this coming NBA season. In this penultimate edition, we look at the players just outside the top three.

6: LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

The decline of LeBron James has been predicted for years. For years now, the King has been responding on the court. Sure, he's no longer the best player in the world, but he's still a model of consistency and tenacity. He's not here to make up the numbers but to leave his mark in the history books.

Which he did last season, finally overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer in the regular season. But he didn't stop there and, with his Lakers, launched an epic end to the season to go all the way to the conference final against the Nuggets, the eventual champions.

What's next? 40,000 points in his career, a milestone long thought out of reach, and one that he could surpass this season. But the stakes are collective too. Last season left a taste of unfinished business. The Lakers beefed up their squad this summer, undoubtedly to give themselves a bit more breathing space in the regular season.

But it's James in particular that we'll be scrutinising because, in his 21st season, he's still one of the most impactful players in the league. He won't be number one again, that's a given, and that's not the objective, but as long as he maintains this level, he'll always be in the conversation. Each season may be his last but until the end, he'll be playing great basketball.

2022/2023 averages: 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 50% shooting, 32.1% three-pointers

Season target: the 40,000-point mark / NBA Finals

LeBron James is still one of the best in the business
LeBron James is still one of the best in the businessAFP

5: Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

"My goal is to play 82 games." Bearing in mind that his record is 75 and that we are in the era of load management, this statement by Anthony Davis may seem ambitious. But firstly, it's necessary if his team is to progress and, secondly, it's essential if he is to go in search of an MVP award, which he has the resources to win.

Because that's what we're talking about. If he no longer has the pressure of having to win a ring at all costs, his career would be on an altogether different scale with an individual trophy. He was an MVP finalist in 2018 but you always expect more with 'AD'. Especially when you know what he's capable of.

His playoff campaign was a perfect illustration of that. Dominant on both sides of the court, he was the main reason why the Lakers, despite not showing much in the regular season, managed to reach the conference final. The Nuggets were too strong, of course, but he has nothing to be ashamed of.

This season, at the age of 30, he shouldn't be content with being a top-five player, he needs to be the top dog. The competition is fierce, that's for sure. Physical players like him sometimes break down but at his peak, his domination is unreal. Which version of Anthony Davis will 2023/2024 hold? If it's the best, honours won't be far off.

2022/2023 averages: 25.9 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2 assists

Season target: 28 points, 13 rebounds, MVP

Davis is the king of the paint
Davis is the king of the paintAFP

4: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Finally, after several failures, Embiid was voted Most Valuable Player last season. That was logical for a guy who has been one of the NBA's elite stars for several years. The Cameroonian was able to put in a career-best season, coupled with an imposing defensive presence.

But none of that helped in the race for the title. Admittedly, he was hampered by an injury but that doesn't explain his series form against the Celtics (25.5 points with just 42% shooting). As well as, in particular, his infamously apocalyptic Game 7, during which, apart from his disappointing statistical performance (15 points with 5/18 shooting), we didn't see a glimmer of leadership.

And that's the difference between stars and superstars. All the more so given the unfortunate impression that he can't do any better than what he's currently offering. I'm not saying that Embiid is a bad basketball player, otherwise, he wouldn't be here but we're always more demanding of dominant players.

The clock is ticking. Embiid is turning 30, he probably won't have James Harden to serve him this season and inevitably, the 76ers could slip down the pecking order. Is that enough to dent their title chances? A good playoff run can sometimes be enough, as the Heat proved last season, but to cement their status, they're going to have to put in a hell of a regular season.

2022/2023 averages: 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds

Season target: MVP, DPOY, NBA Finals


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