Ahead of the new NBA season, and the release of the upcoming NBA 2K22 on PlayStation 4 and 5, GiveMeSport has previewed 10 players to keep an eye on, with the help of some key, in-game stats.
Milwaukee Bucks would be forgiven for still celebrating their first NBA Championship victory since 1971. But with the off-season providing a host of talking points and major trades, attention turns to the new season, and who will impress on court.
Who are you excited to watch this season? We’ve compiled our top 10 players to look out for in 2021/22.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks
Nicknamed ‘The Greek Freak’, Antetokounmpo was the chief protagonist as the Milwaukee Bucks sealed their first title in 50 years.
The power forward, with a 96 overall NBA 2K22 in-game rating, will be intent on growing his status as the next face of the league and leading his team to a second-consecutive NBA Championship in 2022.
At 26 years old, he won his first ring at a younger age than greats of the game, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and LeBron James.
His legacy at the Bucks is already safe, but if his upward curve continues, he’ll join Jordan and O’Neal in the NBA Hall of Fame.
LaMelo Ball – Charlotte Hornets
84 rated LaMelo Ball goes into his second season in the NBA as the reigning Rookie of the Year.
After watching his brother, Lonzo, struggle at the LA Lakers in his debut season, Ball filled up the scoresheet, 15.7 points per game, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals. A wrist injury limited him to only 51 games (31 starts).
His unconventional route to the NBA via spells in Lithuania and Australia has formed a free-spirited and liberated player with an unshakeable confidence. If he can keep himself injury-free we could see one of the most impressive sophomore seasons in a long while.
Russell Westbrook – LA Lakers
Russell Westbrook stole the headlines earlier in the off-season after the Washington Wizards and LA Lakers agreed a huge trade with Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell going in the opposite direction.
It will see Westbrook join LeBron James and Anthony Davis to form one of most potent looking trios in the NBA.
Westbrook’s only season in Washington saw him average a triple double, but the 2017 MVP is missing an NBA Championship from his trophy cabinet.
How it all fits together will be one of the more intriguing storylines of the 21/22 season. If they can peak at the right time, then Westbrook could finally get his hands on that elusive chip.
James Harden – Brooklyn Nets
In January 2021, The Brooklyn Nets formed their own ‘super team’, when James Harden demanded a trade from the Houston Rockets to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the Nets.
They became the overwhelming favourites to claim the 2021 title and were on course to do so before injury struck both Irving and Harden.
He will have to wait for his first NBA title for yet another year. But a fit and focused Harden channelling his 2018 MVP form will be a scary prospect for the whole league.
Whether the star-studded Nets find the formula or end up failing in their quest, Harden’s (94 overall) 2022 season should be unmissable.
Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls
87 overall rated Zach LaVine is moving into his fifth year at Chicago Bulls, but could this be the year the franchise have a real chance of making the playoffs.
The front office has brought in Lonzo Ball, but the arrival of four-time all-star DeMar DeRozan could prove pivotal to their season.
But after LaVine was picked for his first All-Star team in 2021, he is now primed to make the Bulls his own and lead the team to a playoff berth. If LaVine can have a similar effect in 2022 then all eyes will be on the United Center.
Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
This list wouldn’t be complete without three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP, Steph Curry.
Record breaking seasons, heart-breaking playoff defeats and plenty of statement victories, Curry’s seen it all since being the seventh-overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft.
But after Klay Thompson’s season-ending injury last year, it became a self-enforced transition period for Golden State.
Curry (96 overall) – widely accepted as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history – revolutionising the game with his relentless three-pointers.
But this coming season will be about rising again and the return to fitness of Thompson. The ‘splash brothers’ reunited alongside Draymond Green, James Wiseman and the returning Andre Igudola. One to watch.
Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
The reigning NBA MVP is the Nuggets’ big man Nikola Jokic, becoming the first centre to win the award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 and the first in Denver’s history.
It came as the 26-year-old became the third player in NBA history to average 26+ points, 10+ rebounds and 8+ assists for an entire season, and officially became the first-ever player to do so on better than 52 percent shooting (making 56.6 percent of his field goal attempts).
This season he will face stiff competition to retain his crown, but with his rating now 95, Jokic will be a force to be reckoned with yet again in 2022.
Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic will be rated as 94 overall in game this year and be the cover athlete on the game itself, continuing his rise from ex-Real Madrid rookie to the brightest young star of the league.
He recently penned a five-year $207 million rookie extension with the Denver Nuggets, the largest in NBA history. All signs are pointing to Doncic tussling with Antetokounmpo as the future face of the league.
During the Mavericks’ 2021 playoff run, Doncic surpassed the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the youngest player to record a triple-double on the road. It’s just one of the many records the 22-year-old has broken. This season he’ll no doubt break even more.
Zion Williamson – New Orleans Pelicans
The most exciting prospect to come out of high school since LeBron James, Zion Williamson has all the makings to dominate the NBA for the next decade. And NBA 2K22 agrees, giving him an overall rating of 89.
His transcendent influence is exemplified by being the first Gen-Z player to design his own signature shoe with the Jordan Brand.
But back on court, he levelled up in his second year after an injury hit rookie season. Year three will require another leap in improvement. Can the Pelicans reach the playoffs? If not, Williamson may have some difficult conversations with the owners.
Cade Cunningham – Detroit Pistons
The 2021 number one draft pick was Oklahoma State Point Guard Cade Cunningham.
As a freshman, he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game, becoming the fourth player to win Big 12 Player of the Year and Big 12 Freshman of the Year in the same season, joining Marcus Smart, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley.
No mean feat, from the 19-year-old, he joins a Pistons team in transition and seeking a leader. While Cunningham may not be ready for that responsibility quite yet – showing why he was the standout pick of the draft will be the mission.
Top 10 rated players in NBA 2K22
All these players and more will be available to play within the upcoming NBA 2K22 game. NBA 2K22 arrives on PlayStation 4 and 5 on the 10th September, pre-order now to receive additional digital bonuses.