NBA playoff predictions: Ranking the Top 16 players for the 2024 postseason

It’s here, the moment basketball fans all over the world have been waiting for: the 2024 NBA playoffs.

Today, we’re going to take a shot at predicting who the best players in the 2024 postseason will be. To do so, we weighed in how well we expect them to play, how far we expect their teams to go and how healthy we expect these players to be.

(A few superstars got docked quite a few spots for entering postseason play with a poor bill of health.)

With all those things considered, this was no easy exercise. Check out the results below.

Nikola Jokic (Denver)

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The best basketball player in the world today, two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic once again led the league in BPM, VORP and Win Shares per 48 Minutes in 2023-24. He’s also coming off a championship and Finals MVP run with the Denver Nuggets last year, making this a pretty easy decision for us as far as predicting who the best player in this upcoming playoff is going to be.

Even so, the Lakers could present a challenge to Denver this time around in their upcoming first-round series, as the team does have the size to battle with Jokic and Co. At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the Nuggets being 7-0, with Jokic averaging 28.4 points, 13.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists, in their last seven meetings against Los Angeles, so we expect Denver to prevail and make a Finals run, guided by another Jokic masterclass.

For the latest Nikola Jokic news and rumors, click here.

Luka Doncic (Dallas)

Sam Hodde/Getty Images
Sam Hodde/Getty Images

The scoring champion in 2023-24, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic is also a proven playoff performer who led the 2021 and 2022 postseason in scoring average and is putting up 32.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest in postseason play for his career. We expect another huge playoff run out of Doncic this year, starting with the Mavs’ first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers.

In 13 career postseason games between the Clippers and Mavericks in the Doncic era, the Slovenian superstar has been spectacular, averaging 33.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists on 49.4 percent shooting. And with Kawhi Leonard potentially being hobbled in this series, it’s hard not to foresee a huge Doncic first round coming up.

For the latest Luka Doncic news and rumors, click here.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City)

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top MVP candidates for 2023-24, Canadian guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just had a huge campaign in leading the Oklahoma City Thudner to the No. 1 seed in the West, and although Gilgeous-Alexander hasn’t had a breakout postseason performance yet, we fully believe this year will be when that happens. Expect big things out of Gilgeoius-Alexander this postseason, in what will be just his second playoff appearance since getting to Oklahoma City.

Even if he doesn’t have as much playoff experience as other players on this list, we trust him on this stage because we’ve seen him excel under high-pressure situations before, like in the 2023 FIBA World Cup when he led Canada to the bronze medal and was the tournament’s best player despite not winning MVP.

For the latest Shai Gilgeous-Alexander news and rumors, click here.

Jayson Tatum (Boston)

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It sort of feels like now-or-never time for Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum to win the first championship of his career. Boston was by far the best team in the NBA this season, finishing with a 64-18 record with a league-leading +11.7 net rating.

The team is quite frankly loaded outside of Tatum and the stars of the team have deep-playoff-run experience on top of that. So if not this year, then when? Sure, that might be a bit unfair, as Boston looks set to contend for years to come but there’s no doubt the pressure is on Tatum to deliver this postseason – and we expect him to do just that.

For the latest Jayson Tatum news and rumors, click here.

Jalen Brunson (New York)

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Leading the most exciting New York Knicks team in at least a decade, if not much longer, star point guard Jalen Brunson is primed and ready for a huge postseason run. Brunson’s breakout performance as a player came in the 2022 playoffs as a member of the Dallas Mavericks when he upped his averages to 21.6 points on 46.6 percent shooting as Dallas made an unexpected push to the Western Conference Finals.

Brunson was even better last postseason when he averaged 27.8 points and 5.6 assists as he led the Knicks to the second round of the playoffs. We could easily see Brunson taking another leap this postseason, hence his place in this ranking, although he will face a tough matchup in a Philadelphia 76ers team that would have finished far higher than seventh in the East if not for a lengthy injury absence for their best player.

For the latest Jalen Brunson news and rumors, click here.

Kevin Durant (Phoenix)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A two-time Finals MVP and two-time champion, Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant enters the 2024 playoffs under some pressure, as he has yet to win a championship while not playing for a historically stacked team. The Suns’ somewhat up-and-down campaign in 2023-24 has only added to that pressure, too. Even so, individually, Durant had a great regular season, achieving All-Star honors.

Up first for Durant and Co.: A huge test against the best defense in the league, that of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Suns did go 3-0 against Minnesota in the regular season with Durant averaging 22.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 60.5 percent shooting, so this will be a very interesting first-round series for the 2014 league MVP.

For the latest Kevin Durant news and rumors, click here.

Anthony Edwards (Minnesota)

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first-round playoff matchups that will have the most eyeballs on it will be the one between Minnesota and Phoenix, particularly due to the fascinating, high-powered backcourt matchup featuring Devin Booker and Anthony Edwards, the two best shooting guards in the NBA today.

Edwards has yet to make it past the first round of the playoffs, so this will be a huge test for the former No. 1 overall pick, who just put up 25.9 points and 5.1 assists per game this season. The regular-season matchups between the Suns and Timberwolves weren’t exactly Edwards’ best work…

…so we’ll have a very interesting first-round matchup on our hands, one that feels too close to call right now.

For the latest Anthony Edwards news and rumors, click here.

Devin Booker (Phoenix)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Suns star 2-guard Devin Booker came within two games of winning a championship in 2021, a run for which he surely would have earned Finals MVP. Instead, Booker is still looking to add that one major piece of hardware to his long list of accolades. Could it happen this year? Seems unlikely for Phoenix to win a title this season but stranger things have happened.

Nevertheless, Booker enters the 2024 playoffs in fine form, averaging 27.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.9 assists on 49.2 percent shooting this league year. What’s more, after leading the NBA in playoff scoring in 2023 (at 33.7 points over 11 games), we expect another huge postseason out of the former Kentucky standout.

Booker shot it poorly from three vs. Minnesota in the regular season (30.0 percent) but still put up 22.3 points and 8.3 assists as the Suns swept their three games against the T-Wolves in 2023-24.

For the latest Devin Booker news and rumors, click here.

Jamal Murray (Denver)

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best players to never be named an All-Star, Nuggets floor general Jamal Murray is the perfect complement to Jokic, a bucket-getting lead guard who can do some serious one-on-one perimeter scoring, and whose lacking playmaking is more than made up for by Jokic’s superhuman abilities as a passer.

He’s a huge playoff performer, too, with career averages of 25.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.2 steals on 40.4 percent shooting from three over 53 playoff games. Coming off a championship run into 2023, we fully expect more big things out of Murray in the 2024 playoffs.

First up for Murray will be a tough matchup against the Lakers in the first round. We say tough because Los Angeles does have some feisty defenders it can send at the talented Canadian guard but at the same time, Murray is averaging 29.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists (on 52.0 percent shooting) in his last seven games against the Lakers, so we think this could be another long, productive playoff run for the former Kentucky standout.

For the latest Jamal Murray news and rumors, click here.

Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Coming off a Play-In Game win over the Miami Heat to earn the No. 7 seed in the East, reigning league MVP Joel Embiid still looked somewhat gimpy and yet still put up 23 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in the one-point win over Miami.

Even if Embiid didn’t look so good in the play-in game, even at 70 percent of his peak form, he should be trouble for Knicks. After all, he’s one of the most productive players per minute in NBA history.


Embiid, who has yet to establish himself as an elite playoff performer in his career, would rank higher on this list if he were healthier heading into the first-round matchup against a fierce Knicks squad. Even accounting for his poor health at the moment, what will Embiid detractors say if he’s unable to get past even the first round of the playoffs this season? We might not have to wait long to find out.

For the latest Joel Embiid news and rumors, click here.

Jaylen Brown (Boston)

Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Much was made about Boston’s Jaylen Brown signing the largest contract in NBA history last summer. We haven’t heard a peep about that dating back to October, though, which goes to show how good Brown – and Boston – has been this season.

The No. 2 player on the title favorite, you should see a lot of Brown in the next two months. Brown, who is averaging 21.5 points over his last four playoff runs (70 games), has an outside shot at Finals MVP this season if Boston can reach its playoff ceiling this year by winning a championship.

For the latest Jaylen Brown news and rumors, click here.

Anthony Davis (LA Lakers)

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Coming off the healthiest season of his career, nine-time All-Star, one-time champion Anthony Davis heads into the playoffs after a great campaign, one that saw him average 24.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks. Davis has always been a great playoff performer, too, with career averages of 25.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks over 55 postseason appearances.

The Los Angeles Lakers might need Davis to be even better than that if they want to get past the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and make a run at another championship, but he’s certainly capable of that, so L.A. shouldn’t be counted out even despite its tough first-round matchup.

Davis does have a strong playoff history, ranking seventh in PER all-time in the playoffs, so we think even if the Lakers’ 2024 playoff run might not be super long, Davis will get his statistically.

For the latest Anthony Davis news and rumors, click here.

Kyrie Irving (Dallas)

Sam Hodde/Getty Images
Sam Hodde/Getty Images

Kyrie Irving enters the playoffs after a great campaign that saw him average 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists while helping lead Dallas to a 50-win regular season. First up for Irving and Co. in the playoffs are recent playoff rival Los Angeles Clippers, who will present a good first test for the younger Mavericks.

That youth doesn’t apply to Irving, who has 74 games of playoff experience, 74 outings in which the former Duke standout has averaged 23.3 points and 4.8 assists on 45.5 percent shooting. L.A. has a mediocre defense this season, particularly in the backcourt, so this could be a huge first series for Irving ahead.

For what it’s worth, in two games for Irving against the Clippers this season, the former Duke Blue Devil is averaging 26.5 points on 50.0 percent shooting from three.

For the latest Kyrie Irving news and rumors, click here.

LeBron James (LA Lakers)

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Are the Lakers going to make a deep run in the playoffs? Probably not. But can we fully rule out LeBron going nuts and making another Finals run?

Of course not.

Still, James and Co. will have their work cut out for them if the GOAT candidate is going to win the fifth championship of his career this year.

Despite the Lakers going 0-7 in their last seven games vs. the Nuggets, James has been able to get his, as the four-time league MVP has averaged 26.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 8.7 assists in those contests against Denver on 53.3 percent shooting.

It’ll come down to how Davis performs and how the Lakers as a whole are going to slow down the super-tandem of Jokic and Murray.

For the latest LeBron James news and rumors, click here.

Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard has one of the most interesting legacies heading into this year’s playoffs, as he does have two rings and two Finals MVPs but he’s missed so much time, including in the postseason, due to injury. He heads into this postseason with injury concerns, too, which is part of the reason why we have him so low in this ranking.

Against the Mavericks this season, Leonard put up 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists over three games, and that’s including one stinker where he had eight points on two-for-12 shooting (he was still a +24 that night in 107-88 Clippers win).

So it’s tough to really predict how Leonard will do this postseason. We just know if he’s healthy, he’ll perform at a high level.

For the latest Kawhi Leonard news and rumors, click here.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If it weren’t for the uncertainty surrounding his injury status – the latest reports, which can be found in the link below, indicate he’ll be out for at least the start of the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers – 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo would undoubtedly rank far higher on this list.

After all, he’s one of the best players in the league, he’s a proven playoff performer and a dominant force on both ends of the floor. But that calf injury will be tricky for him to overcome, so we had to dock Antetokounmpo a few spots on this list, even after his monstrous regular season.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Antetokounmpo’s absence could possibly be long and that he may miss playoffs altogether. If he’s available, he’s the best in the Eastern Conference, we’re just not sure if that’ll be the case, hence, his place in the ranking.

For the latest Giannis Antetokounmpo news and rumors, click here.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype