LeBron James isn't playing in the NBA Finals for the first time in eight years, but fear not: there's still an overwhelming amount of talent gearing up to compete on the biggest stage in basketball.
So before the action between the Toronto Raptors and defending champion Golden State Warriors tips off with Game 1 tonight (9 p.m. ET on ABC) at the Raptors' Scotiabank Arena, we rank those players.
Editor's note: Players must be averaging more than 15 minutes per game this postseason to qualify, which excluded guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut, Jodie Meeks and Quinn Cook.
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard guards Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant. (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski, USA TODAY Sports)
1. Kevin Durant — The Best Player on the Planet debate is hot right now, but if it's not still LeBron, it's Durant. He hasn't played since Game 5 of the West semifinals against Houston thanks to a lingering calf strain, but the Warriors remain hopeful that he hasn't played his last game with the organization.
2. Kawhi Leonard — The Raptors' gamble on Leonard has already paid off. He's been the MVP of the postseason, and even if he leaves in free agency this summer, he's the sole reason Toronto is in the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
3. Stephen Curry — Don't look too much into a No. 3 spot for Curry. The top three is really 1A, 1B and 1C, and the order can certainly be switched depending on your definition of "best." This should be the year he finally captures that elusive Finals MVP.
4. Klay Thompson — While his regular season may have not lived up to All-NBA standards, Thompson's an All-NBA talent, and his value is often overlooked. Owner Joe Lacob says he wants to keep Thompson, a free agent this summer, around "forever," and we don't blame him.
5. Draymond Green — In case you forgot just how important Green is to the Warriors' success, look at his numbers from the Portland series. He averaged 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.8 blocks and 2.3 steals, and he became the first player since Jason Kidd in 2002 to record back-to-back triple-doubles in the conference finals.
6. Kyle Lowry — Regular season Lowry vs. playoff Lowry has long been a topic of discussion, but the veteran point guard has come up big this postseason, and he'll need to continue to do just that, on both ends of the floor, for the Raptors to make this a series.
7. Pascal Siakam — The fact that Siakam went from a relatively unknown No. 27 pick in 2016 to a top-three player on a Finals team is truly remarkable. But this isn't the regular season, nor is it the East playoffs. There's no adjustment period. Siakam must seize the moment.
The role players
Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol. (Photo: Nathan Denette, AP)
8. Marc Gasol — The All-NBA, All-Defense years are over, but Gasol, who the Raptors traded for at the February deadline, is still one of the most important players in this series. He can hit shots from the perimeter (40% on 3-pointers this postseason), and his passing (3.2 assists per game this postseason) helps keep the Raptors' offense flowing.
9. Andre Iguodala — Three players on this list have won a Finals MVP. One of them is Iguodala. Don't expect him to have the series he did in 2015, but there's no question how valuable he is to the Warriors, particularly on this stage. The Warriors' long layoff before the start of the Finals should prove to be huge for the 35 year old.
10. Serge Ibaka — He's one of just four Toronto players with Finals experience (2012 with Oklahoma City), and his matchup with Green should be one of the most intriguing of this series.
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11. Kevon Looney — The fourth-year big man knows his role, and he plays it well. He's shooting 72.5% from the field this postseason — No. 2 among players with at least 50 shot attempts.
12. Fred VanVleet — The third-year guard was almost unplayable earlier in the playoffs, but he's hot at the perfect time, heading into the Finals having made 14 of his last 17 3-point attempts while scoring 13, 21 and 14 points in Games 4, 5 and 6 against Milwaukee. The importance of his play off the bench can't be overstated.
13. Danny Green — Green was a no-show for much of the Milwaukee series, at least offensively. He was just 6-for-32 from the field and 4-for-23 from 3-point range. He needs to make shots to stay on the floor, and he needs to stay on the floor for the Raptors to have a chance at slowing down Golden State's backcourt.
14. Norman Powell — He put together a strong series against Milwaukee (12.3 points per game, 41.9% shooting from 3-point range), and just like VanVleet, his play off the bench can take the Raptors to another level.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' AJ Neuharth-Keusch on Twitter @tweetAJNK
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