The Whiteboard: Power ranking the best performances of the NBA season

The first two 50-point games of the NBA season came on Sunday but there have been plenty of other big games so far this year. Who had the best?

NBA fans were treated to the first 50-point games of the season, just hours apart. First, Darius Garland did everything he could to make up for the absence of Donovan Mitchell, dropping 51 points in a 129-124 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then Joel Embiid finished with 59 in a 105-98 win over the Utah Jazz.

These may have been the first 50-point games of the 2022-23 NBA season but they are far from the only eye-popping stat lines we’ve seen. Combing through box scores since opening night, here is how I would rank the best individual performances of the season far.

Who has had the best game of the 2022-23 NBA season so far?

5. Tyrese Maxey vs. Toronto Raptors, Oct. 28, 2022

44 points — 8 rebounds — 4 assists — 1 steal — 15-of-20 shooting

Maxey’s incredible box score line against the Raptors is made even more incredible if you focus on the shooting numbers. He finished the game 15-of-20 from the field, including 6-of-8 on 2-pointers, 9-of-12 on 3-pointers and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. It was easily the best offensive performance of his young career and an absolute lights-out shooting extravaganza. This game also had a tinge of revenge to it, coming two days after Maxey put up 31 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds in a 10-point loss to the Raptors.

4. Luka Doncic vs. Portland Trail Blazers, Nov. 12, 2022

42 points — 13 rebounds — 10 assists — 2 steals — 1 block

You can pretty much take your pick of Luka Doncic games this season. This was his third 40-point game of the year, his third triple-double and his second 40-point triple-double. (As an aside, this was the fourth 40-point triple-double of his career which, at the age of 23, puts him fifth on the all-time list, just two behind LeBron James). We’ll give this game the edge of his other one this season because he scored more points on fewer shots.

3. Ja Morant vs. Houston Rockets, Oct. 21, 2021

49 points — 8 assists — 4 rebounds — 1 steal — 2 blocks

Morant is a human-highlight machine and he made more than a few in assembling this ridiculous stat line. He basically got anywhere he wanted against the Rockets’ defense and finished with 22 points in the paint. He also hit 5-of-6 from beyond the arc but the way he, as a 6-foot-3 guard, can completely dominate a defense with his interior scoring is utterly unique.

2. Steph Curry vs. Sacramento Kings, Nov. 11, 2022

47 points — 8 rebounds — 8 assists — 0 turnovers — 17-of-24 shooting

Curry has had some masterpieces in his career but this was among the best. He finished 17-of-24 from the field — 10-of-12 on 2-pointers, 7-of-12 from beyond the arc and 6-of-7 from the free throw line, all without a single turnover. By Game Score, this was the sixth-best game of Curry’s legendary career.

1. Joel Embiid vs. Utah Jazz, Nov. 13, 2022

59 points — 11 rebounds — 8 assists — 1 steal — 7 blocks

This game from Embiid was the impetus for this whole exercise and an absolute pantheon-level performance. In addition to the monster box score totals, he was 18-of-23 on 2-pointers and 20-of-24 from the free-throw line. The Jazz committed 17 fouls in the game and Embiid drew 13 of them.

The combination of blocks and assists, in particular, puts this in unique historical territory and Embiid is the first player to hit these benchmarks since blocks began being tracked during the 1973-74 season. By Game Score, it’s the seventh-best individual performance of the 3-point era, trailing only Jordan’s 69 and 59, Kobe’s 81, Karl Malone’s 61, Devin Booker’s 70 and James Harden’s 60-point triple-double.

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