The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks will face off in the NBA Finals starting Thursday. It's a matchup filled with endless storylines and star power. We'll get Kyrie Irving facing his former team in Boston, as well as Kristaps Porzingis going against his former Dallas team. There's also Luka Doncic's first NBA Finals appearance, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown getting a second chance at a title after falling in the Finals two years ago.

On paper, this should be an epic series (and one that has people picking both teams), as it will pit some of the top talent in the league against each other. Both of these teams have shown dominance in the postseason, so it feels right to see how these rosters stack up next to each other in preparation for Thursday. With that in mind, we're ranking the top 15 players in the NBA Finals, from important role players to franchise stars.

15. Sam Hauser, Celtics

The NBA Finals would be a perfect time for Hauser to break out of his shooting slump. The 6-foot-8 forward is shooting just 33% from deep in the playoffs, but he was knocking them down at a 42.4% clip on six attempts in the regular season. If he starts to find the bottom of the net, the Celtics become even more dangerous. 

14. Maxi Kleber, Mavericks

Dallas' do-it-all-forward returned in the Western Conference finals, after missing nine games with a dislocated shoulder. He hasn't done much in the two games since his return, but when he's healthy, he's a 3-point threat and is a versatile defender on the other end of the floor. We'll have to see if he's healthy enough to make an impact in this series, but having him back is still a plus for Dallas.

13. Payton Pritchard, Celtics

It's crazy to think that a year ago Pritchard averaged just six minutes in the playoffs, because he's been such an important piece off the bench for the Celtics. He's as surefire as it gets from 3-point range, shooting 45.5% from deep in the postseason, and he's great at knowing when to get teammates involved and when the get his own bucket. He's not going to lock anyone down on defense, but he's going to put a ton of effort in on that end of the floor, which is valuable. 

12. Derrick Jones Jr., Mavericks

The Mavericks really found a diamond in the rough when they signed Jones to a veteran minimum contract this past summer. He's having a career year across the board, highlighted by shooting nearly 40% on 3s in the playoffs on the most attempts he's averaged in his career. And that's just on offense. Jones has been Dallas' best perimeter defender, already being tasked with guarding Paul George, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anthony Edwards, and he'll surely draw either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown in the Finals.

11. Daniel Gafford, Mavericks

One of two trade deadline acquisitions, Gafford has been a major upgrade to Dallas' center rotation. He's a great rim running big to have alongside Doncic and Irving in the starting lineup, and his rim protection on the other end is why opposing teams have had a difficult time scoring in the paint on the Mavericks. He struggled in the first around against Ivica Zubac, but held his own against the Thunder and did a great job of containing the length the Timberwolves possess to make enough of a positive impact for Dallas.

10. Dereck Lively II, Mavericks

No one could've expected that Lively would wind up being this impactful in his rookie season on an NBA Finals team (that includes Lively). He even said as much this week about being surprised at how much he's been used in his first year in the league. But if you've watched him play it's not surprising at all. He may be coming off the bench for Dallas, but Lively and Gafford play identical minutes, and you can see the boost of energy Lively injects into this team when he checks into the game. He's already a pest on the offensive glass, coming up clutch on a number of occasions to get the Mavericks second-chance opportunities. He's a lob threat any time Doncic or Irving are attacking the rim, and he's shown flashes of his development of being able to put the ball on the ground and get a basket himself. His length makes him a natural deterrent to anyone who tries to attack the rim, and he's already shown he can hold his own against tough matchups.

9. Al Horford, Celtics

Horford could honestly be higher on this list and I would understand that. He's been so important to the Celtics for several years, and again he seamlessly stepped back into the starting lineup for Boston when Kristaps Porzingis got injured. He's supremely efficient on offense, and while he's not knocking down 3s like he was the last time Boston went to the Finals, he's still a consistent threat. And he's more than just a spot-up shooter, too. Part of what made Boston's last Finals run so special was because of how Horford was playing on both ends of the floor. He put in a tremendous amount of effort on the defensive side of the ball, and while he's two years older now, we know that Horford is willing to do what is needed to get his team closer to winning a title.

8. PJ Washington, Mavericks

The other trade deadline acquisition for the Mavericks, Washington has been a revelation in Dallas' playoff run. In the last two rounds, he's averaging over 15 points while shooting 38.3% from deep. He's also tasked with guarding one of the opposing team's best players, and in the last round did a great job of containing Karl-Anthony Towns. But part of why the Mavericks traded for him back in February was his ability to create for himself, and that's been on display too, especially on broken plays. He's capable of putting the ball on the deck an working in floaters or getting all the way to the rim for a finish. His production is going to be incredibly important for Dallas' championship chances, and they'll need the version of Washington that was shooting closer to 47% from deep against the Thunder to topple Boston.

7. Jrue Holiday, Celtics

You could honestly interchange Holiday and Derrick White on this list because they're mirrors of each other in terms of doing whatever it takes on either side of the ball to help their team win. Holiday is a terror defensively, and he's going to be the toughest challenge for Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving yet. His huge wingspan, mixed with his high basketball IQ make him a nightmare for even the best offensive players in the league. His scoring has waxed and waned during the postseason, but his efficiency is still high, and he's still doing a great job of organizing things on offense for the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Boston doesn't even need Holiday to do too much scoring, which lends itself to him being able to focus more of his energy on Dallas' potent backcourt. And who knows, this could be a particularly high-scoring series for Holiday, who may have Doncic guarding him. If that's the case, the Celtics will surely want to take advantage of that mismatch, and Holiday is perfectly capable of making the Mavericks star work on defense.

6. Derrick White, Celtics

With Porzingis out, White has been the third star on this Celtics team in the playoffs. Like Holiday he's a pest on the defensive side of the ball, but he's a bit more dangerous offensively. He can have a scoring outburst like the 38-point performance he had in the first round against the Heat, and he can fill the box score like his 15-point, nine-assist, six-rebound outing in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pacers. Depending on Porzingis' health, he may need to continue racking up points for the Celtics, and if K.P. is back healthy, that only helps White and Boston because as the Mavericks try to contain everyone else, White could be left open from time to time. He's one of Boston's several do-it-all guys, and between him and Holiday they're sure to make life incredibly difficult for Doncic and Irving. 

5. Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics

Barring any setbacks, Porzingis is expected to return in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He's been the biggest question mark heading into the Finals after a first-round calf injury, and now it appears as though Boston will have one of its weapon back. When healthy, he's the ultimate floor spacing center, capable of launching 3s with ridiculous efficiency, backing down a smaller defender in the post and acting as a lob threat to guards attacking the rim. We'll have to see if he's 100% healthy, but if K.P. is back to his old self, it will be just another headache for the Mavericks to gameplan for, not just because of his offense, but his rim protection on the other side as well. Porzingis averaged two blocks a game during the regular season, the highest since his first year in Dallas back in 2019. With him patrolling the paint, it will certainly force the Mavericks to work a bit harder at getting shots around the rim, and even if he is pulled away from the basket he's solid at recovering to still impact a shot. 

4. Jaylen Brown, Celtics

This is perhaps the best version of Brown the Celtics have had, and he's been their go-to guy while Tatum has struggled with efficiency. Brown performed so well in the playoffs that he earned Eastern Conference finals MVP, not Tatum. Brown's averaging 25 points on a ridiculous 54.1% from the field and 36.8% from deep, and while there's been jokes about Boston's "easy" path to the NBA Finals, Brown has been making incredibly difficult shots along the way to get them there. Shots that he wasn't making prior to this season. His offensive game has reached new heights, and it literally just feels like he's been in attack mode throughout the playoffs.

We'll have to see if Brown can sustain that production against a Mavericks team that has surprised many people with its defensive pressure, so you could argue that this will be the first time Brown and the Celtics will truly be tested. But Brown was putting up absurd numbers even in the regular season, so regardless of the strength of competition in the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, he's been doing this for awhile. 

3. Kyrie Irving, Mavericks

If Irving wasn't on the roster, Dallas wouldn't have made it this far. He's been the perfect backcourt mate for Doncic, capable of completely taking over on offense like he did in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. He's also the guy Dallas goes to when the other team has gone on a run and the Mavericks need a basket. Irving plays so calmly and confidently that it feels like every time the ball leaves his hands it's going in. He's shooting the ball absurdly well with .485/421/.828 splits, and he turns things up a level in the fourth quarter, where he's averaging 7.5 points, which ranks fifth in the playoffs. 

There's truly an artistry to the way Irving plays basketball, contorting his body to get off the most impossible shots under the rim with multiple defenders draped around him, or using every inch of the backboard to bank in a difficult mid-range jumper. Irving's defense has also been a pleasant surprise for the Mavericks. He's committed on that end of the floor and is making smart plays to deflect passes or come away with steals.

2. Jayson Tatum, Celtics

Tatum's somewhat struggled with efficiency throughout the postseason, specifically from 3-point range where he's making them at just a 29% clip. Boston is going to need him to improve on that if they want to finish off the Mavericks. But that aside, Tatum is Boston's best player. Brown might've had the better overall showing in this run to the Finals, but everything starts with Tatum's ability to score at will, at all three levels. He can pick apart a defense to get to the rim, work a defender and elevate for a mid-range jumper, or walk into a 3-pointer with ease. He's also grown as a passer over the years, and he's leading the Celtics this postseason in scoring, rebounds and assists. 

Similar to Brown, the Mavericks will be the first real test of this postseason for Tatum. He's done great at knowing when to attack and when to pass it off to someone else, especially when his shot isn't falling. So if that happens in the Finals, Boston will need him to lean on that facilitation role a bit more.

1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Doncic enters the Finals as the best player in the series. He's been called a generational talent, and for good reason. There are very few players who can control the game quite like Doncic can, and we saw that in the Mavericks close-out win against the Timberwolves where he dropped 20 points in the first quarter. He can manipulate the defense like no one else, and even when you think you've got him beat, he'll flip a pass to an open shooter in the corner for a triple. And when his 3-pointer is falling, he's even more of a terror to guard. He's even shown a willingness to actually put in effort on the defensive side of the ball, which has always been a gripe about his game in the past.

Doncic has already picked apart the No. 1 and No. 4 defense en route to this Finals appearance, and the Celtics boast the No. 2 defense. Boston has perhaps the best arsenal of versatile defenders equipped to make life difficult for Doncic, but we've already seen twice now how easy he can still find his spots, or at the very least get his teammates good looks. 

It's going to be a battle between the Mavericks and Celtics, and if all of these guys are performing at peak levels we should be in for a great series.