I made this list the same way I made my Top 10 Current NHL Players list- if I was trying to win a Championship this year, who would I take? Just like with my NHL list, cutting it down to just 10 players was incredibly hard, but I’ve done my best to give sound reasoning to my choices. Have a look:
1. Lebron James:
This was the easiest choice in the top 10. I could go into his stats but I’m sure you’re all well aware of what he’s doing this year, because he does it every year. The best way to illustrate his worth is looking at Cleveland and LA, with and without him. Last season, Cleveland won 50 games and went to their 4th straight NBA Finals. This year, they’ve won 8 games and sit last in the league standings. A year ago, the Lakers won 35 games. This season, with Lebron in the lineup, they’re 20-14. Without him, they’re 3-6. He has shown himself to be a beast and deserves to be in the conversation for the greatest to ever play.
2. Kevin Durant:
I’d be the first to call Durant’s decision to go to Golden State extremely soft. You can’t deny how great his is, though. When Kobe Bryant comes out and says Durant was the toughest player he had to defend, it should be clear to everyone how amazing he is. He’s easy to hate but he’s a great defender, unbelievable scorer, and in each of the last two playoffs has hit big-time clutch shots to help Golden State continue their dominance. I’ll also make a prediction here- he’ll leave in free agency to try to help his legacy by proving he can win without the stacked Golden State team.
3. Steph Curry:
So much attention is paid to Durant now that Curry has somewhat flown under the radar relative to before Durant came on board. Curry, though, won back to back MVPs as the best player on the best team in the league before Durant arrived. He’s the best 3-point shooter in the history of the game, with unlimited range. Further showing his worth, Golden State is just 26-24 without him since the start of 2014-15. He’s much more than just a 3-point shooter, though, as he’s a great finisher around the basket and is one of the better ball handler’s in the league.
4. James Harden:
Putting the reigning MVP and current scoring leader at 4th might be low in some people’s opinion, but part of me is still stuck on his playoff shooting woes- he shoots 44% from the field and 37% from 3-point range in the regular season, but just 42% from the field and 33% on 3-point shots in the playoffs. Over the last 2 season, he’s shot under 30% from 3-point range in the playoffs, and just 24% against Golden State in the Conference Finals. Now this is all sounding rather negative, so let’s go over the good stuff- Harden gets to the line better than anyone in the league, he’s not only leading the league scoring but is also averaging 8.8 assists per game, and given his current play, he has a chance to win his 2nd straight MVP. Now it’s time for him to dominate the playoffs, too.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo:
The likes of Anthony Bennett, Alex Len, Trey Burke, and Shabazz Muhammad were picked ahead of The Greak Freak in the 2013 draft, which is unbelievable now. Antetokoumpo is an absolute beast and with Lebron gone, he now can make a strong argument as the best player in the East. His numbers are absurd- 27 points and close to 13 rebounds per game while shooting 58% from the field. Also amazing is how he has improved ever single year in the league- his points per game, rebound per game and field goal percentage have all gone up every year in the league. He needs a slight uptick in scoring to continue that trend, but either way, he’s a top 5 player in my books.
6. Kawhi Leonard:
Are we ready to move passed his funny laugh yet? Let’s focus on his play- he’s averaging 27.5 points per game, shooting 50% from the field and playing great defense on the best team in the league right now. The Raptors were willing to give up All-Star Demar Derozan, who wanted to be a Raptor for the long-term, in exchange for only 1 guaranteed season of Leonard, who was coming off a year where he hardly played due to injury. That illustrates how highly the Raptors thought of him, and as of now their gamble is going well. He’s a more complete player and is a contender for the best player in the Conference. The Raptors had regular season success with Derozan, too, though. Leonard will need to show his worth in the playoffs, which shouldn’t be too difficult for the former Finals MVP.
7. Anthony Davis:
Davis currently sits 3rd in league scoring, 4th in rebounds, and 2nd in blocks. His stat-line is MVP worthy, and he’s been doing it for a while now, averaging at least 28 points and 11 rebounds per game for 3 straight years. Although it seems like he’s been in the league forever, he’s still only 25. I wouldn’t blink if someone had him in their top 5; he’s certainly in the discussion. He was All-NBA First Team and All-NBA Defensive first team last year. Unfortunately for Davis, his team stinks. He’s made the playoffs just twice, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be headed back there this year barring something unforeseen happening. Hopefully he gets to play his share of playoff basketball in the years ahead, he deserves it.
8. Joel Embiid:
Embiid would likely claim this ranking is too low. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, and over the last couple of years, he’s been able to back up the talk with fantastic play on the court. It was getting on the court that was the issue early in his career, and while that still scares me with him, he’s undoubtedly one of the top 10 players in this league. The big man does it all, averaging 27 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, a stat-line that matches up very closely to Davis’. Given the amount of time he’s missed, you wonder if he still has another level that he will rise to with good health these next few years. That’s a scary thought for his opposition, but even if he stays the same, he’s a beast that’ll wear you down with his play, and his talk.
9. Damian Lillard:
I would argue Lillard is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. That probably has to do with playing in Portland, but also because of how many great point guards are in the league. I think Lillard can play with the best of them. He was named to the All-NBA First Team last season and has continued to play at that same level this year, scoring 26 points and 6 assists per game in helping Portland sit 4th in the West right now. A couple other traits I love about Lillard- he shoots the 3 well (38% this year) and he’s extremely durable, rarely missing time (never played less than 73 games in a season).
10. Russell Westbrook:
I suspect this ranking might cause some controversy as his stat-line is always so incredible that some might consider him a top 5 player. Let’s start with the good- he’s a walking triple-double, on his way to his 3rd straight season averaging a triple-double. That is absurd. He leads the league in assists right now and plays a style that has earned him praise from Michael Jordan. He’s a star play, no doubt about it. My problem with him is his inability to shoot the ball very well. He’s shooting just 42% from the field this year, just 23% from 3-point range, and just 63% from the free throw line. Those are below his career averages but his still just a life-time 30% 3-point shooter. Every now and then he plays hero ball, wanting to do it all, but it’s tough to be that guy when you don’t shoot all that well. sdsem