Why do we all love basketball? Well, that’s a very good question and I’m sure everyone has their own answer. Mine is that simply the game is the most exciting sport to both play and watch. Every single 24 seconds in the NBA there is something to either cheer or groan at.
On offense either you score which in that case you cheer, or you don’t which leads you to sigh. The spectator’s emotions are very frequently engaged which means it’s very hard to get bored. Don’t get me wrong, there is boring basketball and it’s annoying when we see it, but the majority of NBA action is very fast-paced, exciting stuff.
The nature of the game and the NBA’s infrastructure have set up a system where many players can come in and provide us with highlight after highlight, forever keeping us enthralled. There are the players that push this excitement to the max, the stars of the league. These guys are the reason the NBA is such a huge success, they are the ones regularly making the top plays we enjoy on a regular basis.
Not sure who to watch this year to maximise your enjoyment? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here are my top ten most exciting players to watch for the next NBA season.
10. DeMarcus Cousins – New Orleans Pelicans
Should be needing more than just exquisite basketball to keep your sporting hunger at bay then look no further than the polarising big man now playing in New Orleans. Big Boogie Cousins certainly has the talent and skillset to give many breathtaking highlights but he also has the temper to keep us on edge.
Cousins lead the league in technical fouls last year with 18 and the season before with 17. He has developed a reputation for shouting at the refs when the calls don’t go his way, and since he plays a very physical style that happens quite a lot.
One side of me wants Cousins to calm down so that he can concentrate on playing. The other side of me says that Cousins needs that edge to his game to make him play with the passion and desire that have made him the best center in the NBA.
9. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
In all major sports passing is an art. In soccer the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Xavi and Andres Iniesta regularly brought fans to their feet with their incredible vision and playmaking. In American Football a successful Hail Mary pass is one of the most anticipated actions in the entire game.
In the NBA legends like Bob Cousy, Pete Maravich and Magic Johnson showed us just how incredibly entertaining a clever pass was. LeBron, Chris Paul and others are carrying on the tradition today, and with Nikola Jokic up in Denver dishing sicks dimes all over the place, it’s safe to say we’ll get to enjoy passing in the future as well.
Jokic is deadly from the top of the key because he is the ultimate triple threat big man. He hit 55.2% of his midrange jumpers last year, he shot 67.4% at the rim and he averaged nearly 5 assists per game.
He is unbelievably good at finding cutters and slashers heading to the rim, he always somehow manages to place it right where his teammates can make the easy finish. It’s a huge reason why he was 7th in the NBA in offensive rating last season, when he’s on the court the Nuggets always see a boost in their scoring.
8. John Wall – Washington Wizards
One of the most exciting plays to watch in basketball is the fast break. Players sprinting up and down the floor trying to score easy points whilst the opponent defense is not set up. Anything could happen; a layup, an and 1 dunk, an offensive foul, the possibilities are endless.
One of the most devastating players on the fast break is Washington’s John Wall. He is extremely fast with great handles and dynamite athleticism. He has the size and speed to be able to finish the attack and the court vision and passing ability to find open teammates if that’s the better option.
Wall averaged a career high 23.1 points a game last year along with 10.7 assists and with his running mate Bradley Beal improving every year Washington will be a one to watch next season.
7. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors
People love scoring. Scoring wins games, scoring is fun to watch. Nobody wants to watch a bunch of guys shooting under 40% from the field play. If they wanted that then they could head to their local court for pick up games.
People pay their hard-earned cash to watch the best and they want guys who can put the ball in the hole. Kevin Durant is the best scorer in NBA history. He’s a legit 6 foot 10 with a huge wingspan. He’s athletic, he can finish at the rim, his 3 point game is on point, he’s got a mid range game, he can handle the rock and he’s creative.
Last year in the NBA Finals Durant averaged 35.2 on a stat line of 55.6/47.4/92.7, all against LeBron James.
This is obscene.
Don’t waste your time and dollars on anything but the best, and this guy KD is the real deal.
6. Kyrie Irving – Boston Celtics
It’s going to really weird seeing Uncle Drew in Celtic Green.
Even with his change in scenery, Irving is incredibly fun to watch. He is a true wizard with the ball, able to perform a multitude of tricks to get to where he wants on the floor. For me, he has the best handles in the league and he is definitely one of the best finishers we’ve ever seen.
The creativity he has at the rim is unlike anyone in the NBA right now. His ability to use both hands, the glass or the rim to ensure that his layup is successful makes him extremely hard to guard. Combine that with his great shooting ability and you have a superb offensive talent.
We all remember the huge 3 Irving hit at the end of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Irving has hit many big shots in his career, he’s proven himself to be a quality closer and there isn’t more thrilling than the end of a close game and watching a guy destroy the other team.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks
With the likes of Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap all switching conferences many people have noted that the already noticeable gap in competition between the conferences has been forced even wider.
The 1st seed in the East last year (Boston) wouldn’t have been in the top 3 in the West. The West just has better teams than the East the later of which has become even more boring to watch.
Thankfully we still have one of the most promising young stars the league has seen since the turn of the century to entertain us.
Giannis Antetokounmpo aka “The Greek Freak” is an absolute monster.
I mean this in both the literal and figural senses.
Size wise he’s 6 foot 11 with a 7 foot 4 wingspan and hands the size of dining plates. On the court, the only thing he struggles with is shooting but he’s improving that every year. Last year he averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks per game on 52.1% from the field.
Giannis is only the 5th player in NBA history to lead his team in all 5 major statistical categories. He does nearly everything out there and if he could start shooting around 37%-38% from 3 then he will be the MVP.
We all looking at a guy who will be a first ballot Hall of Famer at the end of his career and someone will be in the top 5 for MVP for the next 7-8 years.
4. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
Even going into his 15th season of professional basketball LeBron James is still at the top of the NBA. He is the best player in the world after becoming the first player to average a triple double in the NBA Finals.
By far the best quality about LeBron is that he is the best passer in basketball. His court vision is unparalleled and he always prefers to get an assist than a made field goal. I also still rate him as the best athlete in the NBA, even at 33. He’s 6 foot 8, 250 lbs and he can still dunk on anyone in the league.
No NBA athlete in the league’s history has retained the majority of his athleticism after 14 whole seasons and over 50,000 minutes of professional basketball. He is still the best player on the fast break because of his size, strength, speed, agility and passing ability.
They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone and I implore every NBA fan, whether you’re a LeBron guy or not, to just sit back and appreciate this absolute God of a man.
3. Isaiah Thomas – Cleveland Cavaliers
Last season with the Celtics IT took the league by storm. The smallest guy in the NBA and the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft averaged 28.9 points per game and lead the Celtics to the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference.
The heart and passion this guy played with, night in and night out was truly inspiring and he was one of the best stories in sports last year. This guy has so much desire and substance that he bravely suited up 1 day after the tragic death of his sister Chyna Thomas.
Now that he is playing with LeBron I expect his production to fall next season, but that doesn’t mean that every possession he does have won’t be as exciting. Isaiah can carry the offense for a team meaning that LeBron can get the much-needed rest required for someone his age.
2. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
If one was to describe how Russell Westbrook plays then think of a bulldozer powered by TNT. He is so explosive and so relentless that even when he makes a bad decision you’d still stand up and applaud him because you know how hard this guy goes on the court.
Many NBA legends have heavily endorsed Westbrook like Michael Jordan saying “30 years ago, that’s me”. Westbrook’s intensity is the highest we’ve seen since a prime Kobe Bryant in the late 00s.
He averaged a triple double last year. That fact alone should have millions of people around the world tuning into his games. Whether it’s him making a slick pass to one of his teammates, battling 7 footers for rebounds or destroying rims with his thunderous dunks, this guy is box office.
Make sure you tune in.
1. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
There’s something special about the anticipation a fan experience when their team has just shot a three point attempt and the ball is still traveling in the air. This is mainly because 3s are hard to hit and they are worth more than any other shot.
People watching the game cheer much louder on a made 3 than on a mid range jumper. One of the reason’s why the record for average team attempted 3 pointers per game has been broken every year for the past 6 is that it is more entertaining to watch.
By this logic, the best 3 pointer shooter in the NBA should be incredibly popular, and thankfully he is.
Steph Curry is the greatest shooter in NBA history. He has 4 of the top 5 seasons in terms of made 3 pointers and made over 400 in his unanimous MVP season in 2015/16. Steph isn’t just a spot up shooter who finds himself open a lot. He has the handles and skill to pull of the most outrageous shots we see in the NBA today.
He is so good that he can perform a number of dribble moves, pull up from 35 feet, be off balance and still knock it down with ease. Humans should not be that good at shooting. There are several universes between Curry and the next best shooter in the league (his teammate Klay Thompson). We weren’t ready for Curry’s shooting when he got healthy and that fact alone stands him at the top of the NBA’s most exciting players to watch.