In the game of basketball, nothing matters more than putting the ball in the hoop. Other things like defense, rebounding, playmaking, they all matter too. But in basketball, scoring points is by far the most valuable skill a player has.
In the NBA, scoring points doesn’t seem to be an issue. So many players today can score in so many different ways, it lifted the NBA team scoring average last season to a record breaking margin (105.6 points per game).
Not everybody, however, has the same level of talent when it comes to getting buckets. For a few special individuals, scoring is practically second nature to them, and it makes them the best and most impactful players in the world.
This list of the top scorers includes only the best of the best. These guys can not only score, but they can efficiently create their own shot from just about anywhere on the court.
Devin Booker has only played through two NBA seasons, yet his knack for scoring the basketball can not be ignored. Last season, in just his second year, he averaged 22.1 points per game. For a guy as young and inexperienced as he is, that’s quite a feat. His 70 point performance and natural ability to shot off the dribble has earned him a rightful mention on the list. But because of his relatively low field goal percentage (42.3%) and lack of experience, he hasn’t quite cracked the top ten yet.
It seems weird that a talent such as Jimmy Butler’s would not crack the top ten on a list like this. And, admittedly, it did feel weird. But when you take a look at some of the other stars on the list, you’ll see why he barely didn’t make the cut. He’s a great two-way player who averaged almost 24 points per game last season on 45% shooting. But those numbers are coming off his season in Chicago, where he was the literal focal point on offense. Those stats aren’t bad, but they should be better given the opportunity he had on the Bulls.
10. Paul George
For years, Paul George was the man for the Indiana Pacers. Ever since his break out season in 2012, everyone knew the guy would be something really special. He became the face of Indiana basketball, and he didn’t disappoint on showing out for his city.
When he broke his leg in that nightmarish Olympic summer basketball scrimmage, most people saw it as the end for him. After all, who could recover after an injury like that?
Eventually, Paul George proved everyone wrong. He came back stronger than ever and is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 23.7 points per game. What makes PG so special (other than his ability to play both sides of the ball), is his confidence. He is not afraid of the big moment, he is not afraid to take the tough shots. He is willing and able to lead his team to victory, even if he has to shoot 50 times to get there.
But with his wide array of offensive skills, getting the points is no problem for the 27-year-old star. And now, in OKC, he’ll have to show the world how he can play with another superstar by his side.
9. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard has been disrespected time and time again. Despite averaging 27 points last season, he was not voted an All-Star for the second year in a row. When talking about the best in the game, his name is always seemingly the last to be mentioned.
When will it stop? Lillard is the unquestioned leader of a playoff team that would be devastated without him. He’s the mad-dog, the relentless game changer, and the angry bull that nobody wants to mess with. His drive and ruthlessness when scoring the ball only increase his value to the team, while his strong, unwavering play in the clutch only adds to the reasons why Lillard is an All-Star.
Not only can Dame shoot from the outside, but he can pull up at mid range or slide to the rim for an easy layup. While Lillard often gets criticized for his low shooting percentage (44.4%), he almost always has to find his own shot.
Even though he’ll never admit it himself, he’s basically a one man show in Portland. Other than CJ McCollum, no additional star exists. Despite all those odds, the point guard refuses to slow down and refuses to give in to the power of his elite Western Conference competitors.
8. Russell Westbrook
The MVP literally does everything. He rebounds, he passes, he makes plays. But perhaps most of all, he scores. And he scores big. Since entering the league in 2008, the last time Russell Westbrook averaged under 20 points per game in a season was in 2010/11. So for the last 6 years, Russ has consistently been one of the better scorers in the league.
But unlike the majority of the other players listed, Westbrook isn’t actually a great shooter. Rather, he gets his points under the rim through layups, dunks, or putbacks.
Even before Kevin Durant’s departure, watching Westbrook’s dunks on a highlight reel became a regular thing. Watching him slash through defenders for a quick bucket became a regular event.
When Durant left though, the true power of Westbrook got unleashed. He was still doing his thing, of course, by slashing and driving his way to the rim for points. Now, however, he has stepped outside the paint to attempt more outside shots.
And while that hasn’t necessarily scorned him, it has hurt his efficiency. In fact, his 42.5% shooting average last year was the worst since sophomore season in 09/10. It’s for that reason why Russ can’t go higher on this list. The scoring is there, but the efficiency needs to improve.
7. Klay Thompson
Stephen Curry is widely considered by many to be the greatest shooter that ever lived. In fact, that’s pretty much the consensus now. But when talking about the second best shooter ever, people bring up guys like Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, and even Steve Kerr.
What if the answer involves the guy who plays beside Curry on a nightly basis?
Look, there’s a reason they call Klay Tompson Splash Bro number 2. He’s had huge bouts of scoring, where he’s proven he can change the entire outlook of a game with a hot hand.
More than that though, Klay has adapted his game to include many more offensive variables. Now, nobody is surprised to see him shooting from the post, pulling up for a midrange, or using a crossover dribble move to get closer to the basket. The best part is, his shooting percentages (46%, 41% from deep) prove that he’s as efficient as he is crafty.
Even though he plays with 3 other superstars, he averaged over 22 points per game last season.
The “dynasty” they’ve built over in the bay started in part to the development of Klay. His offense and shooting ability brought about a new culture, one in which the team would later use to light fires around the entire league.
6. LeBron James
It’s no secret that King James is not the best shooter in the world. While it’s true that he has improved, the outside shooting game has never been his thing. Like Westbrook, LeBron gets a lot of his points under the rim.
What makes LeBron James a great scorer though, isn’t necessarily where he gets his points from. Instead, it’s really about the way he racks them up. Anybody can lay the ball up, that takes little talent. With LeBron though, he attacks that rim like nobody else has before.
His power, strength, and sheer will is often times just way too much for opponents to handle. LeBron attacking the basket is often compared to a freight train steaming towards its end, and that comparison couldn’t be more accurate. Literally, the guy is unstoppable. His finishing ability is right up there with the best ever, and there’s no disputing that.
He has all the strength and power he needs to be effective on the basketball court. And with that power, he can take control of any game. With that strength, he instills fear into the hearts of his competitors. So it’s okay that James can’t make five three pointers a night.
He doesn’t have to, and he’ll probably never need to.
5. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony was recently ranked 64th overall on ESPN’s annual Top 100 Players of The Year list. In front of him were names like Lonzo Ball, Danny Green, and Harrison Barnes.
The disrespect for Carmelo nowadays is at an unbelievably high level. People like to forget just how valuable the man is. For his entire career, Anthony has never averaged below 20 points per game in a season.
In the post, from the arc, in the paint, off the dribble, not many players in the league can score in more ways than Melo can. His ability to put the ball in the hole is virtually unmatched. Scoring 20 points every game comes naturally for him. Even coming into his 16th season, Carmelo will be expected to produce at a high level.
That consistency is what makes him one of the most valuable players in the NBA. When it comes to offense, Melo has perfected that art since day one.
4. Kyrie Irving
It has been a long summer for the superstar point guard. After weeks of trade rumors and speculation, he was finally traded to the Boston Celtics, where he can become the focal point of a new offense.
And if you ever have any doubts whether or not Kyrie Irving will flourish on his own, you must have never seen him in action.
Like a lot of players on the list, Irving can score both inside and outside. What really separates Irving from the others is his handles. Uncle Drew can create space in any situation, and his speed with the ball ensures he’s always one step ahead of everyone else.
Averaging a career-high 25.2 points per game last year, Irving was the guy the Cavs looked to when they needed some points. With Boston, he’ll have the reigns to another championship contender. Rather than having to play under LeBron’s wing, Kyrie will have complete control.
AS good as he’s been all his life, expect a huge jump in his performance this upcoming season. Because if there’s anything we’ve learned about Uncle Drew, it’s that he loves the big stage.
3. James Harden
As a former sixth man of the year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden is no stranger to scoring points at high volume. Even back then, we saw what Harden was capable of.
Fast forward to today, and all of our expectations have been met. In Houston, he’s cemented himself as a true franchise player. Because of him, the Rockets became a hot destination in the West. People were just attracted to the euro step layups and the step back threes. Something about Harden’s persona just captured the hearts of anyone who dared to look.
And for Harden, his skillset is one that often receives heat for its unusual methods. See, The Beard is an expert at drawing fouls and making free throws. And much to the league’s dismay, he uses his expertise on a nightly basis.
While a lot of folks may not appreciate it, it’s a brilliant strategy that takes some serious skill to master.
It may be hard to expect any more from him after averaging 29 points last year, but if the trend continues, James Harden will improve yet again, and force the NBA to take notice of his superior talent.
2. Stephen Curry
Steph Curry’s spot at the highest ranks of this list should have been expected and welcomed by everyone. Surely, the greatest shooter in basketball history would count among the best scorers in the NBA during his prime.
The thing about Steph that makes him such an amazing talent is just how much he can change the course of the game with his shooting. Teams are scared to leave him open, other players attempt to structure their game around his. His amazing shooting streak has literally changed the NBA forever.
So yeah, most of Curry’s value comes with the 3-ball. But that’s all he needs. With a single made shot, Steph can turn the tables of a game that’s not going his way.
And now, the NBA itself has adapted to fit Curry’s style to perfection. Everybody wants to be him, everybody wants to love him. he has become the new face of basketball, and his shot will forever be immortalized by the NBA.
1. Kevin Durant
Look, you may hate the thought of Kevin Durant being first in any category that wasn’t named “biggest traitors in NBA history.” But the bottom line is, we have never seen anybody like this before.At almost 7 feet tall, KD can get his shot off against even the tallest NBA
At almost 7 feet tall, KD can get his shot off against even the tallest of NBA defenders. To complement that size, he’s got the handles of a guard, the shooting of a veteran, and the quickness of a snake (okay, I’m kidding here).
But seriously, there’s nothing Kevin Durant can’t do on offense. And despite what the world may think of him, he still remains one of the league’s best players.
In Golden State, he has got enough pieces around him to stay dominant for a very long time. And if last season was any indication of what he’ll play like in the future, the league better start preparing a game plan now.