Check our list of the top 20 NBA players last season.
Who is better player - Kyrie Irving or Stephen Curry?
Where you will rank Jimmy Butler and where you will rank Paul George?
Is Kawhi Leonard one of the best players in the NBA?
Who would you pick in your team, Draymond Green or DeMarcus Cousins?
Let the debate begin.
20. Karl Anthony-Towns
Karl Anthony-Towns at twenty may seem a bit excessive, considering he’s only 20 years old. Or maybe absolutely insane, but hear me out. Just 10 years ago a skillset like Towns’ would be more indicative of a custom 2k character than a feasible player. Everything about him is absolutely unbelievable. He’s a polished low post scorer with a range extending beyond the three point line, whose striking efficiency sets him apart from even the league’s best big men. On the flip side, he’s already one of the league’s premier shot blockers[ranking 11th in blocks per game], and yet he can defend the likes of Stephen Curry on the perimeter. How is that possible!? Well, that’s easy. The basketball gods have obviously changed his sliders -- cheaters.
19. John Wall
John Wall’s ascension to star status has been met with virtually no criticism. It’s also been met with virtually no acclaim. Probably because he’s spending his days in the nation’s capital, watching his youth rot away alongside standouts like Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, and Otto Porter. Yeah, there’s Bradley Beal, but he’s more fragile than porcelain, so I’m not sure he’s exactly the exception to the rule. Maybe the Wizards will make a real push for someone other than Kevin Durant in the near future. If not, hopefully, Wall will find a change of scenery.
18. Lamarcus Aldridge
The marriage of the San Antonio Spurs and Lamarcus Aldridge is an awkward one. Aldridge is a ball stopper who thrives in the midrange and low post, while the Spurs are a team that stress constant ball movement and shooting from the perimeter. But, this is Gregg Freaking Popovich we’re talking about. If anyone can find a way to make this work, it’s him.
17. Jimmy Butler
The Chicago Bulls have been in freefall since the departure of Thibodeau. Although less like a skydiver, and more like an anvil. And, who is our stand in for Wile E. Coyote? Jimmy Butler. Nonetheless, Jimmy is a defensive stud, but more importantly a workhorse. He does everything he can to help his team win, and deserves better than the Bulls drunken-attempt at whatever they’re trying to accomplish. Expect Jimmy to climb higher and higher on our list, because I think he has a lot left to prove.
16. Dwyane Wade
Every season there’s a week or two where Dwyane Wade just kicks everyone’s ass like it’s 2006-- just to remind everyone that he’s still Dwyane Wade. That doesn’t change the fact that Grandmaster Flash is a player of yesteryear. Enter “Father Prime”, a 34-year-old shooting guard who isn’t quite capable of carrying the offensive load anymore, but can produce like a star when his team needs him.
15. Blake Griffin
After the debacle that was the Clippers 2015-16 season, Blake Griffin’s approval rating has to be at an all-time low. Injured 30 games in, punches an equipment manager/dear friend, injures himself punching said friend, and meanwhile, the team appears to be performing better without him. So let’s imagine NBA stars as commodities on the stock market. Just 1 year ago Blake would be booming after his LeBron-esque performance against the Spurs in round 1. Now he’s plummeting, similar to Chicago’s playoff hopes. So can Blake replicate the success he had in the postseason just one year ago? For right now, let's just hope he can stay on the floor.
14. Demarcus Cousins
BOOOOOOOOOGGGGIIIEEEEEEEEE!!!!-- Okay, let's get serious. Cousins is either the league’s most cancerous hothead or it’s most misunderstood superstar, and there is no in between. In 6 seasons he’s already had 6 different coaches and is only now experiencing his first 30 win season. Quite frankly he just hasn’t accomplished much of anything on the professional level. He’s a loser, and what good is individual talent or latent potential when it’s masked behind a haze of failure.
13. Draymond Green
Draymond Green has become the most controversial figure in basketball. Accosted for his physical brand of basketball, or lauded for his passion and versatility. I align with the latter. Draymond is revolutionary thanks to his treasure chest of skills. He’s 6’7 and can run the point, crash the boards, box out, set picks, protect the rim, defend anyone from CP3 to LeBron on the perimeter, and still, carry the scoring load when need be. He’s a true swiss-army-man, designed by the Basketball Gods to fill up the stat sheet. Draymond may not be Stephen Curry, but he’s the mortar that can hold any great team together. Including the winningest regular season team in NBA history.
12. Kyrie Irving
Uncle Drew has always been an all-star standing at the precipice of superstardom. Sadly his one-dimensional skillset has limited him from making that leap. Tiers aside, Kyrie’s finals performance was breathtaking. The depth of his offensive arsenal was astounding, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kyrie has no other discernable skill then scoring. Average defense, mediocre playmaking, and poor leadership qualities. Being a champion doesn’t hurt though.
11. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard had the biggest breakout season since Stephen Cu-- wait that was just last year. Okay, let’s try again. Portland is the NBA’s closest thing to a cursed franchise. Walton, Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, etc. Then the aforementioned LaMarcus Aldridge decided to take his talents to San Antonio. Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich versus Damian Lillard and Terry Stotts? Alright fair enough. Dame Dolla didn’t disappoint the city of Portland, though, elevating his game to semi-ethereal levels. I say “semi-ethereal” because sometimes Lillard plays like an unhinged maniac jacking up terrible three-pointers. On the other hand, he can explode in fits of sheer brilliance, completely reminiscent of the Chef himself. If Lillard can make the transition from a “semi-ethereal” supernova to a transcendent offensive force in 2017, than expect him to climb a lot higher on our list.
10. Klay Thompson
It’s so hard to judge a player like Klay Thompson. He’s already cemented himself in my mind as one of the 6 best deep shooters in NBA history, but how much of his individual success is entirely reliant on his own ability? He isn’t exactly the first problem opposing defenses look to neutralize on Golden State, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s had some otherworldly shooting exhibitions, a-la Game 6 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Couple his shooting touch with his masterful execution of the back-door cut and stout perimeter defense, and you’ve got one of the league’s premier off-guards.
9. James Harden
The Associated Press’ MVP selections have been met with mixed reception since they began selecting the winner in 1981. Prior to the AP’s involvement in voting, however, the players made the final decision. So when the players chose their own MVP after the conclusion of the 2015 season for the first time in 36 years, the results were shocking. Apropos to the Associated Press’ choice of Stephen Curry, the players chose James Harden. What an honor right? Your peers named you the most valuable player in the NBA, beating out standout talents like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook or Anthony Davis. So with the players support in hand, James Harden carried that into the 2016 sea-- just kidding. James Harden was a disappointment, and the Houston Rockets season reflected that. Despite his remarkable talent, Harden once again fell into the habit of hogging the ball, clashing with coaches, and suffering severe lapses on the defensive end. Those qualities don’t earn you the respect of your teammates, just their ire. So fittingly, Harden has gone from the player's choice for MVP, to the Shaqtin A’ Fool MVP. Great stuff.
8. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis was anointed the NBA’s next galaxy-devouring-monster after an incredible 2014-15 campaign. News outlets like Bleacherreport and ESPN lauded Davis’ obscene potential and versatility, ranking him among the upper-echelon of superstars like LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry. Were they drinking the Kool-Aid? Sort of. Maybe. Not really. Davis has grown exponentially every season thus far, and not only did his growth suddenly halt, but it appears he’s taken a step back. Not only that, but he has yet to even play 70 games in a single season. But, with all of that said, here’s the major caveat. Davis is a 23-year-old alien that can host block parties and defend on the perimeter at 6’10. Combine his rebounding, polished post moves, and reliable jumper-- and you have the league’s premier big man.
7. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is a great example of why winning matters. He’s a dynamic scorer, lockdown defender, and an all-time great passer. But, every year Chris Paul disappears mid-May. Oh yeah, that’s because the Clippers disappear too. Two years ago it was Donald Sterling, last year it was an epic meltdown, and this year it’s injury. What happens next? What else can the Clippers do to reach the Western Conference Finals? They already have three top 40 players, the sixth man of the year, a solid bench, and Doc Rivers. Chris Paul has already cemented his legacy as a top 10 point guard of all-time, but what will he be remembered for? The insane assist numbers? State Farm commercials? Sounds like one hell of a legacy to me.
6. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is like a young Scottie Pippen mixed with Dr. J mixed with Ray Allen. Not only is he a champion, Finals MVP, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year-- but he edged out KEVIN DURANT on the All-NBA First Team. And, this is all coming from the guy who still drives his pickup-truck from high school to work. Sorry Larry, but George Hill for Kawhi Leonard is looking like one of the worst draft-day blunders in league history.
5. Paul George
Paul George is criminally underrated, probably because he plays in Indiana. Or maybe it’s because he’s surrounded by nobodies. Maybe it’s because he plays in the neutered eastern conference. Whatever the case, Paul George had the most impressive playoff performance I’ve witnessed in recent memory.
Now here are Kevin Durant’s playoff numbers.
Sure there’s a smaller sample size, but there’s something missing in that comparison that can’t be quantified-- defense. So not only is Paul George one of the league’s best pound-for-pound scorers, but he can rebound, and easily an All-Defensive First team caliber defender if not for Draymond or Kawhi. That’s what I call an elite two-way player. Only if the Pacers second best player wasn’t Myles Turner. (Checks depth chart). Wait, they’ve signed Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson? Oh man. Oh man! Go Larry Bird! Still, doesn’t make up for trading Kawhi Leonard for George Hill…
4. Russell Westbrook
On paper Russell Westbrook is insane. He’s the league’s most athletic point guard ever, who juggles the Thunder’s playmaking duties with crashing the boards, wreaking havoc on passing lanes, and dominating the open court. So it’s no surprise he’s broken the record for the most triple-doubles in a single season(17). But, in reality, Westbrook is more of an overcaffeinated child in Hercules’ body than an Alien menace. Maybe he’s absolutely frightening, but at times he’s the cause of his own downfall. Taking risks on defense, blindly barreling his way to the rim, and simply falling apart down the stretch. Nonetheless, the homicidally-maniacal legacy baton has been passed down from Michael to Iverson, to Kobe, and now to Westbrook.
3. Kevin Durant
So here’s a little editor's note. The other 19 entries on this list were completed prior to the finale of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. So let’s take a moment and psychoanalyze this:
- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have finally played a full season together since both players emerged as top five players in the world. The team still lost to the Warriors in the western conference finals after taking a commanding 3-1 lead.
- Kevin Durant is [like LeBron] a marvel designed by the Basketball Gods. He’s basically a 7-foot shooting guard who can drain three’s with ease and post up like Dr. J thanks to his Freddy Krueger arms. So Billy Donovan finally cracked the code and realized Durant is the ultimate small ball weapon. He can create defensive mismatches, play shooting guard and defend guards with his unreal length.
- So imagine Durant in the Warriors lineup. Curry, Klay, Durant, Iguodala, Draymond, Ezeli, Bogut, Livingston, Speights…
- Can this work? Can Kerr balance the numerous personalities and ego’s consuming one team? Are there enough basketball’s to go around? Only time will tell.
So with all of the early offseason analysis of the Invicta-Warriors aside, what has Kevin Durant already proven? Well, we know that KD is, in fact, an alien. Maybe he’s too passive down the stretch, but over the last 6 years, I’m not sure there’s been a more frightening scorer night-in and night-out.
2. Stephen Curry
Babe Ruth of the three-point shot, reigning MVP, consecutive* MVP, unanimous** MVP, and leader of the Silicon Valley Warriors. Two years ago I said Curry was the fifth best player in the world, and basketball fans across the blogosphere thought I was an imbecile. Now he seems like the most publicized athlete in the world. I think there're a couple of caveats to note, though.
- Curry didn’t deserve to be the first unanimous MVP. Although 20 or 30 years from now I doubt anyone will remember that.
- I wholeheartedly believe Curry was injured throughout the playoffs. That still doesn’t observe him of the poor decisions he made. But, I do think it severely limited his performance.
- His three point shooting is obscene, and just quite frankly not fair. The creators of 2k can’t even aptly capture his three-point shooting because his shot selection doesn’t make sense. It’s not how the game of basketball is supposed to be played, but he makes regular three-pointers look like layups. It’s like the Basketball Gods thought Ray Allen was fun to watch and said, “Why don’t I just take his sliders and go beyond 99.”
- Curry has revolutionized the game of basketball. Sort of. If I told you a team could draft two of the six greatest shooters ever in a span of three years, would you believe me? The Warriors have done just that. Of course, Curry is the basis of that formula. A revolutionary offense entirely dependent on three-point shooting.
Admittedly, Curry wouldn’t be this high if it weren’t for the pieces around him. General Manager Bob Myers and the Warriors organization have perfectly constructed their roster around Curry’s talents. Consisting of two other players on our list[now three], and a bevy of role players who can fill any hole in the team's lineup. Does that change the fact that Curry routinely amazes us? That for even the briefest of moments, he made us all question whether or not LeBron is the best player on the planet? Oh, wait… Spoiler alert.
1. LeBron James
LeBron. James. What can I possibly say about LeBron that hasn’t already been said? He’s the best player since Michael Jordan. A child star that didn’t suffer from a colossal meltdown. The man who finally brought a championship to Cleveland after the longest drought in North American sports history. For years we’ve lauded players like Magic and Duncan for leading their team in four of the five statistical categories. LeBron led Cleveland in all fivecategories. That’s the type of impact he has on the floor. If Kawhi Leonard is Scottie Pippen mixed with Dr. J mixed with Ray Allen, then LeBron is part Magic Johnson part Scottie Pippen part Goliath. Maybe he’s past his apex. Maybe he’s slowly lost his shooting touch since he left Miami. Or maybe his transmission is starting to crap-out after the hundred’s of thousands of miles he’s put on his body. Or maybe he’s an unkillable-galaxy-devouring-deity that has stood at the top of the NBA for the last nine seasons. Maybe the Basketball God’s just decided they were tired of Jordan terrorizing the league, and so they designed a player who could dominate every aspect of the game of basketball. Maybe nostalgia, social media, and twenty-four-hour sports networks have blinded us. Maybe LeBron James is the G.O.A-- Well maybe that’s a little much. Is he the best player in the world, though? No question.