A defense may win championships, but its offense that puts fans in the seats. NBA fans love to ooh and ahh at the scoring exploits of players like Devin Booker, who hung 70 on the Celtics in March, and Russell Westbrook, who dropped 40 points on six different teams last year. Now that another season is nearly upon us, it's time to project which players will lead the league in scoring in 2017-18.
10. Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
2016-17: 21.6 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 24.4 PPG
Blake Griffin's scoring has been trending downwards since 2013-14, but that should all change this season. The departures of Chris Paul and J.J. Redick have created a huge void in the Clipper offense, and the Oklahoma City native is the perfect candidate to pick up the slack. Look for Griffin to put up career-high scoring numbers and shot attempts as he resumes his role as the Clips' primary option on offense.
9. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
2016-17: 25.3 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 24.7 PPG
Steph Curry's days of averaging 30 points per night may be over, and that's okay because the Warriors are a far more lethal team when they share the ball. But we can still expect another solid year with a handful of 40-point games to remind us just how good he really is.
8. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
2016-17: 22.1 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 25.5 PPG
Booker proved to be one of the league's elite gunners late last year when he went off on the Celtics. It was the biggest offensive outburst of the season, but it wasn't entirely out of character for the precocious 20-year-old. The Kentucky product increased his scoring nearly every month of the season, capping out at 27.4 points per game in April. Get used to seeing Booker's name atop the NBA's PPG leaderboard for many years to come.
7. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
2016-17: 25.2 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 25.9 PPG
As Mytopsportsbooks.com rightly said, Kyrie Irving is one of the players with the most to prove in 2017-18. The new Celtics point guard forced his way out of Cleveland this summer and will be on a mission to show he can thrive away from LeBron James and the defensive attention the King attracts. Expect big things and major fireworks from Irving all year long.
6. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17: 26.4 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 26.1 PPG
At some point, LeBron James will start to regress, but that point isn't this season. LeBron still has plenty in the tank and has shown no signs of slipping heading into his 15th year in the league. With Irving in Boston and Isaiah Thomas potentially missing a large chunk of the year, he may have to shoulder even more of the scoring load for the Cavs.
5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17: 31.6 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 26.3 PPG
Russell Westbrook will be hard-pressed to lead the NBA in scoring again this season. That's not a knock on his otherworldly talent, but rather a reflection on the improved quality of his supporting cast. New additions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will both cut into his field-goal attempts and will cause his lofty scoring average to drop a few points.
4. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
2016-17: 27.3 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 27.5 PPG
DeMar DeRozan increased his scoring average for the third consecutive year last season and will be asked to make it four straight in 2017-18 following the departures of DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and P.J. Tucker. It's a lot to ask, but the three-time All-Star has never shied away from a challenge.
3. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
2016-17: 25.1 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 27.9 PPG
Kevin Durant fell just outside the top ten last season, but that won't happen again in 2017-18. Look for him to post numbers more in line with the 28.5 PPG he averaged throughout the playoffs. If he could score close to 30 against the Spurs and the Cavs, there's no telling how much damage he can do against the likes of the Nets and Knicks.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets
2016-17: 29.1 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 28.3 PPG
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Harden has been the NBA's second-leading scorer in each of the last two seasons and that trend should continue in 2017-18. The Beard will have the ball in his hands less this year but will benefit from more easy looks thanks to new teammate Chris Paul. CP3 will give him the rock in all of his sweet spots while also proving to be an unstoppable pick-and-roll partner.
1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
2016-17: 28.0 PPG
2017-18 Projection: 28.8 PPG
We knew someone was going to have to sacrifice touches when Boogie (DeMarcus Cousins) joined the Brow (Davis) in NOLA following the All-Star break, and that someone was Cousins. Davis' scoring average actually increased from 27.7 PPG to 28.6 PPG during the second half of the season, and it should continue to hover around that mark as he remains the focus of the Pelicans' offense.