This will be no easy task. Creating a list of the top players in any professional sports league is like trying to decide with a group of friends what toppings to put on the pizza. Usually there will be a few unanimous selections, but on the whole opinions will vary, and consequently discussion and debate will follow.
After considerable thought and self-debate, I was able to come up with a list of what I feel is made up of the top 30 current NBA players. I took into account many variables, including first and foremost statistics, current level of dominance, playoff success and team standings.
Here are my top five, and stay tuned as I’ll release the rest of the picks over the next few days.
1. LeBron James – Miami Heat
I said there would be some consensus, and after coming off a dominating playoff run, the Miami Heat forward LeBron James is undoubtedly the top player in the league today. There currently is no other player in the league with his combination of skill and athleticism, and his stats are a clear indication of just that.
He is a nightly triple-double threat, and this season shot a ridiculous 53% from the field in the regular season. No other player in the game that can stop LBJ and really, the only thing holding him back from being the unanimous number one player in the league was that elusive ring. Now that he has it, I anticipate him to be the number one player in the league for at least the next five years.
2. Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
The controversy starts here at number two, as I’m sure Black Mamba fans might disagree with ‘Kid Clutch’ taking the second spot. I put him here, however, because he simply is the best scorer in the NBA. Despite losing the NBA Finals series to the Miami Heat, Durant still put up nearly 31 ppg on 54.8% shooting from the field.
Durant is the deadliest in-game 3 point shooter in the league and his ability to score in late-game situations has propelled him to the number two spot. If he fails to win a ring in the next few years then I might consider dropping him down a few spots, but for now he is solidly entrenched at position number two.
3. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
With the league becoming increasingly point-guard oriented, it was about time a PG was listed. At number three, Chris Paul is in my mind the top point man in the league. He has a level of fluidity in his game that reminds me of Steve Nash in his MVP years, but he adds to that with a deadly killer instinct that he has time and time again displayed in late game situations. Paul makes his teammates better, and that cannot be underrated. At this point, I am not sure if the same can be said for Kobe Bryant, and that is why I have Paul at number three.
4. Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
The man has 5 rings, 2 MVP’s, 14 all-star nods and numerous other accolades. Putting him any lower than number four would be a disgrace and to be honest, I had a very hard time putting him behind CP3. Kobe Bryant is still a deadly scorer, and probably the most feared late-game scorer.
His reputation alone might put him at the top of this list but I looked at facts, and the statistics don’t lie. Bryant shot a mediocre 43% from the field this year and was nearly below 30% from behind the arc. He compiled about 3.5 turnovers per game as well while putting up 27.9 ppg in just over 38 mpg. He is still one of the elite players in the league, but his lack of efficiency relative to LeBron, Durant and others can no longer be ignored. The lack of playoff success experienced by the Lakers was another factor as well.
5. Dwight Howard – Orlando Magic
The big-man era is long gone, but Howard is still easily the best center in the NBA. His level of dominance at his position was one of the main reasons why I have him in this spot, as there is no center in the league that can match up with ‘Superman’.
Sure, his wishy-washy behaviour in Orlando has been a detriment to his team, but there is no denying that he is still a force to be reckoned with. Even with his disinterest in playing for the Magic he still puts up nearly 20 points and 15 rebounds a game. On the defensive side of things, he is the most dominant post defender in the NBA, and his 3 defensive player of the year awards say just that. Howard may not be the best fantasy basketball selection due to his terrible FT shooting, but he definitely deserves this fifth slot.
Making these top 5 choices was definitely not easy and I’m sure you guys will definitely have some differences in opinion, so let me know in the comments below!
Be sure to look for the next segment consisting later this week as we’ll run down players #6-10.