Photo Credit: USA Today (featured image), NBA (team logos)
Yet another NBA season has come to a close, and the offseason is officially upon us. As we really get going into the offseason with the NBA Draft, trades and other acquisitions, here is a list of power rankings of the top 10 players currently playing in the NBA.
10. Draymond Green, Power Forward, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green has been the X-factor of the Warriors in their three consecutive NBA Finals runs. But as an X-factor on the team with the most victories in a three-year span in NBA history, he is a much better player than his statistics indicate. While he only averaged 10.2 points per game this past season, he was one of only four players to average 7.9 or more rebounds and 7.0 or more assists per game; the other three are also on this list. Green also led the league in average steals per game with 2.03 and was 2nd in total blocks and steals per game averages with 3.42. In fact, he had a triple-double in which he scored only 4 points. The Warriors are a super team for a reason, and that reason stretches far beyond just Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry.
9. John Wall, Point Guard, Washington Wizards
In terms of pure point guards, John Wall was one of the best this past season. In his first career season averaging more than 20 points per game, Wall averaged 23.1 points per game and also averaged a career-high 10.7 assists per game to average a points/assists double-double for the third consecutive season. He also led the Wizards to an unexpected trip to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a game they had not forced since the 1978-1979 season when the team was still known as the Washington Bullets. Wall is one of the more underrated young up-and-coming point guards in the NBA, but not on this list. If he keeps improving the way he has over his career, he could become the next big thing in the NBA.
8. Isaiah Thomas, Point Guard, Boston Celtics
The last overall pick in the 2011 NBA stands just 5’9″, but in this past season more than any other, height proved to be just a number for Isaiah Thomas. Averaging 28.9 points per game, good for the highest average in the Eastern Conference and highest of his career by far, Thomas led the Celtics to the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals as not only one of the NBA’s best points guards, but one of the NBA’s best and most improved players. Thomas played for three different teams in his first four NBA seasons. Given how strong he has been for the Celtics, particularly this past season, they would be foolish to turn that three into a four.
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Small Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
In terms of do-it-all type players, Giannis Antetokounmpo, also referred to as “The Greek Freak”, is one of the best. The 22-year-old turned potential into a reality that not too many other NBA players can match up with. Of all NBA players, Antetokounmpo was one of only two to average 22.9 or more points, 8.8 or more rebounds and 5.4 or more assists per game. The only other player to do so is in the next spot on this list. He also led the NBA in combined blocks and steals per game averages with 3.53. Again, he is only 22 years old and has gotten better every season, and may continue to do so. People have already compared him to LeBron James, saying that Antetokounmpo may become the league’s most dominant player after LeBron.
6. Russell Westbrook, Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Mr. Triple Double himself, Russell Westbrook, set the all-time NBA record for triple doubles in a season with 42 and he became the first player in NBA history to average a triple double with an NBA-leading 31.6 points per game throughout an entire season. He for all intents and purposes singlehandedly carried the Thunder to the playoffs even without Kevin Durant by his side this past season, and if the team’s roster stays as it is this offseason, he could very well do it again next season, perhaps even breaking more records in doing so. In all likelihood, he will be named the 2016-2017 NBA MVP, and deservedly so.
5. James Harden, Shooting Guard, Houston Rockets
James Harden was the next best thing to the Russell Westbrook from a triple double perspective this past season. He too had a historical season, but unlike Westbrook, Harden became the first player to post 2,000 points, 900 assists and 600 rebounds in a season, and he did manage to put up 22 triple doubles of his own while shooting better field goal and 3-point field goal percentages than Westbrook. While Harden didn’t average a triple double, he was rather close to it, averaging 29.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and an NBA-high 11.2 assists per game. Harden made his team better than Westbrook made his, and the Rockets beat the Thunder in the playoffs to prove it.
4. Stephen Curry, Point Guard, Golden State Warriors
Two-time defending NBA MVP Stephen Curry didn’t put up shooting numbers quite like he did in the 2015-2016 season this past season. But if you look at his numbers, particularly in the shooting department, he did make the 2nd highest amount of 3-pointers in a single season of all-time, a total that trails his total from last season only. However, he didn’t get praised for it as much as he should have. A lot of that had to do with the addition of Kevin Durant and his role with the team. Curry still played a key role in the Warriors’ championship run this past season, and his statistics as well as his adaptation to Durant being on the team show it.
3. Kawhi Leonard, Small Forward, San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs were destroying the Golden State Warriors on the Warriors’ home floor in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Then Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and the Spurs not only blew a huge lead in Game 1, but they went on to get swept in the series. There is no player in the NBA that does what Leonard does on the offensive side of the ball as well on the defensive side of the ball. He is a one-of-a-kind player and could very well win more championships in his future as well as a few NBA MVP awards. Of the three 2016-2017 NBA MVP finalists, Leonard is the best overall player and his ranking on this list reflects that.
2. LeBron James, Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
LeBron James is still the player that does the most for his team. But when the stage was biggest and the pressure was all on the Golden State Warriors, LeBron, who many people consider and have considered for a long time to be the best basketball player in the world, could only propel the Cavaliers to one victory in the 5-game NBA Finals series. Yes, he’s made it to eight NBA Finals, including seven in a row. But in no sport has the league’s best player lost in the championship game or series on five…FIVE…separate occasions. This year’s loss adds to the argument against him, and it’s why he is #2 on this list as opposed to #1.
1. Kevin Durant, Small Forward, Golden State Warriors
People went from saying that Kevin Durant needed to go to the Warriors to win a ring to saying that the Warriors needed Kevin Durant to win this year’s NBA championship over the Cleveland Cavaliers. When he wasn’t hurt, Durant killed it all season long to prove he didn’t just hop to the Warriors for the ride. He shined brightest in the NBA Finals, averaging 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game to propel the Warriors to a 4-1 series victory. Replace him with anyone, yes anyone, else in the league and the Warriors would not have been as dominant as they were this past season, particularly in the playoffs.