The NBA season has just about hit its halfway point and it’s just as exciting as ever. Let’s look at the top 10 players of this season so far.
10. Kyrie Irving – Point Guard/Boston Celtics
Boston got off to a rough start to the season by their standards (Finals Contenders), but it was quickly turned around by the outstanding play of Kyrie. Irving’s ability to handle the ball is second to none and his scoring ability is quite amazing. No one in the league creates more space to shoot than Irving and he’s also improved mightily as a passer since his arrival in Boston. His season averages are 22.6 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, and 6.4 assists per game.
9. Joel Embiid – Center/Philadelphia 76ers
With Embiid’s combination of size and flair, Embiid is the closest thing to Hakeem Olajuwon since the Dream himself. His ability to score with his face to the goal or his back to the goal is something few bigs (centers) can say. Not only does he score on the offensive side of the ball, but he also changes and blocks shots on the defensive end. On top of the fact that he’s 7’2”, instinctively he has a very nice feel for where he should always be on the court. His season averages are 26.9 ppg, 13.3 rpg, and 3.4 apg.
8. Anthony Davis – Center/New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is a very tough player to rank due to his injuries (foot and back) and lack of postseason success. If I only took individual performance into account, Davis would be near the top of this list. But I must take team performance into account because every player’s objective is to win games. And so not to confuse anybody I am taking team success into account for everybody on the list. Davis can shoot from anywhere on the court, guard the perimeter and post (the part of the paint near the basket), and even outrun everybody else on the court if he wanted to. Anthony Davis is the 3rd best two-way player on this list and not because he’s underachieved. It’s just the other two players (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard) are out of this world. His season averages are 29.4 ppg, 12.2 rpg, and 4.4 apg.
7. Russell Westbrook – Point Guard/Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook never stops attacking the basket. His ambition is second to none in the NBA. But it wouldn’t mean much if it weren’t paired by absolute raw athleticism. Russell is one of the rare point guards who will dunk on you and then continue to hound you after the play defensively. Though his defense and shooting percentages have declined in recent years, it seems his rebounding and passing have vastly improved. This season he’ll be going for three straight years while averaging a triple double. His season averages are 21.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg, and 10.6 apg.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Small Forward/Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak was the clear frontrunner for Most Valuable Player until a couple of weeks ago (when James Harden started his 30-pt. game streak). He’s led the Bucks to a 29-11 start and leads them in all major statistical categories. His height and wingspan both hit 7 feet and he has as much athleticism than anybody else in the league. From passing to rebounding to defending he has almost no weaknesses. His jump shot still needs quite a bit of tweaking (it’s very poor and hitchy), but his driving ability makes sure he doesn’t have to shoot. His season averages are 26.4 ppg, 12.6 rpg, and 6.1 apg.
5. James Harden – Shooting Guard/Houston Rockets
James is well on his way to another MVP award after injuries (Chris Paul and Clint Capela) on the Rockets and a slow start (11-14) for Houston have forced him to absolutely take over. He just recently broke Kobe Bryant’s 30 ppg streak as he’s now scored thirty plus in 17 straight games. Harden may not be the best player in the NBA, but he might just be the most unguardable. His penchant for drawing fouls gives him so much room to operate its almost unfair. If you play him too tight, he’ll either draw a foul on you or cross you up. But if you play too off him, he’ll just step back three you to death. The NBA hasn’t seen scoring like this since the heyday of T-Mac and Kobe’s careers. Yet Harden can’t be much higher than number 5. His legacy of coming up short in the playoffs is real and he also turns the ball over a lot. But all in all, his will to play hard no matter the weight of game and his confidence in his teammates is what got him this far in the first place. his season averages are 34.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 8.6 apg.
4. Stephen Curry – Point Guard/Golden State Warriors
The greatest three-point shooter of all time. That’s what Steph Curry is. Though he isn’t nearly as good as Harden is at getting to the free throw line, Curry’s superior shooting puts him higher on the pole. The spacing he creates with his shot and ball handling make it so much easier for Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to get their shots off. You also can’t underestimate him on the defensive end with his ability to jump passing lanes. His season averages are 29.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and 5.5 apg.
3. Kawhi Leonard – Small Forward/Toronto Raptors
Kawhi has transformed the Raptors from fringe contenders to outright favorites to get out of the eastern conference. He brings a shooting element to Toronto that DeMar DeRozan never could (DeRozan cannot shoot threes). Leonard’s synergy with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka on the defensive end has also made the Raptors the best defensive team in the league. Nobody really knew what to expect out of Kawhi this year with all the drama that went down in San Antonio as he forced his way out. But ever since the start of the season he’s been just as good as he was two seasons ago. His season averages are 27.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, and 3.1 apg.
2. Kevin Durant – Small Forward/Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant is the greatest scorer of the basketball the NBA has ever seen. At a legitimate 6’11” and a 7’5” wingspan, there is nobody Durant can’t shoot over. And it’s not like Giannis Antetokounmpo where he can’t shoot. Only his teammates Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are better shooters than he is. He has also improved by leaps and bounds on the defensive end since he’s joined the Warriors as his steal numbers are way up. He’s the biggest reason Golden State is the favorite to win the title for the third year in a row. His season averages are 28.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 6.0 apg.
1. Lebron James – Small Forward/Los Angeles Lakers
He’s been the best since he’s come into the league and sixteen years later he is still number 1. He’s made the NBA finals in eight straight seasons and continuously comes up big in clutch situations. As his career has progressed he’s become an even better shooter than he was during his first run in Cleveland. Age has deteriorated his once elite perimeter defense (he can’t shuffle his feet quite as fast as he used to) but he’s still amazing in transition (on the fast break). Nobody is or has ever been as strong as LeBron and as fast as LeBron. His combination of size and speed is what still makes him the number 1 player in the NBA. His season averages are 27.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and 7.1 apg.
All stats are per Basketball Reference.