Ranking the top NBA players is always a difficult task. However, the gap between the unquestioned best player, LeBron James, and the rest of the field is shrinking, quickly. James has held the top spot for nearly the past decade after taking the baton from Kobe Bryant. There are quite a few players who are trying to steal the top spot from James.
The NBA’s Best
One Notable Omission – Kevin Durant
A healthy Kevin Durant is without question a top five player in the NBA. However, an Achilles injury is one of the most devastating injuries a basketball player can have. It’s too hard to predict how he is going to recover from his injury to fairly rank him in the top five.
Number Five – Stephen Curry
Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry has proven time and time again that he is one of the greatest players in the league. He has essentially changed the game over the course of the Golden State Warriors‘ five-year run with his unbridled long-range marksmanship.
Curry has led the Warriors on one of the best runs the NBA has ever seen. Five consecutive NBA Finals appearances, including three titles, and the regular season all-time wins record are incredible accomplishments. Curry is also the first player to ever be named the unanimous MVP.
His on-court talent is incredible. Curry is the best three-point shooter to ever step on an NBA court. His outside shooting ability opens up so many options for the Warriors’ offense and hard closeouts by defenders allow Curry to use his elite handles to get into the paint with ease.
Number Four – James Harden
The 2018 NBA MVP might be the most gifted offensive player in the league. James Harden scores, and he does it in bunches. Harden led the NBA this past season in scoring at 36.1 points per game.
Harden also has excellent court vision and playmaking ability. To go with an NBA high 36.1 points, he also averaged 7.5 assists per game. In the 2016-2017 NBA season, Harden led the NBA in assists per game as he averaged 11.1.
Harden has helped elevate the Houston Rockets to a worthy challenger to the Warriors in the Western Conference over the past couple of seasons. However, he hasn’t been able to get them over the hump.
Number Three – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Leaving Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP, at number three, speaks volumes of the talent in the NBA currently. Antetokounmpo averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assists, as a result, led the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the NBA this past season.
For the season, he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game and he did so in dominant fashion. His combination of size, length, athleticism, and ball handling make him nearly impossible to stop getting to the rim. Antetokounmpo had an incredible effective field goal percentage of 59.9. If he adds a three-point shot, he will be nearly impossible to defend.
Speaking of defense, Antetokounmpo is fantastic on that end as well. It’s what separates him and Harden on this list. Antetokounmpo is an incredible athlete and plays with a relentless motor on both ends of the floor.
Number Two – Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is sitting in the second spot, barely. He is nipping on James’ heals for the top spot. Leonard had arguably one of the greatest postseason runs of all time as he led the Toronto Raptors to their first ever NBA championship. He also had one of the greatest shots of all time as he hit the rim-rattling game-winner in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Philadelphia 76ers.
In addition to the incredible moments Leonard supplied the world with, he also had a fantastic regular season. Leonard averaged 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game to add to his always world class defense.
The only thing holding Leonard back from taking the top spot from James is his availability. Leonard’s career high for games in a season is a respectable 74. However, he has only played more than 70 games twice in his eight seasons and he missed 22 games this past season, in which the Raptors had an incredible 17-5 record.
Number One – LeBron James
When the argument for being knocked off the top spot is the fact that James only played in 55 games, it shows that he is still the top player in the NBA. His stat line for the season was incredible, once again. He averaged a ho-hum 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game which sporting an effective field goal percentage of 56 percent.
Another argument against James is the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs. However, when he went down with a groin injury on Christmas day, the Lakers were sitting in the fourth spot in the Western Conference.
If James continues to battle the injury bug next year, an argument can be made that he is no longer the top player in the NBA, but he has been remarkably healthy throughout his career, the groin injury appears to be a fluke.
Knocking LeBron James Off of the Top of the Totem Pole
Prior to this past season, James has been the undisputed best player in the NBA. Now, however, there are murmurs of Leonard taking the top spot. If Leonard can lead his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, to the NBA Finals, and he is available for the majority of the season, he has a chance to take the top spot from James.
Antetkounmpo also can dethrone James. If he leads the Bucks to an NBA Finals berth and continues his improvement on both ends of the floor, most notably by adding a three-point shot to his arsenal, he will have the NBA masses whispering his name for the top spot also.
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