With the NBA season down to its last 20 games, we rank the league’s top 10 players as the season winds down.
Mr. Lillard may not get the credit he deserves from the NBA fans and coaches, only making the All-Star roster the previous two seasons because of injury replacements, and wasn’t selected this season, which was an absolute travesty.
After losing his entire starting five from last season, Lillard has been on a tear this season, leading the better than anticipated Portland Trailblazers (33-31) to the seventh best record in the Western Conference. Dame DOLLA is fifth in the league in scoring (25.8ppg) eighth in assists (6.9 apg) and second is one of only two players this season (Stephen Curry) to score 50 or more points in multiple games, including hanging 51 points on the Golden State Warriors last month.
It’s great to see Paul George back at the elite level that earned him a $90 million contract in 2013. We all know the story of the gruesome leg injury he suffered in 2014 during an USA Basketball exhibition in Las Vegas, where he played in only six games last season.
Even him playing in six games seemed like a long-shot, in what was considered a “career threatening” injury. PG13 is back and better than ever, leading the Eastern Conference’s seventh seeded Indiana Pacers (33-30) with 23.7ppg (ninth best in the NBA), 7.1 rpg, and finished this season’s All-Star game with 41 points, one-point shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star game scoring record.
Paul George has improved his jumpshot, regained his athleticism, and is back to being one of the top 10 basketball players in the world.
In his 10th NBA season, Chris Paul is still holding the fort in Clipperland and proving he’s still one of the best players in the NBA. Paul is averaging 19.7ppg, fourth in the league in assists at 9.7 per contest, and remains one of the top players in steals at 2.09 per game, which is fourth best in the NBA.
The Los Angeles Clippers (40-21) have the fourth best record in the Western Conference, and surprisingly have done so without their All-Star big man Blake Griffin since Christmas. Chris Paul has been the floor general for the Clippers all season, with his elite decision making, consistent outside jumpshot, and ability to get in the paint and put pressure on the opposition. However, there are a few questions swirling his team: will they lose their rhythm when Griffin comes back? Will Chris Paul be given some help down the stretch to close games? It remain to be seen, but CP3 is surely doing his part.
AD was supposed to be next in line as the league’s best player, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, and others who follow the NBA. This season hasn’t necessarily been a disappointment statistically for Davis, but his injury-depleted slumping New Orleans Pelicans (23-38) are not in the playoff picture, and the Anthony Davis buzz has declined a bit.
Despite the lack of his team’s success, Davis remains a top 10 player in the league, as he’s currently eighth best in the NBA in points per game (23.9) and rebounds per game (8.1), to go along with 2.19 blocks per game, which is third best in the league. Davis had a monster 59 point 20 rebound game last month against the Detroit Pistons, which is something that isn’t seen that often in the NBA. Just goes to show how special of a player AD is.
Scoring, rebounding, shot blocking and has extended his range to the three point line, Davis is the complete package. Get this man some help please.
Boogie! He is the league’s best center, and is finally inheriting the credit he deserves, as he made the initial All-Star roster without having to be named as a replacement this season. King Boogie has been a dominant force for the Sacramento Kings, ranking fourth in the NBA in scoring at 27.1ppg, fifth in rebounding at 11.4, and has evolved into a leader for the Kings.
Cousins has extended his game to the three-point line, to go along with his nifty footwork and post moves in the paint that’s impossible to stop. Just ask the Charlotte Hornets about his 56 point 12 rebound performance.
The Houston Rockets aren’t having anywhere near the type of season they had last year, but it’s not James Harden’s fault. Houston decided to get rid of head coach Kevin Mchale at the beginning of the season, released Ty Lawson because that experiment failed miserably, and Dwight Howard has been good here-and-there, but not the dominant force the Rockets thought they were getting when he signed a few seasons ago.
Harden however has somehat been keeping things afloat for Clutch City, as he’s second in the league in scoring (29ppg) seventh in assists (7.1apg) and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Western Conference’s No. 8 seeded Houston Rockets (31-32). So much is asked of Harden just for the Rockets to be competitive, and he continues to deliver at a high level. Jump shots, euro steps, ability to get to the free-throw line, Harden knew his worth when the Oklahoma City Thunder were unwilling to break in 2012, in which they traded him to the Rockets.
Houston, however, broke the bank and have one of the league’s best players in their arsenal.
Now here’s where things get interesting. I understand the Golden State Warriors (55-6) are on pace to break the 95-96 Chicago Bulls’ single season NBA record at 72-10. I understand Curry leads the league in scoring at 30.5ppg. I understand he’s going to obliterate his single season three point record this season, as he’s already made an absurd 294 of them.
I understand that he’s first in the league in player efficiency rating at 32.41 and is will likely win his second consecutive MVP award. I get all of that. However, Curry is allowed to play his game without having to do any extra. He doesn’t have to the lead the team in assists, Draymond Green does that. He doesn’t have to be the team’s best rebounder, Green handles that as well.
He doesn’t have to be the best defender, Barnes, Iguodala, and Green all share that task, and he has a stacked team from the starters to the bench that give him plenty of help. In last season’s NBA Finals, Curry wasn’t the best player on his team en route to the franchise’s first championship in 40 years.
Andre Iguodala and LeBron James were the only two players to receive Finals MVP votes. That’s not to knock Curry because he is the face of the league at the moment and the best shooter in the NBA, but as far as him being the best player, we have to hold our horses on giving him that title, because he doesn’t have to shoulder as much load as the top three…
If it wasn’t for the season Curry is having, Westbrook would likely be one of the front-runners for the league’s MVP award. Westbrook dazzled last season in the absence of Kevin Durant to win his first career scoring title.
The back-to-back All-Star game MVP award winner is seventh in the league this season at 24.1ppg, second in assists at 10.3 for a guy who “doesn’t pass,” snags 7.5 rebounds per game, and is second in the league in steals at 2.16 spg and player efficiency (28.30).
The high octane tenacity Westbrook plays with and his passion is amazing, from his lightning quick first step, to exploding to the room and viciously dunking the ball with force, whether if there’s anybody in the paint or not. Westbrook has been a catalyst of the Western Conference’s third seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (43-20) and are ready to contend for an NBA title.
Durant struggled last season with a foot injury that caused him to only appear in 27 games last season. Durantula is back, healthy, and looks as if he never had a foot injury.
The 2014 league MVP is third in the league in scoring (28.1ppg) grabbing 8.3 rebounds per game, dishing out 4.7 assists, and is third in player efficiency at 28.24. Durant’s ability to pull up, drive to the basket and improved defense has him as the leagues most complete players.
It will be interesting to see what happens this off-season as he’s set to be a free agent, but let’s live in the moment for now and enjoy what he’s doing with Westbrook in OKC, combining as the NBA’s best duo.
The King rests on his throne as the league’s best player. Entering his 13th NBA season, six consecutive finals appearances and the the thousands of minutes he has played, it is simply amazing what James does game-in and game-out, as he’s looking to capture his first NBA title in Cleveland.
LeBron is leading the Eastern Conference’s No.1 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers (44-17) with 24.8ppg (sixth best in the NBA), 6.6apg (10th best) 7.3 rebounds per game, and is fourth in player efficiency at 26.66. Everything hasn’t been good in Cleveland this season, with the team surprisingly firing head coach David Blatt, Kyrie Irving missing the first quarter of the season recovering from knee surgery, and rumors saying that Irving is unhappy in Cleveland.
LeBron continues to lead his troops through all of the adversity, and is still Mr. Do It All for Cleveland. He is the only player in the NBA to lead his team in points, assists, and steals, not to mention he’s third on the team in rebounding. Until someone does more than the King, not just for one season, but multiple seasons, the King will remain the best player in the NBA.