By: Austin Knapp
Ah, the debate of who is the best at the five positions in the National Basketball Association. This never gets old. It is always controversial of course so if there is any true anger, please send hate comments to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Now that we have that out of the way, these rankings are based on who would be my top five on the board if I was a general manager of a franchise and there was an free for all draft tomorrow where every player was available for the upcoming season. Enjoy.
- Russell Westbrook– This past season’s MVP averaged a triple double. The most explosive player in the league can do it all. Can he take OKC to the Western Conference Finals now that he has some more help after adding Paul George to the fold? I believe there is certainly a good chance. Russdiculous is an iron man of sorts, the guy just doesn’t ever let up and is super productive statistically while hardly ever missing a game (played 81 regular season games in 2016-2017 and 80 regular season games in 2015-2016).
- Kyrie Irving– In my eyes, the closest thing we have seen to Allen Iverson. The twenty five year old is an absolute magician with the basketball. He shot 40% from behind the three point line in 2016-2017 while averaging 25.2 points per game. Avery Bradley recently called him the toughest player to guard in the league. His quickness, finishing ability, and marksmanship from behind the three point line lands him behind Russell Westbrook in my rankings.
- Steph Curry– The two time MVP lands at number three in my rankings but you could definitely debate that he should be at the top. Steph is statistically the best shooter of all time and is a crafty facilitator as well (6.6 assists per game was his average in the 2016-2017 season). The two time NBA champion has led Golden State to the top of the basketball world and Steph landed a hefty 5 year/$201 million deal in the offseason which was very well deserved. Steph has had a ridiculous stretch of offensive numbers since the 2013-2014 season and I expect him to keep going solidifying himself as one of the game’s greatest offensive players ever.
- John Wall– The former number one overall pick has resurrected the Washington Wizards’ franchise as him and backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, carried the team to the playoffs this year and won a series against the Atlanta Hawks. Not only can John Wall score (averaged 23.1 ppg in 2016-2017) but the guy can distribute as well averaging 10.7 assists per game this past season. That is three seasons in a row where he has averaged more than ten assists per game. To me, of these top five point guards, Wall is the best defender as well as he reads passing lanes well and uses his athleticism well to keep opponents from going to the rim with ease.
- Chris Paul– The new Houston Rocket point guard is tenured in the National Basketball Association. Chris Paul is a nine time all star and despite being thirty two years old, he checks in at number five in my point guard rankings. CP3 is widely regarded as one of the game’s most crafty passers (9.2 assists per game in 2016-2017) and will push the Houston Rockets to being even more of a contender to win an NBA championship. It will take some time to adjust but Houston got a huge piece in landing one of the game’s true point guards this offseason.
- James Harden– Yes, he played point guard for the Rockets in 2016-2017 and the bearded wizard of a man can pass but I expect him to take more of an off the ball role in the 2017-2018 season as Chris Paul is now in town. He has been Mr. Dependable for the Rockets, hardly missing a game (81 games played in 2016-2017) and scoring in bunches (29.1 points per game). An elite shooter and slasher, the 6’5 Harden is the best scoring point or shooting guard the league has to offer.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo– The Greek Freak is only twenty two years old but checks in at number two here because where are the other 6’11 perimeter players in the league? There aren’t many and this guy is an elite one. I classify him as a shooting guard because basketballreference.com says that he played the 2 the majority of the time for the Milwaukee Bucks as he carried them to a playoff birth this past season. The Greece native doesn’t have a consistent three point shot but brings mind blowing athleticism and physical tools to the court as the long armed Buck causes problems when he goes to the rim and for those who he guards on the defensive end. Giannis, you have a bright future, buddy. I predict an NBA MVP for him in the next four years. Good luck to the rest of the league when he develops a consistent jumpshot.
- Klay Thompson– The defensive maestro has been key to Golden State’s two championships. Thompson is an elite three point shooter (41% from beyond the arc in 2016-2017) and has made NBA history quite often in his career as this past season he scored 60 points against the Pacers in less than thirty minutes of playing time. He is the only NBA player to ever do so. By the way, in 2015, Thompson scored 37 points in a single quarter against the Kings going 13 of 13 from the field. Those 37 points in a single quarter are an NBA record as well. Thompson’s 6’7, 215 pound frame make him one of the NBA’s best two way players as he gets it done offensively and defensively for Golden State.
- DeMar DeRozan– An elite midrange shooter, DeRozan is another 6’7 shooting guard. The Toronto Raptor averaged 27.3 points per game this past season. He has led his franchise to four straight playoff appearances, including an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2016.
- CJ McCollum– The Portland Trail Blazer shot 48% from the field and 42% from behind the three point line in the 2016-2017 campaign while averaging 23 points per game. The twenty five year old causes defensive problems with backcourt mate, Damian Lillard, and looks to keep Portland’s consecutive appearances in the playoffs alive as the franchise has been to every Western Conference playoffs since 2013-2014.
- LeBron James– King James is still playing at an incredibly high level as he appeared in his seventh consecutive NBA finals this past June. LeBron continues to give basketball fans incredible highlights each year and is gearing up to push the Cavaliers to another NBA finals appearance with or without Kyrie Irving. Yes, I believe LeBron can still carry the Cavs to the top of Eastern Conference supremacy without Kyrie but if Kyrie does end up staying, there is still a definite chance they can beat the Warriors in the finals if it ends up that way. All Cleveland needed this offseason is an upgraded bench (they’ve done that signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Jose Calderon). In the 2017 NBA Finals, LeBron averaged a triple double and his team was abused when he had to come out of games. If Kyrie decides to stay in Cleveland, King James could add another title.
- Kevin Durant– The 2017 Finals MVP. Kevin Durant finally got his NBA championship. I believe KD is the greatest scorer of all time. Listed at 6’9, even though he is realistically near 7’0, he simply shoots over everyone who guards him and hits those shots at a high rate (54% field goal percentage in 2016-2017). Could Kevin Durant be the best player in the league right now? He certainly could be and I think he is the biggest matchup problem for a defense in the game today. It will be interesting to see how many more NBA titles KD can rack up in his time in Oakland.
- Kawhi Leonard– Man, this small forward spot is absolutely stacked. LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard might be the top three overall players in the league. Kawhi will walk away from the game as one of the best defensive players ever. Thankfully, the twenty six year old still has a lot of game left in him and that’s wonderful news for basketball fans everywhere. Nicknamed ‘The Claw’ for his ginormous hands that are almost as big as Shaq’s (seriously), the 6’7, 230 pound San Antonio Spur is widely regarded as the best two way player in the game today. He averaged 25.5 points per game while shooting 49% from the field this past season. Kawhi will look to carry the Spurs to the NBA Finals this upcoming season after getting hurt against Golden State in game one in the past playoff cycle.
- Paul George– The former Fresno State Bulldog turned in another excellent season as he averaged 23.7 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, while shooting 46% from the field. The former Indiana Pacer led his team to a playoff appearance where he averaged 28 points per game against eventual Eastern Conference champion, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now at Oklahoma City, George will team up with fellow California native, Russell Westbrook, and push for his first NBA finals appearance.
- Jimmy Butler/Gordon Hayward– Like Paul George, these two ended up with new teams in the offseason as Butler is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics as a free agent. Both guided their squads to playoff appearances and averaged more than twenty a game. Both players also have new franchises that have more of a shot of going to the NBA finals than their former teams.
- Anthony Davis– The do-everything big for the Pelicans is a former number one overall pick and has certainly lived up to the hype. He possesses a whopping 8’0 wingspan which helped him record 2.2 blocks a game in the 2016-2017 campaign. Not only known for blocking and altering shots on the defensive end, Davis averaged a career high 28 points per game while shooting a very efficient 51% from the field. Davis also brought down 11.8 rebounds a game in 2016-2017 and will look to carry New Orleans to a playoff appearance in 2017-2018.
- Draymond Green– The 2016-2017 defensive player of the year certainly had a lot to do with the Warriors winning the NBA title. While Draymond is probably the league’s most hated player, he is a coach’s dream from a production standpoint. Green averaged 10.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, and 7 assists per game while winning defensive player of the year! Absolutely incredible. He also had the league’s second highest DRPM at 5.59. DRPM is defined as this by ESPN: a player’s estimated on-court impact on team offensive performance, measured in points allowed per 100 defensive possessions. A tip my hat to you, Draymond- you can do it all on a basketball court.
- Kevin Love– The 6’10 power forward shot a nice 37% from behind the three point line in the 2016-2017 season and really had a remarkable series against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, averaging 22.6 points per game. Love averaged a double double this year going for 19 points a game and 11.1 rebounds per game.
- Paul Millsap– One of the league’s more underrated players, Millsap recently went to the Nuggets and received a 3 year/$90 million contract. Congrats on getting paid, Paul. Millsap had a DRPM of 3.35 which was sixth among power forwards this season. He also averaged a career high 18.1 points per game with the Atlanta Hawks this past season. Millsap turned in respectable performances on both ends of the floor this past season which got him paid in the offseason by the Nuggets. Denver has a solid chance to get to the Western Conference playoffs with Millsap in the fold.
- Blake Griffin– The high flying LA Clipper averaged 21.6 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game in the 2016-2017 season. Now Griffin doesn’t have former LAC point guard, Chris Paul, so it will be interesting to see if Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can guide the Clippers to a seventh consecutive playoff appearance.
- DeMarcus Cousins– ‘Boogie’ is just a bruiser on the basketball court. He imposes his 6’11, 270 pound frame on big men all across the league. In fifty five games with the Sacramento Kings, he averaged 27.8 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game. After getting traded to the Pelicans in the middle of the season, his rebounding average went up to 12.4 per game but his scoring average dropped to 24.4 points per game while playing in seventeen games alongside Anthony Davis. The Pelicans are in a unique spot having both Cousins and Davis and it will be interesting to see if the two can play with each other as time goes by.
- Karl Anthony-Towns– Yes, KAT is twenty one years old. This was his 2016-2017 season averages: 25.1 points per game while shooting 54% from the field and 12.3 rebounds per game. He also shot 37% from behind the three point line. A seven footer who is that productive- Mr. Towns, you have a bright future ahead of you. I see KAT eventually winning an NBA championship and multiple MVPs. Keep being great, big fella.
- Marc Gasol– Gasol is 7’1, 255 pounds and moves pretty swiftly on a basketball court. He can pass (he averaged 4.6 assists per game in the 16-17 season), he can score (19.5 points per game in the 16-17 season), and he can also step out and hit a three pointer pretty consistently (39% three point shooter). Marc is the perfect example of a modern day NBA big who can do everything. He has been apart of six playoff appearances with the Memphis Grizzlies in his nine NBA seasons.
- Rudy Gobert– The Frenchman is 7’1 and has an 8’0 wingspan which helped him average a career high 2.6 blocks per game. All of that length also helped the Utah Jazz center own the highest DRPM rating in the league at 6.02. So is he the league’s most valuable defensive big? Yes. He also averaged a double double, scoring 14 points per game and grabbing 12.8 rebounds per game. The future is bright for the twenty five year old.
- DeAndre Jordan– Jordan was an NBA all star for the first time in the 2016-2017 season. The Clippers big man averaged more rebounds than points this past season grabbing 13.8 rebounds a game and scoring 12.7 points per game (mostly from powerful, violent dunks). He also turned in a 71% field goal percentage which was a career high for him.