The NBA is back. On March 11th, 2020, the sports world was put on pause after NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski sent out a six worded tweet that was his biggest "Woj Bomb" of all time. It simply stated, "The NBA has suspended the season." Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert quickly become public enemy number one after he was the first NBA player to test positive and a video quickly circulated online of him mocking the virus a few days earlier by touching all of the mics in a conference room.
After a few long months of uncertainty, the NBA and owners agreed on a deal in early June to resume the NBA on July 30th in Orlando Florida. Twenty-two teams will resume play at World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando and the teams will play in eight regular-season games before the playoffs begin in mid-August. Many different players have tested positive and a few players that have opted out of the season, but the NBA "bubble" has been effective so far, and as of July 30th, 2020 no player has tested positive who is currently in Orlando. The first game after the resume will feature the Utah Jazz facing off against the New Orleans Pelicans on July 30th, 2020 which will be the first NBA game in 140 days.
There are so many storylines heading into this final stretch, and it is a good time to remember and consider who the best players in the game are right now. After diving into different statistics and seeing how players performed this season I composed a list of my top five players at every single position based on their ability and what they have meant for their team this season. I began with points guards, and I followed with shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards, centers, and I also added the sixth man. I will also give a few names for honorable mention. It is important to note that I am ranking players based on the position that they are listed as on NBA.com. The game is changing every season, but these are the players that reign supreme at their position right now.
It is safe to say that the NBA does not lack talent at the point guard position. For the past few years point guards have dominated the league and in the past few decades point guards have evolved from pass-first players to sharpshooters that can slash to the hoop. Many different point guards are the face of their respective franchises and are under 25 years old. Trae Young and Luka Doncic both started in the All-Star game this year, and they are both 21 years old. The best point guards in the league are a mix of veterans and young stars that specialize in many different roles and skillsets.
5. Chris Paul
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It is crazy to think that just before the 2019-2020 NBA season, Chris Paul was considered to be finished. The Houston Rockets did not believe in him, fans did not believe in him, and I personally thought he days were numbered in the league. The Rockets wanted him out after last season, and he was included in the Russell Westbrook deal at very low value. Paul is pretty small for a point guard at barely 6'0 tall and he is now 35 years old. He is owed 85.6 million dollars left on his contract with two more years. Many people thought that the Thunder would try to trade him and he would not play a single game for them. Paul has not only played for them but he has shined.
Paul played college basketball at Wake Forest University and set numerous records there. He was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets, now known as the Pelicans, and played there from 2005-2011 after being drafted 4th overall in the 2005 NBA Draft. After being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011, the league made a very controversial decision to veto the deal. Former commissioner of the NBA David Stern felt like the Hornets were getting a shorter end of the deal which led to the veto. Paul was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers and he was an All-Star for them from 2011-2016 before being traded to the Rockets in 2017. He played well for the Rockets in the 2017-2018 season but was injured for a good portion of the next season and his abilities slipped a little. That led to the Rockets shipping him off to Oklahoma City.
Paul began the season as the Thunder's starting point guard, and it would be fair to say that Paul and the Thunder did not have very high expectations. In his first game as a member of the Thunder, Paul put up 22 points and 8 rebounds in only 30 minutes. On December 16, 2019, Paul scored 30 points with 10 rebounds and 8 assists against the Chicago Bulls. He went off for another huge game a couple of weeks later against the Toronto Raptors on December 29th when he had 25 points 11 rebounds and 8 assists. Paul has still shown explosiveness, especially in the pick and roll game. He is a solid defender and loves to involve his teammates in the offense. He is shooting at some of the highest clips of his career and he has his highest field goal percentage since 2014. He ranks amongst the leagues best in crunch time efficiency and he is shooting his career-best from mid-range. He has been the key piece behind the Thunder's surprisingly successful season. The Thunder are 40-24 and currently sit at 5th place in the Western Conference. Paul was an All-Star this year, and he is still a top 5 point guard in the NBA. He is averaging 17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.6 steals a game.
4. Steph Curry
This has been the first season of Steph Curry's career that he has missed a significant chunk of time since his 2011-2012 season when he only played in 26 games due to ankle and foot injuries. Steph Curry has significantly changed the game since entering the league and played at an extremely high level since 2012. Curry is known for his limitless range and his underrated passing ability. I am not the biggest Steph Curry fan myself, but I cannot deny his career 43.5% shooting percentage from three-point land. This is an unbelievable statistic especially with the number of three-pointers that he attempts and most of them are contested. Curry is now 32 years old and is facing some question marks on his future. There is no doubt in my mind that he will prove doubters wrong next season, and I believe this because of Curry's unlikely journey.
Curry grew up around the NBA. His father is Dell Curry, who played in the NBA for sixteen seasons. Steph had a great high school career and wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and play at Virginia Tech. After Virginia Tech only offered him a walk-on spot due to Curry's 160-pound frame, he decided on to go to Davidson College. Curry went on to have an outstanding college career and received the national attention that he deserved after a magical run with Davidson in the NCAA tournament in 2008. After a great season as a Junior in 2009 where Curry led college basketball in scoring he and was named an All-American. He declared for the NBA Draft. Curry was doubted on once again and he slipped to the 7th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and was selected by the Golden State Warriors. After spending his college career as a shooting guard, the Warriors moved him to the point guard position. As a rookie, he played in 80 games, starting 77 of them, and he averaged 17.5 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year Voting to Tyreke Evans.
The Warriors entered the 2019-2020 NBA season with doubt cast upon them with Kevin Durant's departure and Klay Thompson being out for the season with a torn ACL. After losing two out of their first three games, Steph Curry broke his hand in the fourth game against the Phoenix Suns. Curry returned to the team on March 5, 2020, and recorded 23 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. This was his last game of the season. Curry has had an outstanding career and his set numerous records. He has won 3 NBA Championships, 2 MVP's, and is a 6-time All-Star. He has never won an NBA Finals MVP. Curry has a career average of 23.5 points per game with 4.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists. His passing ability is under-appreciated and he is very respected by teammates and around the league for his ability to win. He is not a very good defender, but he is known for his clutch shots and passes. Curry is still fourth on this list even though he played in only five games this season. Look for a bounce-back year next year.
3. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook is a superstar that no one appreciates anymore. Westbrook can make some poor judgment decisions and try to press the issue on certain occasions, but he is one of the greatest athletes and point guards to ever play the game. Westbrook is playing some of the best basketball of his career after three seasons in a row when he averaged a tripled double. Yes, you read that right. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double in back to back to back seasons. He was the first person to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robinson 55-years earlier, and these two players are the only players to accomplish this feat. Even if you are trying to stat-pad this is extremely difficult to do. When Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors, Westbrook became the man in Oklahoma City. He was loved by the fans and praised for his playing ability and loyalty to the Thunder. After another season of failing to reach the NBA finals, the Thunder shipped Westbrook off to Houston for Chris Paul and draft picks.
Westbrook was overlooked in high school. He did not have many offers or attention from big schools until UCLA offered him. After enrolling at UCLA, Westbrook did not play much in his freshman year and only averaged 3.4 points per game. In his sophomore season, he was named the starter and averaged 12.7 points per game and led UCLA to a National Championship where they lost to the University of Florida. Westbrook declared for the 2008 NBA Draft and he was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder, with the 4th overall selection. The SuperSonics became the Thunder six days after Westbrook was drafted and early in the season, Westbrook recorded his first-ever triple-double. He was the third rookie in franchise history to do so. Westbrook finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting, and he averaged 15.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.3 steals a game.
Westbrook has improved every season in his career and he became a star in his third season. Westbrook is a 9-time All-Star, 2-time All-Star Game MVP, and he won the MVP award in 2017. Westbrook entered the 2019-2020 season with high expectations after reuniting with James Harden and he has done a great job in his new role. Westbrook has been playing exceptionally well since the Rockets shipped off Clint Capela to the Hawks as they have fully embraced small ball. Westbrook is ferocious and almost impossible to stop when he is driving to the rim. He has highlight dunks on a nightly basis and he converts many of the opportunities near the hoop. His three-point shooting is not good, but his aggressiveness when attacking the hoop makes up for it. Westbrook was an All-Star once again this season and he is averaging his most points since his MVP season in 2017. His 2-point percentage is the best of his career even though his 3-point percentage is the worst of his career. He is playing great defense and after struggling in the beginning he and James Harden have built nice chemistry. Russell Westbrook remains one of the premier point guards in the NBA. He is average 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists per game this season.
2. Damian Lillard
There is one word that comes to mind when I think of Damian Lillard. Cold. For everyone reading this that is over 40 years old cold means clutch. Dame Dolla has gotten better every year of his career and has started to gain adequate recognition. Before the past couple of seasons, Lillard has been known as the fringe All-Star talent that was snubbed from the game two years in a row. This was before his playoff buzzer-beaters on two separate occasions that have sent the sports world into a frenzy. It is hard to believe that Lillard is now 30 years old, but he is clearly one of the best point guards in the league right now. He has improved incrementally every single season and he is putting up numbers that are similar to what Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and James Harden have done in their careers. Lillard is an offensive weapon that can explode at any moment. You have to know where he is at all times on the basketball court and his solid relationship on the court with fellow start CJ McCollum helps him succeed. Lillard has played through adversity and the revolving lineup around him has not affected his play. Lillard is on his way to leading the Blazers far into the playoffs even though they do not have the talent surrounding their star that most contenders do.
Lillard was a two-star recruit out of high school and he decided on attending Weber State. He played three years at Weber State and prided himself on putting that college on the map. He was solid as a freshman averaging 11.5 points per game and he was named Freshman of the Year for the Big Sky Conference. In his sophomore season, he averaged 19.9 points per game and led Weber State to a conference championship. He got hurt the next season, and after a medical redshirt, he averaged 24.5 points per game as a junior. He was leading the nation in scoring for most of the season but ended in second. After elevating his status to being regarding as one of the best point guard prospects in the previous few years he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2012 NBA Draft. He was selected 6th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers, and in his first career game, he scored 23 points and had 11 assists. He had a spectacular rookie season which led him to a unanimous Rookie of the Year award. He averaged 19 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in a full season.
Lillard has been putting up a career year this season but has been considered a top-three point guard in the game over the past three seasons. In his eight seasons in the NBA, he is a 5-time All-Star, made the All-NBA First Team in 2018, and he won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2013. Lillard has talked about something clicking in his head after being swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the playoffs in 2018. Ever since he has been a completely different player. He has elevated his game to heights that no one would have predicted. Over his past two seasons, he is averaging 27.1 points per game with 7.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and a 3-point percentage of 38.1%. His free throw percentage is amongst the game's elite at 90.1%. His higher 2-point shooting percentage this season is a result of his improvements around the rim. The one knock on Lillard is his finishing ability, but his conversion rates are up when comparing it to other years. Lillard has dethroned Steph Curry as the king of the super-deep three. At its peak, the 3-point line is 23 feet from the basket. Lillard averages 41.1% from three-point land at an unbelievable 29 feet. This is 6 feet behind the three-point line! Lillard has improved his pick and roll game even with a center who cannot space the floor in Hassan Whiteside, and the season that Damian is putting up with 28.9 points, 7.8 assists, and 4.3 rebounds will lead to another year where Lillard is one of the best point guards in the NBA.
1. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic is one of the best players that I have ever seen play the game of basketball. In early February I received great tickets to a Washington Wizards vs Dallas Mavericks game at Capital One Arena in DC. I was thrilled to be able to watch this star play and I was looking forward to writing my first ever article for this website after watching Luka in person. After finding out that he was out with an ankle injury he suffered in practice a few days later I screamed so loud in a restaurant that I do not know if I am comfortable going back. Luka ruined my beautifully crafted burger and french fries. Sorry, Billy Jacks in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The Wizards ended up winning the game on a buzzer-beater by Bradley Beal so that was pretty cool. Anyways, Luka is so good and so young that it is scary to think about his future potential. Luka grew up in Slovenia and grew up playing against competition well above his age group. He set many records in his rookie season and is one of the faces of the NBA at just 21 years old.
In Slovenia, he and made his professional debut in basketball at a remarkable age. He joined a Spanish club at a young age and played for Real Madrid's youth team. He debuted for their senior league at just 16 years old, and this was the youngest age for a debut in club history. He rose to prominence in the league and quickly became the league's best player. Two years after his debut he led his team to a EuroLeague title while finning the Finals MVP and the regular season MVP. After dominating the EuroLeague at such a young age Doncic knew that he needed to face higher competition. He declared for the 2018 NBA Draft and he was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 3rd overall selection. He was then traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Trae Young and a first-round pick in 2019.
Doncic faced many questions entering the NBA as a 6'7 230 pound forward and many scouts questioned his transition to the NBA. He was an elite prospect, but some people did not believe in his lateral quickness and thought he was too raw. Doncic broke into the NBA with a solid first game but went off in a game just a few days later. Doncic scored 26 points and had 6 rebounds. A week later he scored 31 points and had 8 rebounds. Two weeks later Doncic recorded his first double-double. Doncic continued to improve steadily and he showed off his ability to make three-point shots. He recorded his first triple-double on January 21, 2019, with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The Rookie of the Year race was considered to be over after the first couple of months. Doncic finished the season averaging 21.2 points, 6 assists, and 7.8 rebounds. Doncic proved that he could play in the NBA in a big way and took over as the point guard in the 2019-2020 season. Doncic has taken a huge leap from his first to the second season in the league and causes high stress for opposing defenses. He is one of the best finishers around the rim in the game and is ranked statistically among the top ten passers in the NBA. He has improved in every single offensive category from year one to year two and he was named a starter in the All-Star game. Doncic is the brightest young star we have in today's game and he is almost averaging a triple-double for the season with 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game.
Honorable Mention: Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, John Wall
The shooting guard position is one of the most valuable positions on the basketball court. The success that your team has relies on the chemistry that shooting guards and point guards have together. The role of the shooting guard on many teams is based on the game plan and offensive style. Most shooting guards in today's game are 3-and-D players and they provide high energy to their squad. Shooting guards are also expected to handle the ball and quickly adjust to being switched to forwards and point guards. The list of the players below are up and coming stars that have solidified themselves as All-Stars since breaking into the league.
5. Devin Booker
One of Devan Booker's goals for this season was to gain respect throughout the NBA. After being snubbed from the All-Star game and later being named as a replacement Booker wants the NBA to realize the magnificent season that he has been having. When Booker broke into the league he was a respected player in college with a lot of potential. He was not known to be a sure-fire superstar but his work ethic and fiery competitiveness instilled the confident gameplay that he portrays. He has proven the doubters wrong about his supposed empty-stats with an above-average roster finally being assembled around him. His play this season has taken off with talent around him like center Deandre Ayton and forward Kelly Oubre Jr. A past first point guard in Ricky Rubio also has elevated Booker's game. The Suns score at an extremely high and effective clip with Booker on the floor and they struggle mightily without him. Booker has elevated his game in every single season and has become a great player at just 23 years old.
Booker was born and raised in Michigan by his father Melvin Booker who played in the NBA for three seasons. Booker moved in with his father in Mississippi in high school and was a great high school basketball player. He attributes his high basketball IQ and his natural athleticism to his father. He played in the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game and was a highly recruited player going into college. He had spent some time at point guard in high school, but he committed to the University of Kentucky as a shooting guard. Booker had a solid season with Kentucky, averaging 10 points, and 2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 21.5 minutes per game. He earned SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors and was named to the All-Freshman team. He declared for the 2015 NBA Draft joining six of his other teammates in doing so. Booker was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns and he went on to have a very solid Summer League. Booker debuted for the Suns as an 18-year-old a few days before his 19th birthday. He was the first player in NBA history to debut as an 18-year-old after playing one season of college basketball.
Booker had a pretty good first season as a rookie in the NBA, but he was still very raw. He averaged a little over 13 points per game and he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He had multiple 30-point games and even erupted for some huge games. He was the second rookie in Sun’s history to have multiple 30 points games in one season. Over the next offseason, he worked vigorously with former NBA player Baron Davis and he was invited to play on a team that played against Team USA in preparation for the Olympics. He had a great season for the Suns on a miserable team and he improved his points per game by 8 points to 22 and he also improved his shooting percentages, passing, and defense. He has improved in every season and he is averaging 26.1 points per game this season. He is also averaging 6.6 assists per game and 4.2 rebounds. He is shooting 36% from three-point range and has improved defensively. He became the youngest player in NBA history to record a 70-point game a couple of years prior and the youngest player to record back to back 50-point games. He became the fourth-youngest player to reach 7,000 points behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. Booker was rewarded by the Suns with a max 5-year $158 million-dollar contract entering this season, and His efficiency rating is very high. Devin Booker is one of the most complete offensive players in the game.
4. Donovan Mitchell
David Richard CBS
Donovan Mitchell was heavily slept on coming out of college. It has been a common theme for Mitchell throughout the years even when he has elevated his play to become an All-Star. Many people believed that he was only a slasher and dunker, but he has proved that he is an effective defensive player and can shoot the ball. Mitchell broke into the league with a bang and was one of the best rookies in Utah Jazz history. He played at the University of Louisville and was known as an explosive guard. He set many school records and became an icon at Louisville, but he did not gain much attention entering the NBA draft.
Mitchell grew up in Connecticut and played at Canterbury School. Mitchell was also a good baseball player in high school until he had a collision with a catcher at home plate his sophomore year and after breaking his wrist and jaw and he decided to completely focus on basketball. His mother decided to transfer him to an elite high school basketball program for his junior and senior seasons which led him to be looked at by more scouts. After going viral on SportsCenter for a dunk he committed to the University of Louisville. After an average freshman year, he had a very good sophomore year in which he averaged 15.6 points a game which led him to declare for the 2017 NBA draft. He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 13th overall pick, but he was traded to the Utah Jazz for the 24th overall pick and Trey Lyles.
In his rookie season with the Utah Jazz, not many people knew what his role would be. After a hot start in training camp, he signed a long-term shoe deal with Adidas and then dropped 37 points in a Summer League game a couple of days later. He became the starter for the Jazz shortly into the season and he rewarded them with a career-high 41 points on December 1st, 2017. He became the first rookie to score 40 or more points since Blake Griffen in 2011. He went on to become Rookie of the Month and then Rookie of the Year. He won the dunk contest and led the Utah Jazz to a playoff berth. In his first career playoff game, he had 27 points and 10 rebounds. Mitchell has done well this season even without Mike Conley not playing well. Mitchell still has room to grow and attempts to many long two-pointers, but he is shooting a career-high 36.4% from three-point land and a career-high 85.9% from the line. He needs to attack the hoop more, but Mitchell is athletic as anybody in today’s NBA. He is averaging 24.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while being named to his first All-Star team. Mitchell is a star and it is scary to think about how good the 23-year-old can become.
3. Klay Thompson
I hope no one forgot about how good this man is. Klay Thompson in my mind is the best shooter in the NBA. Not just his team but the best pure shooter the NBA has seen since Ray Allen and Reggie Miller. Thompson suffered a devastating injury in the NBA Finals last year when the already shorthanded Golden State Warriors were attempting a comeback in Game 6 of the third quarter. The injury to Kevin Durant and the heroics of many of the players on the Toronto Raptors overshine the fact that Klay Thompson had 30 points in that game before the injury and was playing the best basketball of his career.
Klay Thompson grew up in California and is the son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson. His brother Trayce Thompson is an outfielder who has played in the Major Leagues in parts in four seasons with three different teams. After a great start with the Chicago White Sox, he fizzled off and is now in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization after not playing in the bigs since 2018. Klay Thompson committed to Washington State after a great career in high school where he was known across the county for his shooting ability. Klay played three years in college and averaged 21.6 points as a junior before declaring for the 2011 NBA Draft. He was selected by Golden State with the 11th overall pick.
What is hard to believe is Thompson’s lack of defensive skills when entering the NBA. That was one of his main question marks and that’s why he slipped in the NBA draft. He worked hard at it and is now an elite defender that was named to Second-Team All-Defense in 2019. He does the hardest work for the Warriors with Steph Curry’s poor defense; Thompson always takes the more skilled guard. He fits any role that the Warriors need him to play and if he was on any other team in the NBA he would average 25 or more points. Thompson averages 19.5 points per game over his career and he shoots 41.9% from three-point land. He is a 5-time All-Star and a 3-time NBA Champion. He has one of the best effective shooting rates of all time and is underrated as a passer and his slashing skills are underrated. The Warriors are a much worst team without Thompson, and his ability to defend and knock down shots lead for him to be the third-best shooting guard right now even though he has been out the whole 2019-2020 NBA season.
2. Bradley Beal
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Bradley Beal’s disrespect that he receives hits home to me. I have seen this guy grow from a shy but lethal player from the University of Florida to one of the best natural scorers’ in the NBA. Bradley Beal has been spectacular this season without John Wall in the lineup and if the Wizards every decides to trade him Beal will have plenty of suitors. Bradley Beal tries to push the situation at times and shoots some tightly contested shots, but he is the best player on the Washington Wizards even with a healthy John Wall. Beal has been disrespected throughout his tenure in the NBA, but this season it came to a peak when he was snubbed by not being selected for the All-Star game even though he was single-handedly keeping the Wizards in contention and he was averaging 30 points per game.
Beal grew up in St. Louis Missouri and grew up in a football family with his four brothers playing the sport. Beal decided that basketball would be his main focus and he was one of the biggest prospects coming out of high school that we have seen in recent memory. He was rated at 98 overall by ESPN and he committed to the University of Florida and started as a freshman. He averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman and declared for the 2012 NBA Draft. He was selected third overall by the Washington Wizards behind Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Beal had an immediate impact on the Washington Wizards. He was respected for his professionalism even though he was so young. He was the Rookie of the Month in December of 2012 and January of 2013, and he was one of the best shooters on a Washington Wizards team on the rise. He hit many clutch shots and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting after injuring his right leg and missing 26 games. Beal became an even better shooter over the next few years even though he battled some injuries. His breakout season came in 2016-2017 when his points per game jumped from 17.4 the year before to 23.1. Without John Wall in 2020, he is playing even better and he is averaging 30.6 points per game with 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists. He shoots many difficult shots, but surprisingly his true shooting percentage is still elite. The only players that shoot more contested shots than him are Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. He is top 5 in the NBA in usage rates and even though he benefits being the top offensive his 6.1 assists show that he is willing to share the rock. The Wizards have the sixth-best offense in the NBA with Beal on the court and the fifth-worst offense in the league with Beal off the court. He is an above-average defender that is morphing into one of the best all-around guards in the league.
1. James Harden
Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
Say anything you want about Harden’s style of play and his inability to go deep into the playoffs, when Harden is on the court he is a major problem. The former Sixth Man of the Year has improved his offensive game to be one of the more unique talents we have ever seen. There are nights where Harden can go 5-25 from the field with 2-12 three-point shots, but he always scores 20 or more points game because of his ability to get fouled and make foul shots. Harden can come out the next night after a terrible game and drop 50 points while making shots from all over the court. The beard is the best shooting guard in the game by a mile, and as the point guard before Chris Paul then Russell Westbrook arrived, Harden became an elite passer and offensive force.
James Harden grew up in California and by the time he was a senior he was named as a McDonald’s All-American. He was on an elite AAU team that won countless championships with Harden as the star player. He committed to Arizona State and put up spectacular numbers his freshman year. He would have been a big-time NBA prospect, but he stayed for his sophomore year and improved even more. After being named an All-American he declared for the 2009 NBA Draft. Harden was selected with the 3rd overall pick in the draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden went on to have a very solid rookie season and he had the fourth-highest three-point percentage ever for a player under 21 at 37.5%. Harden had the best year of his tenure with the Thunder in the 2011-2012 season when he won the Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 16.8 points per game with a 39% three-point percentage. He became a spectacular player when he was the main guy in Houston and it still haunts me that the Wizards rejected a deal for James Harden because they feared that they would not have the money in the future and they were unwilling to give up Bradley Beal. Harden went from 16.8 points per game to 25.9 points per game in his first season with the Rockets. The Rockets have tried in years past to give Harden as many pick and roll opportunities as possible, but Harden has proven the past few seasons that he is the best isolation player in the league. Harden is underappreciated and fans do not realize how amazing of a feat it is for the former MVP to do what he is doing. Harden is an 8-time All-Star, has made the All-NBA First-Team 5 times, he won the MVP in 2018, and as a point guard in 2016-2017 he even averaged 11.2 assists per game. Harden is averaging 34.4 points per game this year with 6.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists.
Honorable Mention: Jrue Holliday, Jaylen Brown, CJ McCollum, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danny Green
The small forward and power forward positions are becoming interchangeable in today's game. Most teams expect their small forwards to be athletic and tall players that can shoot three-pointers well. They are also relied on to hold their own when switched onto bigger and more athletic players. Some teams are also starting to roll out many three-guard sets as well which makes the small forward position a luxury. The small forwards in the NBA today are the most dominant players on the basketball court.
5. Jayson Tatum
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For all of the Boston Celtics fans out there I want to formally apologize for not believing in Jayson Tatum in the beginning. I am a changed man. Jayson Tatum was having one of the best seasons of a stacked small forward group in the NBA. Tatum is leading a Boston squad that has less talent than last year to a hopeful deep playoff run. With the departure of Kyrie Irving, Tatum is their biggest offensive weapon and he has thrived in the roll. He is smooth on the offensive end and is a good defender. He is respected in Boston and throughout the league, especially after the year that he is putting up this season. Tatum is a special talent that will become one of the better players in the league in the next few seasons.
Jayson Tatum grew up in St. Louis Missouri and is the second-best basketball player to come from there in recent memory. Yes, Bradley Beal is better. Tatum was a great player on his high school’s varsity team as a freshman and he became a superstar by the time he was a senior. He was a 2016 McDonald’s All American and he also won the Gatorade Player of the Year. At 6’8 and 205 pounds he was heavily recruited, and the 97 graded ESPN player committed to Duke University over North Carolina, Kentucky, and St. Louis University. Tatum had a magnificent freshman year at Duke, averaging 16.8 points and leading Duke to a great record. He declared for the 2017 NBA Draft after his freshman year.
Tatum was projected to be drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 3rd overall selection in the draft, but after a trade with Boston the Celtics ended up drafting Tatum with the third pick, and Markelle Fultz was drafted for Philly with the first overall pick. We all know who won that trade. It was controversial at the time, but Boston made the right decision. Tatum had some growing pains in his first year, but he received praise from LeBron James, and he ended up on the All-Rookie team after averaging 13.9 points on 43.4% three-point shooting. Tatum is actually a below-average offensive player according to his true shooting percentage, but he hits a ton of three-pointers and is actively growing his offensive game. He needs to work on his passing, but he was named an All-Star this season. He is a great defender and the Celtics are much better with him on the floor. He is averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 2.9 assists per game.
4. Paul George
PG-13 has had an interesting career. I would first like to start it off by saying I love the switch that Paul George made form number 24 to number 13 for the PG-13 nickname. What a power move. It seems like George has been in the league and a superstar forever now, but he recently turned 30 years old. He has spent time with the Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and now the Los Angeles Clippers. No matter where George goes he is a superstar. He fits in every system and he thrives under pressure. There is a part of me that truly misses Paul George in his prime when he was the guy in Indiana, but the way that he plays the game of basketball is very entertaining to watch.
Paul George was not always that superstar that we know today. He grew up in Los Angeles and he was a huge fan of the Lakers. Many people have speculated throughout George’s career that he would end up with the Lakers, but he is now battling against his favorite team and LeBron James. He idolized Kobe Bryant, but he did not play organized basketball until his freshman year of high school. He was on JV for his freshman and most of his sophomore year, but as a junior, he was the only non-senior in the lineup. He accomplished a lot, but he was a three-star recruit and did not receive many offers. After de-committing from Pepperdine, George committed to Fresno State over Georgetown and Penn State because he wanted to play right away. He was spectacular in two seasons there and was named one of the most entertaining players in college basketball. After some debate over what the Indiana Pacers would do with their draft pick, they decided on drafting George 10th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.
George did not do much as a rookie, but he flashed potential and a nice stroke from three-point range. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team and he started for the Pacers in the playoffs. George was a shooting guard over his first few seasons, but he started to play small forward in his third year. George is known for his lockdown defense and he became a star in his fourth year in the league. George was later traded to the Thunder after a few great years with the Pacers and he signed a long-term contract with Oklahoma City. After his best year offensively last season he asked to be traded to the Los Angeles Clippers to team up with Kawhi Leonard. George ranks top 10 in the pick and roll game and he is a top 5 player in pull up three-pointers. He has been injured over certain parts of the season but has been the perfect piece for the Clippers. He is a great shooter and he can attack the basket whenever he wants to. As the second man in line, the 7-time All-Star George is averaging 21 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. He continues to play great defense and knock down three-pointers. This season his three-point percentage is 39.9%.
3. Jimmy Butler
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The biggest takeaway that I have from Jimmy Butler’s 2019-2020 season with the Miami Heat is this: I think many people forget how good this guy is. He is known around the NBA for being one of the hardest working individuals in the game, and he has even been asked to quiet down in his hotel room in the NBA bubble because he was making too much noise when working out. Butler is now on his fourth team and he has been in some tough situation which portrays him in a negative light. He is happy in Miami now and he is playing like the superstar everyone knew him to be in Chicago.
Butler did not have a great childhood and grew up with a lot of adversity surrounding him. Instead of winding up as someone unsuccessful he set up lofty goals and did everything he could in his power to achieve them. Butler was kicked out of his own home at 13 years old and he bounced around different friends’ houses until he graduated high school. Butler made significant improvements from his junior to senior year, but he was not heavily recruited. He winded up at a Junior College in Tyler, Texas. He performed great but was listed as a two-star recruit. He chose Marquette and after an average sophomore year, he became a starter his junior season. He was a great player in his junior and senior seasons and he was selected as the 30th overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2011 NBA Draft.
With Chicago, Butler did not play much in his first season but saw an expanded role in the second half of his second season. Butler began to formulate a successful offensive game and he was a starter heading into his third season. He averaged the most minutes in the NBA in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 with 38.7 minutes per game. He was shooting three points with efficiency and he became a lockdown defender. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves a few years later and then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Without much success in either place, he was sent to Miami in a sign-and-trade deal with the Heat. He has had an outstanding year and the Heat are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. He is only shooting an abysmal 24.8% from three-point range, but he has been out of this world when attacking the hoop. 43% of his shots come at the rim and he ranks as one of the best players in the NBA in converting those opportunities. He is averaging a career-high of 6.1 assists per game and he is great in crunch time. Jimmy Butler is the leader of a flashy and young Miami Heat team and Jimmy is averaging 20.2 points, 6.1 assists, and 6.6 rebounds while being named to his 5th All-Star game.
2. Kawhi Leonard
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Kawhi Leonard is a lot more interesting of a player than he is a person. The terminator shows no emotions and he does not have any active social media accounts. The last time he tweeted was in 2015 and it was a retweet of him playing basketball. Fun guy. The claw is one of the best defenders that the NBA has ever seen, and he has great ball-handling abilities for being a small forward. He is now on his third NBA team at 29 years old even though it felt like a few years ago that Kawhi and the San Antonio Spurs were a perfect fit to have a lifelong marriage like with Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker (I know Parker played for the Charlotte Hornets for one season but it was so irrelevant that I am not going to count it). Kawhi has always been a great player even when some statistics show that he has never produced eye-popping numbers.
The fun guy began his legacy in California and grew up a Lakers fan. Like his teammate Paul George, some people thought that Leonard would eventually wind up with Los Angeles Lakers. Leonard almost signed with them this past offseason and if that happened I would have not been writing this article because with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Kawhi Leonard on the same team I could be the shooting guard and Kyle Leverone could be the point guard and we would still go 82-0. Leonard was named California Mr. Basketball coming out of high school and he played college ball at San Diego State. Leonard led his team to the NCAA tournament as a freshman and improved as a sophomore. He led his squad to a Sweet 16 birth, but after a loss, he declared for the 2011 NBA Draft. Leonard was selected as the15th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers but was traded to the San Antonio Spurs along with Davis Bertans for George Hill.
Kawhi had a solid rookie season and he placed fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Head Coach Greg Popovich believed that Kawhi was heading for stardom and he told the press that Leonard was going to be a future All-Star. Leonard did not make the All-Star team until his fifth season, but he won the NBA Finals in 2014 and he was named the NBA Finals MVP. He was only the sixth player in NBA history to not make the All-Star team that season and be named the Finals MVP. Kawhi won the Defensive Player of the Year the next season and he was traded to the Toronto Raptors a few years later after fallout with Spurs management. Kawhi became the man last year in Toronto. He averaged 26.6 points and led them to their first every championship while being named the Finals MVP. He is a 2-time Champion, 2-time Finals MVP, 4-time All-Star, 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and a 3-time All-NBA first-team selection. Kawhi has shown the world how great of a player he is by becoming a superstar on his third team in the Clippers. His mid-range game is devastating, and he is one of the best defenders in the NBA while being an effective three-point shooter. Kawhi is averaging a career-high in points with 26.9, rebounds with 7.3, and assists with 5.
1. LeBron James
I wish I could somehow explain how LeBron James is still the king of basketball at 35 years old. He has shown no signs of slowing down in his 17th season in the league. Before the COVID-19 outbreak which put the NBA season on hold, LeBron James was on an absolute tear and the Los Angeles Lakers were on fire heading into the playoff stretch. Giannis is the favorite for MVP, but I wrote an article about why and how I believed LeBron was going to secure the 2020 NBA MVP if the season were to have kept on schedule. LeBron somehow seems healthier and a better player compared to last year. There is nothing that I can think of to contribute this to other than LeBron sensing the haters calling for his head and thinking that he was finished. The greatest basketball player to ever live is having one of the best seasons of his career, and, remarkably, LeBron would be the best player if he was listed at any other of the four positions.
This man needs no introduction but hopefully, I can fill you in on something you did not know. LeBron James was born in Akron, Ohio and his dad was never involved in his life. The James family struggled, and LeBron was introduced to the game of basketball at nine years old. He attended St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School which stirred up controversy, but LeBron went there to create a legacy with his friends. LeBron was one of the best high school prospects that anyone had ever seen, and he was breaking numerous records in the state of Ohio. Sports Illustrated even labeled LeBron as the “Chosen One”. LeBron also played football his freshman-junior year and was rated as the number one receiver in the state of Ohio. He was recruited by numerous programs for football including Notre Dame, but he did not play his senior year because of a wrist injury he sustained in a basketball game. LeBron went straight to the NBA, but he claims that if he went to college he would have attended Ohio State University. LeBron is married to the same woman he dated throughout high school, Savannah Brinson. LeBron was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft.
As a rookie, many of the players on the Cavaliers were irked and jealous of the media attention that LeBron was receiving before even playing one game in the NBA. James was humble and let his play do the talking. In his first career game, LeBron scored 25 points which set the record for most points of a high school to NBA player in their debut in league history. LeBron won the Rookie of the Year Award after becoming the second rookie in history to average over 20 points (20.9), 5 rebounds (5.5), and 5 assists (5.9) a game. After LeBron’s rookie season he has made the All-Star team for 16 straight years and he has won the NBA title three times, is a 16-time All-Star, 4-time MVP, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, and 12-time All-NBA First Team. He completely the greatest comeback of all time in sports history after coming back and beating the Warriors 73-9 squad after being down 3-1 in the series. This season, LeBron is playing very well as one of the primary ball handlers and he is averaging the most assists in his career at 10.6 a game which leads the NBA. LeBron is so talented and athletically gifted that he can do whatever he wants on a basketball court. On any given night, he can score 40 points, or have 20 rebounds, or have 20 assists. He can put a whole team on a poster or hit a pull-up three-pointer from just inside of the half-court line. LeBron James ranks among the leagues best in crunch time efficiency, field goal efficiency, and plus-minus. James is the best player on the planet in his 17th season with no signs of slowing down.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Ingram, Khris Middleton, Bojan Bogdanovic, Duncan Robinson, Gordan Heyward
The power forward position is one of the most exciting and talent-rich pools in all of basketball. Many players fit the mold for power forwards in today's NBA. If you can shoot the ball and defend well enough down low then your height does not matter. Charles Barkley was one of the best rebounders of all time as a power forward and only 6'6 feet tall. Every player that I have included on this list are taller and bigger than Charles and can switch onto smaller and bigger players. The mix of veteran and youth players on this list provide hope and anticipation for the future of this position in the NBA.
5. Zion Williamson
Many people were quick to lash out in criticism against this young superstar when he began the season injured. Zion Williamson was one of the most electric players we have ever seen in college basketball and he was the biggest lock to go first overall in the NBA Draft that we have seen in years. He is a real-life hulk standing at 6’6 and 285 pounds. The only players that are in the NBA and currently weigh more than Zion are the 7’4 Boban Marjanovic at 290 pounds and 7’5 Tacko Fall at 310 pounds. To put it in perspective Zion weighs 35 pounds more than LeBron James even though LeBron is 3 inches taller. Zion went viral throughout high school with his vicious dunks without any regard for human life. He became such a phenom that Drake even wore his high school jersey in a music video. It was not always smooth sailing for Zion but after playing in only 19 games in the NBA he ranks number five on this list.
Zion Williamson grew up and went to high school in South Carolina. He was never very tall and he grew up playing the guard position, but he transitioned into a power forward role after a six-inch growth spurt. He also played quarterback in high school and after videos of him went viral throwing a football over 100 yards he was offered Division 1 football scholarships. He was AAU teammates with Ja Morant and Williamson developed the ability to dunk in the eighth grade at 6’3. After growing to 6’6 in his sophomore season he became the best high school player in South Carolina. Williams averaged 36.4 points per game as a senior, but his statistics were taken with a grain of salt because he did not play the competition that some of the other elite prospects face. He was a five-star recruit and had over 20 offers to choose from. Many people believed that he would play for Clemson, but he shocked many and took the Duke offer. The only player ranked above him in his high school class was Duke teammate RJ Barrett. Zion averaged 22.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game at Duke. I was not fully on the hype train until the game vs UCF where Zion attacked the 7’5 Tacko Falls in the winding seconds and converted the and-one to tie and later eventually win the game. Zion was then drafted first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Zion tore his meniscus in October and missed a lot of time. He made his professional debut three months later against the San Antonio Spurs. He was not very exciting and was struggling a little bit until later on in the game. He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter in a little over 3 minutes on 4-4 shooting from three-point range. He finished with 22 points and he became the first teenager in NBA history to score 20 or more points in 10 consecutive games. This was while playing on limited minutes. Zion scored 35 points a couple of months later and has been outstanding in 19 games. So why does he deserve to be in the Top 5 after playing 565 minutes in the NBA? Zion adds 12 points to the Pelicans squad per 100 possessions which is worth 29 wins over an 82-game season. Zion has been so good that if he keeps playing the way that he is, he is worth 29 wins for the Pelicans. He is the best rookie in the league in terms of true shooting percentage and his 27.5 points per 75 possessions is one of the highest marks of all times by a rookie just ahead of Michael Jordan. Zion is a superstar that can improve in many ways but after 19 games of averaging 23.6 points, 2.2 assists, and 6.8 rebounds a game he is the fifth-best power forward in the league right now.
4. Domontas Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis is one of the most underrated players in all of the NBA. He has been putting up great numbers for years now, but this year he has become a solidified superstar. Remember this name, he is only 24 years old. He is putting up better numbers than Kevin Garnett did in his fourth year in the league and no one seems to care. Sabonis also has a great shooting stroke and he is one of the best shooting big men in the league. He is the son of Arvydas Sabonis who was one of the best Euro League players of all time and he played for the Trail Blazers for seven seasons. His father was one of the first big men to have a pure shot that he had confidence in. Domantas Sabonis has been in the league for four years now and he is on his second team while he has improved every season. It is disappointing that we will not get to see Sabonis play in the bubble after he suffered a significant foot injury which forced him to leave.
Sabonis’s father taught him the game of basketball and how to improve as a player throughout his childhood. Sabonis had a lot of talent from a young age and at 16 years old was playing for a professional team in Spain before playing college basketball at Gonzaga for two years. Sabonis was a five-star recruit and he declined a long-term contract in Spain so he could play in the NCAA. Sabonis had a solid freshman season but he was not on the national radar. He did not attempt a three-pointer all season. He improved in his senior season and averaged eight more points per game and was described as a “monster-like I have never seen before” from Gonzaga’s head coach Mark Few. After being named as an honorable mention All-American his sophomore year he declared for the 2016 NBA Draft. The 6’11 240-pound power forward was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the 11th overall pick. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night along with Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka. This turned out to be an awful trade for the Magic especially since Sabonis became a star.
Sabonis did not do much for the Thunder in his rookie season and he was traded to the Indiana Pacers along with Victor Oladipo for Paul George. The Thunder basically traded Serge Ibaka for Paul George and then Paul George to the Clippers for two great players in Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander along with 5 first-round draft picks. Sabonis was lost in the shuffle in the new cycle but the improved in his first season with the Pacers. He got even better the next year and he was an All-Star this year. He is averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He is doing this at a very young age and he is one of the best defenders in the league today. He can defend great on the perimeter and he is a lockdown defender down low. Sabonis is a budding star that is one of the best all-around talents we have in the game today.
3. Pascal Siakam
Pascal Siakam is a star that put his name on the map after a great season last year. Siakam was the second-best player on the World Champion Toronto Raptors squad and he did not get all of the attention that he deserved due to Kawhi Leonard’s dominance. Siakam needs to work on the nickname, “Spicy P”, but he represents the game in the right way and makes great decisions with the basketball. He was very raw and got off to a very slow start in his NBA career but he has had a great career trajectory since and is someone who can become one of the best players in basketball. This is hard to believe after his average play in his first two seasons, but it is not out of the picture.
Siakam grew up in Cameroon and was born into a big family. His dad was the mayor of a town with a population at 16,000 and Siakam actually grew up wanting to be a Catholic Priest. At the age of 15, he had a change of heart and wanted to become a basketball player. His brothers were all big prospects and got many Division 1 scholarship offers but Pascal failed to do so. He did not have much interest in him until NBA payer Luc Mbah a Moute discovered him at a camp. Pascal was very raw at the time but Mbah a Moute took Siakam under his wing and Siakam moved to the United States at 16 years old. He did not gain much attention, but New Mexico State took a chance on him in part because of their roster being filled with many international players. Pascal was the Rookie of the Year in New Mexico State’s conference the Western Athletic Conference, and he became the WAC player of the year the next season after averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds. He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft and was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the 27th overall pick.
Siakam was the starter in his first season with the Raptors until he was replaced later on. He was not a scorer, but he was a good rebounder and a solid defender. He did many things on the basketball floor the right way other than scoring. In his second year in the league, he was a good bench player and he made the Raptors a better offensive team when he was on the floor. This was significant compared to his rookie season where the team was worse with him on the floor. Pascal made career-altering improvements in his third season and he was a great starter. Among his biggest accomplishments, he improved his three-point percentage from 14% to 36%. Pascal was the Most Improved Player of the Year and he was an All-Star this season without Kawhi Leonard. Pascal played even better in the playoffs last year at 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Pascal can defend many different positions on the floor and his scoring has improved every season in the league.
2. Anthony Davis
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Anthony Davis gets buckets. The brow is an unstoppable force that enhances his game all of the time. I was not the biggest fan of Davis coming out of the University of Kentucky but in this case, I have a blind eye for talent. I did not believe that Davis was ever going to be a great scorer in the NBA because of his lack of a jump shot but now he has one of the smoothest forms from a big man in the league. Davis has teamed up beautiful with LeBron James and he had his dreams come to fruition after being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Davis became a superstar in New Orleans and did everything he could for that semi-miserable franchise. Davis is young, powerful, and is one of the best players in the NBA.
Anthony Davis was born and raised in Chicago and he was always a great basketball player. He attended a high school that was very good academically but was ignored by most scouts because of the poor athletic teams. Davis set out to change this rhetoric and he came in as a freshman guard at 6’0 tall. He grew to 6’8 as a junior and his play was so good that even with him being on bad high school team he was noticed throughout the country as a top prospect. He was a force in the AAU circuit, and he committed to the University of Kentucky over DePaul, Ohio State, and Syracuse. He was ranked as the number one recruit in the 2011 class. Even though Davis was 6’10 in his senior season of high school he continued to play as a guard on the very poor all-around team. Before his career even began everyone knew that Davis would be the first pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He struggled shooting the ball in college but was a force defensively and averaged a double-double. After the season he declared for the NBA Draft and was indeed selected first overall by the New Orleans Hornets, now the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis scored 21 points in his debut and he started most of the team’s games. He averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds as a rookie, and he has been named an All-Star every single season in his career after his rookie year. After his rookie season, he has never averaged less than 20 points and less than 9.4 rebounds. LeBron and Davis’s chemistry and ability to have success together began right off the bat and the Lakers are the best team in basketball when both of them are on the floor. He has been terrific low in the post and the pick and roll game. He is now a great three-point shooting big man after growing his game with the Pelicans and Davis might win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Davis is unstoppable under the hoop and he single-handedly can put the team on his back in any situation. Davis is the most complete big man in the game, and he will continue to play at a high level with the Los Angeles Lakers.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The Greek freak. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the second-best player in basketball, and it is not even close. I could end my argument there and have no written upon him and everyone reading this would agree that Giannis is already an all-time great. He also can fill in at every other position on the basketball court with ease. His length and athleticism allow for him to be so dominant and he is one of the most athletic people on the planet. The scary part about Giannis is that he is only going to get better. He makes the teammates around him into All-Stars and he has elevated the Milwaukee Bucks to be one of the most successful franchises the past few years. It is hard to believe that only a few years ago Giannis was considered a project.
Giannis grew up in Greece and his parents were immigrants from Nigeria. He started playing basketball at the age of 13 and he started playing professionally in Greece a few years later. He signed a 4-year deal with a professional team at the age of 18, but it included opt-outs after every season for the NBA. He never played a single game with the team and he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 with the 15th overall pick in the NBA Draft.
When he made his debut at 18 years old and 311 days old he became one of the youngest NBA players of all time. He blocked many shots and grabbed a high volume of rebounds. He did not score much but was not bad from three-point range on a very limited number of shots. He improved in every season and grew into a more expanded role with the Bucks. He did not have a position at first, but he has turned into a power forward that handles the ball a lot. Giannis made his first All-Star team at 22 years old and has made the team four years in a row. Giannis has improved in almost every single category over time and is the best version of himself at 25 years old. Giannis is averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game. He has improved his three-point shot and he is shooting 30.6% this year, up from 25.6% last year. Giannis’s 12.7 defensive rebounds per game ranks third in the NBA all-time and his numbers per 75 possession’s rank as elite. Giannis defensively ranks in the 98th percentile and his improved shooting leads to more opportunities for him around the rim. Giannis will shortly be the new king of the NBA after LeBron retires in a few years.
Honorable Mention: John Collins, Kristaps Porzingis, Tobias Harris, Blake Griffen, Danilo Gallinari
Centers have not been receiving the love that they deserve as of late. Fans and spectators would rather see a flashy guard that puts on a show every night over a center who is methodical and does everything right. It is not hard to see why centers are overlooked in today's game. Most of the time, centers are even pulled out in crunch time for a small-ball lineup. It is hard to believe how much the game has changed. Only five years ago the 46-36 Washington Wizards starting lineup included the 6'11 Marcin Gortat and 6'11 Nene, both of whom did not attempt three-pointers and have any lateral quickness. Centers are asked to do a lot in today's game included expansion of their range, but the NBA is in good hands with the young talent at the center position. A youth movement is upon us, and the top four players on this list are 26 years old or younger.
5. Nikola Vucevic
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Nikola Vucevic is one of those solid players that no one will appreciate while he is currently playing the game of basketball. He is in such a small market and will never gain recognition unless he goes to a big market team. He has been putting up great numbers for many years now, but not even his team truly believes in him. The Orlando Magic drafted Mo Bamba a couple of years ago and in response, Vucevic has become an even better player. Believe it or not, Vucevic has averaged 20.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists over the past two seasons and the only player with better stats in every category is the one and only Giannis Antetokounmpo. Vucevic is now entering his prime and is one of the best all-around centers in basketball.
Vucevic was born into a basketball family and he always wanted to be a professional basketball player. He was born in Switzerland and later moved to California for his senior year of high school. He was a great player for the team and after a solid one season in the United States he was offered a scholarship to the University of Southern California and he accepted it. Vucevic played three years for USC and became a very good player in his sophomore year. He led his college conference in blocked shots and rebounds, and he declared for the 2011 NBA Draft. Vucevic was drafted by the 76ers with the 16th overall pick and after one season he was traded to the Orlando Magic in the Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard trade.
Vucevic played well for the Magic in his first season and he set a franchise record in a game with 29 rebounds. He has been their solidified starter since. He was signed to an extension after his second year with the team and he rewarded them by averaging five more points than he did the season before. Vucevic has a large arsenal of moves in the post and never developed a mid-range and long-range strokes until the past couple of seasons. He has become a much better player when expanding his game and he is one of the most elite rebounders in the game today. Vucevic is not a lock-down defender but he holds his own. The Magic are a good team when he is on the court and facilitating the offense through the post and they are a poor team with him off the court. He made the All-Star team last year and is averaging 19.5 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game this season.
4. Bam Adebayo
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Bam Adebayo is the most skilled and underrated center in the league. Adebayo is so talented he won the skills competition this season at the All-Star game. The Heat have always been believers in Bam's potential and they cleared the path for him this season after shipping their former starting center Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers. I would say this has worked out well for the Heat. Adebayo is one of the biggest pieces added to the puzzle for the Heat's successful play this seasons. Adebayo has the ball in his hands a lot especially higher up in the offense so he can see a lot of the court and make good passes. Adebayo is only 23 years old and will be one of the premier big men for many years to come.
Adebayo was born as Edrice Fami Adebayo in 1997 in New Jersey and was nicknamed Bam after the Flint Stones character. Bam attended two different high schools in North Carolina and played on one of the best AAU teams in the country. He was considered one of the best players in the 2016 high school class and he was a five-star recruit. Bam committed to the University of Kentucky and played one season there. He scored multiple points on many occasions and he was a double-double machine. He played well in March Madness and declared for the NBA in 2017. He was projected to be taken in the mid-first round and the Miami Heat drafted him with the 14th overall pick.
I am a lot bigger of a Hassan Whiteside fan than most people are, but Bam should have been starting for this Heat team since his second season. Bam is very athletic and is flexible when being switched onto other positions. In the next couple of years, he can easily be even higher on this list. Bam is averaging 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. He is a much better player than he was the past two seasons and this is all because he is receiving much more playing time. Bam is a complete player but is not a three-point shooter. Yet. He has been working on a three-point shot and is reportedly confident and accurate in practice and workouts. Bam is a great defender and he even has shutdown Giannis when guarding him. Giannis is 8-23 when matched up against Bam which is 34.8% shooting percentage. Bam needs to improve on his free throw shooting as well but the first time All-Star this season is an elite player with so much potential.
3. Karl-Anthony Towns
KAT has been a top 3 center for almost all of his career and he led the charge for more centers to start attempting three-pointers and to be able to guard many different positions. Karl-Anthony Towns is a hard worker who was one of the biggest prospects that we have ever seen coming out of college. He has embraced Minnesota with an open heart he has quickly become one of the fan favorites and the face of the franchise. Karl-Anthony Towns is still extremely young, but he plays like a veteran and he has one of the best three-point shots amongst centers in the NBA. Towns has been so good over his first five seasons that he is putting up similar numbers to Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Charles Barley, and David Robinson.
Towns grew up in New Jersey and always played above his age level in basketball. Towns was practicing with the varsity team when he was in fifth grade and he led his high school team to a state championship as a freshman. At the age of 16, he was selected for the Dominican National Basketball team. He skipped his junior year of high school and committed to the University of Kentucky. He recorded multiple quadruple-doubles as a senior and he was one of the highest-ranked centers heading into college. On a loaded Kentucky team, Towns did not receive as much playing time that he would have at other schools, but he shined in the NCAA tournament. People saw the abilities that he had, and he was projected to go first overall in the draft. He did just that and was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves first overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Towns has started every single game of his career and he did not miss a game over his first three seasons. Towns put up a spectacular 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game as a rookie and he was named the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year. Towns was an even better player in year two and he became and the third-youngest player in NBA history to have a 45-point 15 rebound game. Towns averaged 25.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in his second season. Towns is averaging a career-high this season in points, assists, and made threes per game. He is averaging 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He is a career 39.6% three-point shooter and he is averaging 41.2% this year while attempting 7.9 three-pointers per game. He is not reliable on the defensive end but the 2-time All-Star’s offense more than makes up for it.
2. Joel Embiid
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Yes, Joel Embiid is not the best center in the game. That title belongs to the Joker who I will talk about more below. Joel Embiid is a star. Ever since he broke into the league and recovered from his foot injuries he has put up great numbers. He has embraced Philadelphia and has become a star on social media. Embiid is one of the best offensive and one of the best defensive centers in the game. When you combine these two Embiid is the second-best center in the NBA. He is great in the post-up game and most of the time he is relatively accurate shooting three-pointers. He can be a little streaky from deep but overall he is solid. The 76ers are much better with Embiid on the court and with his great defense. It will remain to be seen if Philadelphia can win a championship with Embiid and Ben Simmons on the team because Embiid cannot space the floor like a power forward or hybrid center would in his spot. Embiid is very young and will continue to improve.
Embiid was born in Cameroon and was planning on becoming a professional volleyball player. He was tall and athletic and decided to shift his focus to basketball at the age of 15. Like Pascal Siakam, Embiid was also put on the map after a camp by Luke Mbah A Moute, and Embiid also moved to the United States at the age of 16. Embiid went to high school in Florida and after spending a year at Mbah A Moute’s alma mater Embiid transferred to a school where he received more playing time for his final three years. He won the state championship his senior year and he was a five-star recruit who committed to Kansas. Embiid had a good first year and even with a foot injury, he declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. He was selected 3rd overall by the 76ers and he missed his first two seasons in the NBA.
After missing his first two years, Embiid made his debut in the 2015-2016 season and did not disappoint. He recorded 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. After averaging over 20 points as a rookie, he got hurt once again and missed 51 games after surgery on his knee. Even though Embiid only played in 31 games over his first three years he got a max contract extension from Philadelphia and he has remained healthy for the most part since. Embiid has been an All-Star over the last three seasons and he always finds a way to end up at the foul line. He is the best defensive center in the league, and he has many attributes to his offensive game that are underrated. His touch in the post is amongst the elite and his three-point shooting is much improved. He is an 81.4% free throw shooter and is having a great year averaging 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. Embiid is 25 years old and is the second-best center in the NBA.
1. Nikola Jokic
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The Joker is a once in a generational type of talent. Nikola Jokic is the best center in the NBA and has eye-popping skills. He is a guard stuck in a centers body and his passing ability is better than most guards. Jokic can defend as well as any center, score more than most centers, and is the best passing center in the NBA. The Denver Nuggets do a great job facilitating their offense through Jokic and he even starting a game as the team’s point guard with Bol Bol in the lineup in a scrimmage recently. The Joker has been slept on for most of his career and he is not talked about as much as Embiid and others due to playing in a small market. Jokic is the best all-around center that I have ever seen.
Jokic grew up in Serbia and was on a professional team at the age of 17. He signed a deal with a team in Serbia and he played a lot on their junior team, but he did take part in some games with the varsity team as a 17-year-old. Jokic had a full season with the team in 2014, but he then declared for the NBA Draft. He slipped in the draft more than most people expected but he was still relatively unknown. He has an unorthodox slow pace to many of his movements and he is more methodical than powerful for a center. Jokic slipped to the second round and he was drafted 41st overall by the Denver Nuggets.
Jokic played in 80 games as a rookie and he averaged 10 points a game. He started most of the games for the Nuggets and he found some success. He was named to the All-NBA Rookie team. He showed some flashes as a rookie including a 27-point 14-rebound game, but he still had room to grow. Jokic improved every single year and has been an All-Star the past two years. Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson are the only two players that have more triple-doubles than him before turning 26 years old. The Nuggets are a great team with Jokic on the court and his All-NBA selection last year showed us that he is the real deal. Jokic can struggle when switched onto guards because of his slow feet but his defense down low and rebounding even it out. Jokic is averaging 20.2 points, 6.9 assists, and 10.2 rebounds per game. Jokic is not the best defensive center in the game, but his passing skills with his scoring and rebounding ability lead him to be number one on this list.
Honorable Mention: Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside, Deandre Ayton, Brook Lopez, Andre Drummond
The sixth man on every basketball team in the NBA can make or break you. Every contending team needs a good sixth man to be successful in the National Basketball Association. There are a variety of successful sixth men in the league today like Davis Bertans for the Washington Wizards who is a three-point specialist, Marcus Smart who provides energy and defense for the Boston Celtics, and Montrez Harell of the Los Angeles Clippers who is a hybrid big man that scores at an extremely high clip without shooting threes. There is a common theme with most sixth men on this list with many of them being veterans who may have started at some point in their career, but have thrived in their current role.
5. Davis Bertans
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David Bertans is the NBA's best-kept secret. He has been one of the only bright spots on a miserable Washington Wizards squad and their chances of making the NBA playoffs went from slim to none when Bertans opted out. Not only does the “Latvian Laser” have the best nickname in the NBA, but he also has the best three-point shot. He was a hot commodity at the trade deadline and the Wizards were offered first-round picks, and young prospect for him but he has been so great for this franchise that the Wizards are holding out hope they can resign him as a free agent this offseason. In an expanded role Bertans is having the best season of his career.
Davis Bertans began his professional career as a teenager in Latvia and quickly became a dominant player. He tore his ACL twice but continued to play well when he came back from injury and he opted out of a Spanish League contract and signed with the San Antonio Spurs. He was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2011 with the 42nd overall pick, but he was traded to the Spurs on draft night along with Kawhi Leonard for George Hill. After a couple of years overseas, Bertans was ready for the NBA and made his debut with the Spurs in 2016.
Davis Bertans averaged just thirteen minutes per game over his first two seasons and could never carve out a role with the Spurs. In his third season, he put up very good numbers and averaged 8 points in 21 minutes per game. The Spurs and Greg Popovich decided to move on from Bertans and he was traded to the Wizards for a second-round pick. The Spurs were going to sign Marcus Morris, but Morris backed out of the 2-year deal last minute and signed a 1-year deal with the New York Knicks. Morris was traded to the Clippers at the trade deadline, and Bertans stayed in Washington and has become one of their biggest weapons. Bertans is 7th in the NBA in made three-pointers with 200 and 10th in the league with a 42.9% three-point percentage. Among players with over 125 three-pointers made Bertans is tied with Duncan Robinson for third in the NBA with 3.7 made three-pointers per game. Bertans is averaging a career-high in points, assists, and rebounds. On the season, he is averaging 15.4 points, 1.7 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game. The 6’10 power forward will score a huge free-agent contract this winter.
4. Derrick Rose
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This is one of the best stories in all of sports. Derrick Rose has come back from so much adversity and is now one of the best sixth men in the NBA. There have been numerous instances where Rose’s career looked to be over with, but he is now comfortable in his role and is thriving. There was no better game to watch last season when Rose was on the Minnesota Timberwolves and scored a career-high 50 points while he led the Timberwolves to victory. We all know how good and explosive of a player he was. Derrick Rose was the youngest MVP in league history at just 22 years old. He accounted for a 13.1-win share that season which means the Bulls won 13 games more than they would have with Rose out of the lineup. He played a lot of minutes when he was younger and this could be a factor for his significant injuries. At 31 years old Rose is now a great player off the bench.
Rose attended Memphis University after growing up in Chicago. Rose was a highly touted high school prospect even when he played JV early in his high school career. Rose was rated as one of the best high school guards in the past decade and he chose Memphis because of then-head coach John Calipari who recruited him from the AAU circuit. He led Memphis to the National Championship game but lost to Kansas and Memphis ended the season at 38-2. Memphis later had to vacate all of their season's accomplishments because it was found out that in high school Rose had paid someone to take his SAT for him. After the season Rose declared for the 2008 NBA Draft and he was selected 8th overall by the Chicago Bulls.
Rose was brought into the Bulls organization after they had struggled since the Michael Jordan era was over. Rose brought the city and team life. Rose was named the Rookie of the Year and elevated his play in his second season. He was unreal in his third season which was his MVP year. He averaged 25 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. He was the first great player to play for the Bulls since Michael Jordan. Rose got hurt the next season and that is when his career went downhill. Rose, on his fifth team this year, is averaging 18 points per game off the bench this season. He is shooting 49% from the field which is the highest of his career and he is averaging 2.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. Rose has resurrected his career and even though he has lost a lot of quickness he is still a solid defender. He became the first bench player in Detroit Pistons history to score 20 or more points in 7 straight games, and he ended up scoring 20 or more points in 14 straight games. Rose is now a top 5 bench player in all of basketball.
3. Lou Williams
It seems like Lou Williams has been one of the best sixth men in basketball for the past ten years now. Lou Williams has been in the news for the wrong reasons as of late after breaking the NBA bubble rules and attending a strip club for “the wings”. This should not distract us from the fact that Williams is a potent scorer and is a sixth man specialist. He has shown that a sixth man on off the bench can be so vital for an organization and can lead them to great success. Williams has created value and an image of himself as being a great volume scorer off the bench that fits into any team's offense.
Lou Williams was a five-star recruit out of high school and was ranked as one of the best shooting guards in the country. Lou finished his high school career as the second-leading scorer in Georgia high school basketball history and he and his best friend committed to the University of Georgia. Williams later decided to forgo college and enter the 2005 NBA Draft. Williams did not perform well in training camps and workouts which led to him slipping all the way down to the Philadelphia 76ers with the 45th pick.
Lou barely played as a rookie and only averaged 1.9 points per game in 30 games played. Williams played in the NBA D-League, now known as the G-League, in his second year and was called up to the 76ers in December after playing very well. Williams played very well for the 76ers in later years and was runner up for the Sixth Man of the Year award in his seventh season with the team. Williams is now on his sixth team and is playing some of the best basketball in his career. It is the second season in a row where he is averaging over 20 points per game off the bench and Williams won his third Sixth Man of the Year award last season. Williams has struggled as a defender but has improved and his offense makes up for it. He is an improved three-point shooter and the 33-year-old Williams would be my favorite for his fourth Sixth Man of the Year Award if he was not being over shined by his teammate.
2. Dennis Schröder
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