This is the next in my NBA season preview. You can check out my playoffs and awards projections here. In this, like my MLB postseason review, I will be ranking the top 10 players by position. All players on active rosters are eligible to make these lists, except for rookies, since they have yet to really show if they can make it in this league, however they will, of course, be eligible for the postseason version of this list, which will likely come out in April. As for the Top 100 that is set to be released tomorrow, I have yet to decide if I should break that up into smaller articles. Probably should get on that. Without further ado, let’s see the lists.
1.Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder
2.Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors
3.Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics
4.John Wall-Washington Wizards
5.Isaiah Thomas-Cleveland Cavaliers
6.Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers
7.Chris Paul-Houston Rockets
8.Kyle Lowry-Toronto Raptors
9.Kemba Walker-Charlotte Hornets
10.Mike Conley-Memphis Grizzlies
I was torn between Westbrook and Curry. On the one hand you have Curry, who drains shots like it’s nobody’s business and has some elite moves to go with it. On the other, Westbrook literally does everything well, as evidenced by his being the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for an entire season. I gave the nod to Westbrook since I have a soft spot for statsheet stuffers. 3-6 was pretty tight, and I would probably have IT a little higher if not for the hip injury that he’s dealing with that could cost him significant time to open the season. Kemba Walker has a special place in my heart because it was his UConn Huskies team in 2011 where I picked my first champion in a March Madness bracket. I’ve only done it twice, the other being Anthony Davis’ Kentucky team the following year, but I don’t brag about that one because literally everybody picked Kentucky that season.
1.James Harden-Houston Rockets
2.Klay Thompson-Golden State Warriors
3.DeMar DeRozan-Toronto Raptors
4.Bradley Beal-Washington Wizards
5.Andrew Wiggins-Minnesota Timberwolves
6.CJ McCollum-Portland Trail Blazers
7.Avery Bradley-Detroit Pistons
8.Victor Oladipo-Indiana Pacers
9.Nicolas Batum-Charlotte Hornets
10.Devin Booker-Phoenix Suns
James Harden was a pretty easy selection for number 1 here for me. Despite the fact that he plays less defense than the Mountain in the Trial by Combat with Oberyn, Harden scores enough where I’m willing to look the other way. Also, he has a delicious candy that a coworker of mine randomly found at a mini mart down the street from where I work.
Gummi beards, I guess they’re called. They look terrifying but are actually quite good. After the top 6, this list got pretty difficult. I went with Avery Bradley at 7 and I think he is one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA. He plays fantastic defense and is quietly a very good shooter as well. Plus he has the respect of his peers:
One voter did claim that he left Bradley off of his All-Defense team because of the 70-point game by Devin Booker. Bradley did not play in that game.
1.LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers
2.Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs
3.Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors
4.Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder
5.Jimmy Butler-Minnesota Timberwolves
6.Gordon Hayward-Boston Celtics
7.Khris Middleton-Milwaukee Bucks
8.Andre Iguodala-Golden State Warriors
9.Otto Porter-Washington Wizards
10.Robert Covington-Philadelphia 76ers
LeBron James is a guy a lot of people like to compare to Michael Jordan, with many saying he’s better than MJ. I’m going to have to disagree with that, in fact, I would put Kobe ahead of LeBron. However, I think once LeBron is done I’ll have him above Kobe, maybe even Jordan. But with the body of work right now, he’s not there yet. That being said, LeBron is still the best player in basketball today, maybe even the best athlete in sports, period. As I wrote in my awards predictions yesterday, I have Kawhi Leonard taking home MVP honors this season. He is one of the more special talents I’ve seen in a while. I cringed at putting Kevin Durant at number 3, it just didn’t feel right. But in my heart and mind I feel that I would rather have LeBron or Kawhi than KD. Robert Covington is probably the more surprising entries on this list and that’s a shame. Sure, he’s not a household name by any means, but he’s a better player than most people give him credit for and I think that his name will gain more recognition should the 76ers improve the way I expect them too. However he will still be overshadowed by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz.
1.Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans
2.Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks
3.Draymond Green-Golden State Warriors
4.Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks
5.Blake Griffin-Los Angeles Clippers
6.LaMarcus Aldridge-San Antonio Spurs
7.Carmelo Anthony-Oklahoma City Thunder
8.Serge Ibaka-Toronto Raptors
9.Julius Randle-Los Angeles Lakers
10.Harrison Barnes-Dallas Mavericks
Anthony Davis’ unibrow is one of the most recognizable body features in all of sports, if not the most. Right up there with James Harden’s beard or Dennis Rodman’s…whatever it is he’s feeling like having on his body on a particular day. This may be because my brain is just geared towards sports, but anytime anyone mentions a unibrow (or monobrow, if you’re weird), I immediately think of the one living on Davis’ face. Davis is more than just a unibrow, though. He’s perhaps the most dominating forward in the game on both ends of the court. Giannis (please don’t make me write out his last name again) is one of the craziest athletes I’ve ever seen. He can make his body do things that just aren’t natural. I mean, look at this:
That’s just not right. Carmelo Anthony comes in here because he’s slated on the Thunder depth chart on RotoWorld as the team’s power forward despite playing small forward in Denver and New York. I’m still not totally convinced that Big 3 in OKC is going to work. Serge Ibaka’s a guy you can’t sleep on, especially since his 3-point shot has gotten better every season. He might not be as prolific as he was with the Thunder, but anytime you have a big that can defend the paint and pop threes, you’re going to have a good time.
1.Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves
2.Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz
3.DeAndre Jordan-Los Angeles Clippers
4.Hassan Whiteside-Miami Heat
5.Kevin Love-Cleveland Cavaliers
6.DeMarcus Cousins-New Orleans Pelicans
7.Joel Embiid-Philadelphia 76ers
8.Nikola Jokic-Denver Nuggets
9.Marc Gasol-Memphis Grizzlies
10.Al Horford-Boston Celtics
Karl-Anthony Towns, like Ibaka, is a sharpshooting big man who actually beat Isaiah Thomas in the NBA Skills Challenge a couple of years ago. Considering that IT is one of the fastest and quickest players in the game with great passing and shooting abilities, it’s no wonder Towns tops this list. Rudy Gobert is a guy I don’t think gets enough love, as I wrote yesterday in my awards predictions, and I think he got robbed for Defensive Player of the Year. Full disclosure, I totally forgot about Kevin Love while making this list at first, though to my credit, the Cavaliers plan on moving him to center and having Tristan Thompson come off the bench this year with the arrival of Jae Crowder in the IT-Kyrie trade (both Thompson and Crowder barely missed out on these lists). But Love is still one of the best big men in the game despite the fact that he’s kind of become the Chris Bosh of this Cavs team, being the big man that doesn’t get enough respect for what he brings to this team. Joel Embiid is a guy I just couldn’t leave off this list despite the fact that if he blinked wrong he’d be out for an unknown period of time. He’s just such a wonderful dude. How many guys can wear their own jersey to a night club and everybody still loves him for it?
Guarantee you if any other player did that they would get crucified. But not Embiid. Nikola Jokic is another guy who is under the radar, but that tends to happen when you’re an eastern European with a difficult name to pronounce. The guy had a big season for the Nuggets last year and could be a sneaky contender in the Most Improved Player list.
Those are my top 10s. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.