Who Is The Best Player In The NBA?
MVP, although most of the time it is. The problem with granting the title of best player to the MVP is that the award tends to take team record into account. Obviously there is a correlation between being a great player and your team winning, however that’s not always the case.
For example, guys like Carmelo Anthony, Yao Ming, Jerry West, Isiah Thomas, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade have never won an MVP. That doesn’t mean they’ve never been in contention for the best player in the NBA at one point.
There’s a lot to look at when determining who’s the best in the NBA, including production, efficiency, defensive numbers, team success, +/- and plenty more. We can also look at playoff success, how they help their teammates and how often they get their coach fired (I’m looking at you, LeBron).
The Contenders (Alphabetical order):
These are 12 of the best players in the NBA based off stats and team success. Obviously there are some who are better than others, but without bias, these 12 players all are in contention for the best in the NBA.
Won’t win, but could give you a run for your money:
Westbrook seems to be criticized every time the playoffs come around, and most of it is justified. Since Durant left, his teams have had plenty of success in the regular season, yet he hasn’t made it out of the first round the past 3 seasons. The numbers don’t help Westbrook either. One of the only reasons he’s on this list is that he’s been averaging a triple double the past 3 seasons, yet he only had 1.8 offensive win shares this season, he shot 29% from 3 while taking 5.3 per game, and shot only 42% from the floor.
Rudy Gobert, in my opinion, is the most underrated player in basketball. He deserves to be on this list, and his stats are off the charts. He lead the league in eFG%, 4th in offensive win shares, 2nd in defensive win shares, 2nd in total win shares, 1st in defensive +/-, 3rd in offensive rating, 3rd in blocks and 3rd in rebounds. Those are a lot of stats thrown at you, but they do mean something. He’s the only player in the NBA to be top 5 in all of those categories, and his impact is felt in game. He’s not the best player in the NBA, and the Jazz aren’t great, but he more than deserves to be on this list.
Nikola Jokic had a breakout campaign for Denver this season. One of the few centers in the NBA who is a ball handler, Jokic lead the young Nuggets team to the 2 seed in the West, their first playoff appearance since 2013. Jokic was 7th in offensive win shares and 9th in defensive win shares, averaging 20.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 7.3 AST and 1.4STL. He’s in contention for the best big man in the NBA with Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, and certainly has the potential to reach the top of this list in his career.
Joel Embiid is the final center on this list, and deservedly so. The Process seems to finally be working out for the 76ers, and Embiid has been as advertised. The only thing keeping Embiid from being higher up on this list is his health. He’s yet to play more than 64 games in a season in his 4 year career, but when he does play, he’s the most dominant player on the court. Averaging 27.5 PTS and 13.6 REB to go along with 1.9 BLK, Embiid is a monster on both sides of the court.
Towards the top of the list:
Paul George finally broke out into the two way star he’s always had the potential to be. Finishing in the top 3 of the MVP voting, George had an outstanding 2018-19 season, averaging a career high in points (28), rebounds (8.2) and steals (2.2). The reason he’s not higher on the list is because this is his first year playing on this level. Consistency is key with a lot of NBA players, and for George, it’s about staying healthy and learning to win with another star by his side.
Perhaps one of the most talked about players in the NBA, Anthony Davis had an interesting season. For a minute, everyone thought he was going to be traded in February, however the Pelicans decided against that and sat him for a large portion of the second half. When he plays, Davis is an MVP, he averages a career 23 points, 10 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.4 steals. In his 7 year career, hes yet to play more than 75 games, and has only made the playoffs twice, keeping him from being the best player in the NBA. (Despite playing for the worst front office)
What a season it was for James Harden, averaging 36 points per game, the seventh most all time. He’s had back to back seasons averaging over 30 points, and excels at getting to the line. What makes Harden great is his ability to fool the defender and draw contact, even if the opposing player knows what’s coming. He shot a free throw 858 times this season, which is 172 more times than the player with the second most. He’s a tremendous ball handler who averages a career 6.2 assists, and was second in total steals in the NBA. The thing keeping him back is his turnovers and defense. Overall, he allowed opponents to shoot 46% on him, and he’s averaged 5+ turnovers two of the last three seasons.
The Top 5:
Here is where it gets interesting, we have Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without a doubt, these are 5 of the best players in the NBA. Curry is looking to win his 4th Finals in 5 years, Durant is looking to lock up a 3-peat, LeBron made it to 8 straight Finals before getting injured, Kawhi has proven he’s one of the best clutch performers in the NBA, and Giannis is a heavy favorite for the 2018-19 MVP. So how do we choose who is the best of the 5?
Giannis has had an incredible past 3 seasons, going from a young unknown piece to a perennial MVP candidate. He lead the Bucks to their first Conference Finals since 2001, and lead the team to 60 wins for the first time since 1981. What’s keeping him from being labeled the best is that he hasn’t played long enough. He’s never been to a Finals and he hasn’t been playing at this level as long as the other players on this list, keeping him from being labeled the best.
If Kawhi hadn’t sat out in 2017-18, he would probably be my best player in the NBA. Kawhi still sat for 22 games this season, but when he played he was the best player in the game on defense, and near the top on offense. He averaged a career high 26.6 points, 1.8 steals and shot 49% from the floor. In addition to his stellar season, he lead the Raptors to the NBA Finals for the first time in team history. What makes Kawhi great is that he shows up when it matters. We saw it in the 2014 Finals and we’re seeing it in these playoffs. If Kawhi plays at least 70 games next season, he could be the best player in the NBA.
It’s hard not to label Curry as the best player in the NBA. He’s consistent, he’s the greatest shooter of all time, he’s clutch, he does it all. Making it to 5 straight NBA Finals is no cakewalk, no matter what you say about his teammates. Since his first All Star appearance, Curry is averaging 26 PPG, 4.3 3PM, 6.9 AST and 1.8 STL. Keep in mind that’s a six year span, and he’s won 3 (possibly 4) Finals in that time. He’s so dominant, and it’s so hard for him not to be called the best player in basketball, but there are two players who have stronger cases.
KD vs. LeBron. It’s the debate NBA fans have had since 2010 when Durant was just beginning his run of dominance. We’ve even had these two face off in the Finals, with LeBron’s Heat coming out on top. Both have had long, consistent runs of success lasting over a decade, dominating opponents and making deep playoff runs. Starting with Durant, he’s possibly the greatest offensive player of all time. Deep 3s, contested mid range, driving to the rim, it doesn’t matter, the ball is going in. At the age of 30, he’s already climbing the all time points list. He’s made it to 3 straight Finals with Golden State, and is looking to 3-peat, something LeBron couldn’t do.
What LeBron can do, however, is make it to 8 consecutive NBA Finals, winning 3. His entire career, The King has dominated any opponent who comes his way. The Warriors won 73 games and couldn’t beat him in the Finals. He’s a dominant force on both sides of the floor every time he steps foot on the court. Aside from 3s, his stats are better than Durant’s across the board. Even though he suffered the first long term injury of his career, he had no help in Los Angeles, before he got hurt the Lakers were in a prime playoff spot, but they fell out with him missing time.
With that being said, the best player in the NBA is LeBron James. As Jorge Cantu Said, LeBron James Had the Best Season Ever by a 34 Year Old. If the Lakers figure out their front office, and LeBron gets some help in LA, look for him to easily be back in the playoffs again, making a run for the finals.