By Lamar Battle
It’s that time again. Who are this seasons best players ? Surprise, only two players from the East.
10. Damian Lillard:
The number ten spot for Damian Lillard (23.5 ppg, 6.3 apg 36.8 3pt %) is legit even thought we have him rated over Russell Westbrook and Klay Thompson.
Damian Lillard almost single handedly carried his team the Portland Trail blazers to the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. He is also that rare player who has accepted responsibility for his teams fortunes going forward possibly for his entire career.
A true star who has a chance to lead his team to the NBA Finals this year.
9. Paul George:
SG-Los Angeles Clippers
Paul George the second leading scorer for 2019-20 at 28.0 ppg, oh, don’t forget that he is the 2nd best two way (offense and defense) in the league behind Kahwi Leonard. Paul George is not chopped liver
8. Joel Embiid:
Joel Embiid is generally acknowledged as the best big man in the league. Joel is skilled beyond belief and at this time health and conditioning are his only real challenges. At last count word is he dropped 25 pounds during the off season. Not a good sign for the rest of the East.
7. Nikola Jokic:
The breakthrough came when Nikola Jokic made All NBA 1st team. The versatile center more or less carried his team the Denver Nuggets to the conference Semi Finals.
The Serbian star averaged 20.1ppg, 10.8 rpg and 7.3 apg and displayed a full range of talents. Nikola as evidenced by his line can pass shoot threes post up his man and rebound.
The Nuggets are currently a legit Western Conference contender Nikola Jokic is on an upward swing.
6. Anthony Davis:
PF-Los Angeles Lakers
AD is a career 23ppg and 10.5 rpg player in seven seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony’s team success culminated with a first round playoff win in 2018-19.
One of the more complete stars in the game AD will now have a legitimate shot at winning the title with LeBron James and the LA Lakers. The question will be whether he can stay healthy.
5. Stephen Curry:
PG-Golden State Warriors
The number five position on this list for the man who revolutionized the game is fair. The two time MVP and three time NBA champ is a career 47.0 % shooter from the three point range.
It is totally fair to credit Steph with ( due to his incredible out side shooting) changing todays game.
Steph is more than just a shooter he is a true superstar and no holds barred competitor.
It was impressive to watch how hard Steph scratched,clawed and fought an in effort to come back against the 2019-20 Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals and after giving every thing he had a totally composed Steph Curry went to the post game podium and nailed the questions like the All Time great he is.
4. LeBron James:
SF-Los Angeles Lakers
How in the world could the guy who may end up as the GOAT be number four on this list ?
In the words of former NBA player Charles Barkley, ” Father Time Is Undefeated”.
To drive home the point there is a very good chance that the LA Lakers could win the the NBA title this or next with Lebron as the main facilitator for the best player on his team..Anthony Davis.
Who can forget the 91 Finals when Micheal Jordan had to make way for Scottie Pippen to check a bigger and stronger Magic Johnson.
Wilt, Kareem, Russ all had to scale back later in their careers and there is no shame in that.
The one thing LeBron does have in his favor is that he is a near genius when it comes to the game of basketball but, like Charles said……….
3. James Harden:
In the case of James Harden I suspect history will regard him better than his current contemporaries.
1st in Scoring (36.1), 2nd in steals, Most total points, Most three pointers made (378), Most points in a game (61), 1st in usage percentage,
He puts up staggering offensive numbers comparable to even the great Wilt Chamberlain. The beneficiary of a coach and system catering to his specific talents James has become almost impossible to guard on the perimeter.
2. Giannis Antetukoumpo:
This is a close call for last seasons MVP and leader of the team with the best record. Giannis has shown incredible drive and progress during his short time in the league. In most player polls he is the one guy that the majority of them would like to start a franchise with. He is relentless and damn near unstopable as he drives to the hoop for dunk after dunk after dunk.
However, Giannis benefitted greatly from a team that was perfectly suited to his skill set with a surplus of out side shooters.
If there were ever someone who fit the role of gladiator then Giannis would be that guy and there is a very strong possibly he will win more MVP awards and possibly NBA titles once he fine tunes his outside shooting.
1. Kahwi Leonard:
SF Los Angeles Clippers:
Kahwi is currently the best two way player in the league and if not for the well placed foot of Zaza Pachulia Kahwi would have done for the San Antonio Spurs what he did for the Toronto Raptors. (win a championship).
People are totally sleeping on this guy’s leadership abilities. Kahwi was forced (as part of a trade) to report to the Toronto Raptors and before the year was over the entire team had taken on his persona.
Who can forget his reply to then coach Nick Nurse who suggested in the championship series that the team shoot for one of the two scheduled games at Golden State…Kahwi’s basically said..Fuck that we want them both.
What happened ?
Toronto won both games prior to taking the series.
During his free agent discussions with the Los Angeles Clippers Kahwi allegedly suggested to the team owner Steve Ballmer that his team the Clippers were not good enough to win a title and that they needed another star player.
What happened ?
The Clippers moved heaven and earth to bring in former MVP finalist Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
And this means what ?
The San Antonio Spurs made a fatal mistake in taking Kahwi’s stoic nature for weakness, (If that were not the case they would not have allowed teammate Tony Parker to chastise Kahwi in public).
Toronto was Kahwi Leonards coming out party and from this point on, it will only get better.
Honorable Mention: Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook.
Photo credit to Getty Images.