Every year the NBA seems to showcase the dramatic rises of some and the upsetting falls of others. The following list takes into consideration many categories: offensive talent, defensive ability, basketball knowledge, hustle, and overall teammate skills. These 25 players can all lead a franchise to wins while putting up tremendous numbers. Included with every choice is the player’s individual stats from the 2011-2012 season including: Points per Game (PPG), Rebounds per Game (RPG), Assists per Game (APG), Steals per Game (SPG), and Blocks per Game (BPG)
1. LeBron James
27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Well this might be the most unanimous pick on anybody’s top players list. LeBron James is the most talented player in the league since MJ and he is the most physically gifted player of all time. Last year, he shot a career-high at the 3-point line and his jumpshot and inside game are steadily improving. The scary thing is that he isn’t even in his prime yet. The one thing all the LeBron haters used to criticize him was his inability to perform late in games, well, that argument is officially dead.
2. Kevin Durant
28.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Kevin Durant is the best offensive player in the NBA. He is every defender’s nightmare, as he is too tall to ever contest any of his shots, automatic when it comes to inside shots, and lethal from outside with his impecable shooting talents. Durant will soon be the best player in the league, but that will come once he becomes a better 1 on 1 defender. KD has alot of upside, as he is only 23 years old, and his continuing success still haunts the Portland Trailblazers.
3. Dwight Howard
20.6 PPG, 14.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.2 BPG
Decision or not, Dwight Howard will be the 3rd best player no matter what team he plays for. He is among a handful of players who can carry a team to earning a playoff seed, without help. Howard is just that good. Howard imposes the biggest defensive threat in the NBA and his continuing will to fight for rebounds makes him truly the best center in basketball. His offensive game needs to get better but even with his mediocre offensive talents, he manages to put up 20+ points a game and that is simply impressive.
4. Chris Paul
19.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 9.1 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Chris Paul is the best overall point guard in the NBA right now. Paul has been lock to make the all-defensive team because of his outstanding ability to play team defense. Paul is also great for the ability to make his teammates look better than they actually are. Chris Paul has one of the better ball-handling abilities in the league.The Clippers crawled out of the basement of the NBA standings into competing in the Western Conference semi-finals because of Chris Paul’s leadership and overall stellar play on the court.
5. Dwyane Wade
22.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG
The 2nd best player on his own team, Dwyane Wade has long been the face of the Miami Heat. However the Miami Heat are under the direction of LeBron James after his stellar performance throughout the playoffs. Wade is a top notch scorer and his defense can not be overlooked. Dwyane Wade has also taken better shots this previous season as he is taking less outside shots and relying more on his off-the-dribble shooting. This year he will show the entire NBA and their viewers that he has surpassed Kobe Bryant in the title of best shooting guard in the NBA.
6. Kobe Bryant
27.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Arguably, the best player on the entire list during his prime, Kobe Bryant was the face of the NBA for many years till he passed the torch to LeBron James. Bryant is still notorious for his great scoring ability. However his percentages have dropped and his mobility is slowly degenerating. Kobe is contemplating retirement after the 2013-2014 season because of his ailing health and his desire to spend time away from basketball to be with his children. Bryant is still a solid defender and his scoring ability is still at an elite level and that keeps him in the top 6.
7. Deron Williams
21.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Deron Williams might be the King of Brooklyn, but he also is the 7th best player in the association. Deron Williams, even with playing with mediocre talent, still manages to put up brilliant numbers and his ability to make his teammates better is second only to Chris Paul. Deron is a better offensive point guard versus Paul but he still lacks the defensive lock-down ability that Chris Paul possesses.Look for Deron to have a strong year along with his revitalized Brooklyn Nets line-up.
8. Derrick Rose
21.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 7.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Derrick Rose has largely been forgotten because of his vulnerability to injuries, and he will miss a large portion of next season as well. However, the MVP of the 2010-2011 season is still a dynamic young point guard. Rose has the explosive ability of a Russell Westbrook but he is a much better facilitator of the basketball compared to Westbrook. Rose is a great point guard and he can surely lead a team, as he led his Chicago Bulls to two straight league leading regular season records. Derrick Rose will be missed by the Bulls and all basketball fans next season for his highlight reel basketball ability.
9. Carmelo Anthony
22.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Carmelo Anthony is a clear superstar in the NBA as he might be the best scorer in the league. His shooting touch, ball handling, and athleticism are all lethal instruments were an offensive juggernaut. However Carmelo will almost always be the center of selfish basketball play and lack of defensive effort. Even with all these seemingly drastic flaws, Carmelo alls keeps his New York Knicks in a basketball game with his sheer offensive presence and he does have the ability to play defense at certain points during a game.
10. Rajon Rondo
11.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 11.7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Rajon Rondo was the most consistent and at points the best player on the court during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. Rondo was seemingly impossible to guard especially when he was knocking down the long range jumpshots. Rajon Rondo is a terrific passer, if not the best passer in the NBA. If Rondo can develop a consistent jump shot, he could be the most dynamic point guard in the NBA. Rondo is also the best defensive star point guard in the league, and is an even better team defender. Rondo has the Celtics’ front office excited about starting a franchise with their star point guard.
11. Russell Westbrook
23.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Many can argue that Russell Westbrook is a detriment to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s success, but no one can argue that Westbrook is not a superstar in the making. Westbrook is a scorer playing the point guard position which really covers up his true abilities. If Russell Westbrook had the ability to make his teammates better and not shoot as much as he does, he could make a good case on why he is the best point guard in the NBA. Other than that, he always plays at 100% but still needs to inherit a little bit more basketball knowledge following his horrible gaffe in the Finals which cost his team a chance to win Game 4.
12. Andrew Bynum
18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.9 BPG
The most talented offensive low post player in the league, Andrew Bynum is the only player that can rival Dwight Howard in conversations of being the best big man in the league. Obviously the only knock on Bynum’s potential and overall ranking on this list is his immaturity and the lack of a superior defensive presence. Yes, he is an elite shot blocker but he lacks the defensive fear that Dwight Howard is famous for creating. Andrew Bynum will be the best center in the NBA in a few years and the Lakers have a cornerstone to build on barring any trade or if Bynum were to leave via. free agency.
13. Kevin Love
26.0 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Arguably the most productive power forward in the league, Kevin Love is every fantasy basketball owner’s dream player. Love is a classic power forward with his ability to score away from the paint and strength to rebound at will. Love still needs to build a more dynamic offensive game within the paint and his average defensive game tends to lure people away from calling him an elite player, let alone a superstar. Kevin Love will continue to post these monstrous numbers but he won’t move anywhere forward from his current ranking until he becomes a more complete offensive player and a much better defensive player.
14. Dirk Nowitzki
21.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Dirk went from being on top of the mountain after being everyone’s hero when he and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the Finals. After the momentous Final’s performances, Nowitzki slipped in production and the Mavericks have faltered. Nowitzki is still an elite jump shooter but his rebounding ability has dropped off because of his lack of conditioning and age. Nowitzki is soon becoming an after thought for many NBA fans but he still remains has one of the NBA’s premier scorers.
15. Tony Parker
18.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 7.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Tony Parker was huge for the San Antonio Spurs, as he was the leader of one of the most high-powered offenses in the league last year. Parker is a nimble poing guard that has great facilitating abilities and the agility to get easy baskets close range. His mid-range jumper and overall outside shooting ability has drastically improved. However, again like many other people on the outside of the top 10, he needs to improve his defensive ability. Parker is still a fantastic point guard and one of the best floor generals in the league.
16. Chris Bosh
18.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Chris Bosh might be the one player that can me moved anywhere from the top 10 to top 40, but 16 is an accurate number for the third wheel of the Miami Heat. Bosh’s numbers shouldn’t be the the indicator on Bosh’s overall game, because those numbers are deflated by the effectiveness of his two superstar teammates, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Bosh showed national audiences during the Finals he can hit big shots and he is an active defender. However he still needs to be consistent with his jump shot and he tends to disappear from a play very often. All in all, Chris Bosh is extremely underrated, and many have forgotten his absolute greatness in carrying the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs.
17. Kevin Garnett
15.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Kevin Garnett proved all the nay-sayers wrong when he had an injury-free season last year. Many felt including myself, that Garnett was nearing the end of his career due to lingering health issues and just the sheer numbers of seasons the gritty veteran has been through. However he had a resurgent year and arguably was the most important Celtic throughout the season. Garnett is the best team defender in the league, and his mid range jump shot is nearly automatic. Kevin Garnett has lost touch of his post game but he is still an offensive weapon for the C’s and that is why he is the 17th best player in the league currently.
18. Josh Smith
18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.7 BPG
Josh Smith easily has top-10 talent in the association and now he will be given the responsibility in being the Atlanta Hawk’s leader with the departure of Joe Johnson. Smith is a dynamic slasher and inside shots are made easy for this athletic freak of nature, and even his outside shooting has drastically improved. “J-Smooth” is also a top-notch defender with his elite shot-blocking skills and overwhelming athleticism. However the one damaging flaw he has is his immaturity. He often checks himself out of the court if he his frustrated and may look to shoot too much irrational shots. Smith can be one of the best in the NBA if he gains more mental control of the game.
19. Tim Duncan
15.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2,3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1,5 BPG
Good ole Tim Duncan, his consistency deserves an applause. If one word can be used to describe Tim Duncan it would be winner. Duncan and his San Antonio Spurs always find themselves in the playoffs and enjoy great regular season records. Duncan, at 36 years young, is still an offensive beast as his patented mid-range bank shot is still virtually unstoppable. Defensively, Timmy-D can still hold the paint area down from opponent drives. However like many of the older members of this list, Duncan lacks the athleticism to be higher on the list.
20. LaMarcus Aldridge
21.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG
LaMarcus Aldridge quickly took leadership of the Portland Trailblazers after star Brandon Roy opted to retire to nurse his injury-plagued body. Aldridge took the leadership role and stared in it by being a dynamic all around power forward. All Aldridge needs to be higher on the list is take a bigger role in his team’s success and lead the Trailblazers to the playoffs. Other than that Aldridge has the definite basketball ability to easily be in the top 15.
21. Paul Pierce
19.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Paul Pierce a.k.a. “The Truth”, is still one of the best small forwards in the NBA with his excellant shooting ability. The one x-factor which makes Pierce great is his ability to perform during crunch time. The Celtics were spared devastating losses with the one of kind scoring mentality of Paul Pierce during the pivotal ends of close games. Pierce needs to improve his individual defense similar to how Grant Hill dramatically improved in that regard during the latter years of his career. The Celtics clearly have a big 3 as they have 3 of the top 25 players in the NBA.
22. Blake Griffin
20.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Well Mr. Highlight Reel has been much watch television during his stellar sophomore campaign. Blake Griffin still isn’t a great basketball player but no one can argue that he isn’t a jaw dropping athlete. Griffin has the intangibles and raw physical talent to be a beast in the NBA. However he lacks the basketball knowledge and shooting ability to become one of the game’s best. With teammate Chris Paul, hopefully Griffin can learn to become a technical player by improving his shooting and footwork. No one could ever forget his air-balls at the free throw line, so to advance on the list, he better not air-ball any more free throws.
23. James Harden
16.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Simply known as “the beard” in some countries, James Harden is definitely a star in the making. Many NBA fans were given an inappropriate showcase of James Harden during the NBA finals, where he seemed passive and almost anxious of the national audience. However throughout the regular seasons and playoff rounds before his disastrous Final’s performance, Harden showed terrific shooting ability and great agile maneuvers to get easy baskets in the paint. To add on, he often is the main ball handler of the OKC Thunder during the late stages of the game because of his impressive ball handling ability. Harden is also an above average defender but to advance on this list, he needs to become a better defender and develop better consistency in his play.
24. Amare Stoudemire
17.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Amare Stoudemire is one of the harder players to judge because his raw talent is nothing short of spectacular. However his many personal tragedies seem to limit his play this year and, to add on, the addition of Carmelo Anthony only hurt Stoudemire’s game. Amare is one of the best pick and roll/pop players in the NBA, but his effectiveness on other plays on offense seem inferior. Amare Stoudemire is very inconsistent when it comes to defense and some even refer to him as maybe being soft. However if Amare were to become a better defender and played more consistent basketball, he easily can reform back to his MVP-caliber play.
25. Al Jefferson
19.2 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.7 BPG
The average NBA fan probably has probably never seen Al Jefferson play before. Jefferson always finds himself on a bad team and the Utah Jazz this past year gave him the opportunity to play in the playoffs for only the second time in his career. Jefferson is a tough interior presence that can easily control the paint. He has very good footwork and his athleticism is only getting better. The only fault in Jefferson is that he isn’t a very good primary option on offense. Jefferson has proven to be one of the most consistent players in the league, but with that consistency, your almost never going to see a complete takeover in which he scores 40+ points. Jefferson is an excellant rebounder and will easily move up this list next year.
I know I am going to face some heat from many who will read this article. Many great players were left of this list and that only shows how many good ball players are there in the NBA. Many new faces will be in next year’s top-25 without a doubt and many on this list will fall. The beauty of basketball and in the NBA is that many players are given opportunities to succeed, and the average fans can become witnesses to the coronations of the great players throughout the association this upcoming season. Again, comment with your opinions. To take the words of my favorite show, “First Take”, I embrace debate.