By: Jarrod Horton
For the first time in two seasons, the NBA will have a full schedule. There is no bubble, no playing in empty arenas. There will be home games, road games, with fans for 82 games. The NBA, just like other sports leagues doesn’t have a mandate towards players receiving a COVID vaccine shot. However, similar to other big entities in this country, they strongly suggest that their employees get the shot.
One of the big stories in the NBA has been Kyrie Irving’s refusal to take the vaccine shot. The statewide mandate that exists in New York has prevented him to play with his team or participate in any of the team activities. What has been lost in the sauce is that Kyrie isn’t the only big-name player who hasn’t taken the shot. Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards also has not taken the shot. The difference is that there is no mandate in Washington D.C. Which means he is allowed to play without interference throughout the season.
For those people who have the time, I suggest that you read an article that I wrote about Kyrie, the vaccine, and how it has divided some of us in this country.
Okay, enough with the small talk, let’s get down to business. The criteria for this year’s top ten are pretty much the same as other seasons. I pick the top ten players based on their position. I primarily use the stats from the last regular season as the basis of the players I’m going to select. That list is then trimmed down to the impact a player has on his team’s success. Finally, I go off something I like to call franchise value. Basically, that means if I was starting a team which players would I select first.
Get it, got it, good, let’s go! Check out the list on the next page.
Stats: 2020-21 Season
It’s hard to describe what Steph Curry does and how he does it. It is no stretch to crown him as the best shooter of all time. He can pull up dribbling with his right or left hand. He just needs a little bit of room and he can literally shoot it from halfcourt down to the circle. His impact on the game has been a gift and curse for the players who try to emulate him. Yes, he does shoot a lot of three-pointers. However, what people tend to overlook is how moves without the ball. He cuts to the basket for easy layups. Plus, he utilizes the threat of him shooting the long ball to drive past defenders to get mid-range jumpers and floaters in the lane. He is a good passer and underrated rebounder for his size. He is the best point guard in the NBA.
This was an extremely difficult decision to make. There are a lot of talented point guards in the NBA. For the record, my favorite player in the NBA is LaMelo Ball. In the future, barring injury, I have no doubt he will occupy one of these slots, but not right now. When it comes to statistics, no one tops Russell Westbrook. Once again, he averaged a triple-double for the season. His talent is unquestioned, but his team has not fared well when he is one of the two options on the team. When it comes to impact on a team’s success, you have to look at Chris Paul. He was one of the main reasons the Phoenix Suns made it to the Finals last year. Although he was the unquestioned leader of that team, I don’t think he played a bigger role for his team than Trae young or even Ja Morant.
Recently, I had a discussion with my buddy about who would you select first between Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard? He chose Kyrie, I picked Dame. My reason behind choosing Dame was that he has more success being the leader of a team than Kyrie. Last season, I put Dame in this slot, but this year I’m going with Luka. In comparison to all the other great point guards in the league, he is the player I would choose first to start my team with. He has size, he rebounds and is an above-average passer. His defense is horrible, but his offense makes up for that.
Whenever James Harden is able to duplicate the output he provides in the regular season to the postseason, I will regard him as an all-time great. There is no doubt that he should be mentioned in the breath with the other all-time great offensive players who played the game. However, throughout his career, he has failed to show up literally and figuratively in the playoffs. Last season he got hurt during the playoffs and missed a few games. The times he did play he wasn’t that effective. Which has been the story surrounding his career. His numbers typically go down during the postseason.
Despite his shortcomings in the playoffs, I still regard him as the best shooting guard in the NBA. Last season he proved that he was not only an incredible scorer but an incredible playmaker as well. Basically, he was more of a point guard than a shooting guard. But when it was time to put the ball in the bucket, he proved he was still one of the best.
Each year I have at least one controversial pick on my list. I’m usually stout with my selections, but there is always one player that I’m on the fence about. This season it is Devin Booker. I was this close to putting Paul George in this slot but I decided to go with Booker because his team went to the NBA Finals. For what it’s worth, Paul George is a better defender, rebounder and averages more assists. Plus, to keep it all the way real, he is might be a better scorer than Booker. However, I wanted to reward a player whose team succeeded and he was one of the main contributors. But let’s not get it twisted, Booker is a beast, he is someone that scores from any area on the court.
Coming off an injury, KD instantly got his spot as the best scorer in the NBA. He is the true definition of unstoppable on the offensive side of the court. His team didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded them throughout the season. Not only did they not win the championship, but they also didn’t make it to the Finals. This was no fault of Durant, he was Ballin throughout the playoffs before he fell short to the Milwaukee Bucks’
More than anything, the thing that is showing that LeBron James is aging is that he gets hurt more often. Historically he has been more durable than almost any athlete in sports. Now at different points throughout the season, he is prone to miss multiple games. You can also see that he is relying on his jumper more than ever. This is shouldn’t be a surprise to those people who have played the game or who have watched other athletes get older. Usually, the first thing to give out is the athletic ability that you possessed in your youth. At this point in his career, LBJ picks and chooses when he wants to exert his energy for a drive to the basket. Likewise, he determines when he should put more effort into defense. For that matter, I think he also selects what games he wants to play in.
Despite the decline in his game and the injuries, LeBron James is still an elite player. You will be hard-pressed to find ten players in the NBA who are currently better than him. You probably could pick ten or more players who you would pick to start your team before him. But in my opinion, that would most likely be based on youth rather than skills.
Y’all people are going to start putting some respect on this man’s name. Yes, Durant is a better scorer. LeBron still has more skills than him. However, Giannis is the best all-around player in the NBA, period. I like how he still competes on both ends on the floor every night. Even though his team won the NBA Championship, he still plays like he is hungry. He is durable, which is something you can’t say about a few of the players on the list. He is a top-five defensive player and he is unstoppable when drives to the hoop. Until one of these elite players leads their team past the Milwaukee Bucks and gets that crown, he will remain number one.
You know what I’m tired of the bullshit. I’m tired of players like Anthony Davis who are riding out on their talent and potential. In real life, AD has more skills, talent, and potential than Julius Randle but he doesn’t show it. There is no way, a player of Anthony Davis height and skill level should be averaging less than double figures in rebounds. There is no way at his age he shouldn’t be able to dominate his opponent’s night in and night out.
With that said I’m putting Julius Randle at this spot. It’s not like Randle became a top ten player at his position by default. He was the winner of the most improved player last season. Not to mention, with the exception of Giannis, he had better statistics than all the players at his position.
Really all I have to say to prove my point on how much game Nikola Jokic has is to point to the MVP trophy he got from last season. I saw him play in person a couple of years ago and let’s just say he is the truth. It’s been disappointing that his teammate Jamal Murray has been injured. I personally thought with the addition of Murray, the Denver Nuggets had a chance to make it to the championship last season.
I think Jokic is just as skilled as Embiid. However, Embiid can be more dominant. When he completely decides to spend most of his time in the paint instead of trying to shoot jumpers, he can be that much more difficult to handle. Don’t get me wrong, he has a nice touch, especially for his size. But he needs to take advantage of that big body and punish people in the paint more.