Ranking the best players in the NBA playoffs

The NBA regular season has come to an end and the playoff matchups are set in the East and the West. The Miami Heat and ready to defend their crown thanks in part to having three of the best players in the NBA today. They aren’t the only team loaded with talent ready to challenge the Heat for the Title though. The Clippers, Pacers, Rockets, Spurs and Thunder are all poised to try to dethrone LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company. With that in mind, I have decided to rank the best players from 2013-14 that are in the post season. These are the guys who played the best during the year and helped to carry their respective teams.

25t. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks: in his first season with the Hawks Millsap did something that he had never done in his seven years with the Utah Jazz, make an All-Star team. Millsap also took on the Hawks’ main scoring load after Al Horford went down for the season with an injury. One of the main reasons Millsap was able to do that was because he added a consistent 3-point game to his arsenal. After never making more than 13 shots from behind the arc in a single season, Millsap knocked down 76 of 212 3-points attempts in 2013-14. On the season, Millsap averaged 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks a game.

25t. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors: the Raptors relied on DeRozan much more at the offensive end of the floor after the departure of Rudy Gay in a midseason trade with the Sacramento Kings, and he produced in a big way. DeRozan was the leading scorer for the Atlantic Division Champions and also made the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the first time in his career. On the season, DeRozan averaged 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists and 1.1 steals a game.

24. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat: playing next to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is great when it comes to jewelry, but not so spectacular when it comes to your stat line. Such is the case for Bosh anyway. His scoring and rebounding numbers have gone down every year since he left Toronto, but Bosh is still an elite player. He made his 9th straight All-Star game after averaging 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds a game for the Heat. He also became a valuable outside threat for the Heat this season while making a career-high 74 3-pointers.

23. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder: in his fifth season in the league Ibaka has completely transformed himself into a legitimate third option for the Thunder on the offensive end of the floor after averaging a career-high 15.1 points a game this season thanks to his improved 3-point and free-throw shooting. Ibaka also had his best season on the glass in his young career averaging 8.8 rebounds a night while leading the league for the fourth straight year in total blocks (219).

22. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies: even though his minutes are down for the fourth straight year, Conley had his best offensive season of his career in large part because of his added aggressiveness. Conley shot a career-high 14.1 shots a game while also shooting a career best 45 percent from the field. For the season, Conley averaged 17.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, six assists and 1.5 steals a game for the Grizzlies.

21. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors: Lowry had by far the best season of his NBA career and is the main reason why the Raptors have been so successful this season. After starting off the season slowly, Lowry picked it up after the Rudy Gay trade and helped the Raptors turn a 6-12 start into a 48-34 season. For the year, Lowry averaged 17.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.5 steals a game for the Atlantic Division Champs.

20. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: Gasol played in 59 games for the grizzlies this season because of injuries. In those games the Grizzlies had a record of 40-19. In the 23 games Gasol missed Memphis went 10-13. That leaves no doubt of the impact that Gasol has when he is on the floor. In his 59 games of action, Gasol averaged 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists a contest. Along with being an important part of the Memphis offense, Gasol is the backbone of a very stingy defense averaging 1.3 blocks and a steal a game.

19. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies: even though Randolph is in his 13th season in the NBA, he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down at all. In fact, two of his best games of the year came in the Grizzlies’ last two games of the season. In a must win game against the Phoenix Suns, Randolph scored a season-high 32 points while hauling down nine rebounds as Memphis earned the final Western Conference playoff spot 97-91 in Phoenix. Two nights later, Randolph was at it again. Thanks to a 27 point, 14 rebound effort he helped Memphis knock off the Mavericks and jump them in the standings . On the season, Randolph is averaging 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists a night.

18. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers: Lillard has had an impressive sophomore campaign and is a huge reason why the Trail Blazers are back in the playoffs. After winning the Rookie of the Year award a season ago, Lillard stepped up his game on his way to making the Western Conference All-Star team. On the year, Lillard finished 10th in the league in free-throws made (371), eighth in free-throw percentage (87.1) and third in made 3-point shots (218). Thanks to his ability as an inside and outside threat, Lillard averaged 20.7 points a night to go along with 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

17. John Wall, Washington Wizards: the Washington Wizards are back in the playoffs and Wall is the main reason why. He is a dynamic lead-guard who can do it all on the basketball floor. After an injury riddled 2012-13, Wall played all 82 games this time around and played well enough to make his first All-Star game appearance. A huge part of his growth is because Wall added the 3-point shot to his game. After hitting only 49 3’s in his first three seasons in the league, Wall knocked down 108 triples this season. With the added dimension to his game, Wall one of the toughest guards in the league to stop. On the season, Wall averaged 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.8 steals a game.

16. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats: Jefferson struggled early on in his first season with the Bobcats scoring 20 or more points in only eight of his first 28 games. At that point, Jefferson caught fire and scored at least 20 points a game in 37 of his last 45 games including 13 games of at least 30 points. During that stretch the Bobcats had a record of 28-17 to help them earn a spot in the playoffs. His most impressive game of the year came in a 10-point road win over the Los Angeles Lakers when Jefferson registered 40 points, 18 rebounds four assists and three steals. For the season, Jefferson averaged 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks a game.

15. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls: Noah has been a force this season for Chicago on both ends of the floor. As in year’s past, Noah is the Bulls’ emotional leader and a rebounding machine. What makes this season special is the fact that Noah has also become an elite passer. The improved skill helped Noah record 47 double-doubles and four triple-doubles in his 80 games as well as the team leader in assists. Noah earned his second straight trip to the All-Star game after averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 block a game.

14. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: even though injuries have hampered Wade all season long, he did played well enough to make the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the 10th consecutive season. In 54 games on the floor Wade still averaged 19 points on an astounding 54.5 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 4.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.5 steals a night for the defending Champions.

13. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs: Parker made his sixth All-Star team in 2014 even though his numbers took a massive dip from a season ago. Although the Spurs have an extremely balanced offensive attack with nine players averaging at least 8.2 points a game, Parker remains their go to guy in key situations. In 68 games on the floor for the league-leading Spurs, Parker averaged 16.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists.

12. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets: Howard made the decision to sign with the Rockets and it has been a very good choice to this point. Howard has been dominant on the glass and a consistent finisher around the rim. Howard has also been the rim protector that Houston was looking for in leading the team with 1.8 blocks a night. Howard made is eighth straight All-Star game after averaging 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists a game.

11. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: even though Duncan missed out on an All-Star selection for just the third time in his illustrious career, he is still one of the best players in the NBA. His minutes and scoring are down from last year, but Duncan still nearly averaged a double-double with 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. When you throw in the fact that Duncan added three assists and 1.9 blocks a night, it is clear to see that Duncan still has some gas left in the tank to help San Antonio make another run at a championship.

10. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: 2013-14 was a bounce back season for Nowitzki as he returned to the All-Star game after a one-year absence while leading the Mavericks back to the playoffs with a whole new cast of characters. Nowitzki is no longer much of a threat on the glass after totalling his lowest rebounding average since his rookie year, but he is still a very accomplished shooter and scorer. In 80 games on the floor, Nowitzki averaged 21.7 points on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor including 39.8 percent from behind the arc. Nowitzki also accounted for 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game.

9. Paul George, Indiana Pacers: after starting the season on a blistering pace, George and the Pacers came back down to earth after the trade deadline effected the chemistry of the team. Even with that hiccup, George shattered his career-high in scoring while leading Indiana to the number-one seed in the Eastern Conference. George earned his second straight All-Star appearance after averaging 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. As good as george is offensively, he is even better on the other end of the floor. George is a lockdown defender who still finds success even though he has to guard some of the best players in the league. His 1.9 steals a game placed George fifth in the NBA.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers: although his shooting percentage is the worst of his career, Aldridge had a dominating season to lead the Blazers back into the playoffs. Aldridge made his third consecutive Western Conference All-Star team after averaging career-highs in scoring, rebounding and free-throw percentage and put himself into the conversation for the top power forward in the game today. For the season, Aldridge averaged 23.2 points,11.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists ans one block a game.

7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder: the injury bug that hit Westbrook in the 2013 playoffs carried over to this season and left him out of commission for nearly half the season. Even though Westbrook appeared in just 46 games this season, he is still one of the most explosive players in the NBA and will be a key piece of the puzzle if the Thunder want to make a deep run in the playoffs. In a career-low 30.7 minutes a night Westbrook averaged 21.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.9 steals.

6. James Harden, Houston Rockets: if Dwight Howard is the backbone of the Rockets’ defense then Harden is undoubtedly the leader of the offense. Harden looks to attack whenever he crosses half court and can score with the best players in the league. He made his second straight Western Conference All-Star team after averaging 25.4 points on a career-high 86.6 percent shooting from the free-throw on 9.1 attempts a game. Harden is more than just a scorer though. He also added 4.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.6 steals a game.

5. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: Griffin is in the midst of the best season of his young NBA career after developing a very solid mid-range game in the offseason. With his newly polished face up game, Griffin has also been able to drastically improve his free-throw shooting from a season ago. Griffin made his fourth straight Western Conference All-Star team while averaging a career-high 24.1 points a contest on 52.8 percent shooting from the floor and 71.5 percent shooting from the free-throw line. To go along with his scoring prowess, Griffin also put up 9.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals a game.

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State: after a breakout season in 2012-13 elevated Curry to the status of one of the game’s best, he managed to climb up the ladder even farther of the league’s elite players this time around. As the most dominant player on the Warriors, Curry made his first All-Star game and finished the season averaging career highs in scoring (24) and assists (8.5) while also adding 4.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals a contest.

3. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers: Paul made his seventh consecutive All-Star game and his third since joining the Clippers while leading the league in steals and assists per game. Paul is the best pure point guard in the league today and a key reason why the Clippers have one of their best teams in franchise history. For the season, Paul averaged 19.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 10.7 assists and 2.5 steals a game.

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: without the services of Russell Westbrook for a good chunk of the season Durant carried even more of the load for the Thunder and turned in an MVP worthy campaign in the process. Durant made his fifth consecutive All-Star game in a year where he led the league in minutes played, shots made, free-throws made and scoring. For the season, Durant averaged 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals a game for the 59-23 Thunder.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat: even though his rebounding and assist numbers are down from a year ago James is still the best player in the world. On offense, he is nearly unstoppable going to the rim as well as great passer when the double team comes his way. James made his 10th straight All-Star game in a season where he averaged 27.1 points a game on 56.7 percent shooting from the field. He also added 6.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists a night. What sets James apart from the pack is his ability on the defensive end where he can shut down even the best opposing players when needed.

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