Another NBA season is finally here, and many will argue that the talent level is at an all-time high. While that is something that will spark heated debates all season long, one thing we can agree on is that there are plenty of stars on the floor on a nightly basis that will get us jumping out of our seats and messaging our friends to make sure that they got to witness another remarkable play.
While there are a lot of stars who will move the needle, some are definitely more important than others. This list ranks the best of those players, the ones who have the biggest impact on the floor and who are often the difference between winning and losing.
Here is my list of the top 25 players in the NBA today.
Just missed the cut: Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Kemba Walker
25. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Lowry took a step back in almost every category during the 2017-18, but still provided a steady hand to lead the Raptors to another playoff run. His load should be even lighter with the addition of Kawhi Leonard which should allow the Toronto leader more space to get things done.
24. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
After a slow starting during the first month of his rookie campaign, Mitchell found his groove and carried the Jazz offense to a second round appearance in the Western Conference playoffs.
With a year under his belt, expect even bigger things from the high-flying scoring machine as he looks to lead Utah to heights only seen during the Stockton-to-Malone era.
23. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge is one of the most gifted scoring bigs in the game today. He can beat you on the block or face up and knock down midrange jumpers. After taking a year to adjust to playing with the Spurs, Aldridge paced San Antonio in scoring and rebounding during another trip to the playoffs.
22. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Wall is one of the two or three most explosive players in the game. He is also an elite passer who really knows how to find great looks for the like of Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.
21. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons is an elite floor general who really knows how to make the 76ers’ offense go. He is a great distributor who can also finish at the rim and provide help on the backboards. If only he could find some range on his jumper then he would be much higher on this list.
20. Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Oladipo made a ridiculous jump from a solid role player into star in his first season in Indiana. He had easily his best shooting year while stepping up his game in just about every other area.
19. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Thompson has one of the smoothest jumpers you will ever see and the ability to play lockdown defense on some of the best perimeter players the league has to offer. He is the best third-option in the game (by a mile) and can carry the offense for the Warriors when Curry and Durant have an off night.
18. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Towns has an extremely polished offensive game. He is an efficient scorer close to the basket, but can also knock down the long-range jumper and is an elite free-throw shooter. He is also a monster on the glass and a solid passer out of the post. The only thing keeping him from being a top 10 player is on the defensive end of the floor.
17. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Gobert is the backbone of the strong Utah defense and a shot blocking machine. While his offensive game is more limited than anyone else on this list, he is a great finisher in the paint and a force on the backboards.
16. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Don’t let Green’s point production fool you, he is an exceptional two-way player who does all the little things to make the Warriors engine go. He guards the other team’s best inside player, creates open shots for his sweet-shooting teammates and generally makes life miserable for his opponents on a nightly basis.
15. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
Irving has handles for days and a knack for scoring the ball in different ways that few can replicate. After an injury plagued first year with the Celtics, he will be out to show that he can carry a loaded Boston squad to the top of the Eastern Conference.
14. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Jokic isn’t known for his defensive prowess, but definitely makes up for deficiencies on that side of the floor by what he does on the offensive end. The Nuggets’ big man is one of the elite passing big men in the game today and a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court.
13. Damien Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
The Weber State product is a big shot maker and one of the most gifted scorers the Blazers franchise has ever had. After making the jump to first-team All-NBA status a season ago, Lillard will be looking to make an even bigger impact this time around.
12. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves
His off the court issues notwithstanding, Butler is one of the top two-way players in the league. He reinvigorated a struggling Timberwolves organization that had failed to make any noise in the Western Conference despite the presence of back-to-back No. 1 picks and carried them to the first playoff appearance since 2003-04.
11. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Things didn’t always go right for George in his first season with the Thunder, but the outstanding wing scorer saw enough promise to re-sign with Oklahoma City in a surprising off-season move. The five time all-star had one of his best shooting seasons from the perimeter and will only get better with the all the space created by slashing guards, Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder.
10. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia’s patience with an oft-injured Embiid finally paid off in 2017-18 as he delivered a wildly productive season while playing a career-high 63 games. He showed great scoring touch from inside and out while also displaying great passing skills. He was exceptional on the defensive end of the floor as well swatting away nearly two shots a night as one of the league’s premier rim protectors.
9. Chris Paul, Houston Rockets
Many had questions about how the Rockets would function when they added Paul, but it turned out to be a perfect fit. The nine-time all-star made a nearly seamless transition and help carry Houston to the league’s best regular-season record with his unselfish play and clutch shooting.
8. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
After a disastrous 2017-18 campaign that saw him play just nine games while dealing with injury and organizational issues, Leonard has a chance at a fresh start with talented and hungry Raptors squad. And if he can come anywhere close to replicating the production he provided during 2016-17, he should carry Toronto to a deep playoff run and reestablish his place among the game’s best.
7. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Whether you love him or hate him, everyone can agree that Westbrook is one of the game’s fiercest competitors. While he can be a volume shooter at times, he is one of the best distributors in the league and one of the top rebounding guards the game has ever seen.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The “Greek Freak” is just that, an athletic freak. He has the body of a big man and the skills of an elite guard, and his game is only getting better. The 2017-18 campaign was easily his best to date, averaging a double-double with 26.9 points and 10 boards a night.
Now if he could just add a consistent outside jumper, he would be one of the best to ever play.
5. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Harden is a special offensive player who can space the floor with his deep range or put the ball on the floor and get to the paint where he has a knack at finishing at the rim or drawing fouls. He also excels at the foul line where he shoots better than 85 percent while averaging more than 10 attempts a game over the last six seasons.
4. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
To accurately describe just how good Davis has been over the last few seasons, all you have to do is look at his numbers. The former No. 1 pick has averaged better than 28 points and 11 rebounds each of the last two years while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. He has also been a monster on the defensive end of the floor, averaging more than two blocks a night for five straight seasons.
3. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
What can you say about Steph Curry that hasn’t been said already? The Golden State guard is a scoring machine who has ridiculous range and a flair for making big shots. He is also one of the most consistent 3-point shooters in league history, connecting on better than 40 percent of his 3-point shots every season he has played.
2. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Durant has an unbelievable offensive repertoire. He can shoot it from deep, is deadly in the mid-range and a great finisher at the cup. That has translated into 10 straight seasons of averaging better than 25 points a night while connecting on 49 percent of his shots from the floor and 88.2 percent of his free throws.
1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Despite playing more than 44,000 minutes of regular season basketball, James is as good as ever. He delivered one of his most impressive statistical seasons a year ago, averaging his highest point total in the last eight years while registering career highs in rebounds and assists.
2 thoughts on “Ranking the top players in the NBA heading into the 2018-19 season”
This is a great list. You just wonder how long LeBron can keep improving year after year. Hope his body stays healthy. It will be interesting to watch Mitchell continue to grow and develop in the league.
Thanks John. People have been waiting for LeBron to fall off some for years, but it just hasn’t happened. It will be interesting to see how long he can play at such an elite level.