*Our list depends on a combination of their play last season and how they’ll enter this season. This is not a list predicting where they’ll finish next season.
No. 1: Lebron James, Los Angeles Lakers.
Although Kevin Durant is closing the gap between No. 1 and No. 2, the king still holds the crown. After literally carrying his team to the Finals this past season, he showed why he’s still the best player in the NBA, even after his 15th season. It’s also clear why he’s still one up on Kevin Durant although he lost to Durant in the NBA Finals.
No. 2: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors won the title and yes, Kevin Durant is the best player on that team. However, Durant’s choice to join a 73-win team in 2016 hurt his legacy and in this case, cost him the top spot. He is still an extremely dominant player. The only reason he isn’t No. 1 is due to a technicality.
No. 3: James Harden, Houston Rockets.
Other than the lack of defense, the only real question surrounding Harden was if he could show up in the playoffs. He had a reputation of folding under the bright lights but this past season he showed up and got his team one game away from the NBA Finals. He is an elite scorer and the only player in the NBA that can stop his dominance seems to be Andre Roberson.
No. 4: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis still doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he’s been buried in a franchise that continuously makes suspect moves. Last year, with former teammate DeMarcus Cousins injured, the narrative around basketball was New Orleans becoming a lottery team. Davis had other plans. He carried his team to the second round of the playoffs after sweeping the No. 3-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.
No. 5: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Probably the most critiqued player in the NBA and although he may be a bit overzealous at times, Westbrook is definitely a top-five player in the NBA. It’s hard to fathom someone that leads the league in assists, leads guards in rebounds and is a top-five scorer in the NBA not being a top-five player. This doesn’t mean he can’t improve, though. He may be top five but he has the skill to be top three. His decision making deserves some criticism and although he seems to be an old player at this point, he’s still only 29 years old. There’s still room to grow.
No. 6: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors.
If Steph wasn’t a three-time champion, this would be a no-brainer. Yes, Curry is the best to ever shoot the rock. Yes, he’s one of the best ball-handlers and passers of all-time as well. However, his complete inability to defend opposing point guards shouldn’t go unnoticed. Westbrook is more well-rounded, which puts him just over Curry for the time being.
No. 7: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It’s not official, but Leonard will be a member of the Toronto Raptors next season. Despite the injury and sitting out for the majority of last season because of it, we’re still trying to hold onto him being a top 10 player or potentially top five in the league. Leonard is an elite ball-stopper while being an elite scorer. Those are two traits we can only give to Paul George and Jimmy Butler, but Kawhi does it just a little better. We will see how worthy he is before too long.
No. 8: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks.
Giannis is in his fourth season and it’s clear he’s the future of the league once Lebron, Durant, Harden, Westbrook, and Curry start to fade away. At six-foot-11, he gives us something we’ve only seen from Kevin Durant, but he’s bigger and more physical than Durant has ever been. If he improves his shot over the 2018-2019 season, he’ll be a top-five player, easily.
No. 9: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves.
Butler is an absolute star in this league and with free agency approaching in 2019 for him, expect teams to call for him. He makes any team immensely better but he’ll do better with another star that’s slightly better than him. At least a player that has that alpha mentality like Kyrie Irving, Lebron James or whatever assertive player you can imagine.
No. 10: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder.
Only one other team has a two top 10 players on this list and that’s Golden State. OKC and Golden State will potentially be No. 1 and No. 2 in the Western Conference. Despite having a disappointing season last year from a team standpoint, expect George to show even more improvement during the 2018-2019 season. There’s a sense of security after he signed his new deal with the Thunder, the offense flow will be more comfortable without a slower Carmelo Anthony trying to keep up and there are simply fewer egos now.
11. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics.
12. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers.
13. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers.
14. Chris Paul, Houston Rockets.
15. John Wall, Washington Wizards.
16. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors.
17. Karl Anthony-Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves.
18. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors.
19. Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers.
20. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers.
21. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz.
22. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns.
23. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs.
24. DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors.
25. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics.