The NBA 2020-21 season has begun in full swing. Let us look at the top ten NBA players of this season:
10. James Harden – Houston’s leading man, James Harden, is one of the greatest scorers of the century. The 2017–18 MVP enters this season with eleven straight post-season appearances and three consecutive scoring titles, posting one of the most fantastic scoring resumes in the team’s history. The past eight years have represented the best stretch in the franchise’s history because of him. Only three players in the NBA have added-up more 40-point games. James Harden will possibly pass Kobe Bryant for the third-most 50-point performances this season, and he also has a good shot of passing Michael Jordan for the Number two spot in the coming seasons.
Harden is so good at what he does that the defenders are firmly placed on his left hip to prevent his unstoppable moves. When one defender fails, a new strategy is opted by the team. In the 2019–20 season, the teams trapped Harden before he even stepped past half-court. Harden is undoubtedly the greatest scorer of this century, but the way he defends may be the greatest testament to his greatness.
9. Nikola Jokić – Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić’s steady evolution has been one of the NBA’s most delightful storylines in recent years. In the 2019 playoffs, the Serbian center served as the greatest affirmation of his brilliance. Jokić became the second player in NBA history to average twenty-five points, twelve rebounds, and eight assists in a single playoff. His sixty-four-minute triple-double against the Blazers served as a historic moment in his career.
Jokić’s offensive brilliance is infectious. He’s one of the most fantastic passers of all time, averaging seven assists per game in each of the last two seasons. Jokic isn’t just unselfish; he’s also downright gleeful to feed his teammates. Denver’s Jamal Murray could not have asked for a better superstar alongside Jokić.
8. Luka Dončić – Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Dončić could conceivably be in contention for the No. 1 spot on this list a year from now. In just his second NBA season, he averaged 9.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 28.8 points, made the All-Star team and the first-team All-NBA, and finished fourth in MVP voting, and was also the focal point of the most productive NBA offense ever recorded.
Dončić has worked his way up to the eighteenth position in just the last two years on the all-time triple-double list, having passed players including Kobe Bryant, Draymond Green, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Dončić is a fearless shooter that one can’t leave him open, and his floor game is a challenge to pick apart, considering his exceptional passing skills and unselfish nature (he finished third in assists per game). He was capable of pushing the L.A. Clippers to the brink in the playoffs before fatigue, injuries, and bad luck that derailed the Mavericks last season.
7. Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard led the team to the number eight seed from outside the Western Conference’s playoff picture with several eye-catching performances. Overall, Lillard averaged career highs with thirty points and eight assists per game while shooting 40.1 percent from the three-pointer. He is currently the team’s best long-range three-point shooter, taking 6.8 attempts last year and shooting forty percent on them. The league made several acquisitions throughout the offseason, bringing in versatile forwards like Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr., and center Enes Kanter to make them deadly. The team also re-signed forwards Rodney Hood and Carmelo Anthony.
6. Kawhi Leonard
Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard averaged a career-best 27.1 points per game, shooting a robust forty-seven percent from the field and thirty-seven percent from the three. He isn’t a pure stopper as he was early in his career, but the defense remains suffocating if he wants it to be. Playing without a great point guard for the first time in his career, the team wanted him to be more of a ball-handler last season, and he acquitted well as a passer when drawing extra defenders. That made the team deadly when they had their full complement of players and added elements to his game. He also recorded a career-high 4.9 assists a night last season.
5. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry’s shooting ability endures as one of the most impactful forces in the team’s history. Last season, due to his broken hand, he played in only five games. Curry doesn’t have a look, build, or style of a typical basketball star, but that does not stop him from being less useful. His presence alone on the offensive side of the ball completely changes the calculus of any defense. Curry is a killer with the ball in his hands as he’s a threat to pull up at any moment, but his off-ball work like his cutting, screening, and constant motion is commendable too. He could score fifteen points in a game and still be the reason for an elite offensive performance because of his off-ball work that helps the team perform better.
4. Anthony Davis – Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis’ versatility, especially on the defensive side, covers up for any team lineup’s perceived deficiencies. Davis could be a bonafide Defensive Player of the Year candidate for many seasons to come. In 2020, he shifted between power forward and center, and he was the ultimate eraser for the team. The team’s coach, Frank Vogel, could cook up aggressive schemes because Davis served as the top backline defender. During the regular season last year, he guarded the perimeter stars like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard with ease. Right now, very few players in the world are as impactful as Davis when he’s locked in on the defensive end, and that skill alone makes him a powerful and precious player.
Davis ranks fourth on this list only because the players above him have either been the number one player of a championship team or won MVP or both.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is a seven-foot-tall athletic marvel. To win games, he uses his length, explosiveness, and intelligence. He also dominates the interior, breeds transition offense, and finds teammates. The Defensive Player of the Year and the two-time reigning MVP continues to improve each year, launching those threes, getting to the foul line more, rebounding better, and making even more of his time, all while shouldering a league-high 37.5 percent usage rate in 2019–20.
2. Kevin Durant – Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant is back this season after a torn Achilles. He is one of the greatest scorers in the league’s history because of his size, skill, and pure shooting ability. Durant will be spending time at the center this season. The team’s willingness to experiment, and his apparent lack of time restriction, bodes well for his body’s state. Durant has always transcended positions because of the height advantage and scores irrespective of how good the defender is. It would be interesting to see him working more as a screener, and the focal point of a five-out offense is undoubtedly intriguing. With age, as Durant’s responsibilities change, his playmaking and rebounding skills will trend upwards, and the value he brings defensively might start to diminish.
1. LeBron James – It’s been 18 years of Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James in the NBA. He has now spent nearly half of his entire life here. In the last NBA season, we were reminded that there is not another player you’d take ahead of him. He’s currently the best player on the planet. The Lakers’ championship would not have happened without him. While giving full credit to Anthony Davis, it is a known fact that his on-court life has never been more comfortable, with James on the floor to dictate where the ball should be, draw defenses, and maximize the quality and ease of his shot attempts.
James can score on any given night, he can rebound the ball, and he is the most splendid passing forward in the NBA’s history. He currently is the only player in history that sits in the top ten for points scored and assists. He also sits in the top fifty all-time in rebounds. He’s the only NBA player ever to record over 34,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, and 9,000 assists. James’ defeated not one but two of the league’s greatest dynasties for championships in the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.