A week into the 2014-15 NBA season we've had a solid sample size to judge which players have earned top-10 spots. The very top of this list has no surprises but you might be surprised at who landed the spots behind the two usual suspects. This concludes the three-part series of top-30 players and this one will probably stir up the most debate...
10. John Wall
Russell Westbrook takes the home the award as most electrifying point guard from an athletic standpoint but John Wall is no. 2. As of November 9, he’s averaging 19-9-4…an improvement from 2013 and a continuation of his general upward trend. Wall will benefit tremendously from the veteran leadership of Paul Pierce. He’s not yet in the Westbrook-Paul-Curry tier of point guards but he’s knocking on the door.
9. Kevin Love
The Cavaliers have been significantly underwhelming thus far into the 2014-15 NBA season and Love’s start has been humbling as well. As LeBron said…
Cleveland has three stars, so there’s no reason to worry. They’re in the East, so there’s definitely no reason to worry. And Kevin Love has shown one of the most unique combinations of rebounding, outside shooting, passing, and inside scoring in the league.
8. Russell Westbrook
I realize that in years past I’ve eliminated injured players from discussion in my top-X players columns. However, Westbrook will be back sooner rather than later and his overall value to the 2014-15 NBA season is in the eight-spot (with or without injury). Westbrook rounds out the eight players in the NBA that I would want to start a franchise with…that is, if I expected to be in title contention. Love, Wall, Harden, and those All Stars aren’t no. 1 players on a championship-caliber team. His athleticism and tenacity are unparalleled and as much as I’ve bashed his style of play, there’s no doubt he’s one of the league’s most talented and entertaining players.
7. Carmelo Anthony
The hate that Melo gets is often unreasonable. As Bill Simmons wrote in a July 2014 column, the supporting casts for the majority of his career have been abysmal. He’s had nobody to support him. It’s kind of like 2014 Kobe Bryant jacking up 35 shots a game…except Anthony is actually putting up MVP-worthy scoring numbers instead of barely 40% from the field. He’s the opposite of a mamba. You know he’s coming in for the kill long before you see him and he still gets you. His defense was never anemic, he just has Amare Stoudemire behind him. With the Knicks expirings after this season, the Knicks could easily land a nice haul, especially if Rajon Rondo elects to don the blue and orange. The team aspect of basketball is criminally underrated and ironically that favors a guy like Anthony who has nobody to rely on. Pair him with another (super)star and you have a title contender. The seven-time All-Star is the sixth-youngest to reach 20,000 points in his career and arguably the league’s best pure scorer.
6. Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin made huge strides last season, adding a jumpshot and refined post-game to what was previously strictly #LobCity. The former no. 1 overall pick is putting up a career-high 24.5 points per game and was a pre-season favorite to be in the MVP conversation for the 2015 campaign. The Clippers will be in a dogfight not just in the West…but in their own division. Blake will be expected to lead the Clips past the Warriors and the surprising Sacramento Kings. His free throws shooting, previously a liability, has improved significantly from 52 percent in 2012 to 77 percent thus far this year. Many people give the Clippers a shot at the 2015 NBA title and Blake Griffin is a primary reason for those inclinations.
5. Chris Paul
The other half of #LobCity, Chris Paul is often regarded as the league’s best point guard. While I disagree with that (in 2014-15), there’s no doubt that he is a do-it-all player who can score, facilitate, play shut-down perimeter defense, and lead his team. His playoff success thus far is limited, but with the Donald Sterling saga behind CP3 and Blake, there are no excuses for this team not to make a championship run with two top-six NBA players.
4. Steph Curry
It has taken me a bit longer than I had hoped to put this column together, but I had Steph as the no. 1 point guard in the league before the season began. He doesn’t have the athleticism that Westbrook. He doesn’t have the defense that Chris Paul has (although the Warriors do have the league’s best defense so far, and third-best in the league last year…so he’s not as bad as pundits would have you believe). But his scoring and shooting ability are unparalleled. He can weave through a defense like Steve Nash, shoot over a defense like Kevin Durant (despite his small frame), and has taken the Warriors beyond expectations as the clear best player on the team. There are only three players in the 2015 NBA season that I’d rather build a franchise around.
Seems like Curry has gone underappreciated of late. Averaging 28-7-7 (yes 7 RPG!) on 50-41-97 with a league leading 3.2 SPG. #MVP
— Elijah Abramson (@ElijahAbramson) November 9, 2014
3. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis can check game-winning basket off his checklist, as he finished off the Spurs in a shocker on Saturday. His talent and athletic ability are on-par with LeBron James, but Davis also has height and length that even LeBron doesn’t have. AD made his presence known on opening night, submitting a 26-17 performance…with nine blocks. Mike Conley said “he’s tall enough, long enough, athletic enough, skilled enough to do pretty much anything.” The no. 1 pick in the 2012 draft is atop the early season NBA.com MVP ladder and won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
2. Kevin Durant
KD is sidelined until December with a right foot fracture but I’m still giving him the respect he has earned as the undisputed second-best player in the NBA. The reigning MVP certainly won’t be able to repeat in 2015 (as I had predicted he would in the pre-season), but his value from December on is second-to-only-one LeBron James. Scoring machine personified, Durant’s seal on the game has already been made at age 26.
1. LeBron James
The real question: when will we not see LeBron James atop the ranking for best NBA player? Durant or Anthony Davis are likely heir to the crown of best player in the world, but for now the title still belongs to King James. His Cleveland Cavaliers have some work to do, but his singular worth would be astronomical in an NBA sans salary cap. Part of me wonders if slimming down was the right decision for a player who’s skillset is predicated on the ability to be a force of nature, but the two-time champion and former no. 1 pick is at the top (again).