The NBA season starts today *breathes a sigh of relief* and with many story lines entering this season, this year will hopefully be a good one.
The following rankings are a prediction on who will be in the top 5 in the NBA per position based off:
- Their play last season – have they shown glimpses of being dominant/already dominated in the 2014 season?
- Age – Players tend to get better as they approach their late 20s and then regress as they enter their late 30s.
- Quantity of playing time – is a player missing the first 35 games because of injury?
- Quantity of playing time in previous seasons – has a player played in the last 1/2 years?
1. Chris Paul
Still the best point-guard in the NBA. His ability to run the point-guard position and control the tempo of the game and his team’s offence, whether that be scoring efficiently or distributing the ball, is unmatched,
2. Russell Westbrook
No-one in the NBA from the point-guard position is more explosive and dominates his opponent on a nightly basis athletically in the way Westbrook can. With KD out for the first month of the season the burden of carrying a team will be on his shoulders and it should be a roller-coaster ride to watch what the Thunder will look like with him as the number 1 scoring option.
3. Stephen Curry
Quickly developing into one of the greatest shooters of all time, Curry showed last season that not only can he fill it up from deep in a hurry but he also distribute the ball at a great rate (8.5apg last season). It will be interesting to see how he and his splash brother develop this season and whether the Warriors, under Steve Kerr, can improve upon their seeding from last season.
4. Tony Parker
An old man in a young man’s game; Parker is considerably older than many of the all-star caliber point-guards in the NBA today however with age comes experience and Parker continues to produce at an incredibly efficient level on a nightly basis and has become one of the better scorers in the fourth quarter. His ability is often dismayed as “It’s just the Spurs system” but similar to CP3 his ability to run the offence, control the tempo of the game and make smart decisions especially in the 4th quarter lands him in the upper echelon of point-guards in the league.
5. John Wall
Averaging a career high 8.8 assists per game last year John Wall has proven to be more than just an athletic guard with handles. Along with his great court vision and stellar handles Wall has quickly developed into one of the premier defenders at the point-guard position. With veterans such as Paul Pierce joining the Wizards and the continued development of himself and shooting-guard Bradley Beal it will be interesting to see where Wall can lead the Wizards to this season.
Honourable mentions (not in order): Goran Dragic, Ty Lawson, Damien Lillard, Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Teague, Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving.
1. James Harden
Love him or hate him Harden is still the number 1 shooting-guard in the league. Posting averages of 25/6/5 last season at 46% FG and 37% from 3 no-one in the league at the shooting-guard position produces at his level on a nightly basis, as for his defence…hopefully that improves this year after a summer of being embarrassed on social media.
2. Dwyane Wade
After only playing 54 games last season and having a terrible finals performance Wade will be looking to have a bounce-back year, especially with the absence of LeBron James. While it’s easy to dismay Wade for such few number of games he played it’s also easy to forget he posted averages of 19/5/5 on 55% FG. In fairness a lot of that has to do with playing along side LeBron but credit must be given where it’s due and it’s evident Wade had decided to become an incredibly efficient player who can still contribute on both sides of the floor.
3. Lance Stephenson
BORN READY. After leading the NBA in triple doubles last season and being the number one rebounder on his team *side eyes Roy Hibbert* Stephenson decided to join the Charlotte Hornets and team up with big man Al Jefferson who quietly posted 22/11 last year on 51% FG. With a 20 and 10 big man as well as a skilful point-guard in Kemba Walker it will be interesting to see how Stephenson adapts his off the ball game after proving to be an excellent dribbler. Pick and rolls with Jefferson should be an exciting thing to watch this year.
4. Bradley Beal
Although out for the start of the season, Beals 18/4/4 and 40% shooting from 3 (42% FG) caught the attention of many eyes last year as the Wizards ventured into the playoffs. With the continued development of John Wall, Wall and Beal will hopefully be a back-court force for years to come.
5. DeMar DeRozan
DeMar DeRozan posted 23/4/4 on 43% last season and a career high 31% from 3 and was named to the all-star team for the first time. The argument could even be made that he should be higher up on this list. After being on a 48 win team last season it’ll be interesting to see where the Raptors end up this season in a slightly more competitive Eastern Conference.
Honourable mentions (not in order): Monta Ellis, Klay Thompson, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo, Kevin Martin, Jamal Crawford
1. LeBron James
All eyes will be on LeBron this season (duh) as he heads back to Cleveland. With fellow all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the roster expectations are high. With Durant out for the start of the season LeBron tops the small-forward rankings.
2. Kevin Durant
Durant was my pick for the 2015 MVP until he was named injured. The 2014 MVP posted a career high in points per game and assists per game last season and led the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals. Despite missing the opening 4 or so weeks of the season there’s no denying KD is a top 2 small forward and player in the NBA.
3. Carmelo Anthony
Despite playing on the worst roster he’s ever had, Carmelo managed to post a career high in 3PT% last season at 40.2% and a career high in rebounds per game at 8.1. The Knicks missed the playoffs, much to the amusement of non-Knicks fans everywhere and with a similar on-court personnel this season it’s hard to see them in the playoffs again this year despite the additions of Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher. Hate him or love him, Anthony is still one of the better scorers in the game and the third best small forward in the NBA.
4. Kawhi Leonard
After winning finals MVP there are big expectations for Kawhi Leonard. He’s proven to be one of the best defenders in the NBA and was named to the all defensive second team last season. His continued development will be something to look forward to this season.
5. Chandler Parsons
After leaving the Rockets for the Mavericks this season to join Dirk, Tyson Chandler and Ellis it’ll be interesting to see how Parsons meshes with this new look Dallas squad. Posting solid averages of 17/6/4 on 47% last season and being only 25 years old the future is bright for Parsons.
Honourable mentions: Trevor Ariza, Nicolas Batum, Jimmy Butler,
1. Anthony Davis
Perhaps what separates AD from the other PFs in the league (with the exception of Duncan) is that he’s an elite defender. Davis led the league in blocks per game last season in only his second year in the league at 2.8. His long wingspan, quick reflexes and lateral movement has proven to cause issues for defenders on a nightly basis. The sky is limit for Anthony Davis.
2. Blake Griffin
Griffin was, in my opinion, the best PF of the 2014 NBA season. Blake showed off a new and improved mid-range jumpshot last season and with CP3 out for a long stretch Griffin proved the “all he can do is dunk” crowd wrong…very wrong.
3. Kevin Love
Love had a case for being the best PF in the NBA last season with the monster number he put up, but basketball is more than numbers. Now in Cleveland playing with LeBron and Kyrie it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts his game.
4. Chris Bosh
Although heavily criticised for his rebounding (or lack there of) Bosh has shown the ability to adapt his game over the last 4 years that he’s been at the Heat. With LeBron gone and Wade playing what seems like once a week many expect Bosh to go back to his 20/10 Toronto days. While I think that’s a bit of a stretch, there’s no doubt his scoring should increase this season.
5. Dirk Nowitzki
There were quite a few players I could have put at the number 5 spot, Dirk, Duncan or even LaMarcus Aldridge. In the end I went with Dirk simply because of the year he had in 2014. While Duncan’s season was more successful I think it’s fair to say a higher burden was placed on Dirk last season than Duncan (no disrespect). With the addition of Parsons there’ll be less offensive pressure on Dirk and hopefully he’ll have another great offensive season.
Honourable Mentions: Tim Duncan, Serge Ibaka, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Kenneth Faried,
1. Dwight Howard
DaWhite Howard in the post dawggggggggggg *HANNNNNNNNN* (sorry). Dwight is still the best center in the NBA and despite playing second fiddle to James Harden offensively has shown at time that he still can go into beast mode (see Round 1 of last season’s playoffs)
2. DeMarcus Cousins
Despite his inability to play a lick of defence DMC comes in number two in my list of centers. Averaged 23/12 last season while shooting a career high 49.6% from the field hopefully DMC can learn to keep his emotions under control and better his shot selection this year. With the absence of Isaiah Thomas it’ll be interesting to see how his game adapts as Thomas made his job on the court a lot easier last season.
3. Al Horford
If Horford can stay healthy (I’m betting he will) he’ll do wonders for the Hawks. After he went down injured last season the Hawks slipped from 3rd in the Eastern conference to 8th. In the 29 games he did play he averaged a respectable 20/9 on 57% FG which you can argue would have been much better statistically had he not been playing alongside 18/9 Paul Millsap.
4. Joakim Noah
The best defender in the NBA. Although Noah can be overrated at times (those that think he’s the best center in the NBA are over-rating him) there’s no denying that Noah brings a lot of energy and intangibles to the table. His ability to move his feet laterally quickly, play post defence, change shots in the paint as well as distribute the ball on offence (5.4apg last season) is un-matched at the center position and with the addition of Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol this year the future for the Bulls looks much better.
5. Marc Gasol
Although he only played 59 games last season Gasol had averages of 15/7 and 4 assists a game while anchoring the defence that forced the number 2 seeded Thunder to 7 games in the first round. In an even tougher Western Conference where no-ones place in the top 8 is guaranteed it’ll be a tough ask for this Memphis team, who was dead last in offensive rating last year, to make the playoffs.
Honourable mention: DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Robin Lopez, Marcin Gortat, Al Jefferson, Brook Lopez.