Welcome back to the HoopsHabit’s NBA player rankings! Every week you will find a ranking of the top 20 players the NBA has to offer. Each week the players will go up and down based on their performance. Unfortunately, players currently injured cannot be ranked (for obvious reasons) and will have to be left off the list until they return to the floor (sorry, Kobe Bryant fans).
Now … let’s begin.
|20. Brook Lopez||10. LaMarcus Aldridge|
|19. John Wall||9. Derrick Rose|
|18. Blake Griffin||8. Carmelo Anthony|
|17. Kyrie Irving||7. Paul George|
|16. Damian Lillard||6. Stephen Curry|
|15. Anthony Davis||5. Kevin Love|
|14. Dwight Howard||4. James Harden|
|13. Dwyane Wade||3. Kevin Durant|
|12. Tony Parker||2. Chris Paul|
|11. DeMarcus Cousins||1. LeBron James|
20. Brook Lopez (C, Brooklyn Nets)
Brook Lopez may be the most important piece to the Nets this season. Even with all their newly acquired assets, Lopez remains one of the few players on the team who can score in the post, and quite often. So far this season, Lopez is averaging 18.3 points per game, which comes in as best on the team. Lopez has solidified himself as the most consistent scoring option when he’s on the floor. Out of all the centers in the league, he possesses excellent post moves and proficient footwork that can propel him to be one of the best centers in the league. The only thing holding him back is his inability to gather a high amount of rebounds. So far he has only averaged 5.7 rebounds per game, which ranks tied for 72nd in the league. If Lopez can improve his rebounding ability, there will be few who are able to stop him. For now, though, Brook Lopez falls in at No. 20.
19. John Wall (PG, Washington Wizards)
John Wall has definitely been solid in this first week of the season. In three games, he has averaged 19 points, 8.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Although Wall’s accomplishments seem fantastic, it has all been for not as the Wizards remain winless on the season, but it is still early and many still expect them to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Regardless of what the Wizards record is, Wall is playing fantastically and definitely deserves a spot on this list. Few point guards in the league have the ability to score almost 20 points and dish out over 8 assists night in and night out. If the Wizards aren’t careful and get some solid talent around Wall, they could lose him to a contending team. All that aside, John Wall ranks No. 19 on the top players list.
18. Blake Griffin (PF, Los Angeles Clippers)
Oh Blake … oh Blake. OK, so Blake Griffin’s numbers for this week look great on paper. He averaged 20.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in the three contests the Clippers have had. That looks great, right? Wrong. On many occasions he hesitated to take wide open jump shots and the baskets he did score came from open dunks, baskets in transition or layups. Either he still can’t shoot from outside the paint or he can but is scared to. In either case, he is a big reason that the Clippers half-court offense struggles. Blake Griffin can be the best power forward the NBA has to offer, but as of right now he is an incredibly athletic power forward whose only asset is the ability to dunk on any player that stands in his way. That’s not what the Clippers need him to do. If Blake gets his game together, the Clippers are a serious championship contender. If not, they have to rely on Chris Paul and their outside shooting to get them far into the playoffs. Good shooting only lasts so long, just as the Golden State Warriors.
17. Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)
Kyrie did not exactly have the hot start many predicted him to have, but nonetheless he has played quite well. In three contests, he has averaged 15.3 points and seven assists while shooting 34 percent from the field (OUCH!). Point guard and centers usually hold the highest field goal percentages as they take the shots closest to the basket most often. For Kyrie to average 34 percent from the field is simply unacceptable. The Cavs have a serious chance at making the playoffs this season, but if Irving does not perform well and continues to shoot a poor percentage, it will be very difficult for them to make a strong run. Kyrie shooting better means more points, which means more wins for the Cavs. “Uncle Drew” comes in at No. 17.
16. Damian Lillard (PG, Portland Trail Blazers)
I see Damian Lillard came to play this season. So far, he has averaged 25 points, 5.3 assists and five rebounds per game. This mark is incredibly impressive for the start of the season and has propelled Portland to a very solid 2-1 start. Many have counted Portland out of the playoff hunt in the very strong Western Conference, but Lillard has other plans. Along with fellow bash brother LaMarcus Aldridge, Lillard is showing that he is in no sophomore slump as he enters his second season, but is here to stay and plans on being part of the elite players group. Damian Lilliard comes in at No. 16.
15. Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Pelicans)
What a monster start to the season Anthony Davis is having! In three games, he has averaged 23.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and four blocks per game. As one of the league’s most versatile players, Davis uses his size, speed and long wingspan to both score points around the paint, gather rebounds and protect the rim with ferocious blocks. With a very young core group of players, Davis leads the forefront as this group hopes to make a playoff run. It will take all they have, but with Davis leading the way, just about anything could happen. Expect great things coming from him all season as Anthony Davis falls at No. 15.
14. Dwight Howard (C, Houston Rockets)
Well … I guess Dwight Howard isn’t hurt anymore (*groans from Lakers fans across the country*). Howard has been dominant on the glass in his three games with Houston, collecting an average of 17 rebounds per game; now that’s the Dwight Howard we’re used to seeing. This rebound mark is even more impressive when you factor in that Howard has to share floor time with fellow center Omir Asik, who has been averaging 11.7 boards per game. If Asik were not on the floor Howard could very likely be averaging rebounds into the mid-20s. But where Howard still has deficiencies in his offensive game. Granted, James Harden remains the No. 1 offensive option, but Dwight is only averaging 15 points per game. Yes, it’s only been three games. Do I think he will begin to score more? Probably. But that does not mean he has magically gained proficient post moves. He still lacks solid footwork and a go-to move on the block. He will not be the best center in the league until he gains those things in his arsenal.
13. Dwyane Wade (SG, Miami Heat)
We are seeing the effects of Dwyane Wade’s bad knees early in the season. He sat out the second game to rest but all in all has proved to be very effective in his time on the court. In his two games played so far, Wade has averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. Considering he’s sharing shots with Bron Bron and Chris Bosh, these numbers are not bad at all. We should not expect to see Wade play anything close to a full season as coach Erik Spoelstra will likely intend to use Wade at full force during the playoffs. Wade, despite his knee problems, still remains one of the league’s best players who possesses one of the highest basketball IQs. He will be an invaluable asset for the Heat during the playoffs even if he is not at 100 percent health. Dwyane Wade earns the No. 13 spot.
12. Tony Parker (PG, San Antonio Spurs)
How is it that Tony Parker always flies under the radar? Whatever the answer to that mysterious questions is, Parker continues to dazzle as he remains one of the best point guards in the league. So far this season, Parker has averaged 18 points and eight assists per game. While Tim Duncan battles injury (and old age) Parker has been carrying the offensive load for the team. Parker will surly have another fantastic season as the Spurs will likely earn a high seed in a very talented Western Conference but yet fall under the radar as they do every year. Tony Parker is what makes the Spurs menacing. His ability to get past almost any defender in the league but yet stop on a dime and hit a jumper in their face is something he’s been doing for years and will continue to do as long as he is in the league. Tony Parker comes in at No. 12.
11. DeMarcus Cousins (C, Sacramento Kings)
Well, well, well. Look what we found here, everyone. DeMarcus Cousins can play some basketball! Cousins has come out with a serious bang this season averaging 20.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. I don’t know if it is the mentorship of the great Shaquille O’ Neal that has worked magic on Cousins, but something is certainly different about this young man. He has channeled his aggression into grabbing rebounds and he has certainly been working on his offensive game. He actually makes some of those 20 foot jump shots he takes (don’t make that a habit though, DeMarcus). All jokes aside, Cousins’ play so far has him on the watch for the title of best center in the league. Be on the watch for an amazing season. DeMarcus Cousins comes in at No. 11.
10. LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, Portland Trail Blazers)
Another season, another very solid start for LaMarcus Aldridge. In his three games played, Aldridge has averaged 25.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. His scoring mark puts him fifth in the league and second among power forwards. Combined with Damian Lillard, the Blazers could make a serious run at the playoffs with these two manning the offensive front. If the Blazers hope to make a playoff run, Aldridge must get consistent shots in the paint and avoid the temptation to take jump shots; this team needs more high percentage shots from him as they already have enough players more than willing to hoist up long-range shots. As a great all-around scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge gets the No. 10 spot.
9. Derrick Rose (PG, Chicago Bulls)
Well, not exactly what all of us expected from Derrick Rose in his first three regular season games back. Actually, let me not mince words here, Derrick Rose is playing down right terrible! In his first three games back, Rose is averaging 14.3 points and 4.3 assists per game while shooting a measly 28 percent from the field. Yes, you read that correctly; Derrick Rose is shooting 28 percent from the field. Rose’s scoring average has him tied for 64th best in the league. This is not the Derrick Rose we’re used to seeing. Do I think he’ll come back to his true form at some point. Of course. But it better be sooner rather than later because if he does not, the Bulls are in big trouble. They rely on him to take a majority of their shots and score a majority of their points. If he continues to shoot poorly from the field, he is desperately hurting his team. Rose will find himself much further down this list if he does not pick it up. For now, I generously give him the No. 9 spot.
8. Carmelo Anthony (SF, New York Knicks)
Melo has come out of the gates struggling. Although he has been getting his due points (21 ppg), he has struggled greatly shooting the ball while posting a mark of just 37 percent from the field. Like Derrick Rose and the Bulls, the Knicks rely on Melo to produce a majority of their offense and when he consistently shoots the ball at such a low percentage, it slows down the pace and overall flow of the offense. Carmelo has been notorious for not passing the ball and being lazy on defense and it does not look like those will be changing any time soon. While posting a 3.3 assists per game mark, Melo continues to make the choice to keep the ball and attempt to score on his own. Anthony needs to improve his shooting percentage and dish out the ball a bit more if the Knicks even want to entertain a title hope. Carmelo Anthony comes in at No. 8.
7. Paul George (SF, Indiana Pacers)
Well … Paul George is pretty good, huh? Let’s examine exactly how good, though. This season, George is averaging 25.7 points (more than 12 points better than his career average), 8.3 rebounds (almost three rebounds better than his career average) and 4.3 assists per game. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is 28.8, which ranks eighth in the league (the league average is 15). As the leader of an Indiana Pacers team that could go very far in the playoffs, George certainly has come to play this season and it does not look like he has any intentions of slowing down. As one of the best young players in the league, Indiana will be privileged to have him wearing their uniform for many years.
6. Stephen Curry (PG, Golden State Warriors)
Stephen Curry gets buckets, period, and it is nothing short of incredible what he’s done so far this season. In three contests, Curry has averaged 23.3 points while dishing out nine assists per game. He’s shot 57 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point land. Oh yeah, he hasn’t missed a free throw either. Just another week at the office for Steph, though. He has earned the title of the league’s best shooter and is a deadly threat to any and every defender in the league. With the addition of Andre Iguodala and his defense-first mindset, the Warriors are poised to have a franchise-best season. Whatever success comes from this year, it will be in large part of Curry. Stephen Curry earns the No. 6 spot.
5. Kevin Love (PF, Minnesota Timberwolves)
Kevin Love is a monster and a menace. So far this season, Love has averaged 29.7 points and 14.7 rebounds a game. Wow. These could be numbers that Love finished the season with, given Minnesota’s lack of offensive power. Nonetheless, Love remains not only the best rebounding forward in the league but the best scoring power forward in the league. His mark of 29.7 points per game leads the league so far and I can definitely see Love finishing the season close to that number. With his unprecedented nose for the ball and outside shooting touch, Kevin Love earns the No. 5 spot.
4. James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets)
Last season we all saw just exactly what James Harden can do when he is given the ball and permission to shoot where and whenever he wants to. Last season Harden averaged 26 points per game (almost 10 points better than his last season with the Thunder), five rebounds and six assists per game. Harden isn’t far behind the league’s best, though, which is particularly impressive given how successful he was in redeeming points out of unfavorable situations last season. Houston’s offense was so simple that a halted pick-and-roll sequence would often come without contingencies, leaving Harden to create something off the dribble with the shot clock on his back. He managed by drawing fouls on a ridiculous 16 percent of his isolation possessions. Harden is one of the most explosive players in the league and has one of the most intimidating offensive games as he can score from anywhere on the floor. The big question of everyone’s mind is: will the combination of Harden and Dwight lead to the success or demise of the Rockets? Either way, James Harden comes in at No. 4.
3. Kevin Durant (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder)
Is this the year that Kevin Durant takes over for LeBron James as the No. 1 player in the world? Probably not, but it is possible. We aren’t going to see a decline from the incumbent, but Durant is still only 24 years old and there’s the potential for another massive leap in production and it would have to come in two areas. Durant is already established as the best scorer in basketball. Only he and Larry Bird have ever truly competed for a scoring crown while shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from downtown and 90 percent from the free-throw line. It’s his defense and facilitating that could still use some work. Durant took strides in both areas last year, but he’s still too turnover prone when passing the ball and his defense doesn’t blow anyone away. He must establish himself as a true stopper in order to challenge LeBron. Again, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s possible that we see that type of improvement over the course of just one season from this MVP candidate.
2. Chris Paul (PG, Los Angeles Clippers)
Chris Paul is on a mission. He is here to win a championship. So far this season he has averaged 27.7 points, 12 assists and four steals per game. He has propelled the Clippers to a 2-1 start and will continue to be their leader for the entire season. He has led the league in assists twice and steals per game five times. He is also a five-time All-Defensive team selection. At the age of 28, Chris Paul is in his prime and it’s evident in his orchestration of the Clippers. Paul can beat you pretty much anyway you can think of: off the dribble, driving to the hoop, from downtown. But what makes him so special is that he uses his offensive threat to get everyone else involved in the offense, evident by the career years players often have once they join his team. Do not be mistaken, Chris Paul and the Clippers will be a serious threat to not only win the West, but to go to the Finals.
1. LeBron James (SF, Miami Heat)
Until someone dethrones him … LeBron is still the King. Watch out, though, Chris Paul is coming for him.