ESPN recently completed its list of the top 100 players, I thought when it came to the top 20 they did a really good job with a few exceptions. I am not nearly as ambitious so here is my list of the top 10 players in the NBA. The 3 things I look at when ranking these players is production, value, and impact. By production i am referring to statistical production, the tangible essentially, with value I am referring to a player's value to his team, and impact refers to the unseen ways that players help their team (drawing double teams, defense, making the extra pass, being a good teammate in general,). I am assuming full health for the players on this list, if it is foreseeable that they can reach 100% at some point within the next season.
1. Lebron James: Its hard to argue that he is not the best player in the league. He is a top 3 scorer, an elite passer and rebounder for his position, and one of the top 3 defensive wings in the league. He is the best all around player in the league and it is not close.
2. Dwight Howard: A great defensive player at a spot where defense is more important than any other. He is also an elite rebounder and despite complaints about his robotic offensive game he regularly has a PER in the mid 20's. Intangibly I am not a fan, i think he, like Lebron, is a bit of flake but playing in LA with Kobe should bring out the best in him.
3. Kevin Durant: Numbers 2,3, and 4 are interchangeable as far as I'm concerned. Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the NBA. He can score from anywhere and in a variety of different ways, off the catch, off the dribble, on the break, or at the line, it really doesn't matter. The fact that he lead the NBA in scoring despite playing next to high usage player like Russell Westbrook speaks to this. He is also a very good rebounder and has improved his shot creation abilities. Intangibly he seems to be a guy who "gets it."
4. Chris Paul: I've spoken in a prior post about Chris Paul, so I won't go into too much detail about him here, but i will say that he might be the best combination in the NBA of smarts and skills. His ability to shoot from all over is as impressive as the intelligence he displays when orchestrating the Clipper's offense.
5. Dwyane Wade: Wade has been a top 5 player for about half a decade, but due to the love fest for Kobe Bryant he has become under appreciated. ESPN NBA rank had him rated 8th to Bryant's 6th, this certainly wasn't based on production as Wade has for a few years running been the more productive player. Defensively most league observers would give Wade an edge as well. I am not sure Wade is quite the offensive player stats would suggest, but he is not far off. Its tempting to rank him higher, but he plays with the best player in the league and it seems that he has come to rely more on Lebron and Bosh as he ages.
6. Derrick Rose: If I were to do tiers I would put players 1-4 in one tier and Wade/ Rose would be the only players in the 2nd tier. They are probably the two best players in the league at getting to the basket, Rose is the better shooter and passer, but Wade defends better and scores more efficiently. No one puts more pressure on the back line of a defense than Rose and I have stated before that I think he is undervalued as a passer, if he could be little more judicious with his shots (or if he shot a little better) he could be a top 3 player.
7. Kevin Love: Love starts the list of borderline superstar players. Offensively he is definitely a superstar, he can shoot, pass, and as everybody knows he can grab offensive rebounds. A guy who grabs 13 rebounds a game and shoots around 40% from 3 is pretty much unheard of. My issue with placing Love with the previous 6 guys is that his defense is mediocre, and being that he plays power forward that is pretty important.
8. Deron Williams: Arguably the best combination of passing and scoring in a point-guard. I rank him ahead of Westbrook because he produced similarly despite playing with Kris Humphries and Anthony Marrow, as opposed to James Harden and Kevin Durant.
9. Russell Westbrook: Compared to Derrick Rose often, and understandably so they have similar size and athleticism and a similar statistical profile. I have never seen it however, I don't think Westbrook creates as well as D-Rose, and this is because he constantly seeks his own shot. This doesn't make him selfish, but I think it does make him a shooting guard. The difference between scoring PGs like Derrick Rose, Tony Parker, and Deron Williams is that they wouldn't use as many possessions as Westbrook does playing next to an elite offensive player like Durant. If he weren't playing out of position he could be the next Dwyane Wade, but as it is he is a very good player.
10. Steve Nash: He has probably the best combination of shooting and passing in the NBA and the offenses he orchestrates are consistently among the best in the NBA, despite some less than stellar supporting casts. He is sub-par defensively and somewhat dependent on a wide open offensive style, but he is still highly underrated.