Usually, when discussing the best players in the NBA, all aspects of the game are taken into consideration such as offensive and defensive ability, leadership, and how much they win. Within this article and more within the future, we’ll be simplifying the discussion by breaking it down by category ranking the top 10 players in today’s league. Starting it off with the 10 best offensive players, there will be multiple factors involved with figuring out the rankings such as statistics and the eye test (how well they score, how well they assist, how well they control their team’s offense, how easy they make the game seem on the offensive end, etc.). In today’s game there are more players more willing to play offense than defense making this list difficult to construct because of the long list of players that can score at a high degree. All players involved on this list have played at least 60 games averaging 25 minutes per game throughout the 2016-2017 campaign.
With that being said, here are the top 10 offensive players in the NBA today:
Honorable mentions: Karl-Anthony Towns, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, and Demar Derozan.
10. Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic is 22 years old with a great feel for the game. Nikola’s offensive skill set is as diverse as it gets for a Center, even during these days where Centers are more adaptable to “small ball basketball.” His 6 foot 11 inches and 250 pound frame is deceiving in the sense that he has decent ball handling skills to go compliment his great passing ability. His vision is similar to a true point guard’s with the way he can conjure up no look passes and thread passes through tight lanes to his teammates. He can stretch the floor and knock down shots in the perimeter as well as outside behind the 3-point line. He shot 57.8% from the field and 32.4% from 3 while also shooting 82% at the stripe during the 2016-2017 campaign. His vision and scoring talent make him a huge threat in pick n roll or pick n pop situations. As agile as he can be, Jokic can grab extra opportunities for offense with rebounding (2.9 oreb per game). He can play with his back to and against the basket. Nikola ranked 8th in league in PER with 26.40 rating surrounding him with the biggest names in the league in that category. Also, he is the 2nd ranked Center in the league in assists behind Al Horford. In real plus-minus the Joker ranks 6th in the league and his rank is mostly due to his offense since his defense is fairly poor.
9. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is easily one of the best finishers in the league once he gets 5 feet from the basket. Nobody in the league has a craftier lay-up than Irving. Somehow, no matter what the defense does to try to stop him, he figures out a way (with the help of great body control) to not just get the shot up, but to get a basket that usually comes as a package deal with a free-throw. His ball handling is of the top echelon in the NBA alongside the likes of Steph Curry and Jamal Crawford. Irving may seem like a strictly scoring type of guard although that is easy to assume due to the fact that he had Lebron (the ultimate facilitator) on his team for the past 3 seasons and prior to that, the only other scoring option on his team was an inconsistent Dion Waiters. Although, Irving is well aware he’s highly attractive to defenses and will dump the ball off to Tristian Thompson or a cutting Lebron when the defense collapses on him upon his attack to the basket or he’ll kick the ball out to a shooter behind the arc for an open 3. Irving flirted with the 50, 40, 90 club this season shooting 40% from 3, 90% from the free-throw line, but 47.3% from the field overall leaving just 2.7% away from that rare mark. He stated he requested a trade from the Cavs in effort to reach his full potential. We’ll see if he finds that with the Celtics and what he looks like in his full prime.
8. Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas easily had the best year of his career so far averaging 28.9ppg (3rd in league) and 5.9apg (tied for 18th in league). It’s obvious he is a score first point guard although he affects the game in multiple ways on offense. He runs the pick n roll and pick n pop to perfection and he attracts double-teams which causes an automatic open teammate. His PER was 26.59 placing him 7th within that category. He was 6th in the league in offensive real plus-minus. The reason why he is ranked within my top 10 offensive players is because, he is an absolute scoring machine that holds the ability to get a bucket in any way by any means possible, especially in the 4th quarter where he averaged 9.8ppg (5.1ppg within crunch-time) in 8.5mpg. They call him the 4th quarter king for a reason, whether his team is looking to gain a lead or build on it, he will get the job done for his team when they need him. It will be interesting to see what he can do for Cleveland once he fully recovers from his hip injury . Oh, and did I mention he’s only 5 foot 9 inches getting buckets in a league where players are an average height of 6 foot 7.5 inches?! In a height where the taller man usually prevails, Thomas knows how to use his height (or lack thereof) to his own advantage. He finished in 5th place in the MVP voting and I can tell you his defense played no part in assisting his case for the MVP award.
7. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is one of the toughest guards to defend in the league due to his pick n roll mastery. Going above the screen will give him an open lane and easy access to creating a shot for himself or his teammates. Sagging off the screen and to go under it is just as regrettable because Dame will pull up with no hesitation and can knock down the shot anywhere once he crosses the half-court line. He’s top 5 in the league in field goals attempted and top 10 in field goals made while shooting 44.4% from the field overall. Lillard is a consistent scorer with the intangibles to shoot the ball off the dribble, off screens, and attack the basket for a floater or strong lay-up. This previous season, he proved he is also capable of playing off the ball while sharing ball handling obligations with CJ McCollum, the Blazers 2nd option on offense. His effective field goal percentage was 63.3% this season which puts him just outside the top 10 in that category which is great for a player like Dame who is used to creating his own shot as the Blazers’ primary ball handler. His fluid style of play is exciting to watch. The way he controls the defense in front of him to do what he wants them to do like he is performing hypnosis on them with his patience on the offensive end is marvelous. He has proven to be the complete leader for this Blazer’s team and continues to improve his game each year on the offensive end while continuously proving all doubters to be incorrect. Unfortunately, his constant improvement has only led to All-Star snubs and most likely this upcoming season will result no differently due to the West becoming more stacked with superstars through free-agency and trades.
6. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is the ultimate floor general. His IQ for the game is arguably the highest in today’s game and he is one of the smartest players to ever play. In Paul’s 12th season, he averaged 18.1ppg on 47% shooting from the field (41% from 3) and 9.2apg to his 2.4 turnovers a game average. Paul’s unselfish style of play gives him a natural act for helping his teammates grow into their full potential with him leading the way and making the game easier for them by giving them constant open looks or setting them up to find another open teammate for a score. Paul has always been about putting his teammates before himself as a true point guard should. CP3 is a picky, sometimes hesitant shooter although when does shoot, he takes high percentage shots rather than randomly pulling up in his defender’s face (those occurred during his younger days). His proficiency running the pick n roll is impeccable as he can do absolutely whatever he desires with it and now that he has more shooters on his team in Houston, he will be scarier than ever to defend in pick n roll or pick n pop situations. It is safe to say the only thing in his way from being considered a perfectionist is a championship appearance and ring. We’ll also see how the Clippers pan out next season without him on the roster.
5. Lebron James
Lebron James. The one they call “The King.” That nickname is quite suiting for a player of his caliber who will finish his career inside the top 10 players of all-time because of his conquer everything involved with the sport of Basketball mentality. James has always excelled at everything possible for a player to do on a basketball court. He scores like a shooting guard, he passes like a point guard, and he rebounds like a center. Personally, I would have nicknamed him “The Terminator” because in his 14th year and as one of the older players in the league he still managed the led the league in minutes (again). To average 38.9 minutes per game in a career that sums up 1061 games and counting with the production of a minimal amount of minor injuries is outlandish. Lebron averaged 26.4ppg with 8.7apg and 8.6rpg which is just another year of Lebron being Lebron. Just like CP3, he is the ultimate floor general although Lebron is 6 foot 8 inches and 250 pounds with wide receiver speed and linebacker strength. When Lebron attacks the paint, it’s like watching a semi-truck fly through traffic with broken brakes. In other words, he’s impossible to stop when he puts his head down full of steam. He has always been a great slasher and over the years, with the determination of a true King, he developed a decent jump shot to add another dimension to his offensive game. His jumper isn’t the best by any means although it’s helped develop a non-guardable player. Between slashing to the basket and posting his defender in the perimeter for an eventual fade away jumper, it’s tricky to even think of how to guard Lebron. In an isolation situation he can blow by just about any player in the league with his speed, but if there is a player that he cannot blow by, he will simply power through them using his brute strength. Mix in his scoring ability with his impeccable basketball IQ and vision, and you get a player that has reached the NBA Finals 8 years in a row coming away with 3 championships.
4. Steph Curry
Steph Curry is arguably the greatest shooter ever just halfway through his career with his rare ability to shoot accurately both off the dribble and off the catch. He can knock down shots literally anywhere on the court contested or not. He possesses phenomenal ball-handling ability and great passing skills. He led the league in ORPM at 7.27 proving his value to Golden State’s offense regardless of their stacked roster. He is the league leader in 3PM and 3PA while averaging 41% from behind the arc. Steph doesn’t get to the line often due to his game working from the outside in although when he does, he is highly efficient shooting 89% from the line. Alongside Kevin Durant, he is the leader of an unselfish Warrior’s offense that leads the league in scoring, assists, and field goal percentage. His craftiness with the ball combined with his quick pull up from literally anywhere within the half court set up makes him and the entire Warriors’ offsense almost impossible to defend. It’s best to keep both hands up in prayer formation once Curry gets the ball with even an inch of space.
3. James Harden
James harden made a seamless transition from playing the 2 guard to the 1 guard this season. He was 2nd in the league in triple-doubles behind the all-time leader Russell Westbrook with 22 on the season tying 6th all time for most triple-doubles in a single season. He led the league in assists averaging 11.2 per game while coming in 2nd in scoring averaging 29.1ppg (once again behind Westbrook). Harden’s ability to attack the basket whether in iso situations or pick n roll and pick n pop make him one of the hardest players to guard. Harden’s drives to the basket usually result in a foul and he led the league in free throw attempts at 10.9 per game. About a third of his average in points come from the stripe. James is a player that is known strictly for his offense. His defense has improved over the past couple seasons although it’s still overall mediocre. This is why Mike D’Antoni is a great match for Harden with “offense only” system (as I like to call it). With Chris Paul on his team next season Harden will have to share ball-handling obligations which could ultimately help his game out a lot having another superstar guard on his team for defenders to focus on. His assist average will drop but his scoring efficiency will rise.
2. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double throughout the season for the first time since 1961 when Oscar Robertson accomplished the rare feat while leading the league in points per game (31.6ppg) and 3rd in assists per game (10.4apg). Russ ended the season tied for 2nd in OREB (1.7 per game) amongst guards. He led the league in PER at 30.70 and ranked 9th in RPM at 6.27. All within 34.6mpg which is ranked 20th in the league. His motor is constant and his energy never depreciates from the 1st minute to the 48th, from the 1st game to the 82nd. Westbrook literally OKC’s offense as his usage percentage was a league-leading 40.8% and when he sat down to rest, the team’s offense would stal; explaining his high number of shot attempts per game. Russ led league in 4th quarter points and was the most clutch within the final 5 minutes in close contests (6.2ppg in clutch situations). He would carry the team to victories on some nights having to score the final 10+ points and cap it off with close game winners. Without Westbrook on OKC after the departure of Kevin Durant, we would have seen OKC in the lottery portion of the draft rather than as the 6th seed in a rugged Western Conference.
1. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant had the most efficient season of his career this past season averaging 25ppg on 54% total from the field while taking 16.5 shots per game, 37.5% behind the arc shooting 5 3’s a game and 87.5% from the FT line averaging 6.2 attempts per game. For a non-center, those percentages are outstanding. With his 7 foot lengthy frame with a 7 foot 5 inches wingspan, it is virtually impossible to guard him because he has the size of a PF/C with the agility, handling, and shot ability of a 2 guard. He can pull up off the dribble anywhere on the court, he’s developed his strength in the post, and is not afraid to lay down the hammer in the midst of a crowded paint. One underrated aspect to his game is his passing ability. It’s mostly underrated due to everybody mainly focusing in awe how easy Durant makes it look to score on the best defenders in the world. He averaged 4.8apg which ranked 7th amongst forwards. Besides James Harden, there is not another player in the league that makes scoring look as easy as KD, and even then, James isn’t as efficient as KD. Durant is also an underrated passer and being a part of this Golden State offense where ball movement is a major key to its success has brought that out to light a bit more compared to his OKC days where his initial task was to score the ball since nobody else besides Westbrook could. Durant is the best offensive player in the league hands down.