I’ve been making lists my entire life.
I remember handwriting lists as a kid, ranking MLB players and professional wrestlers. Why? To this day, I don’t really know. Maybe simply to organize my interior thoughts?
That said, I’ve been ranking NBA players for roughly 30 years now. I used to get really in-depth with it, writing out my ranking criteria and explaining every bit of my rationale. Now, the older I get, the more I realize people don’t read intros and those types of things.
So… what the hell am I doing, here? Let’s get to the freakin’ list…
10. DeMar DeRozan, G/F, Chicago
Damn I am happy for this guy this season!
This list certainly isn’t based entirely on this season, but if it were, DeRozan would definitely be in my top five. He was kind of a forgotten man on his move to Chicago – we were hearing about Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball etc. – but “DD” has always been a model of consistency and durability. I snatched him up abnormally late in my fantasy draft this year, and of course I couldn’t be happier.
On the court, year over year, DeRozan continues to evolve and develop his overall game in different ways. Sure, he never got over the hump in Toronto and San Antonio failed to build around him, but the chips have fallen in the right places in Chicago. The young players look up to him. The top-tier guys look over and see no fear in their veteran leader’s eyes. Sure, I’m a Brooklyn fan, but I hope Chicago makes a strong playoff run so DeRozan can get the additional credit he deserves for this season and his career on the whole.
9. Ja Morant, PG, Memphis
Most are gonna have Jokic or Embiid for MVP, but on my ballot I’m going Morant vs. DeRozan. Ja is THE story of the NBA this season. Had he manned up and done the Dunk Contest, he could have had a Vince Carter-like icon year. Talk about taking over the zeitgeist.
Yet and still, on the court is all that matters. Ja is simply unguardable right now. He is too quick, too explosive, too determined. His repertoire evolves on a nightly basis. He can always score for himself, but he also never hesitates to involve his teammates at exactly the right moments. I really hope he can continue this momentum in the postseason. With Chris Paul and Draymond Green currently injured, I see this as a “down” year in the West. That said, I really think Ja can lead Memphis to a deep and potentially surprising run.
8. Trae Young, PG, Atlanta
Sure, Morant is the “sexier” name right now, but like I said earlier, it can’t entirely be about this season. Trae continues to rocket up the rankings over time. Right now he’s 6th in scoring and 8th in Efficiency; he drives, dishes, shoots and scores. (That sounded like a hockey analysis.)
As advertised a handful of years back, Trae really is the poor man’s Steph Curry. And really, not that poor. He could surpass Steph within a couple years as an all-around impact player. For now, top eight certainly ain’t bad for Trae.
7. LeBron James, G/F/C, Los Angeles
I wanted to keep him out of my top 10. I mean, he’s old and washed up, right?
Nah. You look at the stats and see 3rd in scoring and 4th in Efficiency. Only reason he isn’t in my top five is because he’s only played 47 games.
In pro basketball, it all comes down to closers and the postseason. Leaguewide, these guys right now are SO freakin’ talented. Any pro right now can rack up stats in the regular season. So, as we get into the top seven, we gotta think about the games that truly matter.
We all know the story… LeBron James has been there, done that. He’s got the experience, he’s got the rings. If I’m going into the 4th quarter of a playoff game, Bron-Bron is still one of the first seven players I’d want leading the way as an all-around force for my team.
6. Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia
Like I said earlier, most are gonna have Embiid or Jokic for MVP this season with both good reason and rationale.
But this isn’t an MVP list. Embiid simply hasn’t done enough in the playoffs, for me. Like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons etc. I haven’t seen what I need to see in the postseason. Maybe this season will be different with The Beard? But, honestly, I doubt it in the end.
Embiid is a throwback center who plays mean, and I love that. Also a true defensive force when engaged. But… until I see at least an Eastern Conference title, I’m holding him out of my top five for the time being.
5. Luka Doncic, G/F, Dallas
Now… what has Luka won, you say?
And yeah, yeah, I hear ya. But if we fail to consider context, we fail to consider everything. Luka’s Dallas teams have been WEAK. He is THE reason they are competitive, at all. One of the true one-man shows in this league right now.
He has the all-around offensive game and there really isn’t much to say. Dallas needs to improve its team around him. Analyzing as an individual, Luka is simply a freakin’ superstar.
4. Nikola Jokic, C, Denver
One of the best statistical players of all time, already. Never really seen Efficiency like this before. Talk about a “dream” player who can truly do it all… and unselfish, too!
But! For top three, I think we want that “ball in hands” option in the postseason. Sure, you can try to post Jokic up when it really matters, but what if we get a good ball denial from the opposition? Is there really any way for us to face Jokic up at the top of the key, then ask him to drive to win it all for us?
The nature of the league does matter when you get into the top four in the world. You’ll see what I mean with my top three.
3. Stephen Curry, G, Golden State
No question this is a down year for him. Percentages are down, Efficiency is down; but Golden State is having a helluva year considering their overall circumstances. Steph is still that engine. Everything revolves around him. The cross-cuts and back-cuts consistently work because opposing defenses are always worried about Steph getting too loose on the perimeter. He stretches out opposing defenses, completely. You can certainly argue that he’s the most disruptive player in the world. I think No. 3 is just fine for Steph.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, G/F/C, Milwaukee
Yeah, I threw “Guard” in there… this is my show!
Giannis can snatch the board, then take it coast to coast no problem. He’s an excellent dribbler considering the difficulties of doing such at his height and length. You can isolate him and let him dribble drive. I’d call him a Forward by trade, but he can be a Guard and Center as well, which is simply incredible.
Got the ring last year! Showed he could fill up the box score when it really mattered. Right now, he earned this No. 2 overall spot with ease.
1. Kevin Durant, G/F,C, Brooklyn
Yeah, KD, Giannis and LeBron are all Guard/Forward/Centers to me. In a way, that’s possibly the “easiest” path to being ranked as a top 10 player in the world. These guys literally do it all. It’s so hard to knock them in any particular way.
And – I promise I’m not a biased Nets fan, here – Brooklyn would have beaten Milwaukee if they had Kyrie last postseason. 2-0 lead in the series, having Harden as your No. 2 player simply isn’t the same as having balls-of-steel Kyrie. Harden and Joe Harris let Durant down in every way possible.
So yeah, KD is still the best of the best in my book. He’s the guy you want with the ball in his hands. Everything on the line? Kevin Durant has pure ice water in his veins. To me, the second-greatest scorer of all time behind Michael Jordan.
… So… yup! Top 10… no James Harden. No Jayson Tatum. No KAT. No Anthony Davis. No Jimmy Butler. Bring on the debates!
Follow John on Twitter - @LegendSports7
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