The Post-Up: Top 15 current players

During+a+team+USA+scrimmage%2C+Rockets+guard+James+Harden+defends+Lakers+forward+LeBron+James.

Courtesy Tim Shelby

During a team USA scrimmage, Rockets guard James Harden defends Lakers forward LeBron James.

Jonny Ratner, Photo Editor

The NBA has looked into opening up some facilities in states where the lockdown guidelines are more lenient, so there is still hope that the NBA will return this season. However, before we dive into my top 15 players in the NBA, I must lead with a couple important disclaimers: This ranking was made before the choice was made to suspend the 2020 NBA season due to the coronavirus outbreak. All rankings in this list are based on the players’ performance in the first 65 games leading up to the suspension. The following list also does not include injured players, and the number of games each player has missed potentially affected their ranking. This list would look drastically different with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, as well as Zion Williamson and Karl Anthony-Towns potentially being thrown in somewhere. With that being out of the way, let’s take a look at the number 15 spot.

15. Trae Young (Point guard, Atlanta Hawks) – Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be directly compared for the rest of their careers, simply because they were in a trade for one another on the night of the 2018 draft. When the trade was made, most thought that the Mavericks, who had acquired Doncic from the Hawks for Young, had won the trade and that Doncic would be the face of the franchise for years to come. Although this appears to be true as Doncic is already one of the top talents in the league, Young isn’t too far behind. Young has had a very impressive sophomore season, averaging nearly 30 points and 10 assists per game. If he can improve on the defensive side of the ball, he will continue to move up the list for years to come. For now, he makes the number 15 spot on my list.
14. Nikola Jokic (Center, Denver Nuggets) – Jokic is one of the more unique stars in the NBA. His skill set is not one that most players have. Simply put, he is one of the best passing big men of all time and one of the best centers in the league today. He has led a deep Nuggets squad riddled with injuries to the third seed in the Western Conference. After a poor start to the season, Jokic seems to have found his groove again, averaging 20.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists.
13. Bradley Beal (Shooting guard, Washington Wizards) – I’m gonna say it. Bradley Beal is the most underrated player in the NBA and did more than enough to deserve a spot on the All Star team this year, which for some reason, he didn’t receive. The 26-year-old star is second in scoring this year, averaging a whopping 30.4 points per contest. He is an elite scorer and has greatly improved defensively since his rookie year. He deserves to be on a better team, but he showed with adding two more years onto his contract that he wants to be a Washington Wizard for at least the next few years.
12. Jimmy Butler (Small Forward, Miami Heat) – When Butler signed with Miami Heat this past off-season, the decision left most people scratching their heads. He had left a Philadelphia 76ers that was one miraculous shot away from most likely making the NBA Finals the previous year, when Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard buried a shot from the corner that bounced four times off the rim and dropped in. Butler knew exactly what he was doing and proved all the critics wrong as he has led the young Miami team to a comfortable record of 41-24 to sit at fourth in the East.
11. Jayson Tatum (Power Forward, Boston Celtics) – In only his third year in the league, not only has Tatum passed All Star starter Kemba Walker as the best player on the Celtics, but he has also asserted himself as a top 15 player in the league, who is only getting better. He was recently named the Eastern Conference player of month for February, after putting up averages of 30.7 points per game, 7.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists and led the Celtics to a 9-2 record for the month. Tatum looks to now lead the Celtics into the playoffs and has his eyes set on the Finals.
10. Pascal Siakam (Power Forward, Toronto Raptors) – This spot was a tough choice for me, but I decided that nobody deserves this spot more than Pascal Siakam. The 2019 NBA champion has led the Raptors to the second seed in the Eastern Conference and the third best record in the whole NBA, and he is doing all of this after Kawhi Leonard left in the off-season. There were doubts surrounding the Raptors coming off their championship year, but even after failing to resign Leonard this past off-season, the Raptors have stayed in championship contention and Siakam is a big reason why. The All Star starter has put up stats of about 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists per game while making around two 3-pointers per game so far this season.
9. Russell Westbrook (Point Guard, Houston Rockets) – Love him or hate him, respect or disrespect the way he plays the game, numbers don’t lie. Statistically speaking, Russell Westbrook is one of the most extraordinary players in NBA history. Yeah I said it, the guy is unreal. The former 2018 MVP was brought in by the Rockets in the offseason to pair with their franchise player, James Harden. Westbrook’s usage has gone down a bit since being paired with Harden, but he has still had a great year. The two so far this season have had more good games than bad, as they have helped the Rockets sit comfortably at the sixth seed in the Western Conference. Like it or not, Russell Westbrook is among the most elite players in our league today.
8. Joel Embiid (Center, Philadelphia 76ers) – Ever since he asserted his presence in the league, Embiid has had his fair share of criticism. Despite having a reputation of clearly displaying his ego and occasionally trash-talking his opponents, Embiid still deserves to be recognized as an elite player. He has helped the 76ers to a 39-26 record while averaging 23 points and about 12 rebounds per game. The fact that he is able to dominate close to the basket as well as being a respectable outside shooter makes him stand out from most of the other centers in the league.
7. Damian Lillard (Point guard, Portland Trailblazers) – Plagued with injuries, the Portland Trailblazers haven’t had the season they most likely imagined having. Despite this, their star point guard and praised leader, Damian Lillard, is on track to arguably have his best statistical season. The Weber State alum has put up an impressive 29 points per game, 7.8 assists per game and 4.3 rebounds per game. While I am sure Lillard would rather have regular season and playoff success as opposed to individual success, he has continued to show why he is a clear top ten player in the NBA.
6. Luka Doncic (Shooting Guard, Dallas Mavericks) – The 21-year-old Dallas Mavericks phenom caught attention from around the league last year as a rookie. He put up very impressive numbers for a rookie and showed he would be a great player in the NBA for a long time, but the stats didn’t seem to translate to wins, as the Mavs ended last season with a 33-49, which put them among the bottom ten teams in the league. This year, Doncic has made an unbelievable jump in his stats, as well as his ability to lead his team. He has put up elite stats of approximately 29 points per game, about 9 assists per game and 9 rebounds per game, good enough to put the Mavs at the seventh in the western conference, which has them on track to make the playoffs, with a record of 40-27.
5. James Harden (Shooting Guard, Houston Rockets) – Simply put, James Harden is one of the most elite scorers we have even seen in the NBA, up there with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain. He is absolutely unstoppable on the offensive side of the ball, averaging a ridiculous 34.4 points per game. Harden has always faced criticism for showing a lack of effort, but he has improved on the defensive side of the ball since he was a rookie. Harden has a good amount of playoff experience, but hasn’t been able to make the finals as the best player on his team. With his new teammate and good friend Russell Westbrook along his side, along with many other new faces, Harden looks to finally silence the critics and finally claim the coveted championship trophy.
4. Anthony Davis (Power Forward, Los Angeles Lakers) – The elite counterpart to Lebron has been tremendous this season. Despite intermittent injuries, Davis hasn’t skipped a beat, as he continues to dominate his opponent on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He remains in the conversation for defensive player of the year while still putting up almost 27 points per game and about 9 rebounds per game, while being one of the main reasons that the Lakers are such a dominating force.
3. Kawhi Leonard (Small Forward, Los Angeles Clippers) – Last year’s Finals MVP, Leonard has proven he is one of the best in this league. Leonard came into the league as an elite defender with potential to improve on offense, and he blew right past any expectations set for him at the time. Leonard, now a two-time NBA champion, has shown how he instantly makes every team he joins a contender for the title. The thing that makes him so good is even when he is doubted during the regular season every year, he is known for dominating come playoff time, making him one of the most dangerous players to play against on both ends of the floor.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Power Forward, Milwaukee Bucks) – Last season’s MVP didn’t miss a beat, as he has continued to show why he can be compared with the best players in the world. Averaging nearly 30 points and ten rebounds as well as almost six assists, he is the best player on the team with the best record in the NBA as the Bucks sit at 53-12, and if he can will them to a finals appearance or even win the whole thing, he may move up on my list. For now, he remains at number two. Giannis is a once-in-a-generation talent and will continue to be elite in this league for years to come.
1. Lebron James (Small Forward, Los Angeles Lakers) – Even in his 17th NBA season, the “king” still sits comfortably on his throne as the best player in the NBA. The four time MVP leads the league in assists at 10.6 and is the best player on a Laker team that currently holds a record of 49-14 and sits first atop the Western Conference. James has continued to make the players around him better with his mere presence on the court. He will be 35 years old in December and has continued to prove critics wrong each time he steps on the floor.