Fadeaway World

The NBA features just the finest of the finest, as the best athletes in the world take the hardwood on a nightly basis to try and prove that they’re not just better than most human beings, but also better than their very own competition.

Naturally, when you’re playing against such tough competition, standing out from the pack is not an easy thing to do, but still, there are a handful of players that are able to make a difference and that’s why teams are always trying to get them to sign with them.

So, as  we’re just about to enter one of the most entertaining and interesting free agencies in quite some time, let’s go ahead and take a look at the league’s top 15 best players right now:

 

15. Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook is so incredible, that people aren’t even impressed by his triple-doubles anymore. Obviously, the lack of humility and playoff success have taken a toll on the way people tend to look at Westbrook, but he’s still one of the best players in the league.

Westbrook managed to average a triple-double for the third straight season, something that had never been done before and that may not be ever done again. Over the campaign, he averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 10.7 assists per game.

 

14. Klay Thompson

(via The Mercury News)

If it wasn’t enough with Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors lost their second best defender and one of the best shooters this game has ever seen when Klay Thompson tore his ACL. Still, he manned up and hit both free throws before leaving in crutches.

Thompson is one of the most underrated players in the league, but he’s as impactful in both ends of the floor as the greatest ever. Sadly, he will be out until late February at the very least. Over the year, he averaged 21.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists.

 

13. Kyrie Irving

(via The Sporting News)

Kyrie Irving slipped all the way here. Talent-wise, there are just a handful of players that would be ahead of Kyrie Irving on our least, but the talent isn’t everything in basketball, and he was a major letdown as a leader when the Boston Celtics needed him the most.

Nonetheless, Irving has the best handles in the world and is one of the most versatile scorers ever, and he’s going to make the team that signs him really better next summer.  Throughout the season, he posted averages of 23.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.9 assists.

 

12. Nikola Jokic

If you had told me five years ago that Nikola Jokic was going to become one of the best big men in the league, I’d probably say you were crazy, but here we are. The scariest and most encouraging thing about him is that he’s just getting better by the day.

Jokic is already one of the best passing big men we’ve seen,  a walking triple-double threat that can find passing lanes where they should be none, and even hit an occasional three-pointer. Over the year, he averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists.

 

11. Jimmy Butler

(via Business Insider)

Jimmy Butler drew a lot of hate because of the way he mishandled the situation with the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier in the season, but truth to be told, time wound up showing he was right in the first place and he’s one of the best players in the NBA.

Butler’s future still remains as a huge question but he has that winning mentality and two-way skills that could really lift a team towards Championship contention. Throughout the year, he averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game.

 

10. Paul George

(via Sporting News)

For most of the year, Paul George was a steady MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and he truly embraced his role as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s new leader, even ahead of Russell Westbrook, but once again, he underperformed during the playoffs.

Sadly, George was clearly hurt in the playoffs and wasn’t able to be the same dominant two-way player he was during the regular season, but his averages of 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game were quite impressive nonetheless.

 

9. Damian Lillard

Once again, nobody trusted the Portland Trail Blazers to even make the playoffs, and once again Damian Lillard proved them wrong by putting together a run that took them all the way to the Western Conference Finals, where the Warriors eventually swept them.

Still, Lillard was clearly hurt during most of that series and lost most of his explosiveness, but he took a step forward as one of the best players in the league thanks to that incredible run. Over the year, he averaged 25.8 points,  4.6 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game.

 

8. Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis shocked the world not because of the fact that he demanded to be traded out of the New Orleans Pelicans, but because of the way he handled the situation. Still, he was a major stud when healthy enough to play, just like every year.

Los Angeles Lakers finally land one of the best players in the league, and he can finally compete for the championship. Throughout the year, he averaged 25.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.

 

7. Joel Embiid

Credit: USA Today

If the Philadelphia 76ers had a healthy Joel Embiid, perhaps it would’ve been them the ones that took the Larry O’Brien trophy home, as not even the Toronto Raptors were able to properly contain him regardless of the fact that clearly, he wasn’t even close to 100%.

Health and durability will always be a major concern with Embiid, but he’s shown the upside to be the best two-way big man in the league when healthy. Over the season, The Process was trusted and averaged 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds,  and 3.7 assists per game.

 

6. LeBron James

It’s been a while since LeBron James fell out of the top-5 players in the league ranking, and perhaps we could go all the way back to his rookie season to see this. What is clear is that he’ll work his heart off to go back to the top of the league following a long offseason.

When he was healthy, the Lakers actually looked like a threat in the Western Conference, but now, it looks like he and the young players just cannot coexist for the time being if they want to win now. This year, he averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists.

 

5. James Harden

James Harden is coming off yet another historic season where he might as well wind up winning the MVP, not only because of how incredibly he performed in the offensive end but because of the fact that he led an injured Houston Rockets team to a top-4 seed.

Harden put together some scoring numbers the league hadn’t seen in a very long time, and his scoring streaks aren’t likely to be matched any time soon, to be honest. Throughout the year, Harden averaged 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists.

 

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the best player in the league during the regular season, and he’s more than likely to win the MVP award after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the NBA even though he came short once again during the playoffs.

What scares me the most about Giannis is that, even if he may look like an almost finished product, he’s barely scratching the surface of his true potential and will come back way stronger next year. This season, he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists.

 

3. Stephen Curry

Credit: USA Today

Stephen Curry was great during the whole regular season and was pretty close to logging yet another 50-40-90 campaign, but with the Golden State Warriors all banged up, he wasn’t able to live up to the task and complete a heroic comeback for the three-peat.

With Klay and Durant most likely to miss this upcoming campaign, it will be up to Steph to take the Warriors back to the playoffs, so we expect some MVP-kind of numbers from him next season. This year, he averaged 27.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.2 assists.

 

2. Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant really restored his legacy this year, especially in the playoffs, as he proved that he didn’t take the easy way out and join the Warriors, but that he was one of the main reasons why this team was so able to find success during this 3-year spell at the Bay.

Sadly, the NBA is going to miss one of the two best players in the world right now, but that won’t stop teams from aggressively pursuing him in the summer. Throughout the year, he averaged 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game.

 

1. Kawhi Leonard

(via Elite Sports NY)

Kawhi Leonard climbed all the way to the top. He was insulted and people didn’t trust him anymore, but he proved that he’s the best player in the world by leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Finals and Championship in the history of the franchise.

Leonard is the best two-way player in the league and it’s not even close. He can do it all and do it well, and maybe the Championship will convince him to stay in Toronto. This season, the Klaw dominated with averages of 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.

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