There’s no I in a team. Basketball is a team sport. Hence, everybody must be involved in the flow of the offense and defense if you want to win Championships.
However, every team craves to have a guy that can create his offense at will. Someone who can take the ball on his hands and make something happen, someone that could turn a broken possession into some points.
So obviously, being a good isolation player is a plus for scorers trying to make it in the NBA. Notably, teams can’t fall in love with that kind of offense in the playoffs, as defenses tend to adjust and it just doesn’t work out.
But, who’s the best isolation scorer in the league? among hundreds of great hoopers, these are the ultimate 10 isolation players in the league:
10. Jayson Tatum
23.6 PPG, 3.5 ISO PPG
Jayson Tatum hasn’t been around the league for long but he’s already elite. He’s put a lot of work on his craft and moves and you can tell that by its numbers.
Tatum keeps improving as an isolation scorer, especially since working out with Kobe Bryant. However, the Celtics have a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of offensive options, so that’s why he’s not getting more points this way.
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo
29.6 PPG, 3.5 ISO PPG
Giannis Antetokounmpo is an unstoppable force. When he picks off the dribble while going at full steam to the rim, you know there’s nothing you can do to prevent him from getting what he wants.
However, he’s still a work in progress in isolation. He didn’t have great handles coming into the league but he’s improved a lot in that regard, so he’s likely to climb this ladder pretty soon.
8. Russell Westbrook
27.5 PPG, 6.6 ISO PPG
Russell Westbrook is one of the most athletic players to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood. He’s fast, strong, has a lot of moves, and can take off to the rim any minute with his insane hops.
He’s a huge threat in isolation, but he’s not ranked higher in this list because he often makes poor decisions. Whether it’s bricking a contested three with 15 seconds in the shot clock or forcing the offense, he should know better.
7. Damian Lillard
28.9 PPG, 5.1 ISO PPG
Damian Lillard has improved year after year and you know he’s not going to stop until he gets the respect he’s due. Obviously, that means putting a lot of work on his isolation game.
Lillard has great handles and a quick first step, so he can create separation in the blink of an eye. Add his new-found unlimited range and you have yourself a deadly isolation scorer.
6. Stephen Curry
27.3 PPG, 1.4 ISO PPG
We’re going to use last year’s stats for Steph due to injury. Curry makes the most of his damage off screens, backdoors, cutting and slashing, but he’s still incredibly crafty in isolation. He’s got the quickest trigger in the league.
Curry has sick handles and can put most defenders on skates with ease. He can pull up from literally everywhere on the floor, and he’s got some sneaky moves to finish with an acrobatic layup of a floater.
5. Kyrie Irving
27.4 PPG, 3.5 ISO PPG
Every time Kyrie Irving has the ball on his hands you know something special’s about to happen. He’s got countless moves to find and create space and even if he’s double or triple-teamed, he’ll find a way to the rim.
Irving can’t be stopped one-on-one. He just can’t. He’s great with both hands and is an outstanding finisher. Also, he can create off the dribble with ease and has elite footwork and a quick first step. He’s incredibly smooth.
4. Kawhi Leonard
26.9 PPG, 3.5 ISO PPG
When Kawhi Leonard made it to the league he barely touched the ball on the offensive end. Now he’s an elite isolation player because of his craft and how meticulously he thinks through every single play.
It seems like Leonard plays at a different speed than everybody else on the floor. He has the ability to turn the corner in no time that has grown with time, as well as his deadly midrange game. And he’s just getting started.
3. Kevin Durant
26.4PPG, 3.9 ISO PPG
Like with Curry, we’re going to use Durant’s stats from last year due to injury. Honestly, the league had never seen a player like Kevin Durant before, and there’s no wonder why he could destroy everybody else one-on-one.
Durant has the moves and skills of a guard but the height of a center. He can pull-up from downtown any time or take you all the way to the rim. His length allows him to get to the rim with ease, and he’s got great handles. Money.
2. LeBron James
25.7 PPG, 4.1 ISO PPG
LeBron James doesn’t have the best handles or the craftiest moves. However, you know he’s going to kill you one-on-one every time he has the rock on his hands with no time left in the clock. He’s just got that gene.
James can drive all the way to the hoop like a train at full steam or pull-up to his left from downtown. He’s stronger than most players, smarter than most players, and knows how to read defenses like no one else. Ever.
1. James Harden
34.4 PPG, 16.2 ISO PPG
If you look up ‘isolation’ in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of James Harden. I mean, this guy’s literally scoring almost half of his points one-on-one. He knows it, we know it, everybody knows it, but he can’t be stopped.
Harden is the master of the euro step. If you take away his strong hand, he’ll draw contact and go to the line. If you give him the slightest chance, he’ll take a step back and hit a three. He’s got the ultimate isolation skillset.