We have some unbelievable talents in the NBA right now. Stars are more athletic and offensively gifted than ever before, and we are blessed to enjoy modern basketball which benefits these talents greatly. Advanced training methods and beneficial rule changes have allowed superstar players to have more impact on the game which is just a blessing for fans. This has been evident when looking at the game’s best talents in the last 6 years.
By looking back towards the last 6 years, there have been 10 players that truly stood out for their impact and success in the league. Their accolades and team success has them regarded in the highest favor, and it is time to rank the 10 greatest players in the last 6 years.
10. Jimmy Butler
Major Achievements: 2020 NBA Finals Appearance
Jimmy Butler sneaks onto this list because even though he played in his first Finals this year, his run was truly historic. Nobody in the world expected the Miami Heat to reach the NBA Finals and Butler was the undisputed leader and heart of the team. But what Butler did in the Finals is what truly made him the 10th best player in the past 6 years.
Jimmy Butler averaged 26.2 PPG on 55.2% shooting in the Finals, with a historic Game 3 performance where he put up 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists (3rd player ever to accomplish this alongside Jerry West and LeBron James). This was arguably the greatest and most efficient statistical game ever considering the circumstances, and Butler simply refused to go out without a fight to the heavily favored Lakers.
9. Anthony Davis
Major Achievements: 2020 NBA Champion
Recently crowned NBA champion Anthony Davis comes in at 9, even though this was his first real impactful season in the last 6 years. AD has always been a top-5 caliber player for his talents, but he never had a good enough team in New Orleans. With LeBron James by his side, we saw what Anthony Davis was capable of.
Davis led the Lakers in scoring this season at his 26.1 PPG clip and was dominant all season long. In the Playoffs, teams had no answer for AD and he was a man on a mission. LeBron James was Finals MVP and the best player in the game, but Anthony Davis was on another level this year by making the Lakers unbeatable and deserves to be on this list.
8. Kyrie Irving
Major Achievements: 2016 NBA Champion
The clutch shot maker that helped LeBron win his first NBA title for Cleveland comes in at number 8. Kyrie Irving is the game’s best ballhandler and one of the most explosive scorers in the past decade. His playing style involves breaking ankles and getting buckets, and he does that at a superstar level.
Kyrie’s value came in the 2016 NBA Finals where he averaged 27.1 PPG and was the best possible Robin to LeBron’s Batman. LeBron James ended up with a well-deserved Finals MVP Award that year, but he wouldn’t have got it without Kyrie’s tremendous Finals efforts. Irving’s shot over Stephen Curry is one of the most iconic game-winners in NBA history for a reason.
7. Russell Westbrook
Major Achievements: 2017 NBA MVP, 2017 Scoring Champion, 2015 Scoring Champion
Besides an NBA championship, Russel Westbrook has accomplished everything there is to be accomplished in the past 6 years. He won an MVP, 2 scoring titles, and is recognized as the most athletic point guard in NBA history. Not to mention, he broke Oscar Robertson’s record of triple-doubles which we thought was physically impossible. Not a bad 6 years for Russ.
What makes Westbrook stand out is his tenacity and aggressiveness on the court, and he is already a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest talents ever at his position. If Russ can somehow win an NBA title, he can enter a different class of conversation.
6. James Harden
Major Achievements: 2018 NBA MVP, 2020 Scoring Champion, 2019 Scoring Champion, 2018 Scoring Champion
James Harden has been on a tear during the past 6 years. He has been the best scorer in the league for at least 3 seasons in a row, winning 3 straight scoring titles and also the NBA MVP in 2018. Harden is simply the most unstoppable offensive force in the game today, and the way teams scramble to defend him is hilarious.
As soon as Harden has the ball, we have seen two or even three defenders run at him helplessly to slow him down. This is very rare and not since the Kobe Bryant-Afro days have we seen this on an NBA floor. Harden is the most gifted offensive player in the game today, and from what he has done in the last 6 years, he has entered the conversation of being the single greatest scorer of all time.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Major Achievements: 2020 NBA MVP, 2019 NBA MVP, 2020 Defensive Player of the Year
Giannis Antetokounmpo, The Greek Freak, is the best player in the NBA during the regular season. He has an ability to carry his team to the best record for 2 straight years and also win the MVP in back to back seasons. He also captured the Defensive Player of the Year Award this year, capping an extraordinary year for a player who is just getting started.
Giannis is arguably the most unique athlete we have ever seen because he can get from one end of the floor to the other in just a few dribbles. He jumps out of the gym, can defend all 5 positions at once, and score the ball every time inside. Giannis has been an unstoppable force in the last 6 years, and the fact that he is just getting started is very scary for the rest of the league.
4. Kawhi Leonard
Major Achievements: 2019 NBA Champion, 2019 Finals MVP, 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, 2015 Defensive Player of the Year
No surprise to see Kawhi Leonard appear on this list. He had a historic season last year by winning Finals MVP and guiding the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title. The Raptors were a great team, but this was all about Kawhi Leonard. He was the best player in the world last year and his two-way play was the reason why the Raptors won. Kawhi was on another planet last year.
Leonard also won 2 straight Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the past 6 years, taking his total to 5 major awards. Leonard is a gifted player and he would be much higher if the rest of the guys did not manage to win multiple NBA championships.
3. Kevin Durant
Major Achievements: 2018 NBA Champion, 2017 NBA Champion, 2018 Finals MVP, 2017 Finals MVP
Kevin Durant was absolutely crucified for leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the NBA franchise that beat him in the Playoffs. Beyond that, the Warriors already won an NBA title and had a Big Three of their own led by Stephen Curry. KD didn’t care, instead opting to make the Warriors unstoppable on the court. And unstoppable they were.
KD and the Warriors won 2 straight NBA titles in 2017 and 2018, with Durant winning Finals MVP both times. He was the best player in the Finals without a doubt and earned those NBA titles by his play. He did make the Warriors unfair for the rest of the league, but he did win and appears on this list behind The King.
2. LeBron James
Major Achievements: 2020 NBA Champion, 2016 NBA Champion, 2020 Finals MVP, 2016 Finals MVP
LeBron James made history with his 3rd NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers, marking the first for the franchise that drafted him. James and the Cavs came back when down 3-1 in the Finals, becoming the only player and team to do it respectively. LeBron made history with that title win and would have come on this list as top-2 because of it. LeBron also captured this year’s NBA championship and won Finals MVP both times.
It might be strange to see any list with LeBron James not at first. After all, he has been the best player in the past decade and it isn’t even close. He still comes in at number two, because only one player had more success than him in the past 6 years.
1. Stephen Curry
Major Achievements: 2018 NBA Champion, 2017 NBA Champion, 2015 NBA Champion, 2016 NBA MVP, 2015 NBA MVP, 2016 Scoring Champion
Without a doubt, the past 6 years have been owned by Stephen Curry. He established himself as the best shooter of all time, made a case for himself as the best point guard ever, and won 3 NBA titles to go along with 2 MVPs. Not to mention, one of the MVPs was unanimous and he also added a scoring title to that haul as well. Simply put, Curry’s 6-season run was historic and should be put in the history books.
Stephen Curry has been the most impactful player in the past 6 years because his shooting opened up the game tremendously. All teams now shoot the three constantly, hoping to mimic what Curry brought to the Warriors. By single-handedly changing the NBA landscape and winning 3 NBA titles, Stephen Curry is the best player in the past 6 years.
Credit for the idea: Ball Don’t Stop