The NBA has seen its fair share of great players of the past decade, this season included. It’s hard to believe that it's been almost a decade’s worth of seasons since we saw Kevin Durant and LeBron James battle each other in the NBA Finals. Now that both are grizzled veterans, there’s a shot we could see a repeat in history.
Durant and James headline a slew of individual seasons that we have not seen like any other. These players have lit up scoreboards, grabbed rebounds, and dished out enough dimes to fix the pandemic. From MVPs to All-Stars, these 20 players have been the best of the best over the last decade.
Before you continue, please keep in mind that the last decade includes this season, so it ranges from this year to the 2011-2012 season.
20. James Harden - 2017
29.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG
MVP Runner-Up, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Assists Leader
The Rockets finished the 2017 season with 55 wins and owned the second-most Western Conference wins with 55. A large part of that came from Harden led the league in assists and nearly dropped 30 points per game.
This was a special season as Russell Westbrook put on a clinic with triple-doubles. Had Harden grabbed a couple more rebounds per game, there could have been two players averaging triple-doubles that season. Harden finished the season as the runner-up in scoring that season, only behind the phenomenal Westbrook.
19. Chris Paul - 2012
19.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 9.1 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.1 BPG
3rd in MVP Voting, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, Steals Leader
The Los Angeles Clippers went from a laughing stock NBA franchise to a competitive team in California. A lot of that had to do with Paul joining the Clippers this season. After nearly becoming a Los Angeles Laker, Paul put his stamp on the Clippers by having one of the best seasons we have seen in the last 10 seasons.
Paul led the league in steals, ranked third in assists, and ranked top-15 in scoring. He was the maestro of creating “Lob City” with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, as he led the league in offensive shares. He was an All-NBA Defensive First-Team selection. This season was the beginning of the Clippers’ reign towards relevancy and Paul was the architect behind it.
18. Carmelo Anthony - 2013
28.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG
3rd in MVP Voting, All-NBA Second Team, All-Star, Scoring Title
Anthony did everything for the Knicks this season except lead the team to an NBA Finals. Anthony led the league in scoring and finished with the third-best points-per-game average in Knicks franchise history. The Knicks made the playoffs and won the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1994.
While the postseason success did not come with Anthony’s success, it gave Knicks fans something to be proud of during a basketball season, something that hasn’t been frequent in the last 15 seasons.
17. James Harden - 2020
34.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG
3rd in MVP Voting, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Scoring Title
There are only three players since 1987 that have averaged over 34 points per game in a season. Those are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and James Harden. It takes stretching back to the 1970s to find the likes of Bob McAdoo, Nate Archibald, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to find any player consistently scoring this much.
Harden won his third straight scoring title this season and he did it while looking like a vintage Kobe Bryant. Harden led the league in steals and three-point field goals as well. Harden takes a lot of shots in a game to get to this point, but so did another great player from the 2000s, so let’s not take these stat lines for granted.
16. Kevin Durant - 2013
28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG
MVP Runner-Up, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, 50-40-90 Club
A year after losing to LeBron in the NBA Finals, Durant scored the most points, finished runner-up in the scoring title race, and led the Thunder to 60 wins. He was the league’s best free-throw shooter and one of the best offensive players all around.
How good was this season? Durant was the runner-up in MVP voting, only to lose to LeBron James, who finished with potentially the best season of his career. That’s how great Durant was in 2013.
15. LeBron James - 2020
25.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 10.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG
MVP Runner-Up, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Assists Leader
What LeBron did in 2020 is spectacular. He was 35 years old and led the league in assists. The Lakers finished with the No. 1 overall record and won an NBA championship in a year that Kobe Bryant tragically died. The physical and mental wear of everything will crumble some players, but not LeBron.
While we have seen some other seasons stand out statistically, this player season is easily a top-15 when you factor in the outside variables.
14. Joel Embiid - 2021
29.8 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.7 BPG
No matter what happens this season, a center is going to win the MVP for the first time in two decades. While Embiid is not the front-runner as of now, he was once considered the favorite to win the MVP until an injury forced him to sit after the All-Star break.
Embiid has the 76ers battling for the No. 1 seed in the East, which would be the first time the 76ers are the top team since Allen Iverson’s run in 2001. Embiid is currently the highest-rated player in player efficiency. It’s too bad that an injury cost him time, and that this season is only the second-best performance from a center we have seen in the last 10 years.
13. Anthony Davis - 2018
28.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 2.6 BPG
3rd in MVP Voting, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, All-Defensive First Team, Blocks Leader
Davis was on a crash course to win the MVP and lead the New Orleans Pelicans towards a top seed in the Western Conference. A lot of that changed when DeMarcus Cousins sustained an injury and missed the rest of the season, but the Pelicans still qualified for the playoffs.
Davis led the league in blocks as the Pelicans finished with 48 wins. Had Cousins never got hurt, the Pelicans might have finished with 55 wins and the No. 3 seed in the West. This might have been enough for Davis to claim the MVP.
12. Steph Curry - 2015
23.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.7 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG
MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Three-Point Shooting Champion
When looking back at Curry’s MVP season in 2015, it feels like this was one of the more watered down MVP seasons we have seen in years past. What we mean is that Curry didn’t lead any individual stat categories and didn’t lead the league in win shares.
Instead, Curry won the MVP based on the team play from the Warriors, who led the league with 67 wins. The leap from mediocre to exceptional happened overnight and Curry was the team’s best player, so credit must be given where it is due.
11. Steph Curry - 2021
31.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Had Curry did this in 2015, he would have been a unanimous MVP. Instead, the Warriors are struggling to stay afloat at .500 and are fighting for a playoff appearance. With that said, Curry just broke a record for most three-point field goals for a month after a historic shooting performance in April.
Curry recently leapfrogged Bradley Beal to lead the league in scoring. The two will go back and forth down the stretch of the season for the title. If the Warriors make the playoffs, this is easily one of the best seasons from a player we will ever see.
10. LeBron James - 2012
27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.8 BPG
MVP, NBA Finals MVP, All-NBA First-Team, All-Defensive First Team, All-Star
LeBron won the MVP this season after finishing third in the league in scoring and steals while leading the league in overall win shares. This season from LeBron was special because it was the first championship that LeBron won in his career.
After faltering against the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron and Co. helped lead the Miami Heat to their first championship since 2006. LeBron took a lot of negative attention from the NBA world for his decision to join and form a superteam in Miami. However, that didn’t stop him from winning another MVP trophy.
9. Nikola Jokic - 2021
26.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Jokic is the frontrunner to win the MVP this season and will be the first center to win the award in over 20 years. Shaq was the last center to win the award in 2000. Meanwhile, Jokic is going to finish as the best passing center and that includes the likes of Shaq, David Robinson, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Jokic also possesses something none of these players possessed during their MVP seasons: A three-point shot. Jokic is among the leaders in three-point field goal efficiency this season. Jokic owns triple-double power every time he steps on the floor. Again, this is a center we are talking about.
8. James Harden - 2018
30.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 8.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG
MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, Scoring Title
This was supposed to be the year that the Rockets overtook the NBA. The Warriors were dealing with injuries throughout the season and the Rockets earned the No. 1 overall seed with 65 wins, seven more than the reigning NBA champions.
Harden was the league leader in points and win shares. He took and converted the most free throws in the league while earning the top player efficiency rating. Any time that Harden took a shot this season, you felt it was going to go in.
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo - 2019
27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.5 BPG
MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team, All-Star
Giannis became the first power forward to win the MVP since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007. The Milwaukee Bucks rose to the top of the Eastern Conference standings thanks to a powerful inside force that we all know as “The Greek Freak.”
In years past, we have seen players like LeBron and Harden overtake the top at player efficiency ratings. Instead, this year Giannis not only was rated the most efficient player on the court but was also considered one of the best defensive players as well, shown by his league-leading defensive box plus/minus. In a year where James Harden was one of the most dominant scorers in league history, this is highly impressive.
6. James Harden - 2019
36.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 7.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG
MVP Runner-Up, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Scoring Title
We recently talked about how anytime Harden took a shot, we felt it was going to go in during the 2018 season. The following year, Harden set franchise records for field goals, three-point field goals, and points. His 30.6 player efficiency rating is also a franchise record in a season that saw the Rockets win 53 games.
Harden’s scoring average was the most of any player in the last 10 years, but it was also the highest points-per-game mark since Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 points during the 1986-1987 season. If you want to go back even further, it’s the third-highest points-per-game mark since Wilt Chamberlain averaged 36.9 in 1963-1964.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo - 2020
29.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG
MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team, All-Star
When looking at traditional bigs, Giannis’ season stands out from any frontcourt player in the last 10 seasons. For starters, Giannis won his second consecutive MVP and won Defensive Player of the Year.
The only other players to win MVP and DPOY have been Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994. That’s some Hall of Fame-worthy company that he joined last season. Now, he has to get the NBA championship monkey off his back.
4. Kevin Durant - 2014
32.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.7 BPG
MVP, All-NBA First-Team, All-Star, Scoring Title
Durant was the definition of offense this season. For starters, he was used the most out of all NBA players in the offense, a whole 33% of the time. Given that Durant was used one-third of the time, he capitalized. Durant led the league in scoring, free throws, and field goals.
At the time, Durant set a franchise record for 54 points in a game, a record that has since been broken by Russell Westbrook twice. In the end, Durant was efficient, which is why the Thunder won 59 games.
3. LeBron James - 2013
26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG
MVP, NBA Finals MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive First Team, All-Star
You might look at the stats and think this was just another LeBron-like year, but it was one of the best that we have seen from his career. During this year, LeBron nearly accounted for 20 total win shares (19.3). The Heat finished with 66 wins that season, meaning that LeBron nearly accounted for one-third of the team’s wins.
He led the league with the most 2-point field goals and was rated as the most efficient player. He won his second straight MVP trophy and NBA Finals award. We may not have appreciated it much back then because the world disapproved of his decision to play in Miami, but this might have been the best season of his career.
2. Russell Westbrook - 2017
31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 10.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG
MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-Star, Scoring Title
How does it get much better than Westbrook during the 2016-2017 season? Kevin Durant left the Thunder to play with the 73-win Golden State Warriors. Durant was an MVP candidate and will go down as one of the best players of all time. Where did that leave the Thunder?
Instead of bowing out and being easily defeated, Westbrook put the team on his back. The Thunder finished with 47 wins and the No. 6 seed. Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double in a season. While Westbrook has accomplished this feat two more times, this season was extra special given the circumstances.
1. Steph Curry - 2016
30.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
MVP, All-NBA First Team, Scoring Title, Steals Leader, 50-40-90 Club
We haven’t seen a player lead a team as Curry did in 2015-2016 since the days of Michael Jordan. Curry became the first unanimous MVP ever in the league after leading the Warriors to an NBA-record 73 wins. Curry led the league in scoring and steals, as well as joined the 50-40-90 club.
Curry became the first guard to win the MVP back-to-back seasons since Steve Nash. We haven’t seen a player be this masterful since Jordan and that includes some of the best seasons from LeBron.