Giannis Antetokounmpo winning the NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks was refreshing to see because it showed that winning in a player's original team can still happen. It is certainly harder to win in the original city when teaming up with superstars is becoming the norm now.
When looking at the best players in the NBA right now, a lot of them left their original teams for greener pastures. This has been the case throughout NBA history with top players, but leaving in their prime was not encouraged. Winning an NBA championship as quickly as possible affects a player's legacy and that is why forming superteams is becoming the new trend. Here are the 10 best players in the NBA right now.
10. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler worked hard to get where he is because he was the No. 30 overall pick and was not expected to become a star in the league. But winning Most Improved Player in 2015 kick-started his stardom. He would join Minnesota in free agency with the hopes of making them a contender, but he caused a massive hoopla by forcing his way out of town.
Butler never believed Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns were as focused as he was and helped lead the 76ers to the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately for Philadelphia, Butler left after half a season with the team and made a shocking decision to join the Heat. It worked out in the end because Butler made the Finals in 2020 and has a chance to do it again with Miami signing Kyle Lowry.
9. Kyrie Irving
Irving was drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers because the franchise knew they were immediately getting one of the best ball-handlers and one on one scorers in the league. He was great for Cleveland early on, but his best moment came when he hit a game-winner over Stephen Curry in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
Kyrie left LeBron James and the Cavaliers in quite ugly fashion, making his move to Boston where he was unable to have any postseason success. He tried his luck as the #1 guy on the team but it is clear that he is best suited as a sidekick, where he currently plays that role alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden in Brooklyn.
8. Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook was Mr. Thunder because he never had a desire to leave his team. The Thunder drafted Westbrook with the No. 4 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, and he developed into an All-Star by his 3rd season. Westbrook made 7 All-Star Teams with Oklahoma City and tried his best to win a title there.
Despite playing with Kevin Durant and Paul George, he never won a title and the Thunder made a rebuilding decision to trade him to the Rockets. Westbrook lasted one season with Houston, one with Washington, and is now a part of a Los Angeles Lakers superteam.
7. Paul George
Paul George was a great player for the Indiana Pacers, getting drafted with the No. 10 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. George made the All-Rookie Team but became an All-Star in his 3rd season, developing into one of the best two-way players in the game.
George did not believe in his chances to win in Indiana and made his desire to be traded known. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he had his best individual season at the expense of team success. PG joined forces with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles and has his best chance to win his first NBA title.
6. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is one of the best players to ever play for the Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers, making both teams playoff contenders. Paul placed Charlotte on the map but no one had a problem with the point guard when he decided to lead the Los Angeles Clippers into multiple postseason appearances.
But the Rockets and Clippers made a deal to send Paul to Houston, which benefited the team by making the Western Conference Finals in 2018. A pit stop in Oklahoma City and then a successful season with Phoenix has made Paul the long-term answer for the Suns. Chris Paul has shown loyalty throughout his career, and he never truly forced a way out of any team.
5. James Harden
James Harden has always been the most polarizing player in the league, mainly due to his isolation-based playing style based on drawing fouls and taking step-back jumpers. But Harden received a ton of criticism, particularly from the Houston faithful, for quitting on his team and forcing a trade to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Beard is one of the best isolation scorers in NBA history and many believed he had the talent to win with Houston. But nonetheless, Harden is a top-5 player in the NBA who has a chance to win his first championship with a superteam in Brooklyn.
4. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans because he did not believe he could win there. And in many ways, he could be right despite the organization bringing in the likes of Jrue Holiday and DeMarcus Cousins alongside him. But Davis forced his way to Los Angeles, which worked out in his favor.
The way Davis left New Orleans left a bitter taste in people's mouths because he seemingly "quit" on his team, but he had to make the move to join LeBron James in Los Angeles. Davis won the NBA title in 2020 and going forward, he should be the face of the Lakers over the long term.
3. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two-way players of all time and has achieved becoming a 2-time champion with 2 different franchises. Leonard won with the Spurs, although he was playing alongside Hall of Famers including Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio, and the Spurs took matters into their own hands by trading him across conferences to the Raptors.
Toronto never made an NBA Finals before, and Leonard played fantastic basketball and surprisingly won the chip in 2019. Leonard benefitted from injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in the Finals but still got the job done. Leonard is now playing for his 3rd franchise with the Clippers and winning a championship there would place him alongside 4 players (LeBron James, Danny Green, Robert Horry, John Salley) that have multiple titles with 3 different teams.
2. LeBron James
LeBron James is the smartest player in the NBA, but he is no longer in his prime and lost his top spot as the best overall player. The King tried his best to win in Cleveland but had to form a superteam in Miami to win his first 2 rings. In many ways, that was the best thing that ever happened to LeBron's career because it allowed him to win more rings, including the critical one in Cleveland.
LeBron returning to Cleveland made the team a championship contender again, and he won the chip in 2016 by coming back from a 1-3 deficit. James also hopped ship one more time, joining the Lakers and winning his 4th ring with Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. James is also regarded as the one who started the trend of players dictating their own future.
1. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is the best player in the world because he performed best last season and also in the Olympics. Durant had a solid season last year averaging 26.9 PPG and 7.1 RPG, taking his game to another level in the playoffs averaging 34.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG.
In terms of scoring the ball, Durant is the best in the world because of his size and skills. Durant also solidified himself as the greatest Olympian in USA's history by winning his 3rd Gold medal and also scoring the most points in Team USA's history. Durant famously left Oklahoma City to form the most dominant superteam in modern history in Golden State, winning 2 championships. Durant later left to join Brooklyn to try and win a third one alongside Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
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