Staying healthy is every team’s dream. The perfect season is the cultivation of not just talent, but luck as well. Most teams that can keep a team healthy all year long features a tiny bit of luck on their side.
This year’s predicted NBA Finals showdown of the Lakers and Nets faced a taste of bad luck during the regular season but has all of their main pieces back. With awards soon to be given out, names will be called receiving some of the highest honors. Had all players in the league stayed healthy, we might have seen a few different names.
With that said, when healthy, these would have been the 10 best players in the league this season.
10. Damian Lillard
Lillard is having some of the best production of his career right now. This season, his points, field-goal percentage, and assists were close to his career highs. By the end of the season, Lillard led the league in clutch points, making him the clutchest player in the league this season.
Among point guards, Lillard is in the conversation for top-2 among the league. Had Steph Curry not gone off for an MVP-caliber season, Lillard would have been the best point guard in the NBA.
9. Anthony Davis
We saw firsthand what happens when Davis doesn’t play for the Lakers. The defense opens up more. The rebounding goes down, and teams aren’t afraid to attack the paint. Outside of offensive production, the Lakers lost a key piece of their defense when Davis went down with an injury.
Davis isn’t just a traditional power forward anymore either. He has developed an outside shot that allows him to get back in transition more effectively and produce on the defensive end. Davis played just 36 games this season, the lowest of his career. It was the first time in seven years that he didn’t averaged over 2.0 blocks per game.
8. Nikola Jokic
Let’s not take anything away from Jokic. He is likely to win the MVP this year for a tremendous amount of money, but some names in front of him would have contended, if not won, the MVP had they not gotten injured.
Jokic’s lack of defense makes him a liability, but he makes up for it on the offensive side. Jokic led the league in offensive win shares, total win shares, and value above replacement. He is the best passing center we have ever seen, which is why he makes the top-10. All we are saying is if the league had all healthy superstars, that Jokic would have had stiff competition.
7. Joel Embiid
Embiid is going to miss out on the MVP this season because he got hurt. The 76ers clinched the No. 1 seed for the first time since 2001. Guess who won the MVP that season. Allen Iverson.
The problem is that Jokic played 72 games compared to Embiid’s 51. The difference of 21 games is too much of a discretion that Jokic has the advantage. Regardless, Embiid averaged 28.5 points, shot nearly 38% from the three-point range, and finished top-3 in defensive win shares.
6. James Harden
Here’s another player that might have won the MVP had he not gotten hurt. Between his tattered relationship with the Houston Rockets to start the season and his hamstring injury with the Nets, Harden played just 44 games this year. However, his stats in Brooklyn showed that he was playing at a high level.
Before getting injured, Harden was the league’s assist leader before he didn’t meet the cutoff for the required games played. Harden was nearly averaging a triple-double too. It just goes to show that Harden can still take over any game.
5. Kawhi Leonard
Fun fact about Kawhi Leonard. He hasn’t played more than 70 games in a season since 2016-2017. In 2018, the Toronto Raptors were extremely careful to not rush him back after an injury limited him to nine games the year before. Last year, Leonard played 57 games in the shortened season.
This year, Leonard battled injuries, but when healthy, he is a player that can provide nearly 25-7-5 on points-rebounds-assists. On top of that, he still has a strong defensive presence in the game. When healthy, Leonard is a top-5 player in this league.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
While he may not win the MVP this year, he is still a top-5 player in the league. An ankle injury limited Giannis to 61 games this season. His points, rebounds, and blocks were all down compared to last season, but his 5.9 assists tie a career-high. We have been so spoiled with his play that even a “down” year is still All-Star worthy.
The Bucks are helpless if Giannis doesn’t play. That was evident after he scored 49 points in a 49-47 win over the Nets. With a tough road ahead in the playoffs, Giannis is eager to get to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.
3. Steph Curry
For all the people that said this was going to be the season that Steph Curry finally started to slow down, they are ready to start taking back their words. Curry, at age 33 years old, put on a shooting clinic in April and then clinched his second scoring title in his career. What people also don’t know is that his 32.0 points per game are amazing, his 5.5 rebounds are also a career-high.
Curry played just five games last season and the Warriors dropped down the standings, securing the No. 2 overall picks. This year, the Warriors were still missing Klay Thompson as the team finished as the No. 8 seed. Without Curry, it could have been a lot worse.
2. Kevin Durant
It’s nice when you are the Nets and you have Kyrie Irving and James Harden to pick up the load. Durant played just 35 games this season due to a hamstring. Before he got hurt, Durant was in contention for the scoring title, averaging close to 30 points per game.
Durant’s 45% three-point field goal percentage is the highest of his career. Before the injury, he was doing everything. Rebounding, passing, playing defense, and much more. Had Durant played the way he was playing, he would have easily thrust his name into the MVP conversation.
1. LeBron James
Speaking of MVP conversation, LeBron was the favorite to win the MVP before he suffered an ankle injury. When healthy, LeBron was leading the Lakers as high as the No. 1 seed. He was averaging close to a 25-8-8 points, rebounds, and assists line. Even when Anthony Davis was out, the Lakers not just contending, but hanging onto a top-3 spot in the standings.
When LeBron got hurt, that is when the Lakers began to tank down as far as the No. 7 seed in the West. He had a chance to become the oldest player to ever win an MVP. Who knows what LeBron has left, but he always seems to amaze us. At year 37, he could probably contend for the MVP Award.