After another long, grueling season, the NBA playoffs have finally returned. And with all but one of the second round matchups determined, now is the perfect time to take a look at the best players at undoubtedly the most stacked position in the NBA.
1. Stephen Curry
Curry may not have shined as bright this season as he has in previous seasons, but one comparatively “down-year” should not count against the brilliance that has become customary for the greatest shooter ever. Despite the integration of Kevin Durant into the Warrior’s lineup, Curry has still hit over 300 triples this past season. His ability to create off the dribble has helped him get hot from beyond the arc like no other player in the history of the game. Case in point: he has more 25 point quarters than anyone over the past 15 seasons. At times, his otherworldly scoring abilities have lead fans and pundits alike to wonder if his three point shooting is breaking the game. There is no two ways about it: aside from perhaps LeBron James, Curry is the most lethal weapon in the modern-day NBA.
2. James Harden
He may not have averaged a triple-double, but James Harden had one of the best offensive seasons of all time. The Beard averaged a career-high in points and led the league in assists, with over 11 a game. He also set the record for most 50-point triple doubles in a single season in NBA history.
Harden also finds his way to the number two spot on this list thanks in large part to his efforts in carrying the Rockets team to the Western Conference’s third seed. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s guns-blazing offense relies almost entirely on Harden’s shoulders, with his threat as a scorer opening up so many of the Rockets’ looks from three-point range. With Harden’s role this season reminiscent of his 2015 season, Harden has unequivocally shown his ability to completely shoulder the offensive burden of his team.
3. Russell Westbrook
When Kevin Durant shockingly decided to sign with Golden State last summer, all eyes turned to Russell Westbrook. Having already established himself as a triple-double machine, fans and players alike speculated about the incredible opportunity afforded to Westbrook when he no longer had to share the ball with another all-star.
He certainly did not disappoint.
Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the entire season, broke the record for most triple-doubles in a season, and lead the league in scoring, with all signs pointing to him picking up his first MVP award this June. And all this would cap off an amazing season for the Brodie, if his team had not crashed out of the playoffs in the first round. The relatively poor performance of Westbrook’s team ultimately highlights all the criticisms about his game, while his 39 percent playoff field-goal percentage only adds to his “chucker” reputation. While it can be argued that these flaws are miniscule in light of his absurd output, they are certainly enough to take him down a notch compared to some of the other great points guards in this league.
4. Chris Paul
With the influx of high-scoring point guards in recent years, Chris Paul is somewhat of an anachronism — he fits well alongside the mould of Steve Nash and John Stockton-like point guards who were all about setting up their teammates. Because of this, Paul is often left underrated in discussions about the league’s best players because he simply does not put up the gaudy numbers like Westbrook or Harden do.
That said, underestimating Paul would be a dangerous move. There is no one else in the league who is as capable at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates. This past season, Paul became the only player in history to have a 20 point, 20 assist game with zero turnovers. Paul has also translated his game to the playoffs well: at the time of this writing, he is averaging 27 points on 53 percent shooting, to go along with 10 assists and two steals. It may be no triple-double, but Paul is certainly putting up numbers to win.
5. John Wall
Like Paul, John Wall tends to be a pass-first point guard, focused on getting his teammates involved. This past season, the four-time all-star averaged 23.1 points and 10.7 assists per game, leading the Wizards to the four-seed in the Eastern Conference. And Wall has only elevated his game in the playoffs, increasing his scoring output to nearly 30 points per game on 53 percent shooting. Kyrie Irving’s heroics in the finals last year may have earned him the spotlight, but this season it is Wall that is proving a worthy candidate for the mantle of best point guard in the East.
With the past two MVPs given to a point guard, and with two point guards leading the current MVP race, it is safe to say that the position is defining the current era of the NBA. As the playoffs ramp up, expect to see more spectacular plays by the world’s best.