The 2018-19 NBA season is just over a month away, which means it’s the time of year for power rankings and projections that are unlikely to age well. It’s the time of year to wonder if any team can stop a 5-All-Star Warriors starting lineup (probably not) or dethrone LeBron James as the greatest player in the world (definitely not). Without further ado, here are the Top 10 players in the NBA as we enter training camp.
10: Joel Embiid, PHI
Joel Embiid squeaks into the top 10 ahead of two-way wings like Jimmy Butler and Paul George because he’s just that good on both ends. The offensive and defensive fulcrum of the Sixers, Embiid will be the true key to Philadelphia’s long term success and completing The Process.
9: Chris Paul, HOU
Chris Paul proved in his first season with the Rockets that he could still control every aspect of a game, play lockdown defense, and dominate an offense with scoring or passing. He is so good at the mental aspects of the game, even as he ages. Paul is still a Top 10 player in this league, and the Rockets are going to be scary once again.
8: Kawhi Leonard, SA
Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season in one of the strangest injury sagas of recent memory, culminating in his departure from the only franchise he had ever known… but who cares? Kawhi is a machine sent from the future to lockdown any and every player on the defensive end while efficiently dominating on offense. People forget how good he is. He’ll remind them this season.
7: Russell Westbrook, OKC
Russell Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in back to back seasons, cementing his status as an all-time great. Say what you will about his inability to have real postseason success while leading a team, but Russ plays with unmatched fire and competitive desire. He is one of the most unstoppable forces the NBA has ever seen.
6: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL
The Greek Freak has the size of Kevin Durant, the speed and ferocity of Russell Westbrook, and the athleticism of LeBron James. The sky is the limit for Giannis–he is the most likely candidate to take LeBron’s throne when the King retires. MVPs and playoff successes are coming to Milwaukee, and Giannis is the reason why.
5: Anthony Davis, NO
Anthony Davis might have something to say about me anointing Giannis as the next King of the NBA, and he would be justified. His counting stats and efficiency are absurd, as is his skillset. New Orleans has been built in his image, and there’s simply no way to guard AD. He is too athletic, too long, and too skilled to be contained.
4: James Harden, HOU
James Harden is already perhaps the best 1-on-1 player in NBA history. His Rockets were on the verge of knocking Golden State out of the playoffs before their Game 7 collapse. Don’t let that pitfall distract you from the magnificent season the Beard had in 2017-18… he owned the league and was rightfully crowned MVP. His next mission: bringing a championship to Houston.
3: Stephen Curry, GS
Stephen Curry is the perfect foil for LeBron James. Under-recruited, overlooked, and written off his whole life… all he has is a 3-1 Finals record vs LeBron James, the only unanimous MVP award in NBA history, and the title of greatest shooter EVER. No perimeter player has ever been as efficient while taking such a high volume of difficult shots. Make no mistake, Curry is the engine behind the Golden State dynasty and the primary reason for their success.
2: Kevin Durant, GS
Back to back championships. Back to back Finals MVPs. Kevin Durant is so close to unseating LeBron James, but isn’t quite there yet. But he is nevertheless an incredible blend of size, athleticism, and shooting ability. There are no comparisons for Kevin Durant… he’s THAT good. There are no weaknesses in his game, and in all likelihood he will be collecting more hardware when this next season ends.
1: LeBron James, LAL
LeBron James has taken his talents to Hollywood, restoring the legendary Lakers franchise to its rightful place on top of the NBA world (at least in terms of headlines). How he fits with a strange, but promising cast of characters in LA is going to be the main attraction of the 2017-18 NBA season. One thing you can count on: LeBron James will continue paving his path towards the title of BEST. PLAYER. EVER.