NBA

Head to Head: NBA’s Best Player

Who is the best player in the NBA? Tommy Beer, Eric Pincus and Alex Kennedy share their thoughts.

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Updated 12 months ago on
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This week’s Head to Head is simple: We asked Tommy Beer, Eric Pincus and Alex Kennedy, who is currently the best player in the NBA? Here’s what they had to say:

LeBron James

LeBron James, at age 24, won his first MVP following the 2008-09 season. He went on to win four of the next five MVP awards.

King James has been generally viewed as the best all-around player in the NBA during this stretch. And in this pundit’s opinion, he still wears the crown as the league’s preeminent player.

Now in his age-30 season, LeBron may not be as quick and nimble as he once was. His fastball may be a few MPH slower, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer the game’s top hurler. What James may have lost in speed and explosiveness, he’s gained in improved basketball IQ and knowledge of the game. LeBron’s top-tier greatness is due in part to the incredible work he puts in each offseason improving different aspects of his game. While he may not be able to blow past defenders as often as he did during his first few years in the league, LeBron has implemented a post game that allows him to score easy buckets on the block.

During his four-year run with the Miami HEAT that netted two NBA titles and four consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, LeBron put his team on his back on countless occasions and carried his team to victory. This was especially true toward the end of his tenure in South Beach, when Dwyane Wade was hobbled by nagging injuries. LeBron could and would score at will and often guarded the other team’s best player – whether that player was a guard or forward.

Now, surrounded by a different supporting cast in Cleveland, LeBron has continued to showcase his incredible all-around skill-set. James is averaging fewer than 25 points per game for the first time since his rookie season, but he is constantly finding ways to help his team win. LeBron has always been a willing passer and his distribution skills have been on full display in Cleveland.

The Cavs stumbled out of the gate this season, losing three of their first four, and seven of their first 12 games. However, following that low point, the Cavs reeled off eight straight wins. Not coincidentally, LeBron was Cleveland’s assist leader in the first of seven of those eight victories, averaging nearly 10 assists a night. At 6’8 and 240 pounds, the case could be made that James has been the NBA’s best point guard over the first quarter of the NBA season.

And of course he’s certainly still capable of pouring in 40-plus points on any given night, as he did Friday night in New Orleans. Per Elias Sports Bureau, it was the 54th regular-season game in which James scored at least 40 points, and his teams have a 43-11 record in those games (34-10 with Cleveland, 9-1 with Miami).

Such is the all-around greatness of LeBron.

Someday, maybe even someday soon, another player may knock the crown off of the King. But that day has not yet arrived.

– Tommy Beer

Anthony Davis

Now in his third NBA season, Anthony Davis has emerged as one of the top players in the NBA — he may even be the best.

At just 21 years old, Davis is averaging 24.3 points a game, fourth-best in the league.  When he was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans out of the University of Kentucky, with the first overall pick in 2001, Davis’ offense was a question mark.

It was clear as a college star that he was going to be a high-level defender as a professional, but did have a enough of a post-game or jump shot?  Now Davis has both, while averaging 10.2 rebounds and a league-high 2.7 blocks per game.  Davis is shooting 57.4 percent from the field, along with 1.6 steals a game, so he’s filling the stat sheet every night.

He’s averaging more points a night than noted scorers Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge.  He’s behind just James Harden, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, but he’s a better defender than any of his high-scoring contemporizes.

Players like Kevin Durant and James are further along in their career, as far as experience.  Davis hasn’t had the opportunity to show the world what he can do on a playoff stage.

At issue, the Pelicans (11-11) just don’t have the supporting cast to truly compete in the Western Conference.  Guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are having solid years.  Ryan Anderson is a dangerous shooter off the bench.  Omer Asik is a strong defender at the center position, but that’s about it.  Eric Gordon is dealing with a shoulder injury.

New Orleans just doesn’t have the second star, a Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.  Basketball is a team game and while a single player can put a team on the map, they’ll need more to win.

Davis is the NBA’s best two-way player, but he won’t get the recognition he deserves until the Pelicans reach a bigger stage, and that might not happen this season or the next.

– Eric Pincus

Kevin Durant

LeBron James is obviously a very special player and one can certainly make the argument that he’s the best player on the planet. He dominates a game in so many ways, makes all of his teammates better and has the rings and awards to strengthen his case.

Anthony Davis has also entered the best player conversation with the way he has started this season. It’s amazing what he is doing at 21 years old. I’ve annoyed many of my Twitter followers by tweet after tweet praising his game and stats, so there’s no doubt I’m on the bandwagon. I think he’ll be the obvious answer in this debate within the next few years, once he’s closer to his prime and winning more games.

However, for right now, I’ll make the case for Kevin Durant. He’s the NBA’s best scorer and he has an extremely impressive resume after seven years in the league.

He’s the reigning MVP, a four-time scoring champ, a member of the 50-40-90 club (shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line – one of just six players in NBA history), a five-time All-NBA First Team selection and two-time gold medalist.

Perhaps the best thing about Durant is that he is just now entering his prime at 26 years old. For years, he was the Anthony Davis in these conversations with people saying, “He’s the best young player in the league, so what will he be able to do in the a few years?” Now, we will soon know the answer. While LeBron has been showing some signs of decline, Durant’s best basketball is likely still ahead of him.

He averages 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.3 steals and one block, while shooting ridiculous percentages from all over the court. Each year, he finds something to add to his game that makes him even better. Just when it seems like he has peaked, he becomes a better defender or obsesses over his efficiency or improves as a leader or adds specific moves (such as Dirk Nowitzki’s signature fade-away).

 

Durant has gotten better each year he has been in the league, which is difficult for him to do since he emerged as one of the NBA’s best players so quickly and at such a young age.

Earlier this season, we saw how important he is to the Thunder’s success when the team struggled mightily while he was injured. Suddenly, OKC’s elite offense was ranked at the bottom of the league and the team was near the bottom of the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook’s injury obviously played a role in their struggles too, but it’s clear that the team was missing the NBA’s MVP and leading scorer.

Now, since getting back on the court, Durant has been shaking off the rust and returning to his normal level of production. And it’s no coincidence that the team is 5-1 since his return.

– Alex Kennedy

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