NBA Player Power Rankings: The Marathon For MVP Begins

The 2016-17 NBA regular season is underway and the race for MVP has begun. Where does your favorite star rank in the first Player Power Rankings?


Nov 9, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket while guarded by San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half at AT&T Center. The rockets won 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016-17 NBA regular season is officially underway. Rust is still being shaken off, but the first two weeks of basketball have provided players with the necessary platform to establish a pace for the 2016-17 campaign.

Though the late-bloomers will receive their due once they blossom, it’s half past time those who came out firing were praised for doing so.

The NBA Player Power Rankings focus on individual performance during the season at hand. Thus, awards won or reputations achieved during previous seasons are genuinely irrelevant to the current discussion.

The only measurements utilized in the construction of this article are how well a player is performing in 2016-17 and how their play has influenced their team.

In some instances, players have been great enough that the shortcomings of those around them can be forgiven. In others, players have been so positively influential that their statistics border on being an afterthought.

With as much consistency as possible, the first edition of the weekly 2016-17 NBA Player Rankings have officially arrived.

Nov 9, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) controls the ball under the basket against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Bulls 115-107. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

20. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Position: Small Forward
Age: 27 (9/14/1989)
Experience: 6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .462/.441/.873
2016-17 Season Averages: 33.6 MPG, 22.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.7 3PM

The Chicago Bulls have been consistently inconsistent during the 2016-17 NBA regular season. Chicago won its first three games, lost the next three, and went win, loss, win en route to the current 5-4 record.

What the Bulls can be confident in is that starting small forward Jimmy Butler will step up and continue to progress as a star-caliber player.

Butler flashed his upside by dropping 39 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. He also added seven rebounds, four assists, and six steals in what was a beautiful display of his all-around ability.

The 27-year-old has the perfect mentor in fellow Marquette alum and future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade, and there are early signs of the benefits.

Butler certainly hasn’t been flawless, but he’s maintained a steady level of play and production. That 39-point eruption against the Atlanta Hawks was enough to justify his inclusion in the Top 20 in the first player power rankings of 2016-17.

Butler and the Bulls are still a work in progress, but he’s played at a Top 20 level early in the 2016-17 regular season.

Oct 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) shoots from the foul line during the third quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Atlanta Hawks won 104-72. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

19. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks

Position: Power Forward
Age: 31 (2/10/1985)
Experience: 11th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .430/.360/.721
2016-17 Season Averages: 32.6 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.5 ORPG, 4.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.1 3PM

The Atlanta Hawks have compiled an intriguing roster that could finally give the Cleveland Cavaliers some measure of trouble. Dwight Howard is still a force in the middle and Dennis Schröder is showing signs of future stardom.

It’s still Paul Millsap, however, who is criminally underrated and under-appreciated as the driving force behind Atlanta’s success.

The beauty of Millsap’s game is that he does a little bit of everything—literally. For example, Millsap tallied 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, one steal, and two 3-point field goals made in a 115-107 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

In the previous two games, Millsap stepped up as a scorer with 21 points in the win over the Cleveland Cavaliers—the first game Cleveland lost after starting 6-0.

Millsap also tallied 23 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and five steals during a win over the Houston Rockets. All in all, it’s been another brilliant year for the three-time All-Star who received his first All-Defensive Team nod in 2016-17.

In his 11th NBA season, Millsap is leading a 6-2 Hawks team that has a legitimate opportunity to make noise in the Eastern Conference.

Nov 4, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) reacts after a basket against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

18. John Wall, Washington Wizards

Position: Point Guard
Age: 26 (9/6/1990)
Experience: 7th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .451/.267/.842
2016-17 Season Averages: 33.8 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 9.2 APG, 4.8 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 0.7 3PM

The Washington Wizards may be off to a 2-5 start to the season, but starting point guard John Wall has been sensational. He’s averaging nearly a double-double and has directly influenced the success of Washington’s offense and defense.

There are a number of players who deserve to make this list, but Wall deserves the respect that no one seems to be granting him.

Washington has an offensive rating of 102.8 when Wall is on the floor and 99.3 when he’s on the bench. The Wizards also have a defensive rating of 101.9 with Wall and 109.9 when he’s riding the pine.

Wall certainly has his fair share of flaws—3-point shooting and turnovers—but when one player has that much of an impact on both ends of the floor, they need to be in the Top 20.

Wall went off for 33 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, three steals, and a block on 13-of-19 shooting against the Toronto Raptors. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists on 9-of-16 shooting against the Atlanta Hawks.

If the Wizards’ second unit can find some form of consistency, then Wall’s contributions will be reflected by the team’s record.

Nov 3, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket between Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) and forward LeBron James (23) during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 128-122. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

17. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics

Position: Point Guard
Age: 27 (2/7/1988)
Experience: 
6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .471/.295/.855
2016-17 Season Averages: 34.4 MPG, 25.7 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.9 3PM

If you’re still of the belief that Isaiah Thomas was a fluke All-Star in 2015-16, you haven’t been paying attention. The Boston Celtics may be suffering from Al Horford’s absence, but Thomas only has been unflappable in 2016-17.

As both a scorer and facilitator, Thomas has been nothing short of explosive for the Celtics early in 2016-17.

Thomas has scored at least 20 points in all seven of his appearances and has two games with at least 10 assists. He scored 30 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets, and posted double-doubles against the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards.

Both with and without his fellow All-Star, Horford, Thomas has played and looked like a legitimate star against high-quality competition.

The, “He’s great for a 5’9″ point guard,” narrative has run its course. It’s time to acknowledge Thomas as the star that he is. He led the Celtics to 48 wins in 2015-16, had a 43-point game in the playoffs, and has come right back with tremendous production in 2016-17.

The Celtics are 3-4 due to Horford’s concussion woes, but Thomas is playing at a level that deserves respect and praise.

Oct 30, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) dunks the ball as San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) looks on during the first half at American Airlines Arena. The Spurs won 106-99. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

16. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat

Position: Center
Age: 27 (6/13/1989)
Experience: 5th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .535/.000/.559
2016-17 Season Averages: 32.3 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 14.7 RPG, 3.7 ORPG, 2.6 BPG, 0.9 SPG

What Hassan Whiteside has done since 2014-15 is proof that dominant traditional big men still have a place in the NBA. Though it’s wise to look beyond the basic statistics, Whiteside has simply been too productive to exclude from the Top 20.

After eight games, Whiteside has set the stage for a statistically prolific season that would compare to some of the greatest in NBA history.

Whiteside struggled against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but has been brilliant in his other six performances. That includes his clash with the Chicago Bulls, during which he tallied 20 points, 20 rebounds, and three blocks.

It was Whiteside’s sixth double-double, as well as his fourth game with at least 20 points and his fourth with at least 15 rebounds.

Whiteside tallied 27 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks against the San Antonio Spurs in what was undeniably a statement game. He posted 18 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks against the Orlando Magic, which feature two noteworthy big men in Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka.

Whiteside is well on his way to his first career All-Star Game appearance and has been nothing short of a Top 20 player through eight games.

Nov 8, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot during the fourth quarter of the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Golden 1 Center. The Sacramento Kings defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

15. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Position: Center
Age: 26 (8/13/1990)
Experience: 
7th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .472/.286/.771
2016-17 Season Averages: 33.0 MPG, 26.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.2 ORPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 0.8 3PM

The Sacramento Kings have one of the Top 15 players in the NBA in dynamic big man DeMarcus Cousins. He’s gotten off to a Top 20 start with a number of explosive performances that fall in line with his typical statistical output.

Most encouraging of all is the fact that Cousins and head coach Dave Joerger have the Kings off to a strong enough start to believe the postseason is a possibility.

Cousins poured in 37 points and 16 rebounds during a loss to the San Antonio Spurs for his first, “Don’t forget about me,” performance of 2016-17. He’s learning to become more efficient in his efforts, which includes the pacing of his offense to help Sacramento achieve victory.

That was evident in his scoring 24 points in 25 minutes during Sacramento’s season-opening 113-94 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Cousins has a head coach who has proven himself with two 50-win seasons and three postseason appearances. He’s still prone to some level of inconsistency, but this combination of coaching and talent could be enough for Sacramento to ends its postseason drought.

Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006-07. 10 years later, Cousins may finally have the help to make things right.

Oct 20, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) drives down the court during the second half of the game against the Miami Heat at the Spectrum Center. Hornets win 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

14. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Position: Point Guard
Age: 26 (5/8/1990)
Experience: 6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .466/.435/.830
2016-17 Season Averages: 32.3 MPG, 23.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.0 RPG,1.9 SPG, 2.9 3PM

Kemba Walker has been one of the better point guards in the NBA since entering the league in 2011. In his sixth season in the Association, Walker appears to be turning a corner as both an individual player and a leader.

Walker is averaging a career-best 23.9 points per game and has Charlotte off to a red-hot 6-1 start to the season.

Walker has led Charlotte to victories over the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, and Utah Jazz. He scored 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting against the Brooklyn Nets and posted 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting during a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Walker’s best performance may have been the 24 points and 10 assists on 7-of-11 shooting that he recorded against Jeff Teague and the Pacers—in just three quarters.

The Hornets won 48 games a season ago and Steve Clifford is one of the best coaches in the NBA. Thus, it stands to reason that the 26-year-old Walker, who averaged 20.9 points and 5.5 assists in 2015-16, could be in store for a career year.

Walker hasn’t yet been an All-Star, but if he continues to perform this well and the Hornets remain consistent, that could change in 2017.

Oct 28, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) dribbles the ball up court during the first quarter in a game against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

13. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

Position: Point Guard
Age: 24 (3/23/1992)
Experience: 
6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .431/.396/.889
2016-17 Season Averages: 35.3 MPG, 23.9 PPG, 4.0 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.7 3PM

LeBron James may be the best player on the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Kyrie Irving has officially taken over as the No. 1 scoring option. His ability to get into the paint and finish at the rim is complemented by a smooth jump shot and unteachable instincts as a scorer.

Aside from a horrendous performance against the Philadelphia 76ers, Irving has played at a superstar-caliber level in 2016-17.

Irving opened the season by scoring 29 points in three quarters against the New York Knicks and 26 points against Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors. He ripped off 32 points on 10-of-19 shooting against the Houston Rockets and had another 29 against the Atlanta Hawks.

Subtract his 3-of-17 shooting anomaly against the 76ers and Irving is averaging 26.5 points on a slash line of .465/.442/.917.

Irving’s defense still isn’t a strength, but his effort has been better through seven games in 2016-17. His scoring proficiency and clutch shooting has been enough to balance the weaknesses, with a powerful emphasis on the latter point.

Irving is one of the best closers in the NBA today. Health permitting, the 24-year-old scoring machine should only improve.

Nov 5, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) hangs onto the rim after dunking for a basket in the third quarter during the game against the Sacramento Kings at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks beat the Kings 117-91. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

12. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Position: Point Forward
Age: 21 (12/6/1994)
Experience: 4th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .504/.200/.775
2016-17 Season Averages: 32.9 MPG, 20.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.1 ORPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.5 3PM

Prior to the 2016-17 NBA regular season, I wrote that Giannis Antetokounmpo has the tools to become the best player in the world. At just 21 years of age, he’s making a compelling case that he’s already the most complete player in the world.

Antetokounmpo is doing it all for a Milwaukee Bucks squad that’s young, promising, and soon to be on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

No player in NBA history has averaged at least 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game. Antetokounmpo is on pace to do exactly that in just this fourth season in the Association.

Even without a reliable jump shot, Antetokounmpo is already entering all-time territory as far as well-rounded statistics are concerned.

Antetokounmpo opened the 2016-17 season with a 31-point eruption against the Charlotte Hornets. His best performance may have been when he tallied 27 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, two blocks, and a pair of steals against Paul George and the Indiana Pacers.

Antetokounmpo’s upside has been tantalizing since well before he was drafted, but no one could’ve predicted this type of versatility.

Nov 6, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward James Ennis (8) and Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

11. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

Position: Point Guard
Age: 26 (7/15/1990)
Experience: 5th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .480/.365/.908
2016-17 Season Averages: 35.4 MPG, 30.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.6 3PM

The NBA loves overlooking Portland Trail Blazers superstar—yes, superstar—Damian Lillard. He was excluded from the All-Star Game in 2016, fell outside of the Top 5 in the 2012 NBA Draft, and still seems to be left out of the, “Who’s elite?” conversations.

Whether he’s been playing on-ball, off-ball, as a scorer, or as a facilitator, Lillard has gone a long way towards silencing those critics in 2016-17.

Lillard began the season by posting 39 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in a win over the Utah Jazz. He posted 37 points and seven assists two games later and tallied 42 points on 12-of-18 shooting against the Dallas Mavericks.

Lillard also out-dueled Devin Booker by scoring 38 points, including 22 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Trail Blazers to a 124-121 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Lillard’s proficiency as a scorer is well-documented, as is his leadership of a Portland team that had no business making the playoffs last season. True as that may be, it seems to have taken until 2016-17 for him to finally get the respect he deserves.

It’s fair to be skeptical about whether or not LIllard can continue producing at this level, but it’s just as reasonable to believe he can and will.

Oct 27, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers forward Ed Davis (17) in the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

10. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

Position: Power Forward
Age: 27 (3/16/1989)
Experience: 7th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .471/.182/.745
2016-17 Season Averages: 31.4 MPG, 19.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.4 ORPG, 4.0 APG, 1.3 SPG

If you’ve been waiting for Blake Griffin to make the leap, then you may be getting your wish in 2016-17. Griffin was well on his way to doing so in 2015-16, but an injury derailed what could have been a signature year in Griffin’s already decorated career.

The Clippers possess a league-best record of 7-1 in 2016-17, and Griffin has been one of the primary reasons why.

Griffin has six double-doubles in eight games played and recorded 13 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in just 28 minutes against the Detroit Pistons. He dropped 28 points on 13-of-19 shooting in just 29 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs.

Most recently, Griffin dominated Damian Lillard’s Portland Trail Blazers with 22 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block in just 26 minutes.

Griffin and the Clippers need to prove themselves in the playoffs, but this is encouraging progress. Los Angeles shouldn’t accept anything less than the No. 2 seed as it aims for the first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history.

If Griffin continues to play and produce at this level, them the wait could finally end for the Clippers in 2017.

November 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the basketball against New Orleans Pelicans guard Tim Frazier (2) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 116-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

9. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Position: Point Guard
Age: 28 (3/14/1988)
Experience: 8th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .503/.467/.881
2016-17 Season Averages: 32.2 MPG, 26.9 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 4.8 3PM

The two-time defending NBA MVP hadn’t gotten off to the hot start that we’ve come accustomed to seeing from him. That includes a game against the Los Angeles Lakers during which he shot 0-of-10 from 3-point range.

Just three days later, Stephen Curry went off as only he can by posting 46 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and 13 3-point field goals made.

It was only a matter of time before Curry set the NBA record for 3-point field goals made in a single game. It was also only a matter of time before Curry went off for 40-plus points with the amount of talent he currently has around him.

With or without three fellow All-NBA players on the roster, Curry was all but destined to step up with a massive performance.

Curry hadn’t eclipsed 30 points in any game before that, and beyond the numbers, he hadn’t played at a Top 10 level. That was one of the greatest performances in NBA history, however, and that inevitably pushed him up this list.

Curry and the Warriors still have issues to figure out and fix, but his all-time eruption against the Pelicans was a sight to behold.

Nov 6, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) drives past Sacramento Kings guard Matt Barnes (22) to the basket at Air Canada Centre. The Kings beat the Raptors 96-91. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

8. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

Position: Shooting Guard
Age: 27 (8/7/1989)
Experience: 8th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .533/.167/.814
2016-17 Season Averages: 37.4 MPG, 34.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG

He may not maintain this pace the rest of the way, but DeMar DeRozan has played at a superstar level early in 2016-17. DeRozan, who’s just now entering his prime, has been nothing short of explosive for the Toronto Raptors.

DeRozan already has two 40-point games and six outings with at least 30 points through seven games played in 2016-17.

DeRozan scored 40 points on 17-of-27 points in Toronto’s regular season opener against the Detroit Pistons. Exactly one week later, DeRozan went off for 40 points, five rebounds, and five assists on 14-of-23 shooting against the Washington Wizards.

DeRozan also had 37 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder, 34 against the Miami Heat, 33 against the Denver Nuggets, and 32 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That puts DeRozan in all-time territory.

DeRozan has made a pair of All-Star Game appearances, which is why it’s feasible that he’ll have another star-caliber season in 2016-17. He’s never before played at this high of a level, but he’s in the first year of his prime.

Coming off of the first Eastern Conference Finals appearance in franchise history, DeRozan appears ready to carry that momentum over into 2016-17.

November 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots the basketball against New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Pelicans 116-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

7. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors

Position: Small Forward
Age: 28 (9/29/1988)
Experience: 10th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .573/.405/.850
2016-17 Season Averages: 35.4 MPG, 27.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 1.9 3PM

You may not like Kevin Durant, but he’s one of the greatest players in NBA history. He’s already entered Top 35 all-time territory with five-time All-NBA First Team nods, four scoring titles, and an NBA Finals appearance—accolades achieved by only he, Wilt Chamberlain, and Michael Jordan.

Though the Golden State Warriors haven’t been as dominant as expected, Durant is still one of the most unstoppable forces in all of sports.

Durant’s signature performance was against his former team: the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant was remorseless, going off for 39 points on 15-of-24 shooting from the field and 7-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc.

Durant was just as brilliant with 37 points on 10-of-16 shooting against the Phoenix Suns and 27 points in losses to the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers.

Durant’s reputation may have taken a hit in some circles, but playing great basketball cures all reputation woes. That’s exactly what he’s done early in 2016-17, as most expected him to when he joined a team that already had three 2016 All-NBA honorees.

It would be tough to argue that any individual member of the Warriors is the Most Valuable Player, but Durant will be in the conversation.

Nov 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts after guard Langston Galloway (10) scores during the second half of a game against the Phoenix Suns at the Smoothie King Center. The Suns defeated the Pelicans 112-111 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

6. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

Position: Power Forward
Age: 23 (3/11/1993)
Experience: 5th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .505/.188/.824
2016-17 Season Averages: 37.9 MPG, 31.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.0 ORPG, 1.9 APG, 3.1 BPG, 1.9 SPG

From an individual perspective, one could argue that no player has been better than Anthony Davis. The 2015 All-NBA First Team honoree is nine games into the process of receiving another All-NBA nod in 2016-17.

The New Orleans Pelicans have been nothing short of terrible as a team, but there have been no shortage of reasons to be impressed.

Davis began the season by recording 50 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, five steals, and four blocks against the Denver Nuggets. It was the first time in NBA history that a player had recorded 50 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and five steals in the same game.

Two days later, Davis had 45 points and 17 rebounds against the two-time defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors.

Davis continues to produce absurd numbers, but the Pelicans haven’t been successful as a team. Injuries to Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Lance Stephenson have been the defining factors, which is why Davis is so easily forgiven.

If the Pelicans were winning with any form of consistency, Davis would likely be the No. 1 player on this list.

Nov 2, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a shot against the Los Angeles Clippers during the fourth quarter at Staples Center. The Oklahoma City Thunder won 85-83. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

5. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Position: Point Guard
Age: 27 (11/12/1988)
Experience: 9th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .419/346/.798
2016-17 Season Averages: 33.9 MPG, 31.1 PPG, 9.5 APG, 8.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.3 3PM

Now in his ninth NBA season, Russell Westbrook has been given the opportunity to prove he can be a true No. 1 player. He’s responded tremendously, thus far, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a record of 6-2 through eight games.

With averages in the range of a triple-double and a seemingly improved jump shot, Westbrook is putting the league on notice early in 2016-17.

Westbrook, who has recorded 29 triple-doubles over the past two seasons, is already off to a hot start in that regard. He tallied an indescribable 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in just the second game of the season.

One game later, Westbrook went off for 36 points, 16 assists, and 11 rebounds on 11-of-21 shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Westbrook may or may not reach or exceed the 18 triple-doubles that he tallied in 2015-16. He’s leading Oklahoma City to victory against high-quality teams, however, and that’s far more important than the statistics.

Westbrook already has an All-NBA First Team nod and four All-Second Team selections at the age of 27. He’s already on his way to a sixth All-NBA appearance in 2016-17.

Nov 5, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket past LA Clippers point guard Chris Paul (behind) at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Position: Small Forward
Age: 25 (6/29/1991)
Experience: 6th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .469/.389/.972
2016-17 Season Averages: 32.4 MPG, 27.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.8 3PM

Kawhi Leonard has done more than just increase his production during the 2016-17 NBA regular season. He appears to be far more confident with the ball in his hands and has polished his ball-handling to the point of being able to drive on elite defenders.

The numbers have followed for Leonard, who’s well on his way to competing for his first career NBA MVP award.

Leonard’s been consistently superb aside from the clash with the Los Angeles Clippers. He dominated the Golden State Warriors with 35 points in the season opener and scored 30 points against the Sacramento Kings during the following outing.

Leonard also had games of 30 and 29 points against the Utah Jazz, and accumulated 27 points and six assists against the Miami Heat.

The numbers are impressive, but what’s truly impressive about Leonard is that he’s maintained his defensive proficiency. The two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year is averaging 2.3 steals and holding opponents below their average field goal percentage.

Leonard is already an NBA champion, Finals MVP, All-NBA First Team honoree, and two-time Defensive Player of the Year. MVP could be next.

Oct 28, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) dribbles the ball as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) defends during the first quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

3. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

Position: Small Forward
Age: 31 (12/30/1984)
Experience: 14th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .483/.281/.745
2016-17 Season Averages: 36.4 MPG, 22.9 PPG, 9.9 APG, 8.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.3 3PM

Cleveland Cavaliers legend and Top 10 all-time scorer LeBron James has become a subtle superstar in his early 30s. He’s still capable of powering his way to the rim and dropping 30 points, but he’s shifted his focus to being more of an all-around player.

James has fully embraced the role of a facilitator and the Cavaliers are playing championship-caliber basketball because of it.

Though it’s only been seven games, James is intriguingly close to averaging a triple-double in 2016-17. No player has done that since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62, but James has the physical gifts and court vision to end the drought.

Though he only has one triple-double, James is on his way to being close enough to warrant frontrunner status in the race for MVP—and that’s only a fraction of his value.

Cleveland is 6-1 through seven games with a net rating of +12.7 when James is on the court and -10.3 when he hasn’t. That’s a difference of 23.0 points per 100 possessions, which is remarkable considering the fact that Cleveland is 6-1.

James has MVP value and the statistics to back what’s shaping up to be another legendary season from one of the greatest players of all-time.

Nov 4, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) during the second half at FedExForum. Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 98-88. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

2. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Position: Point Guard
Age: 31 (5/6/1985)
Experience: 
12th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .471/.436/.886
2016-17 Season Averages: 29.3 MPG, 19.3 PPG, 8.4 APG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 SPG, 2.1 3PM

The Los Angeles Clippers are off to an extraordinary start with a league-best record of 7-1 through eight games. Blake Griffin has been sensational, but it’s impossible to overlook the brilliance of point guard Chris Paul.

No performance was a greater display of his two-way brilliance than the game against Portland, when he tallied 19 points and seven assists in 23 minutes, and held Damian Lillard to 1-of-10 shooting from the field.

Through eight game, the Clippers have a net rating of +24.5 when Paul is on the floor and +2.7 when he isn’t—a difference of 21.8 points per 100 possessions. That includes offensive ratings of 109.4 with Paul on the court and 99.1 without him.

Most importantly, Los Angeles has a defensive rating of 84.9 with Paul on the court and 96.5 when he’s on the bench.

Griffin may be emerging as the statistical star of the show, but Paul’s value to the Clippers remains unparalleled. It’s also worth noting that he’s averaging 23.7 points, 10.3 assists, 7.1 rebounds, 3.7 steals, and 2.6 3-point field goals made per 36 minutes.

Other players on this list may have better per game statistics than Paul, but he has the highest net rating and the best defensive rating of any player in the NBA (minimum: 25 minutes per game).

Oct 30, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) brings the ball up the court during the first quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

1. James Harden, Houston Rockets

Position: Point Guard
Age: 27 (8/26/1989)
Experience: 8th Season
2016-17 Slash Line: .497/.394/.838
2016-17 Season Averages: 37.8 MPG, 30.6 PPG, 13.0 APG, 7.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 3.3 3PM

What James Harden is doing in 2016-17 is unlike anything the NBA has seen before. He remains one of the most explosive scorers in the Association and has added league-leading production as a facilitator to the mix.

Harden has even stepped up defensively, which has resulted in Houston getting out to a recent road win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Harden is currently averaging 30.6 points scored and 31.8 points created via assists per game. That adds up to 62.4 points accounted for per contest, which should speak for itself when evaluating his value to the Houston Rockets.

For perspective, no player has averaged at least 30.0 points and 10.0 assists per game since Tiny Archibald tallied marks of 34.0 points and 11.4 assists in 1972-73.

For fans of more all-encompassing statistics, Harden has a Player Efficiency Rating of 32.39 after eight games played. The Rockets have a net rating of 9.1 when he’s on the floor and -31.4 when he isn’t, as well as a defensive rating of 105.4 with him and 115.3 without him.

Harden is one of the most polarizing players in the NBA, but he’s also one of the best pure talents the Association has ever seen.

It’s still early, but Harden has started down a path to the MVP award that his peers believe he should’ve won in 2014-15.

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