The 2016-17 NBA regular season is hitting its stride in late November. A number of players still haven’t slowed down from their ridiculously hot starts.
The opening month of the 2016-17 NBA regular season has been one of the most sensational in league history. A number of players have stepped up and achieved accolades to remember mere games into the 2016-17 season.
Though it’s far too early to talk MVP, it’s also impossible to ignore the otherworldly level of play of the NBA’s best and brightest.
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A week ago, James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder battled for the No. 1 spot. Westbrook emerged victorious, but the gap between No. 1 player and a seemingly distant No. 12 was undeniably small.
The picture has become even more cloudy over the past few days, as those in competition with Harden and Westbrook have dominated in their own ways.
In some instances, players have elevated their statistical proficiency to the point of being an undeniable inclusion in the Top 20. In others, players have made an impact that ranges well beyond the numbers by placing the value in Most Valuable Player.
The question is: who is the best player in the NBA in 2016-17 and who are the threats to that title?
Nov 20, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots on a technical during the second quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
In just his second season, Kristaps Porzingis is already looking like a legitimate star. He’s been playing without the knowledge of how dominant he can be, but since being held to three points by the Houston Rockets, he’s averaged 23.6 points on a slash line of .526/.393/.821.
It’s no coincidence that New York was 1-4 before that 10-game stretch and is currently 6-4 during it.
Porzingis has scored at least 20 points in seven of his past 10 appearances, including a 35-point eruption during a win over the Detroit Pistons. This past week, he started off with 19 points and 11 rebounds in 31 minutes during a 104-94 victory over Paul Millsap and the Atlanta Hawks.
After Brandon Jennings challenged him to get 30, Porzingis went off for 31 points and nine rebounds on 13-of-23 shooting during a 107-103 win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Brandon Jennings: "KP is 7'3. He can go for 30 every night. I told him before the game I wanna see 30 points tonight. He said, 'Alright.'"
Porzingis is playing with confidence and the Knicks are winning because of it. One could argue Carmelo Anthony has been the better player over the course of 14 games, but Porzingis has been the catalyst to New York’s turnaround.
Porzingis’ tremendous tear has earned his Top 20 ranking, but don’t sleep on Anthony. Both men could be in the Top 20 soon enough..
Nov 21, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) makes a move to the basket as Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (11) defends during the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
19. John Wall, Washington Wizards
Position: Point Guard Age: 26 (9/6/1990) Experience: 7th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .442/.405/.824 2016-17 Season Averages: 33.5 MPG, 23.5 PPG, 8.9 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 1.4 3PM
John Wall continues to be the most under-appreciated point guard in the NBA. Though he’s accumulated accolades, he’s consistently overlooked in the, “Who’s elite?” conversations despite playing both sides of the ball, scoring and facilitatin, and owning two playoff series wins.
Thus far in 2016-17, Wall has further solidified his place as one of the most productive and sensational players in the NBA.
Wall went off against the Miami Heat for 34 points and eight assists on 12-of-23 shooting from the field and a stunning mark of 5-of-6 from beyond the arc. His shot wouldn’t fall the next time out, but he had 15 assists, four rebounds, four steals, and three blocks.
That’s what makes Wall so special: even when he isn’t scoring, he can dominate games as a facilitator and defensive playmaker.
The Wizards are 4-9 through 13 games, but that includes the 0-3 record they accumulated without Bradley Beal. At 4-6 with both Beal and Wall, the record is far more respectable considering it’s only been 10 games.
No matter the record, Wall has been one of the Top 20 players in the NBA through 13 outstanding appearances.
Nov 23, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) dribbles against Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
18. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Position: Point Guard Age: 24 (3/23/1992) Experience: 6th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .472/.407/.814 2016-17 Season Averages: 33.8 MPG, 23.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.2 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 2.5 3PM
The Cleveland Cavaliers are attempting to build the future of the organization through starting point guard Kyrie Irving. LeBron James is still the best player in Cleveland, but Irving is undoubtedly earning his stripes.
It’s no secret that Irving is one of the best scorers in the NBA, but this past week, he proved himself as a facilitator.
Irving led the Cavaliers to victory with 25 points and 11 assists in three quarters against the Detroit Pistons. It was a beautiful performance from a player who has long been criticized for being unwilling to facilitate.
The next time out, Irving put up 20 points and six assists on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc during a 137-125 win over Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Irving’s development as a facilitator is an encouraging sign that LeBron James won’t have to shoulder an overwhelming workload in the playoffs. He’s always had the ability but the execution end of the spectrum hasn’t been consistently reached.
At 24 years of age, Irving is already an NBA champion and three-time All-Star. He could add to both tallies if he continues to play like this.
Nov 17, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (left) and guard Dwyane Wade (3) prior to the game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bulls have entirely moved on from the Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose era and committed to Jimmy Butler. At 27 years of age, Butler is entering his prime and looking the part of an NBA superstar.
Chicago is off to a 9-6 start and Butler has been one of the best all-around players in the NFL through 15 games.
Butler opened this past week with a dud, recording 22 points on 5-of-18 shooting against the Los Angeles Clippers. He bounced back in an extraordinary way, however, with two of the best performances of his NBA career.
That all began with Butler going off for 40 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and a steal on 14-of-23 shooting during a 118-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
One game later, in the Bulls’ fifth consecutive road game and seventh in eight games, Butler went off against the Denver Nuggets. He recorded 35 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two blocks on marks of 11-of-20 from the field, 2-of-4 from distance, and 11-of-12 at the free throw line.
If you didn’t know it before, you should be aware of it now: Butler is benefiting greatly from the presence of Dwyane Wade.
Nov 21, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) at the foul line against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Philadelphia 76ers won 101-94. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
16. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat
Position: Center Age: 27 (6/13/1989) Experience: 5th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .545/.000/.583 2016-17 Season Averages: 32.6 MPG, 17.9 PPG,15.4 RPG, 4.9 ORPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.0 SPG
Hassan Whiteside is an old school big man who’s dominating head-to-head matchups without folding to contemporary standards. He bullies opponents down low, blocks shots with ferocity, and steps out for midrange jumpers when need be.
The Miami Heat lost Dwyane Wade and failed to replace him with an established player, but Whiteside remains one of the most overwhelming forces in the NBA.
Whiteside began this past week by putting up 18 points, 18 rebounds, and three blocks in a 114-111 victory over the Washington Wizards. He followed that up by going off for a career-high 32 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Whiteside struggled during his final game of the week, but it’d be tough to pretend he hasn’t earned his place in the Top 20.
Whiteside is on pace to become the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 15.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. The only other players to achieve that feat are Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone, and Bob McAdoo.
Not much else needs to be said. Whiteside is on pace to do something that only four of the greatest centers in NBA history have achieved.
Nov 18, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) reacts after hitting a three point shot in the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Spectrum Center. The Hornets defeated the Hawks 100-96. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
15. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Position: Point Guard Age: 26 (5/8/1990) Experience: 6th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .476/.438/.817 2016-17 Season Averages: 33.0 MPG, 24.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 3.0 3PM
The Charlotte Hornets have achieved an 8-6 record through 14 games. The driving force behind the Hornets’ strong start to the 2016-17 NBA regular season has been starting point guard Kemba Walker.
Walker hasn’t yet made the All-Star Game, but the 26-year-old is playing at a Top 15 level during the 2016-17 NBA regular season.
Walker began the week by stepping up in the clutch and helping the Hornets defeat the Atlanta Hawks 100-96. He then tallied 25 points, seven rebounds, and five assists at the New Orleans Pelicans and had 17 points against the Memphis Grizzlies.
In what was easily his toughest test of the week, he recorded 26 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists against the San Antonio Spurs.
Charlotte has hit a bit of a rough patch, but Walker has been an absolute revelation. It’s not just the All-Star numbers that he’s posting, but his uncanny ability to consistently step up during clutch situations.
It’s only November, but if Walker can continue to play at this level, he’ll be an All-Star come February.
Nov 21, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots in the third quarter against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) at Target Center. The Boston Celtics beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
14. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
Position: Point Guard Age: 27 (2/7/1989) Experience: 6th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .432/.337/.879 2016-17 Season Averages: 33.0 MPG, 26.2 PPG, 6.1 APG, 2.7 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 2.2 3PM
Al Horford has returned and provided the Boston Celtics with All-NBA level production. He missed nine games, however, and it was point guard Isaiah Thomas who helped the Celtics go an admirable 4-5 during Horford’s absence.
Over the past week, Thomas and Horford combined forces to lead Boston to three wins in four games—a feat that helps Thomas far more than it hurts him.
After struggling against the Golden State Warriors, Thomas led Boston to three straight wins. He posted 24 points and eight assists in a 94-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons and ripped off 29 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Thomas finished the week by recording 23 points and five assists during a 111-92 victory over the division rival Brooklyn Nets.
Thomas is one of four players averaging at least 25.0 points and 6.0 assists during the 2016-17 NBA regular season. The only other players on that list are Stephen Curry, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook.
The narrative was fun when Thomas was a 5’9″ point guard making waves, but it’s time to respect him for what he is: a star, no matter the height.
Nov 23, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) smiles against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at Golden 1 Center. The Kings beat the Thunder 116-101. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
DeMarcus Cousins is a generational talent who’s on the cusp of truly embarking upon a Hall of Fame career. The Sacramento Kings are beginning to show signs of life and a push for the postseason is within reach.
This past week, Cousins led the Kings to a pair of potentially galvanizing victories over postseason-caliber opponents.
In Sacramento’s lone loss from the past seven days, Cousins dropped 38 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and a block. He then tallied 19 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists as the Kings pulled out a balanced victory over the Toronto Raptors.
If that weren’t enough, Cousins posted 36 points and 13 rebounds on shooting marks of 14-of-28 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
Cousins has a head coach with multiple 50-win seasons on his resume, Dave Joerger, and his own success is beginning to reflect it. The key moving forward will be closing out close games and preserving leads against quality opponents.
Cousins is already producing at an all-time level, but moving forward, he’ll need more than numbers. The Kings’ 6-9 record is a promising start.
Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives past New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
12. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Position: Point Guard Age: 26 (7/15/1990) Experience: 5th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .470/.370/.903 2016-17 Season Averages: 35.5 MPG, 28.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.6 3PM
Amongst those who offer the respect he deserves, Damian Lillard has been praised as much for his mental strength as he has been for his physical capabilities. That mental strength has helped Lillard become one of the most respected leaders in the NBA.
As told by Zach Lowe of ESPN, the strength of Lillard’s leadership can be found in the manner in which he holds himself accountable for his team’s flaws.
“Maybe it’s time for you to talk one-on-one with some guys about their defense,” Leonard told Portland’s franchise player. “Everyone respects what you say.”
Lillard considered it, but decided to stay quiet. “The defensive issues — I’m a part of it,” Lillard told ESPN.com the next day. (Leonard would admit he is, too.) “I didn’t want to go telling people, ‘You need to do this or that.’ Enough talking has been done.”
Now it’s time for Lillard to put his defensive money where his mouth is.
Portland is currently ranked No. 30 in the NBA in both points allowed per game and points allowed per 100 possessions. Nevertheless, Lillard has the Trail Blazers just one game back of .500 and remaining competitive against elite opponents.
Point in case: Lillard dropped 40 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds during a 137-125 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The loss was tough to stomach, but Lillard’s 11 assists were a season-high and he wasn’t as much of a turnstile defensively. He still needs to improve his consistency in both regards, but he’s called himself out for his own and his team’s issues.
Lillard has earned his place as one of the Top 10 players in the NBA, but he’ll need to step up defensively and lead Portland out of its current rut of five losses in six games to get back into the Top 10 on this list.
November 23, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the basketball against Los Angeles Lakers center Timofey Mozgov (20) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 149-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
11. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Position: Point Guard Age: 28 (3/14/1988) Experience: 8th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .491/.423/.922 2016-17 Season Averages: 32.9 MPG, 26.4 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 4.2 3PM
The past three regular season MVPs all play for the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Durant won the award in a landslide in 2013-14 and Stephen Curry won the awards in 2014-15 and 2015-16, when he became the first unanimous selection in NBA history.
Curry may not be at the top of the Player Power Rankings in November of 2016, but he remains one of the most un-guardable players in NBA history.
Curry’s ability to shoot off the bounce is unparalleled. He put on a clinic in that exact regard when he torched the Los Angeles Lakers for 31 points and nine assists in 29 minutes on 11-of-18 shooting from the field and 7-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc.
It was an otherwise forgettable week from Curry, but with three All-NBA teammates and a Finals MVP coming off the bench, there’s not much he needs to do for Golden State to win.
Curry is currently one of four players averaging at least 25.0 points and 6.0 assists per game. The difference between Curry and the others on that list is that he’s also making an average of 4.2 3-point field goals per game.
Curry may not post the type of numbers he did in 2015-16, but the Warriors are already dominating and his mere presence enables that.
Nov 23, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) dribbles the ball as Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends during the third quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Other players may be more decorated or, “Better,” based on past seasons, but DeMar DeRozan has played at a ridiculous level in 2016-17. He’s been the best player on the 9-6 Toronto Raptors and has been scoring at a historic rate.
Whether or not you believe DeRozan’s torrid start is sustainable, he’s been nothing short of brilliant this season.
DeRozan had yet another 30-point game during the Raptors’ 113-111 road win over the Denver Nuggets. He struggled against the Sacramento Kings, but bounced back with 25 points and seven assists on 11-of-21 shooting against the Los Angeles Clippers.
For good measure, DeRozan picked up 24 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and a pair of steals as the Raptors secured up a road win over James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
For perspective, DeRozan is averaging 33.9 points on 54.2 percent shooting when Toronto wins and 25.3 points on 39.5 percent shooting when it loses. Yet, Toronto actually has a better net rating when he’s off the floor—in the 11.1 minutes per game they play without him, of course.
With 10 30-point games and two above 40 in just 15 appearances, it’d be asinine to rank DeRozan any lower than this.
Nov 21, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka (7) and guard Elfrid Payton (4) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
9. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Position: Small Forward Age: 21 (12/6/1994) Experience: 4th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .493/.167/.786 2016-17 Season Averages: 35.1 MPG, 21.8 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 5.8 APG, 2.2 BPG, 2.0 SPG
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to build towards a statistical season unlike any in league history. At 21 years of age, he’s already showing a versatility that no one—not even LeBron James—has achieved before.
This past week, Antetokounmpo offered a glimpse into just how unfathomably well-rounded his potential truly is.
Antetokounmpo began the week by scoring 30 points against Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. Two days later, the Milwaukee Bucks hosted the Orlando Magic and Antetokounmpo played at a simply unfair level.
Antetokounmpo finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, and three blocks—a historically significant triple-double.
Antetokounmpo’s performance was the first time since 2007 that a player reached 20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, and three blocks. The last three players to hit those marks were Andrei Kirilenko in 2007, Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994, and Michael Jordan in 1988.
As it pertains to his season averages, Antetokounmpo is well on his way to becoming the first player in NBA history to average at least 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 blocks, and 1.0 steal.
November 21, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) and forward Blake Griffin (32) celebrate the 123-115 victory against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
8. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Position: Power Forward Age: 27 (3/16/1989) Experience: 7th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .490/.188/.776 2016-17 Season Averages: 32.8 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.8 ORPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Despite consistently being on the right end of a blowout, Blake Griffin is finding ways to dominate from a statistical perspective. The Los Angeles Clippers have the best record in the NBA and Griffin’s ability to do a bit of everything is a primary reason why.
This past week, Griffin offered a reminder to the NBA: though he doesn’t get credit for being such, he’s one of the best passing big men in league history.
Griffin dominated the Sacramento Kings for 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block in a 121-115 victory. One day later, he went off for 28 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and a steal during a 102-95 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
If that weren’t enough, Griffin took over with 26 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, one block, and a steal during a 123-115 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Griffin finished the week with 13 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and two steals in just 26 minutes during a win over the Dallas Mavericks. That would’ve translated to per 36 marks of 16.6 points, 9.7 assists, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.8 steals.
For those who doubt his ranking, the 14-2 Clippers have a net rating of +21.8 with Griffin on the floor and -5.2 without him—the biggest disparity of anyone on the roster, including Chris Paul.
Nov 23, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard forward Kawhi Leonard (2) passes the ball during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
7. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Position: Small Forward Age: 25 (6/29/1991) Experience: 6th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .468/.400/.933 2016-17 Season Averages: 34.0 MPG, 25.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 SPG, 2.0 3PM
The San Antonio Spurs have been the beneficiaries of an incredible rise to superstardom by Kawhi Leonard. He remains the gold standard for on-ball defenders and has bordered on elite status as a scorer.
Leonard’s leadership, defense, and scoring have the Spurs off to a 12-3 start, but this past week placed a spotlight on a new development in his skill set: facilitating.
Leonard and the Spurs played three games this past week and he had at least four assists every time out. That includes the 23 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals he had during a 116-107 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Leonard also had 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and a steal during a win over the Dallas Mavericks, but it was his last performance that may have been his best.
Matched up against one of the best perimeter defensive duos in the NBA, Kawhi Leonard torched Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for 30 points on 14-of-21 shooting. He added another four assists and led San Antonio to an explosive 119-114 road win.
At 25 years of age, Leonard has firmly solidified his place as one of the Top 5-to-10 players in the NBA. An MVP award could soon be in his future.
Nov 21, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) shoots the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (21) defends in the first half of the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Golden State beat Indiana 120-83. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
6. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Position: Small Forward Age: 28 (9/29/1988) Experience: 10th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .573/.425/.840 2016-17 Season Averages: 34.1 MPG, 27.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 2.1 3PM
It’s fair to believe that Kevin Durant could win the scoring title if he put his mind to it in 2016-17. That’s an arrogant statement, of course, but Durant has four scoring titles—more than every player in NBA history not named Wilt Chamberlain, George Gervin, Allen Iverson, or Michael Jordan.
Durant’s efficiency is entirely sustainable, which is terrible to think about considering he has a slash line of .573/.425/.840.
Durant dominated the Boston Celtics with 23 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and one block on ridiculous 10-of-13 shooting. One game later, he tallied 33 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field.
Durant failed to offer much of anything offensively against the Indiana Pacers, but it’d be silly to penalize him too much for one off game.
Durant is going to be sacrificing offensive numbers for defense and victory throughout the 2016-17 campaign. The Golden State Warriors have four All-NBA players in the prime of their careers and underrated depth around them.
Durant may or may not finish the 2016-17 season in the Top 5 on this list, but he’s undoubtedly one of the Top 5 players in the NBA.
November 21, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) moves the ball as forward Blake Griffin (32) provides coverage against Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph (6) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
5. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Position: Point Guard Age: 31 (5/6/1985) Experience: 12th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .472/.439/.881 2016-17 Season Averages: 30.6 MPG, 18.4 PPG, 8.5 APG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 SPG, 2.3 3PM
The Los Angeles Clippers own the best record in the NBA at 14-2 and have the league’s best point differential at +13.8. The Clippers’ depth and commitment to defense have been refreshing to see, but Los Angeles’ success and failure still rides on its point guard’s shoulders.
In his 12th NBA season, Paul is a favorite to win the MVP trophy that he should’ve been awarded for his all-time season in 2007-08.
Despite shooting 2-of-10 from the field against the Sacramento Kings, Paul still flirted with a triple-double at 11 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals. He then tallied 19 points, eight assists, and two steals in a win over the Chicago Bulls.
Paul closed out the week with 26 points and 12 assists during a win over Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors and tallied 18 points and four steals in 26 minutes during an obliteration of the Dallas Mavericks.
For perspective, Paul is averaging 19.3 points and 8.6 assists in Los Angeles’ 14 wins and 12.0 points and 7.5 assists in its two losses. He’s the lifeline to success for the most consistently underwhelming organization in NBA history.
With the Clippers dominating and Paul orchestrating their success on both ends, it’d be silly to not have the four-time All-NBA First Team honoree listed as a favorite for MVP.
Nov 23, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after scoring in the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
4. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Position: Small Forward Age: 31 (12/30/1984) Experience: 14th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .502/.365/.722 2016-17 Season Averages: 36.3 MPG, 23.8 PPG, 9.3 APG, 8.5 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.6 3PM
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in dominant form and LeBron James has been the catalyst to team success. Though he consistently skips games played in Indiana, James is controlling games like only he can at most other venues.
With an improved jump shot and an invaluable willingness to defer, James has the Cavaliers off to an 11-2 start to the 2016-17 season.
James began the week by recording 21 points, three rebounds, three assists, and a block in 28 minutes during a 104-81 win over the Detroit Pistons. Those aren’t awe-inspiring statistics, but James essentially got out of Kyrie Irving’s way—a critical sign of maturity.
After Kevin Love scored an NBA record 34 points in the first quarter of the Cavaliers’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers, James took over with 31 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, and three steals.
That triple-double pushed James past Fat Lever for No. 6 all-time in career triple-doubles.
Harden began this past week with 31 points and 10 assists to zero turnovers during a 111-102 win over the Utah Jazz. That includes one of the filthiest victory-sealing shots that you’ll see in your life as a basketball fan.
For those who missed it, Harden did the following:
That’s not even fair.
Harden then tallied 28 points, 11 assists, and eight rebounds during a 99-96 win over the Detroit Pistons. Harden and the Rockets lost to the Toronto Raptors, but he still managed to record 29 points and 15 assists on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and a 12-of-12 mark at the free throw line.
With Houston three games above .500 after 15 games, it’s hard to do anything but marvel over Harden’s consistent and efficient all-time production.
Nov 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives to the basket in front of Brooklyn Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick (6) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Position: Point Guard Age: 28 (11/12/1988) Experience: 9th Season 2016-17 Slash Line: .444/.337/.809 2016-17 Season Averages: 34.9 MPG, 31.8 PPG, 10.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.9 3PM
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have lost Kevin Durant, but they retained a genuine superstar in Russell Westbrook. It’s still a work in progress in Oklahoma City, but how could it not be just 15 games into the post-KD era?
Westbrook has the Thunder atop the Northwest Division after 16 games, which is all one could realistically ask for with Durant’s departure still being processed and accounted for.
Westbrook is dangerously close to becoming the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double. The only other player to achieve that feat was Oscar Robertson in 1961-62, when The Big O averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists in 44.3 minutes per game.
For perspective, Robertson averaged 25.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 9.2 assists per 36 minutes, and Westbrook is currently at 32.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 10.8 assists on the same basis.
Westbrook already has a league-leading five triple-doubles in just 16 games played. That puts him on pace for 25.6—let’s round down to 25—in an 82-game season, which doesn’t even touch upon the fact that he’s been showing signs of improvement in clutch situations.
Just to summarize how ridiculous he is, these were Westbrook’s numbers from this past week: 30-13-10, 31-15-11, 34-13-8, and 31-9-11.
Nov 22, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) controls the ball in front of Atlanta Hawks forward Kris Humphries (43) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Hawks 112-96.Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The New Orleans Pelicans were unable to achieve consistent victory without Jrue Holiday, but Anthony Davis never gave up. With Holiday back in the rotation, Davis now has the supporting fire to lead the Pelicans to victory.
The proof: New Orleans is on a four-game winning streak and has won six of its past eight games overall.
Davis began this past week by going off for 38 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four blocks, and two steals in a 113-101 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Just one day later, he posted 38 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks in a 121-116 win against the Charlotte Hornets.
Davis had 13 points and three blocks in 19 injury-shortened minutes during a 112-94 win over the Atlanta Hawks, but his final performance more than made up for that.
Davis went off for 45 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block during a 117-96 blowout of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He shot 17-of-27 from the field, 2-of-4 from 3-point range, and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Most impressively, he held Karl-Anthony Towns to nine points on 4-of-11 shooting while simultaneously recording his third 45-point game of 2016-17.