NBA: Who the 10 best players in NBA 2K17 should be

There are some questionable appearances among the 10 highest rated players in NBA 2K17, so who should make the top 10 instead and how should the order change?

Mar 19, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NBA Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) is guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NBA players, more so than the fans eager to play the game, are normally fixated with their standing in 2K. Recently, this meant a great deal of attention to their ratings in the newly released NBA 2K17, the latest instalment of the series that lets hopeless coach potatoes live out their dreams in a virtual world while players get to take to the court in a new way. Of course, debate over who’s been rated too high, too low, or just right ensued.

It’s always the way. There are always going to be players deemed as “overrated” by fans, and some forgotten studs who can never seem to crack an 80 overall rating no matter what they do. For the LA Clippers, that man is J.J. Redick.

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors have been busy spending their summer assembling a starting lineup almost exclusively made of 90 overall stars.

In case you don’t know how the top 10 list in NBA 2K17 looks, here it is.

96 – LeBron James
94 – Stephen Curry
93 – Kevin Durant
93 – Russell Westbrook
93 – Kawhi Leonard
91 – Chris Paul
90 – Klay Thompson
90 – Draymond Green
90 – James Harden
90 – Anthony Davis

Not to hate on the Warriors and the obvious talent of their stars, but to provide another perspective as to who should have made the NBA 2K17 top 10 instead, there will be some changes and they won’t be as well represented in this list.

A couple of other All-Star talents will be taking their place, and the order of the top 10 shown above will be changed.

What would the NBA, both real and virtual, be without debate, right?

Let’s get started with a new name at No. 10 first, and then work our way to the top.

April 20, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) controls the ball against Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu (8) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

10th place – Blake Griffin

An injury ridden year and the foolish decision to punch an equipment manager last season has clearly cost Blake Griffin in NBA 2K17. He wasn’t close to making the top 10, instead coming a mere 22nd with an overall rating of 87.

DeMar DeRozan came in with the same rating, while players such as past-his-prime Carmelo Anthony and LaMarcus Aldridge (both 88) came ahead of him.

All these ratings, and Melo and Aldridge in particular, are puzzling. They’re both great players in their own right, but neither possess the overall offensive skill set and triple-double tendencies of Blake Griffin. It’s a fact that seems to have been somewhat overlooked in the 2K17 ratings.

Prior to injury last season, Griffin was at his best. With averages of 23.2 points (50.8 percent shooting), 8.7 rebounds and five assists per game, he displayed his ability to create in the post, operate from mid-range, and run an offense either in transition or from the top of the key as a multi dimensional threat.

If given a chance to run the offense more often to take some pressure off Chris Paul — as he did to an extent in the 2015 playoffs, averaging 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game — Griffin can be an absolute force. And not just as a shooter or post threat, but as an all around ball handler, athletic and skilful scorer, and most importantly as a facilitator.

Rather than being past his prime like Melo, taking a horde of inefficient shots like DeRozan, not being able to run an entire offense and create for others like Aldridge, and being able to carry an offense in a variety of ways that Klay Thompson and Draymond Green can’t (obviously, they haven’t needed to either, but Blake’s overall playmaking and scoring gives him an edge), Griffin shouldn’t have fallen so far behind such players.

If he didn’t have an injured season in 2015-16 and was able to showcase how much he can do as per usual, Griffin would have had a better chance at edging into the 2K17 top 10. His skill set and athleticism warrant those kind of ratings.

Apr 2, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) in action against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Indiana Pacers won 115-102. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

9th place – Paul George

Paul George‘s comeback story was even better than expected in 2015-16. As his first full season since recovering from a gruesome leg break in the summer of 2014, it was fair to think that he’d be slower at first.

Being a dominant two-way player with his typical three-point stroke wasn’t the requirement right away as the Indiana Pacers opted to shift him to power forward for far more of his minutes (39 percent for the season, to be precise).

But that didn’t matter for George. He had a few quiet performances early on, yet proceeded to score 36 points in his sixth game of the year, drop 48 a month later, and average 31 points on 46.9 percent shooting from November 6 to December 8.

He started incredibly strong, and it was only a sign of things to come.

George was the still the superstar capable of carrying his Pacers. Boasting a 37.1 percent shot from three, stellar athleticism to finish inside, and improved playmaking ability to match a career-high of 4.1 assists per game, George did all he could. A career-high 23.1 points per game and All-NBA Third Team honors helped cap that off at the end of the season.

To add to his offensive talent, George played as his typical self on defense, being an elite presence on the wing and making the All-Defensive Second Team in the process.

As someone with superior athleticism, defense and the proven track record of carrying an offense by himself as a creator, George gets the nod in my NBA 2K17 top 10 instead of Klay Thompson (yes, Thompson doesn’t need to carry an offense, but the same differences still apply).

Apr 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates after scoring a basket during the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center. The Rockets won 118-110. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

8th place – James Harden

James Harden may not make the top 10 of my general NBA player rankings (not that I’ve made such a list yet, so let’s stick with 2K for now), simply because two of his primary flaws — dominating control of the ball too much at times, averaging 4.6 turnovers per game last season, and, obviously, his painfully lacking defensive effort — are still prevalent.

In 2K, though, when you can determine a player’s defensive effort and move the ball as freely as you wish on offense, it’s easy to make sure that Harden is one of the 10 highest rated players in NBA 2K17 simply because he has so much skill. Also, you can easily make the argument that he’s a top-10 player in reality for the same reason.

And because of those flaws, primarily the defense, we often focus on the negatives with him and forget how great he actually is. We don’t always appreciate that he can do a combination of things that hardly any players can.

Last season, Harden averaged 29 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, finishing with 43.9 percent shooting and a 35.9 percent three-point shot, both of which are a slight drop off from 2014-15.

His sheer production, though, from the passing flare he displays to the shot creation with drives, free throw barrages and step backs, equated to some truly historical company.

In fact, through NBA history, only Oscar Robertson (seven times), LeBron James (twice) and the great Michael Jordan himself (once) have ever recorded at least 29 points, six rebounds and seven assists per game in a season. It’s hard to argue with that kind of all around offensive impact.

Harden’s production and talent is just too high to not place him in the top 10, lacking defensive effort aside. His offensive ratings alone deserve that kind of overall rating in 2K17.

As an obvious superior to Draymond Green in that regard, who’s also coming off a poor showing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Harden is the one player here where offense wins flat out over defense. The Beard’s offensive attributes should equal a high overall rating in the game.

And, hopefully for the Rockets, some defensive effort will be present next season.

Feb 25, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) signals after hitting a three point basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first quarter of a game at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

7th place – Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis could easily climb a few spots up this list as the 2016-17 season gets underway. Despite being without Jrue Holiday for the start of the season as he takes a leave of absence to care for his wife after her approaching brain surgery, the New Orleans Pelicans make some solid additions this summer. Langston Galloway adds depth at point, while E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill both provide improved defense, athleticism, versatility and upside.

With that potential to improve in mind, Davis garnering some more attention as the team’s leader should only help his rating in NBA 2K17. That and, obviously, the fact that he’s a special basketball player.

After being shut down in March to undergo surgery on his left knee and a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Davis was held to less than 70 games for the fourth straight time. It likely hurt his standing in 2K17 as he barely scraped the top 10 at 10th, but his two-way ability is exceptional.

Averaging 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals and two blocks per game, Davis was a force yet again. Not taking a leap to be MVP as many expected aside, he continued to show off his elite rim protection and expand his offensive game.

He eased out beyond the three-point line with 35 makes at a 32.4 percent rate for the season. Limiting those attempts and being selective will be key, but add on his career-high 43.4 percent shot from 16 feet to the arc, and it’s clear Davis’ jumper is increasingly smooth and reliable.

Athleticism, rebounding, rim protection, floor running and shooting all combine to make Davis an easy choice for a top-7 player when translating those attributes into his 2K17 rating.

Rather than Klay Thompson at 7th place, someone who will capitalize from brilliant shooting with various virtual ratings a great deal (he’s an underrated defender, too, but still), Davis taking his spot shouldn’t be considered as much of a hot take.

May 12, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) brings the ball up the court against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Andre Roberson (21) during the first quarter in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

6th place – Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard will be the best defender in NBA 2K17. It’s harder to stop opponents outside than it is to take control of a big man with length inside to swat away opponents, and there’s no one on the planet with more smothering perimeter defense than “The Claw” that is Leonard.

His combination of persistence, speed and length gives opponents hell, resulting in Leonard leading the San Antonio Spurs towards the best defensive rating in the NBA last season while winning his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award.

Meanwhile, he became a deadly catch-and-shoot threat and added more to his offensive arsenal than we could have seen coming.

Making 44.3 percent of his threes with 1.8 makes per game (up from 34.9 percent and one make the previous season), Leonard’s shooting stroke couldn’t have looked much further from the struggles he had early in his career. On top of that, he improved his handle and stroke off the dribble to the point where he could create far more effectively in isolation using pull-ups, drives, or operating from the post.

With his rank in the 84th percentile in isolation plays, 89th as a post-up player, and 95th as a pick-and-roll ball handler, albeit on limited plays (per NBA.com), it’s clear how far Leonard has come as a two-way superstar.

Everything combined resulted in new career-highs for Kawhi of 21.2 points, 2.6 assists and one block per game. Not to mention new highs in PER (26) and true shooting percentage (61.6) as well.

Leonard keeps getting better, and the 93 rating he received in NBA 2K17 is easily fair.

May 24, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts in front of Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) during the first quarter in game four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

5th place – Russell Westbrook

As a top-five player in the NBA, it goes without saying that Russell Westbrook makes an appearance in the top five for 2K17. Possessing more athleticism than any point guard we’ve seen and arguably more than anyone in the league right now altogether, Westbrook gets a lot of ratings boosts from his physical prowess before even considering the talent.

And then there’s everything that his physical prowess and furious motor allows him to do on the court. With an astounding league-best 18 triple-doubles last season, resulting in averages of 23.5 points and career-highs of 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game, Westbrook was easily worthy of the often overused “beast” descriptor.

As the best rebounding guard in the world, an improved playmaker, terrorizing transition threat and quick trigger pull-up shooter from mid-range, he’s too entertaining to play with in 2K and simply too good in various aspects of the game to not rank ahead of those below him on this list.

Of course, there are weaknesses. Westbrook shot 29.6 percent from three last season, which is far from ideal in today’s NBA and certainly less than ideal for someone who attempted 4.3 per game. His defense and gambles for steals, not to mention the shot selection that frustrates Thunder fans at times, are also issues.

However, for the obvious way he can take over a game single-handedly with such explosive authority, there’s no way his overall rating can’t reflect that with a top-five standing in the game.

Though, rating as a 93 overall, exactly the same as his former teammate Kevin Durant, is something I’d question. As this list will indicate.

April 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) moves the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Jordan Farmar (4) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

April 12, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) moves the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Jordan Farmar (4) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

4th place – Chris Paul

This may bother some people, just as it may have for those who read the Sports Illustrated Top 100 for 2016-17 and saw Chris Paul placed at 4th on their list, too. Ahead of Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and the triple-double man himself, Russell Westbrook, Paul being this high may surprise some.

But there are several reasons why.

For a start, Paul is easily the superior defender compared to Westbrook. Using his intelligence, knack of breaking up passing lanes, deceptive strength and intensity to make up for not having incredible explosiveness, Paul made his sixth All-Defensive First Team last season. Meanwhile, Westbrook loses position far more often and gambles for steals and big plays, which doesn’t pay off with the effectiveness or consistency of Paul.

Then there’s the simple matter of running an offense. Paul may not have Westbrook’s gaudy basic per game statistics, but there’s no way to question that Paul is a more reliable option running the point.

While he may differ from the ability that Westbrook has to dominate a game with such ferocious explosiveness, Paul takes better care of the ball, takes better shots, finds his players open looks when necessary, and runs an offense with more clinical poise than frenetic aggression.

That same offensive prowess, on a level we’ve only seen a handful of times before through NBA history, also places him ahead of Leonard.

Even though players may find it easier to dominate in 2K17 by leaning on Westbrook’s athletic gifts and superior rebounding, Paul is the better two-way player. His rating should reflect that, rather than place him at 91 overall below Russ’ 93 rating.

May 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a shot against the San Antonio Spurs in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

3rd place – Kevin Durant

NBA 2K17 probably got the top three fairly accurate in the eyes of most. Despite being one of the best scorers we’ve ever seen, possessing a combination of athleticism, length and shot creation that just shouldn’t happen so effortlessly, Kevin Durant coming in at 3rd makes sense.

Behind the unprecedented shooting ratings of Stephen Curry and the undisputed all-around greatness of now three-time champion LeBron James is the right spot for Durant.

It just seems hard to place him further ahead in 2K17 when the game will be looking at the momentum of player’s individual seasons and how the playoffs panned out. Even though it was the Warriors who blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals (sorry to mention that for the billionth time), it was Durant’s Thunder who lost a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

His incredible play in that series is almost overlooked as his 42.3 percent shooting has caused many to forget how much he did in other areas of the game and how brilliant his defense was (the best defense of his career that is). Averaging 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game for the series is a very basic indicator of just how important he was.

However, Curry’s Warriors getting the best of Durant’s Thunder in the playoffs and winning a second straight (unanimous) MVP has unsurprisingly placed Curry ahead.

Of course, if he isn’t going to be placed in the top two, there’s no question that Durant is still a clear choice ahead of everyone else for 3rd.

Jun 2, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) stands in the tunnel before game one of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

2nd place – Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry is an otherworldly talent because of his shooting, and that should apply to NBA 2K17. Except that it starts to get a little bit difficult to make a fair version of Curry when it comes to producing a video game.

Not in terms of going overboard and making a virtual player that exceeds Curry in real life, but in terms of making a virtual player that actually does Curry’s real life ability justice.

Shattering his own record with 402 made three-pointers last season, averaging a league-best and career-high 30.1 points while shooting 50.4 percent from three and 45.4 percent from three, Curry displayed a partnership of quantity, quality and difficulty from range that we’ve never seen before.

In addition to taking and making crazy shots off the dribble from farther away than anyone else can hope to manage, Curry made them at an absurdly efficient rate. Entering the 50/40/90 club as the top option on the NBA’s best team — being the number one target for opposing defenses who should (theoretically) have an advantage against his slender 6’3″ frame — is nothing but incredible.

So, making Curry in 2K17 do the actual Curry justice, as someone who can hit the absurd shots from 30 feet that he can, comes as a shock. Until this year, making the shots in 2K that Curry does night in and night out has always been basically impossible, with the shot meter never wanting to light up from his genuine comfort zone.

With his scoring ability, tremendous finishing inside (69.6 percent within two feet), playmaking, knack for steals (a league best 2.1 per game last season), and ridiculous shooting prowess, it makes sense that Curry is 2nd in NBA 2K17’s top 10.

Even if you don’t rate him as highly as Kevin Durant, the shooting ratings are just too high for Curry in the virtual world.

Jun 19, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebratew with the Larry O

1st – LeBron James

This was obviously going to be the case, unless you’re still digging in desperate denial to find a reason as to why LeBron James shouldn’t be considered the best player in the NBA.

If averaging 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, three steals and three blocks to win the last three games of the 2016 Finals wasn’t enough, then there’s nothing lest to say.

He delivered a miraculous effort throughout the series against all odds, facing the first 73-9 team and the first unanimous MVP while down 3-1, and asserted himself as the clear-cut best player in the world.

LeBron is King.

The same applies to the virtual world of NBA 2K17 where LeBron’s talent and unparalleled two-way impact should be reflected with the best overall rating. The 96 region that 2K17 has awarded him seems fair, although it doesn’t really matter too much as long as he tops the list.

With his athletic attributions, remarkable vision and passing ability, rebounding, strength when finishing inside, exceptionally versatile defense and straight forward, all-around ability, LeBron’s ratings should be high in more facets of the game than anyone.

The only real negative to take away from last season is his sudden drop off in perimeter shooting, finishing the regular season 30.9 percent from three with only 1.1 makes per game. Then again, he turned that around when it mattered by going 37.1 percent from deep in the Finals.

While Curry may be maxing out NBA 2K17’s shooting ratings and the limitations of virtual three-point shooting, LeBron James should be firmly at the top of this list.

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