This article will take a look at the top six (after a lot of thought, I couldn’t make it top five and leave any of these players off of this list) players to build an NBA franchise around starting next season.
6. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Photo Credit: AP Photo
The Rockets finally got their franchise player in Harden, and with a few additional pieces, Houston could find its way deep into the Western Conference playoffs. At the young age of 23, Harden is 5th in the NBA in scoring, 10th in PER, and 1st in best beard (I mean seriously, how does someone get that beard at 23?!?). The shooting guard out of Arizona State is also averaging nearly 6 apg and 5 rpg, proving that he can do it all. Harden’s value is also shown in his EWA (Estimated Wins Added) of 13.0 wins, ranking him third in that category behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
5. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
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Its really sad to see Irving waste his talent in Cleveland, as the Cavaliers never seem to want to put talent around their star players. Despite the Cavs being WAY out of the playoff picture, it is hardly the fault of their star point guard who averages 23.5 pgg, 5.5 apg, and 4 rpg at the young age of 20 (if the Cavs won, would Kyrie be allowed to drink the Champaign?). Another X factor for Kyrie is that he has the “clutch gene” and has hit multiple game winners for Cleveland this season.
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4. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
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Paul has quietly been a top three player in the NBA since joining the Clippers and has somewhat lifted the curse from the inferior Los Angeles basketball franchise. Paul even made a mediocre Hornets team a playoff threat, proving that if there is even just a little bit of talent around him, the team will make the postseason. This season, Paul ranks 3rd in PER, 2nd in assists per game, and 1st in steals per game. These three very different stats show his overall value to winning, his ability to set up his teammates, and his defensive prowess.
3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Photo Credit: AP Photo
Even though Westbrook is often criticized for not giving the ball to teammate Kevin Durant enough, the explosive guard has established himself as one of the NBA’s best. Westbrook ranks 7th in scoring, 5th in assists, 3rd in steals, all while putting up the highest rebounds per game total for the point guard position. With a better court vision and an improved jump shot, Westbrook could propel himself into an elite category. The 24-year-old still has a lot of time to develop, and is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Durant is a once in a lifetime kind of player, and if LeBron didn’t exist Durant would end his career with far more accolades. KD has led the NBA in scoring for the past three seasons, and it appears like he will continue to win that title for the foreseeable future. As he has developed more experience, Durant added other strengths to his game and is on pace to average career highs in rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. KD currently ranks second to LeBron in PER and EWA and may be the best second best player in the league of all time. Did I mention he is 24? It will be scary to play against him in his prime.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
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LeBron is easily the best in the league, and may go down as the best to ever play when his career is over. “The King” is a perfect nickname for him, as he scores at will, passes like crafty point guard, rebounds like a physical big man, defends all five positions, and has the body of a locomotive. James should win the next three MVP awards (barring an unreal season from Durant) and will probably capture three of the next five championships (he’s that good). At age 28, LeBron is just starting his prime, and NBA fans will see once thought to be unreachable feats accomplished.
Crazy to think that last season Oklahoma City had three of the top six players to build around…