Who is Currently the Best Player in the NBA?
Throughout recent years, more prominent names have begun to come up when talking about the best player in the NBA. What seemed to be LeBron James‘ crown is now starting to drift away from him. Players such as Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant are beginning to take that title.
The results of a recent vote that 20 NBA coaches participated in showed that Kawhi was the obvious favourite with 12 of the 20 votes. The other two players that received votes were James Harden and the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. I will be going through a list of candidates and reasons to answer who is currently the best player in the NBA.
Who is Currently the Best Player in the NBA?
Due to Durant’s injury, he is technically unable to currently be the best player in the league. However, based on how great he was before the injury, he will definitely come back a top player. Durant’s ability to score from anywhere on the court is unbelievable.
There is no other player that you would want with the ball in a late-game situation. He was voted “Mr. Clutch” by fellow NBA players for that very reason. He did not receive any votes in the poll done by the 20 NBA coaches due solely to his injury.
During the 2018-2019 NBA season, he put up 26 points, 5.9 assists, and 6.4 rebounds per game. He was also insanely productive while shooting an effective field goal percentage of 57.1.
Although he was only able to play in 12 games during the playoffs, he was playing incredibly. He averaged 32.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 7.1 rebounds before going down. An important factor when deciding who the best player in the NBA is their postseason production, a box Kevin definitely checks.
Durant’s defensive ability has also been drastically improving over the past seasons. His ability to guard against positions one to five gives him the versatility one needs to be considered an elite defender. He is also physically gifted with his long wingspan. That length gives him an advantage when it comes to stopping a player. However, as said before, due to his injury, he is ineligible for the title to be the best player in the league.
Harden is one of the best offensive players to ever play the game. Receiving two of the 20 votes in a poll done by NBA coaches for the best player in the league, “the Beard” has the offensive ability to automatically be put into the conversation.
Harden had an offensive explosion during the 2018-2019 season when his now-former teammate Chris Paul was out with an injury. Harden now has the second most consecutive games with 30 points or more at 32 straight. Throughout the 2018-2019 NBA season, he averaged an insane 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game.
Harden’s major flaw is his defence. Although it has improved over the years, there is a lot missing. Until he improves on the other side of the floor, he cannot be named the current best player.
The reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is a rather interesting option. Giannis received six of the 20 votes for the best player in the league in the recent poll done by NBA coaches. He is obviously an incredible player, which his MVP award accounts for.
However, there is an important part of his game that is missing. His lack of a jump shot immediately puts him lower in the conversation. Without an outside game, he is unable to take over a game by himself and relies on spacing from his teammates.
Averaging 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game in the 2018-2019 season proved that Antetokounmpo was deserving of the MVP award. The team was built around him and was utilized perfectly, which showed with their number-one seed in the east.
His playoff run was going very well until Kawhi Leonard was set as his matchup, as seen below. He still needs to develop the ability to take over a game, no matter the circumstances.
Defensively, the Greek Freak is an absolute monster. He came second in voting for the Defensive Player of the Year, and he only has room to improve. Antetokounmpo is an incredible player, but I feel he needs two to three years to fully grow into a player that is capable of being called the best player in the league.
Three years ago, LeBron James would be the obvious answer to this question. However, this is not the case anymore. With last season being the first time James missed the playoffs since the 2004-2005 season, it is obvious that he is beginning to decline.
He did deal with a groin injury through last season which required him to miss 27 games. This was the first time he has dealt with an injury that required him to miss significant time.
Throughout the 2018-2019 season, “King” James averaged a very quiet 27.4 points, 8.3 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game. Although it seems that his game is on the decline, James is still putting up incredible numbers. Next year, the biggest challenge he will face is his age. However, he does have newfound help in Anthony Davis, who can help take the pressure off him.
The biggest change in James’ game has been his effort on the defensive end of the floor. It no longer seems like he is trying, or rather that he’s resting for the next offensive possession. If LeBron were able to bring back the intensity to the defensive end of the court, his case for being the best player in the league would be much stronger.
The 2019 Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, is another obvious player who is in the conversation to be the best player in the league. “The Klaw” was voted the best player by many NBA coaches in a recent poll, due to his incredible two-way ability. He is able to dominate the court in ways that other players cannot emulate.
Although Kawhi only played 60 games in the 2018-2019 season due to load management, he made the most of the games he played. Averaging 26.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game, it was an incredible comeback season for him. Kawhi is also one of the strongest players in the entire league. He is able to push people out of the way with his strength, a trait not all players have.
The Klaw made up for the games he didn’t play by having one of the best postseasons in NBA history. The Finals MVP averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game. His ability to take over the court when he wanted to, bringing the Toronto Raptors to their first championship, was truly impressive.
Kawhi is not only dominant on the offensive side of the floor, but the defensive side as well. Known as the best two-way player in the game, Leonard has the ability to guard almost any position. His awareness of the court at all times gives him a slight edge over his opponents.
The biggest flaw in Kawhi’s game was the fear that he was a system player. People thought that he only played well because he was brought up in a system under Gregg Popovich. The previous season with the Toronto Raptors proved to us that he is much more than a system player. He also showed instances where he was becoming a more versatile playmaker. This is the last step he has to cross before becoming one of the most well-rounded players ever.
The Best Player in the NBA
In conclusion, I believe that Kawhi Leonard is currently the best player in the NBA. His two-way ability, the way he can dominate the game, and now that he has proved he is not just good as a system player are all reasons for my decision.