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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top Five Active NBA Players at Every Position

Top Five Active NBA Players at Every Position

Who are the top 5 players at every NBA position?
Publish Date: 11/04/2018
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Point Guards

1) Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

2) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

3) Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

4) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

If you expected anyone other than Curry at number one then you clearly don’t follow basketball much. I have Westbrook at two because of his versatility and athleticism even though his three-point shooting leaves something to be desired. Lillard, who was an All-NBA 1st Team member last season, regularly puts up over 25 points, six assists, and four rebounds per game. This was a contested spot. I honestly wanted to put Paul at the third spot because he’s superior defensively to everyone else in the top five and is a better distributor too, but Lillard’s scoring was too much to ignore.

That being said, Paul is obviously number four. The fifth spot was also contested. I considered Walker, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, and John Wall for the spot. I ended up going with Walker because Irving isn’t quite himself yet and his numbers have fallen off so much. He’ll bounce back but he needs time to fully recover and also find his place in Boston’s offense. Simmons still can’t hit three-pointers and struggles with contested jumpers. And Walker just has better numbers than Wall and Wall turns the ball about twice as much as Walker.

Shooting Guards

1) James Harden, Houston Rockets

2) Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves

3) Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

4) Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

5) DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs

There were a handful of younger shooting guards I considered, like Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, and Bradley Beal. It was close but none of those three made the list. Harden is the league’s active MVP, which makes him an easy choice for the number one spot. The second and third positions were a lot harder to decide on. I ended up putting Butler at two over Thompson because I think he does more and is even better of defense than Thompson who I have at three because of his historic three-point performances.

Oladipo, another great defender and do-it-all player like Butler, could have been ranked as high as two but he’s fourth best in my eyes. DeRozan, who’s started off hot in San Antonio, comes in at five. He’s a great offensive talent who has mastered the mid-range shot but lacks the three-point shooting and versatility of the other players on this list.

Small Forwards

1) LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

2) Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors 

3) Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder

5) Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

We all know how this goes. James is first and Durant is second, not just in the small forward rankings but in the league as a whole. They are the two best players, Curry is third. I wasn’t sure how to classify Durant because I know he’s played some power forward for the Golden State Warriors and Basketball Reference has him listed at that position. In the end, I classified him as a small forward anyways.

Leonard has been resurgent with the Toronto Raptors and it’s easy to give him the third spot on this list. It’s good to see that he’s bounced back from the injury 2016-17 playoffs and is continuing to grow his legacy. Below him at four I have George who has been a consistent All-Star but never a top-tier player in the league. That’s what separates him and Leonard.

I wanted to put Gordon Hayward on the list, but he hasn’t put up the numbers deserving of the spot and either isn’t fully back to himself or is struggling to find his spot in the Celtics offense. Either way, Tatum has outplayed him up to this point in the season.

Power Forwards

1) Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

3) Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

4) Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons

5) Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers 

This is tricky, and I know some people will disagree with my choice, but I am confident with putting Davis ahead of Antetokounmpo. Everybody is always ready to crown Antetokounmpo MVP because he’s such a physical specimen, that they overlook Davis. Davis is a top tier defensive player, who led the league in blocks last season, can shoot threes, gets 25 points and 11 boards a night easily, and he has advanced passing and dribbling abilities for his size! Not that Antetokounmpo is bad at any of those things, but I am asserting that Davis is the better three-point shooter, rebounder, defender, and he protects the ball a lot better. Therefore, Davis is the best and Antetokounmpo is the second best power forward in the NBA.

There’s a huge drop off from second overall to third. I have Green at the third overall position because of his defensive ability but also because people forget he can score on offense, he just isn’t asked too. He’s a top tier defender. After Green things get sketchy again. Kristaps Porzingas would ordinarily make an appearance at four or five but with his injury I didn’t feel like I could keep him on the list, especially since he’ll miss so much time. That means Griffin slides up into the fourth position, which I would’ve put him at anyways since he’s playing so well this season. Finally, I couldn’t resist the urge to put Love at five. He’s been totally disrespected since he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers and so many people forget just what he’s capable of when a franchise asks him to carry it. Unfortunately, he’ll miss a chunk of time this season thanks to a foot surgery.

Centers

1) Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

2) Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

3) DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors

4) LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

5) Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Once again the first and second spots are easy to identify at this position. Embiid is clearly the most dominant center in the game today thanks to his prolific defense and rare offensive versatility. Towns, who I think holds himself back at points, is not a great defender but is so naturally talented that his offensive game is a spectacle worn watching.

The third spot is dicey. Cousins has not plated for a long time and that’s the reason why I held out Porzingas earlier, but he was such an offensive force when he was healthy that I’ll leave him at three anyways. Remember, he was averaging 25 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game before he got hurt last season. Next up is Aldridge, who has a much needed bounce back year in 2017 during Leonard’s absence. Yes, I’m classifying him as a center and not a power forward because he’s seen much more time at center over the last two seasons. He isn’t a great rebounder but gets the job done on offense

The final spot was highly contested in my mind. Andre Drummond, Jokic, and Rudy Gobert all have legitimate claims to this position Drummond has become the NBA’s best rebounder but Gobert is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and Jokic is the most versatile of the three. Against my natural instinct I’m putting Jokic at five ahead of more prominent rim protectors simply because he boasts a far superior offensive game that incorporates low post, three-point, and passing mechanics.

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