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2017 saw some great basketball with players flourishing. There were a few players that stood out and raised their game to a different plateau. You can make a case for all players being the best but we not only break down their great attributes, we dissect their weaknesses for you the reader to decide on who’s really the best player. We asked five other NBA fans to not be bias and make a case for why a certain player should be called the best in the NBA right now.
Strengths: When you watch Kevin Durant on the court, his game is the most well-rounded game in the entire NBA. At 6’9″ tall, Durant is a the only player in the league who can not be guarded one on one. Because of his height, he can shoot over you, and with his guard type quickness, he can drive by anyone close to his height. Not one time in his career has he shot over 56% from inside the arc but this year he’s shooting almost 61%. Not to mention, he’s a 88% free throw shooter and shooting close to 38% from the behind the arc. Also I won’t go into detail about his 8.2 rebounds and a shade under five assists a game (4.9).
Weaknesses: For years, Durant’s main concern was that he should be a better defender. Well with his career-high 1.6 blocks per game this season, that has gone out of the window. So the real concern for Durant has been his health. If you have to look at anything else from Durant, it has been ability to close out big games. People will remember last season, when his Oklahoma City Thunder could not close out the Golden State Warriors after being up 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals. At times, it has been shown that Durant does not step up in big moments and at times can be passive when it comes to finishing off the opposing team. Danny Thompson
Strengths: He is a top level athlete who is probably capable of playing any sport. He possesses the speed of a NFL defensive back, the explosiveness of a 100 meter world class sprinter and the vertical leap of a volley ball outside hitter. He has proven himself to be driven, fearless, and resilient. His versatility is expressed through his diverse skill-set comprised of three-point jumpers that he will pull up for in a moments notice. He also possesses mid-range jump shooting from 15 feet out that he creates coming at his defender full speed with an explosive first step in transition and a variety of right and left hand finishes in the paint including rim wrecking dunks. His game is predicated on exploiting defensive short comings and has recently added a mid-post fadeaway shot to his sorted arsenal. Crossovers, spin moves and half court bounce passes, however you want it is however he brings it.
Weaknesses: His play, while being inclusive, lacks the empowerment that a true leader brings to the court. Although he passes before he shoots at times, there were too many times where the hot players went entire quarters without touching the ball. His iron will power can also be a detriment to his personal growth as a player when it comes to grasping certain concepts. Communication doesn’t seem to be one of his strongest attributes. Fourth quarter assertiveness is what defines great players. His production is crucial in influencing a game but it is paramount in the fourth quarter when comes to deciding the game. It seems as if he lacks direction in the waning moments of an intense contest. Eric Rodas
Strengths: Kawhi Leonard is the most versatile player in the NBA, his improved handle has opened up the entire court for Leonard to use at his discretion. The Spurs’ silent leader is great in isolation situations because of his ability to drive strong, finish with either hand and his excellent mid-range post game that includes turn arounds and fade aways over both shoulders. The two-time all star also excels in the pick and roll. Leonard has improved his shooting stroke immensely since coming into the league. It’s definitely showing this year as he shoots 37% from three-point range and 88% from the free throw line. On top of all his offensive prowess, Leonard is also the two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year. Leonard is the best perimeter defender in the league with the ability to shut down most point guards, shooting guards and small forwards.
Weaknesses: Kawhi Leonard has come a long way since coming into the NBA but there is still areas where he can improve. The former NBA Finals MVP still has a little trouble with his handle at times, leading to him stalling or getting stuck while in isolation situations. Leonard is not a very good playmaker by the numbers. He can create open shots for others but does not do it at the consistent rate you would normally see for a player of his caliber. Leonard is only averaging 3.6 assists per game this season and that number needs to increase as he assumes more responsibility for running the offense. As great a defender as Kawhi Leonard is, he can have trouble with bigger players. Elite power forwards and centers can take advantage him in situations where the Spurs may switch on pick and rolls. Damian Adams
Strengths: He’s probably the most skillful player on the list. Harden’s handles is top 10, he can shoot from long range with the best of them and is the hardest to guard straight up one-on-one. His ability to change his mentality on the court to be a point guard and have the skills to go along with it is uncanny. His court vision is underrated and decisioning making coupled with his offensive repertoire makes him the most dangerous player on the court. He has all the tricks a superstar should have and the fact that he’s crafty enough to use everyone of them gives him an advantage every matchup.
Weaknesses: Saying his defense is a liability is like saying babies have dirty diapers, it goes without saying. “The Beard” can get too dependent on the referees begging for a foul. If he’s not having a good game scoring, it affects his entire game and he leans on the “refs” to bail him out. Although his dribbling skills are top notch, he gets infatuated with dribbling and takes himself and the team out the flow of the offense. When the game gets tight or the team is behind with nothing going right, he’s not looked upon to be the leader and he drifts away from the problem instead of pointing out the problem and creating a solution. Raphael Haynes
Strengths: He has the ability to get his shot off and finish at the rim. It doesn’t seem like anything special until you realize he is all of 5’9″. His issue coming into the league was he is not a classic point guard nor was he big enough to play shooting guard. No problem for Mr. Thomas, who has been underestimated his entire life. His handle is sneaky good, on par with the best in the league. He can get to any spot on the court he chooses with lightning quick precision. He’s not afraid of the big moment either. Whatever you need, he will provide. A momentum changing three-pointer, a loose ball or a rebound. He will not be denied.
Weaknesses: He can be a liability on defense and rebounding for obvious reasons. Teams will often try to isolate Thomas on defense causing his teammates to scramble in order to help. Although he is known to stick his nose in and fight for rebounds, it’s just not where he’s going make his living. This is where his size hurts him. He can be too aggressive at times and force some shots. Sometimes, he can over-dribble which can stall the offense and cause his teammates to stand around. Allen Fields
Strengths: The 6’10” big man can handle the basketball like a point guard, shoot with range and he can finish inside with power and finesse. Because of his all-around game, he is one of the hardest matchups on the offensive end of the court. Defensively, Davis has been known to meet many a player at the rim and turn them back like a gatekeeper turning down those that don’t have a pass. For his size, he can also make things happen guarding smaller players, which makes him a versatile defender.
Weaknesses: Davis is very versatile in his game but he does not take advantage of his athletic ability in terms of attacking the rim. He can be seen floating around on the perimeter sometimes and that takes away from his team and the tone that he needs to set as the leader. Defensively, he blocks shots but he can sometimes be absent on that end of the court as well. Mike Patton
Strengths: James’ game has grown even from last year. His aggressiveness keeps defenders timid. We might not see the athleticism on every possession but we see the maturity in his game. For instance, there was a time when he would be a pass-first-type of guy. This year, he’s constantly taking what the defense is giving him which is usually the lane since they don’t want to take the punishment. Yet still, he’s going to make the best possible play. He uses his large stature to keep defenders on their heels as he then makes perfect passes which usually is the best decision. The best part is whatever is needed at that crucial moment, he becomes that. His three-pointer has become more consistent which makes him un-guardable.
Weaknesses: Known as a great defender in the past, he is no longer that. Not terrible but now the opposition is not intimidated including small guards. His feet has become lazy and not as quick. He continues to bail the defense out on offense settling for the “wow” shot. Late in the game and down by two, the “King” tends to over dribble, waiting to take an non-rythm three-pointer when driving to the rim would be just as good. Let’s not forget that he doesn’t use his size as an advantage in the half court. No post-ups or even demanding the ball in the block, he looks to pass first out of the post rather than punish his defender. Raphael Haynes