With LeBron James’ team getting smashed in the 2017 NBA Finals, talks rose that Kevin Durant may be the best Player in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard also has the unanimous title of the best two-way player in the league, with a great combination of offensive and defensive skill. James Harden and Russell Westbrook also had fantastic NBA campaigns. These 5 players are involved in any argument when the best player discussion is brought up. this gives us the five contestants in James, Leonard, Durant, Westbrook, and Harden.
There are a few categories this decision will be made equally on: team success, overall skill, and career awards.
All of these players have played in a Finals series. However, only three have won rings: Durant, James, and Leonard. Also, in the past couple of years, Durant and James are the only players on this list to go to consecutive Conference Finals. Westbrook, in his first year without Durant, was not able to get a top 5 seed in the playoffs, showing his lack of team-friendly play. Harden’s teams have done well the past, but have not made the Final Four the past two years, the other four players here have.
So Westbrook is at the bottom of this ranking, with Harden just above him. Now we have to choose between Leonard, Durant, and James. Each have won just one ring over the last four years.
Without Durant, the Warriors continued to lock up the first seed and assert their dominance. So that puts Durant at the third spot here. Leonard’s Spurs were leading the Warriors by 23 in game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals. Once Leonard was injured, the Warriors came back and ended up sweeping the Spurs. James’ Cavaliers lost in every game that James did not play in this season. Considering James rested a lot this season, and we are in a tiebreaker for the 1 spot here, Leonard snags the top spot.
1- Leonard- 5 points
2- James- 4 points
3- Durant- 3 points
4- Harden- 2 points
5- Westbrook- 1 point
Without a doubt, all of these players have tremendous skill. All of these players are great offensive players, as they are the best in the league. Straight off of the bat, we can put Harden at the last spot, as the four other players on this list are committed defenders. LeBron James is also an absolutely incredible offensive talent along with a defensive game with no holes in it, so we can also put LeBron at 1. So we are left with Westbrook, Durant, and Leonard.
All three of these stars are terrific offensive players, so it is reduced to the fact that Durant is the only one out of the three that is not physically powerful, so he goes to the 4 spot. Westbrook and Leonard is a tough call. Westbrook is not a great shooter, while Kawhi Leonard has turned into one. Kawhi Leonard also is a Defensive Player of the Year award winner. Leonard goes to 2, Westbrook at 3.
1- James- 9 total points
2- Leonard- 9 total points
3- Westbrook- 4 total points
4- Durant- 5 total points
5- Harden- 3 total points
Championships are not considered because they are not determined by a talent evaluation and definitely came out on the end of the “Team Success” category. Considering that it is most likely that Russell Westbrook will win the MVP award, Leonard and Harden are immediately put at the basement here, as James, Durant, and Westbrook will all be MVPs. Harden is last here, as he has not won a significant award other than Sixth Man of the Year while he was in OKC. Leonard is a two time DPOY, so he will be fourth.
Durant and Westbrook battle it out as each will have one MVP. Now it comes down to All-Star appearances. Durant is at 8, Westbrook at 6. That leaves 4X MVP LeBron James in the top spot.
1- James- 14 total points
2- Durant- 9 total points
3- Westbrook- 7 total points
4- Leonard- 11 total points
5- Harden- 4 total points
1- LeBron James
2- Kawhi Leonard
3- Kevin Durant
4- Russell Westbrook
5- James Harden
Even when heavily analyzed, James stays as the best player in the NBA. It does help to see the edge that leonard has over Durant, with his skill level on both ends significantly above Durant’s almost only offense game. This mostly serves as an indictment of the MVP trophy, as it awards ball hogging and pays no attention to players that aren’t ball dominant and help their teams even more.