Sir Charles In Charge writers Michael Saenz, Andrew Melnick, Jalen Bishop and Hardeep Sahota rank the top players at each position in the NBA for the 2013-2014 season. This week long series will also include ranking the top sixth men and head coaches.
James Harden, Houston Rockets
This one seems easy these days. Obviously, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade have bigger names and for good reason – they are unquestioned Hall-of-Fame players. However, Harden’s become the best two-guard in the league. The 24-year old averaged 24.9 points, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game in his first year as “the man” in Houston. His combination of explosiveness, shooting (36.8% from three last season) and playmaking will likely make him the best shooting guard in the league for years to come.
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Wade’s getting older, his knees are going and he’s just not as good as he once was. However, that doesn’t mean he still isn’t one of the game’s elite players. Wade was a model of efficiency during the regular season. The 10-year veteran averaged 21.2 points, 5.1 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game. He shot 52.1% from the field, easily a career-high and the only season he shot over 50.0% from the field in his NBA career. Wade also had the highest effective field goal percentage of his career, defended well and has done an excellent job of playing second fiddle to LeBron James, which can’t be something a player of Wade’s caliber has an easy time doing.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Bryant is absolutely unbelievable. In his 17th NBA season, the 35-year old averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game. That doesn’t even seem possible. Like Wade, Bryant posted a career-high in effective field goal percentage of 50.4%. The reason Bryant comes in where he does on this list is because of the continued decline of his once fantastic defense and his lack of efficiency on the offensive end. Plus, he’s coming off a significant injury.
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Johnson is best known for his giant contract, so many consider him overpaid and overrated. Although he shouldn’t make more money than some of his counterparts, Johnson is still an excellent player and he has been undervalued in terms of national perception for some time. In Johnson’s 12th NBA season, he took a step-back scoring-wise. He averaged 16.3 points per game, his worst since the 2002-03 season. Plus, his effective field goal percentages and true shooting percentages were down from the 2011-12 season, his last in Atlanta. Johnson was still excellent from three (37.5%) and isn’t afraid to take (and make) a big shot when it’s needed. His size makes him tough to defend and gives opposing guards fits.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
This one was tough. Manu Ginobili used to command a spot on this list, but his age and injuries have caught up with him. Injuries could stop Gordon from ever reaching this spot, but when he’s healthy, he’s a whole lot of fun to watch and is one excellent player. Over the last two seasons, he’s played in just 51 games, which understandably makes many skeptical. When Gordon does play, he’s fantastic. In 42 games with the Pelicans last season, the five-year veteran averaged 17.0 points per game. In the last season he was relatively healthy, Gordon averaged 22.3 points per game in 56 games (2010-11). He is career 36.3% shooter from beyond the arc, can run the floor and is a good defender.
HONORABLE MENTION(S): Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors) is an incredible shooter. Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs) is a playmaker, plain and simple. Tyreke Evans (New Orleans Pelicans) was very efficient last season. Although his production has dropped off, who would you rather turn to for a big shot than Ray Allen (Miami Heat)?
THE NEXT GROUP: Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) has the potential to be a fantastic partner for John Wall with his athletic ability and shooting (38.6% from three). Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics) is a fantastic defender who new Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is extremely excited about. Rookie Victor Oladipo (Orlando Magic has had fantastic early reviews.