The deepest position in the NBA? Possibly. It’s the most top heavy of them all, with the two best basketball players in the world, LeBron James and Kevin Durant, occupying the top two spots, while Carmelo Anthony follows in his “forever behind those two” routine, before a big drop in quality and ability occurs after the top 3.
Number 5 – Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Pierce is entering his 15th NBA season after a postseason which was a bit telling as to how old he’s really gotten. He’s still one of the better small forwards in the NBA, but he was too easily handled by LeBron James during the crucial moments of the Eastern Conference Finals, and not having Ray Allen around isn’t going to make things easy for the aging scorer, who averaged 19.4 points per game last season.
Number 4 – Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
The most important player on the Chicago Bulls team that will have to do without Derrick Rose for most of the season if not all of it. Deng’s scoring numbers have dropped during the last couple of seasons, playing injured on many games last season, which really hurt his accuracy (41.2% from the field, lowest of his career). He’ll need to be demanding the ball much more on offense this season, but his defense on the perimeter should remain the most impressive part of his game.
Number 3 – Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Carmelo will be playing as power forward for certain parts of the season, just like LeBron James, but these are only numbers on charts. Anthony had a big summer in the Olympic games, averaging a second-best on the team 16.3 points per game. The Knicks let go of Jeremy Lin for many reasons, but one of them was going with Carmelo and his style. Individual, post up and much more forward-inside oriented, with Anthony calling the shots and holding most of the ball. Is it good enough for more than a first round, possibly second round in the postseason? Answer, at the moment, looks like no.
Number 2 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant looked like he was doing everything right last season – leading the NBA in scoring with 28 points per game, averaging 28.5 in the postseason. It wasn’t enough. Not enough amazing in the NBA Finals. He was good against the Heat, but that’s not enough facing LeBron James; not enough in the NBA finals. It wasn’t all on him. The Thunder as a team, from the head coach to the last bench player, under-performed But Durant wasn’t aggressive enough on defense and on offense, and he’ll need to make that switch this season in order to take the Thunder all the way, and maybe win the MVP award as a nice little bonus.
Number 1 – LeBron James, Miami Heat
The numbers say a big part of this story: 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists in the regular season, his third MVP award; 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists in the postseason, first title and first Finals MVP award. James took the last step in order to become a legend, changing just enough of his game to give the Miami Heat the edge and the change needed to win an NBA title. Now he’s going to play power forward for most of the season, which worked very well in the playoffs, but it’ll be interesting to see how that shift will look like over the course of the entire season, and what will be the end result.