January 2, 2015

Ranking The NBA's Top 25 Players Heading Into 2015

#13, James Harden, SG, Rockets

We have officially entered 2015, and so far, the season has been very entertaining. There have been plenty of surprises, and some players have come a long way since last season. After ranking my top 20 players by position at the end of 2014, I thought I would list my top 25 overall players as of right now to kick off 2015. The criteria for these rankings isn't complex. Which players in the NBA are playing the best, putting up the best numbers, are the most efficient, and are the most important to their team's success right now. If a player is listed lower than you think he should be, it could be because his defensive play isn't up to par right now, which is also very, very important.

*Stats as of 1/1/15

(PER = Player Efficiency Rating / ORTG = Offensive Rating / DRTG = Defensive Rating)

Tier 2: The "All-Star" Players

The main reason why these players aren't considered elite is because they play lackluster defense, have taken a step back (possibly due to aging), or they haven't taken a step forward. Nonetheless, they rank among the 25 best players in the NBA thus far, and could end the season on even higher notes.

25. Rudy Gay, SF, Sacramento Kings

19.5 PER / 109.4 ORTG / 109.1 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
36.5 MPG: 20.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.8 TO (44% FG, 37% 3P, 86% FT)
PER 36: 20.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.8 TO

Analysis: Rudy Gay deserves to be on this list with the way he's playing right now. Offensively, Gay has become one of the premier scorers in the NBA today, and has been pretty consistent so far this season. He could continue to move up as the season progresses.

24. Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers

21.6 PER / 109.6 ORTG / 106.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.5 MPG: 22.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.0 APG, 0.5 BPG, 2.5 TO (48% FG, 47% 3P, 72% FT)
PER 36: 23.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.5 BPG, 2.6 TO

Analysis: Based on talent, there's no question that Griffin, one of the best athletes in the entire league, is a top 10 player. I still think he's one of the best players in the league, but, I feel like the players ahead of him are having better years, or they've rounded out their games. I still want to see Blake take the next step before I move him up the list.

23. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks

21.5 PER / 117.3 ORTG / 107.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
29.3 MPG: 18.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.5 BPG, 1.2 TO (47% FG, 34% 3P, 91% FT)
PER 36: 22.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.6 BPG, 1.5 TO

Analysis: This may or may not be surprising, but at age 36, Dirk Nowitzki is playing like an All-Star. That is a testament to just how great he is. His shooting percentages are a bit down, but Dirk is still putting up big numbers in less than 30 minutes a game. He's still one of the best offensive big men in the NBA.

22. Chris Bosh, C, Miami Heat

21.7 PER / 108.3 ORTG / 108.2 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.3 MPG: 21.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.7 BPG, 2.1 TO (48% FG, 39% 3P, 77% FT)
PER 36: 21.8 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.7 BPG, 2.2 TO

Analysis: If Chris Bosh were playing better on the defensive end of the floor, he'd be a top 10 in all likelihood. Nonetheless, Bosh has proven that he can be a number one scoring option, playing almost as well as he did when he was a Raptor. Bosh is one of the best shooting big men in the game, and has a very impressive offensive skillset.

21. Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat

24.6 PER / 108.6 ORTG / 111.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.1 MPG: 23.2 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 3.4 TO (51% FG, 36% 3P, 72% FT)
PER 36: 25.2 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 3.6 TO

Analysis: Dwyane Wade is silencing his doubters this season. For the most part, he's been healthy all season, and is currently the 9th leading scorer in the NBA. Wade is still an offensive superstar, but, it's his defense--which has taken a step back this season--that's keeping him from being higher on this list.

20. Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies

20.3 PER / 109.4 ORTG / 100.1 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.6 MPG: 16.1 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.7 TO (48% FG, 100% 3P, 74% FT)
PER 36: 18.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.9 TO

Analysis: As I mentioned in my Power Forward Rankings, Zach Randolph is an All-Star caliber power forward who doesn't get nearly enough attention. He's sat out his last five games, but that doesn't mean he hasn't played well this season, because he has.

19. Pau Gasol, PF, Chicago Bulls

20.7 PER / 108.7 ORTG / 100.7 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.0 MPG: 17.6 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.3 BPG, 2.1 TO (47% FG, 33% 3P, 81% FT)
PER 36: 18.1 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2.3 BPG, 2.1 TO

Analysis: After averaging nearly 20 points per game in the month of November, Gasol took a step back as a scorer in December, averaging 16 PPG on 45% shooting. Though, you could still make the case that he's been Chicago's best player this season, and one of the best power forwards in the league this season.

18. Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

21.2 PER / 108.0 ORTG / 112.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
36.1 MPG: 23.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.3 TO (45% FG, 32% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 23.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: Carmelo Anthony would easily be a top 10, maybe even a top 5 player if he were at least an average defender. I mean, when he wants to give effort on that end of the floor, he's not all that bad. Otherwise, he's one of the elite offensive players in the game, and although his lack of success in the playoffs seems to haunt him, Melo is a clutch scorer when the game is on the line.

17. Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors

19.3 PER / 110.1 ORTG / 101.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.3 MPG: 21.1 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.1 TO (45% FG, 42% 3P, 87% FT)
PER 36: 22.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.3 TO

Analysis: Klay Thompson isn't just a spot up three point shooter. He can create his own shots, and score the ball from just about anywhere on the court. He's become one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA as well. Now, the next step is for him to work on his all around game.

16. Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets

19.7 PER / 105.0 ORTG / 96.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.7 MPG: 18.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.9 BPG, 3.3 TO (60% FG, 0% 3P, 50% FT)
PER 36: 19.3 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.0 BPG, 3.5 TO

Analysis: Consistency. That's been one reason why it's been difficult to consider Dwight Howard a top 10 player, let alone a top 5 player. He is a defensive anchor, and can dominate offensively, but he also disappears at times. It is encouraging, however, that working with Kevin McHale has been paying off, because Howard looks like an improved post player.

Tier 1: The "Elite" Players

Some of these players can be swapped around. In the elite tier, no one player is that much better than the next. These players are capable of taking over games on the offensive side of the ball, and are some of the best scorers and play makers the NBA has to offer. On the defensive side of the ball, these players can get the job done, and have the all-around games to truly be considered superstars.

15. Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs

22.0 PER / 108.6 ORTG / 96.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.1 MPG: 15.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.1 BPG, 2.1 TO (48% FG, 0% 3P, 71% FT)
PER 36: 17.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 BPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: Even at age 38, I think a case could still me made for Duncan being a top 10 player in the NBA, which says a lot. His numbers look good, and his per 36 numbers look even better. In December, "The Big Fundamental" averaged 18, 12, and 4 with 2 blocked shots per game. By the way, Duncan is still arguably the best interior defender in basketball.

14. Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors

24.4 PER / 120.5 ORTG / 106.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.5 MPG: 20.7 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.3 TO (45% FG, 35% 3P, 81% FT)
PER 36: 21.5 PPG, 8.0 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 2.4 TO

Analysis: It's hard to ignore the kind of season Kyle Lowry is having. Over the past month, the Raptors point guard has been playing out of his mind, and has been very efficient. At this point, Lowry is an All-Star lock, and he might be higher on this list next time around.

13. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards

20.6 PER / 106.0 ORTG / 100.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.7 MPG: 17.4 PPG, 10.3 APG, 4.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.8 TO (46% FG, 32% 3P, 76% FT)
PER 36: 17.5 PPG, 10.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.9 TO

Analysis: I do want to see Wall improve his three point shooting, and see him take over more games as a scorer, but John Wall is starting to look like on of the best players not only at his position, but in the entire league. Wall shot almost 50% from the field in the month of December, and averaged 11.5 assists.

12. Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago Bulls

22.3 PER / 125.7 ORTG / 105.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
40.0 MPG: 21.9 PPG, 3.3 APG, 6.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.5 TO (48% FG, 34% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 19.7 PPG, 3.0 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 TO

Analysis: Jimmy Butler is balling this season. It's been a career year for him all across the board, and he has emerged as an offensive superstar, adding to his status as a lockdown defender. He is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 40 minutes per game this season, which leads the league, but that just shows how good and important he is to Chicago.

11. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies

23.3 PER / 113.4 ORTG / 101.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.0 MPG: 20.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.6 BPG, 2.4 TO (50% FG, 29% 3P, 83% FT)
PER 36: 20.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.7 BPG, 2.5 TO

Analysis: Marc Gasol is having the best season of his professional career. He's an elite defender, and one of the best offensive centers in the NBA. Some believe he should be considered an MVP candidate, and that may be hard to argue against. There aren't many players playing much better than Gasol is right now.

10. Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

24.4 PER / 123.3 ORTG / 104.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
34.7 MPG: 17.7 PPG, 9.4 APG, 4.5 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 2.1 TO (47% FG, 40% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 18.3 PPG, 9.7 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 2.2 TO

Analysis: Chris Paul brings it every night on both ends of the floor. The fact that CP3 remains arguably the best player at his position that impresses me most. He is a pass first point guard who can take over games on both offense (as a scorer and/or a play maker), and defense.

9. LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

24.9 PER / 113.1 ORTG / 107.4 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.5 MPG: 25.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 3.8 TO (49% FG, 37% 3P, 74% FT)
PER 36: 24.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 3.5 TO

Analysis: Is it Blasphemy that LeBron James is this low on this list, or anyone's list for that matter? He's averaging 25.2 points per game, which makes him the NBA's third leading scorer, but it's his second lowest average since his rookie season. His 5.3 rebounds per game are also the second lowest of his career. His numbers all across the board have declined, but his assists have risen to a current career high, and he remains one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. The reason why he isn't contending for the number one spot is because his defensive play hasn't been up to par this season. That's why the #9 spot is actually pretty generous. Plus, the guys ahead of him deserve to be there. But, make no mistake. "The King" will look to return to his throne as the seasons heats up.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland Trail Blazers

21.9 PER / 108.0 ORTG / 99.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
36.4 MPG: 22.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.7 TO (45% FG, 47% 3P, 84% FT)
PER 36: 22.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.7 TO

Analysis: I'll say it again. Consistent mid-range game, elite post game, extended range to beyond the three point line, and excellent offensive rebounder? That's why LaMarcus Aldridge is an elite offensive player, and one of the top scorers in the NBA this season. He's also quietly become one of the best defensive players at his position. He never seems to get the credit he deserves, but I believe he's a top 10 player right now. I would like him to be a bit more efficient, but other than that, there's almost nothing to complain about. He also put together a very impressive month of December (25 PPG, 12 RPG).

7. Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors

26.0 PER / 117.9 ORTG / 98.6 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
33.3 MPG: 22.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 3.4 TO (49% FG, 39% 3P, 92% FT)
PER 36: 24.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, 5.5 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 3.6 TO

Analysis: Stephen Curry averaged just 21.6 points per game and shot just 35% from deep in the month of December. He's also had a couple of pedestrian scoring games in this last couple of weeks. Despite a rough stretch and a slightly down month, Curry enters 2015 as a legit MVP candidate according to most people, and arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Curry leads all point guards in defensive rating, which is a testament to just how much he's improved on that end of the floor. He's no longer just an elite offensive player. He is a complete player on both ends of the floor.

6. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers

22.9 PER / 118.2 ORTG / 101.8 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.9 MPG: 21.9 PPG, 6.4 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.7 TO (46% FG, 39% 3P, 88% FT)
PER 36: 22.0 PPG, 6.4 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2.7 TO

Analysis: Damian Lillard is the man. After averaging 24 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds per game in the month of December, Lillard enters 2015 as one of the hottest players in the entire league. He's such a dynamic scorer and play maker on offense, and has already posted two 40 point games this season. He's enjoying the best season of his young career all-around, and what's really impressed me is his improved play on the defensive end of the floor.

5. Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans

31.8 PER / 126.0 ORTG / 101.0 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
35.7 MPG: 24.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2.9 BPG, 1.3 TO (57% FG, 0% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 24.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.9 BPG, 1.3 TO

Analysis: Anthony Davis has arrived, but at the same time, he's coming. He's arrived because he has elevated his overall game this season, and is a legitimate MVP candidate. He's still coming, because he's only scratching the surface of his potential, and that's a very scary thought. He's in the conversation for best player in the NBA.

4. Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

31.6 PER / 114.2 ORTG / 101.5 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
31.0 MPG: 27.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 5.6 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 3.8 TO (45% FG, 29% 3P, 82% FT)
PER 36: 32.0 PPG, 8.3 APG, 6.5 RPG, 2.6 SPG, 4.5 TO

Analysis: In my Point Guard Rankings, I listed Russell Westbrook as my #3 floor general, but I believe he is the better overall player among his point guard counterparts. I mean, his numbers are ridiculous. He can beat you in so many ways, and impacts the game in a way most NBA players cannot. He's on fire right now, but shot selection and three point shooting are holding him back from the number one spot on this list.

3. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings

27.4 PER / 111.0 ORTG / 101.9 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
32.0 MPG: 23.8 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, 3.7 TO (51% FG, 100% 3P, 80% FT)
PER 36: 26.7 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 BPG, 4.2 TO

Analysis: DeMarcus Cousins would be the number one player on this list if he were a little more consistent (not necessarily his play on the court) and efficient. He's been a dominant force when he's been on the court, impressing me in many ways. He's the best big man in basketball in my opinion, and is one of a select few players who I consider to be unstoppable.

2. James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets

27.1 PER / 118.6 ORTG / 99.3 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
37.4 MPG: 27.7 PPG, 6.9 APG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 4.0 TO (44% FG, 36% 3P, 89% FT)
PER 36: 26.6 PPG, 6.7 APG, 5.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 3.8 TO

Analysis: As I mentioned in my Shooting Guard Rankings, James Harden may be the front runner for the MVP Award. He's the best shooting guard in the league right now, and it isn't even close. He's the best player in the league when it comes to attack the basket and getting to the foul line. He's currently the NBA's leading scorer, and one of the best all around players in the league. Harden is the fourth best perimeter defender in the league according to his 99.3 defensive rating, and it's obvious that he has elevated his game on that end of the floor.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

29.0 PER / 121.2 ORTG / 103.1 DRTG

2014-15 Season Averages:
29.4 MPG: 24.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 3.5 TO (54% FG, 44% 3P, 89% FT)
PER 36: 30.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 4.3 TO

Analysis: Kevin Durant has only played in 10 games as of the creation of this list, but, in that "smallish" sample size, he's proven to be the best player in the league this year. The 2013-14 MVP came back and dropped 44 points in his last game against Phoenix after missing the last six games with an ankle injury. I don't think many would argue with me saying that Durant is the most consistent superstar in the league right now. He's the best scorer in the league because he's versatile, consistent, and efficient. And he's become a very good two way player, and arguably the best all-around player in the NBA.