Now that the 2015-16 season has wrapped up, I feel like this is the more appropriate time to re-evaluate the NBA player hierarchy while this season is fresh in our minds.
Some players have had meteoric rises to the NBA top tier like Draymond Green this season, while others have taken a bit of a step back due to age, injuries or their team declining.
Here are the top 30 players, in the NBA after the 2015-16 season. Keep in mind that this ranking system doesn’t account for future success as if were having a hypothetical NBA re-draft young stars like Andre Wiggins or Giannis Antetokounmpo would more than likely be 1st round picks even though they just miss this list.
Players are graded on classic statistics such as points, rebounds, assists, shooting percentage, etc. as well as advanced stats such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Offensive Plus/Minus per 100 possesions, Defensive Plus/Minus, Win Shares for their team and True Shooting Percentage (TS).
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 21.1 AST: 5.2 REB: 4.5 STL: 1.6 FG% 42.8 3P% 37.4 FT% 84.7
Kemba Walker much like the Charlotte Hornets organization has experienced an incredible transformation this season. Walker is still not the highest percentage shooter but he has improved and has molded himself from the 15-20 range for starting point guards in the NBA to a top 10 point guard. He is a number one option and go to scorer for a Hornets team that went from 28th in total offense to top 10 and he has made himself at the least an average defender, instead of a liability. He is rewarded the Hornets for their faith in him with his extension before the season.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 16.5 REB: 11.0 AST: 4.1 BLK: 2.0 FG% 46.9 3P% 34.8 FT% 79.2
Pau Gasol has slipped slightly across the board from his first season in Chicago in which he re-established himself as one of the best big men in the NBA and maybe its most skilled. At the age of 35 and 36 by the time next season starts, his best days are behind him, but he is still highly valuable because of his incredible basketball IQ, fundamentals and ability to affect a game on both ends.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 18.3 REB: 10.4 AST: 2.2 BLK: 1.7 FG% 54.3 3P% 34.1 FT% 81
Karl Anthony Towns has had the best rookie season for a big man in quite some time and has put up Tim Duncan-esque rookie numbers in March with 22-11-3-2. He can do everything as a modern front court player, post up, rebound, defend the pick and roll, protect the paint, pick and pop, face-up and take a big man off of the dribble, pick and roll, knocking down a three pointer and pass out of a double team. His ceiling is limitless and he could be the best center in the NBA for a decade.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 22.2 AST: 6.2 REB: 3.0 STL: 1.2 FG% 42.9 3P% 35.8 FT% 87
Danny Ainge has done a pretty impressive job of rebuilding this Celtics team and franchise by stockpiling assets and picks, hiring Brad Stevens and making savvy trades for players like Thomas and Jae Crowder. Stealing Thomas for essentially the 29th pick of the 2016 draft was his best move of all. IT has always been overlooked for his diminutive size and undervalued but he has emerged as a offensive force and the go to scorer for a Celtics team that could contend in the east.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 19.6 AST: 4.7 REB: 3.0 STL: 1.1 FG% 44.8 3P% 32.2 FT% 88.5
Irving has slowly been rounding back into form after breaking his knee cap in Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals and has seen his numbers dip across the board this season.
There have been reports of Irving not being happy playing second fiddle and wanting to be “the guy” but Irving is still clearly not ready for that role as a minus defender that lacks elite passing ability for his position and is not yet a leader on the court. Irving has top 10-15 player in the NBA potential with his amazing handle, craftiness, ability to finish on the break and light up a scoreboard. His playoff performance this season will go a long way in determining what kind of player he is when the pressure cooker ratchets up.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 21.8 REB: 7.7 AST: 4.2 FG% 43.4 3P% 33.9 FT% 82.9
Carmelo Anthony has seen has career and value as a player steadily slide downhill the last few seasons as this will be the 3rd year in a row Melo will miss the postseason, unacceptable for a guy to be considered a top-tier player. After missing a good deal of the 2014-15 season with knee issues Melo has at times looked like his old self in New York this and is averaging a career high in assists as he begins to embraces the triangle and a more team oriented offense. He is not the kind of player worth $25 million anymore but if he could be fortunate enough to be dealt to a contending team like the Cavs, Clippers or Celtics (even though he passed that up with the Bulls in the summer of 2014) he still has some gas left in the tank and could be a nightmarish stretch four and go to scorer for a team.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 23.5 REB: 4.5 AST: 4.0 STL: 1.0 FG% 44.6 3P% 33.8 FT% 85
DeMar DeRozan is still somewhat of a ball-stopping one-on-one dinosaur (fitting he’s a Raptor) in today’s pace, space and ball movement NBA and he is still a developing defender, but he has improved and changed his game dramatically and is as big as reason as any that the Raptors have won 55 games. He has turned many of his mid-range shots as a tough shot maker into aggressive drives to the rim and is 3rd in the NBA in free throws attempted. He is an elite wing in this league.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 19.1 AST: 4.6 REB: 4.1 STL: 1.1 FG% 45.7 3P% 16.3 FT% 79.2
As a 34-year-old two guard with a lot of tread on his tires and a playing style that is taxing on his body, it is no surprise or secret that Dwayne Wade is not the player he was a few years ago. He can’t play at an elite level every night and he has never developed a three-point shot, but Wade is such a tough and crafty player that he still can take over a game for the Heat like he has been for over a decade.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 17.8 REB: 9.0 AST: 3.3 STL: 1.8 BLK: 1.7 FG% 47.2 3P% 32.2 FT% 75.6
Millsap feels like he has been the most underrated player in the NBA for five years. He is good at everything and can score, create for others, rebound, get in passing lanes, defend four of five positions and stretch the floor with his shooting or take players off of the dribble. Millsap has developed himself into one of the top five to 10 defenders in the NBA and is the biggest reason why the Hawks have had the best defense in the NBA since the all-star break. Millsap came into the league as an undersized traditional four who can rebound and has worked his way into an All-Star that can score, knock down three-pointers, defend elite wing players or bigs and be a leader.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 16.2 REB: 14.8 STL: 1.5 BLK: 1.4 FG% 52.1 FT% 35.5
Andre Drummond has taken a huge step forward with his game this season, asserting himself as the best rebounder in the NBA and an improving rim protector and finisher around the hoop. He may earn a 1st Team All-NBA nod and is a big reason why the Pistons are back in the postseason after a six-year absence.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 12.7 REB: 13.8 BLK: 2.3 FG% 70.3 FT% 43
DeAndre Jordan made the right decision coming back to LA. Chris Paul and Doc Rivers have helped Jordan maximize his potential as a pick and roll monster and a rim protector extraordinaire. Jordan will never be an accomplished player, but he is one of the 10 most valuable defensive players in the league and absolutely dominates the glass.
2015-16 Stats:PPG: 26.9 REB: 11.5 AST: 3.3 STL: 1.6 BLK: 1.4 FG% 45. 3P% 33 FT% 72
DeMarcus Cousins is a top five talent and a top five headache in the league. He has all of the ability in the world to be the best center in the NBA for a decade and contend for MVPs, but he is still highly immature and has not learned how to play winning basketball. He has not made the postseason or has anything near a winning record in six seasons.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 16.6 REB: 7.8 AST: 3.0 BLK: 1.3 STL: 1.0 FG% 46.4 FT% 82.9
Gasol has missed almost half of the 2015-16 season dealing with numerous injury issues including breaking his foot. This caused him to decline this year, but the fact remains that he is a very high IQ player who is an elite passing big man, that can score in the post, knock down an 18 footer and defend the paint. He is beginning to enter the downside of his career age wise, but he is still a proven winner and leader.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 22.2 REB: 3.8 AST: 2.1 FG% 47 3P% 42.5 FT% 87.5
Klay Thompson is the second best pure shooter in his back court and the second best pure shooter in the NBA. He can shoot from anywhere and can shot off of a pass, coming off a screen or off the dribble. He is in amazing cardio shape and has improved his ability to penetrate and finish at the rim. He may be the 3rd best player on his all-time great team, but he is also a top three player at his position.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 21.0 REB: 5.7 AST: 4.2 STL: 1.7 FG% 45.6 3P% 31.1 FT% 83
Logging the most minutes in the NBA three past three seasons, Butler’s incredible durability was finally tested this year as he has dealt with some knee issues. Butler much like Millsap is an incredibly hard worker that has made himself into an NBA superstar on both ends. He can create his own offense, find teammates and expend the energy to guard the best wing player on the opposing team each night. The Bulls should blow it up this off-season and rebuild around Butler.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 18.0 REB: 8.5 AST: 1.5 BLK: 1.1 FG% 51.3 3P% 85.8
Aldridge’s numbers on the surface have gone down as expected joining an already championship caliber team with Tim Duncan. When you look deeper though all he has done is become a much more efficient player and better defender, averaging similar numbers per 36 minutes. He has proven he is selfless enough to fit in to the Spurs unselfish offense and he should be competing for titles for years in the Alamo.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 19.9 AST: 10.2 REB: 4.9 STL: 1.9 FG% 42.4 3P% 35.1 FT% 79
Wall Wizard’s have taken a couple steps back this season as injuries to Beal, the loss of veterans like Jared Dudley and the rapid decline of Nene have had their affect. Wall has still been great though basically averaging 20 and 10 while being a great defender and improving shooter. Many say Wall is the fastest player in the NBA with the ball in his hands and with better coaching or a run and gun coach like Mike D’Antoni could lead to Wall supercharging his game to be a top 10 player.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 21.2 AST: 6.7 REB: 4.2 STL: 2.1 FG% 42.7 3P% 38.8 FT% 81
Kyle Lowry has transformed his body and his game in the past few seasons and has gone from a borderline starting point guard to one of the five best in the league. He plays with a Philadelphia bred toughness and has the Raptors capable of competing to make the NBA Finals.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 21.4 REB: 7.9 AST: 4.9 FG% 49.9 3P% 33.3 FT% 72.7
Griffin has mostly had a lost season with an elbow issue and then punching a equipment staff member, breaking his hand in the process and missing another 20 games or so. The Clippers are rapidly trying to re-integrate Griffin now, but he is without question a top 10 player in the NBA when is clicking as he has developed into some weird combo of Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and LeBron. We’ll see if he makes an impact this postseason.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 14.5 REB: 9.5 AST: 7.4 STL: 1.5 BLK: 1.4 FG% 49 3P% 38 FT% 70
Draymond Green is also fascinating. He wouldn’t be a 1st Team All-NBA caliber player on any other team, but the Warriors wouldn’t maybe be the best team ever without him as he is their team MVP. He is changing the NBA as a 6’6″ player who can guard all five positions, handle the ball, create for teammates, knock down open shots and rebounds at an elite level for his size. He is a top five passer and defender in the NBA who can guard any position, that is scary.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 28.9 AST: 7.5 REB: 6.1 STL: 1.7 FG% 43.8 3P% 35.7 FT% 86
James Harden is a fascinating player. He almost won the MVP award last season and may be the most talented, intelligent and crafty offense player in the NBA (if not infuriating with his flopping) but he often lacks defensive effort or interest and doesn’t seem to have leadership ability. Few can take over a game like Harden, but also few can have 13 turnovers in a game and look awful. Some nights he is an MVP, others he is a sixth man. Overall he is a superstar though.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 25.8 AST: 6.8 REB: 4.0 FG% 41.9 3P% 37.5 FT% 89.2
When literally every rotation player on the Blazers left the team this offseason and the team and franchise was put completely in Lillard’s hands, it was though that the Blazers would be near the top of the lottery, they got the 5th seed in the west instead. Lillard is still not the most efficient player and a negative defender, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t an alpha dog and a leader that teammates get behind. Harden may be slightly more talented and accomplished, but Lillard gets more out of his teammates and is a born leader.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 23.1 REB: 7.1 AST: 4.0 STL: 1.9 FG% 41.8% 3P% 37.2 FT% 86
PG-13 has come back from his gruesome leg injury with a vengenace in 2015-16, leading the Pacers back to the postseason and playing at an MVP level the first half of the season. He is an ultra athletic and quick player at 6’10” and is not only an elite offense player but an above average defender.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 24.3 REB: 10.3 BLK: 2 AST: 1.9 STL: 1.3 FG% 49 3P% 32 FT% 76
This season did not go how Anthony Davis planned. The Brow was many people’s MVP favorite (including me) and was expected to take the Pelicans to the next level in the west. Instead Davis missed 21 games with injury, the team had more injuries than any team in the NBA in quite some time, and Davis wasn’t able to play to the MVP level he played at in 2014-15. All of that aside, this still may be Davis’s league in a few years, and is more than likely the best player in the NBA under 25.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 19.5 AST: 10.0 REB: 4.2 STL: 2.1 FG% 46.2 3P% 37.1 FT% 89.6
Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook have surpassed Chris Paul, but if we are still talking who is the best leader and pure point guard in the traditional sense, CP3 is at the top of the list like he has been for a decade. Considering the Clippers injury issues and failed experiments to add depth in the off-season (Pierce, Stephenson, Josh Smith) Chris Paul may have just had his best season ever. He is truly one of the best point guards to ever play the game and it is a shame he hasn’t even made it to a conference finals.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 21.2 REB: 6.8 AST: 2.8 STL: 2 BLK: 1.1 FG% 50.6 3P% 44.3 FT% 87
Charles Barkley thinks Kawhi Leonard is the best all-around player in the world, and he is not out of his mind for thinking that. Leonard has taken his game to the next level this season and is top 10 in virtually every advanced statistic to measure offensive and defensive efficiency. He is the best defensive player in the NBA, while also almost joining the exclusive 50-40-90 club. He has the opportunity to be better than Scottie Pippen.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 28.2 REB: 8.2 AST: 5.0 BLK: 1 STL: 1 FG% 50.5 3P% 38.8 FT% 89.8
Kevin Durant has rebounded nicely from an injury riddled 2014-15 season and is 95% of the player he was a few years ago in his MVP season. He still may be the most unguardable offensive force in the NBA as a 6’11” two-guard with elite quickness and balll handling ability and he is still a guy who can be the alpha dog for an NBA championship team. Watching him in this postseason will be mesmerizing as he will his free agency this summer.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 23.4 AST: 10.4 REB: 7.8 STL: 2.1 FG% 45.4 3P% 29.6 FT% 81.2
Russell Westbrook is a force of nature. He is an uber aggressive and athletic point guard that can dominate the game in numerous ways. He is the most prolific triple-double machine ever by advance numbers and has developed into a much higher IQ player that sets the plate for others effectively. If Steph Curry didn’t just fave one of the five best seasons in NBA history, Westbrook would be your league MVP.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 25.3 REB: 7.4 AST: 6.8 STL: 1.4 FG% 52 3P% 30.9 FT% 73.1
LeBron James continues to consistently average 25-7-7 every night as he has for over a decade and carry his teams to the presuppose of an NBA title. His outside shooting has dropped dramatically since returning in Cleveland after improving in Miami, but he still manages to score at will and make his teammates better. He may not be the best offensive player in the NBA, the best passer or wing defender at this point but cumulatively he is still the most well-rounded player in the NBA.
2015-16 Stats: PPG: 30.1 AST: 6.7 REB: 5.4 STL: 2.1 FG% 50.4 3P% 45.4 FT% 90.8
Steph Curry has changed the game of basketball and is an offensive force unlike anything we have ever witnessed. He just averaged 30-7-5 while shooting 50-45-90 and obliterating his own record for three-pointers in a season by making 400. He also just led the best regular season team in NBA history to 73 wins and did all of this as the reigning MVP. He has usurped the title of best player in the world from LeBron, something LeBron held claim to for anywhere between five to eight years and it isn’t even close. It will be mesmerizing to see what heights Curry and the Warriors can reach as a guy that once only had a scholarship offer to Davidson, may go down as a top 5 player in NBA history.