Everyone pretends they’re a general-manager sometimes. When we do, we think about who we would want to start our franchise with. Lucky for you, we wrote about who are five current players would be if we were starting a franchise today.
1. LeBron James
Surprise to probably nobody, LeBron James checks in at number one on our list. It’s hard to pick against the most polarizing athlete in all of sports. I mean seriously, the guy just signed a LIFETIME contract with Nike for $30M per year. Looking past the numbers he puts up, what he does off the court, and what he does for the franchises he plays for financially is one of a kind.
Now, back to the on-court stuff. James has been the fastest to accomplish basically everything that is everything to do with basketball. At 30, James has plenty of elite basketball ahead of him. James has always gotten the best out of his supporting casts, something he’s better at than anyone in the league, maybe ever. Just this season, the season people are saying LeBron is “slowing down”, James is sixth in scoring, second among small-forwards in rebounding, and 11th in assists. None of those ranking suggest James has taken a single step back.
James is the oldest one on my list and is the most worn down, but he’s still who I’m building my franchise around. Another five elite years of LeBron James is better than five elite years of any current player in the NBA.
2. Stephen Curry
What more can be said about last year’s league MVP that hasn’t been said these past two years. Best shooter in the league? Best shooter on the planet? Best shooter we’ve ever seen? My vote is for all of the above.
Curry is currently leaving everyone in the dust in this year’s Most Valuable Player award race. Leading the NBA in scoring and leading his team to a 22-0 start is just the start of Curry’s resume. He’s shooting a career-high 53-percent on a career-high 20 shots per game. 11 of those shots are coming from three where he’s shooting a career-best 47-percent.
Curry is second in offensive rating, first in offensive win shares, first in win shares, first in plus-minus and the list goes on and on. He’s continuously gotten better year in, year out, on both sides of the ball. We don’t talk about the strides he’s taken as defender enough because of how tantalizing he can be offensively.
Like Durant, Curry is 27. He’s in the midst of his prime and building my team around a point-guard is something I prefer. Curry is an iron-man and has only missed 12 games over the last four-plus seasons. Everything he touches seems to turn golden..I’ll show myself out.
3. Anthony Davis
I was torn on whether or not I’d take Davis or Durant third, but the brow edged it out. Davis is just 22-years young and is already one of the game’s elite. The thing that separates he and Durant is Davis’ ability to dominate games without dominating the ball. He was only 13th in usage percentage (27-percent) last season and still managed to score 24.4 points per game. Durant averages 30-percent usage over his entire career.
Davis’ ability to take over games isn’t just on the offensive side of the ball. He’s one of the best rim protectors in all of the NBA. Davis led the entire association in blocks per game the past two seasons. If it wasn’t for Hassan Whiteside’s insane start to 2015-’16, he’d be in the hunt for a third.
When Davis develops more of a post-game, he’ll be virtually unstoppable. He’ll be able to control games with the ball, off the ball, and on the defensive end. He’s already expanded his offensive repertoire to the three-point line where’s he’s knocked down 37-percent of his three’s.
4. Kevin Durant
I still believe that Kevin Durant is the world’s best scorer, even though a lot of people believe Stephen Curry has taken those reigns. We’ve never seen a player at Durant’s size do what he does. A seven-footer that can handle the ball like a point-guard and stop on a dime and shoot from 30 is extremely rare.
Durant is still just 27-years old, so age is not a concern. His growth on defense is something worth noting and something that isn’t talked about enough. This seems to become a trend with players that are elite scorers.
2015-’16 has been good to KD. He’s averaging a career-high 51.6-percent from the field, while knocking down 43.7-percent of his three’s, and 88.2-percent of his free-throw’s. He’s already notched a 50-40-90 season under his belt and he might need to loosen it again because he’s well in reach of recording another.
Durant’s foot issue from last season is seemingly long gone and shouldn’t be of any concern. The Slim Reaper is back and looks as good as ever. He’s one day going to retire as one of the all-time greats, hopefully with a ring or three.
5. Kawhi Leonard
With an already impressive resume for never being ‘the man’, Leonard checks in at number five. Some may think it’s a stretch, but I only think it’s up from here.
When entering the league, Leonard was known solely for his incredible defensive abilities but boy has his game blossomed. Leonard is averaging 21.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on 50-percent shooting, 50-percent from three, and 86-percent from the charity stripe.
Not only has he turned into an offensive star, but he’s still that lock-down defender he was coming out of college. The reigning defensive player of the year is currently third in defensive rating and second in defensive win shares.
In my opinion, Leonard is the best two-way player in the game. Still only 24, he’s improved with every passing year. He’s finally become the number one option in San Antonio and has become the face of their franchise.
Honorable Mention: Blake Griffin