#4 – James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
James Harden was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets at the start of this season in one of the biggest blockbusters seen for a while. He didn’t skip a beat though, and showcased his amazing passing skills on a Nets team who had a great regular season even if their big three barely played together.
Harden is one of the greatest scorers in NBA History, and when you add in his passing vision, he lifts the ceiling of any NBA team to championship contenders. As the second option on the Nets, he has averaged an amazing 50 / 40 / 90 in the playoffs on counting stats of 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists.
Harden hasn’t made the NBA finals since his Oklahoma City Thunder days, but he is one of the most dangerous players and is firmly a top-five player in the NBA.
#3 – Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
The Clippers as a team may not be firing yet, but Kawhi Leonard has still played some of the best individual basketball of his career in this playoffs. Leonard has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the NBA because of his diverse offensive game and elite defense.
Fans and media will point to his failures in last year’s playoffs as to why Kawhi isn’t a top-three player in the NBA anymore, but with two Finals MVPs and two championships, he is one of only a few true superstars in this league.
Kawhi has had an uber-efficient start to this playoffs, and his Clipper team has played poorly but are still at two-two with the Mavericks. Everyone in the NBA fears Kawhi for good reason.
#2 – Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Like the other two in this top three, they get here because of reputation and not always their current level of play. But with two championships, and two Finals MVPs, Kevin Durant have a ceiling as an individual player that not many others can reach.
Durant is one of the most skilled and efficient scorers of all time. His game is built for the playoffs too. Because of the strength of the NBA, Durant has largely moved under the radar this year. He only played 35 games in the regular season, but still put up crazy numbers in a team that won 48 games in a shortened season and had the greatest regular-season offense of all time.
If you had to pick one player to have the ball in their hands when it comes to crunch time in an NBA finals, Durant is probably that player.
#1 – LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Since LeBron James won his first title with the Miami Heat back in 2012, no other player has come forward to take the crown of the best player in the league. Others, like Durant, or Kawhi, have won Finals MVPs and played at a superstar level, but none have reached the dizzying heights of peak LeBron.
Even at age 35 in last year’s playoffs, he put on clinics at both ends of the court, winning Finals MVP in one of the toughest situations in recent memory; the NBA Bubble.
LeBron has a level that he can get to that very few players in NBA History have attained; for this reason, he is still the number one player in the league. Until someone else beats up on him individually or rolls through him, he is still the King.