When we ask who the best players in the NBA are today, we are going to end up with different answers. That’s alright because we all have our different opinions and we look at games/players differently.
But what if I tell you that statisticians have come up with a statistic called Player Efficiency Rating to rate players regardless of position. Different statisticians have different formulas in coming up with the rating but more or less, their lists are the same. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s use the PER as computed by Basketball Reference.
We found out that 10 out of the Top 13 players on the PER rankings are frontcourt players- forwards and centers. Only three are guards and they are worth mentioning: James Harden, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving. The rest? We listed them down from one to ten to come up without the list of the top frontcourt players in the NBA in 2019.
Giannis Antetokounmpo PER: 30.9
Leading the pack is the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led his Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the NBA this season. The 24-year old from Athens, Greece was 15th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft. When he first came to the NBA, he was just an athletic young man who had plenty of ceiling. After six seasons of continued improvement, he has blossomed into the most dominant force in the league this season. Giannis leads the Bucks in almost every statistical category and is this year’s top choice for 2019 NBA MVP honors.
Anthony Davis PER: 30.3
The Brow has been one of the most dominant centers in the NBA in recent years. Davis was the New Orleans Pelicans’ #1 overall pick in 2012. He started out slow during his rookie season but once he got adjusted, there was no stopping the Brow. The 6-10 Davis used to play Power Forward but now he plays mostly center and is one of the best players in the league right now. Only 26, Davis has led the NBA in blocks in three seasons. When you look at hist stats, don’t be fooled about his performance last season because after he demanded a trade, his minutes were restricted by the Pelicans. Davis is expected to be traded soon, perhaps as early as July 1.
Karl Anthony Towns PER: 26.3
When we talk about the best centers in the NBA, Karl Anthony Towns is always in the picture. The 23-year old Towns was voted as the “Player You Want To Build Your Franchise Around” two years in a row by the NBA’s General Managers during the Annual GMs Survey and rightfully so. Towns is a “unicorn” by NBA terms as he is a big man who can shoot from the outside and even knock the three point shot consistently. Last season, KAT led the T-Wolves to their first playoff appearance since the Kevin Garnett era. They missed the bus this year but expect Towns and the T-Wolves to matter against next year.
Nikola Jokic PER 26.3
Denver’s version of the Unicorn is perhaps the most versatile among the players called as such. Nikola Jokic was the Denver Nuggets’ 41st overall pick in 2014 out of Serbia. While Jokic was a virtual unknown at that time, Denver knew they dug a gold mine in the man called the Joker. After helping Serbia win the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Jokic and the nuggets barely missed the playoffs the next two seasons. But this year, they didn’t just make the postseason, they ranked #2 in the ultra-competitive Western Conference with only the Golden State Warriors ranked ahead of them. Denver is still in the fight for the Western Conference title and Jokic’s all-around brilliance has been the main reason for that.
Joel Embiid PER 26.1
JoJo has turned his career around like no one else has. After entering the NBA Draft as “damaged goods” due to several foot and knee injuries, Embiid missed his first couple of seasons in the league due to injuries. He finally suited up during the 2016-17 season and immediately made an impact. In his second season, he transformed the Sixers from being doormats to one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. He is dubbed as “The Process” because he is the living proof that the Sixers’ tanking days of old has paid off. Embiid says he is the best center in the NBA. That might not be accurate but there is no doubt that he is the most dominant inside presence since Shaquille O’Neal.
Kawhi Leonard PER 25.8
Leonard surprised many people when he requested to be traded from the San Antonio Spurs. After all, it was San Antonio who selected him in the 15th pick in 2011 and it was Gregg Popovich who helped honed his offensive skills and helped him become and NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP in 2014. After his trade to the Toronto Raptors this offseason, Leonard has blossomed into a full-time start who could dominante the game from both ends of the floor. He can score, both inside and outside, and he loves to play in the clutch. What makes him special is that he is a lockdown defender as well.
LeBron James PER 25.6
King James made the bold move from Cleveland to Los Angeles. James’ transfer to the Lakers brough plenty of optimism in Hollywood. After a slow start, James and his young Lakers were in the Top 5 in the West. But after defeating the defending champions Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, James suffered a groin injury that would start a slump by the Lakers. The result? James missed the playoffs this year for the first time since his rookie season. Widely considered as the best player in the world the past decade, James is now 34 and may no longer hold that unofficial title now. Still, the four-time MVP is a force to be reckoned with.
Nikola Vucevic PER 25.5
I was surprised to see Nikola Vucevic’s name here. That’s because while I tip my hat off to him for making his first NBA All-Star appearance this season, Vucevic is an unlikely name to join the ranks of Giannis, Brow, Bron. But when you take a look at what he did this season, Vucevic deserves to be on this list. He averaged 20.8 points and 12.0 rebounds this season while shooting 36.2% from three point distance. Vucevic was one of the main reasons why the Orlando Magic made the playoffs this year.
Rudy Gobert PER 24.6
Utah’s Stifle Tower is one of the NBA’s premier shot-blockers and rebounders. A standout of the French National basketball team, Gobert stands 7-1 but has a wingspan of 7-9. He is a two-time member of the All-NBA Defensive first team and the 2018 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Gobert also led the NBA in blocks in 2017 and in the past three years, he has honed an offensive game that has made him one of the elite centers in the NBA right now. Gobert is the defensive anchor of the Utah Jazz who missed the playoffs this year after reaching the 2nd round in 2018.
Kevin Durant PER 24.3
Okay now really? Kevin Durant has always been second to LeBron James in the “best player in the world” debate. But after James’ slowed down in 2018-19, I think Durant is the best basketball player in the league right now. After winning the MVP in Oklahoma City, Durant signed with the Golden State Warriors as free agent and helped the Dubs win the last two NBA titles while also becoming NBA Finals MVP in both occasions. Durant is the Warriors’ leading scorer and is the current scoring leader in the 2019 Playoffs. He suffered calf injury in Game 5 of their 2nd round series with the Houston Rockets and is doubtful for the rest of the postseason. The Warriors are the basketball betting favorites to retain their title but given this recent development, Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks might just take over in the coming weeks.