2017-18 Top 10 NBA Players by Position

We’re just about a month away from the start of the season, so we’re going to start looking at some of the bigger picture stuff to get you through the last bit of the offseason. We’re starting with a look at the top 10 players at each position. These are in order based on what I project for the upcoming season, not a projection on how good anyone will be beyond that, or a claim on past abilities. So, let’s get into it!

Top 10 Point Guards

  1. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  2. Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
  3. John Wall, Washington Wizards
  4. Chris Paul, Houston Rockets
  5. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
  6. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
  7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
  8. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
  9. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
  10. Isaiah Thomas, Cleveland Cavaliers

I gave a slight nod to Westbrook this season because I think Steph won’t have to consistently be on his A game, especially given that the Warriors are completely comfortable with each other now. I think we’ll see a lot of the starters sitting in fourth quarters again, and Westbrook, with the addition of Paul George, will be gunning for a top 4 seed in the West. The only other thing I’d like to note is Isaiah Thomas. If he were coming into the season fully healthy, I’d probably have him slotted around 5-6. However, he loses some spots because of his hip.

Top 10 Shooting Guards

  1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
  2. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
  3. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
  4. Demar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
  5. CJ McCollum, Portland Trailblazers
  6. Avery Bradley, Detroit Pistons
  7. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
  8. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
  9. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
  10. JJ Redick, Philadelphia Sixers

This is where I expect the most differences. I think the league is split up between three actual positions. You have primary ball handlers (point guards essentially), wings (shooting guards and small forwards, and some power forwards) and bigs (centers and non-stretch power forwards). So to get caught up in whether Andrew Wiggins is listed as a shooting guard or a small forward isn’t the point. Wiggins and Jimmy Butler will play on the wings, and Butler will guard the other teams best wing player. That will usually mean he’s guard a small forward, just based on the depth of the two positions in the league.

Top 10 Small Forwards

  1. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
  2. Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
  4. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  5. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves
  6. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
  7. Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics
  8. Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City Thunder
  9. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia Sixers
  10. Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks

I wanted so badly to put Giannis over Lebron. I really did. I think this is Giannis’ leap into superstardom and if that happens to full effect, he’ll be the second best wing in the league. I know it’s strange to think about Kawhi being the fourth best small forward in the league, but I think he’s on a better team this season than last and won’t have to exert himself like he did last season. If he plays like he did last season though, it’ll go Durant, James, Kawhi, Giannis. At least for one more season.

Top 10 Power Forwards

  1. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  3. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
  4. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
  5. Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
  6. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
  7. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
  8. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
  9. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
  10. Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors

Draymond is the glue to the Warriors and Davis is hurt consistently and on a terrible team. Sorry, but Green gets the nod. I expect Kevin Love to be huge this season. It will basically be just he and Lebron until Isaiah comes back, so I’d imagine they’ll both look great. I’m also expecting Blake Griffin to look pretty good without Chris Paul in LA, and if Jabari can (finally) stay healthy, we may see why he was the second pick in the draft. Lastly, as I said in my Most Improved Player piece, I love Julius Randle going into this season and he could rock the boat in this category.

Top 10 Centers

  1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
  2. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
  3. DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans
  4. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
  5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia Sixers
  6. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
  7. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat
  8. Deandre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
  9. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
  10. Al Horford, Boston Celtics

I’d expect Gobert to improve a bit with Gordon Hayward’s production leaving town. I love Jokic, but I’ve got high expectations for Gobert. Embiid’s position is solely based on the fact that I need to see him healthy for the whole season. If he manages to have a fully healthy season, he’ll probably end up somewhere in the top 3. I think with Myles Turner being the focus in Indiana, he could start to shine.

UofL Has Lost It’s Moral High Ground

I think it’s about time something was said, and it’s not an attack, although that’s how it will be perceived. The University of Louisville has lost it’s moral high ground in the scape of the NCAA. And to be honest, in hindsight, I’m not sure how much of one it ever had.

Growing up as a Louisville fan lead me to a certain feeling of privilege. From the days of John L. Smith and the tail end of Denny Crum’s tenure with the basketball team, we always had the “plucky underdog” feel. We never got the air time that it seemed like Kentucky did, and we developed things the “right way”. We were on a “collision course” and we were along for the ride.

Things didn’t start to feel strange until Bobby Petrino left in 2006. He left the university in the dead of night. I still remember being on our home computer and seeing the update on ESPN. I told my parents and they thought I was joking. Bring in Steve Kragthorpe, and all of a sudden we had “behavioral problems” in the locker room. I’m not going to defend Kragthorpe, because at the end of the day, a coaches job is to win. I will say, though, that maybe Petrino wasn’t bringing in the most high quality individuals to play for him.

Petrino went on to ungracefully leave from the Atlanta Falcons and have a fresh scandal in Arkansas involving a volleyball player and a motorcycle.

In 2009, we were all first introduced to Karen Sypher. I won’t go into it here, because honestly if you’re reading this, you know what happened. While it isn’t a basketball related issue, and I agree that it isn’t a fireable offense, it’s a terrible black mark on the university.

Then came Katina Powell. To say it bluntly, Pitino should have been fired. Adding in the Sypher issue years ago, this was an issue with recruits, in on-campus dorms and if he didn’t know, then he should have. It’s his responsibility as the head coach. The thing that truly bothered me about this though, is that once everything came out, there wasn’t at least a bigger uproar of people calling for his termination. The fan base, from my observation, was largely defending everyone except Powell and Andre McGee, the ringleader of the whole thing. I expect fans to be irrational about their teams, but I heard almost no fans calling for a firing. That’s embarrassing to me, and it also signaled something.

The standards of our higher education facilities have plummeted in favor for more money and exposure. To be clear, the NCAA is at fault as well. The entire idea of college athletics is such a cess pool of dirty, disgusting practices that I find it hard to pull for anyone involved outside of the student-athlete themselves.

These major examples aside, we haven’t even talked about James Ramsey, the university’s former president. He oversaw over 20 scandals, almost all financially related, between 2008 and 2016 when he resigned. This includes bribery, cover-ups and theft.

The whole reason for this stream of thoughts is at the beginning: the moral high ground. I didn’t get the sense that the Powell situation humbled anyone, which is concerning. The irony of mocking Kentucky for years about losing their championship banner due to some kind of violation by John Calipari, only to be at risk of losing Louisville’s own is not lost on me. The Powell situation was everyone else’s opportunity to knock Louisville, and it was met with backlash, like this fan base hasn’t been doing the knocking. It was hypocritical at best, ignorant at worst.

Again, I know this is going to lead to a lot of backlash against myself. Unfortunately, I know how fans are. I think, though, that it’s something every fan base, not just Louisville’s, needs to hear. Looking in the mirror every once in awhile isn’t such a bad thing.