What's the best part of an NBA game? Defense? Not exactly. Technical fouls? Only if they lead to fistfights. Close-up shots of sideline reporters? That's the second best thing.
No, the best thing about an NBA game is the scoring. The disrespectful slam dunks, the zany, complicated passes, and JR Smith pulling up from thirty feet back ten seconds into the game to see if he's hot yet. We're currently living in the golden age of NBA offense, a time when teams are traveling outside the arc more than ever and defenders have to try extra super special hard to be great. While some fans hate the way the NBA has changed the game to better suit offensive players (we all have one friend who waxes poetic about when basketball was "tough" and actually physically attacking dudes was considered good defense), the majority of us can agree that basketball is pretty damn fun right now, if not overall better than it was in the 90s.
Since basketball has never been more score-happy than it is today, it begs the question: "Who are the best scorers in the league?" Without further ado, this list is dedicated to the men in the NBA today who have the best points per game averages, those glorious human mountains who work day in and day out to satisfy our neigh-unstoppable demand for BUCKETS!
(Note: to make this list, a player has to have a minimum of 400 games played.)
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15 Chris Paul - 18.7 PPG
Don't look now, but the Clippers are really, really good. Again. For the fifth year in a row. And yet people continue to be surprised by this. While it's yet to be seen whether or not the Clips can make it past the second round of the playoffs, they're undoubtedly a regular season juggernaut, and much of that success lies on the shoulders of Chris Paul. The Point God may, improbably, be having the best season of his phenomenal career. While the nine time All-Star isn't known for being a scoring machine (he's only had two 20+ points per game seasons), he's a very consistent scorer, never averaging less than 15.9 points in a season. He's not a volume scorer by any means, but he's been remarkably accurate for a guard, averaging .472% shooting on his career That may not impress you, but paired alongside his incredible defense (Better than ever this season) and career 9.9 assists per game average, Chris Paul has done more for his teams than most players ever could or will.
14 LaMarcus Aldridge - 19.2 PPG
Previously criminally underrated as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, now seemingly overrated as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, LaMarcus Aldridge cannot seem to catch a break. In Portland, he was a often overlooked talent that kept the Blazers afloat through numerous injuries. In San Antonio, he's faced with the impossible task of replacing the legendary Tim Duncan. However, whatever your feelings on him, it's impossible to deny that he doesn't know how to score. Aldridge is a great second option, as he was to Brandon Roy in Portland and now Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio, never averaging less than 17.9 points per game. He also thrived as a main option in Portland after Brandon Roy's heartbreaking early retirement, stringing together five straight seasons of 20+ points per game, hitting his ceiling with 23.4 points per game in 2014-2015. Although he's not Tim Duncan, no one is, and he's a different player in a different role in San Antonio, his array of post moves and uncanny mid-range jumper can always be counted on for a scoring punch.
13 Chris Bosh - 19.2 PPG
Chris Bosh is one of the most genuinely likable men in the NBA. From his near-supernatural photo bombing talents to his freakish ability to hit half court shots in the shooting stars challenge to that time he balled on some kids in Parks and Rec, Chris Bosh is a truly lovable basketball player and that makes his current struggles with blood clots even more disheartening. While Bosh is an all-around great player, his ability to score has easily been the best aspect of his game throughout his carer. As a member of the Toronto Raptors, he strung together five straight seasons of 20+ points per game, averaging 24 points per game on .518% shooting in 2009-2010. He was still a good, if not potent, scorer as the third option on the Miami Heat super team. However, he had begun scoring more like vintage Bosh the past two seasons. Being on this list shows how deadly a scorer Chris Bosh has been in his career, but he may be even higher had he not selflessly sacrificed personal glory and stats, and changed his game, to make the Miami Heat super team work. That selflessness is one of the best things about the Boshasaurus, though.
12 Derrick Rose - 19.6 PPG
Admit it, a small part of you is flabbergasted that Derrick Rose has actually played 400 games in the NBA. While Rose has become more well known for his chronic, almost comical, injury history than for his accomplishments on the court, the greatness of pre-injury D-Rose continues to linger on as a testament to how unfortunate his numerous injuries have been. Before it was evident that he was made of glass and paper-mache, Rose was one of the most feared offensive players in the NBA. Although he's never been a threat behind the arc, he was elusive and damn near unstoppable as a scorer, capable of performing insane acrobatics to finish at the rim. His best season came in 2010-2011, his MVP season, when he averaged 25 points per game and led the Chicago Bulls to the best record in the league. Even today, Rose is still a talented volume scorer and he shows flashes of who he used to be, but as every season passes, it becomes less and less likely we ever see MVP Rose again.
11 Paul Pierce - 19.9 PPG
Aside from Kobe Bryant, few players have been as hated and feared by opposing fan bases as Paul Pierce (Knicks fans know very well). Pierce is well known as a scorer, and a great all-around player in general, but his uncanny ability to dagger opposing teams was what made him so renowned. He has ice in his veins and few have a clutch resume like his. As a member of the Boston Celtics, Pierce used his exceptional scoring to keep the team afloat when they didn't have much else. He strung together seven straight seasons of 20+ points per game, averaging 26.8 points per game in 2005-2006. His scoring averages went down once Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett joined the team, but he remained the team's primary option, winning Finals MVP when the team won the championship in 2008. Even on the Washington Wizards, in the twilight years of his career, he still managed to kill a few games with his ferocious crunch time skills. While NBA fans the world over will be happy to see Pierce retire, finally safe from his ice cold wrath, the game as a whole will always miss The Truth.
10 DeMarcus Cousins - 20.6 PPG
With the possible exception of Matt "I Hate Derek Fisher" Barnes, DeMarcus Cousins may be the most confrontational man in basketball. He's more well known for his proficiency at racking up technical fouls than he is for his acumen on the court, which is a shame, because Cousins is, and should be considered, the best center in the NBA. For the entirety of his career, the man known as Boogie has been the sole saving grace of the dysfunctional Sacramento Kings. Offensively, he's a juggernaut, possibly the most physically dominating big man since Shaq. He can score at will in the post and no one has yet been able to contain him. He's also one of the best players in the league in terms of drawing fouls. However, despite his brilliance down low, he's extended his game out past the three point line over the past few seasons, developing a reliable three point stroke. Boogie may have the temperament of a recently poked grizzly bear, but he's one of the best players in the NBA and not even a team as fundamentally broken as the Kings can smother that.
9 James Harden - 21.4 PPG
James Harden is really, really, super crazy good at offensive basketball (Defense, on the other hand...). He's always been a talented scorer, but this season, he's transformed into the gamma radiation version of Steve Nash under Mike D'Antoni's system. While he's not as proficient a shooter as the Canadian legend, he's scoring double Nash's career average in points this season while averaging an mind boggling, league leading 11.4 assists per game. Harden went from sixth man extraordinaire on the Oklahoma City Thunder, winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2011-2012, to the primary option on the Houston Rockets, one of the West's best teams, and the best shooting guard in the league. He can do it all: he uses his large frame to barrel through opponents on his way to the rim, he has a consistent three point stroke, and almost nobody in the league is as good at drawing fouls. The Rockets' system has always revolved around Harden's talents, but this year, he's doing everything and anything he can to win. He's H-Town's be all, end all, and they couldn't have picked a better player to hitch their franchise to.
8 Blake Griffin - 21.4 PPG
In 2016, there may not be a more versatile player than Blake Griffin. Sure, his three point stroke is not amazing (.227% this season), but he can do everything else, and he excels at everything else: he's one of the most overpowering players in the league, capable of getting to the rim at will (And raining down holy basketball fire on anyone), he's one of the best big man passers in the league, he's a ferocious rebounder, and he's evolved into an effective defender. As a member of the uber-talented Los Angeles Clippers, Blake bears the primary scoring burden, as Chris Paul isn't much of volume scorer and DeAndre Jordan is really only good for put backs and alley-oops. He's done so with aplomb. He's averaged 20+ points or more during all but one of his seven professional seasons. His scoring has become less effective as he's moved away from the rim, but that hasn't stopped him from posting THEM NUMBERS. While Blake has changed a lot over the course of his career, he's seamlessly evolved into a more complete, versatile player that fits perfectly into today's NBA.
7 Russell Westbrook - 21.8 PPG
31 points, 11.3 assists, 10.9 rebounds. That's what Russell Westbrook is averaging 22 games into the season. It comes with some caveats: he's only shooting .427% and he's averaging 5.6 turnovers per game. However, it's impossible to ignore the fact that Russy's averaging a triple-double and he has 11 (!!!) triple-doubles already this season. That's a triple-double rate of fifty percent. That's absolutely bonkers. To be fair, everyone knew Russ was capable of this, he was a triple-double machine even with Kevin Durant taking up usage. He's long been one of the most unstoppable scorers in the NBA. He's hyper athletic and quick, he can power to the rim at will, and he's the best fast break player in the league. He's led the league in scoring once, at 28.1 points per game in 2014-2015, when KD went down with an injury, but he's so far topped that this season. Westbrook has been given the keys to the entire Thunder team and everything goes through him and that approach seems to be working for the team, as they're 14-8 and excelling in ways no one expected after Durant's departure. Watch Russy work.
6 Dirk Nowitzki - 22 PPG
Currently number six on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 29,552 points, Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest European player in the history of the NBA (Maybe the best foreign player ever, depending on how you feel about Hakeem Olajuwon). Dirk is one of the most innovative, lethal, and versatile big men to ever play the game. Despite being a legit seven footer, Dirk has uncanny range for a player of his size, frequently drifting out behind the arc, much to the chagrin of his defender. His ability to space the floor is part of what makes him so dangerous: if one scoring method isn't working for him, he simply changes to another. His fade away jumper is one of the most difficult to defend moves in basketball history (It buried LeBron and the Heat in 2011). He's had thirteen seasons with 20+ points per game. Dirk changed the perspective of what a European player could be, and created unfair expectations for many foreign prospects after him, and cemented himself as one of the true innovators of the sport: a giant capable of doing what other giants could not, effectively changing the way we look at big men forever.
5 Stephen Curry - 22.5 PPG
From almost being traded to give more minutes to Monta Ellis to establishing himself as undeniably the greatest shooter in the history of the NBA, Stephen Curry has evolved leaps and bounds since his breakout season in 2012-2013. Despite having limited athleticism compared to other guards like Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving, Curry has cemented himself as one of the most dangerous scorers in professional basketball. While he's deadly accurate in the paint, his specialty is his damn near unstoppable three point stroke. Behind the arc, no one is or ever has been better than Curry. Ray Allen and Reggie Miller were great, but Steph is on another level altogether. No player in NBA history has ever hit 300+ threes in a single season, besides Curry, who's hit 400+. Last season, he led the league in scoring with 30.1 points per game and joined the ultra prestigious 50-40-90 Club, the only scoring leader to ever achieve that. In an era of basketball where teams are shooting the three ball more than ever before, Stephen Curry is the ultimate weapon and his accolades speak for themselves.
4 Dwyane Wade - 23.6 PPG
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making the world think Dwyane Wade was washed. Every offseason, people hypothesize that Wade's age and injury history will force him to slow down, and every year, Wade kicks Father Time in the face and continues being great. This season, his first playing for his hometown Chicago Bulls, Wade has turned his three point stroke, one of the weakest parts of his game throughout his career, into an asset, drilling a respectable .343% of his shots from behind the arc. In addition to cleaning up his long ball, Wade is still thriving at his usual tricks. He's getting to the rim with relative ease and he's one of the better back-to-the-basket guards in the league. His presence alone seems to be a stabilizing factor for a Bulls teams that was entrenched in chaos last season. On his career, he has 11 different 20+ points per game seasons, including his 2008-2009 season, when he averaged a league high 30.1 points per game. No amount of time or number of injuries have been able to stop Dwyane Wade and it's beginning to feel like nothing ever will.
3 Carmelo Anthony - 24.9 PPG
Carmelo Anthony is the subject of much praise, derision, and discussion. Some people see him as an Allen Iverson-type superstar, a great player on bad teams. Others see him as a selfish Kobe wannabe obsessed with hero ball. No matter what your opinion on Melo's legacy, it's impossible to deny that he's one of the best pure scorers of his generation. He's one of the most feared and skilled isolation scorers in basketball. He has an eerie talent for facing up and scoring on anyone, and he's made his share of ridiculous circus shots. His mid-range jumper is one of the most reliable weapons in the NBA, his three point stroke, albeit sometimes inconsistent, is fierce, and he's an expert at getting his own rebounds and finishing what he started. Melo's never had a season with less than 20 points per game in his entire career and he's led the league in scoring once, averaging 28.7 points per game in 2012-2013. Yes, Melo loves hero ball. Yes, Melo can be lazy on defense. No, Melo's not as successful as LeBron James. But, he's proven himself as a great basketball player and one of the best scorers on an entire era.
2 LeBron James - 27.1 PPG
With seemingly every passing game, LeBron James is surging up the all-time scoring leader board, having recently passed Elvin Hayes (10) and set to pass Moses Malone (8) in just a few games. By the end of the season, it's not far-fetched to think he could overtake Shaquille O'Neal for seventh all time. LeBron is one of the hardest to defend men in the history of basketball. He's a tank that turned into a human, but kept doing tank stuff. He's an NFL tight end playing basketball super, super well. His only weakness on offense is his three point stroke (.340% on his career), but even that isn't awful. He's basically unstoppable at getting to the rim and his jump shot is killer. He's never had a season with less than 20+ points per game and he's only ever had one season, his rookie season, with less than 25+ points per game. Nothing can stop LeBron from working his way up the scoring ladder and there may be no man with a better chance to unseat Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the top.
1 Kevin Durant - 27.4 PPG
You knew it had to be him. Currently the biggest villain in the NBA for abandoning the Oklahoma City Thuder for the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant has been one of the most consistent, efficient scorers in the league since his debut in 2007. Durant's scoring acumen is legendary. He's a shooting guard playing a small forward in a power forward's body. His size, speed, and ability to shoot from anywhere on the court make him one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. Like Curry, he's a member of the 50-40-90 Club, hitting those marks in the 2012-2013 season while averaging 28.1 points per game. Like LeBron and Melo, he's never had a season with less than 20+ points per game and like LeBron, his rookie season was his only year without 25+ points per game. He's led the league four times in scoring, including three times between 2009-2012. Durant's standing on the edge of 20,000 points and it's almost certain he'll join the upper echelon of scorers before he retires.
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