The NBA is chock full of special talent, both past and present. There isn't a more recognizable sports figure than Michael Jordan, while players like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and countless other basketball players are recognized as some of the greatest competitors in sports history.
Just like every era in the NBA, the current one has a chock full of superstars that every single team would love to have. Steph Curry, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis are just a handful of players that could fit into every roster.
At every position, there is elite talent.
Think of the point guards in the league. Outside of the aforementioned players, there is Chris Paul, John Wall, Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowery. At shooting guard, there’s Jimmy Butler, James Harden and DeMar DeRozan - and you cant have a list without mentioning Kobe Bryant.
The forwards are equally as impressive. Tim Duncan and Blake Griffen are still two of the best power forwards, while Draymond Green, Carmelo Anthony, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are dominating as well.
And you can’t forget about centers. DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Brook Lopez only represent a few of the talented big men throughout the entire league.
The point being, there is game changing talent at every single position - and that's because the NBA is the best basketball league in the world. However, what if there was an NBA Fantasy Draft? What if all the teams in the Association could hit reset and have all the talent at their disposal in a fantasy draft? Who would be chosen? We'll be going based on the draft order upcoming for the actual draft in June, bu this will be about looking to fill teams' needs if they could have whoever they wanted in the NBA right now. Here are my selections.
20 Philadelphia 76ers - Steph Curry
It’s official: LeBron James has been overtaken as the best player in the NBA. There is no doubt that the title now belongs to Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Constantly proving the doubters wrong ever since being drafted by the Warriors out of small school Davidson, Curry proved to the world last year that he has the instincts and work ethic that supersedes everyone else. When you look at the point guard, he comes off as a common man; however, his ability to push himself in practice each and every day makes him a true superstar.
Coming off of his championship season last year, Curry currently leads the league in points per game with 30. To add to that number, he is also averaging seven assists, five rebounds and two assists while shooting 51% from the field. Curry may not be the most athletic or most physically imposing figure, but there is one thing that’s certain - he’s the best.
19 Los Angeles Lakers - LeBron James
Boy, imagine LeBron as a Laker. When you’re mentioned in the same breath with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Oscar Roberston, you know you’re something special. And that’s the exact word that describes LeBron James - special. There aren't many people that live up to the hype surrounding them, yet James has done that and more ever since he made the jump from high school to the NBA back in 2003. The two-time NBA Champion, four-time NBA MVP and 11-time All-Star was been the standard bearer of the league, and for good reason. Although the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled at times this season, it is in no part James’ fault. In 2015-16, he is averaging 25 points, seven rebounds, six assists, one steal and a little less than a block per game. While he has done better in his career, there isn't a player that elevates his teammates and team like James does.
18 Brooklyn Nets - Russell Westbrook
For years, the duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the most promising in the entire league - and although they have had their troubles in the postseason, the combination are considered the best in the NBA. However, while Durant was always considered the best player on the Oklahoma City Thunder, it is obvious that the award belongs to Westbrook now. After dominating the competition in Durant’s absence last season, Westbrook has continued on his torrid pace in 2015-16. While his 24 points per game are below last season’s average, that has to do with Durant being back. However, what is most impressive is his near 10 assists per game. While many consider the amazingly athletic Westbrook a ball hog of sorts, those numbers defy that narrative.
17 Minnesota Timberwolves - Anthony Davis
Expectations were sky-high for both Anthony Davis and the team that employs him, the New Orleans Pelicans. While both parties have struggled at times this season, there is no denying that the 22-year-old fourth year pro is on the verge of NBA stardom in due time. While his 22.8 points per game is a point below his average from last season, his near 11 rebounds per game is a career high, while his two and a half blocks per game is on par with his four-year average. A hybrid power forward/center that can run the floor, shoot threes when needed and play above average defense would be something every team wants. Add in the fact of his extreme youth, and any NBA team would love to have Davis on their roster.
16 Phoenix Suns - Kevin Durant
While Kevin Durant is still one of best players on the planet, he has taken a slight step back in terms of NBA Player Rankings. While he was consistently slotted behind LeBron James as the top basketball player of the world, a combination of failed playoff ventures from the Oklahoma City Thunder and injuries have slowed the 27-year-old down just a bit. However, just because he isn't number two doesn't mean that Durant is still tops in terms of players. This season is no exception; while his 26 points per game is below his career average, there’s no doubt that it’s still a great number. On top of that, his assists numbers at four per game are strong, while his near eight rebounds per game is on pace to be a career high.
15 New Orleans Pelicans - Kawhi Leonard
The player that the Bulls want Jimmy Butler to eventually become is what Kawhi Leonard is to the San Antonio Spurs. Learning under the championship tutelage of Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Leonard went from defensive complement to the team’s best player. Ever since the Spurs championship season in 2014, Leonard has made the jump to a scoring threat as both an attacker to the basket and as a jump shooter. In 2015-16, he is averaging 20 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. However, his defensive skills haven't wavered, as he averages two steals per game while being able to defend any position on the court.
14 Denver Nuggets - Jimmy Butler
There aren't enough positives to be said about Jimmy Butler. The four-year veteran entered the league as a defensive specialist, with the Bulls organization hoping that his offense would develop enough to make him a complementary piece to Derrick Rose. However, I don't think many thought that Butler would emerge as the number one scoring option for the team. This season has been his best, scoring a career high 22 points per game. Butler has also chipped in five rebounds, four assists, two steals a just shy of a block per game. With Rose looking more and more likely to leave via free agency, it’s only a matter of time before Butler is the true star of the Bulls - and if he isn't already considered one of the best players in the NBA, he will be in due time.
13 Milwaukee Bucks - Chris Paul
Before Paul George was being discussed as the number three player behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant, that honor was bestowed upon Chris Paul. A floor general in every sense of the word, Paul displayed a fierce competitiveness backed up by elite level play that had peers comparing him to Isiah Thomas. While some believe that he has slowed down in his 10th NBA season, there is no doubt that Paul excels at his position. This season, he has been averaging a strong 18 ppg to go along with nearly 10 assists per contest. Paul’s .385 shooting percentage is one of the better numbers of his career, and his defensive skills have persisted. Sure, he may not be the best point guard in the league anymore, but in this fantasy draft, the Bucks wouldn't pass on him.
12 Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins
As Fantasy Draft fate would have it, the Sacramento Kings would wind up with their maligned star center, DeMarcus Cousins. While the on again, off again rumors of a trade have been a constant part of the five-year NBA of Cousins, there is no doubt that when on the court, he is one of the best in the business. And although he’s been one of the top players at his position since his rookie campain, the 2015-2016 season has featured the best of Cousins. Averaging a double double per game (26 points, 11 rebounds), the big man has been dominating on another level this year. And while his attitude will always be a problem of sorts, his talent is undeniable - and that’s why any team would want him.
11 Portland Trail Blazers - Tim Duncan
At 39 years of age, Tim Duncan is the furthest thing from a spring chicken. However, the ageless wonder from the San Antonio Spurs has continued to impress in his 19th NBA season, and any team in the league would love to have him on the roster. When you look at his statistics, they’re unimpressive (nine points, eight rebounds, three assists per game). However, Duncan’s play goes well beyond the stat sheet. While Tim Duncan may be passed up with the earlier picks, his championship pedigree and winning savvy would be great for any franchise. Having a player like Duncan in recent playoff runs would have done wonders for Portland.
10 Utah Jazz - Paul George
Before Paul George broke his leg during a game with Team USA, many believed that he was the third best player in the NBA, only behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. While people questioned if he could return to form once he came back, George has done his best to do so. After appearing in only six games last season, he has returned to the NBA with a vengeance in 2015-16. Not only is George averaging a career high 24 ppg this season, but his seven rebounds and four assists per contest are both one more than his career numbers in those categories. On top of his prowess on the offensive side of the game, George has continued to display shutdown abilities on defense as both a small forward and power forward.
9 Charlotte Hornets - James Harden
The knocks that Anthony has received in the past are a lot of the things that James Harden is being criticized for now. There has never been a doubt since his Oklahoma City day Harden can score; however, his comically bad defense has been just as apparent as his ability to put the ball in the basket. However, when Harden is all-in during a game, there aren't many people better than him. The fact that Harden is scoring nearly 28 points a night isn't all too surprising. Yet, the fact that he is averaging nearly seven assists and six rebounds per game have made him look more like a playmaker than ever. Combine that with the fact that Harden is only 26 years old, and that makes him one of the best today.
8 Washington Wizards - Carmelo Anthony
Ever since Carmelo Anthony was taken third overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 draft, there is a short list of players that compare to him in terms of scoring. Whether it’s creating his own shot, posting up or grabbing an offensive rebound and putting it back up for a bucket, Anthony has a rare skill set that is unmatched. However, the knocks from fans over the years have been the lack of commitment on the defensive end, not concentrating on getting his teammates the ball and being a poor leader.
However, for the 2015-16 New York Knicks, Anthony finally looks like a well-rounded player. While his near-22 points per game aren't a shock, his four assists and eight rebounds per game are. With the way he is playing now, Anthony would be valuable to almost every team in the NBA.
7 New York Knicks - John Wall
John Wall wasn't always in the conversation for best point guards in the NBA. While he dominated the collegiate ranks at Kentucky, a poor jump shot and a lack of conditioning had people questioning the Washington Wizards choosing him first overall, despite the lack of game changing talent in the 2010 draft. However, Wall has done his best to silence the critics, as he’s emerged as one of the best at the position in the Eastern Conference.
After truly emerging last season, Wall has continued to build off of his success in 2015-16. Pouring in 20.1 points per game while averaging nearly 10 assists, the 25-year-old has also become a stalwart on the defensive side of the game, as he his averaging 2.2 steals per game, which is currently a career high.
6 Orlando Magic - Andre Drummond
If anyone has made the jump from promising to elite, it’s Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond. There was never a question that Drummond featured the physical attributes to be a success at the NBA level; however, there was always the question if he could put it all together to make an impact. And in 2015-16, he has done just that. While his 18 points per game and .522 field goal percentage are very impressive, there is nothing more telling than his 15.5 rebounds that he averages per game. On top of averaging a double double per contest, it must be mentioned that Drummond is just 22 years old.
5 Houston Rockets - Marc Gasol
When Marc Gasol was traded for his brother Pau Gasol by the Los Angeles Lakers to the Memphis Grizzlies, he was clearly on the back burner, as the elder Gasol was the clear prize in the trade. However, even the Grizzlies didn't realize the player that Marc Gasol would eventually transform into. An elite all-around center, Gasol excels as a scorer both inside and outside of the paint, as a rebounder and also as a defender - and this season has been no different.
The 31-year-old is scoring 16 points per game while chipping in seven rebounds, both around his career numbers. On top of that, his free throw shooting percentage is the second best of his career, as it sits at .835%.
4 Boston Celtics - Draymond Green
While Draymond Green won't impressive you in the athleticism department like Blake Griffin would, he has quickly emerged as a high quality player that would fit onto any NBA roster. After carving out his niche over his first two NBA seasons, Green emerged as a true X-Factor in the Golden State Warriors championship run last season. He has continued to thrive in that role as the Warriors will look to repeat this year. The power forward is averaging an astonishing seven assists per game to go along with his 15 point and 10 rebound averages. On top of that, not only does Green have a strong field goal percentage of .468, but he also has a career high three point field goal percentage of .423.
3 Detroit Pistons - Blake Griffin
While many consider power forward Blake Griffin one of the best players in the NBA, I don't think he slots into a top 15 spot this season. However, his athletic ability is matched by a small number of players. Ever since he was taken with the number one overall pick back in 2009, Griffen has been wowing NBA fans across the world with his amazing ability to dunk. However, it is his improved overall game that makes him one of the best players today. This season is no exception; in the 30 games he’s dressed in, the 26-year-old is averaging 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while also sporting a strong field goal percentage of .508.
2 Indiana Pacers - Damian Lillard
Unlike DeRozan, Lillard wasn't highly touted coming out of college. While he dominated at that level, the fact that he played at Weber State University - a small school by NBA prospect standards - was supposed to be a hindrance. However, once the Portland Trail Blazers selected Lillard with the sixth overall pick in 2012, he took the doubters’ words as motivation and has developed into one of biggest offensive weapons at the point guard position in just four short seasons - and 2015-16 has been no different.
Now the true focal point of the offense with LaMarcus Aldridge in San Antonio, Lillard is averaging 24.2 points, while also dishing out nearly 10 assists per night. What’s even more impressive about his assist numbers are that he has a significantly weaker team surrounding him than in years past, yet it’s a career high number.
1 Dallas Mavericks - DeMar DeRozan
Over DeMar DeRozan’s first three NBA seasons, it didn't appear as though his high draft selection would be justified. As an uber-athletic slasher, he would always have a place in the league, but the two guard never appeared that he would pan out with the Toronto Raptors. However, his improved game across the board not only have him potentially earning a max contract this upcoming offseason, but DeRozan is also - quietly - one of the best players in the league. As it stands today, the 26-year-old is averaging career highs in points (22.8), rebounds (4.6) and assists (4.1), while shooting and defending at a high rate. And since he is just entering his prime, there’s a chance DeRozan will get even better.