1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis has solidified himself as one of the game’s elite, and he’s worked hard to get there. You have to respect the hustle and grind displayed over Giannis’ short career to grasp the stardom that he has attained. In year one, he averaged 6.8 points per game and 4.4 rebounds over 24.6 minutes. Last year, his fifth, he put up 27 points, 10 boards, and 4.8 assists with 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks. Oh yeah, he also shot 53% from the field. His defense is impeccable, his offense includes being able to handle the ball, drive, and use his length to convert typically impossible shots. But don’t forget about the unreal highlights – he’s a walking poster.
2. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
When you think of a polarizing player, there’s no better example than Draymond Green. He’s time and again shown that despite his size, he can out-rebound, out-muscle, and out-heart nearly anybody on the court. Green’s numbers don’t stand out the same way other all-stars’ numbers may, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t impactful. In fact, each of the last two seasons, Green has averaged seven-plus boards and assists while putting up great defensive block and steal numbers. He’s a huge reason why the Warriors have the defensive dominance that they do, and he finds ways to change the game even without needing to score. I’m not sure Dray would be as good on any other team, but he’s sure good on this team.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Let’s backtrack to this time last year – most everyone expected LaMarcus Aldridge to be on his way out but, instead, Kawhi Leonard is the player shipped out from San Antonio. Fittingly, while Kawhi was going through his own drama, Aldridge handled his business on the court and put up his highest scoring average since he was in Portland at 23 per game. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds per game, shot 51% from the field, and tied his career high in blocks per game. Heading into this season, he’ll have a bit more help with DeMar in town, meaning less attention on him considering another superstar will warrant defensive attention. One of the unnoticed stats in Aldridge’s line is that 3.3 of those 8.5 boards were offensive rebounds – an underrated aspect of his game and the highest total for him since he had 3.4 per back in 2010-2011.
4. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Love shocked a number of NBA fans by actually staying put post-LeBron. While he’s had a tendency of disappearing in games from time-to-time, he’s easily their most talented player moving forward and that’s due to being a prototypical stretch-four. He’s got the size, he’s got the strength, and he’s got the shot to be an elite three-point shooter (41.5% last season) and big option – it’s just about how effective he can be. The other aspect of his game that’s so special is his passing ability. Those numbers have gone down as he’s had less-and-less time with the ball in his hands since coming to Cleveland, but that baseball pass is on-target almost every time, and he seems to find lanes most other bigs won’t.
5. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
We may have to wait some time before seeing Porzingis take the floor again but, if you want to talk about a new age big, Porzingis is on the track to becoming a unique player for his position. He carries big man stats scoring around the rim and block shots, but he also is on the fluid side running the court like the unicorn he is. His ability to create out while on the break is eye-opening, as we’ve only had a handful of players able to dish like him at seven-feet tall. While it remains to be seen how much he’ll develop from here, if he continues to work on his game and improve, he could jump to number two on this list quickly – don’t forget, he’s only 23.
- Rahul Lal (Follow Rahul on Twitter @rlal95)
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