To little surprise, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant was announced as the 2013-2014 Most Valuable Player in the NBA on Tuesday.
Durant, who averaged 32 points per game and shot better than 50 percent from the field, beat out LeBron James, who has won the award four times. The Miami Heat superstar even stated that Durant deserved the award.
"Much respect to him and he deserves it," James said on Monday. "He had a big-time MVP season."
While Durant had a spectacular season, it doesn’t necessarily make him the best player in the NBA. Numerous factors must be taken into account when determining what makes one player better than another.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to compose a list of the Top 50 players of the season. Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, and Rajon Rondo failed to make the list due to injury.
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The list doesn’t just take into account statistics, but also the player’s importance to his team, and his overall talent, intelligence, and energy.
A disappointing fact about today’s NBA is the lack of superstars under the age of 22. After a series of underwhelming drafts, a young superstar has yet to emerge who can carry a team to the postseason.
There is also an extreme shortage of premier centers. Gone are the days when players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, and Patrick Ewing towered over the league.
Like any list, there is no escaping that the order, ranking and omissions will be subject to debate and discussion. But what’s a list without some controversy, right?
Without further ado, here are the Top 50 players:
1. LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat A superstar since his rookie season, the league belongs to King James. He has reached the point of his career where an MVP award means far less than winning a title, much like Michael Jordan in 1992-1993. James is also one of the best passers in the league, and among the most athletic players in the history of the game. His field-goal percentage has improved every year since 2006-2007.
2. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder The best scorer and one of the best shooters in the NBA, he is perhaps the closest thing to Larry Bird. Durant raised his already high scoring average by 14 percent this season. The 25-year-old will eventually win a title, and when he does, his name will be mentioned among the very best. His under-stated, classy personality is also very refreshing.
3. Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers Due to inflated expectations, George had a somewhat disappointing season. But don’t be fooled by his soft-spoken demeanor and a lack of flashy statistics. George is an extremely difficult defensive assignment, and his combination of skills and athleticism is second to only LeBron. The 24-year-old was the best player on a team that won 56 games and earned the No. 1 seed in the East, and no other Pacer made this list.
4. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland Trail Blazers Yes, he’s not underrated anymore. Like Durant, Aldridge is a University of Texas product who quietly does so many things right. Aldridge helped the Blazers go deep into the postseason for the first time in years, mainly due to his impressive rebounding and shot selection. Aldridge will remain a force for the next several years.
5. Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks A scoring machine who is loaded with talent, Anthony has been dogged by the label of a “ball hog” but there aren’t any better options to score for the Knicks than Melo. He averaged 27.4 points per game and shot 45.2 percent from the field on a team lacking another premier perimeter or post player.
6. James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets His step-back outside shot is deadly, but Harden has plenty of other ways to score. His 25.4 scoring average is a bit down from 2012-2013, but he took better shots this season. The Rockets rely on Harden to take the tough shots, but his defense has plenty of room for improvement.
7. Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs His numbers aren’t eye-popping, and his production dipped from last season, but the Spurs are consummate winners with Parker on the floor. He has a crossover that is very difficult to stay in front of, and a consistent outside shot. Meanwhile, Parker is an excellent distributor.
8. Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves A brilliant passer and outside shooter, Love is also very good with his back to the basket. One of the best scorers in the league, Love would be higher on this list if he could somehow get Minnesota into the postseason.
9. Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers A fearless small guard with a knack for penetrating, Paul also has impeccable shot selection and can score from anywhere on the court. An excellent distributor, floor leader, and defensive presence, it’s difficult to fathom how he has never reached the NBA Finals.
10. Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors An electric outside shooter with a great deal of heart, the 26-year-old is also very clutch. He’s possibly the best three-point shooter since Ray Allen in his prime.
11. Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs Perhaps only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone can compare to Duncan when it comes to big men who don’t seem to tire after several years of service. Duncan had yet another strong season (15.1 ppg/9.7 rpg), though the numbers don’t stand out. But the most important stat is wins, and the 38-year-old seems to always find a way to win.
12. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks A fundamentally sound scorer, Nowitzki might be the most mentally tough player on this list. He is still a fierce competitor, who surprisingly has plenty left at age 35.
13. Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers A tremendous athletic specimen, Griffin has refined his game over the years. As a result, his scoring has surged (24.1 ppg) this season, to go along with his improved free-throw shooting (71.5 percent). Griffin is also a strong defensive presence.
14. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers A fluid playmaker with great full-court abilities, Lillard can also catch-and-shoot and create his own shot in a half-court set. He needs to look to pass a little more, but the future is very bright for the 23-year-old.
15. Anthony Davis, PF, New Orleans Pelicans Impressive rising star who is a terror on the glass and a scorer in the paint, Davis will be a very good player for several years. The 21-year-old led the NBA in blocks (2.8 per game), and shot 79.1 percent from the free-throw line, which is excellent for a young big man.
16. Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder Westbrook should clearly be higher on this list, but he has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency this season. Expect the 25-year-old to bounce back next season, and make the Top 10. His athletic ability is off the charts.
17. Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets The best center in the NBA, Howard remains a force in the paint. Saw a dip in blocked shots in 2013-2014 (1.8 bpg), but that shouldn’t detract from the importance he brings to a club with his defensive presence. The big issue that plagues Howard is his inability to make the players around him better due in part to his lack of passing skills.
18. Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat Still a star after being slowed by injuries and age, but Wade’s main asset right now is that he’s an excellent complement to LeBron. Formerly a point guard, Wade’s shot selection was always good, but it’s gotten even better this season. The 32-year-old still plays tough defense in important situations.
19. Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls The most tenacious player in the NBA, Noah helped keep Chicago relevant in the East by doing so many things right in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s system. He raised his scoring (12.6 ppg), rebounding (11.3 rpg) and assists (5.4 apg) to career highs in 2013-2014.
20. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards Finally had the breakout year that was expected of him after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. After being tagged as inconsistent, Wall raised his assist numbers (8.8 apg), scoring (19.3 ppg), free-throw shooting (80.5 percent), three-point shooting (35.1 percent) and steals (1.8 spg) to career highs in 2013-2014.
21. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers Aggressive yet poised, Irving has been a top scoring guard from the start of his career in 2011. He’s already a rather complete player, who simply needs to bring more out of his young teammates.
22. Chris Bosh, PF, Miami Heat Still a vital player for the Heat, he shot 51.6 percent from the field, and effectively stretched the floor with his outside shot this season. His sharp dip in rebounds over the years is a big reason he’s not higher on this list.
23. Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs He is still one of the most difficult perimeter players to defend because of his uncanny ability to create his own shot. The 36-year-old remains a hard-working swingman that keeps the Spurs in title contention every year.
24. DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers Finds a way to lead the NBA in rebounding (13.6 per game) and shooting (67.6 percent) despite playing next to high-flying Griffin every night. Also a dominating defensive presence in the paint, where he finished third in blocks (2.48 per game).
25. DeMar DeRozan, SF, Toronto Raptors Possibly the most under-rated player in the NBA, DeRozan oozes athleticism and he did a great job of being a more aggressive shooter in 2013-2014 (22.7 ppg). In DeRozan, the Raptors have a high-scoring swingman in his prime.
26. Joe Johnson, SG, Brooklyn Nets His scoring numbers have dropped the past two seasons, mainly due to playing on a well-balanced Nets squad, but Johnson remains a reliable scorer. He has been a consistent shooter for Brooklyn, and rarely forces bad shots.
27. Monta Ellis, SG, Dallas Mavericks Coming off another solid season, Ellis has been an efficient scorer wherever he has played. After some inconsistent play in Milwaukee, Ellis raised his field-goal percentage (45.1 percent) in 2013-2014. Ellis is an unselfish player who is keenly aware of his role with his Dallas.
28. Al Jefferson, C, Charlotte Bobcats Elevated his game in 2013-2014 (21.8 ppg/10.8 rpg) and it showed, as the Bobcats reached the postseason. Jefferson has always flown under the radar, but that will quickly change should the Bobcats continue to make the postseason.
29. DeMarcus Cousins, PF, Sacramento Kings A hard-nosed competitor, Cousins raised his game to another level to become among the best rebounders in the league, and one of the best scoring big men (22.7 ppg). Cousins will rise on this list if he does the little things to make the Kings more competitive, and corrects his behavioral problems.
30. Goran Dragic, PG, Phoenix Suns Had a breakout season, but the skills have been there since he entered the NBA in 2008. The combo guard keeps improving, and Dragic has excellent court vision and ball-handling skills to go along with a consistent outside shot.
31. Rudy Gay, SF, Sacramento Kings Playing in obscurity in recent seasons due to injury and bouncing from team to team, he remains a key finisher as a spot-up shooter, who can also play with his back to the basket. In 55 games with the Kings, Gay averaged 20.4 points per game, and shot 48.2 percent from the field.
32. Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies Refusing to show signs of age, the 32-year-old finished with another impressive stat sheet (17.4 ppg/10.1 rpg) this season. Randolph has been an imposing presence for a Grizzlies squad that continues to give headaches to elite opponents.
33. David Lee, PF, Golden State Warriors Quietly does his job as well as nearly any big man in the NBA, Lee scores, rebounds, and distributes efficiently for a player his size. Lee carries a great deal of the low-post load on both ends of the court on a small Warriors’ squad.
34. Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors It probably isn’t a coincidence that Lowry had his best season in a contract year, but he has demonstrated his quality point guard skills for years. Set career highs (17.9 ppg/7.4 apg) while helping lead the Raptors to the Atlantic Division title.
35. Mike Conley, PG, Memphis Grizzlies Set a career high in scoring and field goal percentage, but his real contribution is by maintaining cohesion in the Grizzlies offense. Meanwhile, he continues to be among the best defensive point guards in basketball.
36. Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons He’s only 20 years old, but Drummond emerged into one of the better big men in the NBA. Finished second in the league in rebounding (13.2 rpg) and proved he can score (13.5 ppg), as well. The future looks very bright for Drummond.
37. Paul Millsap, PF, Atlanta Hawks 2013-2014 was another quiet but impressive season for the former Utah Jazz star. Millsap led the Hawks to the postseason by scoring 17.9 points per game and 8.5 rebounds. He has turned into a solid three-point shooter and has always been a quality low-post defender.
38. Luol Deng, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers Deng put up strong numbers in 23 games with the Bulls before having some shooting struggles with the Cavs. But he is a crafty forward who is quite skilled at scoring from all over the court. Deng is also an under-rated defender and does the small things that don't show up in the box score.
39. Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors Among the best three-point shooters in the NBA, Thompson is a major reason the Warriors were a hot team in the West. Thompson has become less of a one-dimensional sharpshooter by penetrating more and showcasing his full-court abilities.
40. Josh Smith, PF, Detroit Pistons His numbers dropped while being surrounded by big men Drummond and Greg Monroe, but Smith is still a versatile forward with a lot of athleticism. Was very inconsistent in 2013-2014, but is still one of the more talented big players. Smith can play with his back to the basket, and also knock down outside shots.
41. Al Horford, PF, Atlanta Hawks Would be listed higher if he was healthy in 2013-2014. In 29 games, he set a career high in field goal percentage (56.7) and scoring (18.6 ppg) in 2013-2014, but also saw a major dip in rebounding (8.4 rpg). Horford is one of the most effective players in the paint, yet still flies under the radar.
42. Jamal Crawford, SG, Los Angeles Clippers At age 34, he’s a veteran presence who is also a high-volume scorer off the bench on a roster with plenty of scorers. Crawford finished No. 13 in scoring per 48 minutes (29.4 ppg).
43. Kevin Martin, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves Consistent scorer year after year, Martin put up 19.1 points per game and shot 89.1 percent from the free-throw line in 2013-2014. An excellent outside shooter, Martin is also good at creating his own shot. Martin would be higher on this list if he worked harder on defense.
44. Chandler Parsons, SF, Houston Rockets A valuable perimeter player, Parsons is a more than serviceable shooter with a good first step. He has been a solid scoring complement to Harden, due to his good shot selection. Parsons averaged 16.6 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting.
45. Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets Scoring numbers declined, but he is still one of the smartest point guards in the NBA. Blessed with brilliant court vision, Williams is great at creating for his teammates and is still a good scorer and defender.
46. Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets Posting strong numbers on a deep squad, Lawson is also proving he is among the premier floor generals in the NBA. Finished tied for second in assists (8.8 apg) even though he led the Nuggets in scoring.
47. Thaddeus Young, PF, Philadelphia 76ers The 25-year-old had a great defensive year (2.1 steals per game), and enjoyed his best scoring season (17.9 ppg). Young was one of the few bright spots in a forgettable Sixers’ season.
48. Pau Gasol, PF, Los Angeles Lakers Sure, Gasol is no longer the star forward that helped the Lakers win two NBA titles, but how many power forwards can average better than 17 points per game and grab almost 10 rebounds? Not many. Gasol is an unselfish big man with skills, and a valuable complement to any star perimeter player.
49. Paul Pierce, SF, Brooklyn Nets One of the most clever players in the NBA, Pierce is still shrewd at creating room for his outside shot. The 36-year-old has been playing like a “savvy veteran” since he entered the league in 1998.
50. Shane Battier, SF, Miami Heat There are dozens of more talented players that could be in this slot, but Battier deserves credit for being the smartest player in the NBA. He has been extremely important to the Heat this season, and in previous years.