With the 2017 NBA Playoffs set to get underway, the league’s best players will take center stage for the next two months. The regular season can feel long and meaningless for many teams, and the postseason is where players truly become superstars.

Much has been made of the NBA’s “super teams,” though the Golden State Warriors are the only team that has two top-10 players. The Boston Celtics have the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but they don’t have one player that ranks among the NBA’s 10 best.

Let’s take a look at the top 10 NBA players in this year’s postseason.

1) LeBron James

James won’t win the MVP award for the fourth straight season, but make no mistake, he’s still the best basketball player on the planet. That’s been the case for the past decade, and he’s coming off his best statistical regular season since rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors and Spurs are clearly the NBA’s two best teams, but Cleveland has a real chance to repeat as champions because they will always have the best player on the court. Just look at last year when James put together arguably the most impressive three-game stretch in NBA Finals history.

2) Kevin Durant

Assuming Durant is healthy, James is the only player that can rank ahead of him on this list. Durant was in the MVP conversation before he got injured, and he remains the NBA’s best pure scorer, averaging 25.1 points on just 16.5 shots per game this season. Durant is known for his offense, but his defense was key in almost allowing the Oklahoma City Thunder to upset Golden State in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. He’s the best player on the league’s best team, even though he plays alongside the back-to-back MVP winner.

LeBron James Kevin Durant LeBron James and Kevin Durant are still the best players in the NBA. Pictured: James is guarded by Durant at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Dec. 25, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

3) Kawhi Leonard

Leonard’s rise to superstardom has been remarkable. After being drafted outside of the lottery, the small forward has improved every single season. That includes this year after he was the runner-up for the 2016 MVP award. He’s the NBA’s best perimeter defender, and now he’s one the league’s most efficient scorers, putting up 25.5 points on 17.7 shots per game. Leonard is one of three players on this list to win a title, and he did so by winning the 2014 NBA Finals MVP award.

4) Stephen Curry

Curry is an interesting case. By winning consecutive MVP awards, including becoming the first-ever unanimous MVP, the point guard appeared to have surpassed James as the NBA’s top player. Then he wasn’t even the best player on his team when the Warriors lost in the finals, and he won’t get one MVP vote this season. But there’s no denying that Curry had another terrific year, and he still averaged more than 25 points per game while sharing the ball with Durant and Klay Thompson. He remains the best shooter in NBA history, and he could be primed for his best playoffs ever now that he’s completely healthy.

5) James Harden

Likely about to finish second in the MVP voting for the second time in three years, Harden has cemented his position as a top-five player in the NBA. Leading the league in assists and finishing second in scoring, Harden led the Houston Rockets to a 55-win regular season, which would have been good enough for the No.1 seed in the East. He plays with an underrated supporting cast, but with no other All-Stars on the roster, Harden’s importance to the Rockets can’t be overstated.  

 

 

6) Russell Westbrook

The case could be made that Westbrook should be as high as No.3 on the list. He’s the probable MVP, becoming just the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double, and he set the NBA record with 42 triple-doubles this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder still managed to win 47 games after losing the league’s second-best player as Westbrook put the team on his shoulders all season long. Westbrook turns the ball over too much and doesn’t shoot a very high percentage from the field, but none of that really matters when he’s filling up the stat sheet and winning games by himself.

7) Chris Paul

It’s easy to forget about Paul with point guards like Curry and Westbrook putting up historic numbers each year, but the Los Angeles Clippers’ star is still one of the league’s best. He missed 21 games in the regular season, but he was incredibly important to the team’s success when healthy. L.A. was an astounding 19.6 points per 100 possessions better with Paul on the court than they were when the point guard was on the bench. He finished fourth in assists per game while averaging less than half as many turnovers as Harden or Westbrook. However, Paul has experienced little postseason success in his career, never reaching the conference finals.

8) Giannis Antetokounmpo

He isn’t a mainstream star yet because he plays in Milwaukee, but Antetokounmpo is the NBA’s next big thing. The Greece native had a historic season at just 22 years old. He didn’t record as many triple-doubles as Westbrook or Harden, but he became the first player ever to finish in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Antetokounmpo could have a breakout postseason, giving the Bucks a chance to upset the Toronto Raptors, and he’ll be one of the favorites for MVP in 2018.

9) Jimmy Butler

While the Chicago Bulls barely squeaked into the playoffs, Butler was becoming one of the 10 best players in the world. He’s been one of the league’s top defenders for the last few seasons, and his offense has finally caught up to the rest of his game. Butler joined James, Westbrook and Harden as the only players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, posting career-highs in all three categories. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t traded to the Celtics mid-season, and he’s stuck on a poorly constructed Bulls team that will be ousted in the first round.

10) Kyle Lowry

A number of players are deserving of the No.10 spot, but Lowry gets the nod over the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Paul George, John Wall, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving. Forming one-half of the NBA’s second-best backcourt, Lowry is the biggest reason why the Raptors have won at least 48 games in four straight seasons. DeMar DeRozan is the team’s leading scorer, but Lowry still managed to put up 22.4 points on 15.3 shots per game. One of the NBA’s most underrated players, he gives the Raptors the best chance of any team in the East to upset the Cavs.