What comes to mind when thinking of a great isolation player? Is it someone who can break opponents down off the dribble and get to the basket at will? Is it someone who can shake his defender and hit mid-range jumpers en masse? Or is it someone who can break down a defense and get easy shots around the basket for himself and teammates?
It is all of these things.
Isolation players differ in style and results. A point guard in isolation may not produce the same scoring numbers (points-per-possession), and his usage rate may not be as high, but one can't ignore the effect that the players' isolation has within the offense. Accordingly, it's not so surprising to find that five of the top 10 isolation scorers in the NBA are point guards.
And then, beyond pure results, there is the fact that isolation plays can be overrated in terms of what comprises an NBA offense. The New York Knicks had the highest number of isolation plays last season, and we saw the middling results.
Of the four teams that followed them in the top five, only two of them even made the playoffs. The Sacramento Kings and then-New Jersey Nets came in second and third in isolation plays, and each had a winning percentage of 33 percent, as both teams went a dismal 22-44.
Despite the fact that isolation seldom produces the best results, it's worth taking a look at the 10 players who did it best. It is, after all, a good measure of how talented a player is offensively.
If a guy can score in isolation, he should be able to draw double teams, which can allow a coach to diversify the offense. The fact that the Knicks did such a poor job of that, and the L.A. Clippers (No. 4 in isolation offense percentage) and Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 5) did such a great job of it is another discussion for another day.
This slideshow excludes post players and focuses on the best perimeter isolation players. Let's take a look at them.