One Skill That Defines Each NBA Superstar's Game
By definition, every NBA superstar excels in multiple areas on the basketball court.
Each can score effectively, relative to the position they play. They all also impact the game in areas that extend well beyond scoring.
But there is one skill that drives this superstar production from every player.
For some, it's speed. For some, it's power. For others, it's something different entirely.
In identifying one skill that defines every NBA superstar's game, though, I should note that I decided who to include in this group of "superstars" by simply selecting each of the All-NBA First and Second Team players from last year.
Sure, by season's end, that group might be different, but that's what I went with.
The only change I made was substituting Carmelo Anthony for Andrew Bynum.
Carmelo Anthony is a matchup nightmare.
He can score off the dribble against bigger defenders and does the same from a post-up position.
But the skill that defines Anthony's game is not simply the volume of points he pours in on a nightly basis. It is the variety of shots he's able to create in the process.
According to Hoopdata, this season, Anthony is averaging at least two made field goals at the rim, from 16-23 feet and from three-point range on a nightly basis.
*Hoopdata statistics are through 12/17
There is no one in the NBA who is faster with the ball in their hands than Russell Westbrook.
His speed is simply unparalleled.
He goes where he wants to go on an NBA court as quickly as he wants to get there.
By scoring in multiple ways, creating for others and attacking the basket, there are many things that Westbrook does well as a player.
None of those skills, however, define his game more than speed.
By modern-day version, I mean that he's more toned, fit and powerful than those Hall of Fame centers.
He may not be as offensively gifted as the great centers of NBA past, but Howard makes up for that with sheer power.
His strength on the glass has helped him average 13 rebounds per game for his career.
It has also fueled an average of over five made field goals per game at the rim in each of his last two seasons.
Nose for the Basketball
It's difficult to explain or quantify; Kevin Love just has a nose for the basketball.
In an NBA world dominated by high-fliers, Love excels as a rebounding machine while playing below the rim.
His ability to anticipate where the rebound is going to bounce has helped him collect over 13 per game in each of his previous two seasons.
So far this year, Love is averaging 13.9 rebounds per game, the majority of which he has corralled by somehow ending up in the right place at just the right time.
I understand that "dunkability" might not be an actual word.
I also realize that it might not be a traditional skill. But when we think of Blake Griffin's game, we think of dunks.
Thunderous, explosion-at-the-rim dunks, the likes of which we haven't seen in the NBA since Shawn Kemp was playing for the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1990s.
As of Wednesday, Griffin is leading the NBA in dunks, too, with 77 on the season.
Scoring in Traffic
Tony Parker's ability to score in the paint is impressive.
Speaking specifically about Parker's paint-scoring skills, however, dismisses the infinite amount of traffic he's able to navigate in order to do so.
He has been scoring amongst the trees in the painted area his whole career.
Parker has also been releasing floaters over double-teams at the top of the key that seem to always find their way into the basket.
He is often forgotten when discussing the top two or three point guards in the NBA, but he shouldn't be. There is no defense against which Parker can't find a way to score.
If a teammate is open, Chris Paul will find him.
Since the 2006-07 season, Paul has finished amongst the top four in assists overall every year.
He has the unique ability to see a passing lane open up before it actually does.
Paul is not only the most cerebral point guard in the NBA; he's also still the best.
Competitiveness was categorized as a personality trait until Kobe Bryant made it a skill.
There is no player in the NBA today who hates losing more than Bryant.
He has more championship rings than any superstar in the game, but that still isn't enough to quench his competitive fire.
Bryant's competitiveness is what drives him through injuries that should force him out of the lineup at times.
It's this same skill that has Bryant leading the NBA in scoring at 29.9 points per game after 16 seasons in the NBA.
Kevin Durant's shooting touch is so pure that it invokes memories of Larry Bird.
I'm not lobbing that out as a cliche, either.
Durant joins LeBron James as one of the two best overall players in the NBA.
He can beat defenders off the dribble while posting up, cutting to the basket and any other way you can imagine.
Standing 6'9", though, his shooting touch is what separates Durant from other superstars in the league.
So far this season, that skill has helped Durant pull up and convert at least one field goal from every area on the floor (measured by ESPN's Hoopdata).
LeBron James led the Miami Heat in scoring, rebounding and assists last season.
This year, he's doing that again.
James isn't just doing so by default on his team, either.
The one skill that defines James is that he plays the totality of the NBA game better than anybody else.