The 50 Most Thrilling Players to Watch in the NBA Right Now

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 13, 2013

The 50 Most Thrilling Players to Watch in the NBA Right Now

0 of 52

    The most thrilling players in the NBA tend to produce an abundance of highlights. From chase-down blocks to coast-to-coast finishes, from alley-oop lobs to three-point swishes to ankle-breaking crossovers, highlights are everywhere when these 50 guys are on the court. 

    Everyone's jaw drops for a different reason when they watch basketball, but all 50 of these players tend to generate excitement when they're on the court. 

    They're the reasons we buy tickets or turn on our televisions. They're the ones we focus on while viewing the on-court action. 

    They're the most thrilling players in the NBA right now. 

Didn't Qualify but Still Deserve Mention

1 of 52

    In order to qualify for these rankings, players had to have participated in at least 20 games. Moreover, they must have averaged 20 minutes per game during those contests. 

    Guys who have played, but were subsequently injured, were ruled out as well if the injury in question is expected to sideline them for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. 

    Part of being thrilling is actually spending time on the court. Unfortunately, that makes for some tough exclusions, so here are the nine players who would have received strong consideration for spots in the top 50 if they'd qualified. 

    Jimmer Fredette, PG, Sacramento Kings

    Perhaps I'm still remembering his days at BYU, but I can't help but root for Jimmer whenever he works his way onto the court for the Sacramento Kings. That shooting stroke is still so pure. 

    Jimmer probably wouldn't have actually made the top 50, but he would have made the next slide.

    JaVale McGee, C, Denver Nuggets

    At the time of writing, JaVale McGee was averaging only 18.5 minutes per game with the Denver Nuggets. It's a shame, because the unpredictable seven-footer would have been near the top 10 were he eligible. 

    Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics

    The Boston Celtics floor general would have been another strong contender for the top 10 if he hadn't torn his ACL. Rajon Rondo's court vision and flashiness when dealing out the dimes is nearly unmatched, and he always starts the game off with a thrill. 

    Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls

    Derrick Rose wouldn't have just been a contender for the top 10 if he'd played enough during the 2012-13 season. He'd be a near lock for the top five. 

    Unfortunately, his enduring ACL rehab has prevented that from being anything but a hypothetical. 

    Terrence Ross, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors

    The 2013 Slam Dunk Contest winner hasn't played enough to be eligible, but he's produced quite a few highlights while coming off the bench for the Toronto Raptors. A rookie out of Washington, Terrence Ross is going to be a SportsCenter mainstay for a long time. 

    Others in this category: Andre Drummond, Ivan Johnson, Tyrus Thomas, Lou Williams

Honorable Mentions

2 of 52

    When producing these rankings, I first went through each team's rosters (keeping in mind the necessary requirements for eligibility) and compiled a list of all the players I thought had a chance of working their way into the top 50.

    Without a designated number in mind, I wrote down 71 names. These are the 21 that didn't make the final cut, and the five featured directly below—in alphabetical order by last name—were the last ones left out of the ranked portion.  

    Avery Bradley, PG/SG, Boston Celtics

    No player exerts as much effort on the defensive end of the court as Avery Bradley seems to. He treats all 94 feet of the court in exactly the same manner.  

    Vince Carter, SG/SF, Dallas Mavericks

    The aging swingman may not have the energy to consistently elevate like he used to, but he's not afraid to crank it up every once in a while. 

    DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings

    No disrespect meant to Boogie, but his attitude on the court keeps me from finding him too thrilling. Until he develops into a consistently dominant player who's in control of his emotions, it's hard to move him too much higher. 

    Joe Johnson, SG, Brooklyn Nets

    This one play against Paul Pierce almost earned Joe Johnson a spot in the top 50, but he hasn't been the same player since he left the Atlanta Hawks. 

    Steve Nash, PG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Speaking of not being the same player, how about Steve Nash on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Canadian floor general still has insane court vision and passing skills, but his role and comfort level haven't allowed him to shine as brightly as he did in the desert. 

    Nash was the last player cut from the top 50. 

    Others considered: J.J. Barea, Bradley Beal, Shannon Brown, Wilson Chandler, Luol Deng, Tyreke Evans, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andrei Kirilenko, Kawhi Leonard, Chandler Parsons, Nikola Pekovic, Amar'e Stoudemire, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker, Derrick Williams, Nick Young

50. Alonzo Gee, SG/SF, Cleveland Cavaliers

3 of 52

    If you tune into a Cleveland Cavaliers broadcast, you'll almost certainly have the pleasure of hearing Austin Carr go into massive homer mode as he screams at the top of his lungs to celebrate a dunk from Alonzo Gee. 

    This athletic wingman might not be the most skilled player on the court when he makes it off the bench, but he makes up for that with elite athleticism. And of course, he shows no fear attacking the basket. 

49. Larry Sanders, PF/C, Milwaukee Bucks

4 of 52

    You're going to notice that there is a focus on offense rather than defense in this article, and that's because offense is the more glamorous of the two aspects of the game. It's simply more thrilling. 

    Defense can be just as enjoyable to watch as offense, but it's hard to match the excitement that comes with scoring points and making flashy passes. Proper rotations, fundamental help defense and solid perimeter defense should certainly be appreciated, but you'd be hard-pressed to argue that those are thrilling parts of basketball. 

    For a defensive player to provide the necessary amount of flashiness and excitement, he has to do something gaudy. Larry Sanders is one such guy, as he's rejected shot after shot during his breakout campaign with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

48. Jeff Green, SF/PF, Boston Celtics

5 of 52

    The play you see here is quickly becoming a staple in Jeff Green's ever-growing arsenal of offensive moves. 

    After sizing up his defender, Green explodes toward the baseline, wraps around under the basket and throws down a thunderous reverse slam that sends the crowd into a frenzy. It doesn't matter what arena he does this in. The spectators still get excited. 

    Green is finally starting to play as he was expected to before his heart troubles, and it's been a lot of fun to watch.

47. Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta Hawks

6 of 52

    Ever since Lou Williams went down with a torn ACL, Jeff Teague has stepped up his offensive game for the Atlanta Hawks while continuing to serve as a ball-hawk on the less glamorous end of the court. 

    The former Wake Forest Demon Deacon packs a surprising amount of athleticism into his tiny frame, and he's not a guy you want to stand in front of when he has a head of steam going toward the basket. Teague is no stranger to creating posters. 

    Even in Atlanta, not too many people take the time to watch the Hawks. But if you do, don't hesitate to focus your attention on Teague. 

46. Anthony Davis, PF/C, New Orleans Hornets

7 of 52

    Don't expect Anthony Davis to rank this low as his NBA career progresses.

    In time, he could become one of the top entertainers in the league, potentially even challenging for the throne. His game lends itself to crowd-pleasing plays. 

    The Unibrow plays with constant energy and enthusiasm on defense, allowing him to swat away shots and disrupt enough action; he's a pleasure to watch on that end of the court.

    On offense, he's a premier lob target, quite adept at finishing the play at the rim either in transition or in a half-court set. 

45. Jimmy Butler, SG/SF, Chicago Bulls

8 of 52

    When Jimmy Butler jumps, two things happen. 

    First, he gets ridiculously high into the air, allowing him to essentially look at the rim without raising the angle of his gaze. Usually, good things happen when Butler chooses to make full use of the springs he disguises as human legs. 

    Secondly, Butler convinces me that I too can jump that high. 

    He makes leaping look far too easy, when in reality, he's one of the few with such vertical abilities. But my gosh, is it smooth when he elevates. 

44. Eric Gordon, SG, New Orleans Hornets

9 of 52

    If Eric Gordon could actually stay healthy for a prolonged stretch of time, he might find himself significantly higher up in these rankings. As he's missed so much time during his young career, it's a testament to his entertaining abilities that he's even made the top 50. 

    While Jimmy Butler is just a smooth jumper, Gordon is smooth regardless of what he's doing. 

    He seems like he was born to play offense, and he makes good use of those talents by raining in shots from everywhere on the court. In particular, Gordon loves flying in from downtown and taking the ball to the hole. 

43. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers

10 of 52

    As anyone who plays NBA 2K13 can tell you, Thaddeus Young is quite the athlete. When he decides to punish you with his physical gifts, that's pretty much exactly what's going to happen. 

    Unfortunately, most people probably have gotten all their information from the video-game version of Young, because precious few have forced themselves to endure Philadelphia 76ers games on a consistent basis during the 2012-13 campaign. 

    If you have, you probably know that Young acts like he's a homing missile headed for the rim when he's in transition. No matter what the situation is or who's in his way, he's going to be aiming for the tin. 

42. Harrison Barnes, SF, Golden State Warriors

11 of 52

    I'd suggest that we ask Nikola Pekovic for thoughts on Harrison Barnes, but I'm a bit worried that the Minnesota Timberwolves big man might be a little intimidating if I reminded him of that play. 

    Instead, I'll just give you a link, suggest that you watch it and leave it at that. 

    After all, you shouldn't need any more convincing that Barnes is a thrill on the court.  

41. Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers

12 of 52

    Dion Waiters has a lot of improving to do on both ends of the court before he can be a true star in the Association, but that doesn't make him any less entertaining during his first season out of Syracuse. 

    And if anything, Waiters' sieve-like nature on defense just makes him more engaging because we get to see other players create highlights too. 

    As for offense, though, Waiters has all the tools you could ask for. It's just a matter of learning to use them at the right times and improving upon his efficiency numbers.

    Right now, he's already capable of embarrassing defenders by shooting jumpers in their faces or driving past them for a rim-rattling slam. 

40. Serge Ibaka, PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

13 of 52

    Serge Ibaka's vastly improved mid-range jumper has been quite beneficial to the Oklahoma City Thunder's cause during the 2012-13 season, but that's not exactly why he ranks here. 

    Defense makes Ibaka thrilling because he's such a potent shot-blocker. 

    Chances are good that you've found yourself honing in on Ibaka when the Thunder are trying to slow down an opposing offense. You just wait for him to reject a shot authoritatively, and when he does, you almost expect to see a little finger wag. 

    Scoring points is fun, but so is leaving basketball imprints on the foreheads of your opponents. 

39. O.J. Mayo, SG, Dallas Mavericks

14 of 52

    All it took for O.J. Mayo to become a much more thrilling basketball player—and a significantly more effective one—was a change in scenery. 

    Maybe it was something about Memphis. That West Coast air doesn't agree with everyone. 

    The more likely explanation is that Mayo needed both a fresh start and a chance to assert himself as the leading contributor in an offensive system. He got both with the Dallas Mavericks and took advantage. 

    Mayo loves to drain three-pointers, but he's more than just a sharpshooter. With his dribbling abilities and knack for getting to the basket, he's always entertaining. 

38. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

15 of 52

    If you despise the Los Angeles Clippers for whatever reason, let me just apologize to you now. You're going to be seeing a lot of them in this slideshow. 

    The backup point guard for Lob City is the first member of his team to appear in the rankings. Eric Bledsoe was on his way toward becoming a household name—even if that name was "Mini LeBron"—during the beginning of his latest campaign. 

    He's fallen off the map a bit since then, but that doesn't make what he's doing any less impressive. According to Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien, he possesses the fifth-best leaping ability in the entire Association. 

    Not bad for a little guy. 

37. Danilo Gallinari, SF, Denver Nuggets

16 of 52

    I can't help it. I'm just a sucker for players who use a two-headed approach to offense in the NBA. 

    The two most efficient shots in basketball are ones at the rim and three-pointers (from the corners in particular, not above the break, but we're not going to break it down that far here).

    Two-point jumpers just don't make as much sense, because they're worth the same as shots at the rim, but they're harder to make. 

    Teams like the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have found success by exploiting these efficient areas, and it always makes me happy to see players taking the method to heart as well. 

    Shot charts like Danilo Gallinari's just make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

36. DeMar DeRozan, SG/SF, Toronto Raptors

17 of 52

    DeMar DeRozan might not be able to shoot a basketball that effectively, but he can sky. 

    The Toronto Raptors swingman has some of the best hops in the league, and he loves nothing more than elevating into the air en route to finishing a play at the rim. Sometimes I'm convinced that he lives to dunk and add more capital letters to his name. 

    Once a three-point shot is added to DeRozan's arsenal, defenders will have to respect his jumper a bit more, enabling him to drive past them for even more highlight material. 

35. Nate Robinson, PG, Chicago Bulls

18 of 52

    Sadly, Derrick Rose's injury has forced Nate Robinson to represent the Chicago Bulls backcourt all by himself in these rankings. 

    Less sadly, Krypto-Nate does a fantastic job. 

    The diminutive floor general just plays an entertaining brand of basketball whenever he's on the court. He's a true irrational confidence guy, letting it fly no matter what he's done earlier in the game and what type of defense he faces. And that is by no means the most thrilling part of his game. 

    No human being should be able to jump like Robinson does. People his height shouldn't be able to win dunk contests and create posters, unless they're like Brandon Knight and on the wrong end of said poster. 

34. Nicolas Batum, SF, Portland Trail Blazers

19 of 52

    Nicolas Batum does everything you could want on the basketball court. That's the only way to record triple-doubles and five-by-fives in the same season. 

    The Frenchman might not be a true household name at this stage of his career—he's certainly trending in that direction—but he's a constant source of entertainment for those who tune into Portland Trail Blazers broadcasts. 

    Batum is lanky and athletic enough to dunk over everyone in sight, and he has the aggressive nature necessary to become an equally devastating and thrilling offensive player. 

33. Kevin Garnett, PF/C, Boston Celtics

20 of 52

    Although Kevin Garnett's on-court product isn't quite as thrilling as it was when he played with the Minnesota Timberwolves during the true prime of his career, he still belongs way up in these rankings. 

    The Big Ticket throws down a monstrous dunk every now and then, but his game is more limited to mid-range jumpers and other finesse plays rather than the explosive, physical ones he showed off years ago. 

    It's his attitude that earns him this spot. Garnett is always entertaining, and he never stops letting his intensity shine through. 

32. DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers

21 of 52

    DeAndre Jordan loves nothing more than being on the receiving end of alley-oop passes from the Los Angeles Clippers point guards. 

    The seven-footer has insane jumping skills, and he's not afraid to use them. 

    You've all seen it by now, but the evidence is contained in the video of him just ruining Brandon Knight. 

31. Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers

22 of 52

    Damian Lillard may only be a rookie, but he plays offense like he has quite a few years under his belt. Of course, he does, since he spent so much time running the show at Weber State before entering into the NBA draft. 

    While Lillard doesn't do much on defense, he has all the tools you could ask for on the other end of the court. 

    Lillard isn't afraid of the big moment, and he scores in a variety of ways on a nightly basis. Sometimes he dunks over people. Sometimes he twists around them and performs some mid-air acrobatics before finishing the play around the rim. 

    Other times, he's content to just catch fire with his jumper. 

    Regardless of the method, he almost always puts on a show, and he'll continue to do so for many years. 

30. Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks

23 of 52

    Dirk Nowitzki is an interesting "thrilling" player. 

    On one hand, he doesn't provide the highlights you might expect from a player in this section of the rankings. He prefers to just go about his business as efficiently as he can, using his jumper early and often. 

    Then again, that jumper is pretty unique. The one-legged fadeaway never seems to make sense, but the ball almost always drops through the bottom of the net after completing the ridiculously high arc. 

29. Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs

24 of 52

    I'm operating under the assumption that Tony Parker's sprained ankle heals on an appropriate timetable, allowing the French point guard to continue his dominance for the San Antonio Spurs. After all, he'd asserted himself as the No. 2 point guard in the league during the 2012-13 campaign. 

    Parker is one hell of a floor general, but he's not quite on the same level in terms of thrill as some other players at his position.

    The problem isn't his production. It's the manner in which he goes about accumulating those stats. And I don't mean this to be insulting toward Parker, because it's actually rather complimentary. 

    Parker is unbelievably smooth with the ball in his hands. Throughout the game, it's hard to perceive him as utterly dominant because he never seems to be blowing away the opposition. Instead, you only realize he's done so when you see the final product. 

    It's the reason Parker isn't quite on the A-list of thrilling players, which starts on the next slide.

28. Andre Iguodala, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets

25 of 52

    During his final season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Andre Iguodala was such a dunking machine that the Internet developed "Iguodunka" as a commonly accepted term. 

    That hasn't been true to the same extent during his first campaign with the Denver Nuggets, but Iggy is still a thrilling player whenever he suits up. He plays with passion and bundles of athleticism, and he never hesitates to go to work above the rim. 

    If Iguodala isn't dunking, he's either attempting to set himself up for a slam or skying to prevent an opponent from throwing the ball down. Most of the time at least, since his well-rounded game allows him to do a little bit of everything on the court. 

27. Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls

26 of 52

    Joakim Noah, the NBA's unofficial leader in SSLTVPOITNPG*, is one of my guilty pleasures. As a proud Georgia Bulldog, I'm not supposed to like anything produced by the Florida Gators, but I can't help myself.

    I just love watching this guy play.

    Noah's offense is ugly, but effective, and his defense is nothing if it's not impressive. Few things are more aesthetically pleasing than watching the long-haired center running the fast break for the Chicago Bulls.

    *Screams so loud that veins pop out in the neck per game. 

26. Ty Lawson, PG, Denver Nuggets

27 of 52

    Amazingly enough, Ty Lawson is the third member of the Denver Nuggets to appear—fourth if you count JaVale McGee, who was featured in the non-ranked portion of this slideshow—and he won't be the last. There's a reason that the Pepsi Center residents have become one of the Association's most exciting units. 

    Lawson is one of the quickest players in the league, both with the ball and without it. In no time at all, the tiny floor general can turn into a blur, blazing past defender after defender en route to the basket. 

    He's been picking up his game lately, and the Nuggets are finding more success as a result. When Lawson is on top of it, few players are more fun to watch and few teams are better than Denver. 

25. J.R. Smith, SG, New York Knicks

28 of 52

    When J.R. Smith is feeling it, he's one of the 10 most exciting players in the league. However, that's not always the case. 

    The dynamic shooting guard for the New York Knicks has ridiculous peaks and valleys, which is why he can't rank any higher than this spot. 

    But there's always a chance that Smith does something out-of-this-world cool, like turning a normal pass into an alley-oop lob or just converting a ridiculous dunk during the playoffs. That alone makes it worth watching him.

24. Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks

29 of 52

    This lefty point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks has been passing the ball ridiculously well lately, but he's still one of the better scorers out there at his position. 

    Brandon Jennings has never been able to match his career-high scoring outburst from his rookie season, but he's no stranger to gaudy point totals when his jumper stops falling. Regardless of his success from the perimeter, he's always shifty and quick enough to make it into the lane. 

    With the ball acting like a yo-yo, Jennings can dazzle you with his knack for working his way around and past big men, even if he doesn't always finish the play at the rim. 

23. Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets

30 of 52

    When healthy, Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the NBA. Just look at what he's done after the All-Star break allowed him to get closer to full strength: 23.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game on 46.7 percent shooting from the field, 47.1 percent shooting from downtown and 85 percent from the line. 

    Watching him perform on offense can be like viewing an artist at work. 

    D-Will is quite adept at using his size to his advantage, and he's a true master of the pick-and-roll. But those aren't even his biggest strengths. 

    When Williams is really feeling it, his crossover is just absolutely unstoppable. 

22. Josh Smith, PF, Atlanta Hawks

31 of 52

    Josh Smith can be ridiculously frustrating to watch when he decides that he's a three-point shooter who should live on the perimeter, but the rest of the time he spends on the court for the Atlanta Hawks is pretty darn thrilling. 

    Smoove is one of the NBA's best athletes, and he's in no way afraid to use the hops he was blessed with. He rejects shots at a ridiculously high rate for a forward, dunks with a vengeance quite often, and in general, just proves that he's athletically superior to most players on the court.

    As a Hawks fan, I just wish he knew exactly how exciting he could be and stuck to the strengths that enabled that. 

21. Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors

32 of 52

    This baby-faced assassin can just flat-out shoot a basketball. 

    Most NBA players only shoot layups from right around the rim. That's not the case for Stephen Curry. 

    When this Davidson product heats up, both normal layups and open (or even slightly contested) three-pointers are automatic. It's a surprise when he even hits the rim. 

    Curry has the 2012-13 single-game scoring high, a mark he set when he nailed 11 three-pointers against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden back on February 27. That was only one game, but it showed just how dominant he can be. 

    No player in the league makes three-pointers more exciting. 

20. Rudy Gay, SF, Toronto Raptors

33 of 52

    If Rudy Gay recognized that he isn't very good at shooting basketballs when he's too far from the hoop, he'd suddenly morph into one of the league's best players. As it stands, he's already one of the most entertaining. 

    Gay thrives in crucial situations, which only helps with his thrill factor, and he treats the rim like it's a mortal enemy. That's the only explanation for the punishment he exacts on that circle on a nightly basis. 

    Between DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, the Toronto Raptors weren't exactly in dire need of an athletic wing, but Gay has upped the athleticism north of the border yet another step. 

19. Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

34 of 52

    Even though I'm well aware that Jrue Holiday can throw down, I'm still surprised each time he actually does it. Whether he's in the open court or dunking over someone, Holiday catches me off guard when he elevates that high. 

    Perhaps it's because I've come to associate smoothness more than explosiveness with Holiday. 

    Holiday always seems in control when he has the ball in his hands, and his crossovers, jukes and spins allow him to find ridiculously tight spaces between and around defenders. If there's a gap to be found, Holiday is going to find it and work his way into it. 

18. Paul George, SG/SF, Indiana Pacers

35 of 52

    Paul George was supposed to break out for the Indiana Pacers during the 2012-13 season, but not to this extent.

    The swingman has quickly become the best player on his team, and as his first All-Star selection shows, he's now an elite player regardless.

    George can do everything on the court, whether it's locking down opposing players on the perimeter, running the show with the ball in his hand or doing the scoring for himself. 

    How many players in the league have the creativity necessary to throw a between-the-legs pass through defenders in transition? 

    As if that list weren't already short enough, how many of those could actually complete the play? 

17. John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards

36 of 52

    Is any player in the NBA faster from end to end with the ball than John Wall

    The Washington Wizards point guard is just ridiculously quick in transition, and it's virtually impossible to keep him from the rim when he wants to get there. Even as he's played his way into shape, Wall has made an indelible impact on his team. 

    Washington looks quite a bit more impressive with the former No. 1 pick out on the court rather than the sidelines. He can score for himself, and his passing is nothing short of spectacular. All of Wall's teammates benefit tremendously from his ability and vision. 

    Now just imagine when he can hit the outside shot. 

16. Manu Ginobili, SG, San Antonio Spurs

37 of 52

    Manu Ginobili might not be playing as many minutes as several of the players surrounding him in these rankings, but the moments he spends on the court are filled with entertainment. 

    The Argentine shooting guard has made a career of being creative on the basketball court. Whether he's finding a new way to feed his teammates or twisting his way to an interesting finish around the hoop, Ginobili manages to fill his fans' insatiable hunger for thrills. 

    Ginobili is the true master of the five-hole, and it never gets old when he shows off this unique skill.

15. Dwight Howard, C, Los Angeles Lakers

38 of 52

    Even though he hasn't been completely healthy during his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard has still been quite effective at center. Sure, he's struggled at times, but even a half-strength Howard is better than most big men in the NBA. 

    Between his rejecting abilities on defense and his ridiculous athleticism on the other end of the court, D12 can be quite thrilling. 

    When he's jumping far higher than any man his size should be able to, Howard completes alley-oops left and right, just embarrassing the opposition through the force he dunks with. 

    Plus, Howard's free throws are more thrilling than normal because you never know what's going to happen. 

14. Monta Ellis, SG, Milwaukee Bucks

39 of 52

    Does any player hit more circus shots than Monta Ellis? 

    Of course, that might be because no NBA baller attempts more crazy shots than the Mississippi Bullet, but he still hits a whole bunch of them. Ellis' control over his body—especially after contact—while he's in the air is simply sublime. 

    While the shooting guard's shot selection can be infuriating, it also helps him become an even bigger thrill. I'm convinced that not even Ellis knows what he's going to do next. 

    Fans certainly don't, so it's rather easy to be on the edge of your seat when you're watching him go to work. 

13. Jamal Crawford, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

40 of 52

    I'll sum up Jamal Crawford's position in these rankings in just one word: 


12. Ricky Rubio, PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

41 of 52

    Despite Steve Nash's ridiculous court vision, Manu Ginobili's creativity and Rajon Rondo's flair for the seemingly impossible, no point guard makes passing more thrilling than Ricky Rubio does. 

    Sometimes Rubio's actions on the court are unnecessary, but they're always entertaining. He can throw behind-the-back passes, through-the-legs dimes and passes through minuscule gaps at only a moment's notice. 

    Rubio doesn't just live to win basketball games and make his teammates better. He wants to put on a show as well. 

    There's a little bit of Pistol Pete somewhere in there. 

11. Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

42 of 52

    You might be surprised to see Carmelo Anthony fall just shy of the top 10, but Melo's game has always been more about being effective than entertaining. 

    Although he's one of the best pure scorers in the league, there's nothing particularly thrilling about the way in which he gets his points. Of course, that's all relative. We're now well within the ranks of the elite entertainers, after all. 

    From dribbling the ball to releasing it on a high arc toward the basket, no one in the league is quicker, and that makes Anthony's shot nearly unblockable. 

    You'll occasionally see Anthony throw down a dunk with vigor or do something flashy, but his game is more predicated upon nailing jumpers and posting up smaller defenders. Again, that's entertaining, but not exciting enough to push him into one of the final 10 spots. 

10. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets

43 of 52

    Having the nickname "Manimal" bestowed upon you is not something that should be taken lightly. 

    Kenneth Faried might look like he's having fun on the basketball court (I can assure you that he is), but he's still serious. In fact, he's quite serious about a lot of things. 

    Rebounding is one of them. Dunking is another. Playing with a never-ending source of passion, heart and determination is another. Completing alley-oops, though, stands out above everything else. 

    If Faried isn't one of your favorite players in the NBA to watch already, I'm sorry, but you're watching basketball wrong. 

9. Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

44 of 52

    Chris Paul is the closest thing we have to a master of the point guard position in today's game. He sees spots on the court, and then he gets to them. 

    It doesn't matter what he needs to do in order to get there. He does it. 

    Watching CP3 at work is like watching a wizard. His dribbling moves are magical, he's always in full control and he's always effective. 

    Paul might not throw down flashy dunks, but you can't keep your eyes off him when he plays. I've watched quite a few basketball players in person, and Paul stands out above every single one of them as an in-person experience. 

    Every single move, no matter how subtle, has a purpose. 

8. Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

45 of 52

    I'm assuming that Kyrie Irving is going to return from his shoulder injury before the end of the season, since he hasn't been officially ruled out by the time of publication.

    It may prove to be a faulty assumption, but that's why Uncle Drew finds himself in the rankings and not alongside Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. 

    When Irving is healthy—which, sadly, isn't often enough—he's just ridiculously entertaining to watch. No player in the league can top his handles, and the second-year floor general can get to the rim seemingly at will. 

    He's creative. He's dynamic. He's young. He's fresh. He's exciting. He's really, really good. 

    Irving is going to be one of the faces of this league for a long time.  

7. James Harden, SG, Houston Rockets

46 of 52

    James Harden's beard doesn't help him in these rankings, but it doesn't need to. Although the facial hair makes him even more fun to watch, the lefty shooting guard's game can speak for itself. 

    Although he's a 2-guard in name, Harden often serves as the primary ball-handler for the Houston Rockets. With the rock in his hands, Harden is quite adept at blowing by and shimmying around defenders, working his way to the rim for either a thunderous finish or, at the very least, a whistle. 

    He's another guy who plays efficient basketball because of his general disdain for mid-range shooting. If it's not a three-pointer or a shot at the rim, Harden probably isn't going to be letting fly. 

6. Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat

47 of 52

    Dwyane Wade may be playing second fiddle on his own team—although that hasn't been so true lately. 

    That doesn't make him any less of a thrill to watch. 

    When the two-time NBA champion is on his game, he's nearly unstoppable. Wade can hit circus shots, slash to the basket and finish with a dunk multiple times in a single game, provide defensive highlights. Also, he can rarely catch fire from the perimeter. 

    Plus, he's part of the premier highlight duo in the Association. No disrespect to anything going on in L.A., but Wade and a certain one of his teammates sure know how to wind up on SportsCenter

5. Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers

48 of 52

    When Blake Griffin is on the basketball court, you keep your eyes on him.

    If you don't, you're at risk of missing a show-stopping highlight. Blake is no stranger to producing those on a nightly basis. 

    Griffin has developed into a fantastic, multi-dimensional player, but he's still the league's best dunker, both in terms of volume and in-game quality. According to CBS' Dunk-o-Meter, Griffin has thrown down 164 times, 18 more than anyone else in the league. 

    Throughout the game, Griffin's thrill factor ebbs and flows. He disappears for some stretches and plays effectively without being overly entertaining for others. 

    However, his peak is more thrilling than any other player's. 

4. Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

49 of 52

    The 34-year-old version of Kobe Bryant doesn't have the same springs as the younger models, but it's still a rather entertaining one. 

    Whether he's functioning as the go-to scorer or the primary facilitator for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe has played at a remarkably high level during the 2012-13 season. He's thrown up more than a handful of jaw-dropping point totals, and he's produced some stellar highlights as well. 

    When you tune into a Lakers game, you can be sure that you're receiving nothing less than 100 percent from the Mamba. He's going to do everything in his power to win, and that normally includes an offensive performance that very few players have ever been capable of. 

3. Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

50 of 52

    Russell Westbrook takes the previously discussed Monta Ellis syndrome to an extreme. 

    The dynamic point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder can be terrifyingly good or terrifyingly bad on any given night, and you never know which version you're going to get. That just adds to the thrill associated with him. 

    Of course, the good outweighs the bad by a rather sizable margin. 

    Westbrook attacks the rim with a vengeance, seemingly determined to break the unbreakable baskets whenever he goes to the hoop. He's one of the premier power dunkers in the game, even if he stands just a few inches over six feet. 

    With Derrick Rose sidelined, Westbrook's picture appears next to the word "explosiveness" in the basketball dictionary we all have in our heads. 

2. LeBron James, SF/PF, Miami Heat

51 of 52

    I've switched LeBron James between the No. 1 and No. 2 spots roughly 847 times, but I'm settling on the latter. Just know that it's remarkably close, as he and the next player in the rankings are simply in a class of their own. 

    Yes, that applies to overall performance and how thrilling they are. 

    LeBron can dominate a game even without scoring. His passing is phenomenal, especially for a player of his size, and his defense is top-notch. It's thrilling enough to see him guard a big man on one possession then dribble up the court on the ensuing one, just because of the sheer novelty of that situation. 

    But that said, LeBron is a pretty good scorer. 

    He can light up the scoreboard while maintaining elite-level efficiency, and he does so in a variety of ways. His jump-shooting is much improved this year, and he's no stranger to producing highlights with his abundance of throw-downs and fancy finishes. 

    LeBron and Wade are the league's premier alley-oop tandem, and the reigning—and probably future—MVP is generally on the receiving end there. 

    So, you might be wondering, why is LeBron at No. 2? 

    Well, we've come to expect this on a nightly basis from the world's best player. It's a foregone conclusion that he's going to control the game from start to finish, and you know that he'll be producing a few highlights. 

    He does things that make your jaw drop, but it's less of a shock when your chin hits the floor. 

1. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

52 of 52

    Every now and again, Kevin Durant catches you by surprise and does something you just haven't seen from him before. I'm talking about plays like his Julius Erving imitation or his H-O-R-S-E shot that made terrific use of the backboard. 

    Durant is not as good as LeBron James at this stage of his career. Quite frankly, LeBron produces a few more highlights per game. 

    However, the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar dazzles crowds and provides thrills at a slightly higher level because we aren't expecting quite as much from him. He isn't as physically imposing, so when he posterizes someone, we yell and scream. 

    His arms and longer and lankier, so it's more shocking when he crosses someone over and leaves them on skates before their rear ends hit the floor. 

    His passing isn't as renowned, so it's even more thrilling when he threads the needle between defenders and feeds his teammate perfectly. 

    As you could tell from my earlier statement about wavering back and forth when deciding where to rank LeBron, these two players are separated by a rather narrow margin in terms of thrill production. It's the expectations that cause Durant to emerge just a hair ahead. 


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.