Bleacher Report's Top 50 NBA Stars of the 2010sDecember 19, 2019
Bleacher Report's Top 50 NBA Stars of the 2010s
Think back to everything that happened in the NBA in the 2010s.
Kobe Bryant won his last title. Dirk Nowitzki won his first. LeBron James and the Miami Heat won not four, not three, but two titles. The San Antonio Spurs had their 2014 revenge tour. The Golden State Warriors ruled for half a decade. LeBron brought a title to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Kawhi Leonard delivered the Toronto Raptors their first title in his lone season north of the border. Position-less basketball gained a foothold. Russell Westbrook desensitized us to triple-doubles. Stephen Curry helped to usher in the three-point revolution. Players seized a significant portion of the team-building process from front offices.
And those are mostly just surface observations.
The NBA underwent drastic changes over the last 10 years. The individual players did as much as anyone to usher those in.
As rising stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Trae Young take over for the 2020s, let's look back at the top 50 players in the league over the course of the last decade.
NBA Champion, co-host of the “Talking Blazers” podcast, and co-host of “Handles” on NBA TV, Channing Frye joins The Full 48 with Howard Beck to discuss the Portland Trail Blazers, trading Damian Lillard and/or CJ McCollum, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love and the Buffet Of Goodness.
- Numbers Rank
- Fan Vote Rank
- Accolades Rank
I took the selection process (mostly) out of my own hands.
There are three key components to the rankings:
Players' spots in each of the above were averaged together to get their final placements on the list itself. So, how were those categories determined?
The baseline requirement was 5,000 minutes in the regular season and 100 minutes in the postseason. And of course, we're talking about minutes played from the 2009-10 season to the 2018-19 season.
Once that group of players was established, they were sorted by the average of their ranks in the following:
- Box plus/minus (and its cumulative variant, wins over replacement player)
- Win shares per minute (and win shares)
- Game score per minute (and cumulative game score)
- Plus/minus (and plus/minus per 100 possessions)
- Playoff box plus/minus (and playoff wins over replacement player)
- Playoff win shares per minute (and playoff win shares)
- Playoff game score per minute (and playoff cumulative game score)
- Playoff plus/minus (and playoff plus/minus per 100 possessions)
Fan Vote Rank
After that order was established, the resulting top 100 was plugged into a simple either/or exercise hosted by AllOurIdeas.org.
Fans got the opportunity to vote on an endless number of randomly generated matchups. The more often a player "won" his matchup, the higher up the list he rose.
"The score of an idea is the estimated chance that it will win against a randomly chosen idea," the site reads. "For example, a score of 100 means the idea is predicted to win every time and a score of 0 means the idea is predicted to lose every time."
After nearly 600,000 votes, we had the second of three ingredients for the final list.
Non-qualifiers were given a placeholder rank.
Finally, all qualified players were ranked by "accolade points."
All-Star appearances and All-Defense selections within the decade earned a player one point. All-NBA selections and Defensive Player of the Year wins were worth two points. Regular-season and Finals MVPs were worth three points each.
Players who didn't earn any accolades over the course of the decade were given a placeholder rank.
Final List Rank
Again, once those three lists were in place, the players' ranks in all three were averaged together to give us our (almost) final top 50.
Limiting the best players of the 2010s to 50 is a difficult exercise. Part of concocting a methodology like the one detailed above is an effort to reduce that sting.
But when you see the names that fall outside the top 50, it still hurts a little. Here are some notable ones:
- Deron Williams
- Brook Lopez
- Zach Randolph
- Jason Kidd
- Kyle Korver
- Joe Johnson
- George Hill
- JJ Redick
- Gordon Hayward
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Kemba Walker
- Ricky Rubio
- Lou Williams
- Danilo Gallinari
- Jamal Crawford
Two players who weren't even close to the top 50 were DeMar DeRozan and DeMarcus Cousins. After some consternation, an executive decision was made to bump both into the final rankings.
That, of course, meant two players who made it by virtue of the criteria were bumped out, so Andrew Bogut and Ray Allen get a shoutout here. While Allen hit one of the biggest shots of the decade, he mostly played his twilight years in this time period.
One other name that bears mentioning is Joel Embiid. His per-minute impact is massive, but he didn't meet the minimum qualification of 5,000 regular-season minutes.
Executive Decisions at 50 and 49
50. DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins' rank in the numbers, which fell outside the top 200, would be eye-popping for some, but it's not hard to see where it came from. On a team as bad as the Cousins-era Sacramento Kings, it's tough to come by many win shares or a decent plus/minus. His playoff numbers with the Warriors hurt him too.
His regular-season box plus/minus rank was comfortably in the top 50, though.
Cousins' career numbers (all within the 2010s) were 21.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks. No one in NBA history eclipsed all five numbers over the course of a career.
A below-average true shooting percentage with a 30-plus usage percentage isn't ideal, though. And for much of his run with the Kings, Cousins was as volatile as he was talented.
Unfortunately, when given a shot to channel his abilities to success with a good Warriors team, injuries robbed him of much of his playing time.
49. DeMar DeRozan
Another one where the numbers-based rank may surprise some people, DeRozan was a volume scorer who was 18th in points per game for the 2010s, albeit with a below-average true shooting percentage.
Along with the slight inefficiency, what really hurt DeRozan was his defense. He only had one season in which his team's net points per 100 possessions was better with him on the floor. Overall, his teams were plus-0.4 with him on and plus-3.1 with him off.
Still, there's something to be said for being the leading scorer on three 50-plus-win teams and making four All-Star appearances.
48. Danny Green
The first question many readers will ask upon seeing this placement is something along the lines of, "How can anyone think Danny Green is better than DeMar DeRozan?!"
Well, when their names were taken out of the equation, voters chose Green's numbers over DeRozan's.
The two-time champion may well be the prototype for three-and-D players, an archetype that gained favor throughout the league during the 2010s.
And his consistent contributions to winning teams place him in the top 100 all-time in career box plus/minus.
47. Steve Nash
Nash did the bulk of his damage in the 2000s. He only played five seasons in the decade in question, but his numbers therein were stellar for a player in his late 30s.
From 2009-10 to the end of his career, Nash put up 14.0 points, 10.0 assists and 1.1 threes with a 60.7 true shooting percentage.
He also led the league assists twice and made two All-Star teams in the decade. And he took the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference Finals in 2010.
46. Tyson Chandler
Chandler was the defensive backbone of the 2011 champion Mavericks. That season, Dallas' net rating was 6.6 points better with Chandler on the floor.
That trend carried through the 2010s for the veteran center. Over the course of the decade, Chandler's teams outscored opponents by 0.5 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. They were outscored by 0.9 points per 100 possessions when he was off.
His basic numbers of 9.3 rebounds, 8.5 points and 1.0 blocks don't pop off the screen, but his impact as a finisher and rim protector was undeniable.
45. Bradley Beal
Beal came on strong over the end of the decade, averaging 23.8 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 threes and 1.2 steals from 2016-17 to 2018-19. He made two All-Star teams in that run.
Given that he's just 26 years old and only recently found this level, there's a decent chance Beal will have an argument to make the top 50 of the 2020s.
44. Joakim Noah
Over the first half of the 2010s, Noah was one of the game's most reliable defenders and versatile centers. From 2009-10 to 2013-14, he trailed only LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili in box plus/minus.
In the same stretch, he averaged 11.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals and made two All-Star teams, three All-Defense teams and one All-NBA team. In 2014, he finished fourth in MVP voting.
Things tailed off dramatically after that, but the Chicago Bulls teams he led were among the best of the 2010s.
43. Paul Pierce
As is the case with Nash, Pierce would likely be a lot higher on a list ranking 2000s players by the same criteria.
Still, over the first four years of the 2010s (his last four with the Boston Celtics), Pierce averaged 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.1 steals. He also made three All-Star teams.
Pierce was then part of the infamous trade that stunted the Brooklyn Nets for years, but his veteran leadership on the 2014-15 Washington Wizards helped erase his struggles there.
T41. Mike Conley
The Grit 'n' Grind Memphis Grizzlies are right there with Noah's Bulls in the conversation for best 2010s teams that never won a title.
Year after year, as things changed around the league, the Grizzlies felt like one of the only constants. Conley was emblematic of that.
His steady floor generalship placed him 21st in the 2010s in wins over replacement player and 27th in playoff wins over replacement player.
T41. Serge Ibaka
Back at the start of the 2010s, Ibaka was a key cog in the young Oklahoma City Thunder core that many thought would rule the league for years to come.
It took all the way to the last year of the decade for Ibaka to get his title, but it came with the Raptors. And he was a much different player.
Early-career Ibaka was known largely for his shot-blocking, but he developed into a legitimate floor-spacing big. By the end of the decade, he had 1,626 blocks and 462 threes. No one in NBA history had achieved both marks.
40. Paul Millsap
By the time his career is done, Millsap will have a strong argument to be on an unofficial "Most Underrated Players of All Time" team.
His progression from rebounding specialist to all-around combo forward is remarkable. And his well-rounded contributions throughout the 2010s made him an invaluable member of some of the decade's best teams.
From 2009-10 to 2018-19, Millsap averaged 15.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks. DeMarcus Cousins is the only other player who can claim all five marks over that span. But of course, Millsap's numbers came on winning teams and with significantly more versatile defense.
39. Rajon Rondo
Before "traditional point guards" were largely game-planned out of the NBA, Rondo dominated games about as much as he dominated the ball.
Over the first three seasons of the 2010s, the Celtics were plus-6.1 points per 100 possessions when Rondo was on the floor and plus-1.2 with him off.
If we stretch the sample all the way to 2015-16, Rondo's basic numbers are 11.7 points, 10.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He led the league in assists in three of those seven seasons and topped 11 assists per game in four seasons.
His length and tenacity on defense were a staple of those early 2010s Celtics teams too.
The adjustment to the new style in the NBA has been a challenge for Rondo, but he was one of the best examples of the old game.
38. DeAndre Jordan
Let's add another team to that list of great 2010s squads that never won it all: the Lob City Clippers, featuring Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan.
CP3 and Griffin were the most famous of that trio, but Jordan was arguably every bit as important to the team's success.
Over the last six seasons of the decade (which actually includes one year post-Clippers), Jordan averaged 11.7 points, 14.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks with a 64.8 true shooting percentage.
Over the decade, Jordan made one All-Star game, two All-Defense teams and three All-NBA teams.
T36. Kevin Garnett
Another veteran who had a few post-prime years in the 2010s, Garnett remained one of the game's most impactful defenders at the start of the decade.
From 2009-10 to 2012-13, the Celtics were plus-7.8 points per 100 possessions with KG on the floor and minus-2.5 with him off.
In just 30.5 minutes per game, he averaged 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks.
He also made three All-Star teams and two All-Defense teams.
T36. Carmelo Anthony
One of the most prolific scorers of all time, Melo was fifth in the 2010s in points per game. His 23.9 trailed only Kevin Durant, LeBron, Kobe and James Harden.
That sweet-looking pull-up helped Anthony claim one of the decade's biggest honors: leading scorer for a New York Knicks squad that was actually good.
In 2012-13, the Knicks went 54-28. It was the organization's first 50-win season since 1999-2000. And Melo averaged 28.7 points with an above-average true shooting percentage.
He also earned three All-NBA selections and made the All-Star team in each of the first eight seasons of the 2010s.
35. Nikola Jokic
This name is bound to meet plenty of rational responses.
During his rookie season, Jokic was mostly an unknown. Over the next two seasons, he was the lightning rod at the middle of countless "eye test vs. numbers" arguments.
By Year 4, the last of the decade in question, he averaged 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists on the way to a first-team All-NBA selection. He then upped those numbers to 25.1 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.4 assists in his postseason debut.
Jokic is already the best-passing big man of all time. And it isn't just about the assists. His vision, accuracy and timing as a playmaker are on the level of the game's elite guards. Combined with his size, scoring touch and rebounding ability, Jokic has one of the deepest and most unique skill sets the game has ever produced.
34. Derrick Rose
In 2011, at the ripe old age of 22, Derrick Rose became the youngest MVP in NBA history.
That season, he averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 assists and 4.1 rebounds. The Bulls were plus-8.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, 2.8 points higher than when he was off.
Unfortunately, Rose spent most of the rest of the 2010s trying to recapture that magic. Injuries and a rape allegation and lawsuit could've derailed what was once a more-than-promising career.
That wasn't the case, though, and by the end of the decade, he'd transformed himself into a sixth man. In 2018-19, he was a legitimate weapon off the Minnesota Timberwolves bench.
Like Grant Hill before him, after years of recovery, Rose looks ready for a late-career run as a role player.
33. Rudy Gobert
This one may be every bit as surprising as Jokic. It probably shouldn't be. Like Jokic is to offense, Gobert was perhaps the game's most dominant defensive player of the 2010s.
From 2013-14 to the end of the decade, Utah allowed 103.0 points per 100 possessions with Gobert on the floor and 109.3 with him off.
He was a defense unto himself, allowing the Jazz's perimeter players to overplay guys outside, jump passing lanes and confidently funnel drivers to the Stifle Tower inside.
On top of all that, he trailed only Tyson Chandler in true shooting percentage during the 2010s. Gobert's abilities as a screener, roller and finisher around the rim make him a critical component of Utah's offense.
T31. John Wall
We can only hope injuries don't claim the prime of another NBA superstar. But with Wall set to sit out all of 2019-20 with his Achilles tear, he will have appeared in less than 30 percent of his team's games over a three-season stretch.
Before that, he was one of the game's most explosive playmakers. From 2010-11 to 2016-17, Wall averaged 18.8 points, 9.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals. Narrow that to 2014-15 through 2016-17, and those numbers climb to 20.2 points, 10.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals.
When healthy, Wall had unrivaled end-to-end speed. He had plenty of vertical athleticism too, winning the dunk contest in 2014.
The key now may be adding a reliable outside shot. Perhaps that could neutralize the potential loss of athleticism to injuries.
T31. Tony Parker
Like several others on this list, Parker probably had a stronger resume in the 2000s. But three All-Star games, three All-NBA selections, a championship and being the starting point guard for the most consistent team of the decade still makes him one of the 2010s' best players.
Over the first five seasons of the decade, Parker averaged 17.8 points and 6.6 assists in just 31.6 minutes per game.
And San Antonio's already stellar net rating was 2.5 points better with TP on the floor.
T29. Al Horford
Ranks: numbers (29); fan vote (33); accolades (32)
One of the steadiest players of the 2010s, Al Horford didn't have a season in which his team performed better when he was off the floor. Over the 10 combined seasons, his Hawks and Celtics were plus-4.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and minus-0.2 with him off.
As Horford was working his way back to form after a torn pectoral in 2015, Grantland's Zach Lowe summarized his under-appreciated greatness:
"When he's healthy, Horford is a legitimate NBA superstar — a chameleon who is good at everything, great at some things, and always flying beneath the radar. He doesn't pile up insane numbers, hog the ball, or appear in national TV commercials. He is concerned only with winning, even if the path there involves sacrificing shots to focus on passing, setting good picks, and battling 7-footers under the basket."
"He is our cornerstone," then-Atlanta teammate Kyle Korver said. "His example—it's what the Hawks are. Or what we're trying to be."
Horford's unselfishness on both ends of the floor was contagious. When Atlanta went 60-22 in 2014-15, he averaged 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 blocks and 0.9 assists. He earned his third All-Star appearance of the decade (he'd eventually claim a total of five).
In his three seasons with the Celtics, he became even more of a point center, averaging 4.6 assists and initiating Boston's offense from all over the floor.
That wasn't the only way he embraced the shifting nature of his position. Horford also averaged 1.2 threes and shot 38.2 percent from deep with Boston.
Chameleon is a perfect descriptor for him, then and now. With his wide-ranging set of skills, he can blend within any team structure and provide whatever is needed.
T29. LaMarcus Aldridge
Ranks: numbers (59); fan vote (24); accolades (11)
For the first six seasons of the decade, LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 21.4 points for the Blazers, ninth among players with at least 3,000 minutes in that stretch.
The combined net rating of those Portland teams was a whopping 9.0 points better when Aldridge was on the floor.
One of the primary reasons for that positive impact was Aldridge's seemingly unguardable turnaround jumper, a shot that became one of the signature moves of the 2010s.
"Guys can't block it because I get so high," Aldridge told ESPN. "... When I shoot, I'm square with the rim. I'm still fading, so my core might be slightly turned to the left, but it's mostly square. Once the shot's up, I'm getting back on D."
That is just one step in a process explained by Aldridge. He told defenses exactly what was coming. And he's been using the move for years. And yet, because of that high release, defenses never figured out how to stop it—at least not in the regular season.
In the playoffs during the 2010s, Aldridge's teams were minus-4.7 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor and plus-3.1 when he was off.
The heavy reliance on what is ultimately a less efficient shot than a three or layup caught up to Aldridge in the postseason, but he remains one of the decade's top scorers. Seven All-Star appearances and five All-NBA selections cement his status as one of the best players of the 2010s.
28. Manu Ginobili
Ranks: numbers (11); fan vote (26); accolades (56)
Few (if any) players managed their post-prime years as well as Manu Ginobili.
From 2009-10 through 2013-14 (a run capped with a championship), Ginobili was tied for the fifth-best box plus/minus in the league. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade were the only players ahead of him.
His per-75-possession averages in that stretch were 21.5 points, 6.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 2.4 threes and 1.9 steals. His true shooting percentage was just under five points better than the average of the time.
As his athleticism waned a bit into his mid- to late-30s, he enhanced his stellar craftiness. He remained the player who used more creative license than anyone for Gregg Popovich's typically rigid teams.
Ginobili's wicked first steps, Eurosteps, step-backs, pull-ups and passing blended an element of unpredictability into the Spurs.
"Manu Ginobili is a treat to watch," Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry wrote. "He still provides the Spurs with a huge spark off the bench that enables them to frequently 'win' the ends of quarters or outscore their opponents' second units. But he's far more than just a bench guy."
From many, the caveat to Ginobili's phenomenal per-possession production is, "Oh yeah? Well, he just put up those numbers against garbage bench players."
But as Goldberry noted, he was much more than a "bench guy." During the 2010s, Manu logged nearly 5,000 regular-season and playoff minutes alongside starters Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. San Antonio was plus-9.0 points per 100 possessions in those minutes.
When he shared the floor with those two that decade, Ginobili averaged 18.1 points and 5.6 assists per 75 possessions.
T26. Andre Iguodala
Ranks: numbers (21); fan vote (26); accolades (41)
It seems unfathomable that Andre Iguodala made it out of the 2010s without a Sixth Man of the Year Award.
From 2014-15 to 2018-19, his time as a reserve for the dynastic Warriors, Golden State's net rating climbed 2.6 points when Iggy was on the floor. Raising the ceiling of a group that included Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant is no small feat.
Sixth Man of the Year is a scorer's award, though. And Iguodala never shot enough to earn that honor.
He'll have to settle for a Finals MVP.
CBS Sports' Matt Moore described Iggy's defensive impact on the 2015 Finals, shortly after he won the playoffs' biggest individual honor:
"When Iguodala was in the game, LeBron James shot 38.1 percent from the field, scoring 26 points per 36 minutes with 2.9 turnovers. With Iguodala on the bench, James shot 44 percent, averaging 35 points per 36 minutes with 2.2 turnovers. With Iguodala as the primary defender, opponents shot 37.2 percent overall, and he gave up free throws the same percentage of time (10.8 percent) that he forced a turnover, via Synergy Sports. Those are [stellar] defensive numbers."
Golden State was also plus-14.0 points per 100 possessions when Iguodala was on the floor in that series. It was minus-13.2 points per 100 possessions when he was off. Among Warriors with at least 50 minutes in that series, that is by far the biggest net rating swing.
Iguodala's combination of defense and playmaking made him one of basketball's most impactful players of the 2010s, despite a below-average three-point shot—a testament to all the other skills he brought to each game.
T26. Kyle Lowry
Ranks: numbers (16); fan vote (33); accolades (39)
For years, the common thinking on Kyle Lowry was that he was a solid player who seemingly fell apart in the postseason.
By the end of the 2010s, both aspects were conquered.
The solid player part may have always been wrong. In the regular season, Lowry consistently played like a star.
From the time he joined the Raptors for the 2012-13 season to the end of the decade in question, Lowry averaged 17.4 points and 7.1 assists with a 57.2 true shooting percentage. His 5.2 box plus/minus ranked ninth in the NBA over that span.
It's true that he took his licks in Toronto's playoff runs, but his individual numbers were really only a problem in 2015. He was well above average in box plus/minus in each of his other postseasons with the Raptors.
And of course, if there was a proverbial monkey on his back, he got rid of it in 2019.
Kawhi Leonard understandably got most of the press surrounding that title run, but Lowry was pretty special himself. In the Finals, he averaged 16.2 points and 7.2 assists while shooting 36.8 percent from three.
Stephen Curry is the only player in NBA history who had a Finals in which he totaled at least as many points, assists and threes as Lowry did in 2019.
"He's faced a lot of doubt," Draymond Green told reporters before last year's Finals began. "He's been criticized a ton, this year and previous years before, but yet he's still standing and he's here in this moment, and it's well-deserved."
25. Chris Bosh
Ranks: numbers (23); fan vote (24); accolades (39)
Dirk Nowitzki gets much of the credit for the evolution of the power forward. He deserves every bit of it. But Chris Bosh's career, especially the years he spent with LeBron James, certainly played a role.
Bosh spent his first seven seasons with Toronto, where he was a little more of a traditional big, averaging 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds. He had more prominent perimeter skills than most power forwards and centers of the time, but he still did the bulk of his damage inside (34.2 percent of his attempts came from within three feet of the rim).
In his four seasons with James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh willingly stepped outside and essentially became a 6'11" shooting guard. In that stretch, 27.5 percent of his attempts came from within three feet. By the trio's last season together, over 20 percent of Bosh's shots were threes.
His acceptance of the "third banana" role was something few stars could've done as well.
"Your ego does want you to size yourself up against the next guy that you're guarding," Bosh told Jonathan Abrams, then with Grantland, in 2013. "You want to guard him and you want him to guard you and just go at it. I rarely get that opportunity anymore. So a part of you is going to miss it. But that's just something I had to sacrifice to try and win and have a chance for titles playing here."
Bosh had to sacrifice the twilight of his career because of health problems, but not before ably demonstrating how to give up some individual glory for the sake of the team.
24. Damian Lillard
Ranks: numbers (46); fan vote (12); accolades (20)
From the moment he entered the NBA, Damian Lillard was among the game's best offensive players. He went for 23 points and 11 assists in his career debut, numbers only matched by Isiah Thomas in a player's first NBA game.
That season, he finished just outside the top 25 in offensive box plus/minus. He hit more threes than any rookie ever had before. And he just kept getting better.
From his rookie campaign to the end of the 2010s, Lillard's 5.4 offensive box plus/minus trailed only Curry, Harden, LeBron, CP3, Russell Westbrook and Durant.
All those numbers are the result of abilities tailored for engineering a modern offense. Lillard is one of the game's most dangerous pull-up shooters coming off a screen. He can also get all the way to the rim and finish with authority. He has great feel in the pick-and-roll, always knowing when to pull up, attack or find a teammate.
For the first few years of his career, his defense was all that held him back. While he's certainly not a lockdown defender on the perimeter now, he's not the liability he once was. Over the last three seasons of the 2010s, Portland allowed fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor.
Top-tier offense and manageable defense is a recipe for individual success in the NBA. Over the course of the decade, Lillard racked up four All-Star appearances and four All-NBA selections, including one first-team nod.
23. Pau Gasol
Ranks: numbers (15); fan vote (37); accolades (23)
The Lakers won the first championship of the 2010s. And Pau Gasol, not Kobe Bryant, led that squad in postseason in box plus/minus. He tied Bryant for the team lead in playoff wins over replacement player.
During those 23 games that culminated in the title win, Gasol averaged 19.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 blocks with a 59.9 true shooting percentage.
"The reality is: I don't win those championships without Pau," Kobe said at the Oscars in 2018. "The city of L.A. doesn't have those two championships without Pau Gasol. We know that. Everybody knows that."
Over the next eight regular seasons, Gasol made three All-Star teams, earned two All-NBA nods and averaged 15.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 blocks.
He even developed into a legitimate three-point threat in his twilight years. Over the three seasons from 2015-16 to 2017-18, Gasol took 1.4 threes a game and knocked them down at a 42 percent rate.
Like many others on this list, his most prolific years came in the 2000s, but he remained one of the game's top players well into his 30s.
22. Marc Gasol
Ranks: numbers (18); fan vote (29); accolades (23)
They grew up together. Once upon a time, they were traded for each other. One captured the first title of the 2010s. The other secured the last. So it's fitting that the Brothers Gasol would be right next to each other on this list.
For most of the decade, Marc Gasol was the defensive anchor and an offensive fulcrum for the Grit 'n' Grind Grizzlies.
Through the 2010s, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year averaged a well-rounded 15.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 blocks. He shot 35.0 percent from three on 1.3 attempts per game. His squads were plus-2.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and minus-1.7 with him off.
Like his brother, Gasol did a little bit of everything, including things that weren't traditionally the province of big men.
His passing and outside shooting were particularly important for a team that ground out victories with lineups that included players like Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince. The little touch of finesse play Gasol added was enough of a wrinkle on offense to make the Grizzlies dangerous.
But of course, it was on the other end where they did most of their damage. Gasol may not have been the athletic marvel someone like Gobert was in the 2010s, but he had remarkable footwork for a player his size. He could clog up the entire paint as other teams tried to attack. And he was seemingly always in the right spot.
In 2019, he was the final ingredient for Toronto's championship recipe. Leonard and Pascal Siakam provided the scoring. Lowry did all the little things on the outside. Gasol took care of them around the rim on defense and provided spacing on offense.
21. Klay Thompson
Ranks: numbers (35); fan vote (10); accolades (23)
Klay Thompson is one of the most prolific three-point shooters of all time. His constant off-ball movement and flawless catch-and-shoot mechanics made him the perfect complement to Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Wherever he went on the floor, defenses had to follow. And even then, they were generally too late.
Thompson was able to catch, square up and get his picturesque jumper off in fractions of a second. And when he had it rolling, he could pile up the points in ways few others have ever been able to.
In January 2015, Thompson put up a blistering 37 points in a single quarter against the Sacramento Kings. In December 2016, he dropped 60 points in a game in which he took just 11 dribbles.
Having a player capable of such explosive outings on the same team as a prime Curry seems absurd in hindsight. What was any opponent ever supposed to do?
On the other end, Thompson was one of a handful of stellar perimeter defenders for the Warriors dynasty. As the starting backcourt mate of Curry, his defense was as important as anyone's on the team, as he was often tasked with covering the opposition's top offensive player to spare Curry.
The quickest way to describe Thompson through the 2010s may be to say that he was the most optimized version of the three-and-D wing we ever saw.
He averaged 19.5 points and 2.9 threes while shooting 41.9 percent from deep. Among the 23 players with at least as many attempts, that percentage trails only Curry and Kyle Korver.
20. Kevin Love
Ranks: numbers (19); fan vote (21); accolades (27)
Kevin Love got significantly more attention as LeBron James' teammate on the Cavaliers, but his production for the Minnesota Timberwolves in earlier years was phenomenal.
In his last four seasons with the Wolves, Love averaged 23.5 points, 13.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.8 threes. He trailed only James, Paul, Durant and Joakim Noah in box plus/minus during that stretch. In 2013-14 alone, he trailed only LeBron and KD.
Like Bosh, Love accepted a lesser role when he joined LeBron, but his importance was every bit as big.
During the four seasons he was in Cleveland with LeBron, the Cavs were plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions with Love on the floor and plus-0.7 with him off. He took 5.7 threes per game in that stretch and hit 37.7 percent of them.
And in the 2016 Finals, he gave Cleveland sports fans one of their most memorable moments.
In the final minute of Game 7, Love found himself on an island with Curry, who'd just won the first unanimous MVP in league history, beyond the three-point line. Love had never been known for his perimeter defense (at least not in a positive sense). Curry hit a record 402 threes that regular season. Conventional wisdom gives that matchup to Curry nine times out of 10. Love made sure that possession was the one in 10.
Curry put a series of moves on Love, who managed to stay in front of all of them before contesting a long three. The shot that would've tied the game clanged out. Less than a minute later, Love was an NBA champion.
Over the course of the 2010s, Love averaged 19.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.9 threes. He made five All-Star teams and two All-NBA squads.
19. Jimmy Butler
Ranks: numbers (25); fan vote (19); accolades (20)
Jimmy Butler is a throwback. In an era where plenty of stars are undergoing load management or angling to join other top-tier talents, Butler seems intent on being an alpha and playing the kind of hard-nosed game that would make the former-player analysts proud.
"He's doing everything," then-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters during Butler's breakout 2014-15 campaign. "He's guarding. He's scoring. He's making tough plays. He guards everyone. He's physical. He doesn't say 'boo.' He works hard. He plays for the team."
Five years later, that description feels every bit as accurate. It could have been uttered about Butler at just about any point in the 2010s. He's a glimpse of a bygone era.
Over the last five seasons of the 2010s, Butler's box plus/minus ranked 15th. He averaged 21.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 steals.
In the decade, he made four All-Star teams, four All-Defense teams and two All-NBA teams.
18. Dwight Howard
Ranks: numbers (27); fan vote (29); accolades (7)
Before Dwight Howard turned into a journeyman who played for five different teams in each of the last five seasons, he was arguably the game's most dominant big man.
Over the first five seasons of the 2010s, Howard won two Defensive Player of the Year awards, made five All-Star teams, was selected to five All-NBA teams and made three All-Defense teams. He averaged 19.4 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks with a 60.0 true shooting percentage.
"To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don't think there's anybody that impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does," Stan Van Gundy, Howard's coach in 2011, said a month before he finished second in MVP voting. "I think Derrick Rose has been great. … I think it's a hard choice to make, but I still don't think anyone impacts the game as many possessions as Dwight does."
Rose, of course, won the award that year. But Van Gundy may have been right. Rose's net rating swing that season was plus-2.8. LeBron's was plus-9.0, which was 0.2 better than Dwight's plus-8.8, but Miami was still a plus overall when LBJ was off the floor. When Howard wasn't in the game that season, the Magic were minus-0.4 points per 100 possessions.
Things started to spiral after that. Injuries, chemistry issues at seemingly every stop and an inability or unwillingness to adapt to the modern game drastically changed the perception of Howard. But not before he made enough of an impact to warrant top-20 placement here.
17. Anthony Davis
Ranks: numbers (36); fan vote (8); accolades (14)
Right around the time Howard's impact started to wane, a new big man burst onto the scene with similar defensive abilities and much more potential on the other end of the floor.
By the end of the 2010s, Anthony Davis had fully established himself as one of the most talented bigs the NBA has ever seen. In a six-year run that featured six All-Star appearances, three All-NBA nods and three All-Defense selections, Davis averaged 25.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals.
In the same stretch, New Orleans was plus-1.6 points per 100 possessions with AD on the floor and a dismal minus-5.5 with him off.
He only managed to get to the playoffs twice in the 2010s, but he was even more productive there: 30.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks over 13 games.
Of course, the decade ended unceremoniously, as a trade demand from Davis brought tension between him and the only organization he'd ever played for. But in terms of what he did on the court, he is almost unassailable.
With his size, length and athleticism, Davis is one of the game's best rim protectors when engaged. On the other end, he can attack off the dribble, hit jumpers and score from the post. All that offense in a 6'10" frame made AD unique, even in the ever-evolving game of the 2010s.
16. Kobe Bryant
Ranks: numbers (33); fan vote (12); accolades (9)
Now, before you go digitally screaming into whatever social media platform is your digital-screaming forum of choice, bear in mind that this ranking is based exclusively on what Kobe Bryant did in the 2010s. His most productive decade was obviously the one before. And by about halfway through the one in question, injuries had hampered one of the most dominant individual games in NBA history.
But even with just four mostly healthy seasons to work with, Kobe makes the top 20 of the decade. It's a testament to how good he was in those four seasons. From 2009-10 to 2012-13, he averaged 26.8 points (third in the NBA over those four seasons), 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.3 steals. He won a title, and the Finals MVP, in 2010.
The Lakers' plunge into years of losing basketball accompanied his injuries, but he still managed to go out with a bang.
Going into the final game of his career in 2016, he was averaging 16.9 points on 35.4 percent shooting from the field and 28.5 percent shooting from three.
That didn't stop him from putting up a whopping 50 shots on the way to 60 points in his career finale.
"Kobe transcends reality—he transcends dimensions, all realms of life, past and present," teammate Roy Hibbert said after the game, per Tyler Kepner of The New York Times. "He's one of a kind. He is what we strive to be, on and off the court. The talent, competitiveness, the drive, the fuel, the energy, everything."
If there were some way to measure that drive, it'd be hard to find many players not named Michael Jordan ahead of Kobe.
15. Draymond Green
Ranks: numbers (12); fan vote (21); accolades (16)
Draymond Green is one of the most unique players in NBA history. He's too short for his position. For all but one season, he couldn't shoot. And he didn't have the vertical athleticism of many of his peers throughout the 2010s.
That didn't stop him from being one of the most impactful players of the decade. From the start of his career (2012-13) through 2018-19, Green's raw plus/minus of plus-4,441 trails only Steph Curry's plus-5,610.
Now, one reaction could be something along the lines of, "Well, Green's plus/minus is just up there because he was lucky enough to play with Curry."
Over the course of their time together, Golden State was plus-6.2 points per 100 possessions when Curry was on the floor without Green. When Steph and Draymond were both on the floor, the Warriors were plus-14.8 points per 100 possessions.
Green was the Scottie Pippen to Curry's Jordan.
He'd guard anyone. And he did that well enough to win one Defensive Player of the Year Award and be named to five All-Defense teams. He facilitated the offense as a point forward and was half of one of the best pick-and-roll combos we've ever seen. He was a relentless rebounder for his size.
Green was never going to be the kind of player who could carry a team by scoring 20 a night. With Golden State, he didn't have to be. He's one of the ultimate examples of there being more to basketball than points per game. And it's hard to imagine the Warriors' half-decade dynasty without him.
T13. Dirk Nowitzki
Ranks: numbers (22); fan vote (12); accolades (14)
Just after the start of the 2010s, LeBron James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to initiate the era of player-generated superteams.
At Miami's introductory press conference for its new trio, LeBron promised seven titles in the now-infamous quote that started with, "Not one, not two, not three..."
They made it all the way to the Finals in their first year together, where they were steamrolled by Dirk Nowitzki and one of the greatest individual postseason runs of all time.
On the way to his lone title, Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists with a 60.9 true shooting percentage in the 2011 playoffs.
In those 21 games, Dallas was plus-10.2 points per 100 possessions when Dirk was on the floor and minus-6.6 when he was off.
Mid-range, threes, post-ups, you name it. Nowitzki was unstoppable throughout that postseason, even as he battled illness in the Finals.
The series win over the Heat gave him one of the game's unique title runs. With all due respect to veterans Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Tyson Chandler, Nowitzki was that team's lone superstar. Examples of champions that didn't have multiple top-tier guys are hard to come by. But it almost seemed fitting for Dirk.
He's one of a handful of NBA players we can point to as legitimate era-benders.
This may have eventually happened anyway, but his arrival brought positionless basketball with it. Skills traditionally reserved for guards are now coveted at every position. Suddenly, everyone wanted a big who could shoot. Before long, they wanted bigs who could shoot, pass and dribble.
Nowitzki was the one who accelerated that timeline.
T13. Blake Griffin
Ranks: numbers (17); fan vote (18); accolades (13)
For the first two seasons of Blake Griffin's career, he was a rim-rocking, glass-cleaning behemoth. He was known largely for the size and unbelievable athleticism that gave him the ability to do things like whatever we want to call what he did to Timofey Mozgov in 2010.
In those two campaigns, he averaged 21.7 points and 11.5 rebounds, the kind of numbers you might expect from a power forward with franchise-altering talent. But even then, there were hints of the point forward skills that made Griffin truly special.
On plenty of possessions, he would secure a defensive rebound and bring the ball up like a guard. He had good vision for a player of his size in the half court and averaged 3.5 assists through 2012.
His game continued to expand throughout the decade.
As time and injuries began to rob Griffin of the athleticism that made him spectacular at the outset of his career, his passing remained a weapon. He eventually added real three-point range. By 2018-19, he took a whopping 7.0 threes per game and hit 36.2 percent of them. He took significantly more total threes that season than he did in his first seven combined.
When you put his two halves of the decade together, Griffin's numbers are among the best the point forward spot has ever offered.
By the end of the 2010s, his career per-game averages of 21.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists could only be matched by Larry Bird.
12. Kyrie Irving
Ranks: numbers (9); fan vote (12); accolades (23)
Kevin Love's clutch defense wasn't the only indelible moment from the Cavs' title run in 2016.
After two-plus minutes where neither team scored a point—and where LeBron James made the most famous chasedown block of all time—Kyrie Irving isolated Steph Curry on a switch on the right side of the floor. After a couple of dribbles between the legs, Irving stepped right, gathered and launched a fading three that put the Cavs up 92-89 with 0:53 to play. They went on to win 93-89.
That shot was the biggest moment involving both point guards in the series. The 2016 Finals numbers of both show that wasn't the only time Irving outplayed Curry:
- Irving: 27.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals, 19.1 game score
- Curry: 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.9 steals, 13.1 game score
Of course, Kyrie's 2010s weren't confined to that series. Overall, he averaged 22.2 points, 5.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds with a 57.1 true shooting percentage. He made six All-Star games and two All-NBA teams.
Irving's production sometimes came at a cost, though. Looking for his own team, he requested a trade from Cleveland while LeBron was still there. He then left the Celtics less than a year after promising he'd re-sign there. Reports on his struggles with teammates and management in both spots have been written. Journalists are already looking for clues that the same thing is happening in Brooklyn.
With several years of evidence piled up, it's fair to wonder about Irving's leadership and inability to mesh with teammates. There's little to nitpick when it comes to his talent, though.
He has some of the tightest handles in the league, a deadeye pull-up jumper, flair around the rim and extreme confidence to weaponize all of it.
11. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Ranks: numbers (20); fan vote (6); accolades (16)
"At just 18 years old, his potential will be his selling point to NBA teams," Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote of Giannis Antetokounmpo ahead of the 2013 draft. "In comparison to the rest of the field, Antetokounmpo actually has one of the higher ceilings in this class."
Turns out, the relatively unknown Greek prospect who was all limbs and had a raw set of skills was one of the biggest steals in draft history. The Bucks took him with the No. 15 pick. Just over six years later, Giannis has more career wins over replacement player than the top five picks in that draft combined. That's even more remarkable when you remember that it took him a few years to find his NBA legs.
By the end of the 2010s, he had a season with numbers that were comfortably better than the average MVP since 1974.
In just 32.8 minutes per game in 2018-19, he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals. It was like a prime Kareem Abdul-Jabbar line, minus a few minutes and plus some assists.
Considering his steady ascent and a couple of throwaway seasons to start his career (at least when compared to the rest), his rise this high is remarkable. It's also reasonable.
If he adds a consistent jump shot, there will be no issues with his game. Even without it, Antetokounmpo has proved unstoppable. He can get to the paint seemingly whenever he wants. His dunk range is unbelievable. He can defend any position. He's a willing and capable passer.
Somehow, the basketball gods may have given us a more athletically gifted version of LeBron to watch after the King retires.
Giannis looks primed to dominate the 2020s. Even with just a few seasons in the last decade, he was a borderline top-10 player.
10. Tim Duncan
Ranks: numbers (8); fan vote (12); accolades (19)
This exercise applied to the 2000s would likely put Tim Duncan in the top five. Call it a hunch, but he might even be No. 1. For the 2010s, he started the decade at age 33. That's the beginning of the end of the road for most players. It was for Duncan too. But his end of the road is still better than the vast majority of NBA players.
San Antonio gets some credit for the way TD's minutes were managed throughout the decade, but the Big Fundamental had a game that was always going to age well.
He was almost always in the right position on both ends of the floor. His dominance was predicated as much on intelligence and sheer size as it was on athleticism. He relied on the bank shot like he was a pupil of Gene Hackman's coach Norman Dale.
In fewer than 30 minutes per game, TD averaged 14.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 blocks and 0.7 steals in the 2010s. San Antonio's net rating was 3.4 points better when he was on the floor.
His leadership of the Revenge Tour Spurs of 2014 helped break up the Heatles, who were one of the teams of the decade.
9. Paul George
Ranks: numbers (13); fan vote (10); accolades (10)
For just over half the 2010s, Paul George plugged along as a star who wasn't quite in the MVP contenders' tier.
From 2012-13 to 2017-18, a stretch that included the year in which he recovered from a gruesome broken leg, George averaged 21.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals.
He was known about as much for his defense as he was for his offense. He led a couple of plucky Indiana Pacers teams that never felt like legitimate contenders.
Then, in the final season of the decade, on a different team than the one that drafted him, George somehow found a whole 'nother level.
In his age-28 campaign, he put up 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a league-leading 2.2 steals alongside Russell Westbrook. He finished in third MVP voting, finally cracking the code for super-(duper)-star-level play.
It was a heck of a way to cap off a decade that saw PG make six All-Star Games, five All-NBA teams and four All-Defense teams.
T7. Dwyane Wade
Ranks: numbers (10); fan vote (6); accolades (11)
Through most of the 2000s, Dwyane Wade was Miami's alpha. His legacy for the 2010s might be how well he adapted to a new role as LeBron's No. 2.
"It was probably one of the hardest things I had to do in sports was to, in a sense, take a step back," Wade told ESPN's Israel Gutierrez in 2012. "A lot of people don't understand. They'll say, 'Why would you do that?' To me, I want more success from winning. I don't want another scoring title. I'm just trying to win."
And win they did. After falling to the Mavericks in 2011, Miami went 46-20 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season before beating the young OKC Thunder in the Finals. The next season, the Heat went 66-16, rattled off a 27-game win streak and beat the Spurs in the 2013 Finals.
Over the four years he spent with LeBron, Wade averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists with a 57.5 true shooting percentage. Not bad for a "second fiddle."
After James went back to Cleveland, it was mostly twilight years for Wade, but his per-possession production remained stellar over the course of the 2010s.
He played all 10 seasons in the decade and averaged 24.7 points, 5.7 assists and 5.6 rebounds per 75 possessions (20.1, 4.7 and 4.6 per game). He also made eight All-Star Games (one ceremoniously), four All-NBA teams and one All-Defense team.
T7. Chris Paul
Ranks: numbers (6); fan vote (17); accolades (4)
The discrepancy between the fan vote and the other two components is perfect. Chris Paul's rank among the greats is a polarizing topic.
His flopping, constant complaining to officials, demands of teammates and lack of championships fuel those who are out on him as an all-timer.
His numbers are (almost) unassailable.
Here are his ranks in some catch-alls over the course of the 2010s:
- Box plus/minus: 5th
- Playoff box plus/minus: 3rd
- Win shares per 48 minutes: 2nd
- Playoff win shares per 48 minutes: 4th
- Net rating: 4th
- Playoff net rating: 99th
Of course, the nit at which detractors will pick is that last one. CP3 gets no credit for his playoff runs with the Hornets, Clippers and Rockets. When you reach a certain level of regular-season success, titles become the barometer. And that's probably fair.
But if he never wins one, Paul is going to be firmly in that discussion for "best player to never win a title" with guys like Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Karl Malone. And the bulk of his resume will be from the 2010s.
In that decade, CP3 averaged 18.1 points, 9.6 assists and 2.1 steals with a 58.7 true shooting percentage. He led the league in steals per game four times and assists per game twice. His net rating swing was a staggering plus-12.4. He had a 4.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
His command of every possession, point-of-attack defense, mid-range marksmanship and, of course, the passing made him one of the most impactful players in the league throughout those 10 seasons.
6. Russell Westbrook
Ranks: numbers (7); fan vote (9); accolades (3)
Another polarizing point guard, Russell Westbrook desensitized the world to the triple-double and helped usher in a new era in which stars don't shy away from ball dominance.
Sure, he wasn't the most efficient scorer in the decade, but his relentlessness generally helped his teams. OKC's net rating over the course of the 2010s was 5.4 points better when Westbrook was on the floor. That net rating swing was plus-10.3 in the three straight years in which he averaged a triple-double.
His total triple-doubles in the decade? A whopping 147, which is almost twice as many as second-place LeBron's 76. Pick that apart and call him a stat-hunter, if you want. But that level of raw production is bonkers. And the sheer will it takes to do that is unfathomable for those of us who watch or cover the game (with the possible exceptions of Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson).
Throughout the decade, if you tuned into any Thunder game, you would see Westbrook playing as hard as anyone in the league. He attacked the rim with Captain Speirs-level fearlessness. He generated thousands of open looks for teammates. While his defense often left something to be desired, there's something to be said for how many possessions he ended as a guard. He was 12th among all players in total defensive rebounds in the 2010s.
Russ never became the three-point shooter many did during the three-point revolution. He was about as productive as anyone just being himself.
5. James Harden
Ranks: numbers (5); fan vote (5); accolades (7)
If you had to pick one player to epitomize what happened to NBA basketball over the course of the 2010s, James Harden might be it.
His shot chart in 2009-10 was pretty analytics-friendly. Over 40 percent of his attempts came from beyond the three-point line, but he mixed in some mid-range too.
Fast forward to 2018-19, and Harden gives you about as Morey-ball a shot chart as anyone ever has. Almost everything is happening at the rim or from beyond the three-point line.
Then, of course, there are the free throws. Harden's 6,536 attempts led the decade. But just hearing that number doesn't do it justice. His total was 979 freebies higher than second-place LeBron's. It's more than the combined total of 14th-place AD and 15th-place Lillard.
The three most efficient shots in basketball are layups, threes and free throws. And a trip to the line yields significantly more value than those other two. Harden has figured out how to base his attack exclusively on those areas. And even though defenses know what's coming, they simply cannot slow him down.
Harden's progression in points per game over the years is wild. From 9.9 as a rookie to 38.9 this season, his average has increased in all but one season.
By the end of the 2010s, he was 17th in career scoring average. And this season suggests he won't be done climbing that leaderboard for a while.
Harden didn't rise this high on the list for just his scoring ability, though. Like Westbrook, he was a triple-double machine in the 2010s. Harden was 40th in the decade in total rebounds and sixth in total assists.
He had 13 40-point triple-doubles in that span as well, a total that trails only Oscar Robertson all-time. By the time he's done, we might have to name that stat line after him.
4. Kawhi Leonard
Ranks: numbers (4); fan vote (4); accolades (5)
Kawhi Leonard's 2019 postseason may end up being his career-defining run. He had accomplished plenty, including a Finals MVP and two Defensive Player of the Year wins, but his dominance in those playoffs lifted him to another tier.
He averaged 30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists over those 24 games. His true shooting percentage was 61.9. And his net rating swing was plus-15.9. LeBron James (six times), Michael Jordan (four times), Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dwyane Wade are the only players in NBA history who piled up more wins over replacement player in a single postseason.
He seemed to be in control of almost every game. His buzzer-beater to send the Philadelphia 76ers home was legendary. The feeling of inevitability he brought to several of the games was Jordan-esque.
He spent just one season in Toronto, but he more than lived up to his end of the bargain, delivering the organization its first title.
But of course, that was just Kawhi's finale to the 2010s. Even without it, there's a good chance he's still in the top 10 of this list.
He was the game's premier defender for two years. He was the Finals MVP on a Spurs team that featured legendary players like Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.
His individual growth from a rookie in 2011-12 who took 6.3 shots per game to a bona fide No. 1 scorer for title contenders is one of the decade's best stories.
Though he only made three All-Star teams, he piled up plenty of accolades that arguably matter more: two Finals MVPs, two DPOYs, three All-NBA selections and five All-Defense selections.
3. Stephen Curry
Ranks: numbers (2); fan vote (2); accolades (5)
Thanks to what he did in the 2010s, Stephen Curry is among the most impactful offensive players in NBA history.
Right now, his 7.1 career offensive box plus/minus trails LeBron's first-place 7.2. But check out how his five-year peak stacks up:
- Stephen Curry: 9.5
- Michael Jordan: 9.3
- James Harden: 9.1
- LeBron James: 8.6
- Charles Barkley: 8.0
- Russell Westbrook: 7.7
- Chris Paul: 7.4
- Magic Johnson: 7.2
- Kevin Durant: 6.8
- Damian Lillard: 6.7
- Larry Bird: 6.6
Of course, the 2015-16 season right in the middle of that run contains the best single-season offensive box plus/minus of all time at 12.4.
Curry's individual numbers during those five seasons were suppressed by the number of blowouts his Warriors were in. So let's look at what he did per 75 possessions: 28.8 points, 7.1 assists and 4.8 threes.
That's not even the most impressive part. Curry's relative true shooting percentage (the player's true shooting percentage minus the league average) over those five years was plus-9.9. His relative true shooting percentage in 2015-16 alone was plus-12.8.
These are astronomical numbers. And the impact went way beyond what he did for himself.
As he led the three-point revolution, defenses had to jump pick-and-rolls operated by Curry, regardless of where they were initiated. Defenders literally ran away from players on the way to layups in transition to find Curry outside the three-point line. He made things exponentially easier for every teammate he had during the 2010s just by being on the floor.
Over the course of the decade, Golden State was plus-8.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and minus-3.2 with him off.
He made six All-Star teams, won two MVPs, including the only unanimous MVP in league history, and made six All-NBA teams.
Curry may not have any Finals MVPs to his name, but he was the sun around which that dynasty orbited. The Warriors don't have any of their three titles without him.
2. Kevin Durant
Ranks: numbers (3); fan vote (2); accolades (2)
Kevin Durant is known most for his scoring. And for good reason.
His 28.0 points per game is the high for the decade, over a full point better than second-place LeBron. His relative true shooting percentage over that stretch is an absurd plus-8.2.
Throughout those 10 seasons, he displayed what may be the most complete scoring repertoire in NBA history. Durant can hit threes off the dribble or the catch. He can do the same in the mid-range. He can operate out of post-ups. He can score in transition. He can attack the rim in the half court or the open floor. He could get to the line.
The fact that this all came from a player with big-man size is what really set Durant apart.
But he was so much more than a scorer.
Take the points out of the question, and there isn't a single player who matched or exceeded KD's 2010s averages for rebounds (7.4), assists (4.4), blocks (1.2) and steals (1.1). If we relax the qualifiers to seven, four, one and one, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only name added to the list.
When you combine these numbers with Durant's 10 All-Star nods, nine All-NBA selections, two Finals MVPs and one MVP, it's hard to imagine anyone could have a better decade.
1. LeBron James
Ranks: numbers (1); fan vote (1); accolades (1)
This may be the only no-brainer on the entire list. There isn't a reasonable argument for anyone else as the best player in the 2010s.
It's LeBron James. And it may not be particularly close. Here are his ranks in 2010s wins over replacement player, as well as the gap between him and second place:
- Wins over replacement player: 1st (31.2 percent higher than 2nd)
- Playoff wins over replacement player: 1st (135.6 percent higher than 2nd)
Over the course of the decade, LeBron averaged 26.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 threes and 0.7 blocks. His relative true shooting percentage was plus-6.5.
His average accolades per 2010s season: 1.0 All-Star appearances, 1.0 All-NBA selections, 0.5 All-Defense selections, 0.3 MVPs, 0.3 Finals MVPs.
His total MVP shares over those 10 seasons added up to 5.98. Here's the 2010s MVP shares leaderboard:
- LeBron James: 5.98
- James Harden: 3.29
- Kevin Durant: 3.21
- Stephen Curry: 2.21
- Russell Westbrook: 1.61
- Kobe Bryant: 1.28
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1.01
- Kawhi Leonard: 0.99
- Derrick Rose: 0.98
- Dwight Howard: 0.93
On top of the individual statistical dominance, LeBron won three titles. He made eight straight Finals appearances. He ushered in the player empowerment era. He was one of the pioneers of positionless basketball.
Player of the decade is basically a given for LeBron. He has bigger legacy fish to fry. And if he can win a title or two with the Lakers, more people will start to take his GOAT case seriously.