NBA Radio is breaking down the top 25 NBA players in advance of the 2016-17 season. Today? We’re talking about No. 15 through 11, and that includes the ageless wonder Dwyane Wade.
15. Dwyane Wade
Despite the injuries and wear and tear to the 13-year veteran, when Dwyane Wade turns on the jets he’s still one of the most explosive and athletic players in the game. Of course, he provides a lot more than that as he heads into a new phase of his career in Chicago. With Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler at his side, the Bulls will rely on Wade to be a mentor and leader who has proven before that he knows what it takes to win. The big question now becomes when Wade will start to decline – we believe he’s got at least another season before that happens.
14. Draymond Green
The boisterous, scrappy Draymond Green that fans loved at the start of the 2015 season ended as the full-on villain by the start of the NBA Finals. Still, Green’s boundless energy is essential to getting the Golden State Warriors going, and that likely won’t change when Kevin Durant steps into the lineup. In fact, Durant may be wired to feed off Green’s energy the best. Aside from that new dynamic, everything else to like about Green remains the same: he’s going to do the dirty work, fight for boards and scrap for his 15 points per game. If the Warriors win a second championship in three years, most attention will fall on
Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but don’t forget the heart and soul of Golden State basketball, Draymond Green.
13. Kyrie Irving
The Cavaliers saw Herculian efforts from LeBron James en route to their first NBA title last season, but Kyrie Irving emphatically closed the show in Game 7 (we all remember that icy-veined shot). It’ll be interesting to see if the silky smooth Cavs guard will continue to stay committed to defense in the new season, or if he will revert back to his less flattering tendencies of mailing it in. What can’t be denied is Irving’s ability to take over a game on the biggest stage, and the way he makes it look so easy. Of course, it helps when the world’s best player (we don’t really have to name him, do we?) is attracting a ton of attention from opposing defenses.
12. James Harden
James Harden is an offensive machine. His powerful drives to the basket and his ability to knock down mid-range jumpshots are no small reason why he averaged just under 30 points per game last season. Also, it’s hard not to take over when the rest of your team isn’t on the same page or all that good. The defensive liabilities are still there but he more than makes up for it with his scoring prowess.
11. Damian Lillard
At 26 years old, Damian Lillard is growing into his prime and solidifying himself as one of the NBA’s best point guards. His game covers all the bases, as he can score at will (25 PPG) and get his teammates involved (6.8 assists). His confidence appears to be sky high, and it’s more and more obvious each time he pulls up from way outside and fires a three-ball while the opposing team is still trying to get set. There’s little reason to think Lillard will take a step back this year.