Tuesday, May 12, 2016; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Kawhi Leonard (2) of the San Antonio Spurs drives the lane against Andre Roberson (21) of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quarter of game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The following credit must be included with the image: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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6th place – Kawhi Leonard
Defending-wise, Kawhi Leonard will be the best player in NBA 2K17. Leonard has the most suffocating perimeter defense on the planet, and it’s much more difficult to stop an opponent outside than it is to take control of a big man with length inside to swat away opponents.
Considering his room for growth, Davis’s increased profile as the team’s leader should boost his overall rating in NBA 2K17. That, and the fact that he’s a fantastic basketball player, goes without saying.
Due to injuries (a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a blown out left knee), Davis has played in fewer than 70 games for the fourth year in a row. His two-way ability is exceptional, but it’s likely what kept him out of the top 10 in 2K17 (when he finished 10th).
Davis was a major contributor once again, as evidenced by his per-game averages of 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and two blocks. Despite the fact that he did not make the jump to MVP as many had predicted, he nonetheless continued to display elite rim protection and develop his offensive game.
He made 35 of 83 (32.4 percent) three-point attempts this season. Davis’ jump shot is getting increasingly smooth and reliable, and he has a career-high 43.4 percent success rate from 16 feet or closer to the arc. However, limiting his shots and being selective are still crucial.
Davis’s athleticism, rebounding, rim protection, floor running, and shooting combine to make him an easy pick for a top-7 player when converting his attributes into a 2K17 rating.
It’s not a huge shock to see Davis take the seventh spot instead of Klay Thompson, who will benefit greatly from his brilliant shooting with various virtual ratings (he’s an underrated defender, too, but still).
The best outside defender in the world is up next.
The 12th of May, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; At Chesapeake Energy Arena, in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) brings the ball up court against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Andre Roberson (21). Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports is credited obligatorily.
6th place – Kawhi Leonard
On the defensive end, Kawhi Leonard will shine in NBA 2K17. Leonard has the most suffocating perimeter defense on the planet, and it’s much more difficult to stop an opponent outside than it is to take control of a big man with length inside to swat away opponents.
Leonard’s relentlessness, speed, and length give opponents a ton of trouble, which is why he won Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row while leading the San Antonio Spurs to the best defensive rating in the NBA.
Meanwhile, he evolved into a lethal catch-and-shoot threat and stocked up on offensive tools in ways nobody saw coming.
Leonard’s shooting form looked completely different from the one that had plagued him early in his career, as he made 44.3 percent of his threes and averaged 1.8 makes per game (up from 34.9 percent and one make the previous season). Additionally, he enhanced his handle and stroke off the dribble to the point where he was able to effectively create in isolation via pull-ups, drives, or operating from the post.
To see how far Leonard has come as a two-way superstar, consider his NBA.com rankings: 84th percentile in isolation plays, 89th as a post-up player, and 95th as a pick-and-roll ball handler, albeit on few plays.
Kawhi averaged 21.2 points, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game, all of which were career highs for him. Along with that, he set career highs in both points per offensive unit (PER) (26) and true shooting percentage (61.6).
In light of Leonard’s continued improvement, NBA 2K17’s 93 rating for him is more than justified.
The NBA’s scariest player is up next.
Today, May 24, 2016; This Place, The United States Of America, Oklahoma City; Game four of the NBA Western Conference Finals took place at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and it began with Russell Westbrook (0) of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacting in front of Stephen Curry (30) of the Golden State Warriors. Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports is credited obligatorily.
5th place – Russell Westbrook
It should come as no surprise that Russell Westbrook, a top-five player in the NBA, is one of the game’s top five best players. Westbrook’s physical prowess helps his popularity even before his talent is taken into account. He is more athletic than any point guard we have seen and, arguably, anyone in the NBA right now.
Not to mention everything he can accomplish on the court thanks to his incredible athleticism and boundless energy. Westbrook easily deserved the often overused “beast” descriptor after he had a league-best 18 triple-doubles last season, good for an average of 23.5 points and career-highs of 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game.
He is too fun to play with in 2K and too good at multiple aspects of the game (best rebounding guard in the world, improved playmaker, terrorizing transition threat, quick trigger pull-up shooter from mid-range) for him not to be ranked higher than those below him.
Naturally, there are some holes in it. Last season, Westbrook attempted an average of 4.3 threes per game but only made 29.6 percent of them, a dismal mark in today’s NBA. He has a number of flaws, including a lackluster defense, a propensity to take unnecessary risks in pursuit of steals, and shot selection that occasionally enrages Thunder fans.
There is no way, however, that his overall rating doesn’t reflect the fact that he can take over a game single-handedly with explosive authority.
Though I question his overall 93 rating, the same as that of his ex-teammate Kevin Durant. This list will show, as you will see.
Followed by: The Ultimate God
During the first half on April 12, 2016 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, Chris Paul (3) of the Los Angeles Clippers dribbles past Jordan Farmar (4) of the Memphis Grizzlies. Must use original image by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.
4th place – Chris Paul
Some may be bothered by this and by the fact that Sports Illustrated ranked Chris Paul fourth in their 2016–17 Top 100. It may come as a surprise that Paul is so high on the list, ahead of players like Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and Triple-Double Machine Russell Westbrook.
Although there are several explanations for this.
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To begin, when comparing Paul and Westbrook on defense, Paul is light years ahead. Paul made his sixth consecutive All-Defensive First Team last season thanks to his ability to compensate for his lack of incredible explosiveness with his intelligence, knack for breaking up passing lanes, deceptive strength, and intensity. Westbrook, on the other hand, is much more prone to losing his position and taking unnecessary risks in pursuit of steals and big plays, neither of which have ever paid off for him as effectively or consistently as Paul’s have.
Then there’s the obvious issue of executing a playbook. Even though Paul’s per-game averages in the fundamentals may not be as impressive as Westbrook’s, there’s no denying that Paul is the more consistent choice at point guard.
Paul takes better care of the ball, takes better shots, finds his players open looks when necessary, and runs an offense with moreclinical poise than freneticaggression, but he lacks Westbrook’s ability to dominate a game with such ferocious explosiveness.
Even more so than Leonard, he surpasses him in offensive prowess, which has only been seen a handful of times before in NBA history.
While Westbrook’s athleticism and rebounding prowess make him an attractive option for 2K17’s dominant playstyles, Paul is the superior all-around player. His current score of 91, which is lower than Russ’s 93, doesn’t do justice to his actual abilities.
Up next: the NBA’s top scorer.
San Antonio, Texas, USA; May 10, 2016; In game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs, small forward Kevin Durant (35) of the Thunder shows his emotions after making a shot. Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports, Credit Required
3rd place – Kevin Durant
Most people would agree that NBA 2K17’s top three are pretty spot on. Kevin Durant’s ranking as the third best scorer makes sense, despite the fact that he is one of the best we’ve ever seen thanks to his unbelievable athleticism, length, and ability to create his own shots.
Durant should slot in right behind Stephen Curry, who has set a new standard for shooting efficiency, and LeBron James, who has become an all-around superstar and won three championships in a row.
Given that 2K17 will take into account the players’ season and playoff momentum, it’s hard to imagine him being ranked higher. Sorry to bring up the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals for the gazillionth time, but Durant’s Thunder did the same thing in the Western Conference Finals.
Many have forgotten how great of a series contributor he was because he shot only 42.3% from the field, but he also had the best defensive performance of his career. He was crucial, as evidenced by the fact that he averaged 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game for the series.
The fact that Curry’s Warriors eliminated Durant’s Thunder in the playoffs and that Curry has won two consecutive (unanimous) MVP awards has unsurprisingly pushed Curry ahead of Durant.
Durant is, of course, the best option for third place if he can’t be ranked first or second.
The game-changing shooter is up next.
Stephen Curry, 30, guard for the Golden State Warriors, waits in the tunnel for the NBA Finals opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on June 2, 2016, in Oakland, California. Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports; Credit Required
2nd place – Stephen Curry
When it comes to shooting, Stephen Curry is a phenomenon, and NBA 2K17 should reflect that. However, when it comes to developing a video game, it becomes more challenging to create a balanced version of Curry.
As opposed to trying to outdo Curry’s actual performance, the goal here should be to create a virtual player whose skillset is on par with, if not better than, his own.
We have never seen anything like the partnership of quantity, quality, and difficulty from range that Curry displayed last season, when he set a record with 402 made three-pointers while averaging a league-best and career-high 30.1 points on 50.4% and 45.4% shooting from deep.
It’s surprising that 2K17 finally gets Curry right as a player who can make those ridiculous shots from 30 feet. The shot meter has never wanted to light up from Curry’s true comfort zone, making it nearly impossible to make the shots he does night after night in 2K until this year.
As a result of his scoring prowess, tremendous finishing ability (69.6 percent within two feet), playmaking, knack for steals (league best 2.1 per game last season), and ridiculous shooting prowess, Curry ranks second among the NBA 2K17’s top 10 players.
Even if you don’t think he’s as good a shooter as Kevin Durant, Curry still has ridiculously high ratings.
To Be Continued… The King
Oakland, California, USA; June 19th, 2016; LeBron James, a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers, holds the Larry O.
1st – LeBron James
This was bound to happen, unless you’re still trying to find some way to deny that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA.
If winning the last three games of the 2016 Finals while averaging 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks wasn’t enough, then there’s nothing left to say.
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Despite being down 3-1 in the series and having to play the first 73-9 team and the first unanimous MVP, he performed miracles and proved that he was the best player in the world.
This kingdom belongs to LeBron.
LeBron’s unparalleled talent and two-way impact in the NBA should translate to the highest possible rating in NBA 2K17. The 96 region 2K17 gave him seems about right, but as long as he’s at the top of the list, it doesn’t matter too much.
LeBron should have high ratings in more facets of the game than anyone else due to his athletic attributes, remarkable vision and passing ability, rebounding, strength when finishing inside, exceptionally versatile defense, and straightforward, all-around ability.
His sudden decline in three-point shooting last season, which saw him finish the regular season at just 30.9 percent and average only 1.1 makes per game, is the season’s only real downer. However, he improved dramatically in the Finals, making 37.1 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Though Curry may be pushing the limits of NBA 2K17’s shooting ratings and the capabilities of virtual three-point shooting, LeBron James should still be considered the best shooter in the game.