Detroit News NBA preview: Top 5 players

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
LeBron James

1. LeBron James, Cavaliers

If there were any doubts last season between James and Steph Curry, he dispelled them with his Finals performance, sending the Cavaliers to their first title. James can do everything on the court and has developed the will to carry a less-loaded team to the Finals. One of the few remaining questions is whether he can win six or seven titles.

2. Steph Curry, Warriors

The diminutive guard reached the pinnacle with his MVP award but took a step back when the Cavs triumphed in the Finals. He’ll have more help this year, detracting from his own contributions. He’s not the individual player others on the list are, but his outside shooting is the stuff of legends.

3. Kevin Durant, Warriors

His profile took a hit because he left the Thunder, who were just minutes from dumping the Warriors in the West finals. But this may be the way to a title for him, given the rocky relationship with Russell Westbrook. He’s still an exceptional scorer and will find a way to fit in to make the chemistry work with his new teammates — even if it doesn’t lead to a title.

4. Russell Westbrook, Thunder

He’ll be fueled by anger and resentment and whatever other emotions he can muster up to carry the team. But he didn’t need any of it — he already was one of the top three or four players. His speed and quickness are elite and he can score with the best of them when he’s on his game. Many have him as the odds-on favorite to win the MVP this year as the leader.

5. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs

He doesn’t have the same profile as the top four on the list, but Leonard is a bona fide star-in-waiting. He’s the league’s best defensive player, which gives him the nod over others such as DeMarcus Cousins and James Harden, and his offense (21.2 points) is underrated. He’s been an understudy for Tim Duncan and now it’s time he steps out of his shadow.

Rod Beard ranks NBA teams; Pistons ninth