European basketball may thrive more on motion offense and ball movement, but the NBA is more about one-on-one isolation plays. Often times during a NBA practice, there are not only 5-on-5 scrimmages that take place, but one-on-one scrimmages as well. It is not unusual for a player like LeBron James to have the ball at the top of the key, while his four other teammates are surrounding the perimeter, so that LeBron has plenty of room to go one-on-one in this isolation offense.
One-on-one isolation plays may not be the most affective way of getting a bucket, but this one-on-one, man-on-man offense is often what close games look like towards the end of a game. One-on-one situation happen all of the time in NBA games and outdoor courts of playgrounds everywhere.
So, if new commissioner, Adam Silver, ever decided to put a one-on-one tournament into an All Star Game, who would win? Which NBA players are the best one-on-one players in the NBA?
Before Kobe Bryant went down with his injury, he prided himself aloud by saying that he was the best one-on-one player in the NBA. With Kobe’s footwork, dribbling skills, fadeaway jump shot and multiple pump fakes, he was easily the best one-on-one player in the NBA. Kyrie Irving even recognized it when they were playing on the USA practice squad together and challenged Kobe for the crown.
However, Kobe will now be turning 36-years-old this year and is coming off of two major injuries and there is a new breed of players that want the crown as the best one-on-one players in the league. So, who are the Top-10 players in the NBA who have the best skill set to win a one-on-one competition?
10. Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans has only averaged 14.3 points per game this season, but this past Monday, Tyreke Evans went off for 41 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals. And the funny part is, he can’t even shoot. Evans went 1-7 from the three-point line for a reason. However, what this does mean is that Tyreke can get to the paint on anyone at any time. Reke’s ability to penetrate off the dribble, attack the rim, and absorb contact from seven footers, makes him impossible to stay in front of on defense. Tyreke also has the handles of a point guard, but the girth and size of a small forward. The combination of his wingspan and footwork allows him to score in multiple ways. Tyreke’s Euro-Step and ability to finish with either his left or right hand, makes him very difficult to stop.
9. Paul George
Paul George may no longer be in the MVP discussion now, but he was earlier this season, and for good reason. George sort of looks like the second coming of Tracy McGrady. He has great length, can finish above the rim with ease and can shoot the three-point ball off the dribble. George also plays very good perimeter defense, which would make it very difficult for anyone to score on him in a game of one-on-one. This season, George is averaging 1.9 steals per game. If George stays in front of you the whole time on defense, it is going to be very difficult to score on him.
8. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is one of the most skilled offensive players in the league. This season Melo has averaged 27.4 points per game for second best in the league. Melo may not be the most athletic player in the league, but with his size, he can bully even the strongest power forwards in the paint. Rather than using finesse, Melo prefers contact and physicality down low. Not only that, but Melo has the ability to rise above defenders with his smooth jump shot, which easily extends beyond the three-point line. He is a tad bit slow, but his length and power make him a force to be reckoned with.
7. Russell Westbrook
Is there anyone that can defend Russell Westbrook? The only one that can stop Russell Westbrook from attacking the rim is Russell Westbrook. Russell has been healthy for the majority of his career, except for the past year and a half, which is why he has only averaged 21.8 points per game this season. However, when Westbrook is healthy, it is hard for anyone in the NBA to match his explosion and athleticism. Westbrook may not have fancy handles, but he does not need them. His speed and vertical leap allow him to attack the rim at will and he is a fantastic finisher in the lane with either his left or right hand. There is no doubt that Westbrook would be an absolute nightmare to guard against with his tenacity and hunger to get every loose ball and rebound.
6. Kyrie Irving
Uncle Drew may have the nastiest handles in the league. His crossover is one of the best in the league, which keeps defenders off balance the whole time they are guarding him. In many ways, his dribbling skills resemble a young Allen Iverson.
Additionally, Kyrie has already demonstrated that his jumper is extremely accurate. This season Kyrie has averaged 20.9 points per game. Irving won the three-point contest last year and has proved that he has the ability to catch on fire. Irving also possesses an unusual amount of athleticism and can finish above the rim with his left or right hand.
5. James Harden
This nasty left-handed shooting guard has perfected all of the intangibles of the game. James Harden has perfected the Euro-Step, the step-back three and he is the king of getting to the free throw line. Harden may not have a post-game or be great on defense, but his offense is so lethal that if you missed even one shot and scored the rest on the rest of your possessions, you would still lose the game. This season, Harden is averaging 25.4 points per game and is the head of the snake on one of the most offensively dynamic teams in the NBA.
4. Stephen Curry
Steph can shoot from anywhere on the floor. He attempts an absurd 7.9 3-pointers a game, but he also makes 42.4% of them. Curry is hands-down the best shooter in the game today and is averaging 24 points per game this season for a reason. Curry can shoot off the pass and he can shoot off the dribble. He also has some of the nastiest handles in the league. His dribbling skills allow him to create space against anyone. Furthermore, due to his deadly jumper, it forces defenders to play closer on Curry than they want to. This allows Curry to dribble past defenders with ease if they get over aggressive on defense.
3. LeBron James
LeBron James has the build of Karl Malone, but the skill-set of Magic Johnson. LeBron’s most natural disposition is as a facilitator, but he can be a devastating scorer as well. This season, he has averaged 27.1 points per game for third best in the league with a field goal percentage of 56.7%. LeBron has also perfected his post-game, where his size allows him to overpower his defenders. LeBron’s jumper is also not as bad as most people think. It is just that his jumper is the weakest part of his, otherwise, way above average skill-set.
2. Kevin Durant
At 6’9″, Kevin Durant should not be allowed to do some of the things that he does. With the height of a power forward/center, Kevin Durant plays like a shooting guard. This season, KD has averaged 31.9 points per game, which is the best in the NBA. His effortless jump shot from anywhere on the court makes him absolutely lethal on offense. Durant can flat out do it all with virtually no weak spots in his offensive game. And with his height, length and speed, it would be very difficult to score on him on offense.
1. Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford is a candidate to be the 6th Man of the Year once again this year. In fact, it really should be an honorary award that Crawford wins each and every year. This year, Crawford is averaging 18.4 points per game at the ripe old age of 34. Crawford continues to prove to everyone that he has one of the deadliest shots in the league. Combine that with his ability to draw fouls in the act of shooting and he is almost impossible to guard. In fact, he has the most and 1’s from the three-point line in NBA history with a total of 39 in his career; the bulk of which are created off the dribble and not off of a pass. Crawford’s ability to break ankles and shoot off the dribble make him the best one-on-one player in the league.