Top 10 Most Unguardable Players in the NBA
What does it mean to be truly unguardable? It means that no matter what defense is thrown at you, you can always find a way to score. It means being versatile, or having more than one way to score. All of the players on this list have qualities, but only one is truly unguardable. Let’s dive in.
10. Klay Thompson
Bob Fitzgerald, the Warriors’ broadcaster (along with Jim Barnett) used a good word to describe Klay Thompson as he was dropping 21 in the first quarter in a game against the Magic: thermodynamic. When he is hot, I believe that Klay is the most dangerous player not just in the NBA right now, but in NBA history. Yes, I realize I’m dealing with Jordan, Kobe, Bird, and all of them. But could any of them shoot the way Klay can? Bird comes close, but I truly think Klay is better. He has the NBA record for points in a quarter with 37 (!!!). That’s more than teammate Andre Iguodala has ever scored in a single game in his CAREER. He dropped a career-high 60 points in 29 minutes, and he only took 11 dribbles for the entire game. Klay is only limited by his ability to shoot off the dribble. He’s pretty good at it, but is mainly a spot-up shooter, which is why he’s so high on this list.
9. Isaiah Thomas
The fact that a 5-foot-9 point guard even cracks this list is incredible. Isaiah Thomas proves the old saying “Heart over height.” The things this little guy can do with the ball at his height is incredible. He’s making defenders look silly, weaving in and out of double-teams and screens, all the while reminding them that they’re getting schooled by a guy who’s shorter than some high-schoolers. His range extends about five feet beyond the arc, and the way he finishes around the basket is remarkable. If he were 6'5", he would definitely be top five. But the fact is, defenders can guard him due to his height, so he’s number nine.
8. Damian Lillard
The most slept on, overlooked, underrated star in this league is Damian Lillard. I feel so bad for the guy. With all the new stars in the Western Conference, he may not make another All-Star team ever again…unless he leaves Portland. But that’s another story. Lillard can put on a scoring onslaught like no player in the league. I remember him killing the Warriors in the 2015/16 season the first game after the All-Star break. I remember his series-winning shot against Houston in the 2014 first round. I remember his career-high 59 points against the Jazz this last season. Why can’t the voters remember these occasions? The man has worked so hard on his game and is constantly doubted. Don’t be surprised if he has a breakout year next year. He’s going to prove some haters wrong.
7. Russell Westbrook
WHAT? The 2017 MVP is only #7?? Am I crazy?? No. And I’ll tell you why. It may seem like there is no one who can stop Westbrook. He is just a freight train coming through the lane, bulldozing any defender in his path. He’s pretty much a shorter Lebron James. But there is one person who can stop Westbrook consistently. Patrick Beverley? No. Avery Bradley? No. Kawhi Leonard? No. The only person who can stop Russell Westbrook is Russell Westbrook. Disagree? Well, it was proven in Game Two of the first round of the playoffs this year. I have been saying this about Westbrook for a while, but I needed a game to prove it. Then comes Game Two. The Thunder were in the game, and could have won it, but Westbrook decided to go into hero mode, and it totally backfired. He shot 4/18 in the FOURTH QUARTER ALONE. He took 18 shots in the most important quarter of a playoff game. Don’t get me wrong: Westbrook is a beast. But he self-inflicts himself so much that he was higher up on this list than some would have liked.
6. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is the most silent assassin on this list. It doesn’t feel like he has it going, and then you look up and realize he has 35 points. This was proved most recently his first round series against the Grizzlies. David Fizdale threw every possible defense at Kawhi to try and stop him. And Kawhi still averaged 31.2 ppg for the entire series, which went to six games. The Grizzlies are no pushovers either. They were near the top of the list for defensive efficiency last season. Maybe we should have taken Fizdale seriously. Maybe Kawhi is a robot. Maybe he does breathe antifreeze. It doesn’t matter. Just this season, Kawhi was an MVP and DPOY candidate, averaged 25.5 ppg, shot 48% from the field, and 38% from three, with a 27.6 player efficiency rating. Take that for data.
5. Anthony Davis/James Harden
Ok, ok, I cheated. But both of these guys are more unguardable than the guys before but less unguardable than the next four. On top of all that, I find these two equally unguardable, so they had to make the list. Let’s talk about Harden first. No disrespect to him, but he may be the most boring superstar in the league to watch. He has maybe one or two good plays a night, and a highlight play here or there, but most of his points come from drawing fouls and going to the line. He averaged 10 free throws a game last season. I don’t know about you, but I hate when referees slow down the game by calling every single foul. That’s what Harden’s game relies on. But hey, it works, and its almost unstoppable. Now, onto Davis. Here’s a question to think about: what is the single most terrifying thing for a defender to see on a basketball court? In my opinion, it’s an athletic big man who can handle the ball and shoot jumpshots. Enter Anthony Davis. He pretty much has all three. He certainly has the athleticism, the jumper has been there since he came into the league, and he has continuously improved his ball handling skills each year he’s been in the NBA. They aren’t perfect now, but once they get there, there’s a very good chance he’s #1 on this list.
4. Lebron James
If this question had been asked three years ago, then the most unguardable player in the league would undoubtedly be Lebron James. The man was an absolute beast that was still in the middle of his prime. However, now that his age is beginning to wear on him, his weaknesses are beginning to show. First of all, he has never had a reliable jumpshot throughout his entire career. That has always been overshadowed, however, by his extreme ability to finish around the basket, with or without contact. It’s what makes him so great. But the thing that makes him so great also takes a toll on his body. It’s a lot of effort and work to get to the rim through all the bodies thrown at him, and over the years, it has worn on Lebron James. The cracks began to show a little this year. He missed makeable layups and dunks, and his free throw shooting was horrific, at 67% in the 2016–2017 season. The flaws will begin to show even more as he gets older. Although it may not seem like it with Lebron, his 14 years in the league are affecting his game. And no matter how great the athlete is, Father Time always wins.
3. Stephen Curry
Man, this was tough. I was stuck between two incredible point guards for the three and two spots. In the end, Steph got number three. Now, Steph is a greater player than the other guard, but I couldn’t deny the other’s talent. However, Steph is still extremely unguardable. There’s almost nobody in this league that could stay in front of him. When he’s hot, Steph might have the biggest green light in the league. This should be a bad thing, a thing that causes him to take bad shots. Except with Steph, there are no bad shots. There are just great shots and good shots. Nothing less. The second he crosses halfcourt, he’s well in range. You can never take your eye off of him, because he’s constantly moving off of the ball, using screens and his evasiveness to get open for uncontested jumpers. He’s also an incredible finisher in the paint, and scooping shots around and above taller defenders seems to be a specialty for him. He fears nobody, and that makes him extremely dangerous to defend. His handle is wicked, his vision is top-notch, and his jumper is pure. He is an all-around assassin.
2. Kyrie Irving
What can Kyrie do that Steph can’t? Shoot better? No. Better handles? Debatable. Better finishing ability? Maybe…not a given, though. So what makes him more unguardable? His explosiveness. Kyrie does things Steph can do, but he does them with more speed, more precision, more intimidation. When Steph handles the ball, he makes everything look so effortless, graceful. When it’s Kyrie, he pounds it in front of you, and then, in the bat of an eye, is off in another direction. Kyrie comes full speed 100% of the time, and can keep it up for a good 40 minutes without getting tired. He does have his flaws, however. He makes questionable decisions with the ball at times, and isn’t much of a passer. But the thing that really puts him over Steph is his play in the clutch. Curry is no slouch in the clutch, but Kyrie is a whole other animal. You literally have no idea what he will do. He has the “Mamba Mentality.” He knows he owns you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. He will do what he wants, whenever he wants, and there’s nobody who can stop him.
1. Kevin Durant
Take everything I just described about Kyrie. Now put it in a 7 foot body. Add in Steph’s movement off the ball and Lebron’s dominance and you have Kevin Durant. Remember what I was saying about Anthony Davis, where if he improved his three-point shot and handle, he could become a huge threat? Well, Kevin Durant is that huge threat. Actually, huge is an understatement. How about, the biggest threat ever. Yes, I am willing to go as far as to say KD is the greatest scorer in the history of the league. Who else stacks up? Nobody else has ever had his body with the handle of a point guard and the shooting ability of a shooting guard. It’s ridiculous. If you stop one move, he’ll come at you with another. If you stop him in one direction, he’ll crossover to the other. Run him off the line? He’ll beat you in the post. Push him out the paint? Easy fallaway jumpshot. It’s exhausting to keep up with. He could average 27, 28 points in his sleep. At some point, as a defender, you just sit back and scratch your head, wondering what else you can try. Don’t think too hard. It would take a KD defensively to stop a KD offensively. Kawhi comes close, but even he can’t. You think Kawhi has him locked down, but you look up and he has 30. An easy 30. Who ever heard of such a thing? For most, 30 points is an above average night. For Kevin, its as mediocre as it gets. Maybe he’ll get really bored one day and just start throwing up half-court shots. That’s the only way to beat KD: if he beats himself. But he’s too smart a player to do that. He has full access to every single offensive weapon ever created. That’s what makes him the most unguardable player in the league.