Let's start with a few big names that don't belong on this list:
Here are the best of the rest in the NBA.
13. Dwight Howard
2013-2014 season statistics (PPG: points per game, BPG: blocks, RPG: rebounds, SPG: steals)
Three years ago Howard was a MVP candidate. A back surgery and two teams later he isn't quite what he used to be. He is still the most physically imposing center in the NBA, especially on defense, and will always rebound at a high rate. Howard lacks polish to his offensive game but is improving as he continues to get healthier. Poor free throw shooting will most likely exclude him from future MVP conversations.
12. Kevin Love
By numbers alone Love is one of the best players of the past five seasons. He is a double-double machine averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds in three of his last four seasons. His ability to score inside and beyond the three point line make him a versatile big who can space the floor. The problem with Love is that he has played his whole career in Minnesota and failed to lead his team to the playoffs even once. That's pretty much a deal breaker. It will most likely be a with a new franchise that Love will reach his full potential as a star. Perhaps the Lakers or Mavericks in 2015?
11. Anthony Davis
His name might not be household, but his brow is beginning to be thanks to a national commercial with James Harden. The guy is a flat out game changer with unlimited potential. He is very young playing in only his second season, but he has already put up dominate numbers. Davis can get it done on both sides of the court. He is already the best shot blocker by a wide margin, he has the agility to cover perimeter bigs, he can hit jump shots and score inside. He is a future superstar once the Pelicans improve around him and earn some televised games. Davis needs to fill out his lanky frame, but once he does, look out.
10. Tony Parker
He might not have the flashy stats or highlights that many other players on this list have, but he is a consistent winner with plenty of big game experience. Parker would have been the Finals MVP if the Heat hadn't pulled out a miracle in Game 6 last season. He has an uncanny ability to finish drives and awkward shots when his team needs it the most. At 31, he has watched Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili's skills diminish but he continues to enjoy his prime years even when no one notices. He is not the best defender at his position, and he does have a tendency to be streaky, but for a must-win one game scenario, there aren't many players more valuable than Parker. Playing in San Antonio for Greg Popovich will not make Parker a star, but he has three championships to keep him satisfied.
9. James Harden
I was skeptical when the Beard went to Houston to be the lead dog after a wildly successful sixth man role with the Thunder. All he did was finish in the top five in scoring while leading the Rockets to a playoff appearance. His play attracted free agent Dwight Howard and the Rockets are now poised to finish near the top of the Western Conference. Harden is a scorer first and foremost and has trouble with turnovers and defense. An improvement in those areas could be the difference between a nice player and one that is capable of leading a team to a championship.
8. Blake Griffin
We're starting to see the potential come to fruition for Griffin. As predicted, he would need time to develop as a truly great player, but there was no doubt he would considering his legendary work ethic. He has improved his free throw shooting, jump shooting, and consistency this season. An injury to Chris Paul earned him the spotlight and he did not disappoint. Griffin averaged 30+ points as he lead the Clippers to a 12-6 mark in Paul's absence. Everyone knows he can finish at the rim, but he is also a very skilled ball handler and passer at his size. He also boasts the best hands in the NBA and will catch any pass in his huge radius. Griffin still has a lot to improve on defensively and in the post before reaching his full potential.
7. Russell Westbrook
For some reason the public loved Derrick Rose but have not fully embraced the combination of power and grace that is Westbrook. Three knee surgeries in a six month span have kept him from playing much this season, but when he is on the court he is almost always the best athlete playing. He can get his patented elbow jump shot any time he wants, and can blow by defenders and finish at the rim. He is active defensively using his athleticism to lock down point guards across the NBA and can rebound like a small forward. The knock on Westbrook is that he takes too many tough shots and takes away shots from Durant. Westbrook's ultra competitiveness and unwavering belief in his game is why he is so successful. He is never afraid of the moment and will never take a back seat to anyone, not even Durant.
6. Paul George
George's popularity hit an all time high around Christmas. After his excellent playoff series against LeBron James and the Heat, George was being mentioned among the NBA elite. At his best, he can lock down his opponents best player while filling up the stat sheet on offense. He is fearless at winning time typically scoring most of his points in the fourth quarter. George has lead the Pacers to the best record in the Eastern Conference and on a lesser team would probably have much better offensive stats. A recent offensive lull has knocked his status down a peg, but everyone will forget about that come playoff time. If George becomes more consistent he will stake his claim as a top five NBA player. Beating the Heat and making the Finals will help with that also.
5. Stephen Curry
He has already been compared to the greatest shooters in NBA history despite playing only three full seasons. He has a lightning quick release and smooth stroke as well as the ability to create space off the dribble. When he gets into a groove, he is nearly impossible to stop. He is basically Kevin Durant minus eight inches. He still suffers from a high turnover percentage, and like Durant, his slight body frame prevents him from being an elite defender. He is currently enjoying his best season as a pro and the Warriors future looks very bright. Curry is one deep playoff run from ascending rapidly on everyone's list.
4. Carmelo Anthony
He's pretty easy to criticize but it doesn't change the fact that Anthony is the second best scorer in the NBA behind Durant. He can fill it up from three and muscle it to the rim. He has improved his rebounding and efficiency this season. Despite the Knicks being an embarrassment, he has never played harder or been closer to his potential. Anthony is a volume shooter who looks to score first and although capable, does not play defense consistently. Until he can take a team past the second round of the playoffs there will always be questions on whether or not he can win a championship, but there is no denying the talent.
3. Chris Paul
Paul's competitive ferocity has made him an elite NBA player for several years. He is a pass first point guard but relishes putting his team on his back in the fourth quarter. He is the best defender at his position and can pull down rebounds when it's needed. Like Anthony, Paul has never been past the second round of the playoffs. After forcing his way out of New Orleans, Paul signed with the Clippers in hopes of making a playoff run. The Western Conference is filled with great teams but Paul has to lead his team to the Western Conference Finals if he wants to hold his place at the table. He has the coach, the complimentary star and the veteran bench. Big things are expected out of Paul and the Clippers.