Over the course of this week, the 76th Sense team will rank the Top 5 players at the guard, forward, and center positions through the first quarter of the season. Click here for Tuesday’s breakdown of the top guards. Let’s jump into our Top 5 forwards in the NBA so far this year.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Stats: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.3 blocks, 58% FG, 12% 3PT
Just when you thought Giannis couldn’t get any better, he takes another giant leap. He’s averaging career-highs in rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage. Giannis is leading the league in Player Impact Estimate (PIE) and is 5th in Net Rating. He’s led the Bucks to a 18-8 record and the best point differential in the NBA. The only knock on his game is that his three-point shooting has regressed. However, it has not affected the Bucks’ ability to shoot and knock down the deep ball. The Bucks are currently 2nd in the NBA in three-point attempts and 11th in three-point percentage. If Antetokunmpo keeps up this production, he should secure his first MVP trophy.
2. Anthony Davis
Stats: 27 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.8 blocks, 50% FG
While the Pelicans are only 14-15 and 10th in the Western Conference, it is not due to Anthony Davis. The stats are eye-popping, his 12 rebounds and 5 assists are both career-highs. He ranks 5th in PIE and 1st in Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Shockingly, AD has never won Defensive Player of the Year, but his current stats suggest he will be in consideration this season. If the Pelicans can find their way towards the top of the Western Conference standings, Davis will have a shot to overtake Giannis for the top forward spot.
3. Kawhi Leonard
Stats: 26 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 49% FG, 38% 3PT
Going into the season, there was some skepticism around what we may see from Kawhi Leonard. We hadn’t seen Kawhi play meaningful minutes in over a year so some questioned if Leonard was still a top 5 player in the NBA. Well, he has squashed those concerns very quickly. Kawhi is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point percentage. Leonard is 10th in PIE and 8th in PER. Also, the Raptors have the best record in the NBA and the second-best point differential. Kawhi has clearly elevated the Raptors to new heights and they have all the makings of a team that can not only get to the NBA Finals but potentially win the whole thing.
4. LeBron James
Stats: 28 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 52% FG, 37% 3PT
The LeBron-Lakers experience has been a bit of a mixed bag. Early in the season, he looked disengaged as the team struggled. However, the Lakers are finding their stride and have won seven of their last ten games. Over that span, LeBron has multiple 30+ games and a 42-point effort against the Spurs on Dec. 5th. Over the course of the season, LeBron is 2nd in PIE and 4th in PER. As the Lakers continue to climb the standings, I expect LeBron to take control offensively and start to fill up the box score even more. If so, LeBron should be in the conversation for his fifth MVP, joining Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to win five or more MVP awards.
5. Kevin Durant
Stats: 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 51% FG, 35% 3PT
It has been a strange year for Durant. Stephen Curry has missed 11 games forcing KD to become the primary scorer for the Warriors during that stretch. Golden State is 14-3 when Curry is on the floor and 5-6 when he is not on the floor. It is unclear if that is a testament to what Curry brings to their offense or an indictment of Durant. Regardless, KD’s numbers are in line with his career-averages however he is shooting a career-worst 35% from deep on his fewest attempts since 2013. It hard to pass judgement on Durant and the Warriors as they have proven time and again that they can flip the switch come April. KD rounds out the top five forwards in the league and I won’t be shocked if he starts inching towards to the top as the season progresses.