Top 15 One On One NBA Players: 15-11

With the NBA lockout rolling through the summer months with no end in sight, we have seen various NBA players appear around the country in numerous summer leagues and playground settings.  Without the lockout, we wouldn’t see the large amounts of Internet highlights and YouTube sensations that have arisen this summer.  Instead of looking forward to the Heat rebounding from their Finals loss, the Celtics’ closing championship window, or the Lakers with Mike Brown, we’re seeing videos of Kevin Durant dropping 66 at Rucker Park.  

Seeing NBA players in this relatively new and different setting has been a way for us to cope with the depressing realtiy of the lockout, but it also got me thinking as to the best one-on-one players in the game today.  If you went to the local court in the park, which NBA player would you pick to win a one-on-one showdown?  Keep in mind that a great one-on-one game isn’t just offensive scoring ability in isolation, but lockdown defense too.  There isn’t a way to quantify this list, so this list is only one opinion worth discussing.  Over the next three days, we’ll give you our list of the Top 15 one-on-one players in the NBA today, starting today with #15-#11.  Leave comments and discuss who is too high or too low and who may be yet to come.

15) Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors

We start the list with a surprise name.  Monta Ellis isn’t usually listed among the elite scorers or players in the Association, but his game is perfectly suited to the park court setting.  Ellis is a 1 on 1 scoring machine.  His offense isn’t created off of swift ball movement or spotting up and depending on others.  Monta consistently creates his own shot (most of the time willingly).  Ellis can break down defenders off the dribble and has a killer mid-range jumper to play off his driving ability.  Of course, larger players would eat him alive on defense, but Monta should be used to that playing for the Warriors.

14) Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

Garnett is the oldest player on this list (35) and his offensive and defensive abilities aren’t near the prime of his career, when he would have made the Top 5 on this countdown, but he still deserves a spot in the Top 15.  Garnett’s offense has largely been relegated to his jump shot, but like Karl Malone late in his career, it is nearly automatic.  Garnett can simply keep going to his fade away “J” time and time again against any defensive opponent.  While KG has excelled in Boston’s team defense, his individual defensive game doesn’t stand out as elite anymore.  His fire and intensity will never be surpassed though, and it still makes him someone that belongs on this list.  And as the video above shows, he’s willing to get in your jersey.

13) Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

CP3 flashed his brilliance this past postseason in New Orleans’ first round series against the Lakers, brilliance we hadn’t seen since he finished second in the MVP voting in 2008.  Does it seem possible that Chris Paul is 26?  His career has already went through peaks and valleys, free agency drama, and trade concerns.  With his game back on the upswing once again, he sneaks onto our list at #13.  The extent of Paul’s offense and his passing ability isn’t fully actualized in the one-on-one situation.  But whether it’s against bigger or smaller defenders, Paul can score at the rim (watch him crossover Kobe above) and has shot a surprisingly good 39.7% from three the last two years.  On defense, Paul has led the league in steals four times in his young career already.

12) Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

When CC compiled our Teams of the Millennium, Paul Pierce may have been a surprise inclusion at the small forward spot.  Nearly every single element of Paul Pierce has been underrated throughout his career.  His scoring, defense, and leadership were the catalyst of Boston’s championship.  His 2008 Finals MVP seemed to be more of a validation of Pierce’s Hall of Fame career (I wonder if his wheelchair will be a part of his induction).  Pierce has never been among the flashiest scorers and can barely lift over a small insect on his jump shot, but he continually finds ways to score.  Although Pierce has slowed down his personal offense with Boston’s Big 4, he is still an elite iso player.  One has to only look back at the footage of his 4th Quarter performance against the Nets in Boston’s famous 2002 comeback to see the truth of Pierce’s lethal one-on-one game.  

11) Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks 

Carmelo Anthony may very well turn into the lost player of this generation.  A supreme scorer, but one that could never lead his team close to a championship.  Anthony’s Nuggets reached one Western Conference Final and his Knicks now face a daunting Eastern Conference as they chase superstar players and the Miami Heat.  Anthony is another player that creates a large portion of offense on his own (just check these highlights against the C’s and some of the impossible shots ‘Melo strokes) and has a more diverse offensive game than most give him credit for.  He is the 4th leading active scorer in the NBA, but he’s never going to sniff an All-NBA defensive team.  Perhaps that’s why he’s such a good fit in New York… and why his teams haven’t won a championship yet.

Photo via Zimbio