NBA superstars are complicated. Their games are so unique and multifaceted that you could fill pages upon pages trying to describe each one , but that would be too easy.
Summing each of them up with a single tweet, just 140 characters? Now that's a real challenge.
We all know about LeBron James' superb all-around game, but what really separates him from the rest of the NBA elite is his ability to hit what Tom Haberstroh aptly described as "cheat code mode."
LeBron is the only player in the league who has a sixth gear (though Kevin Durant is getting there). There comes a point in almost every Miami Heat game where LeBron thoroughly takes over. He just dominates both ends. And no one can do a thing about it.
Double-team him and he’ll always find a cutter or an open shooter. Decide not to double-team him and he’ll get into the paint and either score or find the open man. It happens almost every game, and it’s totally unfair.
Roddy White may play football and not basketball, but he still understands that Kevin Durant is very, very good at putting the ball through the hoop. Durant makes scoring look easy.
The jump in Durant's all-around game has partially masked his sensational scoring this season. Everyone knows he’s on pace to post 50-40-90 percentages this year, but the percentages alone aren’t the big story. It’s the sheer volume that Durant is scoring while maintaining those percentages that’s amazing.
Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry broke it down recently, basically saying that Durant is in the middle of perhaps the greatest scoring season of all time from a volume/efficiency standpoint. Historically, only Larry Bird can match what Durant is doing at the moment.
Think of it this way: If Durant took the same amount of shots this year that Kobe Bryant did during his 35-points-per-game 2005-06 campaign (assuming Durant suffers a drop in shooting percentages as well as an uptick in free-throw attempts), Durant would average over 40 points per game.
This one’s for both the Kobe Bryant lovers and haters. And it comes from the man himself (when he was live-tweeting his 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors).
Despite his phenomenal success, there's no question Kobe has been a lightning rod thanks to his sometimes-iffy shot selection and his do-it-myself approach to the game.
But Kobe does this stuff for a reason. He’s proven over the years that he can be a gifted playmaker if need be. But when his team is down and he’s feeling it, he wants the shots. He genuinely believes he’s the best chance his team has at winning. For better or for worse.
It doesn’t always work out, and when it doesn’t, the critics bemoan his unwillingness to share the rock. But in the end, Kobe has won five rings with this exact approach. Maybe he deserves a little space.
Chris Paul’s greatest weapon isn’t his passing, his jumper or his ability to get to the rack. It’s his command of the game.
Paul is always in control. He runs the show better than anyone else in the league. He knows how to get guys going, he regulates the tempo of the game perfectly and he understands when and how he needs to take over.
Paul’s one of the few guys in the league who can have what looks like a pedestrian 11-point, nine-assist game but still be the best guy on the court by far. He just leads the team and takes over when he has to.
It’s hard to think of a historical comparison for Rajon Rondo. He’s not particularly fast, yet he can get into the paint whenever he wants to. He’s the most creative passer in the league, but he pads his assist count almost to a fault—passing out of easy layups to try and rack up one more dime.
He’s barely over 6'0", yet he can rebound like a seven-footer. He’s moody and enigmatic. He’s either incredibly aggressive or maddeningly passive. He couldn't throw the ball in the ocean from 10 feet out, but he's still usually the best player on the court.
Rondo is genuinely one of the strangest, most unique players in NBA history. There’s no one like him.
Pre-injury, Derrick Rose was the Chicago Bulls offense. Everyone knew he was going to get into the paint, and every defender was totally geared toward him. And yet, somehow, Rose always managed to score.
As athletic as he is, Derrick Rose doesn’t dunk nearly as often as you would expect. Instead Rose tends to jackknife between defenders and lay the ball up. His body control is absolutely incredible. It has to be seen to be believed.
Kyrie Irving is just fun.
It may be just his second year in the league —and Kyrie is far from a finished product —but there’s no one in basketball more enjoyable to watch right now. His ball-handling is incredible, he can beat anybody off of the dribble and, with Rose out, nobody in the league attempts (and makes) more acrobatic shots around the rim.
Obviously Dwyane Wade is still a superb basketball player and a great athlete. He’s one of the elite shooting guards in the league, but as sad as it is, he’s on the decline now.
The Wade from a few years ago was an athletic terror. He was an absolute nightmare to stay in front of. It just couldn’t be done.
Now, Dwyane’s a bit slower. He does more damage from mid-range and in the post than he used to, and he can’t play sideline-to-sideline defense the way that he could in his prime. He’s still effective, just in different ways.
For years, Wade made his living as a shooting guard who couldn’t shoot very well. Now, he’s beating people with his smarts and skill—while still busting out super-athletic plays every now and then.
Contrary to popular opinion, Blake Griffin can do far more than just dunk. He’s one of the league’s best on the low block, and he’s become one of the most gifted passing big men in the NBA. However, it’s impossible to think of Griffin and not think of him throwing it down.
Blake's got a reputation for dunking all over people, and it’s hard to imagine that changing any time in the near future.
Has any player been more frustrating than Dwight Howard has this season? Statistically, he still ranks among the best big men in the league, but something is not quite right with him. Maybe it’s his back, or maybe it’s an effort thing, but he’s not the same two-way force he was with the Orlando Magic.
Dwight used to overwhelm people with athleticism. He could block anything, dunk anything and simply dominate his opponent athletically. That’s not the case right now. Just look at the difference in his reaction between George Hill’s game-winner and, say, this block on Mehmet Okur.
Howard’s undeniably slower and less explosive. Whether this is just temporary remains to be seen, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Efficiency has become James Harden’s hallmark.
Harden basically shoots from two locations: at the rim and behind the arc. That’s it. This season, Harden is taking a combined 12 shots at the rim or from three, compared to just 4.6 shots from any other location (per HoopData).
I’d say that’s a pretty good idea considering treys and shots at the rim are the two best shots in basketball. Couple that with the fact that no one in basketball earns more free throws (Harden gets to the stripe over 10 times per game), and you've got yourself a recipe for efficient scoring.
It’s not uncommon to see Harden put up scoring lines like he just did against the Miami Heat recently: 36 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 12-of-13 at the line. He's the ideal player for efficiency gurus everywhere.
Tim Duncan is, and forever will be, the most underrated player of his generation.
He's a two-time MVP with four rings, and yet almost no one would consider him one of the best big men in the game right now, if not the best. And that's despite the fact that his per-36-minute numbers this season are remarkably similar to what they were in 2001-02 and 2002-03—his two MVP seasons (per Basketball-Reference).
Tim Duncan just isn't flashy enough for the modern NBA. His trademark off-the-glass 15-footer and his ability to play smothering defense without fouling tend to elicit a yawn from casual fans. His remarkable consistency and effectiveness get swept under the rug by anyone without a real appreciation of the fundamentals.
What a shame.
Throw it up and go get it. That's a pretty apt description of Kevin Love's game and it comes from Love himself. His two greatest skills are just that—his shooting and his rebounding.
As far as big men go, Love's about as talented a shooter as any. Over the past two seasons (disregarding this year's injury-riddled season), Love has shot just under 40 percent from three on over four attempts per game.
That's pretty exceptional for a big man, yet still not nearly as impressive as his ability to crash the glass.
Over the past three years, Love has never averaged under 13 rebounds per game, despite the fact that virtually everyone in the league can out-jump him.
He just seems to have a nose for the ball, always working to out-position his man and always managing to come down with the 50-50 boards. It's remarkable, especially when you consider the amount of time he spends floating around the perimeter. Like he said, he just seems to put it up and go get it.
Just to clear things up, Russell Westbrook is not a shooting guard. He's a point guard—and a good one.
Westbrook is fifth in the league in assists per game (8.2), and his assist percentage (the percentage of field goals the player assisted on while on the floor) is seventh in the league at over 40 percent (per Basketball-Reference). Westbrook can and does pass the basketball.
However, the prototypical “pass first, score second” point guard is giving way to a new breed of points, and no one exemplifies that shift quite like Westbrook does. In some ways, he really does play like a shooting guard.
Westbrook is always on the attack and always looking for his shot. He's a score-first guard and makes no apologies for that. When he's aggressive, both he and the Oklahoma City Thunder are at their best.
Of course, there are times when Westbrook shoots too much. When he's cold, he tends to try to shoot himself out of his slump with off-the-dribble jumpers, often digging the Thunder into a hole. But even when he gets a bit shot-happy, Westbrook is one of the league's best.
Tony Parker is actually very fast. However, like his teammate Tim Duncan, Parker is perennially overlooked, so no one ever notices.
Parker is fast in a subtle sense. He doesn't immediately sprint the floor when a fast break develops. He goes about 75 percent while he surveys the defense, then he just explodes to the basket.
It's even the same when he's in a half-court setting. Parker will patiently probe the defense until he sees an opening. And then he's just gone, putting in an easy layup or his signature teardrop in the lane. Never fails to amaze.
Carmelo Anthony cannot be guarded.
When 'Melo attacks the rim and takes good shots—jumpers coming off of screens, shots from down on the low block—he joins LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the most difficult covers in the league. The problem is that 'Melo gets carried away sometimes.
No one in the NBA takes more heat-check shots than Anthony. When he's feeling it, he lets it fly no matter where he is.
Interestingly enough, he does pretty much the exact same thing when he's not shooting well. Much like Russell Westbrook, when 'Melo is frustrated, he tries to shoot himself out of slumps. He'll settle for deep, contested jumpers instead of working to get better shots.
But when 'Melo's at his best, he's absolutely petrifying. He's quicker than anyone big enough to guard him and bigger and stronger than anyone quick enough to guard him. There are maybe five or six guys in the league who can keep him in check. And when he's hot and taking smart shots, that list goes down to zero.