What makes a franchise player? A franchise player is not simply the best player (although usually he is). He is the player that a team can build around. He is the nucleus of the franchise, and team succeeds or fails through him.
1. Lebron James- Cleveland Cavaliers
Lebron is obviously the best player in the NBA, and he made a humble decision to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. We could sit here and list all of his stats and milestones, but his 4 straight NBA Finals appearances with the Miami Heat is the reason why Cleveland is so happy to have him back. He is so coveted that the Cavaliers made “For6iven” T-shirts before he even announced his decision. The 10-time NBA All-Star has a lot of dominant years left, which is why he is the top Franchise Player.
2. Kevin Durant- Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the NBA, and the pressure is growing for Durant with every coming year to lead the Thunder to a Championship. He took a big step this year by winning the MVP, but in another sense he has taken a step back by failing to get to the Finals in the last two years after winning the Western Conference in 2012. Nonetheless, he has taken this Thunder team deep into the playoffs in each of the last 3 years. He is among the best in the NBA, and will get his chance to lead the Thunder back to the Finals.
3. Stephen Curry- Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry is the best shooter in the NBA, and he has led the Golden State Warriors from a team at the bottom of the West to a legitimate title contender in the last few years. He has gone through some trying times with the Warriors this offseason, with the firing of head coach Mark Jackson who he greatly supported, and the talks of dealing Klay Thompson, his fellow Splash Brother in the back court. But the Warriors are now under Steve Kerr, who has a great franchise player to work with. Stephen Curry is third on this list because of his leadership on the team and his undeniable skill set, as it comes to shooting, ball handling and vision on the floor. The Warriors are becoming a premier franchise under their star Point Guard Curry.
4. Tim Duncan- San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan is the best big man in the NBA, and is still a top 5 franchise player despite the fact that he has 1, maybe 2 years left. That is how valuable he is. For however long Tim Duncan decides to stay out of retirement, the Spurs will be top title contenders, even favorites.The Big Fundamental has a steady, unwavering post game that has stood the test of time. He has won 5 Championships with the Spurs, and a 6th is more than possible.
5. Chris Paul- Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul is the best true point guard in the NBA, but he has never been past the second round of the playoffs. Yes, it is very hard to win in the West, as commentator Jeff Van Gundy put it, “The West is the Varsity and the East is JV”. Despite this, Chris Paul needs to find a way to win in the next few years or it will create turmoil in the organization. Chris Paul is in the top 5 as the captain of the Clippers team that has been a force in the West since the Paul and Griffin era. He is unselfish, confident, and knocking on the door of greatness.
6. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose may rise on this list, he just has to prove it. He has played a grand total of 10 games since the 2012 playoffs, so we just don’t know if he is a top-tier franchise player anymore. He has definitely shown us some of the old Derrick Rose in the Team USA events as of late. The Bulls have done well in his absence, which is a good sign of things to come. This explosive superstar is ready to take his team to the top of the East again.
7. Carmelo Anthony- New York Knicks
It’s about time for Melo to man up and take the Knicks to the playoffs. I’m clearly not the only one saying this, most of New York probably feels this way as well. It’s his team, and to be a Superstar he has to take the Knicks back to the playoffs. No other way to put it.
8. Paul George- Indiana Pacers
The horrific injury to Paul George does not change his position on the team. He is responsible for taking the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals the last two years. And he is the one that will be responsible for their success going forward. We will see how important he is to the team this year, by how much the Pacers slip.
9. Damian Lillard- Portland Trailblazers
Damian Lillard is emerging as one of the premier point guards in the NBA. He led the Trailblazers to the playoffs, and a first round win over the Rockets, the first time the Blazers came out of the first round since 2000. Below is his career highlight so far, one of many to come. He drained a fadeaway three pointer to clinch the series against Houston. Absolutely clutch. Lillard is making the Blazers a real contender in the West.
10. Dirk Nowitzki- Dallas Mavericks
Dirk has a great chance to get the Mavs deep into the playoffs this year. To let you know the kind of team player he is, he took a 15% million pay cut to stay with the Mavericks, so that they would have enough money to strengthen their squad. He is making nearly 1/3 what he made a year ago! He can still play at a high level and deserves to be in the top 10 of this ranking.
11. Dwight Howard- Houston Rockets
Howard is one of the best centers in the NBA. And, lucky for Houston, he seems some what at peace with the Rockets… for now. He doesn’t necessarily have the best track record when it comes to sticking with teams, which makes it difficult to build around him if he always darts out the door. But if he stays in Houston, they can build a contending squad around D12.
12. Kobe Bryant- Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe still deserves to be up their with the best in this ranking, because he is Kobe. He has led the Lakers to multiple Championships and he is definitely a Hall of Famer. He is at Number 12 because he is old and injury-prone, but I am quite sure that he has one last playoff push left even with the talent-lacking Lakers.
13. Kemba Walker- Charlotte Hornets
Kemba Walker led the Bobcats to the playoffs in maybe the franchise’s best season ever. Granted, that Bobcats franchise only lasted 10 years and have now changed their name to the Charlotte Hornets of years past. But that shows the leadership of this young Point Guard. Even with the acquisition of Big Al Jefferson last season and SG Lance Stephenson this summer, this is still Kemba’s team. The Charlotte Hornets will be scary in the East next season led by their franchise player Kemba Walker.
14. John Wall- Washington Wizards
John Wall took a big step up in the Franchise player rankings this season by taking the Wizards into the Second Round of the NBA Playoffs. Not many people saw that coming. He is scraping the surface of the All-Star level.
15. Chris Bosh- Miami Heat
Chris Bosh is the Miami Heat’s new franchise player because Lebron left and he has a $120 Million contract that says so. Bosh is an excellent wing scorer, but he has not proved that he can lead a team, since he never did anything with the Raptors. We will see this season if Bosh was worth the big money.
16. Jeff Teague- Atlanta Hawks
Jeff Teague has the Hawks on the rise in the East. His He was oh-so-close to knocking off the Number 1 seeded Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, which would have brought him even further up this list. The Hawks haven’t been good in a while, and Teague is building a team that is capable of contending in the East.
17. Joe Johnson- Brooklyn Nets
Joe Johnson is the centerpiece of quite frankly the oldest team in the League. They managed to upset the Number 3 seeded Raptors in the first round of the playoffs in 2014, but they just didn’t really have a chance to go further than that. This year is in my opinion the Nets last chance for a long time to contend for a title. With the major shake ups in the East, we don’t know if the Cavaliers are going to mesh together in one year, and Joe Johnson has established a chemistry on the Nets that has the opportunity to overpower talent with teamwork. But with the departure of Paul Pierce, the Nets contention years may already be over. We will have to see.
18. Anthony Davis- New Orleans Pelicans
The Number 1 pick of the 2012 Draft is the centerpiece of this Pelicans team that has a chance to sneak in the playoffs. He needs to make dew with his mediocre point guard in Austin Rivers and dominant teams in the paint and on the boards.
19. Rajon Rondo- Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo is one of the most committed team players in the NBA. The fact that he stuck with the Celtics when the entire (old) “Big 3” illustrates that statement. He gets this somewhat low ranking though, because he just hasn’t done much with his team yet. The next step he takes as a leader is leading the Celtics back to competitiveness.
20. Victor Oladipo- Orlando Magic
Maybe a surprising ranking to some, but Oladipo is quietly becoming the main piece in the rebuilding of the Magic. Yes, the Magic weren’t very competitive last year, or the last few years. But Oladipo is becoming a star guard in the NBA.
21. Ty Lawson- Denver Nuggets
Ty Lawson is the leader of the Nuggets, its just that the Nuggets aren’t really going anywhere.
22. Rudy Gay- Sacremento Kings
Rudy Gay might be a better franchise player if he could stay in one spot.
23-25. Andrew Wiggins- Minnesota Timberwolves; Jabari Parker- Milwaukee Bucks; Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers
In no particular order, each member of the Big 3 of the 2014 NBA Draft (with Wiggins now traded to the Wolves) have stepped into possible Franchise Player roles on their respective teams, which is what the teams are looking for. They each will be expected to be the centerpiece in the rebuilding years, and the star player moving forward.
26-28. Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Phoenix Suns
These three teams are a lot different from the rest. They do not have an obvious “Franchise player” on their squad, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Each one of these teams are playoff contenders, and they have success by playing team basketball. This goes to show that a team does not need a franchise player to be successful, but in my opinion you need a franchise player to win a Championship.
29-30. Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons
The Jazz and the Pistons are at the bottom of the pile, because they have no Franchise player, and they aren’t good. These teams will look forward to their next lottery pick.
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