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NBA Most Captivating Players of 2016: Part 1

In part 1 of our MC50 series,we take a look at 10 of the NBA most captivating players of 2016, including Joel Embiid, J.R. Smith, and Russell Westbrook.

As the 2016 calendar year comes to an end, the LWOS MC50 series captures the 50 most captivating athletes from 2016 in each sport. For LWOPB, we take a look at the 50 NBA players who drew headlines this past year, whether it be for on court accomplishments, off-season drama, or happenings off the court.   

Here we analyze the first set of 10 players. A new MC50 article will be published every Saturday morning leading up to the new year.

NBA Most Captivating Players of 2016: Part 1

Kristaps Porzingis

The New York Knicks took Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis with the number four pick in the NBA draft, and he was spectacular. Whether it was his perimeter shooting, his interior defense, or even his highlight reel dunks, Porzingis was exceptional. He and Carmelo Anthony became a legit scoring duo; however, Porzingis’ play wasn’t the only thing that caught the eyes of fans. During the year, videos were released of Porzingis showing off his moves, but not quite his post moves.

Hassan Whiteside

Two seasons ago, Hassan Whiteside came out of nowhere to become one of the game’s best rim protectors and rebounders. Last season, he did just that, and then some. He averaged just under 12 rebounds game, and averaged an astonishing 3.7 blocks a game. Whiteside’s wingspan has also made him one of the harder guys in the league to shoot over. His ability to get boards, and block shots relentlessly made him the game’s best rim protector, and one of the best big men in the game.

Karl-Anthony Towns

With the first pick in the NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns; he was nothing short of phenomenal. Towns quickly became one of the game’s best two way bigs, and one of the best post players in the NBA. He even became a threat from the three point line. His ability to play out on the perimeter, be a facilitator, and even play in the post, make him the NBA’s most promising big man. It was also really special to see how easily Towns adjusted from college to the NBA. As he said himself in a Foot Locker video, you got to to take the next step once you hit the pros.

Russell Westbrook

In terms of excitement and pure talent, no player in the NBA is more notable than Russell Westbrook. He has become the NBA’s most talented player. While not a great shooter, Westbrook makes up for his shooting woes; he attacks the rim at will, is a great defender, and is a tenacious rebounder. In addition to his defensive attributes, Westbrook is maybe the league’s most relentless finisher. He can go coast to coast, and dunk on everyone and everything in his way. He is even currently averaging a triple double a game; it’s historic. Westbrook’s reactions after Kevin Durant ditched him and the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency, in addition to Westbrook’s decision to do the exact opposite of what Durant did by re-signing with the Thunder long term, further pushed him into the forefront of the NBA in 2016. Westbrook has become the leagues most exciting player, and has also shown what Mountain Dew can do for an NBA player such as himself.

C.J. McCollum

A little over a year ago, the Portland Trail Blazers were ripped apart in the offseason. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo all leaving in free agency, and the Blazers trading Nic Batum to the Charlotte Hornets, they were left without 80 percent of their starting lineup; it was unclear whether they would be able to even compete in the West; however, they ended up being the surprise of the West. Damian Lillard stepped up to become a star, but guard C.J. McCollum was the most pleasant surprise for Portland. He went from being a reserve guard to the team’s starting shooting guard. He ended up starting 80 games, averaging just under 21 points a game, and ended up winning the NBA’s most improved player award. McCollum’s rise from reserve to one of the game’s best shooting guards made him one of the biggest stories in 2016.

Derrick Rose

Last year, Derrick Rose played much like his old self. After years of injuries getting in the way, Rose looked explosive, and produced very well; however, his bounce back year wasn’t the biggest storyline surrounding him in 2016. Rose was traded to the New York Knicks in the offseason, in a move that shocked the NBA world. Rose leaving Chicago was something no one could imagine. He was the home grown kid, and the thought of him leaving was thought crazy; however, Rose didn’t seem too upset about being dealt by his hometown Bulls in his Knicks presser.

Mike Conley

Mike Conley had always been an underrated player, but over the summer he became recognized league wide when he agreed to resign with the Memphis Grizzlies. His deal totaled a whopping 5 year/ 153 million dollar deal, which is the biggest deal given out to a player in NBA history.

Conley is a very good two way player; he’s a good shooter, who can facilitate for his teammates, and is also a great defender. His play had been underrated in year’s past, but now he will be under the microscope for many people this year; the thought he is an unknown no loner exists.

J.R. Smith

Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith has never been one to shy away from a shot he didn’t like; he loves to put on a show. Last year, he did just that, both on and off the court. While Smith shot well from three both in the regular season and the postseason, he also found himself in headlines with his NBA Finals celebration ‘outfit’.

Joel Embiid

The Philadelphia 76ers have been a rebuilding team the past four years, and that’s been due to their recent draft picks. For example, in 2014 the 76ers drafted Kansas center Joel Embiid knowing that he had an injury which would keep him sidelined for the entire year; however, after missing the entire 2014-15 season, Embiid couldn’t get healthy enough to even appear in the 2015-16 season. His inability to even appear on the floor yet again in 2015-16 made him one of the more controversial topics in the NBA. However, ever since he did get on the floor at the beginning of the 2016 season, Embiid has shined. He has proven to be an elite talent with an entertaining personality and diverse skill set, ready to bring excitement back to Philadelphia basketball fans.

Stephen Curry

It’s no secret that Stephen Curry can shoot the lights out of any arena, and last season he backed up that notion. Averaging 30 points a game, Curry was able to notch his second straight MVP, this time as the first ever unanimous MVP. He established himself as the game’s best point guard, and maybe the most unguardable player in the league. He has become one of the three best players in the NBA, and he only appears to be getting better. His play represents the NBA’s transition to small ball. Curry has become the face and poster boy of the NBA.

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