With not much else to do other than play NBA 2k and think about what the Wolves MIGHT become in the future, I thought it might be fun to discuss who our favorite players to watch are. There are obviously a lot of great players in the league, but some are just more aesthetically pleasing than others. James Harden is a better player than, say, Damian Lillard, but the latter is far more pleasing to watch on your television screen.
Everyone has their own criteria for what makes a player pleasing to watch, but for me it generally comes down to how smooth a player moves, specifically on offense. If you have a different criteria, good for you, but I get to make the rules here. On that note, I’d like to bring up that there are very few bigs who, to me, are remarkably aesthetically pleasing. For that reason, we’re going to be very loose with our definition of positions.
Additionally, this isn’t necessarily who’s the most “fun” to watch. In that light, Giannis Antetokounmpo is someone I consider to be really exciting to watch, but is his battering-ram style of play “pleasing”? I don’t think so, and so he’s excluded partly for that reason and partly to bother my roommate, who’s a Bucks fan.
Let’s fill a 13-man roster.
The Starters - First Team All-Aesthetic
Guard - Kyrie Irving
You can argue all you want about where Irving falls in the upper echelon of NBA stars, but you cannot debate how silky smooth the man is with the ball. “Uncle Drew” has some of the best handles the league has ever seen, and isn’t afraid to test the bounds of what is possible or logical with the ball in his hands. The crazy dribble moves don’t always create a ton of space or move him into a better scoring position, but I’d rather watch Kyrie score 45+ than almost anyone.
Beyond the handles, it’s the shooting motion with Irving that is so pleasing. While it’s not the most efficient shot for the average NBA player, Irving is a dynamite shooter from the mid-range (and everywhere else). There are few things more beautiful to the eye than a perfect, smooth, in-rhythm pull-up jumper, and Irving hits those with regularity. I’d be wrong not to mention his bananas ability to finish from wild angles. He simply knows angles better than most anyone in the league.
Wing - Paul George (Captain)
I’ll be perfectly honest here, when it comes to favorite NBA players, I have a type, and Paul George is exactly it. A tall, long, smooth wing player that makes everything from playing the passing lanes to 360 dunks and bombing threes look incredibly effortless. His MVP-type season from 2018-19 was one of my favorites to follow in recent memory.
George is the captain of this team because outside of being the smoothest player in the league (personal preference), and making Irving the captain of a team has proven to be a terrible idea. It’s really hard to go further about just exactly what makes him so aesthetically pleasing. It’s one of those things where you know it when you see it. If you made me go further, it would be the long strides and soft touch, as well as the ability to easily snake around screens and get into the passing lanes.
Wing - Jayson Tatum
Is this premature? Maybe, but this is my team. If George is the captain/leader of the team, Tatum is the apprentice, the young protege waiting to take over. No two players are the same, but Tatum is beginning to resemble George in remarkable fashion. He’s tall and long, and has shown this year that he’s a remarkable “nail” defender who creates havoc in the passing lanes, as well as being capable of elite pull-up shooting.
Tatum has always been good and smooth, but the mastery of the side-step into the three-point shot that he’s broken out this year has brought his aesthetic to a new level. It won’t be long before he’s captain of this prestigious team.
Wing - Kevin Durant
Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s coming back from an injury and we don’t know what he’ll look like when he comes back.
It would be wrong to make a compilation of the smoothest, most aesthetically pleasing players in the league without including Durant. It’s a similar story as with George and Tatum here — tall, long, and great pull-up shooting. There’s simply never been a player quite like Kevin Durant. He makes contested, fadeaway jumpers look way too easy. It’s almost criminally easy for him, really.
An underrated part of Durant’s game is his understanding of angles around the rim. He doesn’t get to the rim quite as often as other superstars, but his touch is so good that his efficiency in that area makes up for the lack of volume. Of course, there’s the signature silky-smooth free-throw routine too. I’m the only who cared about that? Oops.
Big - Anthony Davis
There were a couple options here, but few check all of the boxes quite like AD does. It’s funny, for guards and wings, we talk about how “smooth” they are. For big guys, like Davis, it seems “fluid” is a more common term used to describe their game, although the same general point is getting across.
While Davis did develop a few haters after his trade demand from New Orleans, he still is a near 7-footer who pulled a Shammgod during a real, live, NBA guy. That doesn’t happen. He’s lethal at the rim on both ends of the floor and while he relies on the jumper too often, it looks good coming off the hand in most cases, which is all we really care about for this team.
The Bench - Second Team All-Aesthetic
Guard - Damian Lillard
In another world, Lillard might be captain of this team. Unfortunately for him, this world includes a lot of really good athletes who make everything look remarkably easy. He doesn’t get into things quite as easily as Irving, but when Dame gets going, there’s nobody more must-see than he is in the league. His ability to shoot from deep with ease is second only to Stephen Curry, and his walk-off against Oklahoma City last year was one of the smoothest, coldest shots I’ve ever seen.
Guard - Devin Booker
Booker has always been on bad teams and is often found in the “empty stats” conversation, but I know for certain he’s a joy to watch play offense. He’s wonderful with the ball in his hands, both as a scorer and a passer, but the basketball nerd in me mostly loves watching him come off screens and set his feet with ease before connecting on a jumper.
Wing - Klay Thompson
Thompson doesn’t quite fit the same mold as the other guys on this team since he barely is able to dribble at the level of a mid-major collegiate player, but the shooting stroke is too buttery to be excluded. There’s guys with quick releases, and then there’s Klay (Steph, too). Klay gets bonus points from me for being one of the goofiest guys in the league.
Wing/Forward - Jonathan Isaac
This is admittedly a chunk of basketball hipster coming out of me, but Isaac is one of the most fascinating players to watch, especially on defense. He’s long and fluid, and is generally in the business of making your life miserable without breaking a sweat. He isn’t as high profile as the other players on this team (yet), but he’s coming.
Big - Karl-Anthony Towns
Possibly a homer pick here, but I don’t care. I love watching KAT play and he moves way too easily for someone that size. Also, it makes no sense how easily he makes threes simply by flicking his wrist.
Guard - Stephen Curry
Steph probably belongs on the list somewhere, as he’s smooth as silk, but I just prefer the other guys. Either that or I’m holding a grudge as a LeBron guy.
Guard - Brad Beal
Save Brad Beal! In all seriousness, Beal is a great scorer from pretty much everywhere on the floor. He’s another personal favorite. I’d like to see him on a different team, preferably the Timberwolves.
Wing - Brandon Ingram
I told you I have a type! I’m a sucker for the tall, lanky forwards who can create and shoot. I really enjoyed watching Ingram’s breakout this season.
Who’d I miss, other than Andrew Wiggins?