The decade of the 2010s was filled with everlasting memories for NBA fans all over the globe. The 2010s kicked off with Kobe Bryant winning the final title of his career. We had the miraculous run of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki to follow it up, The Miami Heat Big 3 was formed and went to 4 straight NBA Finals, winning two of them. LeBron James left Cleveland, won 2 championships, came back to deliver the franchise’s first title, and left again to L.A. all in the same decade. Meanwhile, a young kid named Stephen Curry transformed into the greatest shooter to ever play the game while forming a dynasty before our very eyes.
The 2010s was the decade in which the game was changed forever. The three-point shot became more prevalent than ever with 3x more shots from beyond the arc going up than in any other decade. The players took back control of their own destinies with stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden all forcing their way to new situations where they could compete for championships. The 2010s laid the groundwork for the product that is before us today. This list before you today highlights the greatness of every player from every NBA franchise that made the 2010s special.
Here is every NBA team’s greatest player from the decade that was the 2010s.
Atlanta Hawks – Al Horford
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Hawks): 4x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
If there was any player during the 2010s who was the perfect combination of consistency and production, it was Al Horford for the Hawks. Horford made name for himself early on in the decade for his defensive abilities and the way he could stretch the floor as a big and knock-down shots. He was an efficient scorer and tremendous passer, especially from the high post. He was as complete as any center in the league at the time and it led to 8 playoff berths in 9 seasons with the team.
Horford started off the first two seasons of the 2010s with back-to-back All-Star selections and an All-NBA Third Team selection in the 2010-11 season. That season he averaged 15.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 1.0 BPG. In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Horford reached his peak with the Hawks with over 17.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG in back-to-back seasons. In 2014-15, Horford helped the Hawks reach the Eastern Conference Finals. He averaged 14.4 PPG and 8.6 RPG but Atlanta fell to the Cavaliers 4 games to 0. Without Horford’s two-way success on the floor, the Hawks don’t have the competitive chance to win that they had in the 2010s.
Boston Celtics – Paul Pierce
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Celtics): 3x All-Star
The Boston Celtics had a few players who could have been named their best of the decade. Jayson Tatum played just 2 years in the decade but in one of those years, he played a significant role on a team that went to the Eastern Conference Finals. Isaiah Thomas was a legitimate MVP candidate who nearly willed the Celtics to a Conference Finals of his own. Still, neither of them put in the body of work that Paul Pierce did for Boston. “The Truth” remains the Celtics’ greatest player for both the 2000s and 2010s.
Pierce was named an All-Star for 3 consecutive seasons to begin the decade but it was pretty clear he was no longer in his prime. In the 2011-12 season, Pierce was still a 19.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG player and played a big part in bringing the Celtics back within one game of the NBA Finals. Pierce contributed 18.9 PPG and 6.1 RPG in the playoffs but Boston fell to Miami in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals. He may have been slightly on the downside of his peak, but Paul Pierce is the greatest Celtic of the 2010s.
Brooklyn Nets – Brook Lopez
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Nets): 1x All-Star
The 2010s were a rough transition phase for the Nets franchise. They were still rebuilding after the success of the 2000s teams that were competing for championships. They had moved from New Jersey to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn under new ownership. They also made a series of bad moves that potentially set them back for the foreseeable future. One bright spot among all of this was center Brook Lopez. By the end of the decade, Lopez would become the Nets’ all-time leading scorer and 3rd all-time leading rebounder.
Lopez was really good to start the decade on some really bad teams. From 2010 to 2012, the Nets didn’t win more than 24 games in a season but Lopez was still putting up 20.0 PPG and 6.0 RPG. Lopez played just 5 games in 2011-12 and subsequently, the Nets suffered because of it but when he came back in 2013, he was terrific. Lopez was named an All-Star for the only time in his career and averaged 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 2.1 BPG. The Nets won 49 games that year but lost in 7 games in the first round. Lopez was never able to get past the first round of the playoffs with the Nets but he undoubtedly left his mark on the franchise in the 2010s.
Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Hornets): 4x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
Nobody has made a larger impact on the Charlotte Hornets since 2010 than Kemba Walker. Kemba was one of the league’s most exciting point guards at the height of the decade and by the end of it, he was an All-NBA talent. Walker’s scintillating handles and shooting wowed the Charlotte crowd nightly when they didn’t have much more than Walker to cheer about.
The Hornets only went to the playoffs twice during Walker’s stint there and both appearances resulted in first-round exits. The last time they went to the playoffs was in the 2015-16 season when Walker led the Hornets with 20.9 PPG and 5.2 APG. During his final season with the team in 2018-19, Kemba averaged a career-high 25.6 PPG and 5.9 APG. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team for the only time in his career. As it stands, Walker is the Hornets’ all-time leader in points and 3-pointers made. Although it was a decade the Hornets would like to forget, it is no doubt who the franchise’s shining start was.
Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Bulls): 1x MVP, 1x Rookie Of The Year, 3x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
We have come to the time that we have to painfully reminisce about Derrick Rose in the early 2010s. He deserves the recognition though as he took the Bulls from a reeling franchise to a legitimate contender at just 22 years old. He became the youngest MVP in NBA history and had the Bulls on the verge of their first Finals appearance since the days of Michael Jordan. Until fate sadly struck one night in 2012 that changed the course of his career and NBA history.
After wrapping up the 2000s with a Rookie of the Year campaign, Derrick Rose had his eyes set on much more. He became an All-Star in his second season with Chicago averaging 20.8 PPG and 6.0 APG while leading the Bulls to 41 wins and a .500 record. The following season he would make history by becoming the NBA’s youngest MVP ever with 25.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 7.7 APG. The Bulls won 62 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost in 5 games to the Heat. He had the Bulls right back the following season with 56 regular-season wins but suffered a career-altering knee injury just 5 games into the playoffs. Despite the injury and what could have been, Rose’s MVP and years surrounding it make him Chicago’s greatest of the 2010s.
Cleveland Cavaliers – LeBron James
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Cavaliers): 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 1x MVP, 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA Team Selection
LeBron James’ decade with the Cleveland Cavaliers started about as rocky as possible. In the 2010 offseason, James spurned Cleveland for the Heat to form a Big 3 with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This set off the Cleveland fans resulting in near riots and burning of his jerseys in the streets. By the end of the decade, all was forgiven for LeBron as he led them to one of the greatest titles and their first title in franchise history.
LeBron began the decade with an MVP campaign for the Cavaliers. He then left the Cavs for 4 seasons to go to Miami where he got his first taste of championship glory. James returned in 2015 much to the delight of Cavs fans despite the earlier tantrums. In his first season back, James led the Cavs to the NBA Finals but ultimately lost to the Warriors in 6 games. LeBron led them right back the following season against an even better Warriors team and delivered the greatest story in NBA history. After falling 3-1 in the Finals, James and the Cavs stormed back to capture the title with LeBron named Finals MVP. He averaged 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RPG, and 8.9 APG to lead the charge. Off of 2016 alone, LeBron is easily the greatest Cavaliers player of the 2010s.
Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Mavericks): 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection
Before the 2010s, a lot was to be said about Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs excelling in the regular season but falling short in the playoffs. They were right to criticize Dallas for their playoff shortcomings at the time. They had blown a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals and in Dirk’s 2007 MVP season, failed to get out of the first round. These 2 instances hurt the most amongst many other playoff shortcomings. In 2011, Dirk Nowitzki put all of the doubt and criticism to bed.
The 2010-11 season was like any other in recent memory for the Mavericks. Dirk was his normal 20.0 PPG and 7.0 RPG MVP-level self while they won 57 games in the regular season. The playoffs came with the same old expectations of a disappointment for Dallas but what followed was remarkable. The Mavs kept on winning and beating teams they weren’t supposed to in the Western Conference playoffs. They kept winning until they faced one final test, the newly formed Miami Heat superteam with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Dallas dropped 2 out of the first 3 games of the series until they responded with 3 straight wins behind Dirk. He averaged 26.0 PPG and 9.7 RPG to capture Finals MVP and deliver the first championship in Mavericks history.
Denver Nuggets – Nikola Jokic
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Nuggets): 1x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
In the 2010s, Nikola Jokic was nowhere near the back-to-back MVP talent that he is today. However, his numbers are still incredible and he wrapped up the decade with An All-Star appearance and an All-NBA First Team selection. You could see just how special of a player he was gearing up to become during this time with his incredible playmaking and basketball IQ. He let it be known in the 2019 NBA playoffs and solidified himself as Denver’s greatest of the 2010s.
In 4 seasons in the 2010s, Jokic averaged 16.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 5.1 APG overall. The 2018-19 season would be his best of them all. During the regular season, he averaged 20.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 7.3 APG on 51.1% shooting. He led the Nuggets to the playoffs where he had them 1 game within reach of the Western Conference Finals. They fell to the Trail Blazers in 7 games but the NBA was put on notice to look out for Nikola Jokic. Over 14 playoff games, Jokic put up 25.1 PPG, 13.0 RPG, and 8.4 APG on 50.6% shooting overall. This was just a sign of things to come for Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Pistons): 2x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection
The Detroit Pistons were one of the worst teams in the NBA during the 2010s. I mean they were so bad that they only won more than 40 games twice in 10 years. One of the bright spots for the franchise for a time during the 2010s was Andre Drummond. Andre Drummond was a two-time All-Star and four-time rebounding champ during his days with the Pistons. He was selected to the All-NBA Third Team once in 2016 as well. Things ended poorly between Drummond and the franchise as he forced his way out in 2020.
That doesn’t take away from the force Drummond was especially on the boards for Detroit. From 2014 to 2019, Drummond averaged 14.9 PPG and 14.5 RPG while leading the NBA in total rebounds and RPG 4 times. He even led the Pistons to the playoffs twice in 2016 and 2019 but both trips ended in first-round sweeps. Drummond peaked offensively in 2018-19 when he averaged 17.3 PPG and 15.6 RPG. He sits 2nd in Detroit history in total rebounds with 8,199.
Golden State Warriors – Stephen Curry
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Warriors): 3x NBA Champion, 2x MVP, 6x All-Star, 6x All-NBA Team Selection
As the 2010s began, Stephen Curry was a relatively unknown rookie with the Golden State Warriors. Over the next 10 seasons, he would evolve into the NBA’s greatest shooter in history while changing the game as we know it. The first 3 seasons of Curry’s career were quiet and filled with uncertainty amid rotational issues and coaching discrepancies. By the time 2013 came around, Curry was turned loose and immediately started to thrive.
In 2014, Curry was selected as an All-Star for the first time averaging 24.0 PPG and 8.5 APG on 42.4% shooting from 3-point range. The next two seasons, he would take home back-to-back MVP awards and take home 3 of the next 4 NBA titles with the Warriors. In 2016, Curry was named the NBA’s first-ever unanimous MVP as he won the scoring title with 30.1 PPG and steals title with 2.1 SPG and led the Warriors to 73 wins. He emerged as the game’s greatest shooter and 2nd greatest point guard all in the span of 6 seasons in the 2010s and it continues to this day. For the decade and even with his earlier years, Curry averaged 23.1 PPG 4.4 RPG, and 6.8 APG on 47.7% shooting overall and 43.6% from three.
Houston Rockets – James Harden
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Rockets): 1x MVP, 7x All-Star, 6x All-NBA Team Selection
James Harden went from the NBA’s best Sixth Man with the Thunder to an MVP with the Rockets during the 2010s. He began the decade in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform and ended in a Rockets one having had one of the greatest offensive peaks ever. From the moment Harden arrived in Houston, he was an All-Star who had all the tools to lead the Rockets deep into the playoffs. If it hadn’t been for the dominance of the Warriors, we may already be talking about him as an NBA champion.
From 2013 through 2019, Harden averaged 28.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 7.0 APG for the Houston Rockets. During this time, Harden led the league in assists once in 2017 and won three straight scoring titles as well. He was named MVP in 2018 when he averaged 30.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 8.8 APG. He also shot 36.7% from three that season. Harden could never get the Rockets over the hump of the Western Conference Finals but his years in Houston were some of the most offensively skilled seasons in NBA history.
Indiana Pacers – Paul George
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Pacers): 1x Most Improved Player, 4x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Not many Eastern Conference stars could go toe-to-toe with LeBron’s Miami teams of the 2010s and hold their head up high afterward. Paul George was an exception. Gifted with some of the best two-way ability, Paul George rose to stardom in the 2010s and battled with some of the league’s best while doing so. In 6 out of his 7 seasons with the Pacers, they went to the playoffs including back-to-back Conference Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014.
Paul George took home the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2013 and was named an All-Star for the first time. He wasn’t done there as he averaged 19.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.4 APG, and 1.3 SPG in the playoffs to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. A young George wasn’t scared of the moment as he pushed LeBron and the Heat to 7 games falling just shy of the NBA Finals. George led them right back to the Conference Finals the next season as well but fell to the Heat again, this time in 6 games. From 2013 through 2017, Paul George averaged 21. PPG, 6.9 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.8 SPG in 321 games for Indiana.
Los Angeles Clippers – Blake Griffin
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Clippers): 1x Rookie Of The Year, 5x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Team Selection
Perhaps no single player had more highlight poster dunks in the entire 2010s than Blake Griffin. From the moment he was able to step onto the floor for the Clippers, the entire culture of the franchise was changed and they could finally expect some winning basketball. After sitting out his first season with an injury, Blake hit the court with a vengeance and quickly became one of the top players and attractions in basketball.
In his first season eligible to play, Griffin took home the Rookie Of The Year award as a 22.5 PPG and 12.1 RPG player. He had a knack for leaping over defenders and finishing with raw power and the “Lob City” Clippers had arrived. Griffin would be named to 4 more consecutive All-Star Teams and was a consistent 20.0 PPG and 8.0 RPG threat. Unfortunately for Griffin, the Clippers could never capitalize on their newfound success and found themselves consistently falling short in the playoffs. After a historic run of losing, Griffin brought a breath of fresh air and a winning culture back to the Clippers during the 2010s.
Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Lakers): 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 7x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 4x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Kobe Bryant ushered in the 2010s with the 5th championship of his career and 2nd in a row. He was just about at the tail end of his peak as the decade came in but he was still as fluent and dominant as ever. He was still the global icon that he always was and still delivering on championship promises to the City Of L.A. He would retire at the end of the 2016 season as one of the greatest Lakers and Players in NBA history.
In the 2009-10 season, Kobe averaged 27.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.0 APG. He led the Lakers to their third straight NBA Finals and a rematch of the 2008 Finals with the Boston Celtics. This time, it would be Kobe and the Lakers who emerged victorious in 7 games as Bryant took home Finals MVP. In those 7 games, Kobe went for 28.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 2.1 SPG. It was perhaps the most gratifying title of Kobe’s career as he avenged the 2008 loss. For the decade, Kobe averaged 24.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG.
Memphis Grizzlies – Marc Gasol
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Grizzlies): 1x Defensive Player Of The Year, 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 1x All-Defensive Team Selection
Marc Gasol was the heart and soul of the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2010s. He helped shape Memphis basketball culture into a gritty and hard-nosed basketball city that was to be respected. Marc Gasol was at the center of it, literally, as the defensive anchor in the paint for a team that prided itself on being extra physical on both ends of the floor. Gasol brought heart, toughness, and finesse to the floor every single night he put on a Grizzlies uniform.
Even as one of the NBA’s best bigs, Marc Gasol routinely went underrated among fans and media heads during the 2010s. He was rewarded for his defensive abilities in 2013 when he took home the Defensive Player Of The Year award. In 2016-17, Gasol peaked scoring-wise with 19.5 PPG and added 6.3 RPG. He began to excel as a scorer and playmaker in Memphis and used it to adapt later in his career. During the 2010s with the Grizzlies, Gasol averaged 15.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG on 48.3% shooting.
Miami Heat – LeBron James
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Heat): 2x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 4x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
During his time with the Miami Heat in the 2010s, LeBron James was the best player in the world and it wasn’t even close. He was elite on both sides of the floor, unstoppable with the ball in his hands on offense as a scorer, finisher, and playmaker. He took the Heat to 4 straight NBA Finals appearances resulting in 2 victories in 2012 and 2013. Without LeBron deciding to take his talents to South Beach, perhaps Miami doesn’t have the amount of hardware they accumulated.
LeBron James was the best player in the world in all 4 seasons he spent in Miami but in 2021 and 2013, he was even better than that. He took home both the regular season MVP and Finals MVP in those back-to-back seasons and nearly added a Defensive Player Of The Year in 2013. There is no way to describe LeBron’s 4 years in Miami other than simply unstoppable. In those 4 seasons, he averaged 26.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, and 1.7 SPG on 54.3% shooting.
Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Bucks): 1x MVP, 1x Most Improved Player, 3x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection
Giannis Antetokounmpo transformed into a superstar before our eyes for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2010s. He wasn’t yet an NBA champion but he was well on his way to staking his claim as the consensus best player in the world. For the first 3 seasons of his career from 2014 through 2016, Giannis struggled to find his footing in the NBA but he quickly turned that all around and became one of the best players in basketball.
In 2017, Giannis was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player when he took off for 22.9 PPG and 8.8 RPG, large increases from the season before. He had begun to bulk up and mold himself into the dominant force we know today. In 2019, He was named the MVP of the league with averages of 27.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.5 BPG. He began to show his two-way prowess that carried over into the 2020s and continues in 2022.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Kevin Love
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Timberwolves): 1x Most Improved Player, 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
Before he was winning titles alongside LeBron in Cleveland, Kevin Love was one of the best power forwards in basketball for the Timberwolves. Love was a 20.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG machine for Minnesota who became a 3-time All-Star and 1-time rebounding champ. He became the face of the franchise but as is the case for many that come through Minnesota, his teams could not find any success come playoff time
Love’s Timberwolves never even made the playoffs in his 6 years there but that wasn’t for a lack of effort on his part. From 2011 when he won Most Improved to 2014 his last season in Minnesota, Love was an All-Star three times and averaged 23.5 PPG and 13.7 RPG. During that stretch, Minnesota had a low of 17 wins in a season and a high of 40 wins. It got so bad that Love ended up asking for out of Minnesota but not before recording over 6,000 points and 4,000 rebounds in 6 seasons.
New Orleans Pelicans – Anthony Davis
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Pelicans): 6x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 3x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection
Anthony Davis spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Pelicans and in that time, emerged as the franchise’s best player in history. He was able to lead New Orleans to the playoffs twice and even steal a playoff series and get to the second round in 2018. He was easily the league’s biggest interior threat both on offense and defense and his time with the Pelicans should be revered by NBA fans everywhere.
Davis began to leap into stardom during his second season in the NBA. He averaged 20.8 PPG, and 10.0 RPG, and led the league with 2.8 BPG. It would be the first of 3 seasons that Davis would lead the league in blocks per game. In back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018, Davis averaged over 28.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 2.2 BPG. He finished Top 10 in MVP voting each season and 3rd in 2018. In the 2018 playoffs, Davis led the Pelicans to their first playoff series win in franchise history as they swept Portland behind 33.0 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 2.8 BPG from Davis.
New York Knicks – Carmelo Anthony
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Knicks): 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
Carmelo Anthony was in the prime of his career when he was traded to the New York Knicks during the 2011 season. His presence at Madison Square Garden created a buzz the likes of which had not been seen in over a decade. Anthony was as good of a scorer as anyone in basketball during his New York tenure, evidenced by his scoring title in 2013.
In 7 seasons in New York, Carmelo averaged 24.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG. The first 3 seasons with the Knicks resulted in playoff berths and they would be the only playoffs Carmelo saw in New York. In the first 2 seasons, the Knicks were eliminated in the first round. In 2013, Carmelo averaged 28.7 PPG and took home the scoring title in the regular season. In the first round of the playoffs, he averaged 29.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG to earn the Knicks their first playoff series win in over 10 years. Love him or hate him, Carmelo Anthony was the best Knicks player in the 2010s.
Oklahoma City Thunder – Kevin Durant
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Thunder): 1x MVP, 7x All-Star, 1x All-Star Game MVP, 6x All-NBA Team Selection
Kevin Durant has always been one of the most lethal scorers in the league. From the moment the decade of the 2010s started, it had never been more evident. The 2009-10 seasons was the beginning of a trend of 4 scoring titles in 5 seasons that included a Finals berth for the Thunder and an MVP award for Durant. Over that stretch, Durant averaged 29.3 PPG and 7.5 RPG for the Thunder in 388 games played.
In the 2011-12 season, Durant took home his 3rd scoring title in as many years. The regular season stuff wasn’t good enough though. He took his team to the NBA Finals for the first time since they were the Sonics back in the 2000s. In that playoff round, he averaged 28.5 PPG and 7.4 RPG but the Thunder fell to the Heat in the Finals. Durant would again lead the Thunder deep into the playoffs in 2016. He had them within one game of another Finals berth but was unable to seal the deal against the grizzled vets of the Golden State Warriors.
Orlando Magic – Nikola Vucevic
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Magic): 1x All-Star
The post-Dwight Howard Magic of the 2010s was just plain old bad. They were so bad in fact that they had just one season post-Dwight in which they won over 40 games from 2011 to 2019. At the center of the rebuild after Dwight stood center Nikola Vucevic. He wasn’t going to be the defensive juggernaut that Howard was during his day in Orlando, but he could provide some spark on offense and that is exactly what he did.
As I said, the 2010 Magic teams were historically bad in some ways. Vucevic didn’t let that stop him from developing into a 20.0 PPG and 12.0 RPG All-Star. Those are the numbers Vucevic put up in his first and only All-Star season in 2018-19. He led the Magic to the Playoffs that year but was highly disappointing in the postseason as the Magic lost in 5 games. He would make it back with the Magic in 2020 and be much better himself. Again, the Magic were defeated in 5 games in the first round of the playoffs.
Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with 76ers): 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection
The first few seasons that Joel Embiid was in Philadelphia were filled with frustration and anguish. Most nights were filled with blowout losses and pleas from Embiid himself to “trust the process”. Embiid missed the first 2 seasons after he was drafted due to a nagging foot injury. When he finally debuted in 2017, Embiid was already looking like the MVP candidate that he is in 2022. Philadelphia was beginning to turn their luck around and Joel Embidd was the catalyst for their success.
When 2018 rolled around, Joel Embiid was an All-Star and All-NBA Team talent. He averaged 22.9 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. In 2019, he averaged 27.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, and 1.9 BPG. In both seasons, Embiid was named to the All-NBA Second Team and All-Defensive Second Team as well. In 2018, he finished 12th in MVP voting, and in 2019 he finished 7th. Embiid had cemented himself as the 76ers’ franchise cornerstone which he remains just a couple of seasons later.
Phoenix Suns – Devin Booker
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Suns): None Available
Devin Booker is probably more likely to be the Suns’ greatest player of the 2020s than the 2010s but here we are. Yes, Nash was still incredible for the early part of the decade but Booker was also coming into his own in the last few seasons of the 2010s. He showed his flashes of greatness and even though the team was struggling, you knew the franchise was in good hands with Devin Booker at the forefront of things.
Devin Booker bloomed into a 22.0 PPG scorer and Phoenix’s No. 1 option by his second season. He has never averaged lower than 22.0 PPG since and in 2018-19, he hit his peak of the decade. He averaged 26.8 PPG and 6.5 APG to lead his team in PPG and finish 2nd in APG. They would only win 34 games that year but the foundation was laid for the powerhouse they have become since 2020.
Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Trail Blazers): 1x Rookie Of The Year, 4x All-Star, 4x All-NBA Team Selection
Damian Lillard was destined for stardom from the moment he took the floor as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. It seemed like the injury woes they were suffering from were going to be ok because they had found their next franchise player. He has been all of that and more as he continues to stand by Portland and all of their basketball decisions. In just his second season, Lillard led Portland to the playoffs, a them that recurred 6 times during the decade.
Lillard took home Rookie Of The Year with 19.0 PPG and 6.5 APG averages to kickstart his career. The following season he was named an All-Star for the first time and was a 22.9 PPG scorer for them in the playoffs. He developed an endless range on his three-point shot while becoming one of the most lethal scorers in basketball. In 2019, Lillard led the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals where they were swept by the Warriors. In those playoffs, Lillard hit the iconic series-ending three over Paul George in the first round to send the Thunder packing. He averaged 26.9 PPG and 6.6 APG on that run.
Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements: 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection
There was a point during the 2010s when DeMarcus Cousins was considered the best center in the NBA. He was a dominant and bully-ball big who could score on anyone as well as he could stop them from scoring. As great as Cousins was on the court, he had his fair share of issues off of it, and in the end, it was that attitude that ended his time with the Kings organization.
By the 2014-15 season, Cousins was an All-Star and All-NBA talent. He averaged 24.1 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.3 BPG in 2014-15 which earned him his first All-Star selection and All-NBA Second Team honors. He would be named to both honors again the following season with averages on 26.9 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG, and 1.4 BPG. The tumultuous and rocky relationship with the Kings ended halfway through 2017 when he was shipped off to New Orleans. The Kings were never very good around Cousins as they never made the playoffs during his time there.
San Antonio Spurs – Kawhi Leonard
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Spurs): 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 2x Defensive Player Of The Year, 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 4x All-Defensive Team Selection
Kawhi Leonard was supposed to be the Spurs’ franchise player after Tim Duncan called it a career. Things did certainly not end that way but they were well on their way there up until 2017-18. Before the 2014 Finals, Leonard was a defensive specialist for San Antonio, tasked with taking an opponent’s best player completely out of the game. He often fits the bill perfectly in that regard.
The 2014 NBA Finals was Kawhi Leonard’s coming out party. After shutting down LeBron James on the NBA’s biggest stage, Leonard was rewarded with the game’s highest honor, Finals MVP. In the two years that followed, his defensive efforts were rewarded with back-to-back Defensive Player Of The Year awards. In 2016, Kawhi averaged 21.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG while winning the award. In 2017, he peaked offensively with the Spurs averaging 25.5 PPG and 5.8 RPG. The relationship between Kawhi and the Spurs deteriorated over the next months and he was ultimately shipped off to Toronto.
Toronto Raptors – Kawhi Leonard
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Raptors): 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 1x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 1x All-Defensive Team Selection
Kawhi Leonard spent one year as a member of the Toronto Raptors but in that one year, he became their greatest player of the decade. Kawhi did something no other player was able to do in Raptors franchise history, deliver them an NBA championship. Kawhi had arguably the best offensive season of his whole career with Toronto and rode that momentum to the playoffs where they went on an all-time, historic title run.
Kawhi was the same old defensive guru that he had been in San Antonio but on offense, he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. He spent the entire season in attack mode, going to the basket with aggression and pulling up from mid-range with finesse. During the regular season, Kawhi averaged 26.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.8 SPG. His play elevated in the playoffs as he hit a clutch shot after clutch shot and willed the Raptors to the 2019 NBA Finals. In that series, Leonard averaged 28.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 2.0 SPG to take down the Warriors and deliver the first NBA championship north of the border.
Utah Jazz – Gordon Hayward
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Jazz): 1x All-Star
The Utah Jazz post-Deron Williams were in desperate search of their next franchise cornerstone. For a few seasons, that looked like it was going to be the 6’7 product out of Butler University, Gordon Hayward. Gordon looked like he was going to be able to live up to that role by the time 2017 came around. He had developed into an All-Star and leader on the floor, even willing them to the second round of the playoffs. He would opt to leave the Jazz in free agency that offseason.
Leading up to the 2017 playoffs, Hayward was steadily progressing forward for the Jazz who ended up being their go-to guy in clutch situations. In 2017, he earned the only All-Star selection of his career by going for 21.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 3.5 APG on 47.1% shooting overall and 39.8% from three. In the first round of the playoffs, the Jazz took down the Clippers in 7 games behind 23.7 PPG and 7.3 RPG from Hayward. They would fall in the second round to the Warriors but the Jazz knew they had their guy. Unfortunately, Hayward chose to move on after the season and signed a free agent deal with the Boston Celtics.
Washington Wizards – John Wall
2009-10 to 2018-19 Achievements (with Wizards): 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA Team Selection, 1x All-Defensive Team Selection
Before the injuries started piling up toward the end of the decade, John Wall developed into one of the best point guards in the NBA in Washington. Wall was a blur on the court seemingly faster with the ball in his hands than without. He used to run teams to exhaustion with transition buckets and was a pesky perimeter defender as well. His quick hands clogged passing lanes nightly while on offense Wall would will his team to victory whether he was scoring or facilitating.
From 2014 through 2019, Wall was selected to 5 straight All-Star games and made the only All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams of his career. Over that stretch, Wall averaged 19.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 9.9 APG, and 1.8 SPG. Wall was able to lead the Wizards to the playoffs 4 times in Washington and the second round twice but that was as far as they went. Ask any fan in the DMV at the time who they thought was the best point guard in basketball and 99% of the time, their answer was John Wall.