Try defining NBA domination.
It’s tricky, right? There are certainly elements of you-know-it-when-you-see-it, but there also tangible versions of it, like statistical greatness or team success.
NBA domination covers all of those areas and more. It is what the numbers say, but it’s also what your eyes can tell you. Speaking of statistics, the rise of advanced analytics puts so much compelling data at our disposal, yet the traditional categories still have a place in this discussion, too.
This is all a long-winded way of saying NBA domination may differ in definition from one observer to the next. In our case, we have crunched the numbers but also trusted our eyes and listened to our gut to form and rank the three most dominant stars at each position.
PG No. 3: Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Some may gripe that Young’s defense is too leaky to justify such a prominent placement, but this ranking simply points to how absurdly elite his offense is.
His combined contributions as a scorer and table-setter—never mind as a deep-range net-shredder—are nearly unrivaled. He’s already just the second player ever to average at least 25 points and nine assists three different times. Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, basketball’s king of the overstuffed stat sheet, is the other.
Young essentially buys his team a top-10 offense and gives it best-in-the-league potential. He is hyper-efficient as it is—only Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo (winners of the last four MVP awards) tallied more offensive win shares this past season—but don’t be surprised if Young finds an even higher gear now that he’ll have a second shot-creator, Dejounte Murray, around to help pilot the offense.
Honorable Mention: James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers; Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies; Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
PG No. 2: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
There are certain statistical categories that say Doncic belongs in the No. 1 spot. Box plus/minus, for instance, rated him higher than any other perimeter player this past season.
Traditional metrics are even bigger fans of Dallas’ 6’7″, do-it-all superstar. Doncic, who turned 23 in February, just completed his third consecutive campaign of averaging at least 27 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Throughout NBA history, those marks have only been reached 10 other times: five times by Oscar Robertson, twice by LeBron James and once each by Michael Jordan, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. That’s it.
If there’s any sort of stain on his resume—a relative term given the sky-high standards used in this kind of exercise—it’s a lack of excellent efficiency. Now, that might simply be a reflection of the Mavs’ inability to find him a full-fledged co-star, which tasks him with a backbreaking workload. Or it’s quite possible he’s still ascending toward his prime, scary as that concept might sound.
Either way, efficiency is the one area that dings him just enough to deny him the top spot.
PG No. 1: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry just piloted the Warriors to their fourth world title in eight seasons. If you want to know why he’s the top-ranked point guard here, that’s a great place to start. His statistics can be ridiculous, and his highlight reels are all kinds of intoxicating, but more than anything, his domination stems from an ability to impact winning like no other player at his position.
He warps opposing defenses with a first-of-its-kind gravitational pull. As soon as he enters an arena, he’s in shooting range. His off-ball movement is special, and his off-the-dribble shooting might be the closest equivalent to a real-life cheat code. By his standards, 2021-22 wasn’t a great sniping season, despite the fact he buried 37.4 percent of his pull-up threes and 39.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples.
He doesn’t simply make Golden State’s system work; he is the system. On that note, the Warriors—a championship team, mind you—were a whopping 12.1 points better per 100 possessions with him than without this past season.