PG Chris Paul (26.4 PER)
The ever-efficient Paul continued his reign as the NBA's top point guard by averaging 16.9 points, 9.7 asssists and an NBA-best 2.4 steals per game despite playing a career-low 33.4 minutes per game. Nobody's better at finding their teammates than Paul, who posted the NBA's highest assist percentage and ranked second in total assists and assists per game behind only Greivis Vasquez. Though Paul's three-point percentage dropped below 33 percent--his worst mark since his rookie year--CP3 made up for it by boosting his field goal percentage for the second straight year and sinking a career-best 88.5 percent of this free throws. Improvements in both areas yielded a .594 True Shooting percentage, the second highest of his career. Put it all together and it's easy to see why Paul ranked third in PER behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
SG Kobe Bryant (23 PER)
Really close call between the Black Mamba and James Harden, who had an outstanding season in his own right. Their numbers are nearly identical, I'll give the edge to Bryant for rising above the shitstorm that enveloped the Lakers this year and leading them into the postseason. Given the level of talent surrounding him (Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol) it's almost unfathomable that he averaged 27.3 points per game and tied a career high with six assists per game at the ripe old age of 34. Bryant embraced his role as the alpha dog and took matters into his own hands, notching his eighth season with at least 2,000 points and while posting the highest Effective Field Goal percentage of his distinguished career. His defense continues to suffer, but Bryant is still such a force with the ball in his hands that he more than makes up for it. Although his season ended a down note when he tore his Achilles tendon just before the playoffs, I fully expect the resilient Bryant to return with a vengeance and resume his assault on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record. He's showed no signs of slowing down and given us no reason whatsoever to bet against him.
SF LeBron James (31.6 PER)
Another banner year for James has all but assured him of his fourth MVP award. King James continued to improve in his tenth season, playing the best individual basketball anyone's seen since Michael Jordan was in his prime. By honing his post game, James combined his typically stellar all-around numbers--26.8 points, 7.3 assists and a career-high 8.0 rebounds per game--with phenomenal percentages. He drilled a staggering 56.5 percent of his field goals. Even more impressively, James developed into a legitimate three-point threat by shooing above 40 percent from downtown. The only knock on James is that he's still just an average free throw shooter, but if he ever gets his FT% on the right side of 80 he'll be complete as a basketball player.
PF Tim Duncan (24.4 PER)
The soon-to-be-37-year-old enjoyed a renaissance season of sorts, proving that he still has plenty left in the tank. In addition to his usual elite interior defense (highest DRating and third-most blocks per game), Duncan averaged 17.8 points, 9.9 boards and 2.7 dimes per game while shooting north of 50 percent from the floor, helping pick up the slack for a diminished Manu Ginobili. What's more, the Big Fundamental posted the highest free throw percentage--81.7 percent--of his illustrious 16-year career.
C Brook Lopez (24.7 PER)
I thought long and hard about Marc Gasol here, but in the end their PER differential was too great to overlook. Lopez posted the fifth-best PER in the NBA behind James, Durant, Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. Despite logging just 30.4 minutes per game, the league's most polished center still averaged 19.4 points per game on 52.1 percent shooting. He also stepped up his game on the defensive end where he swatted a career-best 2.1 shots per game. His rebounding remains unimpressive for a seven-footer, but to be fair he was more active on the boards this year and reversed a two-year trend of plummeting rebound totals.