As the spearhead of the Knicks' offense, Carmelo Anthony (page 62) was averaging 29.3 points at week's end—second only to Kobe Bryant's 30.0. But does that mean he's among the NBA players most able to initiate their own offense? Nope. With input from league scouts and executives, SI has put together a list of the one-on-one all-stars, scorers who excel at getting the job done without any help.
1 LeBron James, SF, Heat
Does a 6'8", 250-pound forward with the strength of a center and the ballhandling ability of a point guard need further explanation? Says one exec, "There is no one in the NBA LeBron doesn't have an advantage over."
2 Chris Paul, PG, Clippers
Paul uses his compact, 6-foot, 175-pound frame to muscle his way inside and his superior ball control to create a variety of shots. His best move, according to a scout: a between-the-legs crossover with a spin move to set up a jump shot.
3 James Harden, SG, Rockets
The 6'5" Harden is deceptively quick, with a Manu Ginobili--like ability to slip a shot up through traffic. Though lefthanded, Harden can go either way and is fearless when finishing at the rim.
4 Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls
When healthy, the 6'3" Rose blends power and speed better than any guard in the league. Rose favors the inside-out dribble (essentially a fake crossover) to get into the paint, where he has a knack for scoring through contact.
5 Joe Johnson, SG, Nets
Opponents inclined to play the 6'7" Johnson tight, beware. "He'll put a defender on his hip and just overpower him," says a scout. "And when he gets in the paint, he has great touch on that floater."
6 Jamal Crawford, SG, Clippers
The superb sixth man (above, right) has a crossover dribble that's positively Iversonian, and he's not afraid to use (and use, and use) it. "He will hit you with that multiple-crossover, step-back jumper," says a scout. "It's lethal."
7 Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder
There's nothing fancy about Westbrook's go-to move: The 6'3" 187-pounder lulls defenders with a slow dribble before exploding to the rim and elevating over them.
8 Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers
At 34, Bryant isn't the athlete he was when he came into the NBA in 1996. But he is smarter. "He rarely settles for a shot he doesn't want," says a scout. "He gets to where he wants, and he has underrated strength to complete plays."
Not only is Chris Paul among the best one-on-one players, but he's also one of the best defenders. He leads the NBA in steals per game (2.62), a category in which he's been ranked No. 1 four times in his seven full seasons.
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JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (PAUL)
PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SI IMAGING: GEORGE FREY/AP (CRAWFORD)