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NBA

Bracket of the Week: Final four set for finding the best one-on-one scorer since Michael Jordan

Who is the best one-on-one scorer since MJ?
Who is the best one-on-one scorer since MJ? (Getty Images; DAZN illustration)

Every week on NBA.com, we'll unveil a new bracket with daily matchups to vote on. By the end of the week, we'll crown a champion and determine a winner based on fan voting. Up next for this week? The best one-on-one scorer in the post-Michael Jordan era.


Who is the best one-on-one scorer since Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998?

We picked out 16 of the best one-on-one scorers of the post-MJ era and seeded them 1-16. Each day your votes will help us narrow the field until only one remains.

Here are the semifinal matchups (click each one to skip down to vote):

KD vs LeBron | Kobe vs Harden

A reminder: this isn't just about who has the highest scoring average or the most 50-point games or even the best scorer in actual NBA games. We're talking strictly one-on-one scoring ability and nothing more.

The top four seeds all rumbled to emphatic wins in the quarterfinals, setting up an all chalk final four. Here's how the quarterfinals played out:

To see the entire field of 16, click here otherwise... let's vote!

1 vs 4 - Finals foes meet again

1 Kevin Durant vs 4 LeBron James

It's fitting that the three-time Finals foes sit within 0.08 of each other when it comes to career scoring averages. James ranks fourth all-time at 27.10 while Durant is in sixth at 27.02 (Jerry West is sandwiched between them at 27.03).

Durant was a scoring champ by the age of 21 and can literally do it all. Drives in either direction, unblockable pull-ups and a sweet stroke from downtown, Durant's size and fluid mechanics make for a complete scorer that's almost an impossible cover one-on-one. His four scoring title are tied for the third-most ever behind only Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

It's actually somewhat crazy that James only has one scoring title to his name when he ranks fourth ahead of Durant in career scoring average. Let's be honest... if LeBron wants to get to the rim, LeBron is getting to the rim. Sure, he can fall in love with jumpers, but he's also won games in big spots doing exactly that. While writing this, he just hit another step-back 3 on Festus Ezeli and five more fadeaways on the Toronto Raptors.

2 vs 3 - Two guard scoring machines

2 Kobe Bryant vs 3 James Harden

Three guards in NBA history have averaged 35 points per game for an entire season: Jordan. Bryant. Harden.

Every trick that Jordan had, Kobe had. It's for that reason why Jordan himself declared that Kobe is the only player who could have beaten him one-on-one in his prime.

If we're going off of pure numbers, Harden might be the number 1 overall seed. Nobody is better at getting to the line. Nobody is better at hitting step-back 3s. Nobody comes close to matching Harden's volume as a one-on-one bucket getter. While some of it is certainly explained by Harden's heliocentric role in Houston, right now it's Harden and then everyone else when it comes to isolation scoring in 2020.

The debate between Bryant and Harden comes down to a combination of aesthetics and variance. If you want the more complete shot maker with a more diversified arsenal, Bryant's probably your guy. If you want brutal efficiency with a singularly unstoppable (even if predictable) approach, it's Harden.

Opening Round

The first round featured some blowouts, a few close calls and one major upset:

  • 1 Kevin Durant def. 16 Dirk Nowitzki: 86% of vote
  • 2 Kobe Bryant def. 15 DeMar DeRozan: 94% of vote
  • 3 James Harden def. 14 Gilbert Arenas: 87% of vote
  • 4 LeBron James def. 13 Paul Pierce: 84% of vote
  • 12 Tracy McGrady def. 5 Carmelo Anthony: 64% of vote
  • 6 Kyrie Irving def. 11 Derrick Rose: 65% of vote
  • 7 Allen Iverson def. 10 Joe Johnson: 92% of vote
  • 8 Stephen Curry def. 9 Kawhi Leonard: 59% of vote

The Field

Seed Scorer Seed Scorer
1. Kevin Durant 9. Kawhi Leonard
2. Kobe Bryant 10. Joe Johnson
3. James Harden 11. Derrick Rose
4. LeBron James 12. Tracy McGrady
5. Carmelo Anthony 13. Paul Pierce
6. Kyrie Irving 14. Gilbert Arenas
7. Allen Iverson 15. DeMar DeRozan
8. Stephen Curry 16. Dirk Nowitzki

Some of the hardest omissions:

  • Wizards MJ. He could still get 50 and had a bag of tricks deeper than anybody.
  • Chris Paul. One of the most efficient one-on-one scorers of the last decade with a killer pull-up jumper.
  • Damian Lillard. Will casually drain 38-footers without a care in the world.
  • Jamal Crawford. You can't have a conversation about best crossovers without mentioning his name.
  • Brandon Roy. He had the complete toolkit before injuries robbed him of reaching his prime.
  • Russell Westbrook. He settles for too many ill-advised shots to make the cut but his ability to overpower and explode is unmatched.
  • Ray Allen. He was picked to play Jesus Shuttlesworth!
  • Zion Williamson. Yeah, I said it. How do you stop him one-on-one? No seriously, I'll wait.

We'll admit... it's biased towards guards and perimeter players. But that's the way it goes!

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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