The James-Curry rivalry is heating up — no, not that James-Curry rivalry.
During a recent appearance on the "Players Choice" podcast, EuroLeague guard Mike James presented his list of the top five players in the NBA, and Warriors star Stephen Curry didn't make the cut. James had Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic on his list.
(James admitted that he is biased because he is a close friend of Durant, but considering Durant a top-five player isn't a very controversial take in NBA circles.)
James, who has previously played for the Suns (2017-18), Pelicans (2017-18) and Nets (2020-21), noted that Curry and back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic belonged in the conversation, but he gave Doncic the edge over both of them for his last spot.
"I'm probably gonna say Luka, honestly. I feel like Jokic and Steph are just a little bit below those other five," James said. "But obviously they're still amazing."
“I got Kev, Bron, Embiid, Giannis.. It get tough after that between Luka, Steph, Jokic.. I’m going to say Luka, I feel like Steph is just a little bit below.”— dghoops (@zdghoops) August 1, 2022
-Mike James on his top 5 NBA players today. pic.twitter.com/s53hzlw6Fi
When asked how Curry, who won his fourth championship and first Finals MVP award less than two months ago, could be excluded from his top five, James explained his evaluation methods.
"I do my top five off of, like, obviously you've gotta perform and kill and all that. That's No. 1," James said. "But then, like, I've gotta look at your game and just how you do it. Steph, how he plays and how he gets stuff off, it's just kind of one-dimensional at times, if that makes sense. ... He's not the primary ball handler a lot, and for a point guard, that kind of bothers me.
"But he does score off the dribble. He's a superstar. When you're picking your top five, you're kind of just picking, drawing straws at this point. You're just kind of nitpicking."
Beyond how Curry operates, James argued that the two-time MVP — and only unanimous MVP in league history — can't reach the same level as the other players he mentioned.
"If we put Luka, Embiid, LeBron, KD and Giannis on any team in the world, they're gonna be who they are right there as soon as you put them in there," James said. "I don't know about that for Steph. I think it's a little murky for Steph. He's still gonna kill. He's still gonna be Steph. I think he maximizes [himself] at that team. There's nothing wrong with that. ...
"If you put him in Minnesota, he would still kill, but I just don't know if it would be the same without Draymond [Green] being Draymond, without Klay [Thompson] being Klay. I don't know if it would be the same mixture."
Before he shifted to another topic, James acknowledged that Curry "probably is a top-10 player all time or close to it."
You can listen to the full "Players Choice" podcast below. (The top-five comments come around the 55-minute mark.)