Top 25 since '96 Part 2: Counting down the greatest modern NBA players

Photo illustration by Nick Roy/theScore

It's been a quarter century since the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary by naming the top 50 players in league history. To mark the latest milestone, theScore's basketball news editors voted for the top 25 players since the original list debuted.

Reminder: players on the original list were ineligible for inclusion - so no Michael Jordan, Shaq, or anyone else who continued to star beyond 1996. Second, players who debuted before 1996 were eligible, but they needed to have made an impact over the last 25 years.

25-21 | 20-16 | 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

Here's the second entry of our five-part series:

20. Pau Gasol

Cameron Browne / National Basketball Association / Getty
17.0 9.2 3.2 0.5 1.6 36.8

Teams: Grizzlies, Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, Bucks

The most memorable images of Pau Gasol's career are probably those of him celebrating with the Larry O'Brien Trophy with the Lakers. But while he was their perfect second option for an era, it almost detracts from how incredible the Spanish big man was in his own right.

Granted, Gasol was arguably never the best power forward in the league, but the six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection was consistently one of the most skilled and versatile, doubling occasionally as a fantastic center, too.

The first non-American Rookie of the Year, Gasol was also paramount in putting the Grizzlies on the map. His debut season coincided with the franchise's move from Vancouver to Memphis, and it was almost entirely thanks to his stellar rise that the team finally made the postseason for the first time in his third year. - Jonathan Soveta

19. Russell Westbrook

Zach Beeker / National Basketball Association / Getty
23.2 7.4 8.5 1.7 0.3 30.5

Teams: Thunder, Rockets, Wizards, Lakers

Russell Westbrook is an anachronism in 2021 - a superstar guard who doesn't space the floor. Instead of evolving alongside the game, the 32-year-old continues to plow across the court with the headstrong inefficiency of a driver navigating city streets in a Hummer.

But Westbrook's shortcomings only make his contributions even more electrifying. The 2017 MVP is truly a singular force on offense, a juggernaut capable of turning a mid-winter game against the Orlando Magic into must-watch television.

Tacking on a late-career title with LeBron James' Lakers would help recontextualize Westbrook's personal achievements. Still, even without a ring, Westbrook's staggeringly prolific production - especially in the years after Kevin Durant left OKC - is something to behold. - Andrew Joe Potter

18. Carmelo Anthony

Kent Smith / National Basketball Association / Getty
23.0 6.3 2.8 1.0 0.5 35.3

Teams: Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Lakers

Carmelo Anthony will go down as one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. For nearly two decades, the 10-time All-Star picked apart opposing defenses with his post-up game, foul-drawing expertise, and the ability to create separation. At the height of his career, few players drained more clutch buckets than Anthony.

The Syracuse product has six top-five finishes in the NBA's scoring race, including a league-leading 28.7 points per contest in 2012-13. Anthony is one of three players in league history to record over 10,000 points with two different franchises and one of two rookies to lead their team in playoff scoring. The six-time All-NBA selection enters the upcoming campaign ranked 10th on the Association's all-time scoring list. - Chicco Nacion

17. Ray Allen

Terrence Vaccaro / National Basketball Association / Getty
18.9 4.1 3.4 1.1 0.2 40.0

Teams: Bucks, SuperSonics, Celtics, Heat

Ray Allen's trademark was his mechanical, quickfire shooting stroke, which, aside from producing one of the most iconic Finals moments ever, vaulted him to the top of the NBA's career 3-point leaderboard, where he still remains ... for now.

But it's essentially impossible to carve out an 18-year Hall of Fame career as a one-trick pony, and Allen was far from that. In his prime, the 10-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion could not only create his own shot from all over the floor, but he was also a devastating slasher who could play above the rim and facilitate for his teammates. He took on a slightly reduced role upon joining the Celtics, which helped balance out the squad during its Big Three era. - Soveta

16. Paul Pierce

Jim Rogash / Getty Images Sport / Getty
19.7 5.6 3.5 1.3 0.6 36.8

Teams: Celtics, Nets, Wizards, Clippers

Paul Pierce was one of the league's great entertainers. Look no further than a stellar playoff run in 2008 capped by a Finals MVP honor and the wheelchair fiasco in Game 1. Years later, Pierce admitted he was swiftly whisked off the court due to soiled shorts. Turns out "The Truth" was a fitting moniker.

The 10-time All-Star was a crafty scorer during the championship run and for the better part of a decorated 19-year career. A master at finding margins in which to flourish thanks to elite footwork and the ability to change speeds, Pierce is 19th on the NBA's all-time points list and is one of three to register 20,000 points for the Celtics, joining John Havlicek and Larry Bird. Decent company. - Michael J. Chandler


Click here for part three of the series, which features five incredible point guards.

Top 25 since '96 Part 2: Counting down the greatest modern NBA players
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