With the playoffs on the horizon, the NBA's elite talents are doing all they can to either propel their side into the postseason picture or help jostle for home-court advantage in the first round. While the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers have been able to rely on consistent contributions throughout their squads on a nightly basis, some stars have had to take it upon themselves to win games for their franchises.
Therefore, we have decided to look at five NBA All-Stars who are carrying their team almost single-handedly this season and will continue to do so until the last possible opportunity.
5 NBA stars whose teams would struggle to be successful without them
While some are relied upon more than others, all the players on this list have carried their teammates to victory - either at a particular point in the season or consistently.
All five are among the highest scorers in the NBA, while a few have the all-round ability to make it into an All-NBA team come the end of the season.
#1 Steph Curry - Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry continued to add to his collection of vintage performances on Tuesday night as he carried the Warriors to an enthralling one-point victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. His 41-point outing was the fourth time this season he had put up 40+ points. Curry's five three-pointers tipped him into 200+ attempts made from deep in the year, the eighth time he has done so in his career.
Curry has been the Golden State Warriors' cheat code since emerging as one of the NBA's greatest-ever shooters. But with fellow bucket-grabber Klay Thompson out, Curry has had to take on more offensive responsibility than he ever had previously.
With Steph Curry on the court, the Warriors are 23-20 this season and he is one of only two players on the roster with a winning record. Without Curry, Golden State have gone 1-7; therefore, his return from injury this week was essential if they are to make the postseason.
Since taking up more offensive duties, Curry is averaging just shy of his highest points tally since 2016 - 30.1. He is also averaging more rebounds than ever before and is registering six assists per matchup.
#2 Nikola Jokic - Denver Nuggets
Like Curry, Nikola Jokic has had to be his team's talisman since the start of the NBA season. The Serbian big man is averaging MVP-caliber numbers and has the Nuggets situated fourth in the West - only one game behind the third-placed LA Clippers.
The Joker has picked up from where he left off in the bubble and has, in fact, been even more dominant, improving his numbers across the board. Jokic's points per night, rebounds, assists, steals and shooting percentages have all increased. If Jokic wasn't already an immense talent up for the MVP award, he could easily win the trophy for Most Improved Player this season.
In a season where bigs will be vital to teams in the NBA playoffs, the Denver Nuggets can expect to make a deep run again. Jokic ranks second among centers for points, first by some margin for assists and fourth for +/- rating.
Now that Denver have improved their starting lineup and quite a few players have found their scoring accuracy, Jokic hasn't had to carry the Nuggets to victory so often. But come the postseason, he will be their go-to guy.
#3 Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks
Without Kristaps Porzingis for the first 13 games of the 2020-21 NBA season, Luka Doncic was the sole reason the Dallas Mavericks didn't become irrelevant. In that time, the Slovenian put up 25.9 points and 9.3 rebounds.
While lower than his averages for last season, Doncic has since returned to magic mode - in part helped by the return of Porzingis - but also by the Mavs' overall improvement.
Doncic is now averaging .2 short of his 28.8 a night last campaign, the same number of assists (8.8), but is shooting at a higher clip from the field and from downtown. Without Doncic, the Mavs are 1-4 this season and have failed to score more than 108 points without him in any matchup.
At the other end of the floor, the 22-year-old grabs the most defensive rebounds of any Dallas player and averages the most steals per night.
#4 Julius Randle - New York Knicks
New York Knicks fans find their team in the unlikely position of seventh in the NBA's East and are only two games behind fourth. More importantly, their side's overall performances have been a vast improvement on previous campaigns. There has been a lot of excitement around young stars like RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson.
But it is the Knicks' 26-year-old NBA All-Star Julius Randle that has taken on the responsibility of carrying them into the postseason. Randle is the Knicks' best player all over the court and has the chance to make an All-NBA team this year.
The power forward averages a double-double every night (22.9 points and 10.8 rebounds), while his assists per matchup have almost doubled to six.
No Knicks player averages more than Randle in these categories, while his 40.9% accuracy from downtown ranks fourth among his teammates. Randle's contributions on a nightly basis have been vital to the Knicks' success. However, his consistent availability (he's only missed one NBA matchup all season) has been equally invaluable to the franchise.
#5 Damian Lillard - Portland Trail Blazers
Akin to Steph Curry, Damian Lillard's scoring heroics have once again propelled the Portland Trail Blazers up the NBA's Western Conference. Although he arguably has the best supporting cast of any player on this list, Lillard has had to carry the Trail Blazers through yet another injury-hit season.
When backcourt partner CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic were both out for close to two months, Lillard averaged 31.2 points and 8.5 assists, leading the Trail Blazers to 13 wins in 24 matchups.
Lillard has proven his lights-out scoring for a number of years in the NBA. But the fact that he has been able to propel a Portland side lacking regular starters to such heights has been nothing short of incredible.
His offensive rating is one shy of last year's 126 - a career-high - while his wi share is already at 7.4. Portland sit comfortably in the West's sixth seed, only two games behind the Nuggets. They are a team nobody will want to play come the NBA playoffs.