Yes! Here it is! Lists are something that everyone likes, and also something that everyone has the ability to do. Whether the list is about politics, about movies, about music or just about, well, stuff, there is always a list for you. Sports are no exception, and in this list, the 50 best basketball players will be discussed.
I did this a little while back with baseball (The 50 Best of the MLB), and I'd like to think that it was fairly successful; so I'm gonna try and get the same thing going here.
Now, there are a couple of things that you need to understand. First off, these rankings will be the top 50 players right now, as in how good of a player they are this moment. Ray Allen has had an excellent career, but he is no longer a top 50 guy. Brook Lopez is on his way to a seemingly-good career, but he isn't elite, quite yet. However, at the same time, right now doesn't mean just this year...because guys don't get to just carry over their one-year stats and make a career out of them. Because of this, guys who had good years, like Tyreke Evans in Sacramento, Andrew Bynum in Los Angeles, or Stephen Curry in Golden State were all considered, and in a couple of years, they probably will be top 50 players, but they aren't quite there yet. Because nothing ever can completely be set in stone- just look at Hedo Turkoglu. Last year, he was an MVP candidate; and now? He's a good player, but not so amazing. Talent and potential can only get a player so far.
Hype is great, but it isn't everything. Who remembers Shaun Livingston? Sebastian Telfair? I think both of those guys still have a chance to have nice careers, but they won't be the ten-time All-Stars scouts said they would be. For the record, Livingston actually averaged 15.5 assists and 6.3 assists in April, after coming back from this horrific injury (and absolutely deserved that shout-out). See, interesting things are learned by reading!
That being said, let's get these rankings started! I know everyone will disagree with me, so please leave some feedback and leave your opinions. Anyway, thanks for reading, and let's go!
Others Considered: Trevor Ariza, Elton Brand, Marcus Camby, Jamal Crawford, Eric Gordon, Jeff Green, Richard Hamilton, Josh Howard, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Jennings, Carl Landry, Corey Maggette, Shawn Marion, O.J. Mayo, Paul Millsap, Tracy McGrady, Nene, Lamar Odom, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd, John Salmons, Marvin Williams.
Top 15 That Missed: Ray Allen, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Aaron Brooks, Baron Davis, Luol Deng, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Jackson, Brook Lopez, Andre Miller, Kevin Martin, Jameer Nelson, Shaquille O' Neal, Hedo Turkoglu.
50- Kevin Love: Power Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
I know that many of you reading will disagree entirely with this selection, but no, it isn't because I'm a Timberwolves fan. Kevin Love is just a pretty good basketball player. In fact, he might be the most overlooked player today. He led the league in rebounds-per-48 minutes, out-rebounded the majority of the All-Star bigs, and put up 14 points in about 28 minutes a night. Considering that he wasn't close to the number one option on a horrible team, those numbers are very respectable. Love also is very smart with the ball, can knock threes down, and is a very good passer for a 6-10 player. All in all, he has a fantastic career ahead of him, but is already a 'top' player.
49- Mo Williams: Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
What do you want me to say? He's overrated. Mo may be one of the best-scoring point guards in the NBA, but he plays point guard. In Cleveland, he's averaging 4.7 assists, which barely would have cracked the top 30 this year; and don't say 'But LeBron gets all the assists!', the Cavaliers have above-average shooters, and someone has to pass to LeBron. Mo is also a streaky shooter, averages almost as many fouls as rebounds, and was 47th in assist-to-turnover ratio. This PG is good, but not as good as you might think.
48- Kevin Garnett: Power Forward, Boston Celtics
I'm sorry. To be honest, KG probably doesn't belong on this. He isn't close to the player he once was. But at the same time, he's just one of those guys that still can get by on reputation because of how good we know he can be. If only he was healthy. Even so, he still plays above-average defense, can knock down clutch shots, and he still averaged 15 points, 7 rebounds and almost 3 assists. Five years ago, I would have argued he was the best player in the NBA. Two years ago, he was a top five guy. Last year, he was a borderline top-three power forward. It's a shame what happens to athletes, but there's no denying what has happened.
47- Vince Carter: Shooting Guard, Orlando Magic
Some call him VC. Some call him Air Canada. Some call him 1/2 man, 1/2 amazing. Maybe we should call him "Mr. Disappointment"? Every time I watch Carter play, I just don't know what to think. Like every scorer, sometimes he's on; sometimes he's off. But when he loses it, it's painful. The ball swings around the peremiter, and you know where it's going, what's gonna happen, and what the result will be. But when he's on, oh man, is it fun to watch. He'll hit one-handed runners, he'll bank fadeaways, he'll hit threes falling out of bounds, and he still can dunk like no other...as long as the lane is clear and nobody is around him. Vince Carter is just one of those guys that you can't help but shake your head and smile at.
46- Joakim Noah: Center, Chicago Bulls
I'm a huge college basketball fan, and when I watched Florida win back-to-back titles, there was one thing that clearly stuck out at me. It wasn't the coaching, teamwork, clutch shooting, or confidence. It was how much I couldn't stand Joakim Noah. But then something funny happened. He stopped acting like a crybaby, and started performing in the NBA. Don't get me wrong- he still whines and I still don't really like him. But he isn't scared to speak his mind, and he goes out and performs, and you gotta respect that aspect of his game. Like him or not, his defense is pretty good, he is an underrated scorer, and he's one of the best rebounders in the NBA.
45- Zach Randolph: Power Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
There are two types of players whose stats don't do them justice: the guys who are better than their stats show, and the guys who put up awesome stats but aren't that amazing. I think Randolph is of the latter. Say what you want, though, he is a pretty consistent player. He's averaged a double-double five of the last seven years, and has averaged 20 and 10 in three of the last four. He isn't a bad free throw shooter for a post player, and he can even (gasp!) play a little defense when he wants. Alright, who am I kidding...Zach Randolph is horrible on defense. Hey, you can't do everything though, can you?
44- LaMarcus Aldridge: Power Forward, Portland Trail Blazers
Probably one of the most underrated players in the NBA, LaMarcus Aldridge does quite a bit for the Blazers. As a big, he has one of the best jump shots out there; he can hit mid-range shots all day, and he can even hit a three every once in a while. His rebounding isn't all that great, but his rebounding numbers have been steadily increasing. Aldridge is a better passer than he gets credit for, he hardly turns the ball over, and he's a great team player. All in all, Aldridge is beginning to bring it all together.
43- Rashard Lewis: Power Forward, Orlando Magic
Lewis isn't the flashiest player, and he doesn't put up the best numbers in the world (just 14+ points and 4+ rebounds), but his shot is deadly, and he can change a game like not many other basketball players in the world. Lewis can absolutely light it up from downtown, and in the process, opens up the offense for his four other teammates to expand their games. If he was a first option his scoring would be way up, and if he didn't play with Superman, his rebounding numbers would be much higher. For the record, I've always thought that Lewis would be an awesome Olympic player (the height and the shot) and have wondered why he never gets a look.
42- Jason Kidd: Point Guard, Dallas Mavericks
J-Kidd might not be the player he once was, but he still can perform with the best point guards in the league. For the 55-win Mavericks, he was fifth in scoring, fifth in rebounding, and led the team in steals and assists. Did you know Kidd averaged over 9 assists a game this year? He shot over 40% from the field and over 42% from downtown, but still was an excellent rebounder for a point guard. Jason Kidd might be 37, but he plays like he's 29.
41- Jason Richardson: Shooting Guard, Phoenix Suns
I'd be willing to be that when you read this, you were a bit shocked. Jason Richardson? What could he be doing here? Well, I'll tell you what he's doing here; he's one of the 50 best players in the NBA. J-Rich can shoot, penetrate, rebound, play a little defense, and, of course, hammer it home. Yes, I know he plays in a run-n-gun offense, but he also knows how to play with all of the other scorers on his team, and J-Rich is one of the most underrated players around.
40- Chris Kaman: Center, Los Angeles Clippers
Gasp! The Clippers have a player on this list?! They sure do. Over the past three years, Kaman has averaged near 15 and 10 a night, has good block numbers, and is becoming a better passer every year. Yes, he puts up stats on a bad team, but he could be an effective player on any team in the NBA.
39- Rudy Gay: Small Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
While the one word that seems synonymous with Gay is 'potential', he has quietly developed into a very good player. Gay can score (19+ points a night), rebound (6 a night), knock down shots, and play some defense. Even his assists are getting better! While Rudy Gay still has the potential to be a star in the future, there is a reason that there's talk of him getting a near-max deal in the summer: he is already a pretty good player.
38- Russell Westbrook: Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
That's Mr. Russell Westbrook, to you! How many guys averaged more than 16 points and 8 assists a game this year? Seven; five are All-Stars, one is LeBron (yeah, he gets his own category), and one is Westbrook. It isn't like he was alright on a decent team, Westbrook ran the youngest team in the NBA, the one that won 50 games. Can you name two other guys on the Thunder? Or their coach? While he is a fantastic leader, what I really like about him is his on-ball defense, which can be a bit spotty at times, but is generally very good. He's a tenacious defender who locked guys down in the Pac-10 at UCLA, and now locks down stars in the Western Conference. Westbrook is just 21 (think about that for a second), but is already an elite player in the league. Forget about The Durantula for a second, and Westbrook has all the makings of an All-Star for many years.
37- Manu Ginobili: Shooting Guard, San Antonio Spurs
There are certain players in the NBA who can score whenever they want, and it's one of the most frustrating things in the world to watch. Manu Ginobili is one of those guys, and while some people might look at the fact that he generally comes off the bench; I look at his production that comes off the bench. In under 29 minutes, Manu will get you 17 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and at least 2 'wow' moments. You might not like him, you might not respect him, and you might not think he's impressive, but no one can deny how valuable Ginobili is, and especially in the playoffs, which counts for something.
36- David Lee: Power Forward, New York Knicks
There aren't many post players who can get 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 asists on a consistent basis; David Lee is one of those guys. Shooting almost 54% from the field and over 80% from the line, Lee is one of the best flat-out scorers in the NBA. His only big knock is that he doesn't play much defense...but let's be realistic, most of the NBA doesn't play any defense. Lee will probably end up getting overpaid, but at the end of the day, he is an excellent player who will score, hustle, and pour his heart into the game.
35- David West: Power Forward, New Orleans Hornets
Yet another PF named David from a new world location! While there is no mistaking David West for a strong rebounder, nobody can deny that he is an All-Star who has the talent to control games all the time. Yes, his numbers aren't great, but who do you think defenses garner their game plans around when they play the Hornets? West can absolutely go off: he had 35 and 10 on Houston, 36 and 15 on Golden State, 40 and 10 on Orlando, 42 and 12 on Houston, 32 and 12 on Detroit, etc. etc. etc. But for every monster game, West will go 4-10 from the field and finish with 6 rebounds. Being consistent holds David West back, but he's still one of the best forwards in the NBA.
34- Tony Parker: Point Guard, San Antonio Spurs
For every guy like Zach Randolph, who puts up awesome numbers and isn't an awesome player, there is someone like Tony Parker, who plays far better than his stats show. Yes, Parker might 'only' average 16 points and 5 assists, but if you ever watch the Spurs play, you know why they win championships: they play together, and Tony Parker is the guy who makes him go. Yes, he might be a bit overrated, but at the end of the day, there aren't many guards who can score like he can when it counts, and I'm sure that every GM in the NBA would gladly take him on their team.
33- Al Horford: Center, Atlanta Hawks
Horford is just one of those guys. Not a primary option, not a very exciting player, just someone who goes out there and gets 14 and 10, plays good interior defense, and shoots 55%. One of the best rebounders in the NBA, Horford can control the paint when he isn't in foul trouble, and he one of the best offensive rebounders in the league (9th in the NBA this year). On the offensive end, Horford is a dependable scorer who could definitely put up 18-20 points a game if he was a bigger focus in the offense, and, like most of the people on this list, has improving passing skills. But unlike most of the people on this list, he doesn't need the ball to be effective, and he plays well with everyone. He hasn't fully-developed yet, but Horford is slowly becoming one of the thirty best players in the NBA.
32- Devin Harris: Point Guard, New Jersey Nets
The Nets were absolutely, positively, horrible this year...but that isn't really to the fault of Harris. Since he came to New Jersey, Harris has averaged near 17 points, 7 assists, and 3 rebounds per game. He's lightning-quick and shoots over 40% from the floor, and although it seems crazy, he isn't all that bad at running an offense, either. Give Harris the ball, and watch him score, give Harris a good team, and watch them win games. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though we'll ever see the second part of that equation.
31- Danny Granger: Small Forward, Indiana Pacers
One of the most overlooked players in the NBA, Danny Granger simply goes out and scores. And scores. And scores. Along with LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe and The Durantula, I'd throw Granger into the mix for best scorer in the NBA. Did you know he averages almost 25 points a night? He was eighth in the league in scoring this year, and fifth in scoring last year. Throw in almost 6 rebounds and 3 assists to that scoring, and you've got a pretty good player, eh? Why, you ask? I'll tell you why: Who else plays for the Indiana Pacers? Tyler Hansbrough? Yeah...alright. Maybe the NBA can give Seattle a team and put Harris and Granger in the backcourt...at least they would be fun to watch...
30- Ron Artest: Small Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
I don't really like Artest, but I've been a fan of his game for a while. Yes, he forces too many shots, he complains too much, and he is a headache. But he is one of the most complete players in the NBA. The last time he wasn't playing with multiple All-Stars, he averaged over 20 points a game. His rebounding has gone down recently, but Artest is still a guy who can get 5-6 a night at SF. He isn't a bad passer, doesn't turn the ball over much, and is a clutch shooter. But what I love about Artest is a defense. To say he is a tenacious defender is an understatement. Sure, he's lost a step, but there's a reason this guy won Defensive Player of the Year; he's awesome on defense. Playing for the Lakers might not show how good of a player he, but make no mistake, Ron Artest is a legitimate player.
29- Gilbert Arenas: Point Guard, Washington Wizards
No, he isn't the smartest guy in the world, but in spite of everything that happened this year, people forgot about something. Not only is Agent Zero an excellent player, but he was starting to develop into a complete point guard. In the 32 games that he player, he averaged 23 points and 7 assists, both above his career averages. The rebounding has always been good for a point guard, and there aren't too many guys in the league who you would rather with the game on the line than Arenas. If he isn't getting suspended (which I don't assume will happen again in the future) or injured (a bigger concern for his game), Arenas is one of the best players in the Eastern Conference.
28- Yao Ming: Center, Houston Rockets
Yao! Remember this guy? The big center who has career averages of 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks? The guy who shoots almost 55% from the field? The guy who hit almost 90% of his free throws? The same Yao who was starting to play more physical, and becoming a force in the West? Too bad he got hurt...then hurt again...the hurt again...then missed all of this year. When he's healthy, there's nobody like him. Of course, there aren't many 7-6, Chinese centers as it is, but I digress. At the end of the day, the talent is there; he just has to stay healthy. However, as good a player as Yao as, I still get a kick out of this.
27- Antawn Jamison: Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Mr. Consistent. All Jamison will do is get you 20 points and 8 rebounds, knock down shots all season long, stay out of foul trouble, not turn the ball over, do what is asked of him, and not cause any problems off the court. Yeah, Antawn Jamison is a pretty good, and a bit of an underrated, player. He was overshadowed by Arenas, and now he's overshadowed by that one dude who plays for the Cavs, but don't let that fool you. There is a reason that Jamison has been to multiple All-Star games.
26- Chauncey Billups: Point Guard, Denver Nuggets
In a tight game, there might not be another NBA player who I would rather have with the ball in his hands than Billups, AKA Mr. Big Shot. He'll get you 20 and 6 and run the offense very efficiently. But while he had an argument for MVP last year (which he did, even if no one wanted to hear it), he has fallen off, to an extent, this year. I don't want to count him out just yet, but realistically, he seems like he might have topped off during his NBA career. Either way, he still is one of the near-25 best players in the NBA. At least at the moment.
25- Al Jefferson: Power Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
Living in Minnesota, my NBA team is the Timberwolves. As unfortunate as that might be, I do get access to some cool things. Things like Big Al. But being a T-Wolves fan, I also notice things about their players that other NBA fans don't see. One of these things is that, as painful as it is to say, Big Al's stats are better than he is. Now, don't get me wrong, Jefferson is one of the best post players in the league. But realistically, while his post game is very good, he is putting up stats on a bad team. While his defense is getting better, his passing hasn't improved at all, and his rebounding took a big step back this year. In his defense, though, he is still hobbled by injuries, and this is a guy who plays through pain on a consistent basis. Surround him with some talent (yes, I'm looking at you, David Kahn) and we'll all be able to see what he can do. But until that point, his numbers are all we have. While Jefferson was underrated for a while, I honestly think the point has been reached where he is a little bit...here goes...overrated. But he's still young, so don't be surprised to see his game improve, and him make the jump into the top twenty soon.
24- Gerald Wallace: Small Forward, Charlotte Bobcats
While his performance in the dunk contest was absolutely inexcusable, it's becoming increasingly-hard to ignore his play for the Hornets. This year, Wallace really stepped his game up, and averaged a double-double for the first time in his career. He isn't a bad passer, either, and his defense is very good. He was third in Defensive Player of the Year voting, and is one of the few guys in the league who can be consistently counted upon to get both blocks, and steals. Still just 27, Wallace might have his best days ahead of him, but he is already a star on the scene.
23- Steve Nash: Point Guard, Phoenix Suns
Steve Nash? All he did was facilitate one of the best teams in the league, average 16.5 points a night on 51% shooting, lead the NBA in assists, and prove that he still has the ability to take over games. Nash accounts for almost 40 points a night, and can light it up from downtown. For all of the doubters out there, Nash has quietly averaged 16+ and 11+ in three of the past four years. You can never sleep on the Suns- and the reason behind them is Nash.
22- Caron Butler: Small Forward, Dallas Mavericks
Caron Butler is probably the most underrated player in the NBA. One of the best scorers in the league, Butler hasn't averaged less than 16 points a game since playing for the Lakers in 2004-2005. He's gone for 20 a night for two of the last three years, and his rebounding numbers are pretty solid for a small forward. He's averaged 4.9 assists before, but his defense is no problem, either. Butler is an underrated player on the defensive end, who is one of the tougher players in the league. Had he played in Dallas all year, I think the Mavericks would have done much better in the playoffs. But as it is, nobody will really give this guy credit, anyway.
21- Carlos Boozer: Power Forward, Utah Jazz
Carlos Boozer went to Duke. I don't like Duke. Carlos Boozer pulled a bush-league move on the Cleveland Cavaliers. I didn't like that. But Carlos Boozer is a very good basketball player, and someone who can get you 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists a night. Boozer's defense is a bit of a hassle, but again, this is the NBA; nobody cares about your defense. Boozer has a nice touch for a big guy, but can get physical when he needs to. If he leaves Utah, someone will be getting themselves quite the player in Boozer.
20- Andre Iguodala: Shooting Guard, Philadelphia 76ers
Along with Butler, Iguodala can make the claim of the most underrated swingman in the NBA. Iguodala was 14th in the NBA in assists with 5.8, or more than half of the league's point guards. He also averaged 6.5 rebounds a night. Wanna take a guess as to how many people averaged more than 5 assists and 6 rebounds a game? Five? Three? Two. There was that guy from Cleveland, the one who won some award or something, and Andre Iguodala. Throw in his 17 points a game, and his above-average defense, and Iguodala is one of the most well-rounded players in the NBA...even if nobody knows it. How he isn't an All-Star is beyond me.
19- Tim Duncan: Center, San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan. The most boring superstar of all-time. The least-interesting champion ever. This guy can lull you to sleep, but while you're asleep, he'll burn you for his nightly averages of 17 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists, and when you wake up, he'll pretty much shut down your post-up game. Unfortunately, Timmy D is 34, and has lost a step. But while he isn't the player he once was, he is still a member of the NBA's elite.
18- Derrick Rose: Point Guard, Chicago Bulls
Rose averaged 20 and 6 this year, and helped bring the Bulls back to the playoffs. Wanna take a guess as to how old he is? 24? 22? Try 21. At just 21 years of age, Derrick Rose is turning into a superstar in front of his hometown fans. But what really jumps out at me from Rose is the improvements that he is making. From year one to year two, Rose's scoring went up four points- but his field goal percentage went up, too. And even with the near-20% scoring increase, his turnovers only increased by .3 a game. Rose was eleventh in the NBA in assists, but he averaged less turnovers than nearly everyone in front of him, save for Jason Kidd. All in all, Rose could be the best point guard in the NBA in two or three years. It's a stretch, but there certainly is a possibility.
17- Amar'e Stoudemire: Center, Phoenix Suns
One of the best scorers in the NBA, Amar'e can play with anyone out there. His offensive game is complete, and many a defender have tried to stop him. It wasn't the best idea in the world. When Stoudemire has a semi-clear path to the hoop, you might just want to get out of the way. When he's having a good game, he might be the best big man in the league. He pulls down rebounds, he blocks shots, and he scores whenever he wants. But other times, he plays lazy, he takes less-than-ideal shots, and he rebounds like a point guard. Even though he is 6-10 and incredibly athletic, Amar'e has never, yes never, averaged more than 9.6 rebounds a game, and hasn't averaged more than 9.1 a game since 2006-2007. Not to say that those numbers aren't good- but if Amar'e wants to take it to the next level, he'll need to step it up a little bit.
16- Rajon Rondo: Point Guard, Boston Celtics
The Celtics have three Hall of Famers on their team, and four guys who were All-Stars in the 90s, but the key to the team is Rondo. He runs the offense and was fourth in the NBA in assists this year. No, his scoring isn't great, but he is a fourth option- what do you expect? Rondo's strength is his defense, as he is one of the premier on-ball defenders in the league, and even though his game is more offensive-minded now, Rondo still found time to lead the league in steals. He doesn't do anything fantastic, but he does a ton of things above-average, and Rondo has established himself as a star in the NBA who's here to stay.
15- Josh Smith: Power Forward, Atlanta Hawks
I know this one will raise a lot of eyebrows, but before you jump all over me, at least give me time to defend my pick. Smith has been one of the most athletic players in the NBA for a while now, but he is finally starting to develop into one of the most complete players, too. His scoring is up, and he averaged 16 points a game on 50% shooting, a career-high. His rebounding reached a career-high this year, and he jumped up to eighth in the Eastern Conference. But this year, he finally stopped taking contested threes (or at least less of them...) and began to pass out of double-teams; his assists jumped way up to 4.2 a game. It might not sound like a lot, it was 33rd in the NBA (remember, Smith is a 6-9 PF) and more than many point guards, including teammate Mike Bibby. But what really makes Smith a force is his defense. Often lauded for highlight plays, he finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting this year and had a fantastic year on the defensive side of the ball. Even Smith's turnovers went down this year! All in all, Smith is finally turning into the complete player the Hawks saw when they drafted out of high school, and at just 24, he has a career that can be long and successful ahead of him.
14- Pau Gasol: Power Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
While he might not be Kobe, Pau Gasol flat-out produces, and there is no other way to say this. He will score, rebound, pass out of double-teams, dive for balls, play some defense, and knock down shots. Gasol is even starting to play physical, and his rebounds (11.3) were easily the highest of his career. Gasol's passing is excellent for a big man, and realistically, not a lot of post players are having the success that he is having. He might not be the best player on his team, but it seems alright with him.
13- Paul Pierce: Small Forward, Boston Celtics
Out of all the guys on this list, Pierce was one of the hardest to place. Right now, he is still a top-three small forward in basketball. Next year? Well, he probably wonit be. But you have to remember the amount of talent he plays with, the amount of pressure that is on him, and the amount of injuries that he deals with. When healthy, Pierce will get you 18-20 points a night, to go along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and clutch defense when it counts. People forget that when the Celtics won the title, he was the one who defended both Kobe and LeBron on the road to the finals. He would be higher on here, but his scoring and rebounding numbers have taken big hits this year- the truth might be that The Truth is beginning to fall off. Even so, he still hit over 40% from downtown, is one of the most clutch players in the league, and is a warrior who will give it his all every night. It just so happens that his all isn't nearly what it once was.
12- Dirk Nowitzki: Power Forward, Dallas Mavericks
Everyone seems to agree on one thing: Dirk's scoring is awesome. But many people seem to think that Dirk is a top-ten player; not at all. We know he can score, but there are many problems I see with him. These problems include: being a below-average passer and averaging less than three assists, even playing with multpiple All-Stars, a rebounding average of under 8.3 for the first time in ten years, and a knack for shooting too many contested jumpers. But beyond that, Dirk also has a knack for consistently chewing out his teammates when they make mistakes (am I the only one who's noticed this?) and, more importantly, being the superstar on a team built around him, who has developed into the biggest-choking franchise in the NBA. The Mavs win games, but when it really counts, they always find a way to blow it. At some point, fair or not, doesn't the blame have to fall on Dirk?
11- Joe Johnson: Shooting Guard, Atlanta Hawks
If Andre Iguodala isn't the most underrated star in the league, Double-J might certainly can lay claim to that. The Hawks were awful five years ago, and under Mike Woodson, people have noticed that they have gotten better every year. Guess who else came to town five years ago? An above-average rebounder as a guard, Johnson has averaged 5.8 assists a game the last two years, is one of the best scorers in the NBA (just out of Granger/LeBron/Kobe category), and is a pretty underrated defender. I still contend that whoever signs him this offseason (Jamal Crawford was brought in for a reason, and it wasn't to back him up for years) will be getting the steal of the summer, as there is certainly a reason that he's been to the last four All-Star games. He might not be Kobe, but Johnson is a superb shooting guard.
10- Carmelo Anthony: Small Forward, Denver Nuggets
If you have ever talked to me about basketball before, you know that the only thing more overrated than the Duke Blue Devils is Carmelo. At least, was more overrated. I stood up against Carmelo for years, trashed his scoring, pointed out his rifts with coaches, noted of his off-the-court problems, and used every possible moment to point out how horrible he was on defense. But then something funny happened, this year, I became a believer...sort of. I still won't elevate him into the best of the NBA, but he is definitely close. The scoring got better. He took less dumb shots. He started rebounding. He became more of a team player (or, at least what less than an assist a quarter can get you, team-player wise). He started focusing on defense. He began to be less careless with the ball. He started leading by example, and the Nuggets responded. Even the small stuff, such as his free throw shooting, began to round out. A maturity of some sorts? Whatever you want to call it, Carmelo has definitely stepped his game up. Even I can admit that.
9- Brandon Roy: Shooting Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
Roy is one of the most complete players in the NBA, and is one of the few scorers who can go for 40 one night, then settle for 19 the next night and let the Blazers offense run through someone else. But don't get me wrong- being unselfish is great, and that is why Roy is such a good player. However, his numbers took a step back this year. He had career-lows in rebounding, steals, and three-point percentage to go along with smaller assist numbers and a career-high in turnovers. But again, don't get me wrong, Roy still handles the ball excellently and has a great assist-to-turnover ratio. What's great about Brandon Roy is how good of a defender he is, though, and while his steal numbers aren't great, they don't tell the whole story. Roy is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, and can shut anyone (and at 6-7, I mean anyone) down on any given night. If he played for the Knicks, he would probably be LeBron's biggest rival. But as it is, Oregon isn't full of lights, and Roy doesn't get the attention he deserves. Don't worry though, it doesn't bother him; most of us know how good he is.
8- Chris Bosh: Power Forward, Toronto Raptors
Another player who took his game to another level this year, Bosh became a truly elite big man this season. To go along with career-highs in scoring and rebounding, he attacked the rim more, got to the line more, played more defense, and finally shot over 50% from the field, another career-high. Often overlooked because he didn't play with the intensity of KG or have the antics of Dirk, Bosh has finally surpassed both, and has firmly established himself as the second-best big in the NBA, and the best who doesn't play center. My only gripe with Bosh is his inconsistency; not a huge problem, but take his last two healthy games of the year, for example. Against the 76ers, he had 28, 12, and 7, although he had zero steals or blocks. A near triple-double, as you can see. He followed it up the next night against the Warriors with 42 and 13, and also an incredible 5 steals...but zero assists. In fact, Bosh had eight games without an assist. Again, these things aren't a huge deal, but in order to be a top-five player in the NBA, Bosh will have to be a bit more consistent.
7- Deron Williams: Point Guard, Utah Jazz
While many a basketball fan are ready and willing to anoint D-Will as the best point guard around...I'm not quite ready. At the same time, nobody can continue to overlook how good the Jazz superstar is. Are 19 points and 11 assists good enough for you? How about 26, 11 and almost 50% from downtown in the playoffs? Does that catch your attention? Williams rebounds, gets to the line, plays solid defense, and really understands how to play. I'm not sure who doesn't think he is a star anymore, so I'm just gonna wrap this up a little early...
6- Kevin Durant: Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
First off, let me just say that this guy came from out of nowhere. Who saw this happening? What? I said it would happen? And I said it before a lot of people realized what could be? Oh...well alrght then :) Sorry for that. Anyway, the time has happened: Kevin Durant is an absolute superstar. Since these rankings are current, no matter how good Kevin Durant will be in the future (and he'll get even better, trust me), we can only focus on what is happening at the moment. As it is, he led Thunder, who essentially picked a sixth man in the offseason, from 23 to 50 wins...think about that for a second. KD averaged over 30 points a game, the youngest do to so, along with 7+ rebounds and nearly three assists a night. At 6-9, Durant is excellent from downtown, and nearly led the NBA in free throw percentage. But what really shocked me was his defense when he decided that he could be pretty good at that, too. Ask Kobe if you don't really believe me, I think he might remember. All in all, Durant is getting close to challenging LeBron for best small forward in the game. Just give him time.
5- Dwight Howard: Center, Orlando Magic
Superman! He scores, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he opens up the floor, he makes his teammates better, he wins Defensive Player of the Year awards, he shoots over 60% from the field, he changes games, he wins dunk contests, he has fun playing basketball. Do you want me to go on? Dwight Howard is a baller, straight up. If you could pick anybody to start a franchise around, he definitely could make a case to be chosen. But right now, his offensive game just doesn't do enough for me (I know, I know, he does so much though, hence why he is ranked this high); to be polite, his offensive game, is, well how do I say this, terrible. He can't make free throws. He can't be trusted to make things happen down low. His post moves are below-average. He got out-played by Pau Gasol in the biggest series of his life. I'm not saying Dwight Howard isn't a fantastic basketball player, because he is. The fact that he can still get 20+ points routinely shows how good of a player he is. He just isn't quite complete enough to be at the top of this list.
4- Kobe Bryant: Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Gasp! Call me stupid, call me an idiot, tell me I don't watch basketball, do whatever you want. Kobe is amazing. He's one of the best to ever play. But right now, in my humble opinion, Kobe isn't the best there is. Yes, he's a tremendous scorer. Yes, he can lock up the best players in the world. And no, he isn't this high because he shoots too much- that's just ignorance (if I was Kobe Bryant, you better believe I'd love to pull the trigger). He's this high because he has been surpassed by younger, more complete players. Kobe plays with the most complete team in the NBA, and even though his point guard averages just 2.5 assists a game, Kobe is just 25th in the league in assists- and for someone who handles the ball as much as he does, I don't consider that to be incredible. But for putting up less-than-awesome point guard stats, Kobe turns the ball over more than any PG, excluding Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 71st in the NBA...or a lot worse than Vince Carter's. Jason Kidd actually gets more rebounds than him. His field goal percentage is nothing special, either, and Tyreke Evans, Carmelo and O.J. Mayo, all with reputations of being gunners, shoot better than him. So does Stephen Curry. Also, just for the record, his defense is overrated. I think that pretty much sums it up. Kobe is better at playing basketball than I'll ever be at anything, but he doesn't crack the top-three. At least, not at the moment.
3- Chris Paul: Point Guard, New Orleans Hornets
While most of the world is ready to anoint D-Will the crown, I'm not convinced. CP3 still has that crown. And yes, Chris Paul is one of the three best players in the NBA, your eyes weren't playing tricks on you or anything. Playing injured, on a horrible team, with defenses who keyed on him, what kind of stats did Paul put up? 19 points, 11 assists, 4 rebounds, over 2 steals, and over 40% from downtown. But if you back to when he was healthy, which was last year, you'll get...wait for it...23 points (seventh in the NBA), 11 assists (led the NBA), 2.8 steals (led the NBA), 50 double-doubles (third in the NBA), 38.5 minutes (eighth in the NBA), 50% shooting from the field (24th in the NBA), 86% shooting from the line (18th in the NBA), and 5.6 rebounds (remember, he is a 6-0 point guard), which was more than Kobe, D-Wade or any other All-Star guard. Throw in that he turns the ball over about once a half, will shoot near 50% from the field, and plays excellent defense, and you have yourself one of the best basketball players in the world. And don't forget, LeBron gets Indiana and Detroit in his division, Kobe gets Sacramento and Golden State in his division, but CP3 has Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, even Memphis was good this year. Go ahead, throw in your argument, I'll argue for CP3 forever. You just have to be realistic, and realistically, Chris Paul is amazing.
2- Dwyane Wade: Shooting Guard, Miami Heat
And here we are, the second best player in the NBA has arrived. D-Wade might be overlooked by many, but not me. For the record, in case you've forgotten, he also has a ring. Yeah, like a championship ring. Over the past two years, D-Wade has averaged more than 28 points a game, 7 assists a game, 4.95 rebounds a game (so basically 5, as a SG), 2 steals a game, 1.2 blocks a game (which is unheard of for a guard), and has led his team to the playoffs twice. He's the only guy who doesn't play point guard or isn't named LeBron, who was in the top ten in assists (the only other one in the top 24 was Andre Iguodala- remember?). Now, think about the Miami Heat for a second, and how good he must be to account for about 40 points a game with that surrounding cast. The next five leading scorers are, as follows: Michael Beasley (bust), Jermaine O' Neal (old), Udonis Haslem (not a scorer), Quentin Richardson (old), and Mario Chalmers (not a scorer). The rest of the rotation includes Dorell Wright and Carlos Arroyo. Now, how many of those guys are above-average NBA players? Two? Three? Kobe has Odom, Gasol, Bynum, Artest and Fisher; LeBron has Jamison, Williams and Shaq; even Chris Paul has David West. But D-Wade? D-Wade's second best player doesn't even start. His third best player is 6-10, but barely gets three rebounds a half. His fourth best player is Jermaine O' Neal. Jermaine O' Neal? Are you serious? Now, remember that when you realize that D-Wade is the only comparable scorer/passer who compares to LeBron (the top of the scoring/passing category), the only guy who compares to the steals per game that Chris Paul (the top of the steals category) does, and the only guy who can do this. Or do this. Or remember this one? You've got "a block on (Amar'e) Stoudemire, eh, let me give you 68 feet", the best dunk in a while, and the most underrated highlight ever. Seriously. If you are gonna watch one of those links, please watch the last one. You won't regret it. Anyway, in conclusion, I'll try to keep this short, Dwyane Wade is amazing at basketball, doesn't get the respect he deserves, and is the second best player in the NBA. Boom.
1- LeBron James: Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Alright seriously, does anything even need to be said?
Well, there you have it. That was my list. I know you disagree with it, so leave your comments, and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!