In the ever competitive arena of ranking players, here is another one to start the debates:
20. Gilbert Arenas. Gilbert is an explosive scorer but not a great team player or defender. His scoring has actually dropped three seasons in a row. Although, it may not be fair to include this season as it was tragically stopped after only eight games. Regardless, he is still an incredible talent that do anything with the ball at anytime.
19. Manu Ginobli. Very creative player who can drive to the hoop or shoot the three. It is unclear whether he can carry a team on his back without help (Duncan and Parker). His points, assists, steals, and rebounds are all up this year. Where does the improvement end? How about an end to the flops! But no matter how you feel about his "exaggerations" he is no doubt one of the most exciting players to watch in the game today.
18. Paul Pierce. Another scorer who can carry a team, but not an all-around great player. How about a drop in points and rebounds? Well, on an incredibly talented Boston Celtic team, it simply shows that Paul Pierce is ready to whatever it takes to win a championship. With his lower production has come a higher FG%, higher 3PT%, and higher FT%. Oh, yeah...plus 51 wins and counting.
17. Allen Iverson. Ultra quick tough player. One negative is no effort on defense. He is consistent, though, and with his new best friend, Carmelo Anthony, currently filling the 3rd and 4th spots on the league's scoring list, the Denver Nuggets are primed for a run into the playoffs. But, that is all dependent on that non-existent Denver defense.
16. Tracy McGrady. A scorer that is very athletic. Can be very clutch. And as 20 wins in a row can show you, and with many of those without Yao Ming, he CAN lead a team. Who thought the Houston Rockets would be in 3rd place in the Western Conference at this stage of the season. Well, Tracy McGrady thought so, and is proving this with his determination every game.
15. Baron Davis. Extremely strong point guard. Great leader and delivers in the clutch. And you better watch out if these Golden State Warriors make the playoffs. Remember last year!? Baron Davis will lead this team with emotion, scoring, and thunderous dunks. I think Andre Kirilenko is still laid out on the floor from last year's Dunk of The Year.
14. Dirk Nowitzki. A big guy who can play outside and inside. Can shoot and post up. A difficult guy to match up with. If he can get over the heartbreak of losing the Finals TWO years ago, he may be one of the most formidable forwards in the game. His skill is unquestioned. Only his mind. His assists, blocks, and defensive rebounds are up this year. Good for Avery Johnson! He took an offensive juggernaut and turned him into an all-round player.
13. Carmelo Anthony. A absolute superstar player. He can score in multiple ways. However, his defense is questionable. I'm not sure if AI's comments on toughness and defense several weeks ago helped or hindered the Nugget's run, but Carmelo sure took notice. His rebounding is significantly higher this year, and especially this past month. And I suppose you can't complain about this 24.4ppg and silky smooth approach to every shot, alley-oop, and behind the back pass.
12. Amare Stoudamire. A big man who can run the floor, and is lethal in transition. Deadly off the pick-and-roll. Jump shot much improved. Can be a defensive presence, especially now that Shaq-Daddy has rolled into town. It's almost scary how good Amare already is and how good he may be. He just shouldn't be able to do what he does with the size of this body: 6'10" and 245 lbs! The really scary thing now is that his blocks are up and his defensive rebounds are up. He's not staying at number 12 very long!
11. Carlos Boozer. Big man who controls the paint. Can score with both hands. This "kid" is only 26 years old, yet seems to have been around the NBA for years. His basketball maturity is incredible and with young Deron Williams, he is destined to do even better with time. Come playoff time I don't want to face his Utah Jazz.
10. Steve Nash. Great point guard with excellent vision. Always finds the open man. Also, very good three-point and free throw shooter. In a pregame warm-up recently, Steve Nash hit 37 3-pointers in a row. Yes, his shooting has improved, and when mixed with his knack for finding the open man, literally ANYWHERE on the court: "Beware Opponents". This guy is lightning quick and almost always makes the right decision with the ball.
9. Dwyane Wade. Off-the-charts explosion going to the rim. Can score in the lane. Very clutch and brings a lot of intensity. It's a shame Shaq turned 50 this year. Dwyane is getting better every year, yet has lost his big man to help draw the double and triple teams away from him. But I don't doubt Dwyane's ability to make do. He's still one the NBA's best pure scorers. It will just have to wait until next year. (Dwyane Wade is out for the season, as of March 10th with a left knee rehab).
8. Yao Ming. A very skilled big man. Has trouble staying healthy. One negative: not very fast. Strange thing to list for the number 8 man in the NBA, but his most important improvement this year - Playing a career high 37 mpg, yet dropping his fouls per game from 3.4 to 3.1. For Yao's presence to be felt, he must be on the floor. Not nursing foul trouble which seemed to plague him his first several seasons in the league. His rebounds and assists are up also this year, so he is slowly but surely getting better. (Yao Ming is out for the season, as of February 26th with a broken left foot).
7. Chris Bosh. An extremely athletic and long player. Can play inside and outside. Can run in transition. Can finish around the basket. It's too bad his team can't seem to solidly around him. It's also too bad he's stuck in the exposure-less Toronto limelight. It's no wonder Vince Carter left. Chris Bosh is so extremely talented, proving it every night with points, rebounds, blocks, and a contagious intensity for the game; yet no one gets to see him play. Chris - How about a Knick uniform?
6. Tim Duncan. A bunch of post-moves. Can score in a multiple of ways. An excellent defender. There's not much you can say about Tim Duncan. He's a quiet, yet deadly assassin. In a Tim Duncan sort of way! Before you know it, it's the third quarter, the Spurs are leading by 10 and Timmy has 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks. How did he do that!? He did it the same way he does it every night. With consistent, fundamental basketball. Can you say, "off the glass"? This season, he is averaging 19.9ppg. That's the second lowest output of his career. Lower even than his rookie season. But the Spurs are one game out in the West. Timmy doesn't care. We'll see them in the Western Conference Finals.
5. Chris Paul. Great leader and player. Outstanding numbers. Can get everyone else involved and also score himself. Very quick. Chris Paul is only in his third season, yet is in the middle of the MVP discussion (likely to lose to Kobe or LeBron) but the fact is, he truly deserves mentioning in the conversation. He leads the league in steals. He is second in assists to another pretty good point guard, Steve Nash. Among fellow point guards, he is number two in scoring (21.3ppg); number five in FG% (49%); number four in FT% (88.4%); and number four in rebounds (3.9rpg). Yeah, I'd say this young point guard is pretty good. Imagine what he'll do when Tyson Chandler reaches his potential and David West continues his improvement. A GREAT player with a very good team behind him. Look out NBA!
4. Kevin Garnett. Can defend with the best of them. Can score from all over the floor and has many offensive numbers. Great guy for team chemistry and brings intensity and desire to win. Boston is holding him back a little during the stretch run, although it seems they don't need a 100% Garnett to continue this current 10-game winning streak. However, the Celtics do want a fresh Kevin Garnett for the playoffs. So although his numbers may be slightly lower this year (thanks to his new friends Paul Pierce and Ray Allen), he's not complaining. They have the best record in the NBA and he's primed for a strong performance in the playoffs.
3. Dwight Howard. Athleticism is off-the-charts. Can control the paint. Can score in bunches near the basket. Overpowers defenders for dunks. Blocks shots and rebounds among the best in the league. Leads the league in dunks. Scares the boogeyman to sleep with his dunks. And Chuck Norris runs like a little girl from his dunks. Oh, and did you see the Slam Dunk contest? WOW... So other than his dunks ("run away, run away"), this monster of the hard court is blessed with a ferocious ability to rebound and block shots. He actually leads the league in rebounds this season in addition to his...DUNKS. If you're old enough to remember Shaq in his first few seasons, then you'll be delighted to hear that Dwight Howard is actually better at the same point in his career. He's more athletic and has more basketball sense at this relatively early stage in the game than Shaq. So watch out for Dwight Howard. Because if you don't, don't come crying to me when your entire family tree is DUNKED on.
2. Kobe Bryant. I know, I know. I'll get the "Kobe hater" label. But that said, Kobe can score by going to the rim, shooting the three, or anything in between. Can defend like no other. Competitiveness and desire to win are unmatched by any other player. His FG%, 3PT%, RPG, and steals per game are all up. And, guess what? His scoring is down. Yet, his Lakers are in first place in the West. And just a few months ago, he was wanting/not wanting/wanting/not wanting to be traded. Instead, Pau Gasol was invited to the party. And I think the party has just begun for these Lakers. Kobe has been in the league for 12 seasons now. He knows what it takes to win and has been through this many times before. And believe it or not, he actually might make a good team leader.
1. LeBron James. Can get to the rim even if double-teamed. Can score even if the other team focuses all of their defense on him. Shooting ability may not be as good as Kobe, but athleticism is through the roof. Is extremely fast, strong, and agile. Should be MVP. There's not much more to be said. His numbers are up this season in EVERY category. He still might not have much of a team around him (even after the trades), but that won't stop LeBron. Just ask the Detroit Pistons about last year's playoff debacle.
Debate the list all you want. But one fact remains strong: The NBA is back and as big as ever. These superstars bring excitement to every game and the playoffs this year could be the best in recent memory.
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