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NBA Power Rankings: Best 25 Players In The League Right Now, Is Kobe Number One?

Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Best 25 Players In The League Right Now, Is Kobe Number One?

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    Is Kobe #1 on the list?Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    There is much debate over this topic, so I decided to give it a stab.

    Some have passed their prime, and some have yet to enter it. This list is updated as of the moment that it was created on Jan. 22, 2010.

    Some may be surprised to find out that only two of the "Big Four" in Boston have made this list.

    Only two Lakers are on this list, and only two of the Heat's "Big Three," and I know you're all wondering who I left out.

    Somewhere on this list lurks a Pacer, Timberwolf, a Clipper and even a Warrior.

    If you're from San Antonio or Houston, you might be upset with this list.

    Instead of blabbing about it any longer, I will just let you enjoy it.

Who Just Missed Out?

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Who were the last 10 out of the list?

     

    1. LaMarcus Aldridge, F, Portland Trail Blazers

    2. Ray Allen, G, Boston Celtics

    3. Kevin Garnett, F, Boston Celtics

    4. Eric Gordon, G, Los Angeles Clippers

    5. Raymond Felton, G, New York Knicks

    6. Lamar Odom, F, Los Angeles Lakers

    7. Tim Duncan, F, San Antonio Spurs

    8. Chris Bosh, F, Miami Heat

    9. Antwan Jamison, F, Cleveland Cavaliers

    10. Brandon Jennings, G, Milwaukee Bucks

Who Might Be On Next Year's List?

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    Tom Hauck/Getty Images

    What young players need a little bit on their resume to join the crew on the list?

     

    1. Wesley Matthews, G, Portland Trail Blazers

    2. Andrew Bynum, C, Los Angeles Lakers

    3. Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets

    4. Michael Beasley, F, Minnesota Timberwolves

    5. Al Horford, F, Atlanta Hawks

    6. John Wall, G, Washington Wizards

    7. Greg Monroe, C, Detroit Pistons

    8. Rodney Stuckey, G, Detroit Pistons

    9. O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis Grizzlies

    10. Darren Collison, G, Indiana Pacers

25. Josh Smith, F, Atlanta Hawks

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    Josh Smith is quickly becoming a high-flying superstar of the East.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    This might be an opening shocker, but Josh Smith is one of the best all-around players in the league. He has long been a secondary option in A-Town to Joe Johnson, whom you may or may not see later in this list.

    "J-Smoove" has solid numbers in just about every aspect. He averages 16 points, nearly two blocks, 9 rebounds, and 1.3 steals a game. He also shoots 46 percent from the floor and 37 from deep, a career best.

    He was also third in the league with 138 dunks in 2009-10.

    The high-flying Smith was just 23 years of age when he became the youngest player ever to reach 900 career swats.

    If he was the main option on his team, he'd be putting up Johnson-like numbers.

    Understand why he's on the list now? I thought so.

24. Steve Nash, G, Phoenix Suns

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Ever since he came out of Santa Clara University, Steve Nash has partially changed the scope of the NBA point guard.

    No point guard in the NBA does as much as Nash does for the Phoenix Suns. He plays with a bunch of unknowns and washed up superstars (sorry, Vince Carter) and still manages to get the job done night after night.

    In 15 seasons, Nash has tallied double-digit assist averages in five winters.

    He is having one of the best seasons of his storied career, and it happens to be the year after superstar forward Amar'e Stoudemire (who, ironically enough, is in Nash's photo as a defender) took his talents to the Big Apple. 

    Simply put, when all is said and done, Nash will be one of the best in Phoenix to ever throw on the purple, orange and gray.

23. Danny Granger, F, Indiana Pacers

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    Danny Granger is one of the best players no one ever talks about.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Whenever a discussion about the most underrated players in the NBA is brought about, Danny Granger is almost always mentioned.

    The fact of the matter is that the former New Mexico Lobo is the third-best player to put on the blue and yellow in the last decade, behind Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal.

    Averaging 21.5 points, 3 assists, and 5.7 rebounds isn't necessarily something to be shy about either. He also is a solid 83 percent from the charity stripe this season.

    He's only missed double digits thrice this year and the Pacers have been somewhat of a surprise thus far at 16-23 and it is because of Granger and Co.'s play that they sit there.

22. Carlos Boozer, F, Chicago Bulls

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Chicago was missing a piece to the puzzle in November.

    Bulls fans knew who it was, and when he came back, the team turned into a legitimate title contender.

    A former Duke Blue Devil, Carlos Boozer is having one of the best seasons in his nine-year career, averaging a double-double with 21.0 and 10.1 rebounds per contest.

    He is a force inside and is also a pretty solid defender. My only knock on the Juneau, Alaska, native is that he needs to limit his high turnover rate (2.7), which is remarkable considering Rose handles the ball the majority of the time.

    Now it's easy to give Rose all the credit for the Bulls' success, but Boozer is a main catalyst of the franchise that hasn't been great since the Greatest Of All Time left the hardwood in 1998.

    With Boozer and other key players like D-Rose, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng, the puzzle may be finally pieced together.

21. Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta Hawks

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Do you even recall who played in Atlanta before Johnson started to light it up?

    Was it Shareef Abdur-Rahim?

    Regardless, Joe Johnson has put together himself a nice career, and established himself as a quiet leader in Atlanta after being overshadowed in Phoenix.

    Johnson, like Josh Smith, is a solid all-around player, and at 6'7" and 240 pounds has the size of a forward but the mentality and skills of a shooting guard.

    He is averaging more than 19 points per game while shooting around 43 percent, but his leadership skills trample any number he individually puts up.

    In six full seasons in Atlanta he has led the Hawks every year in scoring, averaging just about 21 points per game, making his way onto this list easily.

20. Rajon Rondo, G, Boston Celtics

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    Rondo is the second best of the Big FourMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Recently, I wrote a column about how I could find five point guards who were superior point guards to Rajon Rondo.

    Well, four of them are above him on this list.

    I know that I will once more get ripped on for putting the 6'1" Rondo so low on the list, but the fact of the matter is that there are players who do a lot more for their teams.

    Additionally, when you talk about the "Best Players in the NBA Right Now," there are so many players who have better skills than him.

    Now, that's not to knock on the 10-point, 13-assist averaging Rondo, who is possibly the best defensive guard in the league.

    He is a good player who is a great fit on the Celtics. There, I said it.

    Happy?

19. Rudy Gay, G, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Rudy Gay is quietly having the best season of his young career in Tennessee, posting higher averages in just about every important statistical category, including points (20.8) and field goal percentage (.479).

    The Baltimore product has been playing consistently since Game One, and the Grizz are on the upswing.

    His spot is well-deserved because of the uppage of his numbers and the leadership he has shown since Pau Gasol booked it out of Memphis.

    His patience should be noted, as Memphis has been basically awful for his entire career, and for the fact that he has never gotten a shot at the big time.

    He might even be higher if he played for a legitimate contender, but in all honesty, the Grizzlies aren't that far out of it.

18. Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Averaging 22.5 points, 8.4 assists, and five boards a game is nothing to be mad about.

    When you're taking the back seat to Kevin Durant, it really says something about how great of a player you actually are.

    The 22-year UCLA product, who was a teammate of Kevin Love's in Los Angeles, also averages two steals per game and shoots a solid 86 percent from the free throw line. How solid are his stats, honestly?

    Russell Westbrook's numbers not only reflect his skills and his prowess, they also define him as a player who knows his role and has done the absolute best he can.

    Throw in the fact that he plays 36 minutes and you have a guy who earns this well-deserved spot.

17. Manu Ginobili, G, San Antonio Spurs

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Surprisingly or not, Manu Ginobili is the only San Antonio Spur on this excellent list (yes, I do think it is excellent).

    Now I'm going to let it sink in that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are not upcoming on this list.

    The fact of the matter is that Duncan is finally showing signs of age, and Parker is having a decent year but narrowly misses the list.

    Ginobili can be given much of the credit for the success of the Spurs this year, and he is scoring efficiently, at 18.9 point per. He is also one of the NBA's best liars, but I'm not so sure I want to get into that now.

    Ginobili is hungry for that fourth ring, and for the chance to lead the team himself to one for the first time. The 33-year old Argentine will have to carry the team, unlike in year's past, if they want to win in April, May or even June.

16. Chris Paul, G, New Orleans Hornets

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Chris Paul is one of the best point guards in the league and is truly the main reason the Hornets won 10 in a row in November to open this season.

    Who does he have to work with again? David West?

    Paul is responsible for the good beginnings in 2010 and is having a spectacular year with good all-around stats. He is averaging 16.3 points, 9.7 assists, four rebounds on the dot, and 2.7 steals per game.

    Add in that he is shooting over 48 percent from the field and greater than 90 percent from the line and the "spectacular year" comment from above is validated.

    He is a great point guard and leader, and his contributions in New Orleans have earned him this 16th spot.

15. Paul Pierce, F, Boston Celtics

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    When all is said and done, Paul Pierce will be one of the best to ever throw on the green and white that graces the Boston Celtics' franchise.

    Simply put, "The Truth" has a correct nickname.

    One title and many points later, Pierce is having another good year at the hands of the Big Four (Rajon Rondo included), with 19.6 points per game and shooting nearly 52 percent from the field and greater than 42 percent from beyond deep.

    The Celtics compliment each other so well. Pierce and Ray Allen shoot; Kevin Garnett shoots and rebounds; and Rajon Rondo has poise and is a great passer and defender.

    Having complementary skills is great for a team looking to win another title, and Pierce is ready to take on whatever role is asked of him by coach Doc Rivers.

    Pierce's leadership and shooting will also be necessary if Boston is going to make a run.

14. Blake Griffin, F, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Looks like Blake Griffin was worth the wait for the Los Angeles Clippers.

    After sitting his rookie year out due to injury, the former Oklahoma Sooner was anxious to suit up in the red, white, and blue rather than his usual rookie business attire.

    Now he is taking the NBA by storm...literally.

    Easily the "Rookie" of the Year award leading candidate, Blake is headlining SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays game after game, and is slamming his way through the league.

    That's not to say he is just a pretty dunker. He is averaging 22.6 points, 12.8 rebounds (three behind league-leader Kevin Love) and 37 minutes per game while shooting 52 percent for the all-of-a-sudden red hot Clippers.

    The Clips have been a running joke in the NBA recently, and Griffin is set out to make sure people won't make those statements much longer.

    He and Love better make the All-Star team come early February.

    Just saying though, because the dunk contest won't be enough for the fierce and fiery Griffin.

13. Kevin Love, F, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The league's best rebounder deservedly is rewarded a spot in the top 25.

    For those of you who don't know only because the Wolves have a bad standing, Kevin Love is truly having a spectacular and historical year in 'Snowta.

    On Nov. 12, he became the first player since 1982 to record a game with at least 30 points and 30 rebounds, as he accounted for 31 apiece. He is averaging greater than 21 points a game, and a nation-leading 15.6 rebounds per game in only 36 minutes a game, nonetheless.

    If you're still not convinced Love belongs on this list, go to www.atdhe.net and watch the Wolves anytime they play because ESPN hasn't put them on for a single game this year.

    I, being a Timberwolves fan, have done so about 20 times this season when they blackout on the tube.

    This shoutout goes out to the Western Conference All-Star team: All you need is Love.

12. Pau Gasol, F, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    With every Michael Jordan, a Scottie Pippen is needed.

    Pau Gasol is that guy Kobe Bryant needed to win titles once more, especially after Shaquille O'Neal headed to Miami in the summer of 2004.

    The 30-year old Spaniard has had a solid career thus far, and this season he is averaging a healthy 18.6 per game to go with a solid 10.6 boards per game.

    The reason Gasol is on this list has to do with when he arrived in Los Angeles three seasons ago. As soon as he arrived, the Lakers started winning; it was simple as pie.

    A productive starter on a winning team automatically has a case for this list, and Gasol is a perfect example of this.

11. Monta Ellis, G, Golden State Warriors

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Perhaps the most unknown on the list, Monta Ellis has been flying under the radar for his entire tenure with the Golden State Warriors.

    This season has been no different, as he is third in the league in scoring, trailing only Kevin Durant and Amar'e Stoudemire, with 26 a game.

    Put that together with 5.7 assists and 2.3 steals per night and you have yourself some pretty darn good stats.

    The Warriors could be really good in the near future if Ellis continues to blend with players like Stephen Curry and David Lee.

    It's only a matter of time until Ellis officially bursts out onto the NBA scene, and this is why he is so high on the list.

    He will get a chance if he gets his first All-Star nod this February.

10. Carmelo Anthony, F, Denver Nuggets

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    This season, Carmelo Anthony has been the NBA's hottest commodity, swallowing up headlines like there is no tomorrow.

    Problem is, it doesn't necessarily have to do with his performance this year.

    The top free agent currently on the trading market, 'Melo still is one of the best scorers in the league, as indicated by his 23.5 average this season, good for 10th in the league.

    Rumors said he'd be in a Knicks uniform.

    They they claimed he would take his talents to Jersey.

    Free agency aside, 'Melo is one of the best forwards in the West and the blue, yellow, and white should enjoy him while they own him.

    When all is said and done, Denver will lose its top Nugget.

9. Deron Williams, G, Utah Jazz

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The Utah Jazz's point guard legacy continues to grow with the development of incumbent Deron Williams.

    Although he will probably never be superior to the legend that is John Stockton, Williams is easily one of the top 10 players in the game, and additionally is the second best at his position.

    Williams and the Jazz have pieced together a portion of the puzzle that is that their season. Unfamiliar and possibly dangerous acquisitions, coupled with injuries, might at some point take the team hostage, but this won't happen on Deron's watch.

    He has taken the team under his personal care, and is averaging 21.7 per contest, good for 15th in the NBA. Known as a passer, Williams is also averaging 9.4 assists. He has truly become a top passer and playmaker at his position.

    In order to go somewhere this year, Utah must rely on Williams, and you can bet he will give it his all.

8. Dirk Nowtizki, F, Dallas Mavericks

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    It's time to recognize the greatest European to ever play the game.

    Dirk Nowitzki, believe it or not, has scored the second most points in the NBA over the last 12 seasons. The 6'11 German trails only the prolific Kobe Bryant in that department.

    One thing that Nowitzki has been deprived of in his career is a true wingman and secondary option to help him win his first ring.

    Michael Finley, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Steve Nash, Josh Howard, and Caron Butler (still with the team) have all failed to do so in Dallas.

    The 2010-11 season might be his best shot to get that coveted championship. The Mavs are 27-15 and tied for third in the West, a testimony to the current talent on the roster.

    Dirk is contributing great numbers as usual, putting up 23.4 points per night while shooting nearly 53 percent and almost 40 from downtown.

    A title would secure Dirk's standing as one of the best players in this generation, as well as being a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

7. Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Experts criticized the first selection of Dwight Howard in the 2004 NBA Draft over fellow center Emeka Okafor.

    Who's laughing now?

    The NBA's other "Superman" is, simply put, a freak of nature. His stature, at first glance, makes him look more like a bodybuilder than a basketball player.

    Make no mistake about it; Howard is a basketball player.

    He is the best pure center of our time. His seemingly only flaw is that he doesn't have much range in his jumpshot. Other than that, he is an excellent shot blocker, a terrific rebound, a spectacular defender and surprisingly is a decent passer.

    At the moment he is having another great season, averaging more than 22 points, 2 swats, and 13 boards per game, all while shooting 57 percent.

    We'll see if Superman has some Magic in store come June.

6. Derrick Rose, G, Chicago Bulls

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    On Christmas Day, I wrote a column on why Derrick Rose should win the 2011 NBA MVP.

    On Jan. 22, four weeks later on the dot, I still stand firm in my original point.

    Ever since then, I have begun to notice other articles agreeing with my stance in the fact that he should win the award.

    D-Rose, a hometown hero in the making, is helping the city of Chicago believe that they are realistic contenders for the first time since His Airness left in 1998.

    In selecting him with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Chicago got its superstar that it so long desired because of the historic print MJ left on this franchise.

    Rose is averaging 24.7 points, eight assists, 4.7 rebounds, and shooting 44 percent as the leader of the leader of Da Bulls.

    The Bulls might just get by with Rose and a little help from his friends Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Luol Deng.

5. LeBron James, F, Miami Heat

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The summer of 2010 took a toll on the mindset of ultra-mega-superstar LeBron James.

    He lost in the playoffs (again) and took his talents to South Beach, a move that sent the entire city of Cleveland into a frenzy of clinical depression and outrage. Owner Dan Gilbert has since tried to do the best he can to make a mockery of James all year.

    The NBA's most talked-about figure has overcome the hate and is enjoying another spectacular campaign as a new man with a new number.

    Long a No.  23, the sharp, brand-new No. 6 has had his productivity fall a bit this season, but this is obviously because he sports the same uniform as fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, either of whom might be ahead of James on this list.

    He still averages better than 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game despite the stardom on the roster.

    Whether his signing was greedy or not, "King James" wants nothing more than to win an NBA title, and he is putting himself in a good position to contend.

4. Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Surprised to see him above LeBron? I thought so.

    The 29-year old Marquette University graduate is having a great year in Miami, sharing the spotlight for the first time since he split the love with Shaq in '07.

    Dwyane Wade is one of the best players in the sport, and wants to duplicated his 2006 NBA Finals title almost as badly as the title-less James and Chris Bosh.

    He practically begged those two to join him in the Sunshine State to endeavour on a quest to find treasure deep into June.

    He is currently averaging 25.1 points per game, good for sixth in the league to LeBron's fifth.

    So his stats are superb as usual, and something that often goes unnoticed is his improving and solid defense.

    That point alone ultimately reveals why he is a spot higher than his Heat counterpart.

    But he could care less about where his standing is on this list.

    He just wants to win.

3. Amar'e Stoudemire, F, New York Knicks

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    After a long tenure in the Sun Devil State with the Suns, it was time for a change of scenery for power forward Amar'e Stoudemire.

    The 6'10" power forward, who skipped college to play with the big boys, took his talents to the Big Apple in one of the most underappreciated offseason moves in NBA history.

    Nowadays, he is second in the league in scoring with 26.2 per, to go with nine rebounds and 2.6 assists every game.

    Many are starting to put together the belief that this year's Most Valuable Player race should come down to Amar'e and the Bulls' star point guard Derrick Rose. I believe it is, as both have put together great resumes to ensure themselves the top two spots on the ballot.

    After all, Stoudemire has helped generously in turning the Knicks (with the help of his friend and point guard Raymond Felton) into perennial contenders in the East, finally.

2. Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Surprised? Don't be. Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the NBA.

    Now before I get lots of comments and hate mail like I sometimes do, understand where I am coming from.

    The Thunder are contending in the West and are currently 27-15, tied for third.

    Durant is leading the league with 28.2 points per game, and to top that off, he also has a teammate averaging better than 20. He also sports a 6.2 rebounding averaging, all the while shooting nearly 89 percent from the line.

    His athleticism is not noted nearly as much as it should, and he even chips in on defense as well, something other top players might not do.

    He also has the skills to become one of the greatest when all is said and done. 

    Yes, I said it, and I mean it.

1. Kobe Bryant, G, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Lakers all-time leading scorer is undoubtedly one of the best players ever to pick up a basketball. In years people of this generation will look back into the past and say that they remember his prime.

    As much as I dislike and envy the Los Angeles Lakers, I cannot help it if I have the utmost respect for Kobe Bryant.

    Sure he may have done some regrettable things, but this has no translation to his basketball game.

    "The Black Mamba" is still the top player and 15 years into his storied career he has 12 All-Star selections, established himself as a great scorer, and one of the best defenders in the game.

    This has continued into the 2010-11 season, as Kobe is averaging 25 points per game and is shooting 46 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe.

    Kevin Durant might be a better pure scorer, but no one (not even someone he doesn't like him, such as myself) can deny Kobe's greatness.

    As fellow star LeBron James once said, "I've been quoted millions of times saying Kobe is the best player in our league for the last five years."

    Well said, King James. I would have to agree.

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