NBA Report Cards for the Top 50 Players After 30 Games

David SolarCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2010

NBA Report Cards for the Top 50 Players After 30 Games

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    This NBA season has been as entertaining as any in recent memory. The resurrection of the Knicks has been a sight to behold, as have the new-look Heat.

    Blake Griffin has made a mockery of the SportsCenter top 10 all season and Kevin Love has put up absurd stat lines on a nightly basis.

    With nearly 30 games in the books, it’s time to examine the 50 best performers through the first third of the season.

50. Andrea Bargnani

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    Bargnani is a weak rebounder and defender, but he does an excellent job at stretching the defense.

    However, the seven-foot center is averaging 21.4 points per game and has shown flashes of brilliance including his 41-point, seven-rebound, six-assist performance against the Knicks.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C+

49. Luis Scola

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    The Argentinean forward is consistently overlooked, but Scola is a hard-working overachiever with nice post moves.

    He is averaging 20 and 9 on 51 percent shooting from the floor.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

48. Ray Allen

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    On a team as deep as the Celtics, Allen’s statistics are far from elite (17, 3 and 3) but he’s still a deadly assassin from downtown and one of the most clutch shooters in the game.

    Allen has efficiently shot 49 percent from the field and an astounding 43 percent from behind the arc.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

47. Michael Beasley

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    He’s a one-dimensional player, but damn is it a good dimension. Now that Beasley has become the focal point of the offense, he has shown why the Heat drafted him with the second overall pick just a few years ago.

    On the year, Super Cool Beas is averaging 21.3 points and 6 rebounds. He’s not a 6’10 power forward as listed in the program, but he’s a versatile tweener with tremendous athleticism and a smooth jumper.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B/B-

46. LaMarcus Aldridge

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    With Brandon Roy banged up and underperforming, Aldridge has been the man for Portland.

    LMA is averaging a career-high 19.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, and has been far more aggressive attacking the hoop. He’s still not a terrific defender, but he has shown slight improvement in the area.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B-

45. Brook Lopez

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    This season Lopez has relegated himself to 15-foot jump shots rather than playing with his back to the basket, and his performance has suffered.

    By playing away from the basket, Lopez has seen his rebounding drop from 8.7 in 2009 to just 6.2 this year.

    There is no excuse for such a talented big man to have such low rebounding totals, but Lopez is still producing for the Nets.

    The former Stanford Cardinal is averaging a career-high 19.3 points per game (albeit on only 45 percent shooting) while adding 1.5 blocks and playing solid defense.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C-/D+

44. Devin Harris

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    Harris has been an inconsistent performer all season. He has been prone to erratic shooting performances (7 of 25 for 29 points against the Wizards) and has disappeared for games at a time (six points and two assists against the Heat).

    Still, Harris has been very aggressive, averaging 6.6 free throw attempts per game along with 16.7 points and 6.8 assists.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C

43. Gerald Wallace

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    After making the postseason a year ago, the Bobcats are struggling this season, but that can hardly be blamed on Wallace.

    The uber-versatile forward continues to fill the stat sheet, averaging 16.7, 8.1 and 2.5 while tacking on better than a steal and a block per game.

    He’s a fantastic defender with a tremendous work ethic. However, don’t be surprised if Wallace is moved before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, as the Bobcats have been rumored to be very active in trade discussions.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B/B-

42. Andre Iguodala

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    The subject of many trade rumors, Iguodala is having one of the worst seasons of his career.

    The 6’6” wing has seen his stats drop across the board with averages of 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

    Still, part of that decline is based on opportunity, as A.I. is attempting two fewer field goals per game.

     

    First Trimester Grade: D+

41. Andrew Bogut

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    Andrew Bogut is hands-down the most underrated player in the NBA. The seven-foot Aussie is a throwback center, excels on both ends of the court, and has a litany of gorgeous back-to-the-basket moves.

    Despite playing through a horrible elbow injury, Bogut is averaging a double-double with 14.1 and 11.3. Bogut is one of the best passing centers in the league, although this season his assist totals are down.

    Bogut leads the NBA with 2.8 blocked shots per game and is deserving of All-Star consideration.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A (for effort)

40. Jason Kidd

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    Jason Kidd’s statistics never jump off the page at you, but nonetheless he continues to be one of the league’s elite point guards.

    The 37-year-old Kidd is averaging just 7.9 points on 37 percent shooting, but continues to play stellar defense while taking good care of the rock (8.8 assists to just 2.2 turnovers).

    Perhaps most important is the fact that Dallas is off to a 22-5 start and sit just 1.5 games back of the first-place Spurs.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C

39. Jason Richardson

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    It will be interesting to see whether Richardson’s hot start continues for Orlando, but for now he is highly deserving of this ranking.

    The former slam-dunk champion may not be quite the athlete he was in years past, but can still get up when he needs to.

    J-Rich has continually improved his perimeter shooting and leads the league in three-pointers with 2.4 per game (at an astonishing 41 percent clip).

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

38. Joakim Noah

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    With Carlos Boozer injured to start the season, Noah carried a large part of the offensive load for the Bulls. Although Boozer has returned to the starting line-up, Noah continues to thrive.

    The 25-year-old Florida product has emerged as one of the league’s premier interior defenders while displaying a terrific all-around game.

    Noah’s statistics are impressive (14 points and 11.7 rebounds) but it’s his improved passing that has grabbed my attention.

    Formerly regarded as purely a hustle player, Noah has emerged as one of the league’s premier bigs.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

37. Kevin Martin

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    Okay, so Martin can’t really play defense. He also isn’t much of a passer or rebounder. However, the man can score in bunches and that earns him a spot on this list.

    The 6’7” guard attacks the basket with reckless abandon and is averaging an impressive 23.4 points per game for the Rockets. Martin’s peculiar shooting motion may seem unorthodox, but it produces results.

    The former Western Carolina star is amongst the league leaders with a 45 percent clip from downtown and is automatic from the free throw line with a 92 percent mark.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C+

36. Wilson Chandler

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    I love watching Wilson Chandler play because he can do just about everything on the court.

    Standing only 6’8”, Wilson has guarded slower big men like Kevin Garnett and athletic perimeter players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

    He’s always been a phenomenal and versatile defender, but this season his offensive game has evolved as well. Chandler is averaging career highs in scoring (17.1), rebounds (6.3), blocks (1.6), three-point shooting (36.6 percent) and free-throw shooting (82.1 percent).

    All this while cutting down on his turnovers and helping his upstart Knicks team to a surprising 16-12 record.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-

35. Stephen Curry

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    Although Curry has been hurt for the past few games with an ankle injury, the second-year man from Davidson has been stellar this season.

    Curry has built on a wonderful rookie campaign by averaging 20.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists while shooting a very un-guard-like 49 percent from the field.

    Curry ranks amongst the league leaders in scoring, three-point percentage, free-throw percentage and steals, making him a shoo-in for this list.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

34. Eric Gordon

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    The Clippers have–surprise, surprise–been woeful yet again. However one player who has thrived this season is Eric Gordon.

    The 6’4” guard has looked like a new player after his experience with Team USA, ranking ninth in the league in scoring at 23.9 points per game.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

33. Zach Randolph

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    Randolph is a somewhat selfish offensive player who brings very little to the defensive end of the floor.

    Still, the Michigan State product ranks third in the NBA in rebounding at 12.4 and adds 17.8 points per game.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C

32. Lamar Odom

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    With Andrew Bynum missing the majority of the season thus far, Lamar Odom has once again been excellent.

    The versatile forward is averaging 15.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting an exceptional 58.4 percent from the floor and using his tremendous length to bother opposing forwards.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

31. Chris Bosh

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    Bosh may have a terrific offensive skill set, but damn is he soft. His defense is consistently atrocious, and earlier this season he actually moved out of the way when 6’1” Rajon Rondo drove down the middle of the paint.

    Nonetheless, he’s an agile forward with a nice jump shot and solid footwork. His numbers are down this season (18 and 8) but that is to be expected now that he is not the go-to scorer.

    If Bosh wants to move up this list he will have to start boxing out and rebounding. Miami lacks a physical interior presence – especially with Udonis Haslem out – and Bosh needs to fill that void if they hope to compete with the Celtics and Lakers.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C-

30. David West

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    Frequently discounted by many, West is a skilled big man that maximizes his talents.

    The 30-year old forward is currently averaging 19 and 7 for the 16-12 Hornets, while shooting better than 52 percent from the floor.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

29. Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce is the consummate team player. He’s willing to swing the ball if another player has a better look. He plays lockdown defense and is willing to take the charge – even at his advanced age.

    Pierce has a crafty repertoire of offensive moves and constantly draws the foul with his up fake. A clutch performer and terrific passes, the Truth can do it all.

    This season the 33-year old is averaging 18.5, 5.1 and 3.4 on 50 percent shooting while turning the ball over less than twice per game. He’s an efficient 86 percent shooter from the free throw line and a knock down shooter from long range.

    He’s not the most athletic or explosive player, but he always finds ways to help his team.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

28. Tim Duncan

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    Duncan’s numbers have swan dived this season but don’t be fooled, he’s just as valuable to the Spurs now as he has been for the past five years.

    The big fundamental has been less aggressive offensively, but is still averaging nearly a double double with 14.2 points and 9.7 rebounds in under 30 minutes per game.

    Duncan’s 2.2 blocks per game rank amongst the league leaders and his passing ability is still unmatched by any other center.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

27. Rudy Gay

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    After signing a massive (re: way overpriced) extension in the off-season, Rudy Gay has done his best to live up to his new contract. The nimble forward has been playing the best defense of his career, exerting himself on both sides of the floor.

    Gay has posted career highs of 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals, turning in one of the most valuable fantasy stat lines this season. The 6'8" forward is averaging 20.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 48 percent shooting (again, all career highs).

    The Grizzlies are only three games out of the playoffs right now, and a lot of the credit goes to Gay.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

26. Monta Ellis

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    Some people may find this ranking too low, but it is entirely deserved. Although Monta Ellis is one of the quickest and most potent guards in the game, he does his scoring in an offense that is tailored to his skills. In another offense, Ellis would simply be another 20 point per game scorer, rather than the top five scorer he has been this year (fourth in scoring at 25.6 ppg).

    The Warriors attempt 86 field goals per game. To give you some perspective, the Heat, Celtics and Magic all attempt fewer than 80. His up-tempo offense fuels his scoring, and his defensive statistics are more a result of over aggressively playing the passing lanes than playing real lockdown defense.

    He’s a great player absolutely, but not quite one of the games elites.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

25. Danny Granger

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    The Indiana Pacers have been one of the league’s biggest surprises and Danny Granger has been a huge part of that. The 13-14 Pacers are currently in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the 6’9” forward leading the charge.

    Granger leads the team in scoring at 21.3 while adding 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists. At time his shot selection is poor, and he attempts far too many three-pointers, but Granger is a well-rounded player and lockdown defender who deserves more recognition.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

24. Paul Millsap

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    After losing Carlos Boozer, many people questioned whether or not the Jazz would fall out of playoff contention in the ultra competitive Western Conference. Having seen a great deal of Paul Millsap, I was certain Utah would continue to contend.

    While Millsap is not as skilled offensively as Boozer, he brings many things to the table that Boozer does not. He’s a superior defender. He’s tougher. And he isn’t careless with the basketball.

    Millsap is averaging 17.7 and 8 while shooting 56 percent from the field. His 1.3 turnovers per game are half of what Boozer averaged last season and the Jazz have once again faired well with a 20-9 record.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-

23. Josh Smith

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    Josh Smith is not a polished offensive player by any means, but he brings many valuable qualities to the Atlanta Hawks.

    Smith is an explosive leaper, which makes him one of the league’s top shot blockers year in and year out. He’s improved as a passer over the past few years and this season has begun to develop a three-point shot.

    Unfortunately, Smith’s numbers are down almost across the board since last year’s superb campaign. Smith is shooting just 42 percent from the field this month, and has seen his field-goal percentage drop to 47 percent on the season.

    Smith’s production should increase when Joe Johnson returns from injury, but until then Smith ranks just outside the top 20.

     

    First Trimester Grade: C+

22. Al Horford

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    With Josh Smith has seen his numbers drop off, Al Horford has enjoyed a career year. The hard-working and undersized center is averaging a career-high 16.9 points per game on a stellar 57.5 percent shooting.

    His 80 percent clip from the charity stripe is almost unheard of from a center (with the exceptions of Yao Ming, and Big Z) and his assists are up significantly from last season.

    Despite the prolonged absence of Joe Johnson, the Hawks are in the thick of the playoff hunt at 18-12, and much of the credit belongs to Horford.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-/B+

21. Kevin Garnett

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    After struggling through knee problems for the better part of two years, KG finally looks healthy and has been stellar for the Boston Celtics. KG was unable to throw down routine alley oops last season, but seems to have his athleticism back, and now he dunks with ease.

    He’s been improved on the defensive end as well, with significant improvements in both rebounds (7.7 in 2009, 10.0 this season) and steals (1.0 in ‘09, 1.7 this season). He’s the most intense player in the league and empties his tank every single night.

    Defensively, he’s still one of the best around, and his perimeter jumper continues to improve. If there was one knock I had on KG, it’s that he never plays with his back to the basket.

    Garnett’s long arms make him nearly unblockable, and he had great footwork plus a pretty hook shot. The Big Ticket could still take over games, but he seems content waiting until the playoffs to unleash hell.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-

20. Tony Parker

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    Through the first third of the season, the San Antonio Spurs have the league’s best record at 24-3. A big part of their success is due to point guard Tony Parker.

    The lightning-quick Parker facilitates the offense with his speedy cuts to the lane and tremendous decision-making ability.

    On the season, Parker is averaging 18 and 7 with 1.5 steals on a gaudy 52 percent field goal shooting.

    Who knows? Maybe his break up with the beautiful Eva Longoria gave the 6’2” Frenchman more time to focus on his craft.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-

19. Raymond Felton

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    Most people will point to Amare Stoudemire as the reason for the Knicks' newfound success, but a lot of the credit should go to Felton.

    Perhaps the perfect fit for Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense, Felton has reached career highs in nearly every category with 18.4 points and 9 assists per game.

    Never known as a three-point threat, Felton is hitting 1.8 three-balls per game at a 36.7 percent clip.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-

18. Kevin Love

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    Kevin Love doesn’t have quick feet, and that makes him a poor defender. Other than that, it’s tough to find a single fault with Mr. Love.

    The 6’10” forward is a tremendous passer with soft touch on his jumper and range out to three-point land.

    He has arguably the best outlet pass in basketball and currently leads the league with an astounding 15.5 rebounds per game.

    Earlier this season, he had 31 points and 31 boards, the first such game since Moses Malone accomplished the feat nearly three decades ago.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

17. Blake Griffin

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    If you haven’t watched Blake Griffin play this season, do yourself a favor and immediately open up a new tab and watch his highlights.

    Through only 29 career games, Griffin has established himself as one of the best forwards in the league and hands-down the most exciting player in basketball. Most people will note his unbelievable strength and athleticism, but there is so much more to Griffin than his physical gifts.

    Blake Griffin has a good-looking release on his shot, despite the fact that he has struggled on free throws all season long. He has proven to be an above-average passer with a high basketball IQ, doling out 3.2 assists per game in his first season.

    The top overall pick in 2009 is graceful, agile and has a passion for the game. Perhaps that’s why so few of us are shocked when Griffin dominates game in, game out.

    On the year the 6’10” forward has delivered thunderous dunk after thunderous dunk en route to averages of 21 and 12. The fact that the Clippers are 8-21 is the main reason Griffin is not ranked higher.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A+

16. Manu Ginobili

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    On their own, Ginobili’s stat line doesn’t jump out at you (19.7, 3.6 and 4.7). Although they are impressive, one could hardly argue that they are better than Monta Ellis. But stats don’t always tell the whole story.

    Ginobili plays with his balls to the wall, always willing to sacrifice his body for the good of the team. He gets to the line often and rarely misses (88.6 percent from the line). He plays stellar defense on some of the league’s top players including the plethora of athletic two-guards in the Western Conference.

    Ginobili understands the game and seems to always make the right decision–not just the one that will inflate his statistics.  The Spurs constantly struggle when Manu is out of the lineup but are 24-3 this season with the Argentinean guard starting.

    If he continues this production, he deserves not only a spot on the All-Star team but also consideration in the MVP balloting.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

15. Dwyane Wade

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    The freakishly athletic Wade seems to finally be gelling with his new teammates, and the results have been obvious.

    Not only are the Heat beginning to win (their 21-9 record includes a 9-1 mark in their last 10 games), but Wade’s statistics are beginning to reach their former heights. After averaging 21, 6 and 4 in November, Wade is averaging 26, 7 and 4.5 in December.

    His field-goal percentage is way up, and the Heat are finally resembling the championship-caliber team we all expected them to be.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B+

14. Rajon Rondo

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    A sprained left ankle has hobbled Rondo, but prior to his injury he was one of the league’s top players. The fifth-year point guard set records for assists to begin a season and even posted a 10-point, 10-rebound, 24-assist triple double.

    He still lacks a consistent jump shot, but his elite quickness and decision-making ability make him the perfect fit for the Celtics.

    On the year, Rondo is averaging 11.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and a league-leading 13.8 assists. He’s one of the game's best perimeter defenders and should be an All-Star for years to come.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

13. Steve Nash

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    Despite limited talent around him, Steve Nash has miraculously led the Suns to a 13-14 record, and the team sits just a game outside the playoffs.

    Now a sub-.500 record may not seem impressive, but when you consider this team lost Amare Stoudemire and has been rotating Robin Lopez and Channing Frye at center, it’s pretty gosh-darn remarkable.

    Minus Amare, Nash’s numbers have barely changed. The 36-year old point guard is averaging 17.6 points and 10.2 assists on an outstanding 52 percent shooting.

    He’s only the second player in NBA history to shot 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from downtown and 90 percent from the foul line (Larry Bird being the other), and he may just accomplish the feat for a sixth straight time!

     

    First Trimester Grade: A/A-

12. Carmelo Anthony

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    In spite of persistent trade rumors, Carmelo continues to produce. He’s still a somewhat one-dimensional player, but he offensive repertoire is unmatched by his peers. Anthony shows the savvy of Paul Pierce with the smooth stroke of Kobe Bryant.

    He can back his defender down or face up and take his man on the dribble. ‘Melo may be the best pure scorer in the NBA, although his scoring is down this season (28.2 in 2009 vs. 24.0 this year).

    With Kenyon Martin out, he has hit the boards with more enthusiasm and is averaging a career-high 8.3 boards per game.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B/B+

11. Chris Paul

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    Earlier in the season you could have made the case for CP3 at numero uno.

    His numbers were similar to what they are now, but his team was in first place in the Western Conference.

    Fast forward a few weeks and a spot just outside the top ten seems fitting for Paul.

    The former Wake Forest standout is averaging 16.2, 4.4 and 9.7 while averaging more steals than turnovers (2.8 to 2.5).

    I believe Paul is still the best point guard in the league, but based on the unbelievable performances of other floor generals, Paul will have to settle for a spot just outside the top ten.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

10. Pau Gasol

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    After posting an incredible 2009-2010 season, Pau is emulating a fine wine—continually getting better with age. Gasol's scoring (19.6); assists (4.2) and blocks (2.0) are all up from last year.

    The only stat that hasn't risen? That would be turnovers (a meager 1.9 per game). He's the perfect center for the triangle offense and he may be the smartest big man in the game.

    His December production is down after a stupendous November, but Gasol is still making Memphis rue the day they traded him.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

9. Russell Westbrook

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    Westbrook's experience playing for Team USA seems to have done wonders. Westbrook has been more aggressive yet, at the same time, smarter about his shot selection.

    He's attacking the hoop unlike he's never done before (8.2 free-throw attempts per game), but more importantly, he's nailing his freebies (87.4 percent from the stripe).

    It used to be Kevin Durant and then Westbrook. Now it's Durant and Westbrook.

    Westbrook's a lockdown defender and an exceptional rebounder for his height. He's mostly unknown as Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Rondo, Rose and Williams all steal his headlines.

    His 23, 5 and 8 stat line definitely deserves more attention.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A+

8. Deron Williams

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    Carlos Boozer leaves town and Deron Williams simply turns Paul Millsap into the new Boozer. The man doesn't miss a beat. Williams has a loaded offensive arsenal and has been unbelievable in leading the Jazz to a 20-9 record.

    The 6’3” point guard is averaging a career-high 22.3 points which is made all the more amazing when you consider he’s shooting 47 percent from the floor.

    D-Will has been aggressively attacking the basket and seems to always find the open shooter when he drives the paint (9.7 assists per game).

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

7. Dwight Howard

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    For years, I've watched Howard and been frustrated by his offensive arsenal, but after an off-season of training with Hakeem Olajuwon, Howard looks like a new man.

    A dinky hook shot across the lane was the only way Dwight could score other than dunking. This year? Dwight looks to be evolving. I've seen the big fellow bank a 15-foot jumper a la Tim Duncan.

    I've seen a nice drop step. The up and under. This new bag of tricks has allowed Howard to become a legitimate offensive threat, and the numbers attest to that.

    On the season, the 6’11 center is averaging a career high 21.7 points to go with 13.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. His 1.0 assists are shamefully low, so perhaps next season the Magic can bring in John Stockton for a training session.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A

6. Derrick Rose

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    Everybody knows D-Rose is a world-class athlete with an explosive first step. However, he finally has the confidence to be aggressive and knows that no defender in the league can stop him if he attacks the rack.

    Rose is shooting more. Scoring more. And, oh yeah, dropping even more dimes.

    With a stat line of 24.2, 4.4 and 8.6, Rose has improved across the board and deserves to start at the point for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A+

5. LeBron James

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    Even in a down year, you can't overlook the King. James has seen his field-goal percentage drop as his scoring has waned, but the final product is still respectable at 24.3, 6.5 and 7.2.

    More importantly, James' field-goal shooting has improved in December and the Heat are finally winning.

     

    First Trimester Grade: B

4. Dirk Nowitzki

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    He may not be the best defender, but Dirk is an absolutely impossible defensive assignment. Put a big man on him and Dirk blows right past. Quicker forward? Dirk launches his shot right over him.

    Dallas is off to another hot start with a 23-5 record (including a 9-1 mark in their past 10 games) and once again it is Dirk who deserves the credit.

    At 32 years old, Dirk's numbers are somehow up from last season's, with averages of 24.5 and 7.6 on 54.4 percent shooting.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A/A-

3. Amare Stoudemire

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    While many would vouch for Amare as the league’s MVP thus far, I simply can’t agree to that. As tremendous as Amare has been on the offensive side of the ball (26.5 points per game), there are many factors working against the athletic big man.

    Amare is averaging a career high 4.0 turnovers and has seen his scoring rise in large part due to his furious shooting (19 attempts per game). Stoudemire’s blocks are up significantly (1.0 last season to 2.1 this season), but that does not tell the whole story.

    Amare is a big-play defender who always plays for the block or steal. He even admitted earlier this season that he had never learned to play D (not that it matters while playing for Mike D’Antoni).

    Still, the Knicks marked improvement is due in large part to their $100 million acquisition. Just don’t expect them to do any damage in the playoffs.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A/A+

2. Kevin Durant

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    The long-limbed Durantula is off to yet another magnificent start. The 22-year-old forward is yet again leading the league in scoring (27.6 ppg), although his peripherals have dropped across the board.

    The smooth 6'9" scoring champ has missed some action with a sprained ankle and he has not played up to his full ability.

    If Durant can improve on last year's tremendous season (or even just stay at that level) and the Thunder can land home-court advantage (currently the No. 4 seed), Durant could be in line for the first of many MVPs.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A-/B+

1. Kobe Bryant

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    With five titles, the No. 12 spot amongst all-time leading scorers, 12 All-NBA teams and 10 all-defensive teams, I can't praise Kobe enough.

    This season has been no different than any other: 25.7 points. 5.0 boards. 4.6 assists. Oh, and by the way, he's playing nearly six minutes per game fewer than last season.

    His turnovers are down, his free throws are up, and once again, Kobe Bryant is the best player in the game.

     

    First Trimester Grade: A