First of all, here are some players who didn't make the test who you should look out for:
How will Roy's sidekick deal with Oden coming back? Either way, they have a dynasty in the making in Portland. If Oden is healthy, the fans will get at least two championships if the team stays intact.
Il Mago is working his ass off this summer, and will have the added benefit of guarding either Chris Bosh or Jermaine O'Neal in practice every day this year. Look for him to rebound after a bad year as he's finally healthy.
The two-way race for Rookie of the Year is on. The question is, can Beasley score enough points to make up for how many times Oden is going to say "get that garbage outta here"? We'll see...
Look out, Dwyane Wade, there's a new guy in town, and he's—barring some serious problems—probably going to be a HOF talent, and win a few scoring titles while he's at it. Natural scorers like Beasley come once in a decade—but he can he lay off the 'dro?
Special Mention: Emeka Okafor, Peja Stojakovic, Kevin Martin, Richard Jefferson,Jason Richardson, Rudy Gay
50. Gerald Wallace
It was certainly hard to decide between Wallace and Gay for the final spot, and the other 4-5 guys who could easily make it. Wallace is a solid third option on a good team and sadly for the Bobcats, he's their very best player—when healthy
49. Monta Ellis
Last years performance was encouraging and now with a new deal, Ellis has to be the leader for the Warriors. His injury is going to set the Warriors into a spiral which will likely end up at the bottom of the Western Conference. When Ellis returns however, he could be quite a special player with Baron out of the way.
48. Tyson Chandler
The Bulls thought they had Kevin Garnett in Tyson Chandler—instead they got a little less than they bargained for. The Hornets however, have an active big man who rebounds and blocks shots at a disturbing pace. Chandler may have never turned into the superstar he looked ready to be, but on the defensive end he looks like the second coming of a healthy Marcus Camby.
47. Andre Miller
Miller is way too old to be considered a rising star, but the role he played in helping the Sixers jump into the playoffs last year was far too impressive to leave him off this list. He's not a top-5 point guard in this league but many would argue that he's been a top-10 one for a very long time now. Last year was just a reminder.
46. Jose Calderon
He's a poor defender, but that might change a bit with O'Neal's arrival. A smarter PG has not been born since the '70s. He is honestly keeping Mitchell's job for him by being the perfect decision maker. It's like Mitchell is coaching on auto-pilot. With Ford out of the picture, Calderon will take the reigns as the starting point-guard—a role he played to some acclaim last season.
45. Lamar Odom
There just aren't many people who realize how skilled this guy is. In terms of talent, he's a superstar player. Sadly for LA, Miami, and now another LA, he's never developed into anything more than a very promising supporting player.
That said, there are only three or four other guys in the league that can give you 20/10 on a given night and add five or six assists while they're at it. There's maybe one other guy who could do it while sharing the rock with Kobe Bryant—and he's number two on this list.
44. Al Jefferson
A last-second brain fart and I almost forgot the guy the Timberwolves got for their disgruntled franchise player. Jefferson is a beast, and with some help could certainly take a large step forward past guys like West and Gasol this coming year.
Unfortunately he plays in the West, and that means that while West and Gasol are fighting for a title, Jefferson will be playing golf—hopefully in a warm place as far from Minnesota as possible.
43. Andrei Kirilenko
AK47 certainly isn't worth the money he's making, but he is one of the best small forwards in the league due to the intangibles he brings to that Jazz frontcourt. He's a super-talent in this league and you know this all too well if you're into Fantasy ball. Can he stay healthy? If you're into fantasy ball, you better start praying.
42. David West
Option No. 2 on one of the best teams in the west, but West still has a long way to go before he climbs this chart. He's going to make a few All-star game appearances and perhaps if CP3 and the gang have some luck, might make a finals appearance or two. What was certain when he was coming out of Xavier was that he was an NBA-ready player who slipped out of the lottery due to certain limitations and a lack of jaw-dropping potential. David West has done pretty much all he can with what he has and all he's done is make himself into a star player in the NBA. Not bad.
41. Antawn Jamison
Professional and a totally class act. He's the leader of the Wizards—and thankfully they didn't over-pay him for it. He's quietly been a 20/10 guy many times and because of the tweener status and lack of major market exposure, he's always suffered. It certainly doesn't help that he is about as quiet and as nice a guy as you'll find in the NBA. Eddie Jordan certainly thinks it helps. Jamison has been the glue that's kept that locker-room together for quite a few years now. That Gilbert guy can get pretty annoying.
40. Pau Gasol
After getting bitch-slapped by Kevin Garnett in the Finals, Gasol had salt rubbed into the fresh wounds by losing to the Redeem Team this past summer for the gold medal. Lucky for him he's going to have another crack at it this season thanks to Kobe—and in four years, thanks to Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez.
39. Luol Deng
He's got to assert himself as "the man" in Chicago. He'd be wise to watch some Philly tapes from last year and follow Iggy's example. If he and Rose can team up well, there will be a possibility of packaging a couple of guards or wings for that much-needed big man—and then, shit's on.
38. Jermaine O'Neal
If he's totally healthy—and that's a big "if"—JO could be an All-Star this season with the success his defense is going to bring to that toilet-paper-soft Raptor front line. It's hard to imagine that just a few years ago he was a top 10 player in this league.
37. Jason Kidd
While he's certainly no spring-chicken, and he's almost half a decade removed from his peak-prime, there isn't another Point guard in the game who can rebound/pass the way Kidd does. The reason that he will be less effective in old age than a Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups is that he has no outside game to rely on. This sharp decline is a result of his inability to play defense and run the way he was able to just 2-3 years ago. That aside, he's still one of the very best point guards in the league.
36. Kevin Durant
Players this skilled offensively don't struggle for very long, and Durant rebounded from a bad first-half performance after the All-Star game. Expect a huge second season from Durant as the Sonics make their transition to a new home. He could make a run for an All-Star spot based on the numbers he will likely put up.
35. Chris Kaman
Really came on without Brand, and he'll have the chance to be "the guy" in the middle for the Clippers now, with Elton in the city of brotherly love. Very good scorer with both hands and he's really developing defensively.
34. Joe Johnson
A very talented wing player who is quite possibly an All-Star. He's just not an All-Star here. He needs to step it up in the playoffs. He's a few notches above the average starting shooting guards and few notches short of the superstars like Wade, and Bryant. He certainly wouldn't hurt his position by winning a few more games, although the Hawks performance against Boston this past spring was nothing short of sensational.
33. Shawn Marion
Overrated role player and stat-stuffer—but hey, the NBA is made of 'em! He'll pull down the 10 rebounds and score 20 points, and have at the very least three interviews where he feels the spotlight should be more on him and less on Wade and Beasley.
32. Josh Smith
Please, give me the name, number, and address of the guy who said Josh Smith had the highest bust potential. Considering his age and upside, if he keeps his head straight and manages to hitch a ride out of Atlanta into a bigger market, this guy could be a top-20 name in this league some day.
31. Rasheed Wallace
One of the most talented power forwards to ever play the game. Some would laugh at that claim, but one could argue that his Blazers may have had a few titles if they hadn't run into that Lakers team so many times.
Offensively there isn't a chance you can stop him when he wants to score and defensively, he IS the Pistons. He's underrated due to his numbers—but when you consider he's spent his entire career on teams which were so stacked with depth and talent—Portland and now Detroit—it's no wonder his numbers have never reflected just how good he was.
30. Richard Hamilton
The best off-the-ball player in the NBA and a solid defender, he's the Pistons' leading scorer on most nights. One can hardly argue that he's been a major catalyst for Detroit's success over the last six seasons.
29. Andre Iguodala
He truly came on last season, and is making a name for himself. He might not be worth the max money he wants, but he is oh-so-very close. He's turning into quite a leader as well.
28. Gilbert Arenas
I can't see the logic behind giving him the kind of money the Wizards did. Some consider him a top-10 talent in the NBA. I don't.
Injury-prone undersized selfish tweeners who take bad shots, play no defense, and blog about being better than Kobe Bryant? If I'm running a team, I pay this guy $100 million dollars to NOT play on my team—knowing that it'll actually have a positive impact on my win-loss record.
27. Caron Butler
The true franchise player in Washington? Don't tell Gilbert. He might insult him in his blog. His absence seems to hurt the Wizards. He drew heavy comparisons to Paul Pierce in his earlier days as a rookie and for a while he looked like he was never going to come close. If he's healthy this year, and the Wizards can manage a few more victories, he'll certainly establish himself as a top-20 guy in this league.
26. Allen Iverson
One of the 50 greatest? He has to be. But he's still missing that ring and he isn't about to get it in Denver. Time to move on.
25. Brandon Roy
A young up-and comer the Trail Blazers franchise is lucky to have. The Raptors passed him up knowing they wanted Bargnani for what they think he will become. The Bulls took Thomas for the same reason.
But what the hell were Charlotte and Minnesota thinking? Morrison? Randy Foye? Do your homework, people!
24. Ray Allen
The third cog in the Celtics dynasty is a deadly marksman. He's probably the best shooter in the world, and possibly the most consistent player for the champion Celtics team. He's lost a step—but who hasn't at that age?
23. Manu Ginobili
At times, you wonder how huge a player (statistically) Gino would be on a lesser team. Would he score 27 a night, with six or seven assists? Would he create a name as one of the best of all time?
The fact is, if he retired tomorrow he'd have to be considered one of the best players to play basketball in the last 50 years. His playoff performances—overshadowed at times by Duncan—have been nothing short of spectacular. Champions are honored over stat-stuffers, and Ginobili is a special sort of champion.
The guy wins EVERYWHERE. Olympics, Euroleague, NBA—he should write a book.
22. Vince Carter
When he's on, when the game's on, he belongs in the first section . Defensively he's below where he needs to be, and as a leader he's been seen as weak. With RJ gone, Kidd gone, and the Nets having a lot of new faces, look for Vince Carter to show up next season.
But which Vince will show up? The one that provided a rebirth for New Jersey three seasons ago? Or the one the Nets nearly dealt away for Wally Szczerbiak a few months ago? We'll see.
21. Baron Davis
The former Warrior is making the move to La-La land, and he'll soon have the chance to have a guy like perhaps Smith or Okafor to play with, depending on which direction the Hawks, and Bobcats, respectively, go with those guys.
Expect a big year for Baron. The Clippers? Not so much.
20. Elton Brand
The Sixers' new low-post threat is a max player with a lot of questions. His frame is so long that he changes at least six shots every game. He's a good scorer on the inside and an above-average rebounder.
But can Brand run with the Philly attack this year or are they going to have to slow it down to accommodate him?
19. Tony Parker
Tony-P can't rap very well—but anytime a guard scores at the clip he does, and burns defenses the way he does, you know you're going to have something very hard to stop.
He's been a leader on a team that's won three rings with him as one of it's top three guys. Ginobili and Parker certainly play off of Duncan, but this doesn't take anything away from the spectacular player Parker has turned out to be for the Spurs.
18. Deron Williams
One of the top-three point guards in the league, and still so young. He's a poised leader—and while the gap seems huge, he's been nipping at Paul's heals. Some would argue he's even the better player. In the Jazz' system, it's hard to fight that argument.
17. Carlos Boozer
Boozer is just a spectacular talent, and while he may be done growing as a player, the Jazz are on the verge of a Finals appearance if they can get a few things together and stay healthy. The international game certainly hasn't highlighted Boozer's talents, but in the NBA this simply isn't a guy people want to guard.
16. Chris Bosh
Until he takes the step to becoming elite player by showing up when his team needs him to, he's just a very good player on a pretty solid, well-balanced team which is going nowhere. When he takes that step—especially defensively—he will be one of the very best forwards in the world.
15. Paul Pierce
The "best" player on the NBA Championship team. I'm still not sold that he is "the man" on that team, and I can't say I see a huge difference between him and any other player in this section.
14. Yao Ming
A little injury-prone, and you have to wonder how short his career will be if he keeps up with his year-round routine. The Rockets should step in, but the marketing value of Yao Ming is worth having him—even if he plays only five games a year.
Unfortunately, it means no chance at a title for Houston. Hopefully for the Rockets sake, his statement about retiring from the Chinese National team ends up being true.
13. Chauncey Billups Former NBA Finals MVP, but getting a little older. Mr. Big Shot still has all the talent to make this Piston team a force in the East. Every year people look at him and say he's old, he's done—and every year he comes back in top form.
12. Tracy McGrady
Poor Tracy. The win streak was positive. Then Yao gets hurt, but they keep it up. Then yet again, a first-round exit.
It certainly doesn't seem fair. He just can't seem to win in the playoffs. This has been almost his what? Sixth attempt? Seventh? This is getting embarrassing.
People are a little down on him right now and are willing to simply write him off as a star all-together. However, I'd urge these people to make a list of players who could have done more with a Yao-less Houston team last season... yup, maybe two players.
11. Steve Nash
Two-time MVP Steve Nash may not have won a championship—but before Paul came into the picture, he was the best PG this league had seen in a little while (Kidd, 2002-2003?). Now, as he ages, the Suns try a final time before Hill, Nash, and O'Neal hang up the sneakers.
10. Amare Stoudamire
From a numbers POV, Stoudamire is being "dissed" by being this low. He's a powerhouse down low—and, along with Barbosa, he is going to be all the Suns really have left after the older guys retire. The window is closing, but Stoudamire could make things very interesting in the West this year.
9. Dwyane Wade
He took a major hit in the numbers column this year, but he's still a very special player in many ways, and most definitely—if healthy—one of the franchise talents in this league. If we're to take the Olympic performance as a hint of things to come, the Heat might be unstoppable this season—Wade certainly was.
8. Carmelo Anthony
Don't let the trade rumors faze you—he is easily one of the best players in the world. 'Melo needs a change of scenery, but perhaps the easier thing is to end the silly Iverson-Anthony experiment.
7. Dirk Nowitzki
Poor playoff performances have in many ways tainted his reputation, begging the question, "Is Dirk Nowitzki a number-one guy, or a number two?" If he's a number-two guy, he might be the most skilled second banana since Scottie Pippen—so get him a number one already and get this party started, Cuban!
The Franchise Talents
6. Chris Paul
Leading the Hornets the way he has, Paul has turned into a special player. He is like Vince Carter when he first came to Toronto, where one player is anointed as the "savior" of the franchise—and with what happened in New Orleans, the whole city.
This guy, however, might be the real deal. Since coming in, he's been nothing short of spectacular for the Hornets. If they can advance a bit more in the playoffs, you'll see talks for MVP soon. Hell, they were there last year.
5. Dwight Howard
If you saw the Toronto-Orlando series—a long shot, I know—you know Superman is alive. This is a player who simply does not fit into anything this league has seen before. More than Dawkins or Kemp, or a young Shaq, this kid is just a freak of nature.
If you had to pick a guy to start your franchise, who could you honestly say would be a better starting point than this defensive juggernaut, who feels 20 rebounds is possible on any night.
4. Kevin Garnett
Gotta get an NBA champion in here. How can you say anything bad about the Big Ticket right now? He brought defense and toughness to the worst team in the league, and then he infected his entire team, even inspiring two stars who can't spell defense to D up. Special year for a special player.
This just in, the Spurs are the best team (in terms of win-loss record) since 1997 in any professional sport. Guess who was drafted in 1997?
I don't need to say anything else, but the championships, the model of consistency, and the fact that he's a true superstar on and off the court make Timmy the best big in the league by a landslide.
2. Lebron James
There isn't another player on the Cavaliers who can even claim they ever will be a top-50 player in this league. That's just HOW special this guy is. If you put him on a team with even average talent—for instance, the Bulls or Nets—you'd have a serious problem and they'd probably win like 81 games.
This guy's the real deal, a true Hall of Famer, and will one day be one of the 20 greatest players to ever play this game. He just needs a few championships before he hangs up the sneakers.
1 .Kobe Bryant
Yes, he lost in the finals, and yes, he has pussies for teammates, and yes, the outcome would have been different if Andrew Bynum was playing, and yes—he is the closest thing to Michael Jordan this league is ever going to see.
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