Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Each NBA Team's Franchise Player
A franchise player can mean the player that each team could build their franchise around. It can also refer to each NBA team's most recognizable player—the man who would be the first player to come to a person's head when 'basketball' is mentioned in their respective cities.
This slideshow will take an in-depth look at each NBA team's superstar and most vital player to the future of their franchise.
Atlanta Hawks: Joe Johnson
I debated over this one. Josh Smith came to mind. Al Horford also came into the equation. But it's clear that the Hawks are keen on Joe Johnson.
His huge contract will have him earning over $18 million next season. Not only does this massive paycheck indicate the Hawks' faith in Johnson, it also leaves him less desirable on the trading market.
Hugely talented, Johnson needs to stay healthy this season, and in seasons to come, and the Hawks will be a serious contender come playoffs.
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo
It's clear that the future of the Celtics franchise is in the hands of their point guard. He's signed until the end of 2014-15 season, and is off limits to trade talks.
Arguably the league's best true point guard currently, Rondo is a savvy ball handler, and someone who can run the floor like few others. His leadership and maturity is what makes him a special player, and a perfect player for the C's to build around in the future.
Charlotte Bobcats: Stephen Jackson
Stephen Jackson is hardly a player that will be sticking around Charlotte for seasons to come, but even so, he is clearly the team's go-to guy. With the departure of Gerald Wallace, even more of the scoring for the Bobcats will have to come from Jackson, and he is definitely a player they would not be the same without.
It's very difficult to see Captain Jack sticking with Charlotte at the trade deadline next season, but until a formidable replacement comes in a trade, he is Charlotte's franchise man.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose
This goes without saying really. Rose is having his best season of his young career so far. Averaging 24.1 PPG and 8.2 APG, the stats say it all.
Thanks to his sublime speed and athletic ability, rose can get to the rim and finish at will. His astonishing inside game is complimented by his improving jumper and ability to give teammates great looks.
Rose's career year has set the Bulls up to make some serious noise in the playoffs, and there is no doubting that he is the Bulls' most important, as well as recognizable, player.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Antawn Jamison
Understandably, this was a hard choice, as the Cavs aren't exactly swimming in big names and talent. Jamison will be out for the majority of the remaining regular season due to an injury, and is unlikely to be running around in a Cavs jersey for too much longer. Even so, the majority of the second half of the season was an outstanding one for Jamison.
In time, I'm sure the Cavaliers will draft a LeBron James 2.0, who will be featuring on this list in future, but for now, Jamison is the most recognizable and important player on a struggling Cleveland roster.
Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki
Putting together another outstanding season, Dirk has carried the Mavs to the second seed in the West and shows no signs of slowing as playoffs draw near.
At the ripe age of 32, Nowitzki is still averaging 23.0 PPG and 6.6 RPG. Enough to have him in the regular season MVP conversation, due to the lift he gives his Mavs.
Not surprisingly, Dirk was severely missed when he missed games through injury, and would cause a huge blow to Dallas, should he be traded.
Denver Nuggets: Nene
Much has been changed in Denver recently, with previous franchise players (Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups) changing scenery. The Nuggets now form a very deep and even roster, with no clear standout player.
Alas, Nene is having his best season yet. Averaging 16.0 PPG and 7.3 RPG, the center's numbers don't do him justice. He brings passion to the court every night, something that the Denver faithful can be grateful for.
A Nugget for his whole career, it's hard to say he's not the most recognizable face in Denver right now, seeing as Anthony and Billups have parted ways with the team.
Detroit Pistons: Richard Hamilton
Rip used to be a household name in the city of Detroit. He's nowhere near as good as he was in his prime, but it's hard to deny that the Pistons have been molded around his services.
The Pistons are lacking a superstar or household name, but Hamilton is the closest thing they can get at the moment. Arguably, Tracy McGrady would be their franchise player, but he is less than half the player he was in his prime, and is unlikely to be sticking around Detroit for many years in the future.
Hamilton, the man behind the mask, is unmistakable when he steps on the court, and this makes him hard to deny as the most recognizable player in Detroit.
Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis
The Warriors have an extremely solid core. Their franchise can easily be built in the future around David Lee, Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. However, it's Ellis' rare personality, recent change of heart and attitude towards the Bay Area that makes him too hard to go past as the face of the Warriors.
Ellis was very unlucky to not be named an all star this season, but he is a gifted scorer and swimming in potential, someone who the Warriors would be silly to trade.
Houston Rockets: Kevin Martin
Possibly one of the most underrated players in the league, Martin quietly averages 22.8 PPG and has potential to post 30-point games when he is on point.
Yao Ming is obviously the most recognizable player on the Rockets' roster, but sadly, he may never play for the Rockets, let alone basketball, again. It's hard to build a franchise around someone who may never play another game of basketball, as popular as Yao is.
Martin is signed for another two seasons, and if he can stay healthy, he has the potential to lead the Rockets deep into playoffs in future seasons, if some missing pieces are added to the roster.
Indiana Pacers: Danny Granger
Granger is one of the best at the small forward position in the league. The Pacers have a lot of potential for development of depth in their roster, and if done, can make a lot of noise deep in the playoffs in future seasons, around Granger.
He has a knack of getting to the line by drawing fouls, often on key opposition players, which can obviously turn into wins for Indiana.
Having another outstanding season, the Pacers would be wise to keep, and build around the raw talent that Granger brings to the table.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
Already an all-star in his first NBA season, Blake Griffin has put his fair share of opposing defenders on posters. The rookie power forward is just oozing potential to become one of the league's best, and is set for a big career which may just take the Clippers to some much needed success.
Griffin has unlimited value on the trade market, but the Clippers would be silly to trade him, as he is there best shot at an NBA title in many years.
Oh, and did I mention, the kid can dunk.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant
The best player for the Lakers is coincidentally also the best player in the league.
Kobe is Kobe. It goes without saying that he is one of the best scorers to ever play the game, and will be forever known as one of the best "clutch" performers in the NBA. Kobe can hit shots from almost anywhere on the court, and his signature fadeaway has defenders looking silly.
His sublime ability is matched by all the intangibles he brings to the court: leadership, passion, intensity. All things that the Lakers would be lost without.
Above all else, Kobe has a "No Trade Clause," so he's not going anywhere—not that the Lakers would be trading him any time soon anyway.
Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay
A top-five player at his position (small forward), Rudy Gay is a complete package. He rebounds, he assists and of course, he scores.
He has a modest contract for his ability, and is signed until the end of the 2014-15 season. The Grizzlies should capitalize on the potential that their roster has, and build around it with Gay at the core.
Miami Heat: LeBron James
He's certainly not the most popular player to ever play in the NBA, but there is no denying he is extremely talented. His athletic ability is outstanding and he is the complete player. This makes him easy to build a franchise around.
LeBron, once again, has a serious chance of receiving the MVP award, even while playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It would be an owner's dream to model a team around a player that is a walking triple-double threat.
Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Bogut
Bogut was having his best season ever last year up until he injured his elbow in a freak accident while dunking on the break. However, Bogut was a No. 1 draft pick for a reason. He has a lot of potential and if he stays healthy, he is an appropriate presence down low to help the Bucks make a playoff push in future years.
Coupled with more young talent in Brandon Jennings, they can develop the pick and roll game more, to help be a deadly team to deal with.
A young, talented center is the perfect piece to build an improving team around.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love
Love is a walking double-double. He has 52 straight at the time this article is being written, and is third on the all-time list for most consecutive double-doubles. Love has produced numerous 20 rebound games, and he has an excellent ability shooting the basketball for a big man, to complement his inside prowess.
Love is a vital part of this developing Timberwolves squad, and they would be even worse without his contribution.
Keeping Love, and adding the necessary pieces from the draft will result in a better team in Minnesota, revolving around Love's raw talent.
New Jersey Nets: Deron Williams
The Nets landed Williams close to the trade deadline. The deal can pan out to be an excellent investment for the Nets if Williams chooses to re-sign with them at the end of the 2011-12 season. However, if he decides to test the waters of free agency, and not re-sign, the deal will turn out to be a terrible one for New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Williams provides plenty of potential and talent to build a team around, and it's now the Nets' job to do enough to convince him to stay at New Jersey when his contract expires.
New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul
One of the best point guards in the NBA today, Chris Paul is the ideal player to build this young New Orleans team around. Paul is an outstanding leader, and has endless talent to go with it. He is everything you could ask for from a point guard.
Keeping Paul would be the ideal way to build the franchise, but it seems that a disappointing postseason campaign for the Hornets would be the tipping point for Paul to leave.
Nonetheless, if the Hornets were able to hold onto Paul and add another superstar, they would be serious contenders for the title in future seasons.
New York Knicks: Amare Stoudemire
The Knicks got their man last summer. Amare signed and a new age of Knicks basketball was born. The Knicks have already started to build around Amare by adding Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
Amare is in the prime of his career and, with Billups and Anthony, the Knicks will make a genuine title push in the next few seasons.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant
Durant is a born scorer with a deadly jump shot from outside, adding to his arsenal that defenders have nightmares about. His threat to drive and finish at the rim can force defenders to sag off him slightly, giving him room to elevate and release a jumper for two.
Standing at 6'10" with a huge wingspan, he is almost impossible to block—making him a huge scoring threat in the NBA.
The Thunder are a building franchise, and Durant is a future MVP—the perfect player to build around as he enters his prime. Expect the Thunder to make a serious case for the title in the coming seasons.
Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is now undoubtedly the best center in the NBA right now. He is the complete defensive package, and now has an improved offensive ability that every team envies.
Howard is ideal to build the Magic's future around due to the severe lack of centers like him in the NBA. Centers with his talent and build are very rare, and the Magic should do everything in their power to keep him for future seasons.
Philadelphia 76ers: Andre Iguodala
Iguodala was a big part of the trade rumors that circulated this season, however, nothing came of it. Perhaps it's a sign? Iguodala may have settled down in Philadelphia and is ready for a real playoff push in the coming seasons.
Iguodala is extremely talented, and if he wants to stay in Philadelphia, there is a good chance that they can fill in the pieces around young talent in Holiday and Turner to get Philadelphia talking playoffs.
Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash
When it's all said and done, Nash will rank among the NBA's best ever point guards. He is a naturally gifted passer, a pure shooter and has incredible court vision and leadership skills.
Nash is not getting any younger, but it's not slowing his production on the court. Nash is again having another outstanding season and the Suns should continue to sculpt their roster around him.
Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge is another one of the NBA's most underrated players. He has constantly posted all-star numbers, and was snubbed of a spot in the game.
Brandon Roy has been troubled with injuries, just like almost every Trail Blazer, but Aldridge seems to be like a light at the end of the tunnel for the Blazers. If he can stay healthy, they will have a true superstar to build around.
Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans
An injury-plagued sophomore campaign derailed Evans' race to stardom after a sublime rookie NBA season. The Rookie of the Year from last season has shown he can take over a game like a true superstar when healthy, and has unlimited potential.
The Kings can build their youthful team around Evans going forward, to give Sacramento a greater playoff possibility.
San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili
The Spurs are not a very youthful team, however, despite all predictions, they have the top seed in the West at the time of writing.
Tim Duncan may well be regarded as the best power forward to ever play in the NBA when he retires, but it's Manu Ginobili who is the team's best player currently, and greatest hope of a successful playoff campaign in future seasons.
It seems that the most viable way to go about achieving success in the post-Duncan era is through Ginobili.
He is a gifted scorer, and has a knack of drawing fouls from opponents to get easy points at the stripe, which subsequently convert to wins. The Spurs should build around his existing talent and add other, younger pieces, to their roster through savvy trading and the draft.
Toronto Raptors: Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani is young, talented and a glimmer of hope for a struggling Raptors side. It is vital to the Raptors' future success that they keep Barg, as big men who can shoot and command a lot of attention inside don't come around too often.
Although the Raptors are not the biggest powerhouse team in the NBA, they can begin to become competitive if Bargnani is given another source of points, and an improvement over Calderon in the point guard position.
That being said, there is not a whole lot of talent to choose as a franchise player from this Raptors squad.
Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson
The departure of Deron Williams resulted in the Jazz picking up a young talented point guard in Devin Harris, and a player with potential in Derrick Favors. This is a solid way to build around an existing beast, Al Jefferson, who is having an excellent year.
A beast to deal with down low, Jefferson rebounds, blocks and scores. With more talent by his side, Jefferson has a chance to showcase his dominance.
Washington Wizards: John Wall
John Wall is the future of D.C. The nation's capital dealt Gilbert Arenas and handed over sole point guard duties to rookie, John Wall. Wall is having an outstanding rookie season, and can be penciled in as runner-up to Blake Griffin as Rookie of the Year.
A young point guard with lightning speed, leadership attributes and passing ability is the perfect way to re-build the Washington franchise.
Wall has been likened to Derrick Rose, and if that is any indication of what the future is like for the Wizards, it certainly looks bright to me.