NBA Power Rankings: The 25 Most Exciting Plays of the Season (Video)
The NBA is arguably at its athletic peak and that means its players are making show-stopping highlights each time they step on the floor. The NBA is overflowing with physical specimens looking to make their next poster—or background, for that matter.
This season is loaded with plays that sent fans at arenas, and at home, flying out of their seats. Each night is sparkling with a new gem of a highlight.
Whether it's Blake Griffin dunking over anybody on the court or Dwyane Wade and LeBron James connecting in yet another way, the NBA highlight reels are thriving. Any fan would be hard-pressed to find a game this season that didn't have a highlight that could have made this list.
With just over 10 games remaining for each team this season, there is still time for more stars to shine.
For now, here's a list of the top 25 electrifying plays of the 2010-11 NBA season.
Honorable Mention: Version 1
There were simply too many fantastic plays this season for me to just narrow it down to 25. From the very beginning of the season to the very end, players have floated through the air and shots have splashed through nets.
The list will start with a play at the very beginning of a game. In this play, Rajon Rondo somehow spots Ray Allen for an open three to get the first points on the board.
This is just one of many spectacular assists for Rondo, who is currently tied for the league-lead with Steve Nash.
Honorable Mention: Version 2
The last of my two just-miss plays was because—well—he just missed.
Amar'e Stoudemire and the New York Knicks were locked in a back-and-forth battle with the Boston Celtics. It seemed like every shot in this game was bound to drop.
There were only 0.4 seconds on the clock and the Knicks were down two.
Time for them to test out their new toy.
Stoudemire stroked a long three-pointer just split-seconds after time expired, but the Madison Square Garden crowd still exploded.
If this shot would have counted, it would have been near the top of this list.
25. Westbrook Windmill
Russell Westbrook is one of the most exciting point guards in the NBA.
The little guy showed some massive ups on this fast break. He even slowed down to make sure he got the right elevation to bring the ball all the way around.
Westbrook looks like he was making his case to be the next Nate Robinson in the dunk contest. He's showcased a multitude of dunks right in the teeth of the defense to go along with this one.
Westbrook's not afraid to get blocked, and he doesn't get stuffed often.
24. Stephen Jackson Hurts the Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks can't seem to win basketball games anymore. Stephen Jackson can take some of the blame for sending them on their skid.
Jackson buried a fade-away as time expired on Feb. 12. Since then, the Hawks are 7-12 and severely struggling to hold on to the No. 5 spot in the East. Slipping behind the Philadelphia 76ers could mean a first-round matchup with the Miami Heat.
But back to Jackson. He proved that he was surpassing Gerald Wallace as the franchise player of the Charlotte Bobcats. Now that Wallace is in Portland, Jackson has the spotlight all to himself.
23. Frye Fries the Pacers
Channing Frye has fallen in love with the long ball since his move to the Phoenix Suns.
It seems as if anyone who plays with Steve Nash shoots almost double the amount of threes that they usually would. This shot was just short of three, but that's more than the Suns needed to oust the Pacers.
Frye has showed that he's not afraid to shoot late in games, and this is the shining moment of the season for the former New York Knick.
22. Iguodala Gets Fancy
Andre Iguodala made the transition to point guard rather nicely.
Iguodala took over ball-handling duties for the struggling Philadelphia 76ers and he hasn't looked back. He didn't look back on this dime to Marreese Speights either.
The Sixers have been one of the hottest teams in the league and they are making serious ground on the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Sixers showed in this play that they're willing to share the ball. Good ball movement leads to easy buckets.
21. McGee with the Cuff Block
There is only one defensive play on this list. JaVale McGee made sure of that.
McGee became more well known in the dunk contest for his ability to put the ball through the hoop. Against the Portland Trail Blazers, McGee did the exact opposite.
McGee denied Wesley Matthews from getting an easy bucket by simply ripping the ball from his hands in mid-air. McGee cuffed the ball and brought it to the floor before glaring back at Matthews to add to the insult.
McGee is quietly becoming one of the best shot-blockers in the NBA.
20. Griffin Shows Some Finesse
Blake Griffin alert.
Griffin makes his first appearance on the list, but not with a thunderous dunk. Instead, the Los Angeles Clippers' rookie spins by Tracy McGrady for the easy lay-in.
Griffin saw McGrady was going to reach for the ball. In one fluid motion, Griffin spun away and leaped off the floor. He reached the rim while still spinning and just touched the ball off the backboard.
There's more Griffin to come.
19. Nash No-Look
Steve Nash is one of the most innovative passers the NBA has ever seen.
The veteran point guard's latest addition to the list is a lesson on how to break the trap. Nash was cornered near half-court and saw no open passes. A falling Nash tossed an on-target pass behind his back to Marcin Gortat.
Gortat went on to do his best Nash impression with a drive and dish to Channing Frye. Frye buried a three to take a one-point lead on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although they would eventually lose the game, Nash made another memory for Suns' fans.
18. How About Two Mo?
The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't done too much winning this season.
A year and a LeBron James removed from a 61-win season, the Cavs currently sit at 13-57. One of those triumphs is thanks to Mo Williams, who splashed a fade-away over the Milwaukee Bucks on Nov. 24.
Williams called for his teammates to spread the floor so he could go one-on-one for the victory.
This situation is made even better by the fact that the announcer called it right before it happened.
17. Carmelo Sinks the Bulls
The Denver Nuggets will miss this aspect of Carmelo Anthony's game the most.
Anthony is a dead-eye shooter when the game is on the line, as he's proved more than just a few times in his career. In this game against the Bulls, 'Melo rises up and finishes off the Eastern Conference powerhouse.
Anthony's quick rise on his jump shot makes him hard to block. This ability makes him the perfect candidate for big shots like this.
16. Wade to LeBron 1
The latest version of NBA Jam had plays like this in mind when they created the game. Little did they know that there would be two players in the NBA who would perform them in games.
The announcer says it best when he calls the American Airlines Arena the "house of highlights." Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been prolific on fast breaks all season. The unselfish pair always seem to find each other streaking up the other wing.
This time, Wade took off to pull the defender before floating the ball to LeBron.
And LeBron knows how to finish.
15. Rose 'Goes Higher'
Derrick Rose is having an MVP-caliber season.
On Jan. 10, he threw down an MVP-caliber dunk that wowed the Chicago crowd and the announcers. Rose's head was about even with the rim when he caught the alley-oop with one hand and threw it down.
Rose, along with Westbrook, is showing that efficient point guards can get up and dunk too. Rose's explosion and energy have the Chicago Bulls sitting atop the Eastern Conference as the playoffs near.
If the Bulls finish in first, Rose will too—in the MVP race.
14. Durant Drops One from Distance
Kevin Durant might have the best three-point shot of any superstar in the NBA.
Durant showed off his range and poise on this shot that finished off the Knicks. A smooth, confident stroke sent the Knicks home from Oklahoma City with a loss.
Close games are becoming routine for the Oklahoma City Thunder, which have been in 27 games decided by five points or less. Luckily they have players like Durant, who has helped them win 17 of these nail-biters.
Come playoff time, the Thunder will be ready to manage late-game situations in tight contests.
13. Gay Shows His Talents to LeBron in Memphis
Rudy Gay could be one of the game's elite players if he could stay healthy.
Gay is set to have season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. His shot against the Miami Heat earlier this season proved just how clutch he can be. LeBron gave it his all, but Gay was able to fade and drain one right in his eye as time expired.
The Memphis Grizzlies likely won't be able to test the best in the West without their star. This season's progress has been noticeable, however, as the Grizzlies are showing they can still be formidable without Pau Gasol.
When Gay returns next year, watch out for Memphis.
12. Dunleavy Tip Stalls and Falls
Time stood still as Mike Dunleavy's tip sat on the rim for what seemed like an eternity.
Dunleavy's tip of a Danny Granger jumper fell through the net as the Indiana Pacers beat the New Orleans Hornets in dramatic fashion. Dunleavy's spectacular play ranks as the highest buzzer-beating game-winner on my list.
Dunleavy, Granger and the Pacers need more clutch efforts like this to maintain the No. 8 spot in the East. The Pacers are three games ahead of the Bucks and Bobcats for the final playoff spot.
11. Hill to Richardson in 0.4 Seconds
Grant Hill showed that he can still be relied on to throw a perfect inbound pass.
This time, it was Jason Richardson on the end of a Hill heave. Richardson turned away from the basket to tap the ball into the net and send the game into overtime. The crowd's ecstatic response helped this play crack my top 10.
Hill timed the pass perfectly and made sure he put it right on target for J-Rich. The Suns went on to beat the Memphis Grizzlies. Each win matters to the Suns now, as they are three games out of the playoffs in the West—trailing none other than the Grizzlies.
10. DeRozan Tomahawk over Thomas
Tyrus Thomas is one of the better shot-blockers in the league.
DeMar DeRozan decided to challenge Thomas and he won with a knockout punch. DeRozan flew past Thomas and threw the ball through the rim with some authority.
DeRozan is the third member of the dunk contest to make the list, but the first to make it with a dunk.
He will not be the last.
9. Griffin Finishes with the Left Hand
Blake Griffin finally makes an appearance on the list with a powerful slam.
As soon as Griffin sent the pass over to Randy Foye, he raised his hand signaling for the ball back. Griffin did not want the ball at his chest and Foye knew that.
A high alley-oop by Foye was brought back down to the floor by Griffin's left hand after it rocketed through the net.
Griffin's not quite done yet.
8. LeBron Goes over the Backboard
When most players bobble the ball, they lose control and try to gather themselves.
LeBron does all of this while jumping out of bounds and burying a shot that had to clear the backboard. The degree of difficulty of this shot is a hard 10. If it wasn't taken as the shot clock expired, it would be considered more than a bad shot.
Once again, LeBron made something out of nothing and two points out of what should have been zero.
It just makes you wonder: Where is the ceiling for this guy?
Clearly no obstacle—even the backboard—can stop him from cashing in.
7. Young Makes the Crowd Dizzy
The only way I can describe this play is that Nick Young decided he was going to score. That was it.
As defenders flew at him, Young kept spinning and rising until a conceivable chance to toss the ball up presented itself. Young flipped the ball in the air and found the cup for as pretty of a layup as you'll ever see.
Young is quietly leading the Washington Wizards in scoring this season, although all of the media's attention is on John Wall and JaVale McGee.
A couple more plays like this wouldn't hurt Young's chances of getting noticed.
6. Smith Spin Cycle Past Duncan
J.R. Smith made Tim Duncan look like a stage prop on this layup.
Smith beat his man to the land before jumping and spinning past Duncan to convert the easy layup in seemingly effortless fashion. Smith's posture in the air and crisp spin make this the top choice of the three 360 layups on the list.
Smith is one of the most gifted offensive players in the game. When his confidence is high, he can do anything.
On this play, Smith made an extremely difficult shot look like a typical two points. That's the kind of player Smith has become.
5. Griffin Blends Finesse with Power
The dunking machine can steal the ball too? This is just getting unfair.
People know that Blake Griffin can dunk. I don't know if anyone expected Griffin to pull a move like this. A concentrated Griffin pulled the ball by the defender and swept to the other side of the rim for the flush.
Griffin showed that there may be no end to the laundry list of things he can do. The sky is the limit for the rookie, who regularly finds himself at the top of the highlight reel.
One thing's for sure. This list has yet to show his best.
4. Wade Flashes Lightning Vs. Thunder
As soon as Dwyane Wade got the ball, he knew he was going to the rim. No one would stand in his way.
James Harden: A quick first step to the left and he's by the first guy.
Serge Ibaka: It only took an incredible spin to beat this defensive powerhouse.
Kendrick Perkins: The new addition to the Thunder got to see someone he's quite familiar with. This time Wade soared beyond Perkins' reach for the two-handed jam.
Decisive and confident as always, Wade cut through the Thunder with quickness, deception and raw athleticism.
3. Griffin Dunks from Anywhere He Wants
Once this play happened, the New York Knicks knew they had to deal Timofey Mozgov.
Obviously I'm kidding, but this is the biggest embarrassment of a seven-footer since Vince Carter jumped over one. The presence of Mozgov caused Griffin to stop short of the rim.
Problem is, Griffin still wanted to dunk.
So Griffin chucked the ball straight through the net as he palmed the head of Mozgov and nearly cleared the big man.
Somehow, this was not the best dunk of the game for Griffin.
2. Griffin: Take 5
Poor Danilo Gallinari had no chance.
When Griffin got out on the fast break, everybody in the arena knew he was going to dunk the ball. A valiant effort by Gallinari didn't pay off, as Griffin spun and elevated to unbelievable heights.
Griffin's overall performance against the Knicks was a memorable one in which there was rarely much time between his dunks. He slammed the ball early and often on the way to 44 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.
Griffin has had more rim-rocking moments than any other player in recent memory. He deserves all five appearances—and the three top-five spots—he made on the list.
1. Wade to LeBron 2
Here comes the debate. Maybe it's just me, but I've never been taken back by a play in the manner I was by this one.
Has there ever been a more accurate pass of this length in NBA history?
I could watch this play every day and still be awed by the perfection in its execution. As soon as Wade gathers the board, he turns and fires the ball about 90 feet down the court. At the time of the throw, LeBron is at about half-court.
LeBron strides to the hoop and finds the ball flying roughly a foot to the right of the rim. Wade delivered a better pass from full-court than many could from the free-throw line. The crowd's reaction doesn't quite do the play justice, but it still is No. 1 on the list.
Are there any plays that you feel are deserving that I didn't include?
Do you like the list?
Comment and let me know what you think.