NBA Playoffs 2011: Power Ranking Each Team's Most Important Player

Alexander M. SmithContributor IApril 15, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: Power Ranking Each Team's Most Important Player

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 03:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the game against the Denver Nuggets  at Staples Center on April 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Superteams. All-Star-studded squads. "I'm taking my talents to South Beach."

    Of all the annoying chatter in the NBA this season, the most indefatigable topic has been the idea that certain teams are loading up with two or, in some cases, three elite players.

    In the NBA postseason, however, it sometimes takes one man to dominate a series and send the other team home early.

    This slideshow takes a look at the single most important player on each team and power ranks them. Where does Derrick Rose fit in with names like LeBron and Kobe? Click to find out. 

16. Nene, Denver Nuggets

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 12:  Nene #31 of the Denver Nuggets is fouled by Ben Gordon #7 of the Detroit Pistons as he goes to the basket at the Pepsi Center on March 12, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The departure of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks left the Nuggets with a lot of questions, and some even wondered if they would drop completely out of playoff contention.

    Thanks to Nene and newcomers Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, Denver has actually surged in the last couple months before the big dance. Nene has stepped up to lead the Nuggets, and while the team lacks a pure scorer, he is the guy they will turn to when the going gets tough.

    2010-11 Stats

    61.5% FG, 14.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG 

15. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers

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    OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 19:  Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers in action against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on January 19, 2011 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or us
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Pacers are a young, upstart team, spearheaded by the shooting and defense of their star, Danny Granger. Although his 42.5 percent shooting clip is unimpressive, he averages more than five boards and one steal a game, making him a superb all-around player.

    There is no question Granger is the guy in Indiana, and if they want to upset the top-seeded Bulls, he is going to have to have the series of his life.

    2010-11 Stats

    20.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG

14. Elton Brand, Philadelphia 76ers

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  Elton Brand #42 of the Philadelphia 76ers goes up for a shot in front of Trevor Ariza #1 of the New Orleans Hornets in the second half at New Orleans Arena on January 3, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User exp
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    One of the most underrated players of the last 10 years, Elton Brand has been a little unlucky with injuries but has posted consistent numbers. He has only won one playoff series in his career (with the Clippers) and he is looking to expound on that number.

    Brand is perhaps the hungriest player in the playoffs, and he will do anything to advance Philadelphia past the first round. His veteran presence helps calm the younger players on the Sixers, and allows him to take control in crunch-time situations.

    2010-11 Stats

    15.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 51.2% FG

13. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23:  Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies takes a shot as Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics defends on March 23, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Holding together this feisty Grizzlies team in the middle is big man Zach Randolph. He is a monster on the boards and pours in over 20 points a game. 

    Randolph has been a steadying force all season, keeping his team playoff bound even with star guard Rudy Gay missing 28 games. If he can have his way in the paint, Memphis will be tough to bounce out of the playoffs.

    2010-11 Stats

    20.1 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 50.3% FG

12. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 04:  Forward LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes a shot against Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on January 4, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    If you want a workhorse, then LaMarcus Aldridge is your man. He started 81 games this season and led the Trail Blazers with 39.6 minutes per game. He also pulls down the second-most boards out of anybody on the squad (Marcus Camby is first) and leads the team with 21.8 points a game. 

    Aldridge's endurance and all-around skill could be enough for the Blazers to make a surprise run in the Western Conference.

    2010-11 Stats

    21.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 50.0% FG

11. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls knocks the ball away from Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center on March 11, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Hawks 94-76. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Atlanta was the hardest team to choose one star from, but Horford shows the hustle and grit that Josh Smith and Joe Johnson sometimes lack. Horford is an all-out player who still puts up numbers comparable to his two well-known teammates.

    He leads the Hawks in rebounding and field-goal percentage, and is second on the team in minutes. During the most important minutes of the fourth quarter, you can count on the 24-year-old to make some big plays in the paint and in transition.

    2010-11 Stats

    15.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 55.7% FG

10. Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

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    OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 15:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets shoots over Jeremy Lin #7 of the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on February 15, 2011 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Besides that kid in Chicago, Chris Paul is the most dangerous point guard in the league. He strikes from all angles, posting nearly 16 points a game while leading the team in assists and steals. Truly a jack of all trades, he might be the master of each as well.

    Paul is also on the floor more than any other Hornet, and missed just two contests this season. He is a gamer who can create as well as anybody, especially when it seems like there is nothing there. This is a very valuable asset in crunch time.

    2010-11 Stats

    15.9 PPG, 9.8 APG, 2.4 SPG

9. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks shoots over Kris Humphries #43 of the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2011 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadin
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Much was made about Carmelo's move from Denver to New York. His old team got better without him. His new team got worse when he joined. The Knicks, however, are starting to come around to the idea of Anthony leading them to victory. 

    Carmelo is still one of the top scorers in the NBA, and sometimes it seems as if he can put the ball in the basket at will. This is bad news for opposing teams if Anthony is on his game. 

    2010-11 Stats (with Knicks)

    26.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.0 APG

8. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts to his basket in front of Shawn Marion #0 against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 31, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledg
    Harry How/Getty Images

    This season has been business as usual for Dirk Nowitzki. Still pouring in bucket-loads of points, still leading the Mavericks to a high seed in the Western Conference playoffs. This year, though, he wants his postseason luck to change.

    After leading a valiant (but eventually fruitless) charge to the NBA Finals in 2006, he has failed to return, and he wants a ring more than anything. With his height and shooting ability, it's tough to get a hand in his face, and he usually has his way when he is inside the three-point line with the ball. 

    2010-11 Stats

    23.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.6 APG

7. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 13:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on March 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Magic defeated the Suns 111-88. NOTE TO USER: User expressly
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The most physical player in the league returns to the playoffs with redemption on his mind. Standing seven-feet tall and still brooding over an earlier-than-desired exit from the playoffs in 2010, Howard wants to get back to the NBA Finals and show the world he can lead the Magic to a ring.

    The brute force he exerts in the paint is almost painful to watch sometimes, and Howard puts his incredibly broad shoulders to work, schooling opponents with power moves mixed with shimmies and spins. He must be contained in the key in order to stop the Magic.

    2010-11 Stats

    22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 59.3% FG

6. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 05:  Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs against Kirk Hinrich #6 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on April 5, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using th
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Tony Parker has done an excellent job of rendering his off-court troubles irrelevant, as he is playing as well as ever while leading the Spurs to the best record in the West. Although his team faded a little bit down the stretch compared to their hot start, Parker is bad news for any opposing team in the playoffs.

    One of Parker's greatest strengths is his large amount of postseason experience, which keeps him cool under pressure and gives him the ability to focus on making the dazzling passes and lay-ins that lead the Spurs to victory in big games.

    2010-11 Stats

    17.5 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.1 RPG

5. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07: Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics earns a technical foul for yelling at referee Mark Ayotte #56 during a game against the Chicago Bulls at United Center on April 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Big Three in Boston are still playing great basketball, and Pierce is a big part of that. Ray Allen can hit the long ball and Kevin Garnett can rebound and hit the 15-footer as well as anybody, but Pierce is the one cog in the machine the Celtics could not survive without.

    One of the most clutch players in the game, Pierce can play relatively quietly for three quarters and then explode when it matters most. Protecting a small lead against Pierce late in a game is a nightmare for opposing teams. He just knows how to score when his team needs him to, and he realizes this could be his last serious run for a championship.

    2010-11 Stats

    18.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.3 APG

4. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 30:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on March 30, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Thunder defeated the Suns 116-98.
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The league-leader with 27.7 points per game, Durant has my vote as the most athletic player in the league. His high-flying dunks combined with stellar three-point shooting are a sight to see every single night.

    Last year, Durant's Thunder nearly upset top-seeded Los Angeles, and they can certainly do much more damage than that with the No. 4 seed this year. With Durant running the floor, the Thunder will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs.

    2010-11 Stats

    27.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.7 APG

3. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07: Derrick Rose #1  of the Chicago Bulls moves against the Boston Celtics at United Center on April 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Celtics 97-81. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agress that, by down
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The easy choice for 2010-11 league MVP, Derrick Rose has certainly taken his game to a new level this season. His ability to score in the lane, perform acrobatic dunks, play stingy defense and dish the ball to open teammates has been nothing short of spectacular.

    Rose is the primary reason the Bulls shocked the Eastern Conference and possess the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs. They look full of life and energy at the right time of the year, and no one's play exemplifies those things more than Rose's.

    2010-11 Stats

    25.0 PPG, 7.7 APG, 4.1 RPG

2. LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    MIAMI, FL - APRIL 10:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks to pass during a game against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on April 10, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/o
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    After taking heat (no pun intended) for joining Miami in the offseason, LeBron has been, well, his old self. His freakishly superb combination of size, speed and hops makes him nearly impossible to guard. James can create whatever shot he wants, and runs the transition break with teammate Dwyane Wade better than anyone in the league.

    The Heat's hopes don't all lie on James' performance in the first couple rounds, but if they want to succeed in the conference finals, they'll need him to step up and score at least 25 a game. Miami hasn't really looked very cohesive this season, but they haven't really needed to with James on their squad.

    2010-11 Stats

    26.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.0 APG

1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Richard Jefferson #24 of the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Well, look who we have here...Remember this guy?

    Bryant has been a mainstay in the playoffs since the late-90s, and he is looking for his third-straight championship. Although it is cliche to say so, Bryant just knows how to win.

    Sure, he is past his prime, but Bryant is still the guy I want with the ball in his hands and the clock ticking down in the fourth quarter of Game 7. Kobe possesses an unstoppable jumper when he gets on a roll, and you can simply never count him out. For now, he is the king, and it will take a monster effort by a younger player this postseason to take that No. 1 spot.

    2010-11 Stats

    25.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.7 APG

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