NBA Playoffs 2011: Dirk Nowitzki and the Top 10 Players Still Left

Pat MarrujoContributor IMay 3, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: Dirk Nowitzki and the Top 10 Players Still Left

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks reacts in the fourth quarter while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 2, 2011 in Los Ange
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The NBA is the most superstar-driven league in all of American sports. The teams with the biggest-named players are usually the best in the league.

    Some superstars are alone on their team, like Dirk Nowitzki and Derrick Rose, while others share the spotlight like Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo or LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

    This list is a power ranking of the very best superstars still in the 2011 NBA playoffs. The list is based on how they have played in the postseason—it has nothing to do with their career or their regular season numbers.

10. Marc Gasol

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 03:  Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots a jumper over Kendrick Perkins #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first quarter in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2011 at Okl
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Who would have thought that Marc Gasol would be outproducing his brother, Pau, in the 2011 playoffs?

    Gasol is one of the major reasons the Grizzlies finished off the top-seeded Spurs and why Memphis is giving the Thunder plenty of trouble.

    He is currently averaging 15 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Gasol is getting it done in every aspect of the game.

    Gasol, who will be a free agent this offseason, is making a case to why he should receive a big payday this summer.  If his pesky Grizzlies keep winning, he might find that payday in Memphis.

9. Kobe Bryant

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts after making a three-pointer in the third quarter while taking on the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    You will rarely find Kobe Bryant outside the top five of any power ranking for the greatest players in the league, but Bryant has not been at his best thus far.

    Kobe is averaging 24.4 points per game along with 3.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, but each of those numbers are under his career average. The most shocking statistic of all is that Kobe has not been able to hit big shots at the ends of games.

    Last night against the Mavericks, Kobe had two chances to put his team ahead late in the game, but couldn’t bury either shot.

    If Bryant doesn’t start playing up to his potential, the defending champions could be in trouble.

8. Zach Randolph

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 01:  Forward Zach Randolph #50 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 1, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The biggest story of the entire postseason thus far has been the Grizzlies upsetting the Spurs in the first round and the emergence of Zach Randolph as a superstar.

    Randolph is averaging 23.3 points per game with 9.3 boards and 3.1 assists per game as well. He has developed the ability to take over games late and hit the big shot.

    He has a field-goal percentage of 50.1 percent and is making a case that his Grizzlies deserve a chance to play in the Western Conference Finals.

    Luckily for Memphis they have recently signed him to a contract extension. If they had not, I am sure there were plenty of teams that were willing to break the bank for his services.

7. Russell Westbrook

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 27: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against Arron Afflalo #6 of the Denver Nuggets in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 2011 at the Ford
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Russell Westbrook has been criticized for taking too many shots and making poor decisions thus far in the playoffs, but the numbers don’t lie.

    He is averaging 24.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Westbrook has been one of the most consistent players in the league with only a single game in which he scored less than 20 points.

    Despite being criticized for his poor shot selection, Westbrook is still shooting just under 40 percent from the field and has a knack for getting to the free-throw line.

    If the Thunder want to make some noise this season, they will probably need Westbrook to raise that assist total a little. Other than that, he just needs to keep doing what he is doing.

6. Rajon Rondo

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 01:  Rajon Rondo #9  of the Boston Celtics points during Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressl
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    When the “Boston Three Party” was formed, Rondo was considered the weak point of their star-studded starting lineup.

    Now he is the driving force that makes the Celtics go.

    The Celtics really live and die by Rondo now. When he plays well, they win—and when he plays poorly, they lose.

    Rondo is currently averaging 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11 assists per game in the 2011 NBA playoffs.

    Now down 2-0 against the Miami Heat, Rondo needs to save his team from elimination. I predict a triple-double in the near future for the point guard.

5. Derrick Rose

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    CHICAGO, IL - MAY 02: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives against the Atlanta Hawks in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on May 2, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Hawks defeated the Bulls 10
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Derrick Rose has been named the league's MVP and deserves the honor in every way. In both the regular season and the playoffs, he has carried his team.

    In the playoffs, he is averaging 27 points per game along with 4.7 rebounds and 6.8 assists per night.

    Though I don’t feel Rose is the best point guard in the NBA, he is a stat machine and is known for making highlight-reel plays.

    Currently down 1-0 to Atlanta, I still expect Rose to carry his team past the Hawks. He is unstoppable and Atlanta has nobody who can slow him down.

4. Dwyane Wade

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 01:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives to the lane during Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on May 1, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: Us
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It is hard to believe that the first Heat player comes up in third on this list, but they have been that good.

    D-Wade is scoring 24.8 points, grabbing 7.2 rebounds and dishing 5.8 assists per game for his Miami Heat. He is has been unstoppable and makes his team one of the top title contenders.

    His impact is not just on offense either. Wade is also averaging two blocks and 1.7 steals per game.

    If he keeps playing like this, along with LeBron James, the Heat might be on their way to the NBA title.

3. Dirk Nowitzki

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 02:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks shoots over Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first quarter in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 2, 2011 in Los
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Dirk Nowitzki has historically been labeled as a player who does not step up in the playoffs, but his reputation might change after this season.

    He is playing with intensity and he has scored at least 20 points in each of the Mavericks' playoff games thus far.

    He is averaging 27.4 points per game, 8.7 rebounds and three dimes.

    Dirk was brilliant in his Game 1 victory against the Lakers and is proving that this might be the best Mavericks team he has ever played on. If they can get by the Lakers, this could finally be the year that Dirk gets his ring.

2. LeBron James

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 03:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts to a shot during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at American Airlines Arena on May 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: Use
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    You can call him “LeChoke” or “LeQuitter” or criticize his closing ability, but LeBron James has been excellent throughout the playoffs this season.

    His Heat are up 2-0 against the defending Eastern champion Boston Celtics and are in complete control of the conference.

    James is averaging 23.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and six assists per game.

    It seems as if LeBron is about to prove all the critics wrong and get his team to finals in their first season assembled. If he can continue his dominance, it might just happen.

1. Kevin Durant

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    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 01:  Forward Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder takes a shot against the Memphis Grizzlies in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 1, 2011 at Oklahoma City Arena in Oklahoma City,
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Kevin Durant is hands down the best scorer alive. He stands a towering 6’10” tall and has the speed and agility of a point guard.

    Along with his scoring, Durant also makes an impact on the boards and plays tough defense. He is currently averaging a league-high 32.5 points per game, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

    His presence on the defensive end is shown by his averaging of 1.2 blocks per game and one steal per game.

    His Thunder are battling a pesky Grizzlies team in this round of the playoffs, but have NBA title hopes this year. As talented as Durant is, they have the ability to go as far as he takes them.