NBA Top 50 Players: Are Their Best Years Ahead of or Behind Them?

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 13, 2011

NBA Top 50 Players: Are Their Best Years Ahead of or Behind Them?

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    Who are the top 50 players currently playing in the NBA and are they on the rise or the decline?

    Those are the two questions that this article attempts to answer. 

    As for how the top 50 were decided upon: the criteria used was a combination of talent, production, team success, age and many other factors. This isn't a measure of what a player has done in his career, merely a ranking for next season. 

    Each player falls into one of three categories. They either have their best days behind them, ahead of the or neither. If neither is the fit, that means that the player is expected to maintain the current level of production. 

    You can probably guess right now that guys like Blake Griffin, John Wall, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the young guns will fit into the first category while grizzled veterans like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be in the second. 

    Read on to find both where the top 50 players rank and whether they will improve or not. 

     

    Adam Fromal is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer. Follow him on Twitter:  @Fromal09.


     

50. David Lee (Golden State Warriors)

1 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 0.4 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 0.4 blocks per game

     

    David Lee is an incredible offensive talent from the center position in a perfect home with the Golden State Warriors. But on a team filled with weapons, he's really not going to improve much more. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

49. Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)

2 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game 

    Career Stats: 8.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks per game

     

    The second-straight Florida Gator here, Joakim Noah's motor never seems to stop running, whether it's helping him crash the offensive boards or play with seemingly unmatched intensity on defense. As he continues to improve and develop more of an offensive game, so too will the Chicago Bulls. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

48. DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)

3 of 50

    Age: 20

    2010-11 Stats: 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks per game

     

    DeMarcus Cousins had an absolutely fantastic rookie season, one which saw him improve as the season went on. It was largely overshadowed by the monstrous first seasons put together by Blake Griffin and John Wall, but this former Kentucky Wildcat will get his due eventually. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

47. Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)

4 of 50

    Age: 31

    2010-11 Stats: 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 0.7 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.0 blocks per game

     

    Lamar Odom proved he still had a lot left in the tank for the Los Angeles Lakers last season, but his age is going to have to start catching up to him eventually. If Andrew Bynum stays healthy for a whole season, Odom's production will fall accordingly, but expect his career to take a little downturn regardless. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

46. Brandon Roy (Portland Trail Blazers)

5 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 12.2 points, 2.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 19.0 points, 4.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds per game

     

    It's sad to have to put Brandon Roy this far down in the rankings, but that's what bone-on-bone knees have done to him. When healthy he's one of the best in the game, but that's likely to never be the case again. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

45. Devin Harris (Utah Jazz)

6 of 50

    Age: 28

    2010-11 Stats: 15.2 points, 7.1 assists, 2.4 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 13.3 points, 5.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds per game

     

    Devin Harris still hasn't reached his maximum potential, but two things have to happen in order for him to ever get there. One, he has to stay healthy. Two, he has to adjust to playing with a new team in the Utah Jazz. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

44. Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks)

7 of 50

    Age: 38

    2010-11 Stats: 7.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 13.2 points, 9.1 assists, 6.5 rebounds per game

     

    Jason Kidd recently got that elusive championship ring with his Dallas Mavericks, ridding himself of the metaphorical monkey on his back. WIth the years piling up, Kidd is never going to be a truly elite player again but he's still going to give the Mavericks a whole lot of consistently solid production. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

43. Josh Smith (Atlanta Hawks)

8 of 50

    Age: 25

    2010-11 Stats: 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 14.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per game

     

    Josh Smith is as talented as he is frustrating. He will also hopefully no longer be a member of the Atlanta Hawks when the next season begins. With his insane athleticism, J-Smoove just needs to stop taking ill-advised jump shots and he'd be truly dominant. 

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

42. Ray Allen (Boston Celtics)

9 of 50

    Age: 35

    2010-11 Stats: 16.5 points, 2.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 20.2 points, 3.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds per game

     

    Ray Allen still has the sweet shooting stroke that helped him earn the title of all-time leading three-point shooter, but he's getting older and his role with the Celtics is bound to start diminishing. 

     

    Verdict: Better days are behind him

41. Kevin Martin (Houston Rockets)

10 of 50

    Age: 28

    2010-11 Stats: 23.5 points, 2.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 18.5 points, 2,0 assists, 3.5 rebounds per game

     

    Kevin Martin has always been one of the best scorers in the NBA and this has been no less true since he made the transition from the Sacramento Kings to the Houston Rockets. I think he's peaked, but it's going to be more like a plateau than a mountain that he's reached the top of. 

     

    Verdict: Better days are neither ahead of nor behind him

40. Brook Lopez (New Jersey Nets)

11 of 50

    Age: 23

    2010-11 Stats: 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game

     

    Brook Lopez is definitely still on the rise even though he hasn’t yet learned to rebound like a true center. With Deron Williams in place for a full season, his numbers may continue to go up.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

39. Stephen Jackson (Milwaukee Bucks)

12 of 50

    Age: 33

    2010-11 Stats: 18.5 points, 3.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 16.3 points, 3.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds per game

     

    Now on a completely new team for the first time in a while after he was traded by the Charlotte Bobcats, Stephen Jackson will bring his scoring ability to the Milwaukee Bucks and join what could actually be a playoff team. At 33 years old though, he may have lost a step or two.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

38. Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers)

13 of 50

    Age: 22

    2010-11 Stats: 22.3 points, 4.4 assists, 2.9 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 18.1 points, 3.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds per game

     

    After his experience with Team USA helped him quicken his development, Eric Gordon absolutely took off for the Clippers during his third year in the league. A great all-around player, he and Blake Griffin could form a dynamic duo in Los Angeles.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

37. Andrew Bogut (Milwaukee Bucks)

14 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 12.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 12.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game

     

    When healthy, the Australian center is one of the best players at his position in the NBA, but the problem is that Andrew Bogut just always seems to be injured. He’s still young, but injuries may have already reduced the length of his career.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

36. Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz)

15 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 18.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 15.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks per game

     

    Al Jefferson loved the time he has spent in Utah so far and will continue to enjoy success as his career progresses with a team that can really only improve. He’s definitely a nightly 20-10 threat.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

35. Gerald Wallace (Portland Trail Blazers)

16 of 50

    Age: 28

    2010-11 Stats: 15.7 points, 2.4 assists, 8.0 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 13.4 points, 2.0 assists, 6.3 rebounds per game

     

    One of the league’s premier stat-stuffers, Gerald Wallace definitely seemed to thrive off his transition to the Portland Trail Blazers from the inept Charlotte Bobcats. He is as solid a defender as he is an offensive player.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

34. John Wall (Washington Wizards)

17 of 50

    Age: 20

    2010-11 Stats: 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds per game

    Careeer Stats: 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, 4.6 rebounds per game

     

    John Wall enjoyed an absolutely fantastic rookie season but was overshadowed by the greatness of Blake Griffin. Almost any other year he would have been a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year vote. With tremendous speed and court vision, Wall is the next big thing at point guard.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

     

33. Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks)

18 of 50

    Age: 30

    2010-11 Stats: 18.2 points, 4.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 17.7 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds per game

     

    Joe Johnson signed a maximum contract last offseason and then did exactly what Atlanta fans knew he would do: put up good but not great numbers in the regular season and then fail to make an impact in the playoffs once more. His contract will cripple the franchise for quite a while.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

     

32. Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)

19 of 50

    Age: 22

    2010-11 Stats: 20.2 points, 15.2 rebounds, 0.4 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 15.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 0.5 blocks per game

     

    Kevin Love had absolutely insane stats last season and proved that he can do almost everything well: score at will, shoot threes, rebound the ball, etc. But I still have to wonder how much stat inflation he received because he played for the almost completely inept Minnesota Timberwolves.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

31. Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)

20 of 50

    Age: 21

    2010-11 Stats: 17.8 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 19.1 points, 5.7 assists, 5.1 rebounds per game

     

    Tyreke Evans is a premier talent at the point guard position, but he wasn’t able to back up his historic rookie season with a sophomore season for the ages. He’s still going to get better though, especially with all the young talent surrounding him in Sacramento.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

30. Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks)

21 of 50

    Age: 25

    2010-11 Stats: 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.0 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 12.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks per game

     

    Al Horford continues to get better and establish himself as the go-to guy on the Atlanta Hawks. He’s now a two-time All-Star and he’s only been in the league for four seasons.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

29. Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)

22 of 50

    Age: 28

    2010-11 Stats: 20.5 points, 2.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds

    Career Stats: 18.2 points, 2.1 assists, 5.3 rebounds per game

     

    One of the leagues most unknown stars, Danny Granger continues to thrive in Indiana in all aspects of the game. As the Pacers continue to improve, Granger’s individual stats may drop but he’d gladly sacrifice those for the good of the team.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

28. Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)

23 of 50

    Age: 29

    2010-11 Stats: 17.5 points, 6.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 16.7 points, 5.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds per game

     

    I thought that Tony Parker was on the decline going into last season, but boy did he prove me wrong. Thriving in the Spurs system once more, Parker had a great season and showed that he still has a lot left in the tank.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

27. Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs)

24 of 50

    Age: 33

    2010-11 Stats: 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 15.3 points, 3.9 assists, 4.0 rebounds per game

     

    Manu had a fantastic year last season, but the years are catching up with him and he doesn’t have too many productive campaigns left. I think that he’ll get less minutes than he has in the past this next year in an attempt to keep him fresh for the inevitable postseason run.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

26. Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics)

25 of 50

    Age: 35

    2010-11 Stats: 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 0.8 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 19.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.5 block per game

     

    While his emotion and passion for the game are certainly not fading away, Garnett is now 35 years old and is in the twilight of his NBA career. He can still be a big factor on both ends of the court, but his dominant games are going to be fewer and farther between.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

25. Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)

26 of 50

    Age: 35

    2010-11 Stats: 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 20.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.3 blocks per game

     

    Tim Duncan chose not to opt out of the final year of his contract with the San Antonio Spurs in a great show of team loyalty. Now he’s in for a reduced role with the team to preserve his health. As sad as it is, Duncan, one of the greatest power forwards of all time, is now just a shell of his former self. But that shell is still good enough to put him at No. 26 in these rankings.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

24. LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers)

27 of 50

    Age: 25

    2010-11 Stats: 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

    Career Stats: 17.3 points, 7.5 points, 1.0 blocks

     

    The string of older veterans on the decline finally comes to a close, so hopefully it didn’t depress you too much.

    The biggest benefactor of Brandon Roy’s knee problems, LaMarcus Aldridge broke out in a big way last year and was absolutely cheated out of a spot on the All-Star Team. Expect his success to carry over to this season, which should see him make that exclusive roster.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

23. Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies)

28 of 50

    Age: 29

    2010-11 Stats: 20.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, 0.3 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 17.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 0.3 blocks per game

     

    Although he’s ridiculously unathletic for an NBA player, Z-Bo had a fantastic regular season and then followed it up with a superstardom-worthy performance in the postseason as the Memphis Grizzlies surprised a whole lot of people. Randolph absolutely has the talent to keep this up now that he seems to have everything clicking.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

22. Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers)

29 of 50

    Age: 31

    2010-11 Stats: 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 18.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game

     

    Pau Gasol remains one of the NBA’s best offensive big men, but his age is slowly creeping up and is now at 31. That may be the most important number of all as Gasol may end up deferring to some of LA’s younger players, if of course he even remains with the team for another season.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

21. Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)

30 of 50

    Age: 24

    2010-11 Stats: 19.8 points, 2.8 assists, 6.2 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 17.8 points, 1.9 assists, 5.6 rebounds per game

     

    The fact that the Memphis Grizzlies are actually considering trading Rudy Gay is absolutely mind-boggling. Sure, Memphis may have gone on a pretty decent tear without him, but he’s an elite talent in the league and he’s only getting better. Gay has as much potential as anyone and the Grizzlies would take a huge step backwards in their development if he was no longer with them.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

20. Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics)

31 of 50

    Age: 33

    2010-11 Stats: 18.9 points, 3.3 assists, 5.4 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 22.2 points, 3.8 assists, 6.1 rebounds per game

     

    If you’ve read any of my articles about NBA history then you know that I’m a huge supporter of Paul Pierce being considered one of the all-time greats in both Celtics and NBA history. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t recognize that Pierce’s best days are way behind him and he’s no longer a superstar in this league in anything but reputation. He is no longer the Celtics’ best player by any stretch.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him 

19. Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)

32 of 50

    Age: 27

    2010-11 Stats: 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 0.6 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 20.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks per game

     

    Call him soft. Call him an underachiever. Call him overrated. No matter what, you shouldn’t deny that Chris Bosh remains one of the league’s best offensive threats at his position. As he and the Miami Heat’s chemistry continue to grow, he’ll only experience more success.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

18. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

33 of 50

    Age: 23

    2010-11 Stats: 18.6 points, 5.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 18.0 points, 5.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds per game

     

    Stephen Curry is an incredible offensive talent who is still a long way away from realizing his full potential. If Monta Ellis departs from Golden State, Curry’s role will increase and so too will his numbers. Even if it all stays the same, the former Davidson standout will continue to grow.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

17. Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)

34 of 50

    Age: 27

    2010-11 Stats: 14.1 points, 6.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 15.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds per game

     

    Is there anything that Andre Iguodala can’t do? He can score efficiently, he can dish out the ball to open teammates and create good looks for them, he can rebound the ball incredibly well for a player his size and he plays lockdown defense on the perimeter. He also is pretty good at causing trade rumors.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

16. Monta Ellis (Golden State Warriors)

35 of 50

    Age: 25

    2010-11 Stats: 24.1 points, 5.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 19.4 points, 4.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds per game

     

    Monta Ellis is one of the best scoring threats that the NBA has to offer but he struggles mightily on the other end of the court. If anything, Golden State is the absolute perfect fit for this former second-round pick. Why are there rumors that he might be traded again?

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

15. Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns)

36 of 50

    Age: 37

    2010-11 Stats: 14.7 points, 11.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 14.6 points, 8.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds per game

     

    Steve Nash may no longer be able to play at the same level that he could when he won two MVPs, but he’s still one of the league’s elite point guards and has a few good seasons left. It’s just a shame that he won’t ever win a ring unless he requests a trade to a true contender.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

     

14. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

37 of 50

    Age: 22

    2010-11 Stats: 21.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 17.8 points, 7.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds per game

     

    One of the most athletic point guards to ever play the game, Russell Westbrook actually exploded onto the NBA scene last season and put up some absolutely incredible numbers for the Thunder. He had to undergo a ridiculous (and over the top) barrage of criticism during the playoffs about his role on the team, but he should be able to overcome that and keep improving.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

13. Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

38 of 50

    Age: 22

    2010-11 Stats: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 0.5 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 22.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 0.5 blocks per game

     

    Blake Griffin was undoubtedly the toughest player to rank. He had one of the best rookie season of all time and improved in all areas as the season went on. Additionally, he was a highlight machine throughout the year and did the impossible by making the Los Angeles Clipper relevant.

    Some people are going to say that Griffin is ranked way too high while others might think that he’s still underrated. The scary thing is that after just one season, he’s even generating this type of praise.

    In my opinion, Griffin’s ceiling is impossible to project. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t become an MVP candidate in the future, maybe even as early as a year or two from now.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

12. Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics)

39 of 50

    Age: 25

    2010-11 Stats: 10.6 points, 11.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 10.7 points, 7.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds per game

     

    A master of the pass, Rajon Rondo would be an absolutely terrifying offensive monster if he could actually learn how to shoot the basketball. As it stands though, he’s an elite point guard because of his rebounding ability, passing wizardry and defensive skills.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him 

11. Deron Williams (Utah Jazz)

40 of 50

    Age: 27

    2010-11 Stats: 20.1 points, 10.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 17.2 points, 9.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game

     

    Deron Williams is still the third-best point guard in the league behind Chris Paul and Derrick Rose and he should excel in his first full season with the New Jersey Nets. He’s surrounded by a little more talent now and the Nets should only continue adding valuable players.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

10. Amar’e Stoudamire (New York Knicks)

41 of 50

    Age: 28

    2010-11 Stats: 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 21.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game

     

    The bright lights of the city that never sleeps didn’t seem to faze the begoggled big man at all as he continued to put up great offensive numbers. Stoudamire has peaked though and will start to gradually decline as his knees inevitably give out. It’s only a matter of time.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

9. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

42 of 50

    Age: 27

    2010-11 Stats: 25.6 points, 2.9 assists, 7.3 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 24.8 points, 3.1 assists 6.3 rebounds per game

     

    Just about as good as they come on the offensive end of the floor, Carmelo Anthony is going to love the type of numbers he’ll put up in a Mike D’Antoni system. They could be scarily good. It’s hard sometimes to remember that Melo is only 27 years old.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

8. Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)

43 of 50

    Age: 33

    2010-11 Stats: 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.6 blocks per game

    Career Stats: 23.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.0 blocks per game

     

    Dirk Nowitzki had one of the most memorable postseasons ever and carried his team to the Mavericks first championship in franchise history. If any player deserved a ring, it was Dirk, who showed that hard work really did pay off. But that said, he’s 33 and may start to show signs of fatigue at some point. It seems unlikely right now that the aging Mavs will be able to defend their title successfully.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

7. Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)

44 of 50

    Age: 22

    2010-11 Stats: 25.0 points, 7.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 20.9 points, 6.7 assists, 3.9 rebounds per game

     

    The league’s reigning MVP enjoyed a fantastic season and should continue to improve upon his 2010-11 campaign, but he remains the second-best point guard in the league behind Chris Paul (when CP3 is healthy of course). That’s no knock against Rose, who is this high in the rankings after just three seasons in the league.

    For those of you about to blast me for having the MVP this low, keep in mind that the award is handed out to the most VALUABLE player and not necessarily the best player.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him 

6. Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets)

45 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 15.9 points, 9.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 18.7 points, 9.9 assists, 4.6 rebounds per game

     

    When he’s healthy (which he appears to be right now), Chris Paul in unparalleled at his position. His floor vision is impeccable, as is his passing and scoring ability. Paul is so highly sought after by other teams for a reason.

     

    Verdict: Best days are neither ahead of nor behind him

5. Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)

46 of 50

    Age: 25

    2010-11 Stats: 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks per game

     

    The best center in the game and its best defensive player, Dwight Howard, D-12, Superman or whatever you want to call him is still only getting better. As he continues to add moves to his offensive arsenal, he’ll finally live up to his ridiculous potential. It’s hard to remember sometimes though that Howard is only 25 years old.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

4. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)

47 of 50

    Age: 32

    2010-11 Stats: 25.3 points, 4.7 assists, 5.1 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 25.3 points, 4.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds per game

     

    Would Kobe Bryant have ever allowed his team to be swept in the playoffs while he was in his prime? Absolutely not, especially not as badly as the Dallas Mavericks manhandled the Lakers.

    Kobe is still an incredible talent capable of taking over the game at any moment but it’s important to recognize that he is no longer in that prime. Still one of the best players in the game, Bryant isn’t going to put up MVP-quality statistics any more.

    Lakers fans, I promise I’m not hating on Kobe here. After all, he is still at No. 4.

     

    Verdict: Best days are behind him

3. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

48 of 50

    Age: 22

    2010-11 Stats: 27.7 points, 2.7 assists, 6.8 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 25.9 points, 2.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds per game

     

    While it’s true that he needs to be more aggressive and demand the ball more during the playoffs, don’t overlook the fact that Kevin Durant is already a two-time scoring champion and he’s only 22 years old. This man was born to score.

    The meteoric rise to MVP status many predicted after the FIBA World Championships didn’t happen, but Durant continued to improve during his fourth season in the league. The same thing should happen in his fifth.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

2. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)

49 of 50

    Age: 29

    2010-11 Season: 25.5 points, 4.6 assists, 6.4 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 25.4 points, 6.3 assists, 5.1 rebounds per game

     

    Dwyane Wade was the true leader of the Miami Heat even if he wasn’t the best player on the floor. That was never clearer than when Wade barked at LeBron James during the playoffs in attempt to make the player you haven’t seen on this list yet get his act together.

    Wade is an absolutely incredible talent who should be even better next season as he continues to get used to playing alongside LeBron and Chris Bosh.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

1. LeBron James (Miami Heat)

50 of 50

    Age: 26

    2010-11 Stats: 26.7 points, 7.0 assists, 7.5 rebounds per game

    Career Stats: 27.7 points, 7.0 assists, 7.1 rebounds per game

     

    Playoff failures aside, there is no doubt that LeBron James is the most talented player in the game today. A physical specimen, no player can take over a game on either offense or defense like the league’s biggest villain can.

    James went from being the unquestioned No. 1 option in Cleveland to part of a super-trio in Miami and still flirted with a triple-double on a nightly basis. He also led the NBA in PER, which is a very impressive accomplishment for someone on a loaded team.

    Love him or hate him, you have to call James the best player in basketball if you want to be able to claim to be unbiased.

    As scary as it is, he may only get better this next season. He’ll be more used to playing with his teammates, the surrounding talent will be better, and the amount of adversity he faces from the fans will probably be lessened.

     

    Verdict: Best days are ahead of him

     

    Adam Fromal is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer. Follow him on Twitter:  @Fromal09.