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Ranking the Top 50 NBA Players of the Last Decade

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 27, 2011

Ranking the Top 50 NBA Players of the Last Decade

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    The NBA has seen its fair share of great players come and go over the past 10 years, but who are the best of the best? 

    These 50 players are the best that the highest level of professional basketball has had to offer over the last decade. They've lit up scoreboards, grabbed rebounds like reincarnations of Dennis Rodman, dished out enough dimes to solve the United States' fiscal problems and racked up too many accolades to count. 

    MVPs, champions and All-Stars abound in these star-studded rankings that are sure to take you for a wild ride down memory lane. 

    Read on to see where your favorite player ranks or if he even makes it at all.

    But before you do that, please keep in mind that the last decade refers to the past 10 seasons, ranging from the 2001-2002 campaign to the end of this past season when the Dallas Mavericks took home the title for the first time in franchise history.

50. Antoine Walker

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Now known for his legal issues more than anything else, Antoine Walker was at the end of his prime in Boston when the time frame began, and he bounced around from team to team, putting up good numbers until he ended up in Miami during the 2005-2006 season. 


49. Grant Hill

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    One-time All-Star

     

    None of Grant Hill's peak seasons came during the past 10 years, but he was still solid enough for an extended period of time that he deserves to be on here.

    It's a shame that he was so injury-riddled in Orlando that he couldn't earn a higher spot. 

48. Steve Francis

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    Three-time All-Star

     

    Stevie Franchise may not have had his best seasons eligible for this, but his last few years in Houston and the rest of his career, spent in Orlando, New York and back in Houston, were still very high quality ones. 

47. Rasheed Wallace

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    If the only criterion here was technical foul accumulation, Rasheed Wallace would be head and shoulders above the rest of the players here, but alas, we can only look at his good years in Detroit instead of his better ones in Portland. 

46. Michael Redd

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    One-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    Michael Redd had an incredible stretch of seasons from 2003-2008 where he averaged at least 20 points per game in each one, but he's been too injured too often since then to move up any higher. 

45. Andrei Kirilenko

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    One-time All-Star

    Three-time All-Defensive

     

    Andrei Kirilenko may not put up the sexiest numbers in the league, but he's been a consistent across-the-board contributor ever since he entered the league.

    Plus, there has to be some sort of bonus for all of the bizarre hairstyles that he's brought into the NBA's collective consciousness. 

44. Stephon Marbury

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    One-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    Starbury peaked with the New Jersey Nets just over a decade ago, but his first seven years in this time period, ones spent with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, were all very high quality.

    The point guard consistently threatened 20 points and 10 assists per game. 

43. Caron Butler

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Caron Butler was a rookie with the Miami Heat during the 2002-2003 season but he didn't fully blossom until he became a Washington Wizard in 2005-2006.

    But from that point on, Butler was an All-Star caliber player for the Wizards until he moved on to the team he would eventually win a championship with (although he was sitting on the bench for most of the playoffs). 

42. Rashard Lewis

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    Two-time All-Star

     

    Rashard Lewis' prime, all spent in Seattle with the SuperSonics, came from 2001-2007 when he was consistently averaging nearly, if not more than, 20 points per game for the duration of each season.

    But then Lewis was moved to the Orlando Magic and hasn't been quite the same player since then. 

41. Andre Miller

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    The only player without any voted-upon accolades to make this list, Andre Miller is one of the more underrated players of the past 10 years.

    His best season came in 2001-2002 with the Cavaliers when the point guard averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 10.9 assists per game. The rest of his 20 years haven't been much worse, and he's still playing at a high level.  

40. Carlos Boozer

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    Carlos Boozer managed to wear out his welcome in Cleveland, become an incredibly valuable double-double threat for the Utah Jazz and then bolt for Chicago as a prized free-agency acquisition last summer all in the past 10 years.

    Throughout that time though he's been a very impressive player. 

39. Chris Webber

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    Two-time All-Star

    Two-time All-NBA

     

    Even though Chris Webber's peak years came well before 2002, the power forward still put together six very good seasons during this time frame.

    Mostly with Sacramento, he wasn't quite the same player as he was during the 1990s, but he was still an All-NBA performer. 

38. Antawn Jamison

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time Sixth Man of the Year

     

    With the exception of the strange year in Dallas where Antawn Jamison didn't start more than two games, the forward has performed at a very high level.

    Unfortunately though, his best season just narrowly missed this time frame. 

37. Peja Stojakovic

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    Three-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Sometimes it's amazing to me how often Peja Stojakovic gets overlooked in discussions like this.

    You really can't forget about his time with the Sacramento Kings, where he was one of the absolute top-notch shooting small forwards in the league. 

36. Richard Hamilton

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    Three-time All-Star

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    The guy who made facemasks popular in the NBA (OK, I know he didn't, but we can just go with that), Rip Hamilton has averaged more than 17 points per game during each of the last 10 seasons except for the most recent one.

    It's a shame that he's most likely going to depart from the Detroit Pistons squad this offseason after spending the last nine years and becoming one of the faces (masks?) of that organization. 

35. Elton Brand

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    Elton Brand's extended stay with the Los Angeles Clippers exposed us fans to some absolutely fantastic basketball from the power forward, but those years only lasted until 2008, and Brand has been decidedly less stellar since he became a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. 

34. Deron Williams

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    Two-time All-Star

    Two-time All-NBA

     

    Deron Williams may have only been in the league since he was drafted by the Utah Jazz back in 2005, but his play has been good enough to establish him as one of the absolute best point guards in the NBA.

    The All-Star and All-NBA selections have not stopped coming yet; they're really only just getting started. 

33. Gilbert Arenas

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    Three-time All-Star

    Three-time All-NBA

     

    Agent Zero was a fantastic player for the Washington Wizards, but his legacy was severely tarnished by Gilbert being Gilbert. Bringing a gun into a locker room is not usually a good idea.

    But that said, Arenas had one stretch from 2005-2007 when he was one of the best scorers in the league. 

32. Baron Davis

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    Two-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    Baron Davis may be plagued by a bad work ethic and a lack of motivation during his more recent years, but when he was younger, he was an incredible point guard.

    Basically, all of those better seasons came with the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Hornets when the athletic guard actually wanted to play hard. 

31. Joe Johnson

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    Five-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    Playing for the Phoenix Suns and the Atlanta Hawks during this time frame, Joe Johnson is a superstar in some people's minds, but he's never been able to be much of a leader.

    Joe is a great scorer, and as a Hawks fan, I have to root for him, but until he becomes a winner, it's tough for me to move him any higher up than this. 

30. Derrick Rose

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    Two-timr All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

    One-time MVP

     

    The youngest player on this list, Derrick Rose has been in the NBA for three years but has improved during each and every season.

    From Rookie of the Year to All-Star to All-NBA and MVP, there's no telling how good this kid could be. 

29. Kevin Durant

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    Two-time All-Star

    Two-time All-NBA

    Two-time Scoring Champion

     

    In just four years in the league, Kevin Durant is a two-time scoring champion. The first part of that sentence is the only reason he can't be higher up here. 

28. Ron Artest

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    One-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

    Four-time All-Defensive

    One-time Defensive Player of the Year

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Yes, he's been crazy.

    Yes, he's been suspended for longer than anyone else in recent memory.

    Yes, he's more of a defensive player than an offensive player.

    Yes, he's deserving of a spot this high. 

27. Chris Bosh

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    Six-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

     

    He may be the most ridiculed player in the NBA right now, but there's no doubt that Chris Bosh was an absolute stud while he was on a losing Toronto team.

    He's made the last six All-Star squads and has deserved a berth on each one. 

26. Tony Parker

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    Three-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

    Three-time NBA Champion

     

    A three-time NBA Champion with the San Antonio Spurs, Tony Parker has consistently been one of the league's better point guards for nine of the 10 years included in these rankings.

    While he hasn't ever been the absolute best, his consistency makes up for his lack of true eliteness. 

25. Shawn Marion

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    Four-time All-Star

    Two-time All-NBA

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    The Matrix was one of the league's premier stat-stuffers during his time in Phoenix although he couldn't win himself a championship until he joined forces with Dirk Nowitzki and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks and got a title this past season.

    His numbers during the middle of the 2000s are absolutely incredible though. 

24. Yao Ming

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    Eight-time All-Star

    Five-time All-NBA

     

    Although he doesn't deserve a few of those All-Star selections, Yao Ming has always been a great player, one of the best centers in the league, when healthy.

    But the problem is, he rarely meets that requirement for success. 

23. Jermaine O'Neal

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    Six-time All-Star

    Three-time All-NBA

     

    From the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign to the end of the 2006-2007 season with the Indiana Pacers, Jermaine O'Neal was unquestionably one of the best in the league at his position.

    The immediate drop-off he endured the next year though is something that I still really don't have a definite explanation for. 

22. Chris Paul

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    Four-time All-Star

    Three-time All-NBA

     

    The best point guard in the league right now, Chris Paul is the complete package for a player at his position.

    Literally, the only problem with his list of qualifications for these rankings is the fact that he has only been balling at the NBA level since 2005. 

21. Pau Gasol

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    Four-time All-Star

    Three-time All-NBA

    Two-time NBA Champion

     

    Now a two-time champion thanks to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol was really only boosted over some of the players below him because of that fact.

    That said, few big men have ever been as offensively talented as the Spaniard. 

20. Carmelo Anthony

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    Four-time All-Star

    Four-time All-NBA

     

    Melo is one of the league's premier scoring threats, but his lack of big wins, his diva act during the past season and the fact that he's only been in the league since the stacked 2003 NBA draft keep him from climbing up even higher in the ranks. 

19. Chauncey Billups

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    Five-time All-Star

    Three-time All-NBA

    Two-time All-Defensive

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    One of the more forgotten about superstars of the 2000s, Chauncey Billups is still playing at the same high level that he reached at the beginning of the 2002-2003 season with the Detroit Pistons.

    Even though he's now 34 years old, Billups has shown no signs of slowing down quite yet. 

18. Tracy McGrady

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    Six-time All-Star

    Six-time All-NBA

    Two-time Scoring Champion

     

    Tracy McGrady was one of the absolute best players in the league during the early 2000s, but he peaked too soon for this list.

    While 2001-2007 gave us some vintage T-Mac highlights, his past three seasons have downgraded him quite a bit. 

17. Ben Wallace

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    Four-time All-Star

    Five-time All-NBA

    Six-time All-Defensive

    Four-time Defensive Player of the Year

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Ben Wallace may never have averaged even 10 points per game during any season of his career, but offense is not exactly his calling card. As a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Big Ben has a serious case to be even higher up than this spot. 

16. Vince Carter

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    Six-time All-Star

     

    Some of the best seasons of Vince Carter's career came just before the eligible years, but the amount of points and other statistics that he put up during the last ten seasons is still very impressive.

    But wins are still lacking, and it's important to remember that this guy was all flash and not much else. He's a great player but not an all-time great because of his lack of drive to win at all costs. 

15. Manu Ginobili

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    Two-time All-Star

    Two-time All-NBA

    One-time Sixth Man of the Year

    Three-time NBA Champion

     

    He may not have the stats or accolades that some of the other players around him in these rankings do, but he has the rings.

    Additionally, Manu Ginobili is a fantastic teammate and a true winner, one who is willing to do all the small things, even flop excessively. 

14. Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Six-time All-Star

    Five-time All-NBA

     

    One of the finest offensively oriented big men in recent history, Amar'e Stoudemire was absolutely dominant during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns and has continued to play at a very high level in the city that never sleeps.

    While his knees may not hold up for much longer, Stoudemire has quite a few incredible seasons to point at as justification whenever he's compared with the great players of older days. 

13. Allen Iverson

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    Nine-time All-Star

    Four-time All-NBA

    Two-time Scoring Champion

     

    Only two of the Answer's four scoring titles came during this time frame, but A.I. could still light up the scoreboard during these past 10 years.

    Iverson's peak years lasted until the end of the 2007-2008 season, but then he was just a shadow of his old self. 

12. Dwight Howard

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    Five-time All-Star

    Five-time All-NBA

    Four-time All-Defensive

    Three-time Defensive Player of the Year

     

    Dwight Howard has only been in the NBA since the beginning of the 2004-2005 campaign with the Orlando Magic, but he's undoubtedly the top center in the game today.

    An improving talent on the offensive side of the court, D-12 is the three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and a perennial MVP candidate. 

11. Paul Pierce

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    Nine-time All-Star

    Four-time All-NBA

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Paul Pierce has been a true superstar in this league for the past ten years. With nine All-Star selections, all deserved, Pierce has been consistently great for the past decade.

    The only problem is that he really couldn't win on his own and needed to import two players that you may have noticed have yet to appear on this list in order to win a title. 

10. Ray Allen

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    Eight-time All-Star

    One-time All-NBA

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Kicking off the top 10 is the NBA's all-time leading three-point shooter.

    Ray Allen has excelled during the past decade from both behind the three-point line and everywhere else on the court. His shot hasn't gotten worse with age even though he's not quite the same player that he was when he was averaging in the mid-20s with the Seattle SuperSonics. 

9. Shaquille O'Neal

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    Seven-time All-Star

    Six-time All-NBA

    One-time All-Defensive

    Two-time NBA Champion

     

    You may be surprised to see Shaquille O'Neal this low, but keep in mind that Shaq wasn't his dominant self for most of the past decade. In fact, Shaq only had two of his peak years (2001-2003) fall into the eligible range for these rankings.

    Still though, the Big Aristotle was absolutely terrific in both Los Angeles and Miami, winning a title in both cities.  

8. Jason Kidd

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    Six-time All-Star

    Three-time All-NBA

    Six-time All-Defensive

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    I almost forgot about Jason Kidd when I put these together, which is a mistake that a ton of people seem to make when evaluating the nightly threat for a triple-double.

    Kidd has been around forever, but these last 10 years span his time in New Jersey and his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks.

    During that time frame he's consistently been one of the best guards in the league and has won that elusive first ring. 

7. Steve Nash

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    Seven-time All-Star

    Seven-time All-NBA

    Two-time MVP

     

    The top point guard of the past decade, Steve Nash is an absolute wizard with the ball. The Candian guard is a two-time MVP with a legitimate case that he should have a third such honor.

    Although Nash still has a goose egg when it comes to titles, there is no doubt that he's been the most consistent and best player at his position over the past ten years. 

    Despite being a pass-first player, Nash has averaged over 14 points per game during each of the last 10 seasons and has led the league in assists five times during that span while breaking the double-digit barrier in six seasons. 

6. Dwyane Wade

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    Seven-time All-Star

    Six-time All-NBA

    Three-time All-Defensive

    One-time Scoring Champion

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    Dwyane Wade is one of the greatest 2-guards of all time and remains the league's best slasher to this day. A seven-time All-Star, his numbers rival anyone's over the past 10 years, and he even has a ring to boot.

    But at the end of the day, Wade has never been the best player in the league, and he's two seasons short of a full 10. 

5. LeBron James

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    Seven-time All-Star

    Seven-time All-NBA

    Three-time All-Defensive

    One-time Scoring Champion

    Two-time MVP

     

    Ever since he was the top pick of the 2003 NBA draft, LeBron James has been one of the top players in the league.

    With two MVP awards in the past three seasons and a public relations nightmare keeping him from a third (although Derrick Rose did deserve the award last year), a case can be made that James has been the best player in the league for at least the last three years.

    But two things keep him from ascending up the ranks into the top four.

    1. Each of the players above him has at least one ring. Until LeBron wins that elusive title, which he will before too long, he can't be considered an all-time great.

    But James could overcome that because of his fantastic play if it wasn't for point No. 2.

    2. LeBron has only played eight of the 10 possible seasons in the last decade. While that's not his fault, I'd still rather take the marginally worse production of No. 4 on this list for 10 years than the slightly better eight-year stretch from James.  

4. Dirk Nowitzki

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    10-time All-Star

    10-time All-NBA

    One-time MVP

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    While Dirk may be slightly buoyed by the recency effect because he just carried his team to a title, the German big man is still one of the greatest players to ever pick up a basketball.

    He's one of just four players to make each of the past 10 All-Star teams and one of just two to make an All-NBA squad during each of those years. 

    Nowitzki is an incredible player, and that has been a fact for each of the seasons in the past decade. 

3. Kevin Garnett

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    10-time All-Star

    Six-time All-NBA

    Nine-time All-Defensive

    One-time Defensive Player of the Year

    One-time MVP

    One-time NBA Champion

     

    The only thing pushing Kevin Garnett above Dirk Nowitzki here is his defensive prowess. Over the past decade, most of which was frustratingly spent in Minnesota, Garnett has been one of the absolute best power forwards of all time.

    With unmatched intensity, KG has shown that he can consistently score over 20 points per game while still playing absolutely fantastic defense. There's a reason that he was named MVP in 2004.  

2. Tim Duncan

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    10-time All-Star

    Nine-time All-NBA

    Nine-time All-Defensive

    Two-time MVP

    Three-time NBA Champion

     

    Even though he has no personality and plays a very boring brand of basketball, Tim Duncan is greatness personified at the power forward position.

    His consistency is absolutely staggering, as is the fact that he's helped engineer three title runs in the past 10 years.

    If he hadn't been but a shell of his old self during this last season, Duncan may have challenged for the No. 1 spot. 

1. Kobe Bryant

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    10-time All-Star

    10-time All-NBA

    Nine-time All-Defensive

    Two-time Scoring Champion

    One-time MVP

    Three-time NBA Champion

     

    Just take a minute and read over that list of accolades again. 

    The 10-time All-Star selections are matched by just Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki. Only Dirk can touch the All-NBA selections, although nine of Kobe's are to the First Team while just four of Dirk's are.

    Besides the Black Mamba, only Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Durant can boast back-to-back scoring titles. 

    Duncan, Nash and LeBron are the only players with multiple MVPs during the past 10 years, so Kobe isn't exactly being outdone in that department by too much. 

    Finally, Kobe is tied for the lead in championships with some long-time Spurs. 

    He's been one of the top players in the NBA for each of the past 10 years.

    Period.

    End of story. 

More on the NBA

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

     

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