The Top 50 NBA Players: How Does a Shortened Season Affect Them?

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IOctober 17, 2011

The Top 50 NBA Players: How Does a Shortened Season Affect Them?

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    The top 50 players in the NBA are all affected differently by the lockout as each is at a different stage in his career.

    While the extended time off may very well be beneficial to those looking to heal from surgery or aiming for a rebound campaign, others are itching to return to the action and capitalize on the momentum that they had built prior to the conclusion of the 2010-11 campaign.

    Free agents, trade candidates and anyone who could be playing in a different zip code are all likely awaiting a resolution in an effort to continue to pursue their hoop dreams, and hopefully we won't have to wait too much longer to see them hit the hardwood.

50. David West, PF Free Agent

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    West’s choice to leave guaranteed money on the table by opting out of his contract with New Orleans may have confounded some, but in a shallow free agent class, he’s near the top of the list.

    After previously stating that he’d be 100 percent recovered even had the season started on time, one has to believe that the power forward is eager to prove that he’s still among the most talented players along the front line.

49. Brook Lopez, C New Jersey

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    Lopez’s troubling rebounding woes are certainly something to monitor as his career progresses, but after averaging better than eight rebounds per game in his first two seasons, it’s possible last year may have just been a blip on the radar.

    While he’s unlikely to ever prove himself as a prolific producer on the glass, Lopez will look to get his game right and keep progressing in the proper direction.

48. Al Jefferson, C Utah

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    Jefferson thrived during his first season in Utah, playing in all 82 games and averaging a near double-double while showing no ill effects from his reconstructive knee surgery.

    With the Jazz clearly still rebuilding and anxious to get the youthful talent out on the hardwood to create team chemistry, Jefferson is one player who stands to be hurt by a shortened season since it would likely decrease the chances of his team making an ascension in the standings.

47. Tyson Chandler, C Free Agent

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    Chandler’s status as a top 50 player may not have been an argument many people could make prior to him proving crucial to Dallas winning it all, but now it’s hard to argue against it.

    He’s one of the market’s most attractive free agents, but a harsher set of financial implications set to be instituted with the construction of a new CBA could very well cost him some money.

46. Lamar Odom, PF Los Angeles

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    Odom’s inconsistency has become increasingly frustrating for Lakers fans since he came to the team, and after appearing as if he had turned the corner with it, the veteran seemed to return to his old tricks last year.

    With just 2011-12 guaranteed on his contract, Odom is probably very eager to get on the court and show the rest of the league exactly why he’s still considered such a weapon.

45. John Wall, PG Washington

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    Wall was limited to 69 games during his rookie season due to a bone bruise in his knee that was a little bit more serious than he ever let on.

    However, Wall has looked completely re-energized this summer when playing in a variety of exhibition games, and he’s going to surprise a ton of people this year no matter how many games are in the season.

44. Gerald Wallace, F Portland

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    Wallace’s play has flown largely underneath the radar since he’s entered the league, but his unique ability to contribute across the stat sheet should not be overlooked.

    After being traded to Portland last season at the deadline, Wallace successfully acclimated to his new surroundings and is likely eager to continue playing with his new teammates.

    As someone that has battled injury issues in the past, it’s possible a shortened season could help Wallace play in a larger compliment of games.

43. Joakim Noah, C Chicago

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    Noah’s done pretty well for himself for a guy whose success was questioned at the NBA level before his career ever got started, as he’s blossomed into one of the more reliable centers in the league.

    He’s already made headlines during the offseason for his dominance in some beer pong action, so it’s likely that the sooner they get back to business, the better it’ll be for Noah.

42. Danny Granger, SF Indiana

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    Granger looked like he was on the verge of really breaking out in 2008-09 when he averaged 25.8 points per game, but he’s taken a sizable step back since that time.

    Perhaps he can use the extra time to work on his shot selection, as he’s regressed in field goal percentage in both seasons since that time.

41. Tyreke Evans, PG Sacramento

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    Evans didn’t quite have the sophomore season that many were expecting after his electric rookie season, but that was in large part due to an extended battle with plantar fasciitis.

    He’s shown this summer that he’s back to full strength and ready to hoop by dominating in some exhibition action, and a shorter schedule could very well mean more time on the court for Evans.

40. Luol Deng, SF Chicago

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    After putting his injury struggles firmly in the rear-view mirror, Deng has shaped up to be the player that the Bulls were hoping he’d become when they acquired his draft rights.

    He’s already played for Great Britain at the Eurobasket tournament this summer, and a shortened season would give him more time to continue to do philanthropic work in the community.

39. Josh Smith, PF Atlanta

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    Smith’s ridiculous athleticism paired with his versatility makes him a nightmare matchup for any opposition attempting to defend him, but he’s got to be a better decision-maker in an effort to really take advantage of his skills.

    His name is one that has been hot on the trade block since before the 2011 draft, and after already naming his preferred destinations, it will be interesting to see how a shortened season may impact where he lands should he wind up being moved.

38. Eric Gordon, SG Los Angeles

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    Gordon played in career-low 56 games last season due to a fracture in his right wrist, and it’s a shame considering he was well on his way to a full-fledged breakout campaign.

    Entering his fourth season in the league, Gordon has had plenty of time to rest his wrist and heal up, and he’s probably just as eager as anyone to get back to the action and turn around the fortunes of the “other” Los Angeles team.

37. Ray Allen, SG Boston

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    Allen may be nearing the end of his career entering his age 36 season, but he’s still churning out productive contributions on the hardwood.

    The extra time off now might be a nice way to rest his body, but a compressed schedule might force expedited game play, and that means more back-to-back contests.

36. Kevin Martin, SG Houston

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    Martin is one of the more under-appreciate players in the league, but that doesn’t take anything away from what he can do on the court.

    Having said that, Martin is going all of the time that he can get with his new Houston teammates (Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, possible free agent additions) in an effort to propel his team to the postseason in a crowded Western Conference.

35. Monta Ellis, SG Golden State

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    A lot of love for Ellis goes lost because the appreciation for his style of play often goes by the wayside, but that’s become commonplace and doesn’t indicate that he’s not a top 50 player by any stretch.

    He’ll need to find increased chemistry with his Warriors teammates in an effort for the team to take the next step, but he won’t be able to do that as long as the work stoppage continues.

34. Stephen Curry, PG Golden State

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    Curry is being looked to as the future of the Warriors franchise, and he’s surpassed almost every expectation most held for him prior to his entering the league.

    After a nasty ankle injury ended his season early last year and a summer that involved a lengthy rehab process, the extra time off certainly isn’t a bad thing in an effort for his recovery.

33. Andrew Bogut, C Milwaukee

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    Bogut’s stock has been somewhat hampered after dealing with an elbow injury over the last two seasons, but make no mistake about it, this kid was the first overall pick out of Australia for a very big reason.

    He’s had plenty of time to heal and get right, and after insurance problems caused his deal to play professionally in his home country fell through, he’s itching to get back to action.

32. Andre Iguodala, SF Philadelphia

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    Iguodala drew some sharper criticism than he deserved last season when he wasn’t producing as much offensively as some would have liked, but production doesn’t necessarily come in the form of points.

    After Iguodala dealt with a nagging knee injury that was a lot more painful than many understood, as his case of chondromalacia dated back to a lot longer than just from last season.

31. Marc Gasol, C Memphis

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    Gasol has made no secret about his desire to remain in Memphis long-term, and as a restricted free agent, the club will have every opportunity to match an offer he receives.

    As arguably the top free agent prize on the market, Gasol’s contract is definitely going to be impacted by a new CBA, but he’ll be eager to prove that he’s worth a lucrative investment.

30. Andrew Bynum, C Los Angeles

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    Bynum hasn’t played a full slate of regular season games since the 2006-07 season, and any extra time off to rest his balky knees is a good thing after another offseason procedure.

    He’ll be itching to prove that he alone should be considered the future center for the Lakers after an offseason has had rumors swirling around Dwight Howard, but it’s going to have to be with his production on the court.

29. Zach Randolph, PF Memphis

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    Randolph is one player who could really suffer from an extended layoff, as his name has already been linked to nasty rumors about a marijuana dealer being beat up at his house.

    After really seeming to have found a home in Memphis with the Grizzlies, the team rewarded him with an unbelievable four-year, $71 million extension, and the sooner he gets back to playing basketball, the better.

28. Manu Ginobili, SG San Antonio

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    Ginobili played in a career-high 80 regular season games last season, but statistically had one of his least efficient seasons from the floor.

    After playing through an elbow injury in the postseason that turned out to be a small fracture, he expressed his desire to retire when his current contract expires, so a shortened season may help him remain in top form for his club.

27. Joe Johnson, SG Atlanta

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    Johnson’s numbers didn’t live up to the expectations of many last season, but that very well could have been a direct result of him dealing with an elbow injury that forced him to undergo surgery.

    He also dealt with a sprained thumb late in the campaign, and he’s going to be anxious to return to the court in an effort to prove that he deserves the contract he received in spite of so many scrutinizing his paycheck.

26. Nene, PF/C Free Agent

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    Many people are quick to look over Nene’s game, but it would be foolish not to recognize the obvious impact that this guy has on a game.

    As one of the most attractive free agents available on the open market, Nene has some serious ground to lose financially as he’s looking to sign a very lucrative deal after opting out of his contract in Denver. 

25. Al Horford, PF/C Atlanta

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    Horford signed a five-year, $60 million extension at the beginning of the 2010-11 season, and it was a clear sign of commitment to the big man as an integral part of the future.

    As a young player who is clearly on the rise, Horford needs to continue his basketball evolution on the hardwood as soon as possible.

24. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF Portland

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    Aldridge busted out in a big way for Portland last season, and his standout play was at the epicenter of the Blazers’ surprising season.

    He flashed the potential that made him the second overall pick back in 2006, and a shortened season probably isn’t in his best interest considering that he’ll be looking to carry that momentum forward and learn how to create on-court chemistry with his new point guard Raymond Felton.

23. Kevin Garnett, PF Boston

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    Garnett looked like a re-energized player last season after knee and leg issues had forced a statistical step back from previous seasons, and he’s likely anxious to continue curbing any thoughts of his regression.

    It’s telling that he’s willing to sacrifice the massive salary owed to him at this stage of his career in the pursuit of a fair labor deal, but at his age, a lost season is one that he’ll never get back.

22. Tim Duncan, PF San Antonio

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    Duncan may have endured a statistical drop-off last season from where his numbers previously stood, but there’s no doubting that the veteran can still get it done.

    After battling constant knee woes, the extra rest will be good for his game now, but if it forces him to play an expedited schedule later, it could be detrimental to San Antonio.

21. Chris Bosh, PF Miami

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    Bosh took an unbelievable amount of flack during his first season in Miami, and while some of it was warranted, it seemed like many overlooked the fact that he went from being the premier offensive option to the third one on his own team.

    After he broke down and cried following the Finals, I’d imagine that he’s really looking forward to getting back to action and re-establishing himself on the hardwood sooner rather than later.

20. Rudy Gay, SF Memphis

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    Gay was on his way to an extraordinarily promising season before a season-ending shoulder injury put the kibosh on his season, and it’ll be exciting to see him back on the court.

    He was finally cleared to 100 percent about a month ago, so there’s no doubt that the extra time off was pivotal in ensuring that he was full strength before anything kicked off for the 2011-12 season.

19. Tony Parker, PG San Antonio

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    Some were down on Parker last season, but it’s kind of odd considering that he actually improved mightily from where his play was during the 2009-10 season.

    He’s already used the extra time off to engage in extra basketball action, and after looking like new player during the Eurobasket tournament, Parker will be hooping with his French team ASVEL abroad until the action picks back up stateside.

18. Blake Griffin, PF Los Angeles

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    Griffin set the NBA on fire during his rookie season, and his highlight plays were only matched by his dynamic personality.

    There will be plenty of time for him to rest up and get ready for a sophomore campaign that’s going to have to be special to appease his fans, and the extra time will create even more opportunities for him to produce some more epic Funny or Die videos.

17. Rajon Rondo, PG Boston

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    Rondo is clearly the at the forefront of the future for Boston basketball as the original “big three” are beginning to age.

    The extended offseason will give the point guard plenty of time to round into top form after a gruesome elbow injury was the most prevalent memory Celtics fans have to hold on to from last season.

16. Russell Westbrook, PG Oklahoma City

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    Westbrook took a fair amount of flack for his postseason play in Oklahoma City last season, and it a good amount of it was warranted considering he took the ball out of his best player’s hands.

    As someone who is still learning how to play the point guard position, it’s imperative that he returns to the court and continues to gel with his teammates in an effort to facilitate the transition.

15. Kevin Love, PF Minnesota

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    Love led the league in rebounding last season with an amazing 15.2 per game, and expectations have never been higher for him after his breakout season.

    He’s been spending the extended time off by playing volleyball and doing some work with Funny or Die, but with Ricky Rubio coming in to run Minnesota’s offense, Love would undoubtedly rather be learning tendencies of his newest teammate.

14. Steve Nash, PG Phoenix

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    Nash has stayed relatively quiet during an extended offseason, but he made himself very vocal on Twitter recently when the labor negotiations stalled and the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled.

    As someone who is entering the latter stages of his career (37 already), Nash is likely anxious to get back onto the court and work some of his magic with a young, rebuilding Phoenix club.

13. Amar'e Stoudemire, PF New York

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    Stoudemire has been busy during the offseason, hyping the Knicks as officially being “back” and that the team is allegedly “coming for the throne.”

    After a back injury knocked him out of the action early last season, Stoudemire is finally feeling “much better” and eager to represent to New York.

12. Pau Gasol, PF Los Angeles

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    Gasol really doesn’t get the consideration from others that he should while playing in Bryant’s spotlight, but he looked a little tired during the postseason when the Lakers were swept by Dallas.

    The last time Gasol took heavy criticism during an offseason was after the Lakers lost to Boston in the 2007-08 finals, and Gasol proved integral Los Angeles winning the next two championships following that season.

11. Paul Pierce, SF Boston

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    "The Truth” promised that he’s got something special in for to commemorate his age 34 season, and it remains to be seen what exactly he has in mind.

    There’s no doubt that he’s going to be extra motivated to bring the title back to Boston seeing as how there’s no telling how long this group might be together.

10. Dirk Nowitzki, PF Dallas

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    Nowitzki is still enjoying sitting atop the world as the defending champion, and as long as it remains the offseason, nobody can knock him off the throne.

    However, the Mavericks roster could have a very different look next season with a plethora of free agents, and they’re going to need to build team chemistry if there are some sizable changes to the team.

9. Carmelo Anthony, SF New York

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    Anthony’s first season in New York didn’t exactly go as planned upon his acquisition, but team chemistry is far too regularly overlooked when constructing a roster.

    After an offseason where he underwent knee and elbow surgeries and has played in a couple of exhibitions himself, he said on SportsCenter recently that he was “itching” to get back to playing basketball.

8. Deron Williams, PG New Jersey

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    Williams is the most notable name to have signed a deal abroad, and he was a trendsetter, as his deal to play in Turkey with Besiktas was agreed to back in July.

    He’s really struggled to adjust to the European style of play, and as he’s scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in 2012, D-Will is going to be eager to prove his worth to any team looking for a franchise point guard.

7. Derrick Rose, PG Chicago

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    As the youngest MVP in league history, there is an enormous amount of pressure on Rose’s shoulders to perform at an even higher level than he showed last season.

    At his age, a shortened season wouldn’t really be bad news for anyone except the guy he’s going up against on any given night.

6. Chris Paul, PG New Orleans

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    Paul let the NBA know that he’s not going to simply hand over his crown as top dog at the point guard position last season, as his performance was reminiscent of what we had previously seen from him.

    As one of the most sought after free agents in a loaded 2012 class, Paul is probably eager to return to the court and establish his worth to any championship contender that will be looking to be in the bidding for his services.

5. Kevin Durant, SF Oklahoma City

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    Durant has used the offseason to play the role of summer league MVP, act in his first featured film and play in a variety of charity games that have pushed him to the forefront of the public spotlight.

    As someone who is looking to assert himself as the top talent in the league in the foreseeable future, a true hoop junkie like Durant has to be extraordinarily frustrated when he’s prevented from balling.

4. Dwight Howard, C Orlando

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    The reigning three-time Defensive Player of the Year made headlines earlier this summer for working with Hakeem Olajuwon on his low-post game, and that’s only going to help him continue to develop into one of the most dominant centers of all-time.

    Howard is looking to become a “more complete” player, and after Olajuwon suggested that the Magic aren’t using Howard enough, there’s no doubt that Orlando is going to be eager to feed him the rock with regularity as the club sorts out any and all avenues in an effort to get him to commit for the long haul.

3. Kobe Bryant, SG Los Angeles

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    Bryant’s mysterious knee surgery had several wondering about his future, but there’s really not much to be concerned about, as Bryant showed he was just fine when playing in the Drew League this summer.

    The extra time off will certainly help him now as he continues to build strength in his knee, but a compressed schedule may force him to grind it out when the action finally tips.

2. Dwyane Wade, SG Miami

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    Wade looked every bit like a top three player last season, and the extra time off has allowed him to spend further time with his children.

    He’s a great father and an exemplary role model, and after three straight seasons of 75+ games played, there’s no reason to think that he’s in need of the extra time to recuperate from anything.

1. LeBron James, SF Miami

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    There’s no doubt that James is eager to turn over a new leaf after his meltdown last season in the finals, and the extended time off likely has him chomping at the bit.

    His new strategy of taking shots at himself, whether it’s in a McDonalds commercial or at his own hairline, has clearly helped him earn back some public endearment during an extended time off.