NBA Power Rankings: Top 50 2010/11 Season Player Predictions
The 50 best players for last year treated NBA fans to some extraordinary basketball. Some seemingly came out of nowhere and others have held their distinction for years. This season should be no different.
With so much player movement this off-season and a talented rookie class set to take the NBA by storm, fans will have more than their fare share at selecting the best players in the game.
A lot of the old dogs of the league are still going strong, refusing to let the younger pups get a leg up on them, while others are declining at a rapid rate and look as if they’re content on fading with the wind.
Many of the younger guys look to further increase their positioning among the best in the game, while others will be looking to race up the ladder of the NBA hierarchy, though some will fail miserably.
I expect more of the younger generation (seven or fewer seasons) to crack into the prestigious group of “50 Best Players,” especially those from the past two draft classes. The talents they possess and have displayed are what will carry this league into another great decade of basketball.
I also expect this new influx of talent to push a lot of the older stars to rededicate themselves to their craft.
But the biggest factor in all this may be the team down south, South Beach that is. If these players don’t want to see the Miami Heat dominate next season or the next five or six, they better bring their A-games. This added motivation will only bring about the best the NBA has to offer.
So out with the old and in with the new, here are the potential 50 best rankings come the end of the 2010-2011 NBA season.
Players Knocking On the Door
There will be several players that will flirt with being top 50 players. These are just a few names that you might want to make note of (in no particular order).
1. Al Horford
2. Jameer Nelson
3. Loul Deng
4. Brandon Jennings
5. Lines Kleiza
6. Louis Scola
7. Marc Gasol
8. David West
9. Greg Oden
10. Eric Gordon
11. Andray Blatche
12. Baron Davis
13. Al Jefferson
14. Andre Miller
15. Blake Griffin
16. Antawn Jamison
17. George Hill
18. Rashard Lewis
19. Jrue Holiday
20. John Wall
50. Aaron Brooks
Aaron Brooks averaged 10 more minutes last season than he did the previous year. In return for his increased time on the floor, Brooks averaged eight more points per game.
With the Rockets nearly completely healthy, Brooks will have a ton of options to utilize in a effort to make the Rockets better.
Brooks made a name for himself last season and flirted with being an All-Star player. He’ll need to improve on the other aspects of his game that don’t include scoring. He also must prove that last season was a one hit wonder.
49. Zack Randolph
It’ll be interesting to see if Zach Randolph can duplicate his numbers from a year ago. He’s 29-years-old and appears to be entering the prime stages of his career.
He helped the Memphis Grizzlies win 16 more games than they did the previous season. With basically the same team returning, he’ll be expected to do even more.
Randolph grew as a man and a player last season. He appears to have made basketball a main priority in his life again. Memphis Grizzlies fans should expect much of the same this season.
48. Kevin Love
Kevin Love is one of the most overrated players in the league, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t productive. He’ll enter the season fresh off of being apart of the USA gold medal team in the FIBA games.
Love is finally out of the shadow of Al Jefferson but now has to contend with Michael Beasley for minutes. Luckily for him Beasley is willing to play some at small forward.
Love can honestly be a 15 points and 15 rebounds a night kind of guy. Only thing he doesn’t do is get stops on defense. If he can change that aspect of his game, he could very well become one of the best players in the NBA.
47. Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah will look to prove that the player who shows up in playoff games is the same guy that can be counted on for all 82 regular season games. The Bulls seem inclined to believe so after passing on a deal for Carmelo Anthony in order to keep Noah.
Noah has increased his efficiency for the past two seasons and should do the same. The addition of Carlos Boozer and the attention he commands will also free up more space for Noah to get free and be an even bigger threat on the offensive end.
Noah’s biggest attribute as a player is probably his leadership and motivational skills. He instills a confidence in his teammates and usually backs it up with a consistent effort. If he can get his game to match his effort, he’ll be an Eastern Conference All-Star in no time.
46. John Salmons
The 30-year-old John Salmons found a home last season after being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He provided the team with much needed scoring after Andrew Bogut went down with his elbow and forearm injuries.
The Bucks in return rewarded Salmons with a multi-year contract and gave Salmons the financial stability he has always strived to attain. Salmons will look to prove the Bucks made a smart deal.
The Bucks added a lot of talent and will expect Salmons to help make things easier for them. Expect the eight year pro to have a career year.
45. LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge had as much to do with the success of the Portland Trailblazers as Brandon Roy. The four year pro provided a steady low post option for 78 games.
The Blazers will be healthy and extremely loaded to begin this season. This will make life a lot easier for Aldridge. With so much talent surrounding him he should look to take advantage.
The only thing holding Aldridge back from being great is the same thing that held back Rasheed Wallace; himself. If he pushes himself and better utilizes his versatile skill sets he could jump into the conversation of top five power forwards in the Western Conference.
44. Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez is a player who’s statistics are a bit misleading. He has great ability and is good at getting numbers, but his play doesn’t lead to victories.
With the New Jersey Nets looking like they’ll land Carmelo Anthony, things will be a whole lot easier for Lopez on the offensive end.
Lopez will be a third year pro and will be coached by a guy who’s guided a team to an NBA Finals as a player and a coach. He should be considerably better at the end of this up coming season.
43. Tony Parker
After a career year in 2008-2009, Tony Parker experienced the third worst season of his nine year career. That has many folks ready to right the 27-year-old off as if he’s done.
Parker will bounce back after playing just 56 games last season. But it remains to be seen if it will happen in San Antonio as rumors have the Spurs looking to trade him.
Don't be surprised if he has a career year. In the playoffs he showed signs of his former dominant-self even though he was injured.
42. Josh Smith
Last season Josh Smith showed a maturity and discipline level that many believed he would never achieve. He also showed off his role to be a facilitator as he averaged a career high in assist.
Smith is arguably the real leader of the Atlanta Hawks. They rely so much on his energy and effort to spark a team that often looks unmotivated.
Smith has expanded his game nearly every season he’s been apart of the league. He is 24-years-old and has yet to hit his prime. He’ll once again make another leap at improving his overall play on the court.
41. Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay will enter this upcoming season riding high off his FIBA experience. He was one of the five best performers for the USA select team.
He led the Grizzlies from 24 to 40 wins this past season. This sudden rise in success will have the 24-year-old set on experiencing the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Rudy has yet to begin playing his best ball, but all signs point to him knocking on the door of being an All-Star caliber player this season.
40. Ron Artest
People don’t realize how great Ron Artest's basketball IQ is. Even after carrying Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals, the man still can’t get any respect.
Artest is solid in most areas of basketball and great in a few. He’ll soon be 31 years of age, so his window of greatness is closing steadily.
With a year in the triangle under his belt, fans of Artest can expect him to be more aggressive and productive than he was a year ago.
39. Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry is about to become a household name this season. His overall season totals don’t tell the story of the player that will be. To know the truth about his abilities and talents, one only needs to look at the level of play he displayed from January till the end of the season.
Over that time span, he was nearly a 20 per game scorer, who averaged close to seven assists and 5 rebounds. It’s also been reported that Curry has managed to add 10 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason.
With the newly acquired pieces and returning healthy players, Curry will have his Warriors club in contention for a playoff birth out West. I expect him to out perform a lot of point men that are viewed as better players than him.
38. Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett has witnessed his production decrease in each of the past three seasons. Matter of fact, most his numbers mirrored those of second year player Michael Beasley. But due to his past accomplishments and success of his team, Garnett made the All-Star team for the 11th straight season.
It was also another season Garnett struggled with staying healthy. He’s missed 38 games over the past two seasons.
However, Garnett did show well in most of the playoffs; especially versus the Cleveland Cavaliers and their undersized power forwards. The Celtics are hoping he can maintain a similar level of dominance this upcoming season.
Now if only the league would do something about his childish antics.
37. David Lee
David Lee became an All-Star in his fifth year as a pro last season. Not sure if the same will hold true this upcoming season, but his numbers may very well increase.
Now that he is in Golden State and surrounded by twice as much talent, Lee will find things a lot easier. Playing alongside Andris Biedrins, Lee will finally be able to play his more natural power forward position.
Along with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, Lee will help the Warriors try to attain a playoff berth next season. The talent is there and it’ll be on Lee to make sure the front court is one to be reckoned with.
36. Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis had a breakout year last season and to the delight of Warriors’ fans, excelled alongside Stephen Curry. Common logic would lead one to believe that this upcoming season will yield even better results.
Ellis is only 24 years of age and seems posed and ready to hit his prime quicker than expected. The second round pick of 2005 posted numbers that favored those of Super Star guard Dwyane Wade.
With the added additions to the Golden State Warriors, it’ll be even more difficult for teams to corral the man with the best spin move in the game.
This will be the season that fans from all over learn the name of Monta Ellis.
35. Michael Beasley
Michael Beasley is about to take the NBA by storm. Finally free of the shackles that were placed on him in Miami, Beasley will display all the lessons he learned while playing alongside Dwyane Wade.
In games that Dwyane Wade missed due to injuries, Beasley averaged 20-points, 8-rebounds, 2-assists, 1-steal, and 1-block per game. He also carried the Heat to a four and five record while playing against five playoff teams.
Beasley is 21-years-old and entering his third season. The third year is generally when most NBA power forwards define what kind of player they will be.
Beasley has finally matured and is in the final year of his contract. He’ll be on a mission this season to prove that his broad array of skills can be compiled into making one of the best players in the NBA.
34. Stephen Jackson
Stephen Jackson joined the Bobcats last season and instantly made them a playoff team. His versatility on both ends of the court makes him an extremely valuable asset.
Many felt he should have made the All-Star team alongside his teammate Gerald Wallace.
Jackson is in the prime of his career and at the age of 32 he actually seems to be improving. The Bobcats will rely heavy on his no-quit attitude this upcoming season.
33. Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd is 16 seasons in, well past his prime and every bit as effective as he was four or five seasons ago. Kidd has actually increased his efficiency rating the past two seasons.
Yes he’s a step slower and lacks explosiveness, but it doesn’t affect his ability to put his teammates in a position to be successful.
Kidd can no longer dominate a game on both ends like he used to, but the complete package he presents allows him to be extremely affective in his old age.
32. Chris Kaman
Chris Kaman was awarded with an All-Star game selection for his efforts this past season. Oddly enough, it wasn’t even the best year of his career.
Now Kaman must look to build on a good season and try to follow it with a great one, some thing he struggles to do. Never has he been able to duplicate the success he has in a previous season.
With Blake Griffin and Baron Davis entering the season healthy, things will be a lot easier for Kaman in regards to spacing and match-ups. It’ll be up to him to prove he was really worthy of his All-Star selection.
31. Caron Butler
Caron Butler is only 30 years old and already appears as if he’s falling out of his prime. In the playoff series against the Spurs, he showed signs of looking like he had found his way, by averaging 19 points in 33 minutes per game.
Now it’s up to him to see if he can translate that effort into this upcoming regular season. It should be easy with all the new surrounding talent the Mavericks front-office has added.
Butler is a prideful player and approaches the game the way a player should. He’ll bounce back from this previous down season of his.
30. Darren Collison
After playing in Chris Paul’s shadow for half a season, Darren Collison has his own team to command. The second year point man, who averaged 19 points and nine assists in his 37 NBA starts, will look to lead the Indiana Pacers out of the bottom of the NBA cellar.
The 23-year-old point man exceeded the expectations of many, largely due to the tutelage of his former teammate Chris Paul. Now basketball fans wait to see if he was a one hit wonder.
It’s hard to imagine but Collins actually put up greater numbers as a starter than any current point guard in the NBA did when they were rookies. His Pacer team is loaded with a lot of young talent that he will be asked to lead, and all signs point to him doing a heck of a job.
He is definitely a player that every fan should gear up to watch.
29. Yao Ming
The great wall of Houston is back. But apparently Yao Ming will only be allowed to play 24 minutes per game. This is because of his foot injury that forced him to miss all of last season.
This limited time on the court should have the prideful giant focused on being productive and efficient. So his numbers might not look all that great but his impact will be.
It’s a shame that Ming injuries will limit his time on the floor. This season may be his best chance at reaching an NBA Finals.
28. Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodoala had a dismal 2009-2010 season. After consecutive seasons of posting All-Star statistics, Iguodala failed to progress as a player for the first time in his career.
Yet he would redeem himself in the FIBA tournament. Iguodala was arguably the most important component in the USA winning gold.
His defense and offensive versatility allowed Kevin Durant to focus solely on shooting, while Iguodala addressed everything else.
That experience added with a new coach and better teammates makes Iguodala an even deadlier player. He might just become a All-Star next season.
27. Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce will be 33 years old when the season starts and entering his 13 season. Yet still he remains one of the five most productive players at his position.
He will enter this season with a chip on his shoulder knowing that he and his Celtic teammates missed a golden opportunity this past NBA Finals.
He’s already solidified his place in Celtics history. Now the remaining three or four seasons will be about him securing his legacy in regards to NBA history.
26. Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut increased his popularity as a player by helping guide his Milwaukee ball club to a winning season. To understand his importance, the Bucks were 40-29 in the 69 games he played last season. That’s a winning percentage of 58 percent.
He won’t enter the season at full strength because of his right elbow injury of last season. However, once he’s healthy, he’s going to have his sights set on one of the top two center positions in the NBA.
With so much talent surrounding Bogut, it’s going to be nearly impossible to prevent Bogut from becoming an ALL-Star this season. I hope every fan takes the time to watch him 10 or more times this season.
25. Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans isn't going to sneak up on anyone this year. However, his abilities and some new additions to his Sacramento club just might have them competing for a playoff seed this 2010-2011 season.
Looking to build off his Rookie of the Year award and snubbing from the USA select team. Tyreke will have a pretty big chip on his shoulders.
He has a lot of new pieces with a lot of size for him to play with. I expect him to fully utilize each and every last resource to help propel himself and his team.
24. Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer bolted a team with better coaching and better teammates this offseason. Why, well only he knows the answer.
A lot is riding on his shoulders this season, he’ll be the focal point of the Bulls half-court offense. He’ll also be expected to provide leadership and a winning attitude.
The Bulls will lean heavily on the eight year veteran who is entering the prime of his career. He is the most proven of all the Bulls players and arguably the team’s best player.
If they do anything note worthy this season, Boozer will most likely be at forefront.
23. Gerald Wallace
Gerald Wallace is one of the most dependable players in the NBA and has been for the past three seasons. This past season he was rewarded for his efforts by finally earning the distinction of being All-Star.
Wallace would go on to lead his Bobcats teammates to the first playoff of the young franchise history.
The 28-year-old is entering the prime of his career and set on making his team and himself a house hold name. Add that to the fact that he fells snubbed for not making the team that just won gold in the FIBA Championships, Wallace will one again be one of the top five stat sheet stuffers next season.
22. Steve Nash
Steve Nash might struggle to fill up a stat sheet but it sure doesn’t affect his ability to have a major impact on games. Nash is one of the best floor generals in all of basketball.
Even at 35-years-old, Nash is still running circles around players 10 years younger.
Nash will need to redefine his role this upcoming season. With Amar’e Stoudemire gone, Nash will need to be more aggressive in scoring if the Suns are to have a chance.
I expect him to flourish in the role of scorer but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to remain healthy for the complete 82 game season...although he did play 81 games last season.
21. Derrick Rose
After a All-Star season and brilliant playoff showing. Derrick Rose was riding high and ready to display his talents on a global stage. To bad his NBA game didn’t translate well on the international stage.
Luckily for Rose he won’t have to worry about that sort of thing until 2012. For now he can focus on being overrated.
Rose is the most physically gifted point guard in the NBA, and those abilities give him a uncanny advantage over every point guard in it. Yet still he isn’t remotely close to being the best at his position.
The Bulls did everything they could to build a championship caliber team around him this summer. Rose will need to climb off his high horse and make sure that he and his Chicago teammates reach their potential this season.
He's done a lot of talking this offseason. Hopefully he'll be able to back it up.
20. Danny Granger
Danny Granger has been a one man show the past two seasons. That’s won’t be the case this season. The Pacers went out and got him the perfect compliments to his talents, a penetrating point guard named Darren Collison.
Teams will find it harder to stop him for getting the 24 plus points per game he’s put up the past two seasons.
Danny Granger has a lot to prove this upcoming season, the biggest will be his health as he’s struggled to eclipse 60 games the past two seasons. Factor that in with his poor FIBA showing and Granger will enter the 2010-2011 season with a chip on his shoulder.
I look for him to return to his All-Star form 2008-2009.
19. Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar’e Stoudemire showed who he really was in the Western Conference Finals match-up versus the Lakers. He totaled eight rebounds in over 80 minutes of play in the final two games of the series.
Yet the New York Knicks felt compelled to sign him to a larger deal than LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat. Something just seems wrong with that picture.
So it’s safe to say that Stoudemire better produce like no other power forward next season. If he can duplicate the level he displayed after the All-Star break of last season, things will bold well for him and his Knick teammates.
I expect the Broadway like atmosphere should serve as the perfect stage for the character that is Amar’e Stoudemire.
18. Russel Westbrook
Russel Westbrook proved that he is every bit as valuable to the success of the Thunder as his teammate Kevin Durant. If Durant is the heartbeat of the Thunder, Westbrook is the blood in which pumps through it.
He proved to be the Thunder’s best and most effective player this past post season. His ability to attack the painted area is rivaled by only a handful of NBA point guards.
His on the ball pressure can change the course of a game in mere moments. He displayed these abilities while arguably playing better than any point guard on the USA select team.
Durant will get all the headlines this season. But it’ll be Westbrook that leads this team to were they hope to be.
17. Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo has improved as a player for the past three seasons, and common logic would suggest the same will happen again this year. He is only 24 years of age and is already one of the five best overall point guards in the league.
The one flaw in Rondo’s game is his jump shooting ability and all signs point to him entering the season with the same poor shot. Yet it won’t affect his ability to direct games.
Rondo has already set the tone for his Boston teammates by stating that he and the rest of the Celtics aren’t conceding anything to the Heat or any other team for that matter. Rondo is a year older and wiser, and hasn’t even begun to peak as a player.
If Boston does any thing of relevance next season, it’ll be on the backs of number nine.
16. Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson just signed a six-year $123 million dollar contract extension this summer. So it’s safe to say he better be motivated for next summer.
Johnson is a top 10 talent with a Lamar Odom complex. For some reason Johnson is content on just being a really good layer instead of being a great one.
That may have been good enough in years past but now he’s a marked man. His contract will ever push him to greatness or cause him to fold like he’s done the past two post seasons.
15. Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili’s statistics do not reflect his overall abilities. He’s every bit as talented as Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant and when he’s on, he can seemingly destroy a team single handedly.
Ginobili was extremely instrumental in the Spurs clinching a playoff berth this past season, he was arguably thee most dominant player after the All-Star break.
With speculation looming of the Spurs trying to move Tony Parker, the 33-year-old Ginobili could see himself once again trusted into a starting role. If so, his numbers might once again reflect the player that few fans have come to appreciate over the years.
14. Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups will be the 34 years old when this season starts. Yet he is coming off the greatest statistical performance of his career.
Billups has been one of the top five floor generals over the past six or seven seasons. His ability to direct his teammates on both ends of the floor is only trumped by Jason Kidd and won’t change this upcoming season.
With Carmelo Anthony looking as if he’ll be apart of the New Jersey Nets next season, any success the Nuggets franchise experiences this season will rest mainly on the shoulders of Chauncey Billups.
The leadership skills he displayed at the FIBA games and most of his career will be put to the test like never before.
13. Dirk Nowitzki
Due to team owner Mark Cuban’s big mouth comments on the Miami Heat. The stakes have been raised for Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas Mavericks teammates. And if that isn’t enough, Nowitzki only needs to look at his newly signed four year $80 million dollar contract.
For the past four seasons Nowitzki’s efficiency has dropped and this up coming season will be no different. So though he was arguably a top 10 player last season, it’s very unlikely that the 32-year-old will have the same success as last season.
Nowitzki could very well surprise though. He bypassed on playing for his native country of Germany in order to rest and strengthen his body in light of his NBA obligations. That factored in with the Mavericks adding much needed size and athleticism and it’s obvious why he’s excited about what he can do this upcoming season.
12. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol has proven just how good he is over the past two seasons, especially in his past two appearances in the NBA Finals.
Second only to Chris Bosh in regards to play at the power forward position, Gasol will be entering the season healthy and energized. He bypassed on playing in the FIBA games to rest his body.
The 30-year-old Spaniard is in the middle of his prime and will only continue to get better for the next 2 or 3 years. Along with Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest, Gasol will be motivated to bringing home a third consecutive title to LA.
11. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant will be coming into the season riding high off his FIBA record setting performances. Many basketball analysts are banking that he’ll be the leading front-runner from league MVP and scoring champ honors.
The production of Durant might not match all of the hype that has surrounded him this off season. But he will most likely repeat as NBA scoring champ.
With his surrounding cast being even more capable than last season, teams won’t be able to focus on Durant as much as they did last season. That is a very scary thought as to what kinds of numbers he can put up offensively.
He’ll be more deadly as a scorer than last season but the rest of his game should remain on par with last season.
10. Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh has a chance to finally display his talents on a stage worthy of them. With Duncan and Garnett declining, Bosh has had the distinction of being the most skilled big man in the game over the past three years.
His numbers will take a slight hit due to him being the third option to the James and Wade show. However, due to the attention the two will receive, Bosh could very well compete for the NBA field goal percentage title.
The Heat have already started him on their big man strengthening program, so Bosh could very well be even better than he was last season. I expect him to compete for the NBA rebounding title also.
9. Deron Williams
Deron Williams is the lone ranger in Utah now that his former All-Star teammate (Carlos Boozer) has bolted. I expect Williams to use the slight as a motivation factor this season.
The team has added some suitable pieces to replace the ones they lost. But Williams is clearly aware that any success the Jazz experience will be solely on his shoulders.
He should understand that he needs to raise his game even higher if the Jazz are to duplicate or exceed last season's second round exit.
Williams is 26-years-old and entering his sixth season. I see no reason why he won't continue his growth as a player.
8. Carmelo Anthony
After his Denver Nuggets faltered these past playoffs, Carmelo Anthony should have been focused on honoring his contract and doing whatever he needed to get the Nuggets back into Championship contention. But that hasn’t been the case.
Anthony is currently trying to force the Nuggets organization into dealing him to a new team. Speculations on his reason as to why he wants a trade have been linked to the career aspiration of his newly-weeded wife, La La Vazques.
Anthony is heading into the season with his head on everything but being a better player. Apparently after doing everything to improve his image and perception as a player, he’s ready to start all over from scratch.
Hopefully for his sake this won't be the case and he can maintain his status of top 10 player.
7. Tim Duncan
The early word out of San Antonio is Tim Duncan has rededicated himself to basketball. Reports are stating that he has shed 15 pounds off his playing weight of last season. This could bode very well for the Spurs aspirations of pursuing another title, the rest of the league can’t be too happy about that.
Duncan is 34-years-old and has lost some of his athletic prowess but has countered the losses by using a more cerebral approach. But with his rededication to his body, Duncan will most likely be even more effective than he was last season.
Tim Duncan remains a top two center in the NBA, slightly behind Dwight Howard. With the growth of DeJuan Blair and the arrival of Tiago Splitter, Duncan should have the Spurs in contention for a top seed out West baring injuries.
6. Brandon Roy
Brandon Roy is in a position to be apart of something special this season. If he and his Blazer teammates can remain healthy throughout the season, they very well could end up as the last team standing in the West.
Roy generally plays his best when the stakes are at their highest. I expect Roy to take full advantage of his improving young club. Only question remaining is if the four year pro can remain healthy enough to get the Blazers to where many foresee them venturing.
He’s 26-years-old and should be entering the prime of his career. There deck has been stacked in his favor to have a career year, only time will tell if he’ll fold.
5. Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant can’t be happy about the South Beach trio in Miami. He’s very well aware of how talented and skilled each of those players are, however, that doesn’t mean he’s going to lay down.
As if he needed any motivation going into the season. Bryant will set his sights on doing what Jordan couldn’t do; defeat a three headed monster.
With Kobe entering the season with a clean bill of health and possibly a better supporting cast than last season’s title defending team. He has his mind set on being a part of a second three-peat team.
His athletic ability is on the decline and his shot selection still makes Phil Jackson cringe, but the man still remains one of the most effective scorers in the league.
It’ll be interesting to see if Kobe goes on an offensive assault this season to send a message to the trio down in Miami or if he continues his growth as a more mature team player.
4. Dwight Howard
With most of the hoopla surrounding the Heat, Lakers, Bulls, and Nuggets organizations, many have forgotten that Orlando has won 59 games in consecutive seasons. This basically means people have forgotten just how dominant Dwight Howard has been over the past three seasons.
That’s not a good thing.
Howard wasn’t happy with how his team exited the playoffs this past season. He expected his club to be back in the NBA Finals. However, that wasn’t the case and Howard pledged to return a better player.
Howard will be entering his seventh season and is only 24-years-old. He’s at the age were most NBA centers begin to define the player they will be remembered as.
I expect Howard to demand more touches from his coaches and teammates this up coming seasons. I do not see him settling for 10 field goal attempts per game. He understands now that he needs to accelerate his maturation as a player on the offensive end.
3. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is arguably the most efficient offensive player in the league; the man’s nickname should be “Smarts” because he rarely makes a poor decision. He’ll be looking to calculate on a season that saw him play only 45 games last year because of injuries.
Paul made a lot of noise about not being happy with the Hornets roster as a whole. His complaints later where followed with a request to be traded if the team remained as is.
The Hornets heard their star cries and acted accordingly. They brought in more complementary pieces to fit the needs of Paul. And with the roster as it stands, Paul has the players needed to excel in his open court style preference.
With most writing him off and wanting to elevate players like Derrick Rose and Deron Williams above him, Paul will have a mountain sized chip on his shoulder. I expect him to return to his dominant 2007-2009 form.
2. LeBron James
LeBron James will be on a mission to capture his first NBA title and justify his decision of teaming up with a player many consider to be his peer. The focus that he will play with might lead to him winning a third consecutive MVP award.
Many believe that this season James will take a submissive or secondary role to Dwyane Wade. That isn’t likely, James is at his best when he’s commanding and directing the show.
Playing alongside Wade and under the Heat organization’s tutelage will bring about a maturity that causes James to become an even more deadly player. James will be more disciplined in his on court decisions.
James is the biggest match-up problem in the NBA. The thought of him being able to play off of players like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh or him receiving single coverage is a scary thought.
If he’s aggressive and smart with his decisions, James could very well lead the NBA in assist and points.
1. Dwyane Wade
With all the pressure surrounding his Miami Heat club, Dwyane Wade will need to provide the calm in the storm. This is absolutely what he was build to do; push a club over the hump.
Over the past seven season, it’s hard to argue that there’s a player who is more adapt at providing a team what it needs, exactly when it needs it.
He ran his mouth all last season about how he wanted to see what the Heat organization would do in free agency. Well Riley’s done his part. Now it’s time that the 2006 NBA Finals MVP follows suit by guiding this franchise to its second NBA Championship.
Look for Wade to resemble the guy that showed up at the 2008 Olympics.