I don’t often rank things. When I do, it’s usually something along the lines of “my top ___ favorite ___s that I’ve ever seen.” I suppose I avoid ranking things because I just don’t get a whole lot of joy out of it. I prefer to create unordered lists and articles that are more focused on appreciating the game of basketball and the things that I enjoy most about it. I think many NBA fans and writers are too hung up on trying to put an absolute, universal order to everything. Who’s the G.O.A.T.? Who’s better, LeBron or Kobe? Who gives a f@ck? Not I. Everyone in the G.O.A.T. discussion was great. LeBron and Kobe are both amazing. Why is it so important that the world agrees to one of the two being better? The masses’ fixation on ranking sh!t is something I’ll never understand.
All of that being said, sometimes I feel the need to put a little order to the league… usually for my own sake. Going into a fresh season (I hope), I got to thinking about how various players stack up against the competition at their own position. I like to consider this kind of stuff at the beginning and the end of each season so that I can observe the changes. So, here are my top 25 players in the NBA as of right now, sorted by position. Let me know what you think!
Oh, I’m not going to count down. I’m going to start with #1 and conclude with #5 at each position. I think it’s better that way because some of the top spots are no-brainers.
#1: Derrick Rose: Many NBA fans and analysts have criticized his selection as MVP. While it may not have been a clear-cut decision, I, for one, supported it. Derrick led his team to the league’s best record as he put his somewhat offensively-challenged crew on his back night in and night out. Derrick didn’t post the most eye-popping numbers of all-time, but he showed an unbelievable ability to close out games (mostly wins). He posted poor FG and high TO numbers from time to time, but hey, was he or was he not largely responsible for 62 regular-season victories and a trip to the conference finals (on a team that had their share of injury issues, no less)? That makes D-Rose the NBA’s best point guard.
#2: Chris Paul: Chris has struggled through some injury issues over the past couple of seasons, and his numbers were down across the board last season. However, Chris still shows an unmatched ability to get where he wants on the floor whenever he wants to get there. The injuries have been holding him down a bit lately, but a hobbled Chris Paul is still good enough to drag a crusty Hornets squad to the playoffs and give the defending champs a bit of a scare. A healthy Chris Paul is arguably #1.
#3: Deron Williams: Weighing in at approximately 210 pounds, D-Will is the most physically imposing of all the top NBA PGs. Some would argue that he’s the best in the league… and a solid case can be made in his defense. He’s put up better numbers than Paul in recent seasons, and he’s got a very well-rounded game. There’s not really anything he can’t do, but the same can be said for the two guys ahead of him, too. I’ve got Deron just a hair behind CP, but you could probably consider them 2A and 2B. It’s a tough one to call.
#4: Steve Nash: He’s getting up there in age (37), but watch the guy play and tell me: has anything really changed since his MVP days? If so, I must be blind. He still leads the league in assists, he’s still the best shooter, and he still can’t guard his man–but who cares? He’s Steve f@cking Nash. Nobody’s perfect.
#5: Russell Westbrook: If you read my thoughts on the playoffs then you already know how I feel about Westbrook. He’s got his share of growing up to do, but he edges Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups out of the final spot on talent alone. At the moment the kid is a bonehead, and we’ll have to wait and see if he ever learns. If he does, watch out.
Where the f@ck is… Rajon Rondo: Oh, you mean the NBA’s most overrated guard? He’s in the paint… trying to do anything but shoot.
Watch out for… Tyreke Evans: Injuries held him back last year, but don’t forget about that 20-5-5 rookie season. Tyreke can’t be stopped off the dribble. At 6’6, he’s a beast of a point guard. If he ever fixes that busted-ass jumper… oh boy.
#1: Dwyane Wade: At the age of 29, D-Wade is in his prime. His individual production was obviously down a bit last season due to the additions of two other All-Stars, but he still did 25.5/6.4/4.6 on 50% from the floor. He remains the league’s best shot blocker at his position, and he’s the same guy that put up an incredible 33.2 PPG on the Celtics (Finalists) in the first round of the ’09/10 postseason. His latest Finals performance wasn’t stellar, but hey, the guy that most people would have in this spot got swept in the second round, so…
#2: Kobe Bryant: Not even Kobe Bryant can defeat father time. Don’t get me wrong, I still consider Kobe one of the best in the game (let’s not act like it’s some sort of insult to be placed a hair below Dwyane Wade), but I feel like he’s lost a step. At age 33 (and going into his 16th NBA season), he’s at the point where it’s about time he lost a step. I’m sure he still tops most the lists of most people, but I think a mass adjustment to the consensus rankings will have to be made within the next few years. Many will remain in denial until he’s clearly been a different Kobe Bryant for a little while.
#3: Eric Gordon: I expect that this will be my most controversial ranking, yet I feel very confident that EJ will soon show everyone why I’ve placed him here. Last season, a wrist injury held Gordon to just 56 appearances. He finished up the final month of the season playing through the injury, which was continuously re-aggravated. He still managed to finish up at 22.3 PPG on 45% shooting (not to mention four and a half assists per game). Prior to the injury he was putting up closer to 25 PPG and actually had the Clipps playing winning basketball for the months of December and January. He played the entire season in Blake Griffin’s shadow, but he was actually LA’s best player prior to getting hurt. He displayed consistency and a great desire/ability to deliver with the game on the line. He needs to work on his ball handling (he committed some turnovers in crucial situations while trying to pull the ball on the floor), but that’s the only flaw in his skillset. He plays defense, he makes plays, he scores efficiently, and he can score from anywhere on the floor (don’t mistake the guy for a three-point gunner… he was throwing down posters at Griff’s pace before he got injured). He’s also got a solid head on his shoulders, and he’s a more complete player than the up-and-comer I’ve ranked fourth.
#4: Monta Ellis: Moped can put the ball in the basket; period. His scoring actually dropped slightly from ’09/10, but he clearly had his best season yet. He took fewer shots and dropped his turnovers while boosting his assists. He also shot a career-high 36 percent from beyond the arc. Most importantly, he stayed healthy for 80 games. We’re seeing a more well-rounded Monta than we saw in previous seasons, and I expect more of the same in his seventh season. Monta’s weaknesses? Defense, obviously… and I’ve never considered him the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s not a complete knucklehead like, say, JR Smith, but he’s not exactly the NBA’s Albert Einstein, either.
#5: Manu Ginobili: Manu posted the second-best scoring average of his nine-year career as the Spurs completely changed up their pace. The uptempo game worked out quite well for Ginobili and the Spurs during the regular season, but a hungry Grizzlies squad took the final piss on their parade (the window has closed) in the first round of the postseason. At 34, Manu’s reached the top of the hill. He’ll be headed down the other side pretty soon. His bald spot will likely have an inverse relationship with his level of play during the years leading up to his retirement.
Where the f@ck is… Kevin Martin: Well, he scores more points than Manu and EJ, but that’s about it. He’s a very good shooter and has become extremely adept at duping the officials, but he’s not enough of an all-around force to crack the top five.
Watch out for… James Harden: I think he’ll make a big jump in his first full season without Jeff Green in the picture. He was asked to step up in the ’10/11 postseason and he delivered. I expect continued improvement in both his skills and his stats. There’s a ceiling hovering over his head as long as he plays with KD and Russell Westbrook, but he hasn’t reached it yet.
#1: LeBron James: A physical specimen like no one else we’ve ever seen before. LeBron can do it all… most of the time. I still consider him the NBA’s best player, but he’s clearly got some issues when it comes to the mental aspect of the game. He should be far and away the best player in the league… in reality, it’s debatable.
#2: Kevin Durant: KD has taken over KB’s spot as the league’s best scorer. He’s also one of very few players who can truthfully be considered good enough to carry the offensive load for a championship-caliber squad. On top of that… he hasn’t even turned 23 yet. This motherf@cker is seven days younger than I am. Well, consider my day ruined.
#3: Carmelo Anthony: Offensively, Melo is capable of playing up to a guy like LeBron or KD on any given night. No one has superior footwork, and bullish power in the paint makes him incredibly hard to stop. That being said, I think we can all agree that he falls just short of that top level. He’s all alone at number three, though.
#4: Paul Pierce: At age 33, Pierce’s methodical style is still good for about 19 PPG, even on one of the league’s best teams. I’ll just keep this real simple: assuming I’m not rooting for the Celtics, I’m still saying “aw f@ck” every time he touches the ball in crunch time.
#5: Danny Granger: Batman would probably have to serve as Robin on any team that’s making it past the first round or two, but there aren’t any remaining threes out there posting 25.8 PPG seasons. He fell about five points shy of that career-best mark last season, but he got his Pacers into the playoffs and gave the Bulls just a bit of a scare. Nothing too amazing, but good enough for the final spot on this list.
Where the f@ck is… Joe Johnson: Cashin’ checks.
Watch out for… Rudy Gay: He has to share the ball (and minutes) with Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and OJ Mayo (not to mention Sam Young and Tony Allen), so, like James Harden, there’s a ceiling when it comes to how much he can produce individually. Rudy’s one of the league’s smoothest scorers, though. He makes it look effortless… it’s beautiful to watch. So, watch out for him–literally.
#1: Dirk Nowitzki: Take a look at the rest of this list. In the second round Nowitzki defeated a team featuring the #2 SG and #3 PF. In the Conference Finals he carried his team past the #2 SF and #5 PG. In the Finals he beat the #1 SF, #1 SG, and #4 PF… all without the help of another player from the list. I rest my case… which didn’t really have to be made.
#2: Amare Stoudemire: Aside from Dirk, Amare is the league’s best scorer at his position. He appeared to give a little bit more of a sh!t about defense last season, and he was able to get the Knicks to the playoffs for the first time since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Being the main factor in bringing what was once Isiah Thomas’s mess back to relevance is probably enough to warrant this ranking.
#3: Pau Gasol: He’s softer than Cottonelle and layed an egg in his latest playoff appearance, but he’s one of the best bigs in the league riding on his talent alone. There’s nothing Gasol can’t do. He’s one of the top shooters, passers, ball handlers, and back-to-the-basket scorers at his spot. Despite sloth-like movements, his length makes him a factor on defense. Pau isn’t winning any championships without LA, but LA isn’t winning any without him either.
#4: Chris Bosh: Of the three big names who came together in Miami, Bosh’s digits took the biggest plunge. Think back to when he was a Toronto Craptosaur, though. He was good enough to be the man on a playoff squad. He carried some pretty lackluster teams to respectable finishes. That’s all Amare and Pau ever did on their own. I’ve always considered the three of them to be very close, and I won’t be mad at you if you shuffle ‘em around a little bit.
#5: Kevin Garnett: He’s getting old, and you can’t expect him to score the big basket, but hey, that’s what Paul Pierces are for! Anyway, Garnett has to get this spot because his defensive presence still bests that of anyone not named Dwight Howard, and it’s not like 15/9/2.5 aren’t pretty damn good numbers.
Where the f@ck is are… Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, and LaMarcus Aldridge: Power forward was the most difficult position for me to rank. There are some all-time greats on their way out, and some future All-Stars who’ve just stepped through the door. There’s also Zach Randolph. There will probably be a lot of shuffling in my PF rankings over the next year or two, but this is how I see it as of right now.
Watch out for… All the young players I just listed.
#1: Dwight Howard: The most obvious conclusion. He’s the best on offense, the best on defense, and the best everywhere in between. He was my runner-up for MVP last season, and he doesn’t even turn 26 until December. We’re yet to see the best of Dwight Howard. That’s a pretty intriguing thought.
#2: Andrew Bogut: Bogut hasn’t fully recovered from that really serious arm injury he suffered during the ’09/10 season. This caused a three-point decrease in his PPG and some Ben Wallace-like freethrowing, but it didn’t change his ability to defend and rebound. Eleven boards and 2.6 blocks were both career bests. Once his arm heals he’ll be more of an offensive threat again.
#3: Brook Lopez: I think I speak for Nets Nation (do the Nets have a Nation? If so, they don’t attend games) when I say that I wish Brook would hit the glass a little harder… and undergo some sort of vocal chord transplant. Seriously, this dude has got to have the dumbest voice I’ve ever heard, and possibly the second-most annoying after Brandon Roy. Other than that he’s a nice, young baller. The awfulness (is that a word? I’m gonna make it one) of his team overshadows his ability (20 PPG centers are rare these days) and his promise. He’s only 23 years old.
#4: Joakim Noah: I never thought this goofball would amount to anything more than a big body off of somebody’s bench. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so wrong. Noah’s a damn good player, and not just because he’s got energy that isn’t normally seen from a seven footer. He’s become one of the best passers at his position, and that f@cked up shot actually goes in a fair amount of the time. Throw that on top of his excellent defensive ability and you’ve got yourself the fourth-best center in the NBA.
#5: Andrew Bynum: Andrew Bynum… an enigma, that’s for sure. I think he could be as good as number two… if he cared to be. The fact that he’s made of glass doesn’t help his cause–whatever that cause may be.
Where the f@ck is… Al Horford: I don’t know where the f@ck he is, but I know where the f@ck he should be: playing power forward.
Watch out for… Marc Gasol: I really like this guy. Pau’s “little” brother is actually 7’1 265. That’s how a center is supposed to be built. He’s got more basketball skills than four of the five players who made the list… combined. Once again, I dig Marc Gasol. He’s got amazing touch for a guy his size, and he moves okay. He can really pass the ball too. He dismantled the Spurs front line in the first round and he was damn good against the almighty Kendrick Perkins in the second round. I was very impressed.
NOTE: If you want to call Al Jefferson a C, then he probably edges out Andrew Bogut for #2. I consider him a PF.
Disagree? Leave a comment!