The Playoffs seem to be much better this year in general if you ask me. Maybe it is due to the great series I got to watch my Bulls play in, but I think most will agree that there have been a lot of close games in this years playoffs. i can not remember a season with so many last second shots and amazing plays. I thought it would be fun to rank the top ten players as far as their playoff performances are concerned. I understand the size of the can of wrath that I am about to open by making a list but I only hope to spark some debate. So let us take a look.
Number 1) LeBron James.
I think it goes without saying that LeBron James is having a historic postseason. I myself have not seen stat lines like LBJs since you know who graced the floor. I am not going to get into the LeBron versus such and such debate becuae I really think it is clear that at least in these playoffs this season that James is the best player in the league. His line is: 36.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and 7.3 apg. His game 5 triple double is historic in that only 3 other players have ever scored more the 30 point and had more then 10 rebounds and assists in an elimination game victory. He is clutch beyond clutch. What if the Cavaliers made that trade for Shaq last year for Wally? If James can carry his team past the Magic, which looks near impossible at this point, and to a victory in the Finals I will concede to the fact that he is the greatest player in the NBA period.
Number 2) Kobe Bryant.
Kobe has been Kobe which translates into 29.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, and 4.6 apg. He has led his team to a 3-2 advantage in the western conference championship. As great as Kobe has been and as clutch as he has been his numbers still are a big drop off from LeBron's. The fact of the matter is clear. Kobe has a much better team around him and this allows him to take less shots and it takes some of the pressure off him to display outright greatness. What I am saying is that if you swapped Kobe and LeBron from their teams I think Kobe would be putting up numbers close to those of LeBron's. If Kobe has to he can score at will but I do not think he could average the assists and rebounds that LeBron is. LeBron is just bigger and a more physical presence. Kobe will continue to make big shots and lead his team and I think the Lakers will end up in the Finals. If they play the Magic I think the magic win in 6, but if they get the Cavs then I see the Lakers winning it all in 6.
Number 3) Dwight Howard.
I almost put Dwight Howard in the 2 spot because he has been out of world great. 20 and 15 is scary and with over 2 blocks a game nobody is playing better in the paint and it is not even close. If Howard can continue to polish his back to the basket game and also pick up a 15 foot jumper then he will be unstoppable and could become the "real" best player in the league. He is like a combintion of Shaq and Alonzo Mourning in that he has great size and is athletic but is also very well conditioned. We all used to wonder what Shaq would be like if he lost 40 pounds, well now we can see. Shaq was for sure a much better offensive player but Howard is the better defender of the two. His future is so bright just like his smile. Sorry, I had to write that.
Number 4) Dirk Nowitzki.
Ok, I understand that the Mavericks are no longer in the playoffs but Dirk had a great playoffs this season. In many ways he shed his reputation of being soft by playing a very gritty style of play. I thought the Mavs had a great chance to adavance to the WCF after watching them take out the Spurs in 5 games. I thought the Spurs would win the series going into it and Dirk was the force that finally made the Spurs look like non-contenders. With a stat line of 26.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, and 3.1 apg Dirk makes the Mavericks still relevant for the next 3 or 4 years. If only Cuban can put the right pieces around Dirk. The Jason Kidd idea was solid but they could use a good wing player. Josh Howard is not the answer.
Number 5) Rajon Rondo.
The future of Boston showed up in the playoffs. We all knew that Rondo was a top 10 point guard going into the playoffs but I for one never thought he was this good. A case could be made that he is the 2nd best PG behind Chris Paul. Infact a case could even be made that he is the best PG in the league. I would say he is top 5 for sure now and have no problem saying that he is in my mind the 4th best behind Paul, Chauncey and Deron. His stat line of 17.4 ppg, 10.0 rpg, and 9.8 apg in the playoffs is insane and while not as sexy as LeBron's numbers, I think it is safe to say that the Celtics will start slowly building around this young budding superstar. My only complaint would be that he loses his head in dire moments and he needs to mature a bit in that area so that he can become a true floor general.
Number 6) Carmelo Anthony.
Once you get past his outer shell which at times comes across as a bit thuggish you realize that he is a special player. He has slowly turned himself into a top 10 player in the league. When he entered the NBA it was all about him and LeBron James and they were compared constantly. It has become clear that LeBron is the better player and even Dwyane Wade has proved to be the better pick of that draft, but Carmelo has really started to shine the last two seasons and is doing a wonderful job of leading his team deep into the playoffs. He is not leading like fellow teammate Billups but rather leading with his effort on the floor. He is averaging 27.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists a game so far in these playoffs. That is nearly 5 more points per game then during the regular season.
Number 7) Chauncey Billups.
The trade of Allen Iverson for Billups should go down as one of the best personnel moves in NBA history. I think AI is a great player and has had a solid career and on paper it seemed that perhaps the Pistons robbed the Nuggets, but in reality Billups was the perfect fit in Denver while Iverson was far from an ideal match in Detroit. I can think of few players that have had such a positive affect on a new team as Billups has had in Denver. He is in many ways the model point guard with his play making decisions and savvy defense. He has stepped up his game on all fronts in the playoffs, but that can be expected from an old pro. He is averaging 21.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, and 6.7 apg. Can his playoff experience get the Nuggets over the hurdle that is the Lakers? We will find out tonight.
Number 8) Pau Gasol.
Knowing that my Bulls could have made a trade for Gasol for a bag of peanuts last season still makes me sick. Gasol has proved to be the missing link for the Lakers and Kobe. It is no secret that Kobe thrives with a great bigman down low and if the Cavaliers get knocked out of the playoffs it will be in part because LeBron lacks what Kobe has, an real bigman down low. Gasol has been a beast in the paint. While his scoring has not been any better then the regular season he is grabbing more rebounds and blocking twice as many shots. If Gasol can stay this effective then the Lakers should advance in the playoffs. However if the Lakers matchup with the Magic then Pau will be in trouble. He has played his worst basketball against Orlando this season, averaging only 12 points and 8 rebounds against them.
Number 9) Dwyane Wade.
Even though his team got knocked out in the first round Wade still proved to be a giant on the floor. Averaging 29, 5, and 5 is special and Wade did all he could to carry his team on to the next round but because of the Heats lack of depth his efforts were halted. A real question needs to be asked at this point. Will Wade stay in Miami? There has been so much talk about LeBron James leaving and even about Chris Bosh being traded that Wade has kind of flown under the radar. Can he really be happy? Miami has made no solid trades since they originally acquired Shaq. Marion did not work out at all and J.O. is on his last leg and is not going to help bring a title to Miami. It will be interesting to see how things unfold with Wade over the next season.
Number 10) Brandon Roy.
I think I am not alone when I say that Roy is now the third best shooting guard in the NBA behind Kobe and Wade. He is only 25 years old as well. Portland has a bright future with Roy leading the way. His team also was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round but like Wade he did all he could to elevate his team. In the end Portland proved to be to young, but next season they should have the hunger required to advance. If only Greg Oden could be a factor. If Oden ever takes off then the sky is the limit for this team. Otherwise there will be a lot of what ifs in regards to what if Portland took Kevin Durant with the first pick. Ouch! Roy's scoring in the playoffs went up by 4 points per game but his assists went down by about 2 1/2 per game. That looks like a young player trying to do to much.