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Tag:Pau Gasol
Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:43 am
 

ChiTownCliff's Top 10 - Power Rankings #1

Well most teams have 4 to 6 games under their belt so I think we have a small taste of what teams look good early off and what teams should be able to establish themselves as forces for the rest of the season. I only want to look at the top 10, because that is all that really matters right? If you make the top 10 then you are either a contender for the title or real close to it. Outside of the top ten and you have some issues to deal with or you simply are a bad team. 

Well let us take a look at the Top 10 teams thus far.

1. Lakers
. How any other team could be ranked number 1 is beyond me. The Lakers are clearly the best team in the league. Kobe looks like himself and should still be considered in the running for the MVP, but the real stars of this team are the newly added Matt Barnes and Steve Blake. These two smaller pickups were well thought out by Laker's brass and have been a big part of the Lakers early success.




2. Celtics. Coming out of the gates and handing the Heat a loss goes was the perfect start to their season, but they have looked very good since as well. Rondo is averaging an amazing 16.4 assists per game and the green machine is off and running like they are well oiled. Paul Pierce has showed little signs of aging and the J.O. pickup looks like a solid move thus far.




3. Heat. The number that sticks out to me so far with this team is the average margin of victory which is a league leading 16.6 points. That is pretty scary. After their first game loss to the Celtics this team has looked pretty great since. Winning big against the Nets and Timberwolves is not a big deal, but the pounding they put on the Magic is.





4. Hornets. Who would have thought, right? This team is not only 4-0 but they have won against the likes of the Bucks, Nuggets, Spurs, and Rockets. Beating those 4 in a row proves you are doing something right. Chris Paul looks like his old self leading the NBA already in NBA efficiency with a 21-6-9 statline. Play from Belinelli and Thornton have been key but really missing in action is Trevor Ariza, who if he can get on track, could be an X-Factor for this team.




5. Magic. Getting hammered by the Heat does not make a good statement, but this team is still a great team. They simply had a bad night. I do not tink they will lose like that to the Heat again. In their two wins thay have looked great and Dwight Howard has added a little offensive punch to his game in the form of an outside shot that looks better then ever, but he needs to continue to be that force in the paint on defense if this team want to make it to or past the ECF.




6. Hawks. Okay, so they are 5-0, but I do not think this team is quite top 5 yet. Their wins have come against the Pistons, Cavaliers, Wizards, 76ers, and Grizzlies. That might have been a feat 5 years ago but not today and they face the Timberwolves tonight. We will not know what to think of this team until after next week when they face the Suns, Magic, Bucks, and Jazz.




7. Mavericks. This team has all the parts to have a 60+ win season. Most have played together for a few seasons and Jason Kidd continues to defy age, but the key to this team is the fact that Dirk is still in his prime and puting up great numbers. His ability to score from anywhere opens the floor for everyone else. This team has plenty of scoring theats and now they have some big defenders to clog the paint in Chandler and Haywood.




8. Thunder. Big wins against the Bulls and Trail Blazers has this team close to being in the talks with the elite. They still lack size and that may turn into a bigger issue down the road, but for now the duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook looks like a top 1/2 punch in the league.





9. Trail Blazers. It is hard not to like tis team. With Brandon Roy putting up jumpers from the outside and LaMarcus Aldridge turining into an elite back to the basket player Portland has their bases covered. Sprinkle in a savvy veteran point guard in Miller and a defender of the paint in Camby and this team is on a roll. Just wait until they add more size in JP and Oden.




10. Spurs. The combo of Duncan, Parker, and Manu is already a thing of history and it looks like they will continue to be together for quite some time. Sure they could use some new springs in the legs, but they are wise and well coached. This team can never be ruled out until Duncan retires. Jefferson is also starting to play the way they were hoping he would. This is a darkhorse team in the west if you ask me.





Let us take a look at a few players that have come out of the gates on fire. The Sexy Seven.

Monta Ellis.
they guy is just thowing up sick numbers and is leading the league in points per at an even 30 a game. His Warriors are 3-1 and just missed my list. Toss in 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 55% shooting from the floor and Warriors' fans must be happy.

Joakim Noah. It is still early but it looks like Noah could lead the league in rebounding. He is right now with 15.3 per game to go along with 14 points and 2 blocks. He also has had 4 double doubles in 4 games and it seems unlikley that that trend wont continue.

Luis Scola. 23 points and 14.5 rebounds per! Are you kidding me? While the Rockets may be 0-4, Scola is proving to be a star player in this league. I wonder if these numbers will continue.

Rajon Rondo. I do not care how overrated the steals per and assist per statistics are, if you are averaging 16+ assist per game you are doing a good job of gettting the ball to were it needs to go. Rondo certainly is the front runner to lead the league in assists and by a large margin.

Pau Gasol. 23.8ppg, 11rpg, and 4.4apg is pretty darn scary. The Lakers made the best trade perhaps of the past decade when they landed this guy. He is a top 3 bigman for sure with Howard and Dirk and he plays with the best team in the league. I see no end to these types of numbers from him.

Derrick Rose. With 26.8 ppg(2nd) and 10 apg (5th) Rose is slowly becoming the superstar that many thought he would be. Thesse numbers should stay high but his scoring will certainly come down a bit when Boozer returns. 

Russell Westbrook. Durant who? Just kidding, but this guy must be the most underrated point guard in the league. A debate could be had that he is a top 3 PG right now. He certainly is as good as Derrick Rose if you ask me.

Just missing the Sexy Seven are: Paul Millsap, Dirk Nowitzki, and Rudy Gay.

Hope you enjoyed the read and please reply with your Top Ten and your Sexy Seven or simply give your thoughts. Thanks. 
Posted on: May 12, 2010 2:50 pm
 

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

I thought I would start a periodical and I thought that the classic the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly format was perfect. It is a nice way for me to let loose my opinions on current stories in the NBA and allows me the freedom to pick certain stories to discuss. Feel free to give your own lists of the Good, Bad, and Ugly or comment on the topics I throw out there. I hope you enjoy the read.

The Good.

1.
Magic making history. The Magic become only the 6th team in NBA history to start the post season at 8-0. Against the Hawks they were amazing, crushing them by an average of 25 points per game and handed the Hawks their worst home loss in the playoffs ever in game three, winning by 30 points.

2. Pau Gasol best bigman in the playoffs? Sure most will point to Dwight Howard, but Gasol is averaging 20.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 blocks, while shooting .564 from the floor. He is 3rd in NBA efficiency overall behind Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and is 11 spots ahead of Dwight Howard.

3. Richardson leads Sun's charge in playoffs. Jason Richardson is the unlikely leader of the Suns thus far in the playoffs. His stats are way up from the regular season. He is averaging 6.2 more points and 1.2 more rebounds per game in the playoffs compared to the regular season and is shooting .510, up from .474. He has been the x-factor.

The Bad.

1. Bulls drag feet looking for new head coach. This could be good or bad I guess, but as a Bulls fan I do not want to see a repeat of what happened last time the Bulls were in the market for a new head coach. They waited way to long and got stuck with a coach with zero experience.

2. Woodson's remarks stike me funny. After being swept by the Magic in an epic fashion, the Hawks' head coach told the media that the Hawks were close to making a legitimate run if they were to add 2 or 3 key players. Wow, I think just about every team could say the same thing right? Just add 2 or 3 good players and we are a contender, silly. My Bulls would be the favorite in the east if they could just simply add 2 or 3 key players. Start packing your things coach.

3. Dampier to have knee surgery. Well, I think it is safe to say that the once effective center Erick Dampier is about as good as done as a starter in the NBA. Infact, he will be lucky to see garbage minutes the rest of his career. Getting old sucks.

The Ugly.

1. The human twig gets into a fight?
Memphis Grizzlies center is said to have gotten into a scuffle with R&B singer TID at a nightclub in Tanzania. His agent is denying the story, but does Thabeet need any negative press after averaging 3 points and 3 rebounds this season?

2. Happy times off the court for Wade. Dwyane Wades wife is arrested and held on bond after she failed to show up to court. How stupid do you have to be not to show up to court when you are trying to "get paid" in a divorce case? Hey! Mrs. Wade why not give Mrs. X-Jordan or Mrs. X-Shaq a call. I am sure they can give you some advise.

3. Cavaliers lose game 5 at home. Not only do the Cavs lose this very important game AT HOME, but they get hammered and LeBron James looks foolish the entire game. Perhaps the worst loss in Cavs history.
Posted on: July 2, 2009 10:09 pm
 

Is the NBA getting more and more unbalanced?

     Well there have been a few big moves in the NBA over the last week and I am not so sure it is for the best of the NBA or not. The Cavaliers which were already in this last seasons eastern conference look to have locked up Shaq for next season and gave up basically nothing in return. Vince Carter is going to play for the Magic next season. The Spurs, who are still a good franchise but have battled injuries, have bolstered their lineup with the addition of Richard Jefferson. The Celtics look to be adding Rasheed Wallace and now there are talks of Ron Artest joining Kobe on the Lakers. Are all these moves good for the NBA? Let us take a look.

     I guess there are to theories to go by on this one. One, that having a handful of great teams will make the conference finals and NBA finals better. You know that these blockbuster teams will all go deep into the playoffs and that the Finals should include two of the teams mentioned above. The other thinking is that these teams are now just all too good and that the regular season and the entire season for that matter is pointless to watch for fans of other teams. Do fans of the Hawks or Mavericks have anything to hope for?
    I for one am torn on the issue. I consider myself a true fan of the sport so part of me can not wait for the season to begin to see how Shaq and LeBron coexist or if Vince Carter can be the missing part to push the Magic to the next level. On the other hand I am a fan of the Chicago Bulls which are a good young team with depth and promise, but really are no match for onr of these new Mega-Teams.
     The rest of the NBA stands little chance agaist these new teams. Part of me thinks it could hurt the NBA fanbase a bit. I am sure it will attract a ton of new fans, but some diehards may just give up on their teams. Why keep watching their team when we all know who is going to be in the Finals. I am not saying that I am one of these fans, but i can understand that view.
     Let's look at these new Mega-team's lineups for a minute. Who stands a chance againts these five teams is my real question.
     Lakers- Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, and Pau Gasol. This team has it all. A legend in the making leading the way in Kobe. A great inside force in Gasol. A versatile wingman in Gasol and a bonecrusher in Ron Artest. Crazy.
     Spurs- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson. The best power forward ever in the middle. I understand that Duncan is older but he is still great. Manu if healthy is a nightmare for other teams. One of the best, if not best penetrateing point guards in Parker and now a allstar caliber wingman in R.J.
     Celtics- Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace. If Boston can keep Allen and sign Wallace then, if healthy, they will have a great shot at another NBA title. That is an older but still great lineup. They could cause a lot of damage with this team.

     Magic- Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis. You have to think that Turkoglu is going to go elsewhere for the money, but a guess he too could still be in the fold in Orlando. This team has all the parts needed to win a title with Howard anchoring this team. I think Carter might just be the player the magic needed in the Finals. A guy who can hit the clutch shots and draw defenders out. If they somehow manage to keep Turk as well then they are going to go back to the Finals.
     Cavaliers
- LeBron James, Shaq, and Mo Willaims. Not quite as deep as the others as far as talent, but Shaq might work out very well for the Cavs. If James and him can work off eachother well then most teams will have their hands full facing the Cavaliers next season. Shaq draws the double team and so does James. That is a recipe for a Championship.

     Well as a Bulls fan, unless we trade for Chris Bosh or Amar'e this summer, I can hope for no more then maybe a trip to the second round of the playoffs next year and that is better then I can say for most other teams. So do you think that these new Mega-Teams will cause some fans to finally give up on their teams or are you just excited to see how all these move play out? I for one can not wait to watch these new teams, but to be honest part of me is a bit sad that my team is on the outside looking in.

Posted on: June 23, 2009 12:53 pm
 

Top 20 NBA Players for the next 5 years.

     Ok, we have all seen these types of list before, so I thought I would give it a shot. The season is over and the draft is two days away. I simply compiled my list based on the question, " Who would I pick first to be on my new NBA expansion team?" Many of these lists are based either on past accomplishments or perceived future greatness. I wanted to put my list together using a balance of the two. I am not looking so much for the best player to win a title with next year, nor am I looking for the player to win titles with for the next 10 years. Simply, who are the best players in terms of raw skill and experience together. An aging superstar like KG might win you a championship next season, if healthy, but in two or three seasons he will really begin to fade. On the other hand a player like D. Rose may become a top 3 point guard in two years, but that too is a risk to take. Bottomline, I am looking for the player that will be the best option for the next 5-6 seasons. So, in fear of all the negative replies, I give you my Top 20 Players.

 1) LeBron James.

I will admit I am more of a hater then a fan of James due to his sometimes abrasive attitude. He is the best player and he knows it. Sure Kobe is right there, but if I am looking longer term then this becomes a no-brainer. Sure Kobe has 3+ great years left, but James will only continue to get better in those 3 years as Kobe begins to fade. I saw it with MJ with my own eyes. As great as Michael was he lost his edge in his last few years with the Bulls. LeBron is both short term and long term making him my choice for number one. Sorry Laker fans.

2) Dwyane Wade.

Oh no I didn't! Yes, I did. To me Wade is as good as Kobe is already and is younger. If you put Wade in place of Kobe on the Lakers do you not think the Lakers would have won the Championship? They might have not lost a single playoff game. I hate all the Kobe vs LeBron threads, put a case can be made for Wade vs Kobe and if I had to pick from the two I would go with Wade. Both are very similar in that they are strong team leaders, clutch shooters, outstanding defenders, and nightmares to defend. In Wade's own words " I am heading into my prime", while Kobe is on the backside of his.

 3) Kobe Bryant.

You may think I am a Kobe hater but that is far from the truth. I think Kobe is still the best player today, but LeBron and Wade will shortly pass him as Kobe begins to fade. However, I think Kobe will fade much like MJ did in that he will still be a force until he is 35 or 36. Kobe is in great shape both mentally and physically and has a good few years left to lead the Lakers to more Championships. Kobe will also continue to be in the MVP talks for the next few seasons as well. I would still pick Kobe this high because he is that good. Remember I am not just looking short term here, so Kobe being at number three is generous considering the competition.

 4) Dwight Howard.

I argued with myself on this one a lot. If Howard would have led his Magic past the Lakers in the Finals or even pushed the series to seven games then I might have picked him ahead of Kobe. You can not teach size as we have all heard so many times. Howard has a couple of holes in his game for sure like free throw shooting and shooting in general. If he could get his ft% up to around 70% and learn how to shoot a 15 footer then he could become the greatest in the game. He also needs to step up and demand the ball like Shaq did back in the day. Howard is still very young and raw and in time could prove to be a top ten center all-time.

 5) Chris Paul.

With the rules the way they are right now in the NBA a player like Chris Paul is a thorn in every teams side. He can drive and kick better then any other player in the league. He is a threat to shoot from anywhere on the floor and he is a solid defender. In short, he is the total package. Maybe not as fancy as Steve Nash but I think nobody would doubt who the better scorer or defender is. You give Paul a solid bigman to play off of and good wingman and you have a contender everytime. If the Hornets had a better wingman this season they would have been a much better team.

 6) Kevin Durant.

I know that Durant at 6 may seem a bit high, but he is the real deal. He still has holes in his game but with a couple of veterans around him he would shine even more. He will become the NBA scoring champion a few times before his career is over and he will only get better as time goes on. If he can learn to use his length more on defense and bulk up a bit he will become an all-around force in this league for years to come. Can you imagine if the Thunder would have landed the 1st pick in the draft and got Blake Griffin? Scary thought. With a true lowpost player Kevin Durant would be even that much better.

 7) Al Jefferson.

A bit of a gamble here. Jefferson may not be the same after his injury, but all signs look good. He is young and a beast in the paint and as you can see I think he is the second best bigman in the NBA in the near future. He scores well down low and has the size to compete with the best in the league and will overwhelm lesser opponents. Pair him with a solid point guard and a slasher and you have a great team on your hands. It is always wise to build around a great bigman.

 8) Danny Granger.

On just about any other team Granger would be a Superstar. He has not only the stats to prove it but anyone who has watched him play about a half dozen games or so will see that he is a special kid. He is very athletic and is therefore a solid rebounder and shot blocker for a small forward. He seems to be getting better and better every game and the sky is the limit. Maybe the best testament to his ablilty is his consistency. You know what you are going to get from him day in and day out and that will help Pacer fans sleep at night.

 9) Dirk Nowitzki.

I understand that Dirk is getting older, but he just had perhaps his best season ever and Nowitzki has one thing going for him as he ages. He is an outstanding shooter. of all the aging superstar bigmen like Duncan and Garnett, only Dirk is really a great shooter from long range. With his size he will always be able to grab rebounds but even if he starts to rely solely on jumpshooting he will still be a huge threat on the floor. A seven footer shooting threes will always be scary. I still think he has 3 more years to in his prime and he will be very useful past then as well.

 10) Pau Gasol.

He is in the middle of his prime and he is as smart as they come with his back to the basket. Not as good as Duncan but has fresher legs. On just about any other team Gasol would be a 22 and 10 player but his scoring is effected by Kobe. Another huge factor for me with Gasol is he is a great teammate and while Amar'e may have more talent Gasol has more overall skills that make a team winners. Gasol has 5 more productive years left and for that reason he makes my top ten. I wish my Bulls would have snagged him. I still cry myself to sleep about that trade every night.

 11) Deron Williams.

Never should he be called the poor man's CP3. In many ways he is just as good as Paul. He has good size for a point guard and it shows in his ability to rebound and defend. He is still quite young as has many more years to prove himself. Some will argue that he is the best point guard right now in the NBA and deron's stats can make make a case for it. In any event, I think he is a great place to start when building a team. If you start building a team with a bigman or a great point guard you will most likely be ahead of the game.

 12) Chris Bosh.

He is not the best post player in the league, infact he likes to shoot to many jumpers if you ask me and a player of his size should block more then just one shot a game, but with that being said Bosh has a great all-around game and is still young so there should be a bunch of good seasons left in him. He will never contend for a MVP that is for sure but he will be considered a top power forward for the next 8 seasons barring injury. He is a good teammate and a smart player and that could take him far. Maybe even far way from Toronto.

 13) Brandon Roy.

Still young and is already one of the best guards in the NBA. 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists can not be balked at. He is the clear leader of a young rising team and his future is bright. I may even have him too low on this list. I just feel that Dirk and Gasol will still be great bigman for the next 5 years. If the Trail Blazers can make a solid trade they could contend next season. I still think this team would be better with a solid veteran leader to help calm them down a bit. Still if they stand pat they could blossom on their own.

 14) Amar'e Stoudemire.

He is a risk after knee surgery. He is however perhaps the best inside scorer in the game but he disappears on defense and I question him as a teammate. He seems to have an ego problem that could be a cancer in the locker-room. He is a hard player to wrap my mind around. If the stars are aligned correctly he could be a centerpiece of a championship team, but I do not think he is quite that good of a player. He needs to be in the right setting and a number two option behind a superstar point guard or shooting guard. He would do well teamed up with Wade on the Heat.

 15) Carmelo Anthony.

Let's face the facts, Melo could not lead this team with a map until Billups showed up. Chauncey Billups is the sole reason that the Nuggets had such a great season. I might have Billups on this list if he were not so old. I can not see Chauncey being a stud in 3 to 4 years. Anthony will however continue to fill up stat sheets do to his talent and athletic ability. If he could get his head on straight for 48 minutes on the floor then he could be a top five player, but he always seems to get lost in games at times. 

 16) Devin Harris.

What a season for Devin Harris. He has turned into a top player over night. If the Nets somehow land LeBron James in 2010 then look out NBA. Harris, LeBron, and Brooks will make for a great young core that will contend every season. Harris is a solid shooter and a good defender as well as a playmaker with insane speed. He has many more great years ahead of him as well and I think he would be a great 2nd option behind LeBron. Way better then Mo Williams. He is also a smart player and a great teammate.

 17) Tony Parker.

It is hard to think of the Spurs without thinking of Duncan, but this season some might say that Tony Parker was the best player on the floor. He has many great seasons ahead of him and with his ability to make things happen of the floor he will always be high on people's wishlists. He can drive and kick with the best of them and is a great finisher for a smaller player around the basket. As Timmy begins to slow down more and more I look for Parker to take over as the leadr of this team. He too could be higher on this list.

 18) Joe Johnson.

I think we might have seen the limits of Joe Johnson. I think he is a top talent for sure and coulf even be the go to guy on a championship team. What makes him stand out to me is his size for a shooting guard. He is big. I think he tried to do to much this season and attempted to many hard shots. He needs to work on that a bit. Two seasons ago people had him as the third best shooting guard behind Kobe and Wade. He has some work to do to get back there. I would love to see him in Chicago though.

 19) Tim Duncan.

If I wanted to win a Championship next season I might pick Timmy, but he has had a long career and I think we all see him starting to slide. For the same reasons I do not even have Kevin Garnett on this list I have Duncan at 19. While he will still be a great player for a few more seasons he will fade hard. His body can not take that much more, and his outside shot is not as pretty as Dirk's. It is sad to admit, because I have always loved his game, but I do not see Duncan being a huge factor in 5 years.

 20) Rajon Rondo.

From a fading legend to a rising superstar we come to my last player on my top 20 list for the next 5 seasons. Rondo proved to be a great all-around player all season long but in the playoff series against the Bulls fans got to see the Future of the Cletics. Rondo is a true triple double threat in the likes of Jason Kidd. I like to compare Rajon to kidd because to me they are very much the same. Rondo might be a better finisher at the rim, and Jason could dish out better passes, but neither player have a good looking jumpshot. Lucky for Celtic fans Rondo is still young enough to fix that.

 

Well I hope you enjoyed the read. I am sure I will not like my own list tomorrow and for that reason I am sure many of you will not like my list at all. You have to remember I am looking at players to build a team around now for the next 5 seasons or so, so players like Kevin Garnett and Chauncey Billups simply did not make my list. Players like Yao Ming and Carlos Boozer missed out as well because I think neither will ever play a full season again. Some of my choices were easy and others were a gamble. I would love to hear what you think and would like to see your Top 20 list using the same criteria. 










Posted on: May 29, 2009 10:05 pm
 

Top 10 Playoff Performers Thus Far.

    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.

Honorable Mentions:

Tony Parker, Ben Gordon, Carlos Boozer, Yao Ming, Joakim Noah, Deron Williams, and Tim Duncan

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com