With the completion of the 2012 NBA season, I thought it would be fun on the verge of the NBA Draft to rank the top 30 players in the NBA. There are different ways to look at this, but so we are clear, I am ranking them based on who I would want most on my team for next basketball season, with no concern beyond 2012-13.
Toughest omissions: Derrick Rose (ACL injury), Ricky Rubio (ACL injury), James Harden (jury is out how good he’d be as a lead dog), Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson, Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, and Ty Lawson.
30. Tyson Chandler- His defensive presence and unselfishness earn him the last spot.
29. Chris Bosh- Easy to forget how good he is when he plays with James and Wade.
28. Tim Duncan- Sheer respect for what he brings to the table as a leader and a team-player who makes everyone better around him.
27. Greg Monroe- He’s coming quickly, and probably would be thought of higher if he weren’t in Detroit.
26. Kevin Garnett- Unbelievable will to succeed, and although he can’t carry a team, he can drive one.
25. John Wall- Supremely talented, and if he figures out how to shoot the sky is the limit.
24. Al Jefferson- One of the few back to the basket players left, and has learned how to involve his teammates more.
23. DeMarcus Cousins- He is crazy, and I might be for including him, but he is already a fantastic scorer and rebounder. He just needs to learn to control his emotions and stop fouling so much.
22. Marc Gasol- Numbers don’t do him justice, you have to watch him to appreciate him and his understanding of the game.
21. Josh Smith- Really clicked in after the all-star break, and began to recognize his enormous talents.
20. Kyrie Irving- No weaknesses. Seriously, except the experience that will come with playing more.
19. Pau Gasol- Still better than little brother, just under more scrutiny than most players in the NBA.
18. Tony Parker- As the jump-shot and defense got better, so did he, and was a legit MVP candidate in 2012.
17. Paul Pierce- The truth isn’t what he used to be, but you can still saddle him up and ask him to do anything and he’ll do it well.
16. Steve Nash- It will be written on his tombstone, “Made everyone better.”
15. Deron Williams- Maybe he can’t carry a team, but he can play for me any day.
14. Blake Griffin- I remember former GM Otis Smith telling me when I asked about him, “He doesn’t know what he is doing yet.” Pretty impressive stuff for a guy still figuring it out.
13. LaMarcus Aldridge- Lost in the northwest, but his game is anything but lost.
12. Dwyane Wade- I am concerned about the miles adding up, but he can still get it done.
11. Andrew Bynum- We might find out this year that this ranking is too low. Best offensive center in basketball, and by a good margin. His defense isn’t bad either.
10. Rajon Rondo- Remarkable that he can’t shoot, yet I can’t possibly place him much lower than this.
9. Russell Westbrook- He competes, and gets better year after year. The more he learns to incorporate others, the more he’ll climb.
8. Dirk Nowitzki- Still a go-to guy in the 4th quarter with one of the sweetest shots in the game.
7. Kevin Love- Evolved into a big-time scorer, and a threat anywhere on the floor. A knack for finding the ball. Just needs to improve defensively.
6. Carmelo Anthony- Might become the most picked apart player moving forward with LeBron finally winning. He is so good, but the clock is ticking on whether he’ll make others around him better long enough to win a title.
5. Chris Paul- He’s a fighter and a winner, and has no real holes in his game, and loves crunch time.
4. Dwight Howard- The best defensive player in the league, changes how offenses run against him, and is the best rebounder in the game. Also impacts the offensive end, just not as much as everyone would like.
3. Kobe Bryant- Showed he still have life left in his legs in almost capturing another scoring title. His basketball IQ might be the best there is.
2. LeBron James- Okay, I know. This isn’t any kind of a knock on James. He is an incredible defensive player and connects all the dots on offense with his game expanding. He isn’t my top choice simply because I want my #1 guy to be a killer in the forth quarter scoring the basketball and breaking the other team’s heart. He isn’t the best in that area, partly because of how he is wired, and partly because he just doesn’t shoot it well enough. As great as he was in the Finals, he shot 8/48 outside the paint. Probably the best all-around player in basketball, just not my choice as my top guy.
1. Kevin Durant- Three straight scoring titles. Scores inside, outside, and from the line. There isn’t a spot he can’t score. Rebounds, plays defense, and is a great teammate. He is the guy I want with the ball in his hands late in the game when it is on the line. He is worthy of this spot, just 23 years old and improving probably as I type this.