With the NBA season sprinting towards the finish line and David Stern’s mandate to get LeBron James a title nearly complete, this is a perfect time to introduce my 45 most valuable players in the NBA today. Why 45? Well, I was watching highlights and games from Michael Jordan’s comeback season in ’95 and forgot how solid MJ looked in that number. And no, watching Jordan drop the Knicks off for a double nickel in his 5th game back never gets old.
What this isn’t, is a list of the best players in the league. It will look like that, but it’s a list of the most valuable. How good of a teammate is the guy? What’s his contract like going forward? Is he a team killing cancer (Carlos Boozer & his remaining $47.1 million wouldn’t make the list if I ranked 245 players)? How coachable is he? Does he play a specific role and would he be willing to come off the bench and sacrifice minutes for the sake of winning (Amare Stoudemire wouldn’t make this list for ego and his abysmal contract of $65 million over 3 years)? I’m also taking commitment into account. Is your franchise player willing to stay with his team long term, or does he always have one foot out the door so he can help build his brand. Yes, I’m looking at you, Dwight.
Age and injury history play a role in the list as well. For instance, would you rather have a 30 year old Dwyane Wade who can only sparingly play at his MVP like ’06 level making $77.1 million over the next 4 years (he has an opt-out in ’14, but that’s a ton of money to walk away from), or a healthy 23 year old Russell Westbrook making $80 million over the next 5 years? You’re taking Westbrook, right? Okay good, just making sure.
There will be some notables left off because of where they project going forward. Would you rather have Taj Gibson or Kevin Garnett for the next 3-5 years? Would you rather have Paul Pierce/Manu Ginobili or Ty Lawson/Kyle Lowry? These rankings reflect where the players are going, not where they’ve been. If you’re an ascending talent, chances are you made it. If you’re decrepit and your ligaments are vanishing, you might get mentioned, but it’s mainly out of respect & how you played this season.
And most of all, this is a list of players that you’d be ecstatic to have on your team. If they’re a superstar diva, you live with it because of their insane talent. If they are a role player with specific skills, you know exactly what you’re getting night in and night out. So here it is, the top 45 players in today’s NBA.
45. JaVale McGee
44. Andre Iguodala
43. Ersan Ilyasova/Nicolas Batum- Both are skilled and flash great potential, but both will be drastically overpaid this summer.
42. Anthony Davis- I know, he’s not yet in the league, but screw that. He will instantly add 10 wins to the Hornets & make them relevant. You can also expect to see him jump 20 spots on this list a year from now.
41. Monta Ellis/Jrue Holiday/Stephen Curry- All 3 are exciting to watch, but none of them can be your best guard on a title team.
40. Luol Deng/Paul Pierce- Again, which would you rather have for the next two years? You have to pick Deng.
39. Tyreke Evans/Brandon Jennings- Both are talented, but neither will prosper until they’re in a different uniform.
38. Derrick Favors/Kenneth Faried- One could be a star, and one is the ideal 6th man.
37. Taj Gibson
36. Tim Duncan/Steve Nash- Still really old, but still very effective.
35. Roy Hibbert
34. Eric Gordon
33. Tyson Chandler
32. Joakim Noah
31. Al Horford/DeMarcus Cousins- As mercurial as Cousins is, some GM is frothing at the mouth at the thought of acquire him.
30. Zach Randolph
29. Pau Gasol
28. John Wall– This is high for the uninspiring Wall, but it’d be nice to see him play with teammates who actually try and a coach with a clue.
27. Paul George
26. Derrick Williams
25. Danilo Gallinari
24. Ty Lawson
23. Kyle Lowry
22. Ricky Rubio
21. Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili- The presence of OKC will ensure these two will never again see the finals.
20. Andrew Bynum
19. Chris Bosh/Kevin Garnett- If this is ’04-’08, it’s no contest.
18. Rajon Rondo
17. Serge Ibaka- I hope Scott Brooks checks this list out before he loses his team the Finals. It is unconscionable that Kendrick Perkins is playing more crunch time minutes than Ibaka vs the Heat.
16. Dirk Nowitzki/Carmelo Anthony- At what point does ‘Melo get the New York criticism for not getting out of the 1st round?
15. Kyrie Irving
14. Marc Gasol
13. LaMarcus Aldridge
12. Kobe Bryant
11. Deron Williams
10. Dwyane Wade
9. James Harden
8. Blake Griffin
7. Chris Paul
6. Kevin Love
5. Dwight Howard
4. Russell Westbrook
3. Derrick Rose- The ACL tear could have dropped him a few notches, but if anyone will attack a rehab and get close to pre injury form, it’s D Rose. He’ll have to change his game some, but that could actually make him a better player. The biggest question, of course, is will the Bulls ever get him another star to run with that he so desperately needs?
2. LeBron James- You can’t ignore what James is doing in the playoffs. He is fresh off a 29 & 14 Shaq like outing in the Heat’s game 3 win vs the Thunder. His constant bitching to officials is a tired act, but James is dominating like Wilt once did. And complaining aside, James is definitely carrying himself like a true star instead of the petulant act that had become part of his repertoire.
1. Kevin Durant- Even though the league, ESPN & most of the media bows to LeBron like they owe him something, KD is my top player and who I would start a franchise with. His humility, competitiveness, athleticism, ability to score in his sleep & all ball mentality make him #1. He’s only 23, and has the kind of elastic body that will ensure he plays at an extremely high level for the next decade plus. Whether he gets a ring in these Finals or not, the league is going to belong to the Durantula for as long as he sees fit. He refuses to lower himself and bitch to the refs for 48 minutes, doesn’t flop like he got shot in the knee & can’t stomach the fake tough ass clowns that pollute the league he plays in. He is a scoring assassin that is one of the few guys in sports that’s easy to root for. In a league driven by stars, KD is it’s top franchise player.