As the fate of the 2011-2012 season remains up in the air, thanks to the NBA lockout, Take No Prisoners would like to give you its list of the top NBA players to date.
1. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) – Two seasons ago, Kevin Durant, at 21, became the youngest scoring champion in NBA history. He led his Oklahoma City Thunder team into the playoffs, giving the defending champs Los Angeles Lakers all they can handle. A year later and another scoring title, Durant took his team to the Western Conference Finals. This season, provided there be one, the Thunder look to not only represent the West in the NBA Final, but win it all. Durant’s scoring ability is unmatched and at 6’9″, he can defend every position with the exception of center. There’s little doubt that KD will lead the league in scoring once again as his team will make a serious title run. Look for “Durantula” to impose his will on the rest of the league, adding “League MVP” to his resume!
2. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) – Not only is Kobe Bryant in the current top ten list, but he will go down as one of the top ten NBA players of all time. Critics will argue that Bryant’s game is diminishing yet he’s still putting up the numbers, despite of all the injuries he has endured. Bryant may not be the most athletic of the group but his obsessive desire to win and close out games separates him from the pack.
3. Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) – Dwight Howard by far is the best center in the league. Howard controls the paint like no other as he is always in the top five in rebounds and blocks shots. Did I mention defense? Howard aka “Superman” is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year for the third straight year. He has led his team to back to back Eastern Conference Finals in 2009 and 2010, with a NBA Finals appearance in 2009. Is there any reason not to believe that Howard will get the Defensive MVP in 2012? The only thing stopping him from so is a full season lockout.
4. Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat) – Dwayne Wade has the talent, skill level, athleticism and hunger to carry a team. As we saw last season, the Miami Heat is Wade’s team and rightfully so. Not only can Wade deliver in the regular season but his game elevates come playoff time. As long as Wade remains relatively healthy, he will continue to thrive as a player with the ability to make big shots during crucial moments in games.
5. LeBron James (Miami Heat) – LeBron James is arguably the most physically gifted player in NBA history. Pound for Pound, James speed, power and explosiveness is on another level. His perimeter shooting has no range. At 6′ 8″ and 260 plus pounds, James is virtually unstoppable when he drives to the basket. His court vision is incredible as he’s usually among the league leaders in assists. This is a nightmare matchup for opposing teams preparing for him. With back to back league MVP’s under his belt, James will continue be spectacular. So why isn’t this physical freak of nature ranked number one? It’s simple…HEART! James’ lack of that killer instinct is preventing him from being the best thing since Michael Jordan. He hasn’t proven himself as a winner when it really counts. Don’t get me wrong, James has had a great career and will continue to produce the stats. However, the only stat that we are waiting for is the one that has “champion” written next to his name!
6. Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks) – Wow….What a year this guy had! Not only did Dirk Nowitzki lead his team to a championship but he beat Kobe, Durant, Wade and James in the process…..and without any other superstars on his team to help him out. Nowitzki’s shot is unstoppable. His inside game is highly underrated. What he did to Chris Bosh and LeBron James in the paint during the 2011 NBA Finals was Hakeem Olajuwon-like. Dirk has the talent to duplicate what he did last season and if he does we can pencil him into the top three of next year’s rankings.
7. Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) – Athletically, Rose is a 6′ 3″ version of LeBron James. When he goes to the hole, he’s extremely hard to stop. The reigning NBA MVP is growing into a skillful point guard and his all around game has improved dramatically since the Bulls drafted him in 2008. The sky’s the limit for this young man.
8. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) – Carmelo Anthony is one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. He has one of the smoothest games we’ve seen in years. Now a member of the New York Knicks, Anthony will look to make the Knicks competitive and ultimately give them an opportunity for another title in New York.
9. Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets) – Chris Paul is one the most electrifying point guards in the NBA. He has the ability to see everything on the court and is a master at making the right decisions in distributing the ball. He is the prototypical floor general. After battling with numerous injuries, CP3 has come back and proved to be just as lethal as ever.
10. Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics) – When the discussion of the top players in the league takes place, Rajon Rondo is often overlooked. In Boston, there’s a “Big Three” with Allen, Peirce and Garnett, but the heart of the team is Rondo. There’s nothing that he can’t do on the floor. He’s consistently in the top five in assists and steals. He also is one of the best rebounding point guards in the game. His gutsy performance in last season’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals after suffering a dislocated elbow, is a testament of his warrior-like mentality.
Honorable Mentions: Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Amare Stoudemire, Paul Peirce
By Keith Madyun