5 Derrick Rose, 21.8 ppg/ 3.4 rpg/ 7.9 apg
Is there any player who’s more of a question mark than the supremely gifted D-Rose? First of all, if he can stay healthy, Rose will continue to carve his way through opposing defenses with the skill and brilliance of a ninja assassin. But that’s a huge “if”… The reckless abandon that makes Rose’s game so unbelievable (and so effective) also puts him at high risk of aggravating his nagging ankle and knee injuries. Also, the Bulls have scaled back their payroll, sending the message that they’ll save their money until Derrick is back at full strength. While this shows dedication to a franchise player, the end result might be teams overloading on D-Rose. Of course, that’s been tried in the past. Rose usually gets off a ridiculous shot — and makes it! We can’t wait to see what happens…
4 Deron Williams, 21 ppg/ 3.3 rpg/ 8.7 apg
OK, so we’ve seen D-Will fizzle a little bit when defenses overload on him, like they did on that joke of a New Jersey team last year. But we’ve also seen what he can do on a really solid squad (like the ’07 Jazz that he lead to the Western Conference Finals), and this is Brooklyn. This is brand new. This is $300 million in future contracts. This is also Williams’ chance to play with his best supporting cast ever while he grows into the prime of his career. Deron will bully smaller point guards, harass opposing dribblers, dish, slash, and splash the threes with as much tenacity and force as ever. But now, it might just take him to the top of the heap.
3 Kobe Bryant, 27.9 ppg/ 5.4 rpg/ 4.6 apg
Ok, second in the league in scoring, all-defensive team, and all-NBA first team… So, how do people ever count out the Mamba? Yes, Kobe’s older, but he’s been older for the past four seasons. His physical conditioning and exercise regiment are second to none, not to mention his B-Ball IQ and laser-like focus. And now that Kobe’s playing with a true point guard (for the first time ever) and the most dominant center in the game (again), he only stands to hoist more banners up on the Staples Center rafters and fill his trophy case with more glittering hardware. As always, look for Kobe to be a go-to scorer, a defensive stopper, and the beating purple-and-gold heart of a resurgent Lakers roster.
2 Kevin Durant, 28 ppg/ 8 rpg/ 3.5 apg
Over the course of last season, KD became a sort of unintentional foil to Lebron — the two best small forwards in the league, both with mad skillz, two completely different plans of attack, that finally met up in the finals this June. In many ways, this makes sense: Durant, like James, was the hope of his franchise since he was drafted and took on that auspicious onus. Under that pressure, the Darantula has blossomed into the most unstoppable offensive force in the league. My god, this man has a beautiful stroke! But he also started talking more and more about defense last year. If he can play passing lanes and lock down opposing players with that 7’3 wingspan, he’ll officially be neck and neck with James.
1 LeBron James, 27.1 ppg/ 7.9 rpg/ 6.2 apg
Yeah, no surprises up front. Lebron had quite a season, but incase you were in a coma: regular season and finals MVP, NBA champion, Gold Medalist, and 3rd in scoring. About the only thing James can’t do, is shake his detractors — he probably also leads the league in ill-will-generated. But the real reason is that people hate greatness. As Wilt the Stilt once put it, “Nobody roots for Goliath.” Unless you’re a Miami native, the idea of facing someone with the best attributes of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan is downright repugnant. With LBJ and his considerable talent, the biggest challenge has always been a mental one. Having finally broken through, Bron-Bron doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Well, if that doesn’t whet your appetite for a fresh season of carnival shots and alley-oops, then nothing will. That shortened season left a bad taste in our mouth; we’re ready to wash it out with the sweet vintage moments that these players deliver on a regular basis. But, hey, don’t hate the player; hate the game. This list only has room for the five best RIGHT NOW. So, here’s the assist: if you think we’ve missed a ballaholic, whose hoop dominance is too magnificent to deny, take a shot. If your aim and your follow-through are up to snuff, you just might make the cut. But first, let’s put up some other serious considerations. These hoopsters came so close to being top string that they shouldn’t be ignored.
Carmelo Anthony — The Knicks brought in three defensive minded centers. Look for ‘Melo to run out on their rebounds.
Dwight Howard — Yes, the best center in the league. I only left him off the list so I wouldn’t be accused of being a homer. Hope he has a speedy recovery.
Rajon Rondo — One of the few players EVER who can single-handedly win a game with out scoring a point.
Chris Paul — The Clippers upped their guard rotation this off season, and CP3’s assists look to go up with Jamal, Grant, and a healthy Chauncey to splash it out on the wings.
Kevin Love — Homeboy shoots threes like Miller and rebounds like Barkley. What else do you need?