On the first full week of each month this season, I’m going to rank the top 10 NBA players at each position based on how I expect them to perform in the coming month. If a player is injured and is expected to miss most of the month, then they probably won’t make the list regardless of his value when healthy. I’ll rank the point guards on Monday, the shooting guards on Tuesday … you get the picture. Your feedback is welcome, even if you want to tell me how incredibly, irredeemably clueless I am.
There are two new entries in this month’s two-guard list, while Joe Johnson is out with elbow surgery and poor Brandon Roy is a shell of his former self and the Blazers are considering bringing him off the bench in the second half of games.
10. (Last month: 4.) Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings — 2010-11 stats: 18 GP, 36.6 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .399 FG%, .283 3P%, .750 FT%, 14.1 PER
The Sacramento Kings have a real dilemma on their hands with Tyreke Evans. He doesn’t distribute the ball well enough to play point guard full-time, but he’s stagnant on offense if he doesn’t bring up the ball himself. While the Kings figure out his true position (if he has one), Evans has to figure out what the hell is wrong with his shot — he’s only shot better than 50 percent from the field in four of his 18 games this season.
9. (10.) Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 32.6 MPG, 22.5 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.9 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .436 FG%, .419 3P%, .915 FT%, 20.3 PER
I doubt it’s what Rockets GM Daryl Morey had in mind when he traded for Kevin Martin last season, but most of the team seems to be following his example — they can score in bunches but so can their opponents. Martin’s defense does seem to have improved somewhat lately, however. He’s at least attempting to fight through screens and get his hands up in shooters’ faces, and he held Kobe Bryant to 27 points on 24 field goal attempts in the Rockets’ 109-99 win over the Lakers last Wednesday.
8. (New entry) Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 32.5 MPG, 16.0 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .458 FG%, .360 3P%, .873 FT%, 18.0 PER
He turns 34 in a few months, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he continues to ball. The Mavericks rely heavily on his scoring punch off the bench because when Dirk Nowitzki sits, their other options are the declining versions of Caron Butler, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd. Now that Jamal Crawford has fallen off somewhat, Terry is primed to reclaim the Sixth Man of the Year Award he won in 2009.
7. (8.) Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats — 2010-11 stats: 19 GP, 36.2 MPG, 18.4 PPG, 4.1 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .431 FG%, .414 3P%, .912 FT%, 16.6 PER
Workmanlike numbers on a lousy team, that’s what Stephen Jackson continues to provide for Charlotte. This isn’t his fault, but when he’s the top scorer on your team, it’s a safe bet your offense isn’t very potent.
6. (New entry) Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 37.6 MPG, 24.3 PPG, 4.5 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .453 FG%, .255 3P%, .805 FT%, 21.4 PER
Blake Griffin gets all the pub, but Eric Gordon has delivered some pretty spectacular facials himself this season. He shoots too many treys (4.9 per game) for a player who doesn’t shoot them particularly well, but I expect he’ll make a few All-Star appearances in his career if he ever gets to play for a half-decent team.
5. (7.) Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 39.5 MPG, 25.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .486 FG%, .350 3P%, .719 FT%, 20.7 PER
Ellis is still filling the nets at a high volume and decent efficiency, but he continues to have problems defending bigger guards and he gambles far too much in passing lanes. It looks good in the boxscore with all the steals he racks up, but you could see the flipside when Manu Ginobili scored 27 points on just 13 field goal attempts last Tuesday.
4. (9.) Jason Richardson, Phoenix Suns — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 33.0 MPG, 21.2 PPG, 1.5 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .497 FG%, .484 3P%, .768 FT%, 21.7 PER
It’s partially an indictment of how many of the league’s top two-guards have either fallen off or suffered injuries, but J-Rich is legitimately having a career season about a month shy of his 30th birthday. You can point to him and Steve Nash as the main reasons Phoenix is in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
3. (2.) Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 33.1 MPG, 26.5 PPG, 4.6 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .431 FG%, .310 3P%, .861 FT%, 24.8 PER
Sorry, Lakers fans. But with four losses in their last five games while Kobe’s field goal percentage is at its lowest since his sophomore season in 1997-98, this is where he ranks at this particular moment. Then there’s this statistical tidbit from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein: “L.A. is 8-0 when Kobe takes fewer than 20 shots, 4-3 when it’s 20-24 and 2-3 when it’s 25 or more.”
2. (1.) Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat – 2010-11 stats: 21 GP, 35.1 MPG, 21.7 PPG, 4.2 APG, 6.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .470 FG%, .240 3P%, .711 FT%, 22.0 PER
What’s wrong with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat? Apparently not much these days, judging by how the naysayers have grown quiet lately. The Heat have won six of their last seven and Wade averaged 22.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists over those games.
1. (4.) Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 20 GP, 32.6 MPG, 20.6 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .458 FG%, .382 3P%, .908 FT%, 24.8 PER
Bow down before the almighty Poo God! He’s the best player on the team with the best record in the NBA, averaging career-highs in points, assists and steals. This will most likely be the only month in his career that he’ll top these rankings (I look forward to apoplectic responses from Wade and Kobe fans in the comments) but he’s earned this spot with his tremendous all-around play 20 games into the season. I beg of you: Don’t hate, appreciate.