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.
Two new entries lead off the first positional power rankings of the year, while Stephen Curry and John Wall get temporarily dropped due to their recurring injury problems and the fact that their individual numbers are overshadowed by the awfulness of their teams.
10. (New entry) Andre Miller, Portland Trail Blazers — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 32.7 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 7.5 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .447 FG%, .053 3P%, .858 FT%, 18.9 PER
Sure, he never really developed a solid J but he never misses a game, he makes up for his lack of athleticism with his craftiness, and opposing point guards usually finish below their season averages when they face him. Now that Greg Oden and Brandon Roy are out for the season, Miller is arguably the second-best player on the Blazers and they’ve won six of their last eight games.
9. (New entry) Chauncey Billups, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 27 GP, 33.3 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .412 FG%, .423 3P%, .908 FT%, 17.7 PER
He’s baaaack! Maybe he sensed that Ty Lawson was gunning for his job, but whatever the reason he’s been playing out of his mind lately. In his last six games, Billups has averaged 25 points while shooting 59 percent from the field. Yeah… I might have written him off a little bit too soon.
8. (Last month: 9.) Raymond Felton, New York Knicks — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 39.0 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 8.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .444 FG%, .345 3P%, .860 FT%, 18.2 PER
Now-deposed Bobcats coach Larry Brown is probably wondering where this Raymond Felton was when he played in Charlotte. Guess you should have loosened up the reins a little bit, eh, Brownie?
7. (6.) Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns — 2010-11 stats: 30 GP, 32.5 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 10.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .530 FG%, .392 3P%, .899 FT%, 24.1 PER
Is there anybody who doesn’t feel bad for Steve Nash right now? I don’t think most Suns fans would even be mad at him if he asked for a trade — which I can pretty much guarantee he’ll never do. You can make the case that he should be a little higher on this list since his numbers are about as good as they’ve ever been, including in comparison to his two MVP seasons.
6. (7.) Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 33.2 MPG, 17.7 PPG, 7.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .518 FG%, .320 3P%, .738 FT%, 21.1 PER
So much for the divorce affecting his game. Regardless, he’s thriving under Coach Pop’s new loosey-goosey offense and he’s also playing better defense than I think I’ve seen from him in his 10 NBA seasons.
5. (4.) Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 21 GP, 38.3 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 13.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .531 FG%, .294 3P%, .410 FT%, 19.0 PER
In spite of the obvious holes in his game, there’s no question the Celtics are much better off with him on the court. They had lost three of their previous four games before he returned to right the ship on Sunday against the Raptors.
4. (3.) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 35 GP, 35.5 MPG, 21.9 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.9 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .434 FG%, .263 3P%, .872 FT%, 23.4 PER
His numbers are down now that Kevin Durant is back asserting himself as the offensive leader of the Thunder, but his triple-double against the Hawks on Friday showed that he’s far from fading away. It shows you how strong the point guard crop is in this league right now that he can have stats like these and not crack the top three at his position.
3. (5.) Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls — 2010-11 stats: 31 GP, 38.1 MPG, 24.0 PPG, 8.6 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .450 FG%, .388 3P%, .776 FT%, 22.3 PER
The Bulls have won 13 of their last 15 games with Rose leading the way and it now seems silly to think that they needed Carmelo Anthony to be contenders. Rose is now much more than an athletic freak — he can beat you from afar or by setting up his teammates. On top of that, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has motivated Rose to finally exert some effort on D.
2. (2.) Deron Williams, Utah Jazz — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 37.9 MPG, 22.2 PPG, 9.3 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .471 FG%, .369 3P%, .844 FT%, 23.7 PER
I honestly feel like I can’t definitively state who is better between Deron Williams and Chris Paul anymore. They have different playing styles on very different teams, but what really matters is that neither fanbase wants to swap their guy for the other one. I can’t be mad at anyone who thinks D-Will should be on top.
1. (1.) Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 34.9 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 9.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 3.0 SPG, 0.0 BPG, .497 FG%, .447 3P%, .910 FT%, 27.1 PER
The Hornets are not quite ready to fade out of the Western Conference playoff picture and we can thank Chris Paul for that. If he can maintain his three-thefts-per-game average to the end of the season, he’ll be the first player since Alvin Robertson in 1990-91 to do so. Aside from his amazing ball-hawking, there is nobody in the league who will punish you more when you go under on a screen.