Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade

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.

What happened to all the great two-guards in this league? There is a huge dropoff after the top three on this list. By the time I got to the bottom of the list, I was almost shrugging and saying, “I guess he could go there.” It’s really a shockingly mediocre group right now.

10. (8.) Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 32.1 MPG, 15.4 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .437 FG%, .350 3P%, .843 FT%, 15.9 PER

I’ve noticed that Jason Terry has become prone to awful shooting nights against elite teams. He went 3-for-15 against the Bulls on Nov. 19, 3-for-12 against the Heat on Nov. 27, and 3-for-16 against the Spurs on Dec. 30. I guess he’s always been a pretty streaky shooter, but you’d like him to get hot against good teams more often, right?

9. (4.) Jason Richardson, Orlando Magic — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 32.2 MPG, 17.7 PPG, 1.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .465 FG%, .410 3P%, .765 FT%, 17.8 PER

He’s been in a bit of a shooting slump with his new team and he’s attempting around four fewer field goals per game in Orlando than he was in Phoenix. If he can return to making 40 percent of his treys, he’ll contribute exactly what Magic GM Otis Smith was hoping for.

8. (New entry) Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks — 2010-11 stats: 27 GP, 36.4 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.1 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .399 FG%, .266 3P%, .803 FT%, 16.2 PER

It’s admirable that he returned early from elbow surgery to try to help his team, but Joe Johnson still has trouble straightening out his shooting arm and that’s doing some serious damage to his accuracy. When he regains a full, fluid range of motion in his shooting form, he’ll almost certainly shoot up this list.

7. (New entry) Ray Allen, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 36.6 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .489 FG%, .436 3P%, .886 FT%, 16.9 PER

In his last 13 games, Ray Allen is shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from three-point range. Yes, the old boy’s laser sighting is still pretty well-calibrated. Also, he’s just 48 three-pointers behind Reggie Miller’s career record of 2,560 triples. Not bad, Shuttlesworth.

6. (9.) Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 31.0 MPG, 22.6 PPG, 2.3 APG, 3.1 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .440 FG%, .417 3P%, .896 FT%, 21.7 PER

He’s well on his way to his fifth straight season averaging at least 20 points per game and he’ll probably get overlooked for the All-Star Game once again. He also continues to get overlooked in most discussions about the best pure scorers in the league — which ain’t right since he’s easily in the Top 10.

Manu Ginobili
5. (6.) Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers — 2010-11 stats: 32 GP, 37.6 MPG, 23.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .454 FG%, .317 3P%, .804 FT%, 20.3 PER

You wouldn’t know it from their 10-24 record, but Clippers fans finally have a decent future ahead of them thanks in no small part to the blossoming of Eric Gordon into a top-five shooting guard. He’s shown improvement across the board this season as a scorer, playmaker and perimeter defender.

4. (5.) Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 40.8 MPG, 25.3 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .473 FG%, .384 3P%, .741 FT%, 19.8 PER

Monta may be putting up good numbers on a bad team, but you can’t accuse him of only scoring effectively against inferior defenders. From warriorsworld.net, here are his compiled numbers when he’s been guarded by Shane Battier, Nicolas Batum, Thabo Sefolosha, LeBron James, Ron Artest/Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill or Stephen Jackson this season: 31.8 points per game on 55.4 percent shooting.

3. (3.) Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 32.9 MPG, 25.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .447 FG%, .315 3P%, .835 FT%, 24.0 PER

“What’s wrong with Kobe?” Well, his fingers hurt and he’s not as explosive as he used to be. Any more questions? It’s a long season and Kobe’s been through this kind of struggle a few times before. Lakers fans might be worried, but I’m pretty sure Kobe isn’t.

2. (1.) Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 31.5 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .441 FG%, .372 3P%, .862 FT%, 22.9 PER

How many NBA players average a career high in minutes per game when they’re 33 years old? I’ll never fully understand why Coach Popovich used him as a sixth man for so much of his career when he’s consistently been a top-five player at his position. Then again, I’m going to look pretty stupid if I seriously imply that Pop didn’t know what he was doing at any point of his coaching career.

1. (2.) Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 36.1 MPG, 24.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, 6.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .494 FG%, .309 3P%, .736 FT%, 25.9 PER

There was a point earlier in the season where I was discussing the Heat’s troubles with some of my fellow hoops fans @TheScore and I proposed that if Miami was going to trade one of their three stars at some point, it made sense to trade Wade because of his age, injury history and the fact that he didn’t seem to mesh well with LeBron. Allow me to now point out what a terrible idea that was.