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.
A whopping three new entries this month, while Richard Jefferson, Gerald Wallace and Andre Iguodala drop off from last month. Controversy: I court it!
10. (New entry) Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns — 2010-11 stats: 32 GP, 30.5 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 2.5 APG, 4.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .524 FG%, .300 3P%, .829 FT%, 18.2 PER
It’s definitely remarkable that Grant Hill can play at this level at the age of 38, but it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s “only” played 31,527 minutes over his career. Dirk Nowitzki has played in 3,000 more minutes in his career and he’s just 32 years old. Anyway, Grant thinks he has another couple of seasons in him: “I’d like to be playing when I’m 40.”
9. (New entry) Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 39.0 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 2.1 APG, 5.9 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .457 FG%, .375 3P%, .696 FT%, 14.9 PER
The Chicago Bulls are one of the top defensive teams in the league right now and Deng is a major reason for that. None of his individual numbers stand out, but he’s a solid all-around player and probably a top-five defender at his position.
8. (6.) Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers — 2010-11 stats: 31 GP, 36.7 MPG, 21.1 PPG, 2.5 APG, 5.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .416 FG%, .359 3P%, .842 FT%, 16.7 PER
Granger is dropping down these rankings because he’s just not shooting the ball particularly well this season. It’s becoming increasingly evident that he’s simply not cut out to be a first offensive option on a good team.
7. (New entry) Michael Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 34.2 MPG, 21.8 PPG, 1.8 APG, 6.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .476 FG%, .435 3P%, .745 FT%, 17.4 PER
There are a lot of NBA general managers with egg on their faces right now — Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is cleaning off a whole damn omelette. To refresh your memory, Colangelo passed on the opportunity to acquire Beasley in the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade, allowing Timberwolves GM David Kahn to swoop in and snag Beasley for a couple of second round picks. Considering the ridiculous efficiency of his scoring and the fact that he’s only playing 34 minutes per game right now, we’re probably looking at a future 25 PPG player here — a player that apparently nobody wanted because of “off-court issues”.
6. (5.) Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 40.2 MPG, 21.1 PPG, 2.7 APG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .484 FG%, .423 3P%, .839 FT%, 19.3 PER
Gay’s field goal percentage is the best of his career even though his percentage of field goal attempts taken at the rim (22.8 percent) is the lowest of his five NBA seasons. Credit a massively improved jumper for that, as exemplified by his impressive success rate from beyond the arc.
5. (7.) Wilson Chandler, New York Knicks — 2010-11 stats: 34 GP, 34.7 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 1.8 APG, 6.5 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.5 BPG, .489 FG%, .386 3P%, .823 FT%, 18.5 PER
This is higher than a lot of non-Knicks fans would put him on this list, but his scorching of the Spurs for 31 points, nine rebounds and four assists last night made a believer out of me. For all the egregious errors Isiah Thomas made as GM of the Knicks, taking Chandler with the 23rd overall pick was his last great move.
4. (4.) Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 33 GP, 35.6 MPG, 19.0 PPG, 3.7 APG, 5.3 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .503 FG%, .391 3P%, .870 FT%, 19.9 PER
Why is Pierce playing some of the best all-around basketball of his career in his 13th season? He’s reportedly in the best physical shape of his life, and that includes his previously balky knees. On Monday night in Boston, Pierce played in his 917th game as a Celtic to tie Bob Cousy for fifth all-time.
3. (3.) Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets — 2010-11 stats: 26 GP, 35.2 MPG, 24.0 PPG, 3.2 APG, 8.5 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .432 FG%, .273 3P%, .820 FT%, 20.9 PER
After reportedly reiterating his unwillingness to re-sign with Denver after this season, it would seem the Nuggets have about a month-and-a-half (before the Feb. 24th trade deadline) to get some assets in return for a top-three player at his position. Meanwhile, Anthony has maintained his value by continuing to play hard and at a superstar level — he’s averaged 28.3 points and 10.2 rebounds over his past six games.
2. (2.) Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 32 GP, 38.9 MPG, 27.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 6.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG, .462 FG%, .327 3P%, .880 FT%, 23.6 PER
Good news, everyone! KD is making his three-pointers again — after hitting them at just a 26.6 percent rate through the end of November, he’s made 39.2 percent of those shots since then. Considered in tandem with his league-leading scoring average, it appears he’s not going to give up his status as the NBA’s best offensive player anytime soon.
1. (1.) LeBron James, Miami Heat — 2010-11 stats: 37 GP, 37.4 MPG, 24.8 PPG, 7.3 APG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .481 FG%, .358 3P%, .773 FT%, 26.0 PER
That face LeBron’s making at the top of this post? That’s for all the Heat-haters. If you want to hate on LeBron for anything right now, judge him for his lame “Heatles” nickname. You, sir, are not bigger than Jesus.