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.
Kobe or Wade… Wade or Kobe… You’ll need to scroll to find out which one finished the season at the top of the two-guard rankings, but I’m personally more excited about the fact that the terminally insane Tony Allen made the cut this month.
10. (9.) James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 76 GP, 26.7 MPG, 12.2 PPG, 2.1 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .438 FG%, .355 3P%, .847 FT%, 16.4 PER
No disrespect to Thabo Sefolosha, but it will be pretty hard to justify keeping Harden in his sixth man role beyond this season if his emergence in the second half of this season is legit — he’s scored in double figures in 22 of his past 23 games, and he scored eight points in 15 minutes in the other game. It goes to show that we should let young players like Harden get their NBA feet wet before we judge them.
9. (New entry) Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies — 2010-11 stats: 69 GP, 20.3 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 1.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .515 FG%, .190 3P%, .756 FT%, 19.0 PER
If you’re like most NBA fans and you don’t pay much attention to the Memphis Grizzlies, you might be wondering why a guy who has only averaged 20 minutes per game this season is on a list of the top 10 shooting guards in the league. Well, “Trick-or-Treat Tony” entered the Grizzlies’ starting lineup on February 22 and here are his averages in those 20 starts: 28.6 minutes, 14.1 points, 2.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 0.7 blocks and 55.8 percent shooting. On top of that, he might be the best perimeter defender in the game right now.
8. (7.) Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks — 2010-11 stats: 67 GP, 36.2 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.1 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .445 FG%, .302 3P%, .800 FT%, 16.7 PER
It’s between Joe Johnson and Gilbert Arenas for this season’s M.U.P. award — Most Untradeable Player. Joe’s obviously a much better player but he’s owed $107 million over the next five seasons while Gil will “only” make $62 million over the remaining three years of his contract. We all know that Johnson deal was a bad idea at the time but… yeesh.
7. (5.) Ray Allen, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 76 GP, 36.1 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 2.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .492 FG%, .452 3P%, .889 FT%, 16.7 PER
Hey, Doc Rivers! Maybe you could give your struggling offense a boost if you try to get a few more shots for one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Doc believes that Ray “isn’t feeling relaxed” but Allen responds, “I feel very relaxed. Do you guys think I look relaxed? I think right now, attempt-wise, I am not getting a lot.”
6. (New entry) Eric Gordon, Los Angeles Clippers — 2010-11 stats: 51 GP, 37.6 MPG, 22.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .455 FG%, .366 3P%, .822 FT%, 19.2 PER
Gordon claims he’s playing through a lot of pain in his right wrist and that would help explain why he’s only shot over 50 percent in one of his eight games since he returned to the Clippers’ lineup. Regardless, his teammates are happy he’s back — the Clippers have a 23-28 record when he’s played this season and a 7-19 record when he hasn’t.
5. (4.) Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors — 2010-11 stats: 77 GP, 40.4 MPG, 24.2 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.5 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .451 FG%, .358 3P%, .787 FT%, 18.7 PER
Monta Ellis has played 3,114 minutes this season — more than anyone else in the NBA — so it’s no surprise his scoring numbers have declined over the past month. Nevertheless, he continues to play his ass off even though the Warriors are going to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
4. (6.) Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets — 2010-11 stats: 75 GP, 32.2 MPG, 23.4 PPG, 2.5 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG, .438 FG%, .386 3P%, .894 FT%, 22.1 PER
The Houston Rockets won 42 games last season and missed the playoffs and they’re currently three games behind the eighth seed in the West, sitting at 41 wins with four games to go. So… you’re saying there’s a chance. Anyway, the Rockets have been on a nice run lately with eight wins in their last 10 games and Martin has averaged 27.2 points over that span.
3. (3.) Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 76 GP, 30.8 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .428 FG%, .346 3P%, .867 FT%, 21.5 PER
In his ninth NBA season at the tender age of 33, Ginobili has set career highs in minutes played and will set a new personal best in games played if he plays in at least two of the Spurs’ last five games. They’re only a game-and-a-half ahead of Chicago for home court advantage throughout the playoffs, so Ginobili will probably see the floor a couple more times before Coach Pop rests him for the post-season.
2. (1.) Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 76 GP, 33.9 MPG, 25.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, 5.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, .452 FG%, .317 3P%, .827 FT%, 23.9 PER
1. (2.) Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat — 2010-11 stats: 73 GP, 37,2 MPG, 25.7 PPG, 4.5 APG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG, .500 FG%, .312 3P%, .750 FT%, 25.6 PER
These two could easily switch spots in someone else’s rankings, but Wade’s had a slightly stronger finish to the season. Sure, the Heat’s embarrassing loss to the Cavs stands out in a bad way, but Miami has still won 11 of their last 13 games and Wade averaged 26.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.9 blocks in those games. That’s a guard averaging almost two blocks a game. In comparison, Kobe has 10 blocks all season. That may not count for much, but it’s something.