Dikembe Mutombo

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 kind of joke do you think Pau Gasol is telling Dirk Nowitzki in the photo above? Judging by the look on Dirk’s face, I bet it’s a dirty one.

10. (Last month: 10.) Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs — 2010-11 stats: 74 GP, 28.4 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 2.7 APG, 9.0 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 1.9 BPG, .501 FG%, .000 3P%, .722 FT%, 21.9 PER

Several other players could have landed in this spot (and I expect I’ll hear about them in the comments) but Timmy gets the nod for helping to lead the Spurs to a 60-win season. Question: If he wins his fifth championship ring this season, shouldn’t he enter the discussion along with Kobe for the greatest player of our generation?

9. (New entry) Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder — 2010-11 stats: 78 GP, 27.0 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 0.3 APG, 7.6 RPG, 0.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG, .546 FG%, .000 3P%, .741 FT%, 17.7 PER

Since the beginning of March, he’s averaged 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks on 52 percent shooting. The Thunder’s frontcourt of Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka is as defensively imposing as any in the NBA now that Perkins has defected from Boston. In continuation of Dikembe Mutombo’s standard of having an awesome full name if you’re from the Republic of the Congo, Ibaka’s full name is Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka. Leading the league in blocks likely looms for him next season.

8. (9.) Chris Bosh, Miami Heat — 2010-11 stats: 74 GP, 36.4 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 1.9 APG, 8.3 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .491 FG%, .240 3P%, .815 FT%, 19.3 PER

This will be the first season Bosh doesn’t average at least a block per game and his rebounding and free throw attempts per game averages hasn’t been this low since his rookie season as a 19-year-old in 2003-04. We all know he’s not cut out to be a tough guy on the court, but he’s going to have to be a lot less soft in the playoffs if the Heat are going to silence all their haters.

7. (7.) Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies — 2010-11 stats: 73 GP, 36.4 MPG, 20.0 PPG, 2.1 APG, 12.2 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, .502 FG%, .190 3P%, .759 FT%, 22.4 PER

It’s likely the fact that he’s in a contract year has a lot to do with it, but Randolph’s standard 20 and 10 average has been complemented by a new dedication to defensive effort this season. He still isn’t a good defender, but he hasn’t been a huge liability at that end of the floor.

6. (6.) Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves — 2010-11 stats: 73 GP, 35.8 MPG, 20.2 PPG, 2.5 APG, 15.2 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG, .470 FG%, .417 3P%, .850 FT%, 24.4 PER

Should the voters for the Most Improved Player Award take the Timberwolves’ horrid record into account when considering Kevin Love’s season? According to Basketball-Reference.com, he’s seventh in the league with 11.6 Win Shares this season — Luke Ridnour is second on the Timberwolves with 4.0 Win Shares. It’s possible and perhaps even likely that the T-Wolves would have been historically bad without Love’s contributions.

Serge Ibaka
5. (5.) Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers — 2010-11 stats: 79 GP, 37.9 MPG, 22.5 PPG, 3.7 APG, 12.2 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .505 FG%, .304 3P%, .645 FT%, 21.9 PER

From the Dubious Records department: Blake Griffin broke Elton Brand’s Clippers record for most double-doubles in a season (55) against the Raptors on March 26 and now has 61 double-doubles with three games to go. I’m just as impressed by Griffin’s passing, since the last player to average at least 12.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a season was Kevin Garnett in 2006-07.

4. (3.) LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers — 2010-11 stats: 78 GP, 39.7 MPG, 21.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.2 BPG, .500 FG%, .174 3P%, .788 FT%, 21.5 PER

Is Aldridge starting to get gassed as the season wears on? He’s only reached double-digits in rebounds in two of his last 10 games and he doesn’t seem to be demanding the ball in the post as much as he was earlier in the season.

3. (4.) Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics — 2010-11 stats: 68 GP, 31.2 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 2.4 APG, 8.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG, .527 FG%, .000 3P%, .864 FT%, 20.6 PER

I don’t pay very much attention to which shoe company affiliations various players have, so I just found out today that Garnett broke up with Adidas in August to sign with Chinese sportswear company Anta. Why am I bringing this up? Because he has a blog on their website! On his most recent post, he wrote, “We have to treat each game like it’s the most important or teams are going to kick the crap out of us.” Yep, that sounds like KG — except I expected a lot more “motherfuckers”.

2. (1.) Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks — 2010-11 stats: 69 GP, 34.3 MPG, 23.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 7.0 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .518 FG%, .396 3P%, .890 FT%, 23.4 PER

Dirk falls out of the top spot for the first time this season as the Mavericks stumble towards the post-season on a four-game losing streak. Regardless, I will never get bored of watching him drain those gorgeous turnaround jumpers from 18 feet out that remain as impossible to defend as ever.

1. (2.) Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers — 2010-11 stats: 78 GP, 37.0 MPG, 18.9 PPG, 3.3 APG, 10.1 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 1.6 BPG, .530 FG%, .333 3P%, .821 FT%, 23.4 PER

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who isn’t a Lakers fan and thinks it’s absurd that guys like Kendrick Perkins and Amare Stoudemire keep calling Pau Gasol “soft”. The guy averages 10 rebounds and a block-and-a-half a game — if that’s anyone’s definition of softness, how should we describe Amare and his 8.2 rebounds per game? Oh, right, Amare dunks harder and that’s what really matters.

Comments (48)

  1. Glad to know that Paul Millsap doesn’t exist in the world of Scott, or the NBA this season apparently. His 17.4 ppg (53.1 fg%, ability to get to the FT line 4.5 times a game as a 6’8 PF), 7.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg, and 0.9 bpg are meaningless. He doesn’t block shots like Ibaka though, so there’s that.

  2. wow. nice hair pau.

  3. I agree…Serge Ibaka is a great player, but is by no means better than Paul Millsap. He does a little of it all, has become a better perimeter shooter, plays through injuries, gets to the line, battles defensively, and has been rock solid consistent. Need to show him some respect.

  4. I don’t really agree with Bosh there. Boozer is not having his best season but still a better season than Chris and Chicago is paying him less

  5. Millsap is obviously a better scorer than Ibaka, but Serge has an overall greater impact on team success. You might not have noticed, but the Jazz have lost 19 of their last 25 games.

  6. Isn’t Duncan already in the conversation for greatest player of our generation? If he’s not in yours, perhaps you should reconsider your chosen career.

  7. The hate on Bosh is ridiculous. He started the season weak but has bounced back very well. 18 and 8 being the 3rd option on a team with arguably two of the best players in the game? C’mon! He’s doing fine.

    All of this coming from a Raptors fan.

  8. Why don’t you just cover yourself by saying that since Millsap started as a SF 2 out of the last 3 games he can’t qualify for the list? Because honestly watching the Jazz there is arguably nobody on that court trying harder to win, on either team.

  9. What position does Josh Smith play?

  10. As a Raptors fan you aren’t allowed to like Bosh till he retires, it’s written in small print on the back of your season tickets. Just look hard its there.

  11. Aldridge is WAY too high. If you replaced him with Love or Griffin, the Blazers would probably improve. Heck, I’d probably put him below Randolph, too. Not saying LMA doesn’t belong on the list, but I find it hard to believe he’s a top 5 PF.

  12. I agree with DanG. I always thought that most savvy fans already had Duncan as the best of his generation.

  13. On the whole Pau Gasol being soft subject, I don’t think stats can determine his toughness. He’s obviously a terrific player, with a refined post game and great jumper for a big guy, but I think it’s pretty obvious he has a tougher time dealing with bigger, more physical guys; hence the “soft” references.

    I’m not saying this cause I hate Gasol, I actually enjoy watching him alot. That’s just my two cents.

  14. I’ve also found Gasol’s soft perception absurd, well especially the last two season. You’d almost think Perkins (as a Cetlic and Thunder) and Stoudemire (as a Sun) were a little threatened of the Lakers and their most (?) consistent player.

    Re Ibaka, I can’t wait to see what happens with him starting a full season at the 4.

    Man this position is jacked when you consider players like Smith, Odom, Millsap aren’t on the list. Hope to see some Hickson here next season.

  15. I don’t care that much about lists and rankings — which doesn’t stop me from trying to make a point: Millsap simply has to do a lot more than Ibaka. And with a lot less help. You’re basically ranking a role player higher than a virtual franchise player (especially while talking about the rest of April).

  16. Just FYI, Serge gave his full name on his twitter account not long ago.

    http://twitter.com/#!/sergeibaka9/status/52482466778329089

    no! Serge Jonas Ibaka Ngobila is full name RT“@kdurant35: @sergeibaka9 is it real??”Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka “”

  17. Does anybody else think its kind of crazy that Kevin Durant reads this website?

  18. I’m of the thinking that many consider Tim Duncan not just one of the best players of this generation, but one of the best players of all time

  19. The best-of-their generation argument should include Kobe, Shaq, and Duncan at very least, and of those three any sane person would take Duncan to build their team around. Shaq at his best was more dominant, but he was almost never at his best, and he’s caused a lot of locker room drama in his life. Kobe is one of the greatest individual talents in NBA history but unless you have Phil Jackson to coach him and an all-star big man to pair with him, you’re probably not getting any rings, as 2003 – 2008 (Kobe’s statistical prime, btw) showed.

    Duncan gives you, for most of his career, an MVP-calibre player who is a high-efficiency scorer and talented rebounder, not to mention a vocal leader on the court and one of the best defensive players ever. Plus he’s a calm, easygoing, humorous presence in the locker room who takes less money to stick around with his team, and convinces others to do the same. You have to factor that stuff into “greatest player of his generation” too.

  20. Some of us already consider Timmy the best of his generation…

  21. To me, Duncan’s still ahead of Kobe. He has one less ring but has dragged far worse teams surrounding him to those four rings (Fabricio Oberto! Brent Barry! Rasho Nesterovic! on and on), as well as 50-win season after 50-win season. Perfect teammate for his entire career (vastly unlike Kobe), perpetually underappreciated. Has made an obscene number of All-Defensive First Teams (Kobe has too but Duncan has greater impact as a big man) and arguably deserves more than 2 MVP’s (Kobe deserves one and has one, though for the wrong year). To me it is fairly clear cut now.

    Now if Kobe puts together another strong playoff performance and grabs a sixth ring, then I think you can have the conversation and I would probably be able to go either way at that point (and I’d say he has a pretty good shot at #6). And a seventh ring would put him definitely over the top.

  22. seriously, LaMarcus doesn’t belong higher than Love or Griffin? so many reasons he does. LaMarcus’ has led his team to the playoffs; Griffin and Love haven’t even gotten theirs close. in the head-to-head meetings, LaMarcus has led his team to a 7-0 combined record over the clippers and the timberwolves. finally, LaMarcus has been named conference player of the month once and conference player of the week twice … can you say the same for Love or Griffin. didn’t think so!

  23. Tim Duncan is one of the greatest players at his position of all time. Of course you take him over Kobe, hell the only player who has the same defensive impact at Duncan in his prime is Dwight and KG. You’d take Duncan over anyone outside of a 97-’01 Shaq, even though he wasn’t always healthy. You always choose height, especially talented height. But not because he led bad teams to 50 wins because Smush Parker trumps all possible bad teammates, even though he played significantly better while playing with Kobe.

  24. ummmm AMARE ????

    common enough knick hate…where the hell is AMARE ????

    22pts 8 boards 2.5ast 1.3 blocks over the last month

    Better than Duncan, Ibaka, and Bosh for sure….

    Turiaf and Williams have been playing Center….

  25. I’ve asked my wife to name our son Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka or something similar, but for some weird reason she refused and looked at me like I was crazy.

  26. no amare in ur top 10?

    u sir are a complete idiot

  27. @Really Now: Let’s not forget that during the time Kobe played with Smush Parker, he also had to play with Kwame Brown. Still, I have a feeling that Duncan can make those to better because that’s just how good he is. He makes other people better around him. I’m not saying TD can win titles with Brown and Parker, but saying he can still make the 2nd round of the playoffs with them isn’t far fetched. Can’t say the same with Kobe.

    Amar’e Stoudemire, in terms of stats and titles, may seem like he doesn’t have any right to call Gasol soft, but let’s not forget last year’s playoff series between the Suns and the Lakers. Stoudemire owned Gasol in the series, so maybe, that’s where the soft label is coming from.

  28. No, no, no, no, no. I don’t think ANYONE can make Kwame Brown better. Even Michael Jordan couldn’t do it.

  29. Scott — you may have not noticed the Jazz have been playing w/o 2 starters for the majority of the season, including this stretch. (3 if you remember the Okur was a starter and former Western Conf All-Star) Blaming the losing on Millsap is both cheap and unfair.

  30. Furthermore, Millsap is beating your boy in Scoring, Rebounding, Assists, Steals, Threes — but by all means, Ibaka is the superior player because all he has to do is focus on defense and be the 6th option on the court (Westbrook and Durant are the first 3 options).

  31. That sounds quite defensive of me, I think Ibaka is a great player that all 30 teams want (but only 1 has); I just don’t think he’s having a better season than Millsap is. I think Duncan is having a better season than both of them if you count #winning as a factor for greatness (which you seem to imply with your knock on the Jazz).

  32. If Duncan was a Laker or a Celtic, rabid fans would already have made us admit he’s top10 all-time, like they did with Kobe.

    Now since Spurs fans are either very polite or very old, they don’t feel the need to bitch about everyone “hatin’” on Duncan as soon as he isn’t included in top5 all-time list.

    Sorry, but with all the lobbying we had for Kobe, if TD had the same thing, he’d be considered top10 all-time. Not because he deserves it (its arguable), but because there comes a time when you just can’t argue with people who don’t want to change their minds.

  33. Wow that Duncan point is a bit infuriating to read on a great blog. I’d expect that out of an Adande column or something. Not only does it put too much emphasis on the championship (as if Kobe carried the team to the first three chips, and didn’t stink it up in the clutch and win MVP on his name over Pau in the last two). Championships are team efforts. Greatest ever are individual efforts, WITH consideration of their effect on the team. And in that sense, making teammates better, there’s no way Kobe or Shaq compete with Duncan. Not to mention defensively, Kobe is good when he wants to be, but saves his energy for offense, while Timmy is one of the best defenders of his generation. In my opinion Shaq is above Kobe as well, for his shorter run of greatness at a higher level. Kobe gets all-time points for longevity, but this top ten all-tine nonsense, etc, is fundamentally a result of the market. At no point in his career was he even the best player in the league at the time.

    Regarding the list, I’d nitpick in a few places, but one that stands out is putting Kevin Love ahead of Zach Randolph. Randolph’s a bad defender, but Love is a sieve. He grabs a marginal percentage of rebounds more than Z-bo, and is an outside threat, but I think a true post presence is a rare thing in the league and Randolph is more valuable for that.

  34. Also agree w/Millsap > Ibaka. Watched both of those teams a good bit this year (until the Jazz because nearly unwatchable). Ibaka has seriously impressed w/his midrange shooting, but Millsap’s still a bit better overall. The rest of the list looks pretty nice tho.

  35. Regarding Amare: He’ll be in the center rankings. As for Josh, he should be in the top 10 with his talent, but he continues to drive his coach, teammates and fans nuts with his shot selection.

    As for the Ibaka/Millsap debate, Millsap’s season numbers are better because Ibaka only recently entered the Thunder’s starting lineup. On a per-36-minute basis, Ibaka has more rebounds (10.2 to 8.1), blocks (3.2 to 1.0) and has more Win Shares per 48 minutes (0.166 to 0.143) as you can see here: http://is.gd/be9viP

    These rankings aren’t determined simply by looking at per-game numbers. Currenly, Ibaka is having a greater impact on his team. Millsap was in these rankings earlier this season, so it’s not like I don’t know he exists.

  36. derrick rose must be mvp, because boozer isn’t up there.

  37. @ avtar, Are Bulls fans really this insecure? My goodness, Derrick Rose is going to be the MVP. Can we quit harping on it already?

  38. Ummmm….Kris Humphries!?!?!??!?!?!?

  39. For the people complaining about Amare not being on the list, Amare is not a PF he is a center. He is listed as a center.

  40. Ibaka is better than Milsap, and he plays on a better team. Jazz are god-awful.

  41. @luislandry

    Duncan deserves every compliment he receives. He was one of the best players of his generation, and all-time no question.
    As for your comments about Kobe, you are just waaaay off.

    “Kobe is good when he wants to be, but saves his energy for offense, while Timmy is one of the best defenders of his generation”

    Joking right? I’m guessing you meant to say Shaq in those comments.
    Kobe Bryant has shared All-Defensive Team honors with Duncan 11 times! I’m not saying Kobe is a better defender than Duncan (apples and oranges comparison), but he is has been an elite defensive player most of his career.
    Kobe isn’t just good when he wants to be, he brings it every game. He has off nights and some moments where as a Lakers fan I want to smack my head on the wall, but who doesn’t?
    Brush up on your history.

  42. Also, I think Duncan isn’t hated, so much as he is overlooked. Fans outside of Texas rarely get fired up about the Spurs. Their Finals ratings are usually weak and unfortunately because they have been so consistent over the years they haven’t offered the emotional flare that interests fans outside their market. It’s like people look at them and say: “That’s just the Spurs, they’re good we get it. Next.”

  43. @Joshua S: I’m aware of Kobe’s all-defense awards and the perception, I just don’t think he deserved them all. He floats and loses his man, and not just in those situations where he’s guarding a Rondo-type. He’s certainly a tremendously skilled defender, but I don’t see it all the time from him. No need to be a dick and talk to me about history. I think All-Defensive teams should be based not on ability but on performance that year. Kobe has the ability to shut people down, but his importance as a scorer means he’s not routinely guarding the most dangerous outside player on the other team. I’m not saying he’s not one of the greatest ever (and even now I’d put him in the top 4 players with LeBron, Dwight, Wade), etc, I’m just saying there are perceptions about his game and there are observations. The perceptions are a 10 and the reality is a 9.8. But in the case of a Duncan comparison, I’d fit Duncan in at that 9.9.

  44. And yes, of course that description of defense is far more applicable to Shaq.

  45. If you’re going to argue that you are observing and not perceiving than this becomes a moot discussion. Your comments were mostly perception.
    At least you are seeing things through Duncan colored lenses. Next to Kobe, he has been the best player of this generation.

  46. If you’re going to argue that you are observing and not perceiving than this becomes a moot discussion. Your comments were mostly perception.
    At least you are seeing things through Duncan colored lenses. Next to Kobe, he has been the best player of this generation.
    As for defensive assignments, that is a tough call to make because defensive rotations are changing often based on in the flow of the game. The Lakers have played Boston several different ways. One night Kobe may be on Pierce, the next on Allen, even at times Rondo. Their are a lot of variations.
    If your definition of elite defender is that the player takes the other team’s best player in every instance, then I think you will be hard pressed to find anyone who fits the bill.

  47. @Rich Muhlach: Exactly the point. MJ and Kobe are cut from the same cloth — too intimidating and impatient for Kwame. TD isn’t anything like that. He is calm, collected and patient. That takes away pressure from Kwame’s shoulders. If MJ or Kobe passed the ball to you, you’ll be pressured to make the open shot, otherwise, you’re going to hear a lot of profanities. With TD, you just play your game. You miss. No biggie.

  48. [...] positional power rankings.This is an idea that stems from something our pal Scott Carefoot has been doing for The Basketball Jones for several months. Essentially, we want to rank the top 10 players at each position based mainly [...]

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