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.