My favorite column written by the Sports Guy Bill Simmons is his annual NBA Trade Value column. He used to write it every summer, but last year he didn’t get it posted until Christmas, and if you ask me, the best thing Santa could leave under the tree for more this year would be Bill’s Top 50 Players for 2008. That or an Xterra. Or a lifetime supply of Chipotle chicken burritos (with rice, black beans, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream, and a healthy dose of chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce).
Anyway, in anticipation of this glorious annual event, I’ve decided to post my own top 50. Here’s Bill’s rules when making the list:
1. Salaries matter. Over this season and the next three, would you rather pay David West $37.9 million or Andrei Kirilenko $63.3 million?
2. Age matters. Would you rather have Rasheed Wallace for the next four seasons or Al Horford for the next 12?
3. Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications. So if Team A tells Team B, "We'll trade you Player X for Player Y," would Team B make the deal or not?
4. Concentrate on degrees. For instance, neither San Antonio nor Orlando would make a Howard-Duncan trade. But at the very least, the Spurs would say, "Wow, Dwight Howard's available?" while the Magic would say, "There's no frickin' way we're trading Dwight Howard." That counts in the big scheme of things.
5. The list runs in reverse order (Nos. 50 to 1). So if Carmelo comes in at No. 14, players 1 through 13 are all players about whom the Nuggets would probably say, "We hate giving up 'Melo, but we definitely have to consider this deal." And they wouldn't trade him straight-up for any player listed between Nos. 15 and 50.
…and here’s his Top 50 from 2007:
1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Tim Duncan
4. Chris Paul
5. Deron Williams
6. Steve Nash
7. Kevin Garnett
8. Dwyane Wade
9. Yao Ming
10. Kobe Bryant
11. Carlos Boozer
12. Dirk Nowitzki
13. Kevin Durant
14. Carmelo Anthony
15. Baron Davis
16. Manu Ginobili
17. Tony Parker
18. Chris Bosh
19. Paul Pierce
20. Amare Stoudemire
21. Al Jefferson
22. Andrew Bynum
23. Josh Smith
24. Greg Oden
25. Al Horford
26. Chauncey Billups
27. Gilbert Arenas
28. Tracy McGrady
29. David West
30. Caron Butler
31. Josh Howard
32. Luol Deng
33. Shawn Marion
34. Joe Johnson
35. Chris Kaman
36. Allen Iverson
37. Rasheed Wallace
38. Marcus Camby
39. Pau Gasol
40. Tyson Chandler
41. Elton Brand
42. Michael Redd
43. Andris Biedrins
44. Tayshaun Prince
45. Brandon Roy
46. David Lee
47. Andrea Bargnani
48. Rudy Gay
49. Monta Ellis
50. Leandro Barbosa
When compiling my list, I definitely keep the rules in mind, but I put more emphasis on salary and age than anything else. I also favor point guards and centers because they’re the two most important positions on the floor, and there’s also a scarcity of quality at each.
Finally, here’s the players from Simmons 2007 list that did not make mine for 2008:
(TO) Team Option (PO) Player Option (QO) Qualifying Offer
Luol Deng (32 in 2007 rankings), CHI, F, 23 yrs
6 yrs-$71 million
Last season Deng was a budding 22 year old with a world of potential. This year he’s signed him to a gigantic six year contract that makes the new Wall Street Bailout look like a bargain. Bang up job by John Paxson.
Shawn Marion (33), MIA, F, 30 yrs
17,180,000 (salary for 2008/09 season)
From the “Be careful what you wish for department” Marion was unhappy in Phoenix playing with the best passing point guard alive in an up-tempo offense that was perfectly tailored to his skills. His wish was granted last year with a trade to the Miami Heat, and Marion has been less than stellar in his new home. His all-world defense has slipped a bit, and he’s shown he’s not very good at creating his own shot- all for the bargain price of more than $17 million! Not a hard guy to leave off the list.
Allen Iverson (36), DET, G, 33 yrs
This season is proof that Iverson has officially on the downside of his career, but what a run it was. While he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer, The Answer will still be one of the most underappreciated players of this era. In his 13 years in the league he’s averaged 70 games, 27.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 2.2 steals as a slight six footer with lightning quickness and the toughness of a heavyweight fighter. It’s a shame he’ll probably be better known for his whole “practice? We talking bout practice?” speech when few if any played harder during games.
Rasheed Wallace (37), DET, F, 34 yrs
Still a valuable player on the right team, just not one of the 50 most valuable players in the league.
Michael Redd (42), MIL, G, 27 yrs
$15,780,000 09/10- $17,040,000 10/11- $18,300,000
So much money for so little production (currently a PER of just 15.71 this season). Is it more insulting to Wally or Redd to call him the black Wally Szczerbiak?
Tayshaun Prince (44), DET, F, 28 yrs
9,500,000 09/10- 10,324,380 10/11- 11,148,760
Still a solid role player for the Pistons, but doesn’t look as valuable as he once did.
David Lee (46), 25 yrs
Guaranteed to go from underpaid and underrated this year to really, really overpaid and overrated next year. Free agency will do that to people.
Andrea Bargnani (47), TOR, F, 24 yrs
$5,176,440 09/10- $6,527,490 10/11- $8,485,738 (QO)
So far hasn’t come close to living up to the expectations of being a #1 overall pick. Of course the same could be said of Andrew Bogut and yet the Bucks gave him a huge contract extension. I have a feeling Craptors GM Bryan Colangelo will be smarter than that.
Leandrinho Barbosa (50), PHX, G, 25 yrs
6,100,000 09/10- 6,600,000 10/11- 7,100,000 11/12- 7,600,000 (PO)
He’s 26 and in his sixth season in the league and we’re STILL waiting for him to play like an all-star. If it hasn’t happened yet, I don’t think it ever will. Still a nice player for the price, but not a Top 50 value.
With that, here are my Top 50 NBA Players for the 2008/09 season:
50. Paul Millsap, UTA, F, 23 yrs
Coming off the bench in Utah is kind of like putting the NHL on Versus: it’s a good product that nobody sees. Milsap has been one of the league’s best sixth men playing behind Carlos Boozer, and when Boozer flees the SLC this summer (or at the trade deadline), Milsap will step right in and be a double-double machine (as of this writing he’s posted 11 straight). Even with a new contract, he won’t be overpaid because his rookie salary is so low.
49. LaMarcus Aldridge, POR, F, 23 yrs
4,631,400 09/10- 5,844,826 10/11- 7,627,498 (QO)
I could put two or three other Blazers in this same spot. They’re loaded. It’s quite ridiculous how loaded they are. Why teams aren’t signing away people from Portland’s front office to run their teams is beyond me. I suppose it’s easier to hire former players with no experience or skill to run a team because it’s cheaper and cooler to tell your friends at the men’s club you’re the boss of a former NBA star. It’s sure worked for Glen Taylor. Oh yeah, and as for Aldridge, he’s not higher on this list because I’m just not sure how much better he’s going to be.
48. Gilbert Arenas, WAS, G, 26 yrs
6 yrs- $111 million
Honestly, I have no idea what to do with Agent Zero, so I ended up sticking him here. He WAS an incredible scorer and posted PERs in the low-mid 20’s for three straight seasons. His last two full seasons he averaged at least 28 points, 6 assists, 2 steals, and over 40 minutes a night. Problem is, that was almost two full years ago. Hibachi played in just 13 games last year because of a knee injury, got arthroscopic surgery this summer to repair it and remove “floating debris”, and was supposed to be ready to go by January- except he’s nowhere close to running or playing on it yet so now the All-star break or even later seems more realistic. IF he gets back to 100% he’s a top 15 player, but if not, we could unfortunately be looking at another Penny Hardaway-type career that gets derailed by a knee injury far too soon. Either way, the Wiz are on the hook for the full $111 million for the next six years, which I’m guessing is a contract few teams would want to take from Washington right now.
47. Thaddeus Young, PHI, F, 20 yrs
1,968,120 09/10- 2,105,400 10/11- 2,901,241 (TO) 11/12- 3,992,108 (QO)
Last season Young posted the best PER of any rookie (yep even better than Kevin Durant) who played at least 1000 minutes. His playing time is up but his numbers are down so far in his second season, although I’d attribute that to how screwed up the Sixers have been trying to acclimate Elton Brand into the lineup. Just ask Mo Cheeks, who got pink-slipped on Friday- how that’s worked out so far. Still a world of talent for Young at a crazy cheap price for three more years.
46. Monta Ellis, GS, G, 21 yrs
11,000,000 09/10-11,000,000 10/11-11,000,000 11/12-11,000,000 12/13-11,000,000 13/14-11,000,000 (PO)
Ok so the motor scooter accident was dumb. And lying about it was even dumber (is “dumber” a word? Grammar’s never been my strong suit, but if it’s in the title of a movie, it’s a real word to me. By the way, I had every line of that movie memorized. If there was a list of the top 10 most quotable movies of all-time, it would definitely be on it, probably in the top 5. Dumb & Dumber also came out in 1994. Holy crap I’m getting old). But he’s 21 years old, and I’m pretty sure we all did some dumb things when we were 21. He’s a talented scorer locked into a very nice contract at least through his age 25 season, so if Ellis matures on and off the court, this will look like a steal by the time his contract is up.
45. Josh Howard, DAL, F, 28 yrs
9,945,000 09/10- 10,890,000 10/11- 11,835,000 (TO)
Speaking of dumb, Howard might want to lay off the wacky tobaccy if he wants another big payday in three years, especially since he’ll be 31 when that happens. Before being sidelined with an injured ankle, he was off to a great start averaging 20 pts and 8.3 boards.
43. (tie) Tyson Chandler, NO, C, 26 yrs
10,950,000 09/10- 11,850,000 10/11- 12,750,000 (PO)
Chris Kaman (35), LAC, C, 26 yrs
9,500,000 09/10- 10,400,000 10/11- 11,300,000 11/12- 12,200,000
Until the final draft of this post, I had Chandler in the 30’s and Kaman off the list entirely because I was going more off of reputation and last year’s performance than anything else. But when you get right down to it, it’s hard to find much difference between the two- well other than Kaman’s skullet. That is definitely a difference. Still, both were great last year but have been slow out of the gate in 2008. Most of Kaman’s numbers are down (from a 15-12-3 blks last year to 14-9-2 this year), but his shooting percentage is way up and has a PER above 17 for the second straight year, and is currently out with a foot injury. Chandler has no injury excuses as his numbers have dropped (an 11-11-2 last year to just 8-8-1 this season), as has his ridiculous field goal % (in 07 and 08 he was a ridonkulous 62% from the floor, where this season he’s a more mortal 57%). I’ve got to say I was surprised how low his block totals are for a guy who jumps as well as he does. If Chandler regains form he’s worth every penny of that $60 million the Hornets gave him to flee Chicago, but if this 8-8-1 crap continues- especially playing with the best PG on planet earth- he’s off the list entirely.
42. Rudy Gay, MEM, F, 22 yrs
2,579,400 09/10- 3,280,996 10/11- 4,422,782 (QO)
Has made it ok for even the manliest of men to say “I Love Gay!” While his PER is down slightly to start the year (from 17 last year to 16), he’s averaging 20 points and five boards a night, and sometimes he even accidentally picks up an assist. Seriously he’s averaging 1.7 assists: how can you not find two measly assists a game playing with OJ Mayo? Is it that hard? Once a half you can’t kick it out to OJ or the Other Racist Gasol brother for a jumper?
41. Marcus Camby (38), LAC, C, 34 yrs
$8,000,000 09/10- $7,650,000
One of the most reliable and underrated players in the league, averaging a double-double with at least 3 blocks for the fifth straight season, and is signed to a very modest deal. Sure he probably would have brought Denver (the sunshine state! Gorgeous!) into the conversation of best team in the West, but who wants to win when you can deal him to the Clippers for nothing just to avoid the luxury tax? That sound you heard was Nuggets’ fan collectively slamming their hands into a car door at the thought of what could have been.
40. OJ Mayo, MEM, G, 21 yrs
3,875,040 09/10- 4,165,560 10/11- 4,456,200 (TO) 11/12- 5,632,636 (TO) 12/13- 7,390,018 (QO)
So far so good for Mayo, who’s averaging 20 pts, 4 boards, 1.22 stls, and is shooting over 40% from 3 (all adding up to a solid PER of 17.51). The assists should go up too if they ever move him to the point. Good thing the Timberwolves thought Kevin Love and Mike Miller were more valuable.
38. (tie) Baron Davis, LAC, G, 29 yrs
5 yrs- $65.25 million
Tracy McGrady, HOU, G, 29 yrs
21,126,874 09/10- 23,239,561
On talent alone these two are top 10-15 guys, but they’re injury prone and WAY overpriced as they hit their 30’s. Oh and COMBINED they’ve won a grand total of two playoff series in their careers (both by Baron). On the bright side they could be yours for the low, low price this season of just- are you ready for this- 32 MILLION DOLLARS!?!?!? Operators are standing by to take your order now!
37. Pau Gasol, LAL, F, 28 yrs
15,080,312 09/10- 16,451,250 10/11- 17,822,187
Sure he’s soft and disappears as the playoffs wear on but he still gets you some GREAT regular season numbers AND has no problem making incredibly racially insensitive statements. Ok so that last part isn’t very good, but because he’s European, nobody seems to care- kind of like Euro’s attitudes about the playoffs.
36. Caron Butler, WAS, G/F, 28 yrs
8,999,980 09/10- 9,780,970 10/11- 10,561,960
Joins Camby on the constantly underrated team. What else can you ask for from a guy who has averaged at least 20 pts (this season he’s at a career high 22), 6.5 boards, 2 steals and an 85% free throw shooter? What’s that, you’d like a reasonable contract? Done and done. If Wiz GM Ernie Grunfeld’s hadn’t saddled him with Hibachi and Antwan Jamison through 2031, you might even see him help his team to win a playoff round or two.
35. Chauncey Billups, DEN, PG, 32 yrs
11,050,000 09/10- 12,100,000 10/11- 13,150,000 11/12- 14,200,000 (TO)
So remember when I said I hated this trade for Denver (We love you Denver! The city by the bay!)? Kind of looking foolish right now. I’ll stand by my point that regardless of how well Billups plays (and he’s playing well) Denver will still never be as good as the Lakers, Hornets or Jazz, AND Denver’s not going to love this contract in two more years, but hey they’re playing a lot better than I thought right now.
34. Jose Calderon, TOR, G, 27 yrs
7,438,018 09/10- 8,219,009 10/11- 9,000,000 11/12- 9,780,993 12/13- 10,561,985
An unreal facilitator and a solid defender signed to a bargain of a contract. However at 27 this is his peak, which means he’s not a number one, or even number two option on a championship team. Great player to have though if you’re Toronto since he gets the ball to Chris Bosh- well at least until he bolts Canada as a free agent after next season. Then who’s Calderon going to pass to?
33. Rajan Rondo, BOS, PG, 22 yrs
1,646,784 09/10- 2,623,326 10/11- 3,780,214
At just 22 he’s got Finals experience and is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. If he develops anything close to a reliable jumper, he’s top 20 or better…wait for it…wait…a little longer…you know it’s coming…it’s too easy…but I can’t resist- good thing Phoenix needed to avoid the luxury tax more than they needed Rondo, because he certainly couldn’t help them right now. Suns fans, meet the Nuggets fans.
32. Josh Smith, ATL, F, 22 yrs
I know he’s young and talented and a helluva an athlete- but really what is he? A high-flying rebounder/shot blocker with zero offensive game. It’s a fancy, exciting way of saying he’s a role player. For 10 million this year? Done and done. But if he’s expecting max money or anywhere close to rebound and defend as a small forward then he’s losing value for me.
31. Andris Biedrins, GS, C, 22 yrs
9,000,000 09/10- 9,000,000 10/11- 9,000,000 11/12-9,000,000 12/13-9,000,000 13/14-9,000,000 (PO)
What was more unlikely- Tavaris Jackson throwing FOUR touchdown passes yesterday against the Cards, or Warriors GM Chris Mullen-who would be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer if they had a HOF for GM’s who can’t stop themselves from handing out horrible contracts- locking up a 22 year old center who’s a potential double-double monster for 9 million a year for at least the next five seasons? I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure the combination of these things means the Apocalypse will be happening any day now.
30. Elton Brand, PHI, F, 29 yrs
13,757,844 09/10- 14,858,471 10/11- 15,959,099 11/12- 17,059,726 12/13- 18,160,354
So far not so good for Brand in Philly. A year after playing just 8 games because of an Achilles injury, Elton’s scoring and shooting percentage numbers are way down, as are the hopes of the Sixers and their fans. I’m putting Brand here because Brand WAS an all-star player (career averages of 20 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks), and I think we’ll see that guy again before the end of the season. However, if Brand’s career takes a Chris Webber-like turn, it’s going to get ugly for Sixers fans. Thank goodness the Phillies won the World Series because with the state of the Sixers and the impending Kevin Kolb Era,
29. David West, NO, F, 28 yrs
9,862,500 09/10- $9,075,000 10/11- 8,287,500 11/12- 7,525,000 (PO)
I had to double check the salary figures- actually, I triple checked them- an all-star caliber power forward IN HIS PRIME has a salary that goes DOWN every season? Wait what? Greatest deal since the Louisiana Purchase for the Hornets, but West might want to look at an agent who’s not dyslexic for his next contract (wait the contract is supposed to go UP every year? Ohhhh whoops sorry about that David. Well at least you’ll be past your prime for your next contract. Um yeah I’ll just pack my stuff and leave you be. Been nice working with you!)
28. Steve Nash, PHX, G, 34 yrs
12,250,000 09/10- 13,125,000 (TO)
Nash was a great player whose game is starting to fall off. He still runs an offense as well as anyone and his contract situation is manageable, but his defense has gone from atrocious to downright non-existent. His years as an elite point guard are over, but he’d still be great on a team with some weapons that can hide his defense. You know, like the Knicks in 2010. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
27. Kevin Garnett, F, 32 yrs old
24,750,000 09/10- 16,400,000 10/11- 18,800,000 11/12- 21,200,000
KG is one of my favorite players of all-time (My top 5 is Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Chris Webber, KG, and Nash. I know, I thought that list would look more impressive, but there it is. This is what I get growing up in Canada- too many decisions to make as a sports fan), but I had trouble even putting him this high. I've heard ad nauseum about KG being a great leader and teammate and defender, and he's playing a huge part in Boston's big start (as of this writing they're an insane 21-2). But he's 32 years old with over 1,000 games on his odometer, and you have to pay him almost $25 million this year and then a guaranteed $56 million the next three years, when he'll be 36. Read that last sentence again. He has FAR more value to Boston than anybody else, but they're going to be stuck with that contract because quite honestly no team would trade any of the other 49 guys on this list for him.
26. Al Horford, ATL, F, 22 yrs
4,026,720 09/10- 4,307,640 10/11- 5,444,857 (TO) 11/12- 7,143,652 (QO)
Except for his rebounds (which are down just slightly) Horford has shown an improvement in every category as he looks to build on a solid rookie season. At worst he should average a double-double by next year, and if he can develop any semblance of post moves, the native of the Dominican could become one of the East’s best power forwards. So he’s good- but the Hawks new unis? As Stewy Griffin would say, what the deuce? I know these debuted in 2007, but it still doesn’t make them any better. What was wrong with the classic red and gold from the 80’s? Nothing, of course, but god forbid the team hold onto any kind of tradition when they can throw a boring new look out there. For a team in an ownership battle, they don’t have time to make major personnel decisions, but they do have time to approve horrible jerseys? All 12 Hawks fans that are left should be up in arms about this. I would be.
UP NEXT: Top 7-25