Monday, January 19, 2009

NBA Trade Value Top 50- 1-6

6. Kobe Bryant, LAL, G, 30 yrs
21,262,500 09/10- 23,034,375 (PO) 10/11- 24,806,250

More shocking to me than Melo being only 24? Kobe is playing in his- are you ready for this- 13th NBA SEASON!!! I like Mark Jackson as a game analyst, but its too bad we can't limit his opinions to analyzing games, because when he says something like "Kobe is as good as Michael Jordan", well, he loses credibility. I cannot fathom how this argument continues to fester, but there are few that seem to never go away no matter how little sense it makes. I wrote a lengthy post on this subject a few years back, so here's the cliff notes version: Kobe has won zero titles without Shaq, one of the four most dominant big men in history, whereas Jordan won six as the best player on his team. Not only that, MJ's stats are superior from an age when not only was the competition better, but so was the defense, as hand checking was not only allowed, but encouraged. In today's NBA, David Stern would try to send The Bad Boys to prison for the things they got away with in the 80's. Now, if a guy even breathes near a superstar, he's going to draw a foul. A new piece of information that I didn't share in the post from a few years back is this: let's compare MJ and Kobe in what I would consider a player's prime 7 seasons: from age 23-29. For Mike, this was his 3rd year in the league in 86/87 to 92/93, and for Kobe that was 01/02-07/08 (believe it or not he was 23 in his sixth year in the league). Here is what they AVERAGED over those seven years:

Jordan: 33.2 PPG, 5.9 AST, 6.4 REB, 2.8 STL, 1.04 BLK, .519/.271/.845 FG/3/FT
Bryant: 28.9 PPG, 5.4 AST, 5.9 REB, 1.53 STL, 0.54 BLK, .452/.336/.843 FG/3/FT

I mean people, and specifically Mark Jackson- THAT'S NOT EVEN COMPARABLE!!! It's not even a debate!!!!! Jordan, with less talent around him for the bulk of that stretch, had far superior numbers to Kobe. The only thing you could nitpick MJ for is his 3pt shooting, which is should be noted improved dramatically after his fourth season (his first 4 years he never shot better than 19%, but after that until he retired from the Bulls the second time- and as far as I'm concerned HE STAYED RETIRED- he never shot below 27%, and had five seasons where he shot over 31%. That's not great, but it's not bad either). It's just one of those things where I can't even believe the argument is still being made because it's basically (if I can make up a word) "unarguable". And yet I seem to get pulled into defending MJ, the greatest team sport athlete who's ever lived, everytime. Kobe might be a top 10 player of all-time someday, but there's a sizable gap between himself and The Greatest. You hear me Mark Jackson?

5. Chris Bosh, TOR, C, 24 yrs
14,410,581 09/10- 15,779,912 10/11- 17,149,243 (PO)

I wouldn't put him in the top five players in the league right now, but at 24 years of age he easily belongs this high on the list of values in the league. His career averages are 19/9/1.2 blks and while you might want a higher shooting percentage than 48 from a guy who makes his living in the paint, remember he's also an almost 80% career free throw shooter, which is simply unheard of from a non-Euro big man these days. His only knock is health, as he hasn't played more than 70 games in the past three years. WHEN he finds a new team in the summer of 2010 (any hoops fan outside of Toronto knows it's a foregone conclusion Bosh will relocate south of the border when his contract is up), for his longevity he needs to find a team with a decent center, because he'll have a much longer and more productive career as a 4 than a 5.

Because Bosh will bolt, as would and will any decent American free agent, shouldn't Stern bend the rules so the Craptors get first crack at all the Euro prospects? Hell, shouldn't they just have ALL European players? Americans have proven over and over that if they can get a better deal from an American team they're gone, and yet the Euros just can't enough of the place. As much as I hate Toronto and their media bias (honest to god, if you're ever subjected to having to watch one of Canada's three "national" sports networks, you wouldn't even know there's teams in any other provinces besides Ontario and Quebec. Hell, you wouldn't even know there ARE any other provinces outside of those two!), I will admit it's a very cosmopolitan city with a lot going for it, and I can see why a European player would love it. So since Toronto is one of the five least desirable free agent destinations for American-born players (The top 5 is Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Utah, Milwaukee and Toronto), why not let them have all the Euros they want? And while we're at it, can't Stern relax the bench rules a little to make these guys feel more at home? Why can't we let them roll their own cigarettes and smoke them during timeouts, or even while someone's shooting free throws? Can't you see Bargnani coming over to talk to coach Jay Triano, Triano hands him a smoke, and Bargnani lights up while they chat about the last play, or maybe their favorite new techno song? Vlade Divac would definitely need to be the assistant coach.

4. Dwyane Wade, MIA, G, 26 yrs
14,410,581 09/10- 15,779,912 10/11- 17,149,243 (PO)

Miami will be the road team NOBODY in the East will want to play in the first round. Not only is DWade good enough to win a round by himself right now (what do you even say about a guy who's AVERAGING 28 pts 7 asts 5 boards 2 stls and 1.5 blks?!? What's even scarier is it that he's not even the best player in the league right now, and it's not really close. Knights of columbus!) but when "playoff refing" starts and superstars who drive the lane get every call possible, Wade becomes pretty much unstoppable (not that we've seen this happen before with DWade or anything. Especially in the NBA Finals. That would never happen in a league where a ref was convicted of betting on games he referreed.). Right here, right now at 26 years old Wade is one of the three best players in the league and should stay there for at least three more. My concern with him is the Shaun Alexander/LDT Effect. In the summer of 2010 (or perhaps sooner if the Heat manage to get Boozer) Wade is going to sign a six year maximum deal that will run in his age 28 season until he's 34. For someone like Lebron or Kobe or Chris Paul I would have zero worries locking up a guy like that to max money in those years of his career. But I fear DWade is a much different story. He is fearless, relentless and incredibly effective driving to the basket, but because he's such a terror going to the rim (and the fact he's only 6'4) his body has absorbed an incredible amount of fouls and damage in his six NBA seasons. And thus far, Wade has shown zero ability or desire to develop and/or knock down a mid range-deep jump shooting game. Jordan extended his career a long time by developing the pull-up jumper, and we're seeing Kobe do the same. But if Wade insists on continuing to play his running back-style, there's just no way his body holds up into his 30's. Just like we saw with LDT this year, Wade could very well be dominant for another 3-4 years and then suddenly he's going to completely fall apart. I love watching Wade play and he's going to give the Heat some more great seasons, but I would NOT want to be the NBA team on the hook for max money to him from age 30-34.

3. Dwight Howard, ORL, C, 22 yrs
13,758,000 09/10- 15,133,800 10/11- 16,509,600 11/12 17,885,400 12/13- 19,261,200 (PO)

I almost hate writing about Howard because I feel obligated to mention that I said on this blog more than once that I would have taken Emeka Okafor over him in the draft. While the logic in doing so (experienced player who WAS durable in college who looked to be the next Zo Mourning instead of a skinny high school kid who may or may not have the desire to get better), I was and am really, really wrong. Howard IS the modern day Moses Malone, and as a 23 year old, is averaging 20 points, almost 14 boards and 3 blocks a night. He really has no downside: he's young, smart, from all reports has a great attitude and work ethic, the league's best body (meaning he'll age well and be able to take the pounding in the paint), and has gradually shown an improved low-post game. If he can continue to refine it and ever get close to 70% on his free throws, he'll be a perennial MVP candidate, and at worst he's the best center in the East, and probably the league, for the next decade.

2. Chris Paul, NO, PG, 23 yrs

Great oden's raven I love me some CP3! This year he's throwing up 20 points 11 dimes 5 boards and 3 steals a night. Want more? How about the fact he's .496/.365/.864 from FG/3/FT? Or has a redonkulous 30.56 PER right now? And all at 6'0 and the age of 23. On his bio, the master, the meistro, the professor of hoops Mr. John Hollinger says the following…

"In fact, if you compare how he played at ages 20 through 22 you'd be hard-pressed to find a single point guard in history who was demonstrably superior, which might make it easier to digest the possibility of further ascent. It might be odd to think of a 6-0, 175-pound guy as the best player in the league, especially when iconic talents like LeBron and Kobe are in their primes. But if Paul improves much at all from last season, we're going to have to get comfortable with that idea."

Honest to goodness if he keeps this up, we're also going to have to get comfortable with the idea of putting him in the conversation with Magic as the best point guard ever. And if you're in the same breath as Magic, that also means you're in the equation for one of the best 5 or 10 guys of all-time. Shhhh I know, I know maybe getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but so far so good.

Also, Apologies to the basketball fans in Milwaukee, Atlanta and Portland if they ever read this and now feel like slamming their heads against their desk or giving themselves a root canal with a rusty screwdriver because their teams passed on Paul in the 2005 draft. Of course, fans in Utah are still more in the dark of the truth than Andy Bernard was in The Office until last night's episode, as they can't quite seem to figure out what everyone else already knows: while DWill could be one of the best points in the league, he's nowhere not in Paul's class. Now we just have to figure out a way to make John Stockton give them a Michael Scott-type wake up. Maybe when Jazz fans pile into whatever they're calling the Delta Center for the next game, have Stockton there for some kind of pregame ceremony for "White guy's contribtion to basketball" or "Keeping short shorts alive for far too long" (you could have Jeff Hornacek involved too while we're at it), and then right at the end just casually mention "oh by the way, Chris Paul is and will always be much better than Deron Williams. It's not even close, really. They have statistics and everything to back it up. The rest of the country thinks it's a joke that you guys even keep the debate going. Just thought you should know. Oh, and while we're here, Utah having the name Jazz is a disgrace to the sport and to the good people of New Orleans. We need to give the name back. So uh, yeah, ok, thanks again! Have a great night and go Jazz!"

1. Lebron James, CLE, F, 23 yrs
08/09 Salary- 14,410,581 09/10- 15,779,912 10/11- 17,149,243 (PO)

We wrap up this long and meandering journey to #1 on the night Lebron faces Kobe, and once again, we have people like JA Adande on who can’t help comparing the two, even though this is his first sentence:

“This month, I've realized two things are overrated: New Year's resolutions and determining who's better between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.”

Really? You think so? You know what else it is, JA? Pointless and ridiculous, because The Global Icon is better than Kobe here, now, and forever more. You’re not going to believe this, but Adande was a beat writer for the Lakers before joining The Mothership, so while he can’t be blamed for his bias he can be blamed with wasting my time with this. Hmmm would you rather have a 23 year old who’s 6’9 and 270 averaging 29/7/7 with almost 2 steals and a block per game or a 30 year old Kobe who’s numbers- ALL OF THEM- are less than Bronbron’s? And if that’s not enough, even though James’ stats are the lowest since he was a rookie six years ago, according to the asteemed Professor Hollinger, The Global Icon has never been better...

"In fact, one could argue nobody has ever been better. At 32.09 going into tonight's game, James is on pace to put up the best PER of all time. Yes, better than any of Michael Jordan's seasons (his 31.70 in 1987-88 is the current gold standard). We're halfway through the season now, so we can't just write it off to a hot start -- James has a serious shot at setting a new mark."

Seriously. Not only that, but now Lebron is finally starting to give a crap at both ends, which means before our very eyes he’s turning into one of the league’s best defenders. But hey, because he’s a Lakers homer, Adande feels compelled to make an argument based on things like what happened at the Olympics (which is so relevant to the NBA when the rules at international tournaments are different making the game very different) or recalling Kobe’s “clutch” shots (even though the idea of clutch is more myth than actual fact). Real, actual statistics? Nope, he casually leaves those out because that would make it rather impossible to make his case. Sheesh, Adande should be a baseball writer so he can help other old-time newspaper writers make made up stuff like “clutchness” and “feared hitter” and “big game pitcher” count for the hall-of-fame voting more than things like actual stats. That way, they can get their favorites like Jim Rice and Catfish Hunter and (probably soon) Andre Dawson and Jack Morris into the Hall instead of more worthy candidates like Dave Parker, Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines who didn’t play in major markets but were better players by every statistic we have.

Where was I again? Oh right, Lebron. Look, he’s the first athlete of the Internet Generation to grow up in front of us, and despite ridiculous and outlandish hype, he’s actually surpassed it, and now that he’s realized playing defense matters as much as playing offense, he could very well start jumping into the discussion for Greatest Player of All-time. If/when the Cavs win a title this year or next, maybe there’s a rationale debate worth having.

Top 50- 7-25
Top 50- 26-50

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Checking in with some NFL thoughts

Hi there. Greetings and salutations. Also hello. I am really hoping/trying/praying to finish the longest running segment nobody but me cares about that has become the NBA Top 50 Trade Value post. I need to finish this because I am one of those people full of good ideas who gets fired up to start them...and then never finishes them, either because I get fired up about something else or just lose interest halfway through. But I started that one and need to finish it, only so that I can move onto other topics I need to share with you. Today I have three thoughts regarding the NFL:

1) It sucks. There, I said it. Congratulations all of you people who wish for parity and fairness and equality for everyone in sports because your dream has come true! You've got yourself an NFC championship game between the 9-6-1 Eagles and the 9-7 Cardinals (who would have finished under .500 for the nine millionth year in a row if they weren't in the NFC Worst). In the AFC we have the Ravens vs the Steelers, two good teams who will be lucky to combine for 40 points on Sunday. No matter who wins it will result in a boring, poorly played Super Bowl.

This is what we've come to in a league that demands parity and has gotten it. There's no stars in the league anymore, certainly nobody I'd pay to watch: honestly, is there ONE player in the league you'd absolutely pay to see right now? I would say Adrian Peterson, but in doing so, it means I'd have to sit through three plus hours of horrendous decisions and indecision from Brad Childress and Tavaris Jackson, so no thanks. Quarterbacks are supposed to be the stars of the league, but go ahead and try to name the top 5 QB's in the league right now after Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady (who missed the entire season with a knee injury). Go ahead, take your time. You won't come up with any because there really aren't any other GOOD quarterbacks you can rely on anymore. Tony Romo is 0-for-the-playoffs, Eli's Super Bowl win last year looked like a fluke after this season, Donovan McNabb got benched this year he was so bad, Kurt Warner is, well, Kurt Warner etc etc etc. There's a LOT of issues I have with the league right now that I won't delve into further here, but I will say this: I like college football so much more than the NFL right now it's not even close.

2) From the "A person is smart but people are stupid" deparment:
Memo to Arizona Cardinals fans: for the love of pete, please shut up. We hadn't heard from you in decades simply because there was no "you", and I'd be fine if we never hear from your whiny selves again. The Cardinals have been the worst franchise in football not named the Detroit Lions, and the Phoenix metro is the third worst pro sports town in America (with Atlanta and Miami well out in front and Tampa Bay somewhere behind. Honestly, why do we even give pro sports franchises to the state of Florida?), so it's no surprise Arizona Cardinal fans haven't made much of a dent in the national sports landscape. This season their team won the crappiest division in the history of crappy divisions bascially by default while redefining the term "backing into the playoffs" to the point I'm renaming it "Cardinal'ing into the playoffs" by losing four of their last six games (getting outscored 198-138 in the process). Despite all of this, the bandwagon Cardinals fans are outraged about being "disrespected" because nobody picked them to win against either Atlanta or Carolina.

Seriously, the only way a non-biased knowledgable football person picks the Cardinals to beat the Panthers last week is if they throw every result and ever stat from the 2008 season out the window and says "the Panthers will inexplicably not run the ball even though that's what they do best, and make no even attempt to put more than one guy on Larry Fitzgerald even though HE'S THE ONLY GUY ON THE ENTIRE ARIZONA OFFENSE WHO COULD BEAT YOU!?!?!?" And for reasons known only to John Fox and the rest of the Panthers coaching staff, that's exactly what happened. Despite having an awesome rushing attack the Panthers instead ran just 15 times- and don't even start with the "well they were down 27-7 at the half. They HAD to throw." No, no they did not. They turned the ball over 3 times in the first half- two on interceptions- because they refused to run. And if they had double, triple, quadruple, or been the league's first defense to put all 11 guys on Fitzgerald, would have Arizona done in the second half? The Panthers would have had the entire second half to run the ball and score points. But no, they did neither and so the Cards won.

Yet still, Cards fans as pissy because the Eagles are favored on the road- as they should be. As Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders said this week "in the Cards two playoff wins their opponent committed 9 turnovers under minimal pressure" which is a nice way of saying "your opponents handed you two wins. Congratulations." So yeah I'm going to go ahead and doubt that happens again.

So Cards fans, I know you're new at this whole "cheering for a winning team thing" or even "cheering faithfully for any team at all" but understand that when your team wins a crappy division and then plays like crap heading into the playoffs and then you're handed two playoff wins, nobody will believe in you. And if you happen to win against Philly on Sunday, then I'm not picking you to win the Super Bowl either- and neither will anybody else. Deal with it.

3) John Clayton hosts a weekly Saturday radio show on Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle. It's a station I grew up listening to in Vancouver, and I listen to their podcasts from time to time to check up on the Mariners and Huskies. In one of last week's interviews, Clayton made a matter-of-fact statement that, IF true, blows me away: he was talking NFL draft and said that while teams have about a 50/50 chance of drafting a successful QB in the draft, they have only a 25% chance of success drafting an underclassmen.

WHAAAAATTTTTT?!?!? You're telling me 75% of underclassmen QB's that come into the NFL are a bust?!?!?? That, my friends, is a staggering statistic, and one that would make me stay the hell away from junior and sophomore QB's in the draft. I haven't done the research on this one yet, but I plan to, although knowing me I'll probably do the research, start the post...and then never finish it. So you've got that to look forward to.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Back in August, I threw out an NFL over/under confidence points pick 'em challenge. Ok that's a really long awkward name. Remind me to come up with something better for next year. Anyway, we had 7 participants, including yours truly, take part in the challenge in which the winner gets a beer (or beverage of their choice) on me the next time I see them.

Before we get to the results and our first annual winner, let's look at what Vegas' win total projections were back in for each team, and the total wins the team actually had in the 2008 season. (By the way, I tried to pick over/unders for all 32 teams and failed miserably, picking only 14 of the 32 correctly. But thankfully I included a lot of the correct picks in my 10 confidence picks),

Team, Vegas #- Actual # of 2008 wins
Chicago, 8 wins- 9
Detroit, 6- 0
Green Bay, 8.5- 5
Minnesota, 8.5- 10

Atlanta 4.5- 11
Carolina, 7.5- 12
New Orleans, 8.5- 8
Tampa Bay, 8- 9

Dallas, 10.5- 9
New York Football Giants, 9- 12
Philadelphia, 8.5- 9
Washington, 7.5- 8

Arizona, 7.5- 9
St Louis, 6.5- 2
San Francisco, 6.5- 7
Seattle, 8.5- 4

Baltimore, 6- 12
Cincinnati, 7.5- 4
Cleveland, 8- 4
Pittsburgh, 9- 12

Houston, 7.5- 8
Indianapolis, 11- 12
Jacksonville, 10- 5
Tennessee, 8- 13

Buffalo, 8- 7
Miami, 5.5- 11
New England, 12.5- 11
New York Jets, 8- 9

Denver, 7.5- 8
Kansas City, 6- 2
Oakland, 6.5- 5
San Diego- 10.5- 8

Ok now onto the challenge results. If you're unfamiliar with confidence picks, I asked for the 10 over/under picks you felt the best about. Your STRONGEST pick would get 10 points, 2nd strongest 9 etc etc with your weakest getting 1 point. At the end of the season, we total up the points from your correct picks, and whoever has the most gets a free beer from me. And the winner of a free beer is....


Yep I DOMINATED all the punks that dared pick against my football brilliance!!!! Ok, ok, actually I barely edged out Jason Hetland and Joel Braun. The Josephson brothers, however, finished with the same totals, and might want to consider joining forces next year to have any chance against me. And what happened to Kyle and Joe? I thought these were two of the smartest NFL people I knew, and yet COMBINED they were still 8 points short of me. Better luck next year gentlemen- you'll need it!!

Here's each of our 10 confidence picks:
10.Chicago, 8 wins- UNDER- WRONG
9. New Orleans, 8.5 –over- WRONG
8. San Diego, 10.5- under- CORRECT
7. Baltimore, 6- over- CORRECT
6. Pittsburgh, 9- over- CORRECT
5. Cincinnati, 7.5- under- CORRECT
4. Cleveland, 8- under- CORRECT
3. G-men, 9- under- WRONG
2. Houston, 7.5- over- CORRECT
1. Denver, 7.5- over- CORRECT

Hets- 30 POINTS
10. San Diego 8 – under- CORRECT
9. Chicago 8 – under- WRONG
8. Atlanta 4.5 – over- CORRECT
7. NYG 9 – under- WRONG
6. Indy 11 – under- WRONG
5. Denver 7.5 – over- CORRECT
4. Baltimore 6 – over- CORRECT
3. New Orleans 8.5 – over- WRONG
2. MN 8.5 – over- CORRECT
1. Washington 7.5 – over- CORRECT

Joel Braun- 27 Points
10. Chicago, 8 wins- under- WRONG
9. Baltimore, 6 wins- over- CORRECT
8. Buffalo, 8 wins- under- CORRECT
7. New Orleans, 8 wins- over- WRONG
6. San Diego, 10.5 wins- under- CORRECT
5. NYfootball Giants, 9 wins- under- WRONG
4. Oakland, 6.5 wins- over- WRONG
3. Houston, 7.5 wins- over- CORRECT
2. Detroit, 6 wins- over- WRONG
1. Cleveland, 8 wins- under- CORRECT

Ben Josephson- 21 POINTS
10. New Orleans- 8.5 over- WRONG
9. Detroit- 6 over- WRONG
8. Baltimore- 6 over- CORRECT
7. Houston Nut 7.5 over-- CORRECT
6. Da Bears 8 uner- WRONG
5. Skins 7.5 over- CORRECT
4. Oakland Convicts 6.5 over- WRONG
3. God's Team 8.5 over- WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! GOD’S TEAM MY A**!!!!
2. Sea Town 8.5 over- WRONG
1. Parcells 5.5 over- CORRECT

Brady Josephson- 21 POINTS
10. Detroit, 6 wins – over- WRONG
9. Chicago, 8 wins – under- WRONG
8. St. Louis, 6.5 wins – over- WRONG
7. San Diego, 10.5 wins – under- CORRECT
6. Washington, 7.5 wins – over- CORRECT
5. Atlanta, 4.5 wins – over- CORRECT
4. Philadelphia, 8.5 wins – under- WRONG
3. Baltimore, 6 wins – over- CORRECT
2. Tennessee, 8 wins – under- WRONG
1. Dallas, 10.5 wins – over- WRONG

Kyle- 13 POINTS
10. Chicago 8 Under- WRONG
9. New Orleans 8.5 Over- WRONG
8. Cleveland 8 Under- CORRECT
7. Dallas 10.5 Over- WRONG
6. Green Bay 8.5 Over- WRONG
5. Seattle 8.5 Over- WRONG
4. New York G 9 Under- WRONG
3. Carolina 7.5 Over- CORRECT
2. Buffalo 8 Under- CORRECT
1. Denver 7.5 Under- WRONG

Joe- 12 POINTS
10) Miami Under- WRONG
9) Dallas Over- WRONG
8) Houston Under- WRONG
7) Indianapolis Over- CORRECT
6) Cincinnati Over- WRONG
5) Atlanta Under- WRONG
4) New Orleans Over- WRONG
3) Minnesota Over- CORRECT
2) Detroit Under- CORRECT
1) Chicago Under- WRONG

Sunday, January 04, 2009

NBA Top 50 Trade Value: 7-25

25. Greg Oden, POR, C, 20 yrs
5,011,680 09/10- 5,361,240 10/11- 6,796,524 (TO) 11/12- 8,788,681 (QO)
Could Oden be in a better situation? It's not possible. Portland is completely off the national media radar in a town that is more infatuated with the Blazers than men are with Madmen's . The Blazers are in such good shape as an organization they get a free pass this year from everybody as long as they make the playoffs. For Oden, there's as little pressure as humanly possible for him to do or be anything. Some have either written him off or lost interest, and that couldn't be better. The Best Coach in Basketball (sorry there's my Sonics bias coming through) Nate McMillan can bring Oden along slowly (he played over 40 minutes for the first time in a game just last week) because he has a decent backup center in Joel the Vanilla Gorilla Prysbilla, and so far Oden's doing just fine thank you. He's not the next David Robinson or Hakeem or maybe even Patrick Ewing, but at worst (and this is not meant as a backhanded compliment) isn't he a more offensively skilled Dikembe Mutumbo? A force on the defensive end and on the glass that can give you 15-18 a night scoring? IF he can avoid injuries (and right now that's a huge if), his baseline skill set is a top 3 or 4 center in the league. The more I write the more I think I've got him rated too low- or I'm still just way too high on him.

24. Danny Granger, IND, F, 25 yrs
$2,329,804 09/10- $9,930,500 10/11- $10,973,202 11/12- $12,015,904 12/13- $13,058,606 13/14- $14,021,788
Living here in Minnesota I (thankfully) have no emotional investment in the Timberwolves, and if I get angry just thinking about how Wolves coach/VP Kevin McHale took Rashad McCants over Granger, I can't even imagine how the 12 Wolves that are left handle it. Saying Granger is infinitely better than McCants is like saying Paris Hilton has no discernable talent- it's the understatement of understatements. What's more of an understatement than an understatement? A way-understatement? Downunderstatement? Uberunderstatement? After a breakout 2007-08, Granger so far is averaging 24.5 pts, 5 boards, 3 assists, over an steal and block per game with a PER of 20. McCants is averaging 9 pts shooting 34% with a PER of 9 on a team that is giving him every opportunity to prove himself. Great pick there by McHale. I can't wait to see how he screws up their FOUR 1st round picks this summer (make no mistake, after this horrible season concludes for Minnesota McHale WILL keep a job with the team and WILL still have influence with their decisions).

23. Al Jefferson, MIN, F, 23 yrs
11,000,000 09/10- 12,000,000 10/11- 13,000,000 11/12- 14,000,000 12/13- 15,000,000
Yes he’s 23 and already averaging 20 and 10. But how can he be that good offensively and that bad defensively? If you’re agile, strong and quick on one end, shouldn’t you still be the same way on the other? Also, Big Al, when more than one defender is trying to take the ball away from you, it means someone else is open so you should probably pass it. Well unless that guy is Rashad McCants…or Jason Collins…or Bassy Telfair…or Kevin Ollie…or- you know what? Nevermind, just keep shooting over double and triple teams. Your odds of scoring are just as good as one of your teammates scoring with no one on them.

22. Andrew Bynum, LAL, C, 21 yrs
2,769,300 09/10- 12,526,998 10/11- 13,842,332 11/12- 15,157,667 12/13- 16,473,002 (TO)
On the plus side, Bynum has shown no ill effects from microfracture knee surgery, averaging 12/8/2 in just 28 minutes per game for a solid PER of 18.21. The negatives? I wonder if he hasn’t shown much of a low post game because he hasn’t had to, or because he’s just not going to be that kind of player. And I also wonder- just what exactly IS his ceiling? Can he be a franchise center or not? Do you also realize he’s just a year younger than Dwight Howard? I know Bynum lost a season because of his knee, but Howard is currently light years better, and was much further along at this stage of his career. Bynum is also about to get really, really expensive starting next season. Still has a lot of potential, but also a lot of questions, which is why I’m sticking him here.

21. Devin Harris, NYJ, PG, 25 yrs
I've read enough of the likes of USSMariner and John Hollinger to know that a 8 weeks worth of games is an extremely small sample size to be making much of a judgment about a player's performance, but I still can't help but be blown away by the first two months that Devin Harris has had. He's so far averaged 25 points (fourth in the league), 6.4 assists (with a 3-1 assist/turnover ratio), and 1.3 steals with 48% FG and 81 FT% with a ridiculous PER of 28.31 (last season he had a career high PER of 17.63). He just went off for 47 on Phoenix, the sixth time this season he's scored at least 30 points (number of 30 point games in four previous seasons- zero). Call me crazy, but I don’t think this is a mirage, and Harris has the potential to be one of the best guards in the league.

20. Brandon Roy, POR, G, 24 yrs
3,084,240 09/10- 3,910,816 10/11- 5,217,028 (QO)
Hey, speaking of players Kevin McHale passed on in the draft, it's Brandon Roy everybody! All he did in his first two years was average 19 points, 5 assists, 4.5 boards and a PER in the high teens. This year? Ree-freaking-diculous so far: the assists and rebounds have remained, but his shooting % is up in all three categories (FG, 3Pt and FT) as is his scoring at 23.4 a night (he went for 52 last night) which all equates to a PER of 25. Wow. Just wow. I'm going to stop now in case there are any Wolves fans listening, because the team can't afford to lose any more of those.

19. Emanuel Ginobili, SA, G, 31 yrs
9,900,000 09/10- 10,725,000
GI-NO-BI-LI!!!!!!!!!!!!! I still love it when Sir Charles yells that on TNT. I really do. I really, really dislike Manu for many, many reasons but he continues to be one of the most valuable players in the league. If he’d been healthier the last year, he’d be higher on the list. A steal of a deal at just $20 million for the next two years. Do they have rules in Argentina about being underpaid?

18. Carlos Boozer, UTA, F, 27 yrs
11,594,817 09/10- 12,657,233 (PO)
One of the league’s best power forwards, and he’ll look even better when he’s playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley in Miami next year. But don’t you figure the karma gods have to be coming for him, and soon? I mean it’s been three years since he stabbed a blind man in the back in Cleveland and bolted for Utah. Sure, having to live in Utah should probably be punishment enough, but he’s still going to be a bazillionaire and get to live in South Beach. Reparations have to be coming, right? Did I mention he went to Duke? Reparations are DEFINITELY coming then. Enjoy the good life while it lasts, Carlos.

17. (tie) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL, F, 30 yrs
18,077,904 09/10- 19,795,714 10/11- 21,513,524 (PO)
Paul Pierce, BOS, F, 31 yrs old
18,077,903 09/10- 19,795,712 10/11- 21,513,521 (PO)
Two of the best forwards in the league making identical salaries. Pierce may be a year older, but he didn’t just earn a championship ring, he was the go-to guy on that team. Nowitzki’s advantage is that while he’s a Euro and choked in the Finals, he didn’t fake an injury in the Finals where he had to get carried off the court looking like he might need his legs amputated only to return a quarter later looking like absolutely nothing happened. I know Pierce recovered from being stabbed, but you can’t overlook the fake knee injury either.

15. Carmelo Anthony, DEN, F, 24 yrs
14,410,581 09/10- 15,779,912 10/11- 17,149,243 11/12- 18,518,575 (PO)
Can you believe Melo’s only 24? Doesn’t it seem like he’s been in the league for at least 10 years? Can you also believe he’s now clearly the FOURTH best player from the 2003 draft (the top three are still to come)? An awesome offensive talent, Anthony has never emerged as the leader he was at Syracuse, and his reputation has taken a hit. This season his numbers are down, but he’s trying to play through two painful elbows that have bone spurs in them, so you can’t really blame them. If he can somehow get healthy for the playoffs Anthony may have his best opportunity to make a long playoff run with Billups running the point, but at the moment that seems like a big if (( says bone spurs can only be fixed through surgery).

14. Joe Johnson, ATL, PG, 27 yrs
14,232,566 09/10-14,976,754
Johnson is one of the least talked about free agents for the 2010 bonanza, yet he could have one of the biggest impacts for his new team. In four seasons since being traded to the Hawks in 2005, the 6’7 combo guard has averaged 40 minutes a game, 22.4 pts, 5.7 asts (with just 2.9 TO’s for an almost 3/1 assist-to-turnover ratio), and 4.4 reb, on 45% shooting. With the Hawks finally playing well this season, Johnson might finally get some recognition as one of the league’s best players. Of course the recognition he’d really appreciate would be a huge payday in the summer of 2010, and he should get it from somebody who misses out on Lebron and DWade.

13. Kevin Durant, OKC, F, 20 yrs
$4,484,040 09/10-$4,796,880 10/11-$6,053,662 11/12- $7,900,029
When I started putting this list together in late November, I had Durant ranked somewhere in the 20's. In his first year last season, and then the first month of this year, for reasons unbeknownst to modern science the dolts coaching him insisted on playing him out of position as a two guard. This would be like buying a Ferrari and then only using it to drive to the grocery store on back roads doing 25 mph. Coming out of college Durant had a rare blend as an unstoppable scorer, capable rebounder (averaged over 10 a game at Texas) and showed a work ethic you just don't see in teenagers. In other words, he would be a monster at forward and a total waste of his abilities at the two. Sure enough, as a guard he had horrible shot selection, jacked up threes, and picked up more bad habits than rebounds. Last season he averaged just 20 pts and 4 rebounds with a disappointing PER of just 15, and for the first month of this year his numbers were very similar. Then his coach PJ Carleismo got fired, and while it was a little ridiculous (Jesus Christ crossed with Red Auerbauch couldn't coach this team to the playoffs let alone 30 wins this year), it did finally clue in those in charge to move Durant to small forward. In the month of December, the results have been nothing short of spectacular, averaging 25 pts, 7.4 boards, over 1.5 stls and blks per game, and a PER near 19. THIS is the Kevin Durant we expected when he was drafted last year, and this is the kid with the limitless ceiling that could challenge Lebron and Chris Paul as the game's best in a few more years. If his December performance is sustainable, the 20 year old could be one of the most valuable players in the league by season's end.

12. Yao Ming, HOU, C, 28 yrs
15,070,550 09/10- 16,378,325 10/11- 17,686,100
The only reason Yao is ranked this high is because he’s from China. And because he’s from China he sells about a gazillion dollars worth of merchandise for the Rockets, so to trade him would mean no matter how much better they get on the court, they’d be missing out on a gazillion dollars of merchandise. If you haven’t noticed, owners like making a lot of money. But if Yao were white or black or Latino or from any other country besides the largest emerging Super Power nation with over a billion people, he would be ranked somewhere in the 20’s on this list. No seriously, he would. Yes, he hasn’t had a PER below 20 in his career, and you’re getting 20 points, 10 boards, and 2 blocks per game. But you know what else you’re getting? Him sitting in street cloths for at least 30 games a year because hasn’t played more than 57 games in a season since 2004-05. I would call that injury prone. Oh, and because he’s Chinese (and it’s “alleged” that China maybe can’t be trusted when they say how old their athletes are), he could be a little bit older than the 28 he says he is. Or a lot.

11. Amare Stoudamire, PHX, C, 26 yrs
15,070,550 09/10- 16,378,325 10/11- 17,686,100 (PO)
Of all the ways Suns owner Robert Sarver has killed Suns fans over the years, we’re starting to see that the worst thing he may have done was letting coach Mike D’Antoni walk. Only Shaq has been better this season, and that could be due as much to Shaq’s effort and being in shape as it is to new coach Terry Porter. We do know that Porter sure hasn’t helped anyone else, especially Amare. As far as we know, Stoudamire is as healthy as ever, yet his numbers are WAY down: last year he averaged 25 & 9 with 2 blocks while shooting 59% in just 33 minutes a night. This year he’s actually playing MORE (37 mins a game), but has managed only 21/8/1 on 55% shooting. He’s ranked this high because before this season, he looked like one of the best centers in the league. But if this is more indicative of his true level of production, then he’ll be dropping a long ways in next year’s rankings.

9. (tie) Deron Williams, UTA, PG, 24 yrs
$5,069,448 09/10- $13,785,000 10/11-$15,202,590 11/12- $16,647,180 12/13-$18,091,770 (PO)
Tony Parker, SA, G, 26 yrs
11,550,000 09/10- 12,600,000 10/11- 13,500,000
Both of these guys are PERFECT for their current systems and coaches. Parker's a scoring point guard whose slashing/penetrating style works beautifully with Duncan and Ginobili. He's taken his game to another level this season, bumping his scoring average from 16 to 22 a night and has upped his assists too from 5.5 to 6.7. He HAS to be in the top 5 MVP conversation so far with a ridiculous 24.33 PER (a full 3 points higher than his previous best in any other season). Williams is a pure pass-first point (2nd in the league in assists with 9.7 per game) who can be an efficient scorer when the opportunity arises (went for 29 on 61% shooting in a win over Detroit on 12/19 and scored 27 in just 33 minutes on an identical 11-18 and 61% shooting from the field in a blowout win of Philly on 12/29). They're both of the best point guards alive and at 26 and 23 years old respectively, will be two of the best at the position for years to come.

8. Derrick Rose, CHI, PG, 20 yrs
4,822,800 09/10- 5,184,480 10/11- 5,546,160 (TO) 11/12- 6,993,707 (TO) 12/13- 9,091,819 (QO)
While Williams and Parker are two of the top three or four point guards in the NBA, that's as good as they can be. I'd take Rose over both because he has the potential to be not just the best PG in the league, but to challenge Lebron, Kobe, CP3 and Dwight Howard as the best PLAYER in the league. And it could happen sooner than anyone thought. His first two months in the L have been nothing short of amazing, averaging 17 points and 6.3 assists (and just 2.74 turnovers) at the ripe old age of 20!! Even more surprising is that Rose, who was supposed to have a suspect jumper, has so far shot 34% from 3 (14-41), 47.7% from the field and just shy of 80% from the charity stripe. That might not sound that amazing until you realize that by comparison Parker didn't average 17 points a game until his 5th season and didn't average more than 6.1 assists until this year, his 8th in the NBA. Williams averaged just 10.8 pts and 4.5 asts his rookie year, and while his assists went way up, he still hasn't shown the scoring ability Rose already has. What about Chris Paul, you say? As a rookie in 05/06 CP3 did average more assists (7.8) and steals (2.2 to Rose's 1.0) with slightly less turnovers (2.3), but he didn't score as much as Rose has (16.3 pts) and shot much worse (43% FG and 28% 3PT). Believe it or not Magic Johnson is the only point guard to have better rookie numbers across the board than Rose has posted so far (Isiah Thomas scored about the same as Rose and had more assists and steals but WAY more turnovers and wasn't close in shooting percentages). Have I mentioned he's only 20?!? Have I? Parker and Williams might be perfect for the teams, but they'd give up either one for Rose, whereas the Bulls would say "what else are you throwing into the deal?" Well if their GM wasn't John Paxson, he'd say that.

7. Tim Duncan, SA, C, 32 yrs
20,598,703 09/10- 22,183,218 10/11- 18,700,000 11/12- 21,300,000
The Big Fundamental could also be called the Big Constant or Mr. Reliable. Not the most exciting nicknames but Duncan's never been about excitement, just productivity. At 32, he's shown few signs of slowing down, averaging 20 pts, 10 boards, and 2 blocks a game- all just slightly under his career averages. And since TD already relies on the fundamentals, it means he should be a 20/10/2 player well into his late 30's because he doesn't have to worry about losing quickness or jumping ability.

NBA Top 50: 1-6
NBA Top 50: 26-50