Best Player in the League? Dirk Nowitzki
After a few weeks of this season, I got into another discussion with a friend about the best player in the NBA. ESPN did their take on it over the summer (http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/7116977/nba- player-rankings-1). I perused all of their entries, and decided that a review of their top 25 would be in order. Given the quick way the season came about after months of talk of a complete lockout, the rust is just now beginning to fall off some teams and players. So most of the analysis will be based on the work done by the players prior to the season. Certainly it should be re-visited at the end of the regular season, but to look at the small sample size that is the 2011-2012 NBA season seems like a knee-jerk reaction.
I’ll start at the top, say what nonsense you will about LeBron, but he does have the best all-around game. Howard isn’t the offensive power that his size and athleticism would seem to indicate, Wade isn’t the best player on his team, and Kobe got swept last year. Really, the only question to me is…why not the champ?
Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA Championship. He certainly had pieces around him, but no great players or even fringe All-Stars. Those two facts alone put him in an elite class that warrants AT LEAST a number 2 ranking. Think of it this way, on the way to the chip, the Mavs beat the Blazers, Lakers, Thunder, and
the Heat. Those four teams have 8 players in the top 25. That means Dirk faced and beat the a third of the top 25 (obviously excluding himself) on the way to his first ring. That’s flat-out impressive and more than any other player beat in their playoff run. No, he isn’t a great defender, and can’t play multiple positions…BUT HE WON.
My biggest problem with this list has to be the disrespect Carmelo was shown. Anthony has to be in anyone’s top 10. I know he has had limited success in the playoffs (he’s gotten out of the initialround only once, being swept 3 times in the 1st round), but he’s the most complete scorer in the league. Defensively he can admittedly lose focus, but go back and watch some of the battles he had with Kobe in the postseason and you’ll see a player capable of being on an All-Defensive team.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT PLACEMENT
Much of the rest of the list is solid (I was pleasantly surprised to see Horford grace the top 25 given that he’d be a much bigger star if he hadn’t spent the majority of his time playing out of position at the Center instead of his God-given position of power forward) with very little to critique other than the appearance of a few players who have LIVED in the top 25 of the league for their careers, but now should be bumped down the list accordingly
Steve Nash: I will confess I have always felt that Nash was overrated. How in the hell does he have two times as many MVP awards as Kobe (a reason that I now never bring up MVPs when discussing/ comparing great players)? Never has a player gotten a bigger pass for constantly being a defensive liability than Nash. It’s the old adage in basketball, “If you drop 20, but give up 25 you’re a liability.” Nash is a quality player, a dead-eye shooter and a creatively appropriate passer. Still, having him as a player in the top 15 of this league is a stretch.
Tim Duncan. I’m from NC, so I had 4 years to watch Tim Duncan, so I became a fan.
**Sidenote: how crazy is it that Tim Duncan spent four years in college? People just don’t’ do that anymore. At all. And they shouldn’t (research Terrence Morris from UMD as the reason not to), but the fact that Tim Duncan was a consummate Naimsmith Award winner should let you know that he was a rare breed (either through fortitude or family situation) that really was able to not be swayed by money. Tim Duncan was FANTASTIC in college. Duncan was a joy to watch at Wake Forest. He played with talent and intelligence and was so lowkey that he made his spectators feel cool by comparison.***
I became a fan despite some of the more boring years to watch the Spurs (pre Manu years) while they were achieving great things. But Timmy has been done as a force in this league for awhile. He is a solid PF at this stage. No real leaping ability, but length to bother on the defensive end. In addition, he has a beautiful pace of the game, even in the paint, and knows when to be aggressive offensively.
With all of that said, he isn’t a top 25 player in this league. While I felt that may have reached with Love at 16, he’s a prime example of a player that is more relevant despite relevancy in far fewer games. Duncan isn’t the best player at his position, give me Amar’e, Horford, Garnett, Bosh, Gasol, Aldridge,
Randolph, Griffin, and Nowitzki, all before TD (which goes to the theory that PF is the most talent rich position in the league, but I digress) .
The List is good, despite my nitpicking. Who do you wish was in the top 25?
Author: Brenden Whitted. Follow Brenden on Twitter: @WBHUalum