For the first time since perhaps 1999, just after the second retirement of Michael Jordan, we will probably enter next season (whenever that is) without a clear cut best player.
Normally, it comes down to two or three guys. Now? There are perhaps 10 players that can make the claim. A few weeks ago, I was convinced LeBron was the best player in the world (I think everybody was) and had been for perhaps the last two years. But he failed so miserably and shrunk so considerably in the NBA Finals that I find it hard to say that now. This year was amazing, in part because there were no absolute favorites…teams or players. Could next year be even better? There are old vets looking to claim another ring and young players looking for redemption.
Who’s now the best player in the league? It’s unanimously indecisive. Here are some potential candidates for next season:
Carmelo Anthony: considered by many to have the most complete offensive arsenal…despite a sweep, put up 26, 10 & 5 in the playoffs…if he’s not scoring, struggles to always have big impact…as long as the Knicks are average, his individual brilliance will be minimized
Kobe Bryant: VERY average playoff run (23, 3 & 3)…regular season overlooked because of that, was still considered one of two or three best in the game…can’t do it on a nightly basis anymore…struggled immensely in close games this year…interesting to see how he responds next year
Kevin Durant: two-time leading scorer…coming off his first deep run in the playoffs…he’s making the transition from sympathetic young player to scrutinized vet…struggled to finish playoff games in the fourth quarter, yet still averaged close to 29 a game…still just 22 years old
Dwight Howard: probably the most dominant regular-season player last year…literally one-man team in the playoffs…23 and 14 during the regular season, boosted those numbers to 27 & 16 in the playoffs…offensive game is finally developing…get the feeling Orlando should be better than they are with this guy
LeBron James: most physically-talented player in the game…dominated the Eastern Conference playoffs…faded mysteriously in the Finals…still lacks the in-between game…stll averaged 27, 7 and 7 with the Big Three…looks like one of the best regular season players ever…growth on the court will be mostly mental from here on out…will suddenly be 27 years old next year
Dirk Nowitzki: Finals MVP…league MVP candidate for first half of this season…been so consistent for so long that no one thinks about him…23 and 7 last year, first signs of slippage…will be talk of the summer because of his monstrous playoff run…next year should tell us whether he’s satisfied or still hungry
Chris Paul: had an average season by his standards last year…exploded in the playoffs (22, 6.7 & 11.5)…will his injuries catch up to him?…as long as New Orleans continues to be average, his best player candidacy will be as well…despite being considered by many the ultimate PG, hasn’t won much
Derrick Rose: league MVP…has physical gifts that you don’t see from a PG…had largest jump from ’10 season to this past year…still isn’t a great perimeter shooter…some contend he shoots way too much…humble leader of one of the best teams in the league…still has a ton of room to grow
Dwyane Wade: didn’t deliver in the Finals, but considered one of the game’s ultimate killers…can get to the rim whenever he wants…has a complete game and may be best off-ball defender in the league…numbers (25.5, 6.4 & 4.6) didn’t tail off at all w/ Big Three…will be 30 years old next January
Who’s the best player in the league now?
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