The old guard. One of the league’s most respected and loved players. KG has forever been etched into Timberwolves and Celtics fans minds as a defensive and offensive juggernaut. KG’s ability to own the court, intimidate and ultimately win games sees him stay in the top 25, age aside. If it wasn’t for Garnett being 36, he may well still be a long way up this list but in reality he is slower and less agile than he was but there is little doubt this man deserves to be heralded as a top player no matter how old he is. Last year’s playoffs showed he is still able to compete, and a new 3 year deal ensures he will remain dedicated and a thorn in opposition sides
Only thing keeping Kryie away from a higher spot is experience. This 2nd year gun is without a doubt the most promising young player in the NBA and within a few years, we’ll see this kid grow into an absolute superstar. Whilst not having a hugely beneficial team around him, Irving has embraced the Cavaliers and seems happy to call them home for now. Give him time, and the inexperience will fade, and the hunger for a championship will rise. The Cavs will try hard to keep him but in reality all Irving’s stock is going to do is rise and he’ll be offered a very sizable contract. Keep an eye on his speed, and ability to space the floor and create looks for his players. In this, you will see his numbers, and fan base grow.
Tony Parker really shone this past season for the Spurs. His tenacious attitude on the court and his willingness to mesh with other players sees him sit high in the rankings going into 2012/13. His appearances alongside fellow Frenchman Nicolas Batum at this year’s London Olympics didn’t yield a lot, but for Parker his spot was earned during the past season where his offense helped the Spurs go unbeaten for 20 straight games. He scores at a good rate (49% FFG) and this year, his assists stood at 7.1 per game. Good quality production for an aging guard with old pieces around him.
All-Star who isn’t getting any younger can still bang with the best of them.
5. Chris Paul
Here is a man who has come from a small market team in New Orleans to the bright lights of Los Angeles and excelled in every way possible. Chris Paul has been the lynchpin that has bound the Clippers together and going forward should continue to do so. An elite athlete and starting Team USA guard, Paul orchestrates such brilliant plays and executes them with a maturity some other guards in the league could (should) work on emulating. Paul averages around 18 PPG, and his assist rates sit around the 9 per game mark. Look for this number to rise with new bloods like Lamar Odom joining the fold, and his already flourishing relationship with Blake Griffin gaining more traction.
4. Derrick Rose
Had D-Rose been healthy, the 2012 playoffs may have been very different for the Bulls. Rose, the league’s number one point guard seems to have the ability to draw a team together and run an offense that is nearly impossible to defend. The Bulls were disappointing at the end of last season and this is largely due to the influence their fallen star has on the team. Before he was injured, Rose boasted numbers that helped guide Chicago past a host of tough teams. 23PPG and 50% from 3 point range throughout the season. Look for Rose to become even more influential when he eventually returns and becomes the hardened, game ready player he truly is.
3. Kobe Bryant
What can we say? 5-Time champion, league MVP, last season’s runner up points scorer, Olympic gold medalist. Kobe just won’t take no for an answer. At 34, the Black Mamba has accomplished all there is in the world of basketball. Some say Bryant is past his prime, but let’s not forget had he played that last game in Sacramento last season, he would have likely beaten Durant to the scoring title. His ability to simply turn it on when needed and bury teams is unlike anyone in the NBA and calls for the highest amount of praise. Kobe’s 2012 was fraught with uphill battles which made him seem tired at times but be assured, this next season you will see a Kobe that hasn’t been seen for a years. He has Dwight. He has Nash. He has Pau. He has a bench. This year you will see the refreshed, invigorated, comfortable and downright terrifying Kobe everyone respects and fears.
2. Kevin Durant
He’s the reigning scoring champ, a fan favorite and 2012 runner up and for all his accolades, Kevin Durant is only 23 years old. Look for this young gun to really find his feet this season as he attempts to gain that first ring. Don’t be surprised if he takes out back to back scoring champ either. Averaging 28 PPG flat per game in 2011/12, Durant has only improved his shot in the off season which spells trouble for any team taking the Thunder on. His pairing with skilled point guard Russell Westbrook and the rest of OKC’s lineup should demonstrate how devastating Durant can really be and the new look Lakers will still be up against it when taking on this team.
1. LeBron James
3-Time League MVP, and arguably the most talented player in the NBA. James finally won his first ring last season and now that that particular monkey is off his back, there’s no telling how dominant this superstar will be. The pressure is off, and LeBron can finally function as normal. James wasn’t far off the scoring title last year, having just being pipped by Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant but his 27.1PPG line looks pretty ominous and should only improve next season. Defensively, James has room to improve and you can be sure he will. Averaging 7.9 RPG, he’s already registering big numbers, but look for that to skyrocket come October. The only way is up for LeBron James at this point.