Well, we’re pretty near the mid-season mark in the 2009-2010 NBA season, and it’s time for mid-season awards and Bests, beginning with the best foreign players in the NBA this season so far.
Number 10 – Samuel Dalembert, Philadelphia 76ers, Canadian, born in Haiti
The Haiti born Canadian isn’t among the flashiest or versatile centers in the league, but he’s a solid rebounder, fantastic shot blocker and so far in 2010 has played on a much improved level, averaging 12.4 points and 13 rebounds, including a 20-20 outing against Washington and another 21 rebound game against the Knicks a few days ago. Dalembert has been pushed into the spotlight this past week due to tragic circumstances with the tragic earthquake in Haiti.
Number 9 – Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors, Italian
Bargnani continues to improve, and in his fourth season as an NBA player, a no.1 draft pick if you forgot, he’s posting the best numbers of his career – 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while shooting 47.4% from the field. Probably the big improvement in his game is his consistency, or more of it compared to prior seasons (only 5 games this season with less than 10 points).
Number 8 – Luis Scola, Houston Rockets, Argentina
The Gold Medalist from the 2004 Olympics in Athens is 29 despite this being only his third NBA season (was drafted by the Spurs back in 2002, but stayed in Europe). His numbers? Keep getting better, well at least his scoring is, averaging 14.7 points with 8.6 rebounds in 30 minutes per night, with 16 double-double nights so far, almost half his games.
Number 7 – Loul Deng, Chicago Bulls, British born in Sudan
Should the Bulls have traded Deng to the Lakers for Kobe? Yes, probably. Whatever they felt his potential is, that was a bad decision to leave things as they were. The Bulls had a bad season in 2007-2008 but rebounded last year, while Deng had his worst season since his rookie year. This season? He’s back to his better form while the Bulls struggle to find consistency (currently 8th in the East, 18-20). His defense is better than before, with his numbers showing – 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game, both career highs, along with 1 steal per game, while his scoring is back to 17.6 per game after scoring 14 per game last year. Deng is a 40% three point shooter, so maybe he should start taking more than one shot per game.
Number 6 – Nene, Denver Nuggets, Brazil
Ever since Nene got treated for cancer, he’s been playing the best basketball of his career, and his 2009-2010 form is on par with 08-09, maybe even better. The Brazilian center is averaging 14.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1 block per game while shooting over 57% from the field, 5th in the league (he finished with 60.4% last season), helping Denver to the third best record in the West (25-14).
Number 5 – Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Dominican
Al Horford continues to improve with his team, posting career highs in points (13.7), rebounds (9.8) and field goal percentage (58.5%, 4th in the league), helping the Hawks rank third in the East (26-13). Horford’s best game of the season came against Indiana a day after Christmas, scoring 25 points, grabbing 19 rebounds and also 5 blocks as the Hawks beat the Pacers 110-98.
Number 4 – Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, Spain
Maybe he’s not a superstar like his older brother, but Marc Gasol has developed pretty quickly into one of the better Centers in the league, being an integral part of the Grizzlies surprising playoff-spot contention this season, with a 21-18 record so far this season. Gasol, in his second season in the league, is scoring 14.7 points and grabbing 9.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 61.4% from the field, second best in the league.
Number 3 – Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns, Canadian
After it seemed age has caught up with Steve Nash last season, having his worst season since his return to Phoenix, 2009-2010 shows us it was probably more a Shaq thing than an age thing. Although the Suns have cooled down a bit after their super-hot start, Nash is playing like the Nash from three years ago, averaging 18.7 points with 11 assists per game (2nd in the league), shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from the three AND leading the league in free throw shooting with 94.9%. The Suns right now are 6th in the West but it’s way too early and way too tight over there to actually say right now who’s safe and who’s not, but Nash is definitely looking like one of the best point guards in the league, maybe the best on certain nights (two 30+ points and 10+ assists games this month).
Number 2 – Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks, Germany
What else can we say about this guy? Leading the Mavs to the second best record in the West with 25.2 points per game (7th in the league) and 8 rebounds per game, in yet another attempt to lead his team towards a deep playoff run and maybe, maybe, finally get him and Jason Kidd the title that’s eluded them in the past. Favorites? Definitely not, but the Mavericks are looking very good most of the time. The problem is these Lakers, and besides Kobe Bryant, the guy coming up next.
Number 1 – Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers, Spain
Yes, he’s missed 17 games this season, but when he’s in the line up, the Lakers are the best team in the league. Of course they have Kobe, but Pau is the league’s best Robin to Kobe’s Batman, averaging 17 points and 11.3 rebounds, with 14 double doubles in 23 games. He is also shooting over 54% from the field this season, helping the Lakers, when he’s healthy, to the best record in the league so far (31-9), en route to a predicted third straight NBA final and favorites to win a second straight NBA title. Remember, the consecutive finals began only after Gasol arrived in that ridiculous trade from Memphis.