Number 5 – Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Randolph may of had the best season in his career in 2009-2010, scoring 20.8 points while grabbing a career high 11.7 rebounds per game (3rd in the league), leading Memphis to their best season since 2005-2006 with 40 wins. He’s still not the best of defenders and probably never will be, but he seems genuinely happy at Memphis, his fourth team since 2006-2007, and they seem happy with him. Randolph, who’s making 17.6 million dollars a year wants more money it seems and a contract extension offer should be coming soon, but probably not for the money he wants. Randolph need to understand he has a good thing going at Memphis with a lot of potential and talent around him, and he better not mess it up. He’s not going to get a better deal.
Number 4 – Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
New team, old coach. Stoudemire reunites with Mike D’Antoni in the East coast on a team that was yearning to get a superstar named LeBron but will begin the season with a lot more hope than usual about the Knics’ prospects and long term future. Stoudemire, who’ll pretty much fill in for David Lee, is a better player, especially offensively. Stoudemire averaged 23.1 points for the Suns last season, 10th in the NBA, shooting 55.7% from the field, 7th in the league. Still, like Randolph, Amar’e doesn’t bring too much defense to the table, something the Knicks seriously lack. His rebounding, unlike Lee’s, isn’t as consistent, despite the 9 per game average and the double double potential. Still, there are few big men if any who have Stoudemire’s offensive skills, and he will make the Knicks better.
Number 3 – Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Nowitzki tested the waters outside Dallas for a very short while during the off season but very quickly decided to stay with the Mavs, where he has been since day 1. In 2009-2010 (we ranked him #1 at the position last year) Nowitzki did the usual – 25 points, 7.7 rebounds (lowest number since 1999-2000), winning 55 games (Mavs’ 10th consecutive 50+ win season) and a first round loss to the Spurs, despite home court advantage. Nothing new. Nowitzki is great, making Dallas an “on the paper title contender”, and without him they’re barely a playoff team and more than that, a team no one will care about, but still, not enough to carry the Mavs to that title Cuban wants so badly.
Number 2 – Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
Despite Bosh not being a Superstar like LeBron and Wade, just an “All-Star”, he did have sort of a breakout season last year, playing the best basketball of his life, averaging 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game, both career highs. Now he’s going to be third-string in Miami, but for the first time on a team that he isn’t the main of attention which should do him a lot of good in my opinion but also a team that actually has some national recognition thanks to a couple of teammates he has. Bosh won’t be measured only by stats this season – It’s the dirty work, picks and defense that the Heat will need him to produce. They have two players who can score over 30 on any given night. A ring at the end of the road will be nice, too.
Number 1 – Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
That huge finals series against the Celtics leaves no doubt – Gasol is the best PF in the league right now. The defense, the clutch, the effort – Gasol was the real MVP of that finals series, averaging 18.6 points, 11.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game and an amazing games 6-7 performance. He missed 17 games last year but a summer with no international basketball should be good for his tired bones. Now, does he, Kobe and the rest have enough fire burning inside them for another title run or is two enough?