LeBron James didn’t win the MVP last season, but he should have. He’s the most talented player in his position, and the league. In a position that’s top heavy, maybe more than any other in the league, James’ versatility and ability to do it all on both ends keeps him above Durant.
As we said, Kevin Durant, the favorite to win the MVP and maybe even the NBA title this season, the most skillful offensive player in the league, is joined by Granger, Rudy Gay and Carmelo Anthony as the five best Small Forwards to play in the NBA in 2011-2012.
Number 5 – Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Granger’s numbers dropped last season, from around the 24-25 points per game to just over 20, playing his first full regular season since 2007-2008. He did lead the Pacers to their first playoff appearance since 2005-2006, scoring 21.6 points per game as the Pacers made life very hard for the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
Granger’s shooting dropped to %42.5, although his three point shooting continued to be just below the 40’s. Problems is for West that he has been Indiana’s only viable scoring option in the past few seasons, and the arrival of David West will make it easier for Granger to share the load of leading and scoring.
Number 4 – Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies
Rudy Gay started 2010-2011 as one of the hottest players in the league, and the cooled down, as the Grizzlies were having the best season ever, and then came the injury. Instead of Memphis slowing down, they knocked out the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and took the Thunder to 7 games in the Semi Finals.
This season, anything but a conference Semi Final or more will be a disappointment. If Gay and the rest of the group around him remain healthy, I think Gay will take another step towards being a bona fide All-Star player in this league. Mosti importantly, his improved outside shooting and shot selection, hitting %39.6 from three point land in 2010-2011.
Number 3 – Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
A playoff appearance isn’t something special for Carmelo Anthony, who has made the playoffs each and every season since he came into the league. He’ll never be LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but he’s pretty special himself. In his short time with the Knicks, he averaged 26.2 points per game alongside Amar’e Stoudemire.
In New York, aiming higher than simply playoffs this season, Anthony’s at home (Brooklyn born). He’s also getting the attention he thinks he deserves as superstar in this league, finally in a big market, the biggest of them all. Problem for Anthony is that he Knicks, despite adding Tyson Chandler this season, might still not be good enough for a deep run in the East, especially with Chicago and Miami around.
Number 2 – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant was the MVP favorite when the gates opened last season. Derrick Rose and an ordinary season from Durant, not improving his scoring average for the first time in his career but still winning the scoring title with 27.7 points per game. He’s the favorite around most pundits and big websites this season as well. Offensively, he’s the biggest talent in the league.
One thing going for the Thunder besides being the favorites to win the West and the experience gained from last season’s Western Conference final is that Westbrook has probably learned his place. An amazing talent, but this is Durant’s team, and if Westbrook doesn’t try to force taking over games, Oklahoma might make it a step further this season.
Number 1- LeBron James, Miami Heat
Forget about the fourth quarters in his second failed experience in the NBA finals. Despite the hate, LeBron James is the most talented player in the league. He can score like Durant if he focuses on that, and is a better passer and defender. He averaged 26.7 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 7 assists.
Besides being a triple double threat every night, James’ defense continued to improve, as he shut down Derrick Rose in the closing moments of the Eastern Finals games. His disappearing act in the finals have to get you worried, but if you believe this guy is not just talented but has the character to pick himself up, this is going to be a great year for him and the Heat.
Did the Bulls do enough to improve and get past the Heat this Spring? I’m not so sure. And the Heat will be just as good if not better this season.