NBA Top 10 Players of 2012

Based on a panel of 104 supposed basketball experts marking a player's quality out of 10, ESPN's annual player ranking is a hotly debated topic. As if to once again spark debate and controversy, the recently released 2012/13 ranking is as dubious as ever. The top 10 players are ranked as follows:

1.   LeBron James
2.   Kevin Durant
3.   Dwight Howard
4.   Chris Paul
5.   Derrick Rose
6.   Kobe Bryant
7.   Kevin Love
8.   Dwayne Wade
9.   Russel Westbrook
10. Deron Williams

The way this ranking has turned out is problematic for me. Some should be higher, some lower and some entirely absent from the Top 10. Very few would have the audacity to question the stripes of LBJ or KD and even fewer have even a modicum of evidence to support their claims so in 1st and 2nd they will stay. I have far more of an issue with DHoward at 3. I don't contest he is the best Centre in the league. Yes - he has the athleticism of a man 40lbs lighter than himself. Yes - he is unequivocally the best pick-and-roll defender in the NBA. Yes - he mops up rebounds like a malnourished tramp on a portion of chips. Yes - in the paint he can be a prolific scorer. But how can such a lofty place in the rankings be bestowed to a player who was entirely absent for the latter half of the season and the entirety of the post season?! Exactly the same criticism can be levelled against DRose who spent more time in the medical bay than on the court last season. I'm not questioning their stripes as players - DHoward is the best centre in the NBA and a fit DRose could easily stake his claim as the one of the best PGs. Where DRose offers flashes of brilliance akin to his MVP season between drawn out periods of injury, CP3 is very much the real deal. Though I have my reservations about the Clippers generally (in particular the hype surrounding Blake Griffin), CP3 is superb on the point with the ability to carve open a defence like a chainsaw through butter with his passing game or to go it alone with his - at times - ridiculous shooting. Further, he is a complete banker in the final 2 minutes; there are few others I would sooner have on my team than CP3 for plays at the business end of a game.

 Another odd placement is Kobe Bryant at 6. Say what you want about his tendency to jack up any and every shooting opportunity going but with 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists he was the backbone of the Lakers team last season and was only very narrowly pipped by KD for the scoring title. Doubtless with the addition of DHoward and Steve Nash this coming season Kobe will be more inclined to think twice before pulling the trigger but in the 2011/12 season The Black Mamba's contribution to the Lakers was indisputably critical. Continuing on the subject of shotjacking, Russell Westbrook at 9 is contentious. I feel that the panel of experts has fallen into the trap of rating RWestbrook based on the overall team success of OKC rather than on his individual merit. While I am not for a single second suggesting that RWestbrook was not pivotal in Thunder's road to the final, I feel that the team would've posed more of a problem to Heat in the one-sided 4-1 series had the PG done his job on the point and got the ball into the hands of the team's (and league's) best shooter - KD - rather than instead choosing to make one of his helter-skelter runs for a lay-up. As a player Harden contributed more to OKC's run to the final than RWestbrook despite his being the 6th man, simply in virtue of his knowing his roll in the team unit. RWestbrook burns incandescently with the desire to be the superstar of his team - just look at when it boiled over between him the man he aspires to be a couple of years ago.

Despite the irresistible force that is LeBron, without the support of DWade Heat would not be wearing rings now. Heat are a team which are heavily reliant on their stars, and less reliant on their bench - without DWade's average contribution of 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists, Miami would have to settle for 2nd and Skip Bayliss would be gleefully preparing his notes on his next slating of King James. For this reason, Miami's invaluable SG must climb a few rungs up the rankings.

San Antonio spurs are a team of great synergy - the relationship between its WHOLE (yes Miami - whole) squad was what saw them have the best regular season record. The omittance of Tony Parker from the Top 10 seems an egregious decision given the knowledge that he is joining glue of the team whose surgically accurate passing game making him the best pure-passing PG in the league. Melo deserves a place in the Top 10 based wholly on his offensive game. While he may stink with his back to the post, with ball in hand Melo is a phenomenon - who can forget Game 4 of the Knicks vs Heat series when Melo dropped added to his 38 points with a deep go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute remaining to stave off a 4-0 Heat victory. A man capable of this type of offence against the best team in the league facing a whitewash elimination deserves a Top 10 position.

 With all this in mind, here is my revised list of the NBA Top 10 Players of 2012:

1.   LeBron James
2.   Kevin Durant
3.   Chris Paul
4.   Kobe Bryant
5.   Dwayne Wade 
6.   Kevin Love
7.   Dwight Howard
8.   Deron Williams
9.   Tony Parker
10. Carmelo Anthony

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