10. Chris Paul
The State Farm leading assist man has been known mostly through popular opinion as the Best Point Guard in the league. He has the attitude of a scrap yard dog, the heart of veteran, and arguably the best handle in the league. Although he has not had the most success in terms of post-season wins, he lays it on the floor every night and that is what you want from your starting point guard. Chris has proven that he can do anything on the court; pass effectively, score in volume, rebound, and make tough stops. So the question continues to be, where is the championship? Can he elevate the game of his teammates (Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan) in order to reach the NBA apex? The Clippers are still one player away from being Western conference elite but until then, Chris Paul will need to carry this Doc River led club.
9. James Harden
“The Beard” stands atop all shooting guards in power rankings. The sweet left handed, seasoned ball handler has blossomed in Houston as a perennial scorer. He may not be a tenacious defender, but he can certainly light it up. Even as a 6th man off the bench for Oklahoma City, behind the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, we saw--only in his 3rd year in the league average 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. Now, 3 years later he is averaging career highs in points (27.2), rebounds (6.1), and assists (7) playing alongside an all new supporting cast in Dwight Howard and the newly acquired Josh Smith. Although it is extremely difficult to come out of the west without a perennial all-star at Point Guard, if anyone can bring the Rockets back to top it is James Harden.
8. Kevin Love
I predicted that Lebron James would successfully lure Kevin Love to Cleveland; whether it be by GM, Free Agency, or just plain Lebron’s will. Now that Uncle Drew’s teammate is finally in the wine red and old gold, we will truly get a glimpse of his “all-star” talent on an all-star heavy ball team. In Minnesota, Love had the luxury of every offensive set ran through him and Ricky Rubio. He was able to pad his stats by rebounding his misses, touching the rock every position, and passing out of double teams to open shooters. Now he will see less double teams, and tougher defensive match-ups. As a result, his numbers have fallen greatly averaging the lowest number of points and rebounds since his sophomore year in the league.
7. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo has been plagued with the “non-winner” label throughout his career. Although the Baltimore native has won on all levels of his career, since his arrival in the Mecca he has been unable to produce consistent success. You can blame it on the lack of surrounding talent, you can blame it on the lack of continuity at the Head coaching position, or you can blame it on Melo’s game. There is no secret that Carmelo Anthony is an excellent one on one player. But with average defense, and few intangibles, Anthony does not have a high player efficiency rating. Now that Phil Jackson is behind the cards, we will have to see if Melo can become an eventual champion but it will take some sculpting from Phil Jackson in order to do. Nonetheless, with the decline of Kobe Bryant, he is arguably the most dangerous offensive player east of Oklahoma.
6. Paul George
Pre-injury; Paul George was competing head to head with LeBron James and giving him all he could handle. Paul George was the key building block in a 2012 Indiana Pacers team that was poised to take down the Miami Heat. The tall, long, extremely athletic forward had just hit his peak last year steadily improving his scoring output by over 14 points from his rookie season. George’s ceiling may be second to only Kevin Durant. Although the leg injury is a setback to Paul’s elevation to stardom, the fortunate angle is that he is only in his fourth NBA season and if he can manage to remain injury free he will continue to have future success and remain a marquee free agent when that time comes.
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