The 10 best NBA players of the last decade
By Kelly Dwyer
October 6, 2009
OK, we know the first decade of the 21st century doesn't really end until 2011. We think. But we also know there have been 10 full NBA seasons played since the phrase "Y2K" was on all of our lips (1999-2000), and here at Ball Don't Lie we've decided to use this as an offseason excuse to rank some of the best and not-so-brightest of the 10 campaigns in question. The result? Why, top 10 lists!
Let's just skip to what people have been asking for since the beginning. The 10 best players.
Times have changed. You can't just figure out who goes where on a list after a series of spirited arm-wrestling tournaments, as was all the rage in the '80s. Magic won, by the way.
With that in place, if you don't mind, let's set a few ground rules. This is a team game, but this is a list of individual players. No player was awarded a higher or lower ranking because they got to play with better or nastier teammates. Defense is half the game, and if you are going to score, you better do it efficiently. Somehow, Flip Murray(notes) missed the cut.
So, here we are, finally. The 10 best players of the last decade. Read on.
10. Allen Iverson
There's a fair bit to criticize, but Iverson did score quite a lot and create shots for teams that truly needed him to score and create shots. And he's played for the duration of the decade in question, despite heaps of injuries.
And if this comes off as begrudging, it's because it is. I have a hard time selecting Iverson over people like Elton Brand(notes) or Chris Paul(notes) or even Vince Carter(notes), players who don't score as much, but contribute a great deal in all other areas of the game and score way, way more efficiently than Iverson ever did.
9. Tracy McGrady
T-Mac was the best perimeter player in this league during 2002-03, better than who you think was the best perimeter player in this league, and he was only 23 at the time. Injuries took over from there, though McGrady has been a fine contributor, he's averaged only 55 games a season in his last four years, and the production has tailed off considerably from his peak with the Magic.
Still a terrific all-around player, though, and well-deserving of placement on this list.
8. Dwyane Wade
Wade could run away with the MVP this year and work as this league's best player. He was at that level last season, among a couple of others, and the same went for 2005-06.
In between then, he missed 62 games over two years and only entered the league in 2003-04. So, despite the ring, that takes him down a peg in comparison to the players who were going at it for the entire 10-year run.
7. Jason Kidd
He can't guard anyone, anymore, and though Kidd has sussed out that whole "jump shot" thing with the Mavericks (he's nearly hitting in the mid-40s from behind the arc over 110 contests with Dallas), that wasn't the case for a good chunk of the decade. And he was probably overrated, quite a bit, for a good chunk of the term.
He also defended like mad for most of the run, was an expert passer, scored, rebounded, led teams and worked as the best point man of the decade. Kidd might not be all-world anymore, but he was for long enough to throw up here.
6. Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal, man among men, is only sixth on this list. It's been a pretty good decade.
Shaq turned in one of the great seasons of all time in 1999-00, but he's only averaged about 65 contests a season since then, he's been out of shape for a few of those years and ultimately disappointed a bit to these eyes.
He also was a beast down low, won four championships, produced some poorly rated summertime TV fare, Tweeted like a fiend, picked several lame fights and contributed to several playoff teams. Big man, big noise, big production.
5. LeBron James
He's the game's finest player, but there is a quibble with the fact that LeBron didn't play a minute of NBA basketball from 1999 to 2003, while the others on this list were contributing at an MVP level and/or leading their teams to great things.
James is the real deal, though. He somehow exceeded the hype he was met with upon his arrival in the NBA, he contributed in every conceivable area, he led a truly awful Cavalier team to the Finals in 2007 and he seems poised to do other-worldly things for the next 15 years or so.
4. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk's second season was 1999-2000, and though his stats were relatively modest (17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) compared to his eventual averages, the run did inform us that he was no bust worth fretting over. Sure, the non-busto signs were there from time to time during the lockout year, but 1999-00 is where we start to count.
And Dirk's been hotter than hell ever since. Scores at an efficient rate, rebounds, never turns the ball over, improved on defense considerably and he won games.
3. Kobe Bryant
With the scoring titles and four rings (with several, possibly, left to come), Kobe has the finest trading card resume of any player on this list. But defense matters, and because he isn't a big guy, Bryant just can't compare to those who score nearly as much, but also change games defensively while pulling in twice as many rebounds.
For a guard, though, this man's accomplishments are sublime. He scores, he leads, he works, he yells, he frets, he complains when others don't seem to share his obsession with the game, and I can relate to that. A fine decade for Kobe Bean.
2. Kevin Garnett
KG takes the cake over Kobe by a hair due to his defense, an area that isn't always accurately documented by statistics.
His stats, though, are pretty awesome. Garnett averaged over 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for six years. Only Larry Bird has come close to that, and you know damn well Bird wasn't defending or blocking and stealing (combined, usually more than three blocks/steals per game) like KG. Pity it took Garnett until he was 31 to get a team worth shouting about.
1. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan has led his team to four championships, three during the decade in question. He scores efficiently on either block, is a monster defender, rebounds like few others, draws huge amounts of attention when he has the ball offensively (something Kobe and KG, for all their gifts and for all the double-teams sent their way, just can't compare to), and he wins games.
Has he had great teams around him? Sure. But he's been better than everyone else.
If you really think about it, if you really deal with the game on the level it deserves, you know he's been the best.
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Regular-season NBA game in London still on Stern's wish list
The Associated Press
October 6, 2009
LONDON The NBA is still planning to play a regular-season game in London before the 2012 Olympics are hosted by the British capital, although commissioner David Stern said Tuesday that no schedule has been set.
Stern has said that he wants to play a meaningful game at London's O2 Arena, where the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz played a preseason game Tuesday.
"We hope to do it," Stern said, noting that 2010 and 2011 would be the last chances. "We're running out of runway."
The NBA was playing in London for the third straight year, and the game at the O2 was again sold out. Although this year's trip to Europe was cut down from previous visits, the Jazz still have one more game to play on Thursday against Real Madrid in the Spanish capital.
Outside Europe, however, the NBA is playing preseason games in other countries, including Taiwan and Mexico.
Stern also spoke about the global economic downturn and the talks with the referees union. The NBA has locked out the regular referees because of a contract dispute.
"As far as I know, there have been no further conversations with the union," Stern said. "They know how to reach us."
Last year, Stern said there would be cutbacks at the NBA because of the financial crisis, but this year he said his organization had been hiring overseas employees.
"We've been hiring. Stealth hiring, so don't tell anybody," said Stern, who would only say the NBA has hired more than 10 and less than 50 new people in the last year.
Stern also said that the NBA would lose money this year, but that was because teams have been lowering ticket prices to accommodate fans who are also suffering from the bad economy.
"Revenues will be down somewhere between 2.5 and 5%," said Stern, who then noted that the NBA was doing a good job of weathering the crisis. "We feel pretty good about our place at this difficult time."
The 2012 Olympics has long been seen as a way to spread the word of basketball in London and beyond, but Stern also said that he would likely follow up the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with expansion on that continent.
"Kids around the world are watching our game," Stern said. "They watch the great players and they say, 'I want to be like them.'"
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First 5 trades this season
By Sam Smith
October 6, 2009
The NBA is back with training camps opening last week and, by my unofficial count, there are 29 teams talking playoffs. I dont think Sacramento is, though I may have missed something. This is the time of year when players flaws are mostly ignored as managements see what they hoped for in players more than what is actually there. Which is how we get to trades. I strongly doubt there is any talk now. But there will be, and heres my five players most likely to be traded in the next few months.
1. Carlos Boozer, Utah: The Jazz is a remarkably patient franchise, as coach Jerry Sloan often notes, perhaps the leagues most stable. Andrei Kirilenko demanded a trade two years ago. Karl Malone threatened holdouts over salary disputes so often it became a league cliché in the late 1980s. So the Jazz just shrug about Boozer in the summer saying he and the team mutually agreed he should be traded. Boozer then went on radio stations in Chicago and Miami proclaiming hed like to play in those cities. Though the Jazz has said little, the team shop is selling Boozer jerseys at 50 percent off and Boozer wasnt included in the teams new marketing campaign. Boozer will be a free agent after the season and was not offered a new deal while Mehmet Okur was and Boozers backup, Paul Millsap, got a big offer from Portland that the Jazz matched. Boozer came to camp positive and said hes ready to play, telling Salt Lake City media: "I got asked the question I was doing an interview for my basketball camp in Alaska I got asked the question if I got traded here, if I got traded there, would you want to go? If I get traded, I don't have a choice but to go, so I said, 'If I get traded, yeah, I'll go.' Nonetheless, I'm here, I'm back in Utah. I'm excited to be here, ready to move forward, get on the court with my teammates and see how good we can be this year." The Jazz is now trying Millsap at small forward, which wont work. Ive heard they stopped talking quite awhile ago about dealing Boozer. The speculation around the NBA is the Jazz, which has dealt well with disgruntled players before, feel they can get a better deal waiting closer to the trade deadline. But its a risk. And could be costly. Their payroll is $82 million, more than $12 million into the luxury tax and sixth most in the NBA, astonishingly high for a small market team.
I dont see the Boozer experiment working with Millsap in the wings. But it seems more vital for the team to save some money. The late owner Larry Millers money came from the auto industry, which we knew isnt doing so well. By not dealing Boozer this past summer, the Jazz would still have to take back comparable salary. But theres a 25 percent differential allowed in trades. That kind of deal for Boozer would save the Jazz some $6 million. The speculation is Miami, which Boozer this summer named his top choice, is most likely to make a deal. I can see Miami wanting to get out from under Michael Beasley with all his issues. Udonis Haslem with an expiring deal also has been mentioned. Last week when the Jazz opened its exhibition season against Denver, two Jazz fans showed up, one with a Bulls jersey with Boozer written on the back and one with a Jazz jersey with Thomas written on the back, with a sign reading, "Trade Us." Jazz players got a good laugh out of it. The Jazz play the Bulls in London Tuesday.
2. Monta Ellis, Warriors: Yes, I know, Stephen Jackson wants to be traded. Still. He got a big extension that everyone around the league was shocked by, and then he asks out in saying the Warriors arent trying. Yeah, therell be a lot of demand for him. Ellis is the one. He came to camp and innocently explained you aint going anywhere with small guards like he and rookie Stephen Curry in the backcourt. The Warriors are in love with Curry and have plenty of guards. Ellis is a big time scorer and no fan of management, either. Perhaps no one there noticed it was only Chris Mullin who sided with Ellis and urged restraint after Elliss moped accident. So Mullin then was fired. Ellis got the message. It isnt going to work, and someone should be able to get an All Star level scorer for an expiring deal. I was going to add Brandan Wright, who was being buried as the Warriors promoted Anthony Randolph. But Wright is now hurt. Id still take a shot at him as a future.
3. Richard Hamilton, Pistons: No matter what anyone says, they didnt sign Ben Gordon to bring him off the bench. We know Bens no point guard. Apparently, Rodney Stuckey isnt, either. But thats another issue. Hamilton could potentially play small forward, but Tayshaun Prince is there and more difficult to deal. Rip didnt do well with the Allen Iverson experiment, and despite being a fellow UConn guy with Ben, Rips no backup. The Pistons have perhaps their softest front court in two decades. Theyll find that out soon, and then Rip will have to go for some size and toughness before he gets too cranky about things.
4. Andres Nocioni, Sacramento: Noce never has been with a loser like this and isnt going to deal with it well. Already, new coach Paul Westphal says Noce will come off the bench. Hes too good and valuable a veteran player to waste away with a team like this, which is rebuilding. He has two years left after this, but on a reasonable contract that pays less than $7 million annually. Hed be a nice pickup for a veteran, playoff team.
5. Mike Conley, Grizzlies: The poor kid has no idea what hes gotten himself into playing with Allen Iverson, Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. Hell go to sleep with screams in his head of guys demanding the ball. Hes not tough enough to stand up to that yet. Its time to reunite him with high school buddy Greg Oden in Portland, where they paid big money for free agent point guard Andre Miller. That reduces the utility of Steve Blake as Portland also will have Rudy Fernandez handling the ball more. Blakes a tough, savvy guard who can play in that Memphis turmoil and actually help. And it cant hurt the moody Oden to have that familiar face back.
Well be looking for these clues about 2010 free agency all season, and, at least, Toronto players dont seem worried about Chris Bosh. "Im not worried," Andrea Bargnani told the National Post. "He loves Toronto." "He said to me, and hes a good friend," added Jose Calderon, "that hes happy in Toronto." Bosh spent a week at Calderons youth camp in Spain this summer. ...Old pal Michael Sweetney showed up in Bostons camp after a year out of communication in Miami, but is unlikely to stick. ...Even though the Pacers are paying his full salary, no one invited Jamaal Tinsley to a camp. ...The Pistons will wear patches on their jerseys this season to honor owner Bill Davidson and coach Chuck Daly, who both died earlier this year. ...Following complaints from numerous high paying season ticket holders, the NBA is asking teams to instruct players to be seated on the bench during games. So much for the announcers analyzing body language and bench support. This also could end Jake Voskuhls career. The NBA also informed teams their coaches and players should not berate the replacement refs. Apparently just keeping that to the regular refs, who remain in negotiations for a new deal that doesnt include less harassment.
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NBA news and notes
By Sam Smith
October 6, 2009
Congratulations to former Bulls assistant and interim coach Jim Boylan, who reports hes cancer free after undergoing chemo and radiation treatments this summer after a tumor was discovered on his tongue. Boylan, 54, is back on the bench in Milwaukee with Scott Skiles after losing more than 20 pounds. Boylan isnt a smoker and doesnt have a family history, so was caught by surprise. He said a recent CT scan reported the cancer gone.
The Knicks summer of 2010 free agency plan depends a lot on getting Eddy Curry playing so they can trade him for an expiring contract. Good luck with that one. Curry, who supposedly came into camp at an improved 317, left the first day of practice with a hamstring strain. In the back room world of the NBA, Curry has been working with the famously elusive and Zelig-like William Wesley, who is close with many top players, like LeBron James, and was hanging around Knicks camp all week. The New York Daily News reported whenever Wesley told jokes everyone from the Knicks family around him laughed almost uncontrollably. I have met Wes many times as hes long been close with Michael Jordan and he can be amusing. How much, I am not quite sure.
Gilbert Arenas is back, and who really knows what that means for Washington. After addressing reporters on media day, the usually voluble Arenas is in a media boycott now, apparently over stories he missed practice with knee problems when the team says its a finger issue and his own interview with the Washington Times in which he blamed the team for mishandling his knee rehab. New coach Flip Saunders is stressing defense and Arenas previously said hes all aboard and condemned former coach Eddie Jordan for not focusing on defense enough. Of course, it was Arenas a few years back when he actually played some who openly condemned Jordan for emphasizing defense by saying Jordan didnt realize they have an offensive team and Jordan was spending too much time preaching defense. The Wizards made some nice offseason moves and have impressive depth. Though you get the sense it still all depends on Arenas and his erratic moods. Id trade him if I could.
The most potentially ghastly experiment in the NBA this season is in Memphis with traditionally selfish Allen Iverson, Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. It would seem Iverson would have to be a sixth man, which he made clear in Detroit last season he isnt. You kind of feel most for Gay, who is a talent and extremely likeable guy who seems just to need a better environment. When Mayo was asked at media day whether any of his teammates exhibited poor body language last season, Gay interrupted and deadpanned, "I think he's talking about me." Later when Mayo began to talk about having talents like Randolph and Iverson at practice, Gay exclaimed "Practice!" in the famous Iverson impersonation. And while most around the NBA are predicting disaster, at least owner Mike Heisley isnt running from responsibility. He told the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "I dont want to downgrade (general manager) Chris Wallace or Lionel (Hollins, coach). Allen Iverson is here because of me and Zach Randolph is here because of me. O.J. Mayo is here because of me. I dont think that was what the majority of people in the room were talking about doing. Im the guy who is going to take the heat on (No. 2 overall pick) Hasheem Thabeet. I dont have any problem with that. The reality is if we start winning then people will be happy." And, if not, well, theyre just the Grizzlies then. Why not? I guess.
That guy you saw on the near West Side a lot the last seven months was Tracy McGrady, who moved to Chicago to work with famed trainer Tim Grover. McGrady remains out at least into late November after microfracture surgery, but insists hes worked like never before and going to return to his previous form as his contract expires this season. ...Former Illini Brian Cook believes hell finally get a big chance with the decimated Rockets this season after watching teams that had him, the Lakers and Magic, trade him and go to the Finals. Another former Illini, James Augustine, who was impressive for the Bulls summer league team, signed in Spain with Gran Canarias and had a double/double against Barcelona last week. Augustine makes more money in Europe than with an unguaranteed minimum contract in the NBA.
Yes, weve heard this before, but Greg Oden says hes really ready now. "I see a different person," general manager Kevin Pritchard told the Portland Oregonian. "He's willing to smile now and we know Greg cares. You can see that he cares. I think the key is that he doesn't feel the weight of the world on his shoulders, that he can be Greg Oden (and) he doesn't have to be anybody else." Its clear now Kevin Durant was the player in that draft, and I have to admit I was warned. George Andrews, a Chicago attorney who was one of the early so called super agents of the 1980s when he represented Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Doc Rivers, told me before that draft that Oden reminded him of Tree Rollins. Rollins was a tough, hard working player who had an 18-year career. So theres no shame in that. But we now know Greg Oden. And hes no Bill Russell or David Robinson. Its OK.
It also will be interesting in Portland to watch the dynamic with Andre Miller, who is an unusually singular character, generally eschewing relationships with teammates. Portland is the NBA city closest to a college atmosphere and the local media, which is very good, treats the team as such with more homey features and personality profiles than youll see anywhere in the NBA. After the gruesome years of the so called Jail Blazers, the organization has made a major effort to humanize its players and involve them in the community. Hardly a Miller specialty. So there was all sorts of horror in the local media last week when Miller was cranky about media day chores and when he refused to even acknowledge whether he had a family. He said that stuff was off limits. Hes certainly entitled, but that interaction will be illuminating.
So what is the deal with Shaq? Maybe it wasnt Kobe, after all. This makes it four All Star guardsPenny Hardaway, Kobe, Dwyane Wade and now Steve Nashwho seemingly cant be happier to be without the Big Divider. Nash tried to be discreet on media day, but said he was thrilled to be playing with centers (Robin Lopez and Channing Frye. Yes, they are centers in Phoenix) "willing to move their feet and hustle." It also seems Nash, a parttime filmmaker, apparently had come up with that idea for a TV show featuring a star competing against stars in other sports, which ONeal ended up in this summer. Nash described himself as "joyous" once again about playing for the Suns and having resigned, which seemed in doubt while ONeal was with the team.
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