The NBA season completely crept up on me. I think I was still baffled by the Red Sox quick exit from the playoffs and nervously wondering if Tom Brady would regain his Pro Bowl form. By the way, he has, even though he still can’t throw the long balls to Randy Moss, but those will come, and I digress.
So year two of the Basketball Jesus Rankings are upon us and what better way to kick off the NBA season that to get right to the pre-season rankings. But first, a little refresher. The criteria is simple, each player must do their best to impersonate the most well-rounded player in NBA history, none other than Basketball Jesus himself, The Hick from French Lick, Larry Joe Bird. To do so, the top-ranked players will be the ones that can amass the most points, rebounds and assists. Any combination will do.
The magic number is 45. Any combination of points, rebounds and assists that adds up to 45 per game lands you in an elite club. LeBron came close last season, averaging 43.3 in the 81 games that he played. He always has a chance. So here are the pre-season Basketball Jesus Rankings for the 2009-2010 season with the players totals from last year next to them.
1. LeBron James [3,504]
The King is back with some new tools in Cleveland, but don’t expect him to take it easy on anyone. Dwyane Wade kept it close, last season, but until he can actual overtake him, King James will retain the top spot on the board.
2. Dwyane Wade [3,373]
Dwyane Wade is the air apparent. And he’s going to be more motivated than ever with a big free agency summer coming up. The young players on the Heat roster have a little bit of action under their belt so Wade could have the pieces to really do some damage. He’ll be a force in the rankings all year.
3. Chris Paul [3,074]
CP3 has his work cut out for him. This years New Orleans team is not the Hornets team we’re used to. Paul and David West are going to really have to pick up the slack. CP3 could very well average 25, 6 and 11, which could make him very dangerous in these rankings.
4. Dwight Howard [2,829]
Howard is a beast, period. He’s perfectly capable of putting up 20 and 15 over the course of a season. And he’s an iron man, only missing 3 games his entire career, all last season. That equals one thing… big numbers.
5. Carmelo Anthony [2,176]
Anthony only played in 66 games last year so he didn’t put up the numbers everyone expected. But when he was healthy he averaged 33 total points per game. Which would have landed him in the #8 spot on last years final ranking if he’d played a full 82 games. Expect big things from Melo now that he’s had plenty of time to learn how to play with Chauncey Billups running the show.
6. Kevin Durant [2,558]
The kid just gets better and better each year. As Durant gets stronger, more durable and rounds out his passing and rebound abilities his numbers will just continue to go skyward. It’s a little early, but he could very well contend for the scoring title this year. He finished 6th last year.
7. Kobe Bryant [3,029]
The retention of Lamar Odom and the addition of Ron Artest don’t bode well for Kobe’s ranking here. We expect that Kobe will continue the trend of trying to rely more on the rest of the team now that they’re more talented and experienced. And while Artest may not take many points away from Kobe, you can be sure he’ll be vulturing some rebounds.
8. Chris Bosh [2,708]
Juwanna Man strikes again. Bosh is another one of the big free agent candidates playing for their future this year. Big numbers will equal big money for Bosh, so you can expect him to attack the rim and attack the boads.
9. Dirk Nowitzki [2,972]
Dirk made his way into the top-10 in the quietest manner of all the players, and he’ll probably do it again this year too. He puts up lots of points and cleans up the glass for a high-powered offensive team that really just isn’t that good. No reason to think that Dirk won’t do the same thing again this year since Dallas has basically the same cast of characters back this year
10. Carlos Boozer [1,063]
Boozer was M.I.A. from last years list for the majority of the season because of injuries. In fact he played only 37 games. But he is a dependable double-double man. When healthy he’ll put up 20 and 10 no problem. So expect to see Boozer in the rankings with regularity.
11. Brandon Roy [2,535]
Roy is like a miniature version of Tim Duncan. He’s consistent and reliable night-in and night-out. His game isn’t flashy and sometimes it isn’t even pretty, but he gets the job done every single night. And with more depth at point guard and hopefully in the post (we’re looking at your knees and ankles Greg Oden) Roy could shine with some additional freedom.
12. Pau Gasol [2,592]
Pau’s protected status on the Laker team should continue again this year. They don’t have to rely on him for scoring, they have a guy named Bryant to take care of that. And he doesn’t have to get beat up in the post, that’s what young bucks like Andrew Bynum are for. So Pau is free to clean up loose boards and float around the rim on offense looking for easy ally-oops like he did last year.
13. Joe Johnson [2,489]
If I learned one thing from last years rankings it’s to never doubt Joe Johnson. A lot has changed down in Hot-lanta, but one than that hasn’t is Johnson’s sweet stroke. He can score at will and I don’t expect that will change at all this year.
14. Andre Iguodala [2,446]
With a young team, Iguodala will be looked to for leadership. Much will be expected from him and I expect that much will be delivered. He’s only missed 6 games is entire career (all in the 2006-2007 season) and I expect a 21-5-5 season out of him.
15. Tim Duncan [2,514]
Less will be asked of Ol’ Reliable this year with the addition of Richard Jefferson. But if the Big Fundamental is one thing it’s consistent. So another 19 and 10 season will easily keep him in the rankings through the season.
Other notables include the already injured Antawn Jamison, the aging Vince Carter and the potentially monstrous David West. The big question mark though has to be Agent Zero, Gilbert Arenas. If he gets back to his old form, he could easily be a top-10 finisher in the rankings.
Note: Point, rebound and assist total listed next to the player.