The NBA’s Top 10 Franchise Players

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (R) is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (L) in the first quarter during their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, January 30 2011. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

When I originally debuted this list almost two years ago, I took some (surprisingly angry) flack for not settling on a 10th player and for ranking a few guys too high.

The idea for the list sprung from a conversation that I regularly have with a buddy when we are tipping back a few adult beverages: If you could have one current NBA player to build your franchise around, with the goal of winning a NBA title in the next five years – who would it be?

Here’s who I had almost two years ago:

10. Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (A reader named “all” was very upset that I couldn’t pick a #10 guy. He’s probably still upset about it.)
9. Derrick Rose
8. Brandon Roy
7. Deron Williams
6. Chris Paul
5. Kevin Durant
4. Dwight Howard
3. Kobe Bryant
2. Dwyane Wade
1. LeBron James

I took some heat for including Rose, but obviously he has panned out very well and is likely to win the league MVP this season. Roy’s knees have killed his stock. The other seven picks look pretty solid.

So let’s take another stab at this. Remember, we’re trying to win a title in the next five years, so youth and health is paramount.

Honorable Mention: Carmelo Anthony (defense), Amare Stoudemire (defense, age, knees), Pau Gasol (age), Tyreke Evans (regressing) Tim Duncan (age), Dirk Nowitzki (age), Paul Pierce (age), Rajon Rondo (moody, in a funk since Kendrick Perkins trade) and Kevin Garnett (age).

NOT QUITE WORTH MAX MONEY…YET

12. John Wall (20 years-old)
All right, I’m projecting a little bit here, but it worked with Derrick Rose and I think Wall has a chance to be in the same league. Check out his month-by-month stats over the course of his rookie season:

Month G Min FG % REB AST STL TO PTS
October 2 39.0 0.417 3.0 9.0 1.5 3.0 21.0
November 8 38.1 0.430 3.8 9.1 3.1 4.1 17.3
December 9 34.4 0.383 4.2 7.6 1.0 3.3 13.7
January 16 38.4 0.388 4.2 10.5 1.5 3.9 13.9
February 12 36.3 0.421 4.9 7.9 1.2 3.5 16.5
March 11 41.4 0.411 6.0 7.3 2.0 4.4 19.1

So he burst into the league with a good October and November, but struggled a bit over the next two months as teams had a chance to game plan for him. Then in February and March, he’s able to counter that and get back to his early-season numbers. Great sign.

He’s an outstanding playmaker (9.1+ assists in 2-of-5 months) and is lightning quick. His rookie numbers are very similar to Rose’s, only he’s averaging 2.4 more assists per game. He’d likely be the Rookie of the Year if Blake Griffin hadn’t blown out his knee last season. In three or four years he might be vying for best point guard in the league honors.

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The NBA’s Top 10 Franchise Players

Every so often, I’ll be sitting at a bar, throwing back a few adult beverages with a buddy or two and I’ll pose the following question:

If you could have one current NBA player to build your franchise around, with the goal of winning a NBA title in the next five years – who would it be?

Since the 2009 NBA Playoffs are in their infancy, it seems to be as good of a time as any to kick around this question. My criteria are simple – a franchise player has to be able to carry his team, while being reasonably young and injury-free.

We’ll count down from #10 to #1. My top nine guys were pretty easy to list, but #10 was a bitch. Maybe you can help me decide. Feel free to provide your own top 10.

HONORABLE MENTION

Yao Ming, Rockets (28 years-old)
I love Yao’s post up game, and he is a skilled passer, but the chances are only 60/40 that he’ll be healthy for any given playoffs and those odds are only going to decrease as time wears on. He’s like Robert Downey, Jr. — he’s great at what he does, but you just don’t know if he’s going to be there when you need him.

Chauncey Billups, Nuggets (32)
He seems to be more responsible than ‘Melo for the Nuggets’ great play this season, but he’s 32 years old. Still, his effectiveness depends more on strength, steady play and good shooting than it does his (somewhat limited) athleticism, so he should be able to play into his late thirties.

Al Jefferson, Timberwolves (24)
Jefferson is one of the few young, back-to-the-basket post players in the league. He averaged 23/11 on a bad team, which leads me to believe he could post 19/10 on a playoff team, and should only get better with age.

Amare Stoudemire, Suns (26)
He’s four years younger than our next guy, but he’s already had two serious injuries in his career so one wonders if this is a trend. He also seems to be a little bit on the selfish side and has a rep for being a bad defensive player.

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