NBA: Player Rankings - Week 2

Welcome back, yet again, for another edition of the HoopsHabit player rankings! What a week of entertaining basketball we had this week. We all witnessed two otherworldly performances by Chris Paul that led to two very impressive wins by the Los Angeles Clippers over the Houston Rockets. The Knicks’ struggles continue as they find out center Tyson Chandler will be out four to six weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula. Oh yeah … the Pacers are 7-0 for the first time in franchise history… no big deal, though. With all these amazing games comes amazing performances from the NBA’s best.

With that said, let the player ranking commence.

20. Derrick Rose 10. LaMarcus Aldridge
19. Paul Millsap 9. Carmelo Anthony
18. Michael Carter-Williams 8. DeMarcus Cousins
17. Kyrie Irving 7. Anthony Davis
16. Tony Parker 6. James Harden
15. John Wall 5. Paul George
14. Stephen Curry 4. Kevin Durant
13. Blake Griffin 3. Kevin Love
12. Dwyane Wade 2. Chris Paul
11. Dwight Howard 1. LeBron James

20. Derrick Rose (PG, Chicago Bulls) 

So raise your hand if you thought Derrick Rose would come out this season and not only return to his pre-injury form, but actually perform at a higher level? Well … this is awkward. Not only has that not happened, Rose seems to have either lost a step on offense and defense or just completely forgotten how to shoot a basketball. This season Rose is averaging 14.4 points and four assists while posting a player efficiency rating (PER) of 5.27 (the league average is 15). Not only is his scoring not up to par, but he’s shooting an abysmal 32 percent from the field. Give me a Bulls jersey and I’ll go shoot better than 32 percent (I’m just sayin’). All jokes aside, this performance from Rose is both sad and troubling for both him and the Bulls organization. Did Rose’s injury have a bigger effect on his game than any of us realize or does he just need more time to get back to his MVP form? Either way, Derrick Rose comes in at No. 20 on this list. Be careful, though, Derrick .. .keep playing like this and you won’t find your name on this list.

19. Paul Millsap (PF, Atlanta Hawks) 

Paul Millsap may fly under the radar, but he is still one of the top players the NBA has to offer. Now in Atlanta, Millsap has become the first option on offense and has taken advantage of his new opportunity. In six games played this season, Millsap has averaged 20.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. All of these marks are leaps and bounds above his career averages. Millsap has proven that he can flourish as the go-to target on offense and still get his teammates involved while leading the Hawks to a 3-3 record. Paul Millsap cracks the top 20 and gets the No. 19 spot.

18. Michael Carter-Williams (PG, Philadelphia 76ers)

Is this kid for real? Maybe it’s just dumb luck that he’s averaging close to a triple double. No, wait, that can’t be luck. This kid IS for real!! Michael Carter-Williams has taken the NBA by storm in his rookie year and is the early pick for Rookie of the Year. Barring injury or someone miraculous coming out of the woodwork, Carter-Williams should hoist the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy (Rookie of the Year) at the end of the season. So far this season, Carter-Williams is averaging 18.7 points, 8.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game … as a rookie. He has come very close to a triple-double three times this season and came one steal and three boards short of a quadruple-double against the Miami Heat on opening night. Yes, this kid is the real deal and expect to see great things coming from him in the future. Michael Carter-Williams earns the No. 18 spot.

17. Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers) 

Kyrie did not exactly have the hot start many predicted him to have, but nonetheless he has played quite well. In six contests, he has averaged 19.9 points and eight assists while shooting 37 percent from the field (OUCH!). Point guards and centers usually hold the highest field goal percentages as they take the shots closest to the basket most often. For Kyrie to average 37 percent from the field is simply unacceptable. The Cavs have a serious chance at making the playoffs this season, but if Irving does not perform well and continues to shoot a poor percentage, it will be very difficult for them to make a strong run. Kyrie shooting better means more points, which means more wins for the Cavs. “Uncle Drew” comes in at No. 17.

16. Tony Parker (PG, San Antonio Spurs) 

How is it that Tony Parker always flies under the radar? Whatever the answer to that mysterious questions is, Parker continues to dazzle as he remains one of the best point guards in the league. So far this season, Parker has averaged 18 points and eight assists per game. While Tim Duncan battles injury (and old age) Parker has been carrying the offensive load for the team. Parker will surely have another fantastic season as the Spurs will likely earn a high seed in a very talented Western Conference but yet fall under the radar as they do every year. Tony Parker is what makes the Spurs menacing. His ability to get past almost any defender in the league but yet stop on a dime and hit a jumper in their face is something he’s been doing for years and will continue to do as long as he is in the league. Tony Parker comes in at No. 16.

15. John Wall (PG, Washington Wizards) 

John Wall has definitely been solid in this first  two weeks of the season. In six games, he has averaged 18 points, 9.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Although Wall’s accomplishments seem fantastic, it has all been for naught as the Wizards have just two wins on the season, but it is still early and many still expect them to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Regardless of what the Wizards record is, Wall is playing fantastically and definitely deserves a spot on this list. Few point guards in the league have the ability to score almost 20 points and dish out more than eight assists night in and night out. If the Wizards aren’t careful and get some solid talent around Wall, they could lose him to a contending team. All that aside, John Wall ranks No. 19 on the top players list.

14. Stephen Curry (PG, Golden State Warriors) 

Can Stephen Curry stay healthy? This is the main question basketball fans, analysts and especially the Golden State Warriors are asking themselves. While on the court Curry is one of the most prolific scorers and best shooters in the game. His problems with his ankle are continuing to linger, however, and it has caused his production to and playing time to drop. In order for the Warriors to make a serious run this season, Curry has to remain healthy. An injured Stephen Curry drops to No. 14.

13. Blake Griffin (PF, Los Angeles Clippers) 

OK, so Blake Griffin’s numbers for this week look great on paper. He averaged 21.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in the three contests the Clippers have had. That looks great, right? Wrong. On many occasions he hesitated to take wide open jump shots and the baskets he did score came from open dunks, baskets in transition or layups. Either he still can’t shoot from outside the paint or he can but is scared to. In either case, he is a big reason that the Clippers half-court offense struggles. Blake Griffin can be the best power forward the NBA has to offer, but as of right now he is an incredibly athletic power forward whose only asset is the ability to dunk on any player that stands in his way. That’s not what the Clippers need him  to do. If Blake gets his game together, the Clippers are a serious championship contender. If not, they have to rely on Chris Paul and their outside shooting to get them far into the playoffs. Good shooting only lasts so long, just as the Golden State Warriors.

12. Dwyane Wade (SG, Miami Heat) 

We saw the effects of Dwyane Wade’s bad knees early in the season. He sat out the second game to rest but all in all has proved to be very effective in his time on the court. In his first two games played so far, Wade has averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. Now back playing with the team consistently, Wade upped his averages to 20.2 points, 5.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. Considering he’s sharing shots with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, these numbers are not bad at all. We should not expect to see Wade play anything close to a full season as coach Erik Spoelstra will likely intend to use Wade at full force during the playoffs. Wade, despite his knee problems, still remains one of the league’s best players who possesses one of the highest basketball IQs. He will be an invaluable asset for the Heat during the playoffs even if he is not at 100 percent health. Dwyane Wade earns the No. 12 spot.

11. Dwight Howard (C, Houston Rockets) 

Dwight Howard has been dominant on the glass with Houston this season, collecting an average of 13.6 rebounds per game; now that’s the Dwight Howard we’re used to seeing. This rebound mark is even more impressive when you factor in that Howard has to share floor time with fellow center Omir Asik, who has been averaging 11.7 boards per game. If Asik were not on the floor Howard could very likely be averaging rebounds into the mid-20s. But where Howard still has deficiencies in his offensive game. Granted, James Harden remains the No. 1 offensive option, but Dwight is only averaging 15 points per game. Yes, it’s only been three games. Do I think he will begin to score more? Probably. But that does not mean he has magically gained proficient post moves. He still lacks solid footwork and a go-to move on the block. He will not be the best center in the league until he gains those things in his arsenal.

10. LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, Portland Trail Blazers) 

Another season, another very solid start for LaMarcus Aldridge. In his six games played, Aldridge has averaged 23.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. His scoring mark puts him fifth in the league and second among power forwards. Combined with Damian Lillard, the Blazers could make a serious run at the playoffs with these two manning the offensive front.  If the Blazers hope to make a playoff run, Aldridge must get consistent shots in the paint and avoid the temptation to take jump shots; this team needs more high percentage shots from him as they already have enough players more than willing to hoist up long-range shots. As a great all-around scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge gets the No. 10 spot.

9. Carmelo Anthony (SF, New York Knicks) 

Melo has come out of the gates struggling. Although he has been getting his due points (23.2 ppg), he has struggled greatly shooting the ball while posting a mark of just under 40 percent  from the field. Like Derrick Rose and the Bulls, the Knicks rely on Melo to produce a majority of their offense and when he consistently shoots the ball at such a low percentage, it slows down the pace and overall flow of the offense. Carmelo has been notorious for not passing the ball and being lazy on defense and it does not look like those will be changing any time soon. While posting a 3.3 assists per game mark, Melo continues to make the choice to keep the ball and attempt to score on his own. Anthony needs to improve his shooting percentage and dish out the ball a bit more if the Knicks even want to entertain a title hope. Carmelo Anthony comes in at No. 9.

8. DeMarcus Cousins (C, Sacramento Kings) 

Well, well, well. Look what we found here, everyone. DeMarcus Cousins can play some basketball! Cousins has come out with a serious bang this season, averaging 23.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. I don’t know if it is the mentorship of the great Shaquille O’ Neal that has worked magic on Cousins, but something is certainly different about this young man. He has channeled his aggression into grabbing rebounds and he has certainly been working on his offensive game. He actually makes some of those 20 foot jump shots he takes (don’t make that a habit though, DeMarcus). All jokes aside, Cousins’ play so far has him on the watch for the title of best center in the league. Be on the watch for an amazing season. DeMarcus Cousins moves up the list at No. 8.

7. Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Pelicans)

What a monster start to the season Anthony Davis is having! In six games, he has averaged 23 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. Oh yeah, and he leads the league in PER with an astounding 31.01. As one of the league’s most versatile players, Davis uses his size, speed and long wingspan to both score points around the paint, gather rebounds and protect the rim with ferocious blocks. With a very young core group of players, Davis leads the forefront as this group hopes to make a playoff run. It will take all they have, but with Davis leading the way, just about anything could happen. Expect great things coming from him all season as we find Anthony Davis at No. 7.

6. James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets) 

Last season we all saw just exactly what James Harden can do when he is given the ball and permission to shoot where and whenever he wants to. Last season Harden averaged 26 points per game (almost 10 points better than his last season with the Thunder), five rebounds and six assists per game. Harden isn’t far behind the league’s best, though, which is particularly impressive given how successful he was in redeeming points out of unfavorable situations last season. Houston’s offense was so simple that a halted pick-and-roll sequence would often come without contingencies, leaving Harden to create something off the dribble with the shot clock on his back. He managed by drawing fouls on a ridiculous 16 percent of his isolation possessions. Harden is one of the most explosive players in the league and has one of the most intimidating offensive games as he can score from anywhere on the floor. The big question of everyone’s mind is: will the combination of Harden and Dwight lead to the success or demise of the Rockets? So far it looks to be a bit of a struggle when the Rockets face elite teams. They have fallen to the Clippers twice already but still look to be in good form. Either way, James Harden comes in at No. 6.

5. Paul George (SF, Indiana Pacers) 

Well … Paul George is pretty good, huh? This season, George is averaging 25.1 points (more than 12 points better than his career average), eight rebounds (almost three rebounds better than his career average) and 4.3 assists per game. His (PER) is 25.9, which ranks ninth in the league. As the leader of an Indiana Pacers team that could go very far in the playoffs, George certainly has come to play this season and it does not look like he has any intentions of slowing down and a 7-0 start proves that. George does not look like he has any intentions of slowing down this season. He is one of the top players in the league and is here to stay. As one of the best young players in the league, Indiana will be privileged to have him wearing their uniform for many years. Watch out, Miami.

4. Kevin Durant (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder) 

Is this the year that Kevin Durant takes over for LeBron James as the No. 1 player in the world? Probably not, but it is possible. We aren’t going to see a decline from the incumbent, but Durant is still only 24 years old and there’s the potential for another massive leap in production and it would have to come in two areas. Durant took strides in both areas last year, but he’s still too turnover prone when passing the ball and his defense doesn’t blow anyone away. He must establish himself as a true stopper in order to challenge LeBron. Has the window closed on the Thunder’s hope for a championship? Even if it has, Durant remains one of the best in the league with his god-given ability to get buckets.Again, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s possible that we see that type of improvement over the course of just one season from this MVP candidate.

3. Kevin Love (PF, Minnesota Timberwolves) 

Kevin Love is a monster and a menace. So far this season, Love has averaged 26.9 points and 14.4 rebounds a game. These could be numbers that Love finished the season with, given Minnesota’s lack of offensive power. Nonetheless, Love remains not only the best rebounding forward in the league but the best scoring power forward in the league. Love is leading the league is rebounds so far and is poised to finish that way. He is another who is fighting to end LeBron’s streak of MVPs and get one of his own. His ability to shoot from the outside with consistency and have the softest touch inside makes him impossible to guard. With his unprecedented nose for the ball and outside shooting touch, Kevin Love earns the No. 5 spot.

2. Chris Paul (PG, Los Angeles Clippers) 

Chris Paul is on a mission. He is here to win a championship. So far this season he has averaged 21.3 points, 12.6 assists and 3 steals per game. He has propelled the Clippers to a 4-3 start and will continue to be their leader for the entire season. He has led the league in assists twice and steals per game five times. He is also a five-time All-Defensive team selection. At the age of 28, Chris Paul is in his prime and it’s evident in his orchestration of the Clippers. Paul can beat you pretty much anyway you can think of: off the dribble, driving to the hoop, from downtown. But what makes him so special is that he uses his offensive threat to get everyone else involved in the offense, evident by the career years players often have once they join his team. Do not be mistaken, Chris Paul and the Clippers will be a serious threat to not only win the West, but to go to the Finals. If you haven’t already entered his name into the MVP discussion, now would be an excellent time.

1. LeBron James (SF, Miami Heat) 

Yawn … this guy again? Yup.

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