The new NBA season means a lot of things to the members of the Dime family. Most common is the chance to watch our favorite basketball players do their thing on the game’s biggest stage every night for the next 6-8 months.
Some readers question how, as a media outlet, we can “play favorites.” Our response: At the end of the day, every sportswriter was and is a sports fan first. That’s why we do what we do, and there’s no need trying to pretend like we view every athlete equally. We can cover the NBA objectively, but it doesn’t mean we have to watch it without bias. With that, just in case you wanted to get to know the Dime (and Bounce) crew a little better, here are our fave fives:
ARON PHILLIPS, a.k.a. “Go Get ‘Em,” a.k.a. “Deuce,” a.k.a. “Lil Dez”
1. Rajon Rondo — It probably doesn’t hurt that my first Dime cover story was also Rajon’s first cover, or that I’ve been a die-hard Celtics fan all my life, but there’s no one that can control a game better than Rondo. And the best thing about him is that he knows it too.
2. Dwyane Wade — The consummate professional both on and off the court, D-Wade to me is hands down the best player in the NBA. I was sold on him after he dropped a triple-double in the NCAA Tournament with Marquette.
3. Chris Andersen — Who doesn’t like Birdman? After getting kicked out of the League, he returned better than ever … and now even the NBA is on-board. There’s no one more colorful in their tat game, and there’s no one with more swag on the court.
4. Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook — As amazing as KD is (and he is), he’s that much better playing with Westbrook. These two form the best 1-2 punch in the whole NBA, and have the potential one day to be better known that Stockton & Malone. (I know, that last bit there was kind of crazy.)
5. Luis Scola — I don’t know if it’s the long hair or the copious amount of buckets he can drop in a moment’s notice, but Scola just does it for me. I just hope this year Yao Ming doesn’t get in his way. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around big in the game.
Honorable Mention — Chris Paul, C.J. Miles, Anthony Morrow, Marc Gasol, Ersan Ilyasova, J.R. Smith, Jose Juan Barea, Shaun Livingston, Earl Boykins, Leon Powe, Sasha Vujacic, J.R. Giddens
JAIMIE CANTERBURY, a.k.a. “The Cook”
1. LeBron James — Simply put, there’s nothing he can’t do. He is the best player in the NBA because he does everything great. He’s the best defender in the League, he can score or make an offensive play for his teammates whenever he wants. He is clearly the most hyped player in the history of the game — not even Jordan was as hyped as LeBron — and what’s scary is he lived up to all of it. LeBron is a point guard in the body of a defensive linebacker with an unmatched athletic ability and point guard skills. The NBA has never seen a talent like LeBron James, and when it’s all said and done he has a chance to be the best to ever do it. Plus he puts out the best shoes.
2. Carmelo Anthony — It has been said that ‘Melo is the best offensive player in the game, and few would argue differently. His scoring numbers don’t reflect how good of an offensive player he really is because he isn’t as aggressive as he should be all the time. He is the most unguardable player in the League because there are no weaknesses in his game offensively. The only player that can stop Melo from scoring is himself.
3. Kevin Durant — The leader of the new school. He is already arguably one of the three best players in the League in only his 4th year. There has never been a player his height with guard skills and athleticism. Durant is the epitome of a Franchise player and is already arguably the best scorer in the League.
4. Joe Johnson — Joe Johnson has the smoothest game in the NBA. He makes it look easier than any player in the League. A lot of players, even the elite (LeBron, Melo, Kobe) get caught forcing shots sometimes, but Joe rarely forces it. He is the leader of my hometown Atlanta Hawks, and basically served as the savior for the franchise. After years of paying 2nd-rate players such as Jason Terry and Al Harrington superstar money, the front office took a risk on Joe, and he came in and proved the doubters wrong. Many say Joe isn’t worth the max contract that he received but frankly, Atlanta owes it to him.
5. Stephen Curry — His game is similar to mine. He’s one of the smartest players in the NBA and is also one of the best shooters in the League in only his 2nd year. He doesn’t really match up to other players in terms of size, but he doesn’t let that affect his game. His shooting ability is so deadly that it opens up lots of other offensive opportunities in terms of making plays for himself and teammates. When Curry puts up a shot, there’s not many people in the arena that assume he’s going to miss.
PAT CASSIDY, a.k.a. “HPC,” a.k.a. “Cass”
1. Kevin Durant — I know it’s a generic pick, but how can you not love KD? Not only is he arguably the best player in the NBA, but he also might be one of the best guys in all of sports. It’s really hard not to pull for a player like Durant.
2. Ray Allen — I have always said that if I could have the game of one player in the NBA, it would be Ray’s. So smooth, so fluid; there aren’t many things prettier than Ray’s jumper.
3. J.J. Redick — I’ve gotten murdered on this site for my Redick fandom over the years, but I (a) love jump shooters, and (b) Redick is one of the best shooters on the planet. His NBA development has been slow, but he gets better every year.
4. Monta Ellis/Steph Curry — These two get one entry because they are far and away the most entertaining backcourt to watch in the NBA. Monta is inhumanly fast and the way he attacks scoring is so basic, so raw — he just takes the ball and attacks. Over and over again, always at full speed. Couple that with Steph’s shooting and passing and the Warriors are a must-watch on the League Pass for me.
5. Evan Turner — I am a die-hard Sixers fan and sort of have to back Evan Turner no matter what, right? I absolutely loved him in college and thought that other than John Wall, he was far and away the best pick for the 76ers. The guy is a winner, doesn’t accept losing, and can do so many things on the court — we need more of all of that in Philly. He’s clearly still adjusting to the speed and physicality of the NBA game, but I don’t doubt that he will be a great player in the League for a long time. Hopefully, his entire career will be played in a Sixers uniform.
ERIC NEWMAN, a.k.a. “Coach”
1. Kevin Garnett — He is simply what a professional athlete should be. Intense, passionate, loyal (can you imagine if he spent half his career on a team like the Celtics?) and of course unselfish. KG helped bring Celtic Pride back and reminded many what the meaning of TEAM is all about. His defense, communication and hard work are attributes that every kid playing this game should look to as an example. And guess what: He is healthier than he has been since the 2008 Championship and has been sitting in the dark every day since Game 7 thinking about just one thing, BANNER 18.
2. Rajon Rondo — His flash, style, speed and basketball IQ have made him a top 5 point guard in the league in just 4 seasons. His ability to keep the veterans happy on the Celtics with his play calling and decision making is quite remarkable for a 24 year old. Credit Doc Rivers with helping Rondo develop but it is Rondo’s will and determination to get to the paint, cause havoc on defense, get on the floor and become the best player on the floor that make him so incredible to watch.
3. Brandon Roy — When he was entering the NBA he was clearly the most NBA-ready player of his draft class, yet he dropped to #7 overall. Yes, he has had some injury issues, but his silent assassin demeanor at the 2-guard position, along with his efficient mid-range game, ability to be a creator and finisher and his leadership qualities make him a joy to watch. If Portland can stay healthy, Roy can lead them as far as the Western Conference Finals this season.
4. Kevin Durant — Obviously a popular pick, but as a coach, fan and student of the game, what is there not to love? KD is an amazing talent who is still climbing the mountain to his full potential. He can score in so many ways, yet he is not a selfish player as his teammates can attest to. He is also not afraid of taking the big shot each and every time it presents itself. His ability to make the 3, get to the line and create his own shot with his length and athletic ability is something we rarely see. We are watching the next GREAT player grow before our eyes.
5. Chris Andersen — This is a selection with a different twist for me. I am a big believer in stories of redemption and second chances. Combine that with a guy that loves to play a very important role coming off the bench, who can change the game without scoring a point, and you have the Birdman. Between the shots he blocks, the shots he changes, his basketball IQ and how hard he runs the floor, the Birdman can play his role, and play it real well with my favorite 5 any day.
JORGE AZZE, a.k.a “Big Meech,” a.k.a. “Larry Hoover”
1. Dwyane Wade — I’m from Miami.
2. Manu Ginobili — He’s the definition of a world champion, with NBA, FIBA, and Euroleague Championships. He has an unconventional playing style which is really fun to watch, and he’s a lefty.
3. Deron Williams — I’ll still take him over Chris Paul.
4. Steve Nash — Ridiculously fun to watch, one of the all-time greats. Even at 36 he manages to get by people and creates space for scoring opportunities.
5. LeBron James — I used to dislike James, as Wade’s natural rival. Now, I love him. Obviously I’m from Miami.
ALI DANOIS (Bounce), a.k.a. “Do It All,” a.k.a. “The Champ,” a.k.a. “The Gorilla,” a.k.a. “Smallie Biggs”
1a. LeBron James — The basketball love child of Magic, Barkley, ‘Nique, MJ, Pippen and Doc (when he played with the Squires and Nets in the ABA), all mixed up in the body of NFL defensive end Julius Peppers. He’s the best young player in the history of the NBA who plays four positions at an All-Star level. The “48-Special” against Detroit in the ’07 Conference Finals was enough to make President Barack Obama stutter like The Champ in Harlem Nights.
1b. Monta Ellis — Monta is a bigger, stronger, faster version of another Mississippi legend, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf aka The Artist formerly known as Chris Jackson, except with a better all-around game. His skills are just so Stanky that when he’s on fire, you’ll constantly be making that face, the one where it looks like you’ve just smelled some horrific, atomic, nuclear flatulence.
2. Ben Gordon — A living, breathing lethal weapon. The modern day Microwave, I call him “Malt Liquor” because he’s a bottled-up 40 points waiting to inebriate a defense. I’m also partial to the nickname “MSG,” as in “Madison Square Gordon,” because when he’s hot, he’s smokin’ like Joe Frazier’s 15th round hook that put The Greatest on his hind parts in the Fight of the Century.
3. Kevin Durant — When you combine his age (21!), size, remarkable scoring repertoire, hunger, post moves, range on the Jimmy, quickness, speed, mobility, wingspan, athleticism and monk-like devotion, dude’s got more remarkable nuances to his craft than The Godfather, parts I and II. His entire season freshman performance at Texas narrowly beats out “The Wire” as the greatest thing to ever air on TV. After the wondrous Lakers playoff series and FIBA World Championship, Kobe, LeBron, Wade and all the other top dogs better “Hurry up and buy!” Because when KD gets to the point, and he’s almost there, where he turns around like O-Dog in Menace II Society and utters, “What’chu say about my mamma?” there’ll be no turning back from his history altering rampage. He’s a near 7-foot offensive version of George “The Iceman” Gervin who possesses Jordan’s, Bird’s and Magic’s desire for greatness.
4. Chris Paul — The second coming of Tiny Archibald and Isiah Thomas, he’s already in the discussion as one of the best point guards ever. Kobe’s 2008 MVP Trophy was about as ridiculous as Sarah Palin seeing Russia from her living room window in Alaska. That trophy will rightfully be transferred to Chris Paul in the after-life. Don’t believe me, look it up and peep his first two playoff performances against the Mavs — 35 points,10 dimes and 4 steals, followed by 32 points and 17 assists. Look at his recent resume and you’ll find one of the greatest statistical stretches of any point guard in history. And with that said, forget about the statistical mumbo jumbo and watch him play. It’s like watching J-Lo gliding down the Grammy’s red carpet in that green Versace dress or hearing Rakim’s “Eric B for President” for the very first time, a jaw-dropping gift from the stylistic heavens.
5. Derrick Rose — His game takes my breath away like Pam Grier in the blaxploitation classics Coffy and Foxy Brown. The one-and-done campaign at Memphis was crazier than Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Went at the defending champion Celtics as a rookie in his first playoff appearance in ’09 like John Rambo went at Sherriff Will Teasle, 36 points and 11 assists. The only other player to get off like that in a playoff debut? See CP3. Bananas against LeBron in round one of last year’s playoffs. How does the franchise not keep this kid paired with Ben Gordon on the perimeter for the next decade? Are Ed Tapscott and Ted Stepien quietly calling the shots in Chi-town? When I watch Derrick Rose, it’s like watching another Windy City legend who was once the supremest of athletes in his own sport, Walter Payton!
Honorable Mentions — Carmelo Anthony, John Wall, Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, Michael Redd.
CASEY MACK, a.k.a. “Mr. Mack,” a.k.a. “Waves”
1. Deron Williams — He’s the purest definition of a point guard in today’s game. The fact that he averages double figures in assists is the part I respect most about his game. I also love watching him cross up the best point guards and following it up with J’s in their faces.
2. Jason Kidd — He’s always fun to watch. The way he dominates a game with the pass is special. He just seems like he would be a cool person to be around. I also admire how he’s 38 and still averaging double digits in assists.
3. LeBron James — He revolutionized the game. Watching him from high school to the pros makes me feel like I grew up with him. He always produces. He made the Cavaliers cool. Who else can say that?
4. Carmelo Anthony — Carmelo is just so smooth. I like how he just hits jumpers in the face of the toughest defenders.
5. Kevin Garnett — He’s just the man. He revolutionized the game as well by being 6-11 with handle and jumping from high school to the pros. He always has his game face on even when he was stuck on those bad Timberwolves teams.
JOSH GOTTHELF, a.k.a. “Big Boss Man,” a.k.a. “Batista”
My five are based on who I love to watch play — guys I’d rearrange my schedule for to catch their games. Of course, I had to get a couple Celtics on here…
1. Chris Paul — Amazing how he controls the tempo of an entire game, and how he can get anywhere on the floor with his dribble.
2. LeBron James — Does things I’ve never seen anyone do.
3. Kobe Bryant — A killer. The most competitive player in the league. And his bag of tricks on offense is unmatched; he has every move in the book and then some.
4. Rajon Rondo — Like CP3, he can control the pace of the game and make his presence felt on all 94 feet of the court.
5. Paul Pierce — Spot up, step back, drive, crossover, spin move, post … Kobe might be the only guy in the game with more offensive weapons. And I’m a little old school in that I have a lot of respect for a guy who spends his whole career with one squad.
5a. Kevin Durant — Impossible to leave KD off this list. Buckets, buckets, buckets. And a class act.
ARIE STARK, a.k.a. “Arie Gold”
1. Rajon Rondo — Dishes out assists like he’s handing out meals at a soup kitchen. He has such a unique feel for the game and makes everyone around him better. As a side note, he has Mickey Mouse-like hands yet he never cracks a smile during a game — got to admire that willpower.
2. Kevin Durant — Modest, talented and a team-player. How can anyone not like him? He won the scoring title last year and shows no signs of slowing down.
3. Manu Ginobili — Despite coming off the bench, he can go off for 30 points on any given night, including a game winner. Oh, and he caught a bat with his bare hands. Nuff said.
4. Tyreke Evans — Crazy handles + mad athleticism + pure scorer = My #4 pick.
5. Luis Scola — Currently ranked top three in points and rebounds. Easily one of the most underrated players in the league.
SEAN COUCH (Bounce), a.k.a. “In-Fin”
This title which begins this list which is more than a list tells the story within a story that ends with Love, so read between the lines:
“Young Freakazodian” goes “anti-A.I.” with the “One-Man Arsenal,” “Big Boi,” rises dreaming of “Second-Option Status, and starts speaking “Truth.”
1. Kobe Bryant — I have grown to appreciate Kobe’s relentless work ethic and his team play. When it calls for him to shoot, he shoots, when he needs to facilitate, he does it. He is now one of the top team players and winners in NBA history. If you think about young Kobe and the ego and id combo that messed up his winning progress with all the arguing with Shaq and his teammates early in his career and think about him now, it’s an amazing transition. He now has a level of on-court maturity that has built the Lakers into perpetual winners because he shows up every day to play and practice hard. It tells you that you never give up on talent that is always looking to work and show up on a timely basis to perform, herein Kobe is know as the anti-AI.
2. Kevin Love — This might be a peculiar choice but I love this guy. He is a beast on the boards and one of the top outlet passers I’ve ever seen. “Big Boi” is about maintaining and giving his team more possessions to function and execute. He’s not quite Rodman because he’s not a shut down defender but he’s a rebounder in that mode, and he is on a serious upward tangent offensively.
3. Stephen Curry — No one can transition from dribble to shot as fast as the next one-man arsenal that is Stephen Curry. Other One-Man Arsenals: Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, the Kobe. Golden State is wasting its time keeping Monta Ellis around because Curry needs the ball and needs to put up a lot of shots to help Golden State win. Putting up 12 shots a game would be wasting his talent and preventing him from the records (most 3-point shots made, most points by a Warrior in a game) that are about to fall quickly in the no D-playing Western Conference. Omit LA and UTAH from the last statement.
4. Pau Gasol — Pau has erased the soft tag with consistent, tough play. He can no longer be punked or thought of as soft. He is a nightmare facing the rim on the high rip low rip pop-lock, with his back to basket to the jump hook, and in transition finishing with either hand. He has achieved the perfect Second Option Status aka “The Pippen,” and his L.A. team poised for a repeat.
5. John Wall — He hasn’t played an NBA game yet, but he is going to do things at his position that have never been seen. Although he isn’t knocking down jumpers yet, he will, and although he only has one year of college seasoning, he will overcome that with amazing ball handling, passing and open court mastery. Mark my word, he is going to dunk on a 7-footer on a move where he will leave the floor off two feet from outside the dotted line without a full running start. The highlight should be run on SportsCenter with the HOT 97 Funk Flex blazing speed sound effect. The league better put on some track shoes for “Young Freakazoidian.”
5a. Paul “Truth” Pierce — I’ve always appreciated Paul Pierce’s half-court execution on the offensive end. He became a killer dismantlng Kobe and LeBron on his way to the chip in 2008 and although he might be slowing down a bit, he is a dangerous option with the ball in space at the end of any important game. Head to head against Kobe in a game seven, I would take Pierce with time running down on offense and ondefense against Kobe, given what I’ve seen over the past few years. Kobe won the match up last year but he knows that Pierce is a tough customer, and I feel he would rather match up against Wade or LeBron rather than face Pierce.
JACK JENSEN, a.k.a. “Jeezy”
1. Aaron Brooks — Since watching Aaron take my Oregon Ducks to the Elite Eight in 2007 as a senior, he’s been unstoppable. When the Rockets took him the following summer at the tail end of the first round, I heard the naysayers. Too small, too slow of a release, blah, blah, blah. Well Brooks has now since claimed the leader spot in Houston and is the owner of last year’s Most Improved Player award. Buckets.
2. Carmelo Anthony — I grew up in Denver, so I’ve seen the Nuggets go through 17-win seasons, drafts that ended in Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Western Conference Finals’ that ended in two errant inbounds passes. Getting ‘Melo in 2003 was like Christmas morning to a Nuggets fan and for as long as I can blissfully ignore that he’ll be gone soon, he’s on my list.
3. Derrick Rose — Derrick Rose is a beast. And there’s a reason for his meteoric rise since jumping on the scene – it’s his work ethic. I was fortunate to have been a fly on the wall during a Rose workout this summer and the kid is flat out amazing. He just works harder than anyone else. Ridiculous athleticism, great handle and an improving jump shot.
4. Blake Griffin — He’s the most exciting young big man in the League. The best thing about Griffin is that he’s absolutely fearless and wants to cram it down your poster-starring face on every play. I’m still nervous for his knee every time he leaps for a lob pass in traffic, but if he stays healthy, then wow…
5. J.J. Redick — What can I say; he’s the guy that everyone hated in college and one that I’ve always loved watching play. In high school, Redick taught me how to get up the three-ball with a hand in my face and if you haven’t noticed how he’s become an integral part of one of the League’s best squads in Orlando, you’re not paying attention.
AUSTIN BURTON, a.k.a. “A-Train”
1. Zach Randolph — As the subject of my first-ever magazine feature, Z-Bo will always hold a special place with me. But beyond that, the guy can seriously play and is wildly underrated. No one in the NBA does more on the court and gets less credit. Last year should have been his 3rd or 4th All-Star nod, not his first.
2. Tim Duncan — If Z-Bo is the most underrated, TD is the most underappreciated. As soon as somebody tells me Duncan is “boring,” I know I shouldn’t get into a serious basketball conversation with them, ’cause they don’t know what they’re talking about.
3. Danny Granger — Favorite player on my favorite team. Nothing against Durant, Kobe, Carmelo, etc., but there’s nobody I enjoy watching more than “Senor Buckets” when his jumper is falling and he’s on a roll offensively.
4. Nate Robinson — The hometown kid who wasn’t supposed to make it, but now has three NBA dunk contest titles (which no one has ever done) and made a significant impact in the NBA Finals.
5. Tracy McGrady — Yes, T-Mac is still my dude. I’m not so blindly loyal that I can’t see what’s going on currently; T-Mac is near the end of the line. But I’ve still made the Pistons one of my go-to League Pass teams in hopes he can go out with a bang.
5a. James Jones — I’ve gotta have one random role player on here. It’s been less than two weeks, but Jones is my favorite part about watching Miami Heat games. Does anybody have a better job in the NBA? He doesn’t (really) have to play D, doesn’t have to dribble, doesn’t have to go within 20 feet of the basket. Just stand in the corner or on the wing, set your feet, keep your hands up and shoot until your arm falls off.
Honorable mention — Aaron Brooks and everybody else in the League from Seattle (yeah, the list is getting longer); Roy Hibbert and everybody in the League from Georgetown; Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Dirk Nowitzki, Ron Artest, LeBron James, Vince Carter, Tyreke Evans.
Who are your five favorite players?
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