Tag Archives: Houston Rockets

Western Conference Power Rankings

 

How Many Golden State Warriors Deserve a Spot on the West NBA All-Star Team?

Tony Gutierrez- Associated Press

   We enter the final stretch of the NBA regular season as teams begin to jock for playoff positioning. With the trade deadline behind us, teams have bolster their rosters for a championship run while others decided to stand pact and put their trust into what has gotten them thus far. Here’s a look at the top five teams of power rankings beginning with the Western Conference.

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1. Golden State Warriors

     As the Western Conference has become the king of the hill, the Golden State Warriors are at the top looking down at those coming got their position. The depth of Golden State’s bench will continue to play a role with the foot issues of Stephen Curry going forward into the postseason.

 

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2.  Oklahoma City Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a force to be reckoned with behind the leadership and play of All-Star MVP Russell Westbrook while Kevin Durant continues to battle foot injuries. In his last 10 games, he has averaged a staggering 29.5 points, 8 rebounds, 10.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game, putting him in the MVP conversation amongst the elite. OKC has also improve the team by acquiring players Enes Kanter and DJ Augustin that has made them a contender to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

 

Spruce Derden

3. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzlies have picked up where they left off before the All-Star break going 6-2 in the month of February thus far. Defeating Portland Trailblazers and Los Angeles Clippers on back to back nights on the road should put the Western Conference on notice that they are forming into midseason form. The addition of Jeff Green adds to the bigs of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and point guard Mike Conley, who may be the most underrated player in the league, makes the Grizzlies a tough out come playoffs.

 

The Case for DeAndre Jordan as the NBA's Most Underappreciated Player

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4. Los Angeles Clippers

Despite the elbow injury to Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers have not lost a step going 4-2 without him behind the point guard play of Chris Paul and the unsung hero of DeAndre Jordan. Since Griffin being sidelined, Jordan has continued to be a defensive presence and a focal point on offense averaging 16.6 points, 17.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. However, the Clippers have a void to fill  that will make them a championship caliber team.

 

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5. Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets continue to be amongst the elite teams in the West without the assistance of Dwight Howard, giving MVP candidate James Harden more responsibility to consume for them to succeed. While Harden is more than capable of leaving a team into the postseason, the one man band will not go far into the playoffs without the veteran leadership & role players contributing at a high level.

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NBA Midseason Awards

 

Kevin Durant

Jesse D. Garrabrant- Getty Images

 

What has been an exhilarating start to the 2014-15 NBA season, there has been many captivating story lines of emerging NBA players that are going in the right direction of success in the association. As we approach the second half of the season, here are the front runners of our NBA Awards.

 

Brace Hemmelgarn- USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn- USA TODAY Sports

Rookie of the Year- Andrew Wiggins

     This year’s number one overall selection in Andrew Wiggins has so far been able to live up to expectations, making himself the runaway favorite for the Rookie of the Year award. Making the maximum of his efforts of playing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has been able to polish his talents with the opportunity given to him by head coach Flip Saunders, averaging 15.2 points per game shooting 43%. The ceiling is very high for Wiggins with the future ahead of him.

Gary Dineen- Getty Images

Gary Dineen- Getty Images

Most Improved Player- Jimmy Butler

     Shooting guard Jimmy Butler has evolved as one of the best two way players in the NBA. Entering his fourth season, putting himself into All-Star consideration for what he has done for the Chicago Bulls. Developing his offensive game, he has averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assists this season to go with his stifling defense that has made him a go to option and a backcourt mate Derrick Rose has been missing majority of his career. Going forward deeper into the season, Chicago’s success could weigh heavily on what he can provide on both ends of the floor. It will also be interesting what teams have to offer Butler as he becomes a restricted free agent.

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Ned Dishman- Getty Images

 

Sixth Man of the Year- Isaiah Thomas

     Leaving his starting position in Sacramento, Isaiah Thomas had adapted well in his new role with the Phoenix Suns as the catalyst of the bench. Adding himself to a backcourt of guards featuring Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Thomas has often found himself closing out games for head coach Jeff Hornacek has been a a recipe for success for the Suns. Hoping to hold on to a playoff seed in the Western Conference, Thomas will be a x-factor of how far they can go.

John E. Sokolowski- USA TODAY Sports

John E. Sokolowski- USA TODAY Sports

Coach of the Year- Mike Budenholzer

     There is no debate that Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer is the NBA’s Coach of the Year. Taking a page out of Greg Popovich’s head coaching book, Budenholzer has his team playing unselfish team basketball that results into open shots and great chances to score along with a top defense in the league. It is too soon to call them the Spurs, as they have their own identity with only 8 losses in the league, leading to the best record in the league.

John Amis- Associated Press

John Amis- Associated Press

Defensive Player of the Year- DeAndre Jordan
     What has been a successful year for DeAndre Jordan could earn him honors of being the defensive player of the year. His efforts and contributions has led him to be put in consideration to be an All-Star. Controlling the paint with a league leading 13.1 rebounds per game and 2.4 blocks per game, Jordan has become the defensive anchor for Doc Rivers wants for his team in order to win a championship.

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Most Valuable Player- James Harden
     The Houston Rockets do not have the best record in the Western Conference. However, they do have the player who is most valuable to his team in James Harden. The one who is feared with the beard has taken his game to another level averaging career highs across the board including 2 steals per game on the defensive side that has been a struggle for him in the past. With running mate Dwight Howard absent from the lineup during the season, the challenge has been set for Harden where he has answered the bell leading the team in points and assists. To sustain the high level of success that has been obtained, Harden must stay healthy and on the attack for Houston to make the next step towards winning it all.

Leaders of the New School

 

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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA Today Sports

 

Just days away from the start of the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championships, the final 12 man roster has been set for Team USA as they prepare for group play. With the injury to Paul George and withdraws of Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, coach Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA have new hurdles to overcome and holes to fill in very little time. The talent of the aforementioned players cannot be replaced, but depth and versatility will be the theme for this American team. There are four players who will need to step into a larger role in order to complete the task at hand that is winning the gold medal.

 

2014 USA Basketball Practice

Stephen Curry

Seeing limited minutes in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Stephen Curry has elevated his game to elite status through the USA Basketball camp. Despite the loss of Durant, he is slowly becoming a leader for this team. Curry has been able to pick up the scoring load while playing both guard positions on the floor along with his improved defensive intensity. Coach Krzyzewski will need Curry to carry his hot shooting into group play and throughout the tournament to win gold.

 

James Harden is eager to take on a featured role with Team USA. (USATSI)

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 James Harden
After recent comments being made regarding the best player in the NBA, the stage is set for James Harden to support his statement. The loss of George and Durant has now positioned him to show his abilities on the offensive end, but also the defensive end where he has been criticized for being lackadaisical at times. Team USA is depending on Harden to become who he says he is starting on Saturday.

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Derrick Rose

Chicago Bulls and basketball fans must remain patient with the comeback of Derrick Rose during this tournament. However, expect him to have an impact on this roster as it progresses. With the idea of alternating with point guard Kyrie Irving at the starting position, it gives Rose a chance to improve his stamina mentally and physically before the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. It will be vital for Rose to play well in spurts for this team while remaining healthy.

 

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Anthony Davis

Since the warm up games leading to Saturday, Anthony Davis has became the face of USA Basketball going into his third year in the NBA. He has been a man amongst boys in the frontcourt while adding weight to his body along with the improvement of his jump shot. This has allowed him to add to his array of skills he already possesses. After winning the national championship at the University of Kentucky, Davis was forced to grow and mature quicker than other rookies being on the 2012 Olympic team. Now, he is poised to lead USA all the way.

 

Top 5 First Round NBA Playoff Moments

     Were you not entertained? Thus far, we have played a total of 50 games in the opening round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs, including five Game 7’s involving both no. 1 vs no 8 seeds in both respective conferences. Before we advance to the next round of postseason basketball, we take a look at the top five moments of the NBA first round.

Getty Images

Getty Images

5. LaMarcus Aldridge’s career performances

     Coming into the postseason, the consensus pick to win the 4-5 seed match-up would be the Houston Rockets. Yet, LaMarcus Aldridge would dominate games 1 and 2 on the road. In his home state of Texas in front of his family, Aldridge would put on a large sized performance with 46 points, 18 rebounds and 2 blocks in game 1 with an encore showing of 43 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks that led to the Portland Trail Blazers 2-0 series lead. Eliminating the Houston Rockets in six games, Portland will have its hands full with the San Antoni Spurs in the second round.

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Glenn James/ Getty Images

4. Vince Carter Game Winning Shot

     The Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs rivalry has been in favor of the Spurs over the last decade.Entering game 3 with the series tied 1-1, Dallas would have the momentum going forward in game 3. As the game would come down to the final possession, the Mavs would turn to an unlikely source for the game winner in Vince Carter. Showing us why he is still ‘half man, half amazing”.

 

 

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

 

3. Game 7 Weekend

 

Never in NBA history have we experienced a first round of five ‘win or go home’ match-ups being a game 7. With a NCAA tournament feeling to it, the weekend would bring excitement and uncertainty to each game with majority of games coming down to the last minute. What took place in the first round is something we are not accustomed to watching the level of competition balance out for an entire series.

 

 

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2. Adam Silver gives Donald Sterling lifetime ban

 

The controversy of the recent remarks of suspended Clippers owner Donald Sterling was not only a black eye of the NBA image, but also became a detriment to the spectacular play of the first round of the playoffs. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver was approached with a serious topic at hand, expressing his power in the conclusion of his decision. The choice of Silver was the first step into the right direction of eliminating racism in the association.

 

 

 

Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP

Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP

 

 

1. Damian Lillard Game Winning Clincher

Every game would go to into the last minutes before determining a winner between Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets. Fighting for their playoff lives, Chandler Parsons would get an offensive rebound to go ahead lead, putting Houston in position to tie the series 3-3 before returning to Houston for a pivotal game 7. However, Lillard had other plans. With ice water in his veins, Lillard continues to show his clutch ability for his teammates while leadership in his sophomore season is on display, now solidifying himself as one of the top tier point guards in the NBA.

 

 

 

 

 

Western Conference Playoffs Preview

 

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

Chris Humphreys-USA Today Sports

   As the NBA playoffs approaches us, the Western Conference presents a NCAA Tournament feel this year with various teams looking to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. Teams begin to shape into form, peak at the right moment, and get ready to turn their aspirations into tangible success. On the flip side, others begin to fall apart rather due to lack of execution, immature mistakes on mundane routines, or injuries towards the finish line of the 82 game season. The marathon is over, but the race has barely started.

Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

 

 

     The Western Conference has become the ‘survival of the fittest’ conference with teams battling for playoff positions throughout the season. The San Antonio Spurs have been playing its best basketball this season. When they are healthy, they are led by explosive forward in Kawhi Leonard who is slowly evolving into one of the league’s best two-way players.  While San Antonio pursues another championship title, health and consistency will be needed to avoid last years debacle to the Miami Heat.

While been the hottest team since the All-Star break, the consensus picks have been the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers.

    Emerging as favorites to represent its conference in the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder are led by the Most Valuable Player front runner in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They look to continue their mission to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to capture its first franchise NBA Championship that would silence their critics and end discussions of the two superstars not being able to coincide with one another. The key to accomplishing their goals will be the supporting cast featuring Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson along with the veteran savvy of Derek Fisher and recently acquired Caron Butler while getting stops at the defensive end.

 

 

Getty Images

Getty Images

   The Clippers have made strides to improve their roster in order to reach the NBA Finals led by head coach Doc Rivers. The teaching and coaching methods of Rivers has expanded players games such as DeAndre Jordan as he has became a candidate for Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Also, Blake Griffin who has arguably been the Clippers best player due to the shoulder injury suffered in January by Chris Paul.

However, as many basketball fans know, the postseason comes down to matchups that could ultimately play into the hands of a lower seed teams.

Derick Hingle- USA Today Sports

Derick Hingle- USA Today Sports

 

 

For teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, a deep run can be made in the postseason. Following the previous success found in last season’s playoffs will not be a surprise given the experience both teams possess. We await the debut of the Portland Trail Blazers who will face the Houston Rockets where we get the tandems of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge against the talents of James Harden and Dwight Howard. The key factors in this series will be the supporting cast of Portland that features Robin Lopez, Nicholas Batum, and Wesley Matthews against Houston’s role players that consists of Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, and Terrence Jones will have to produce.

 

     As the cream of the crop rises into place in, the standings has set the playoff tree into an upset bracket for higher seed teams. The last man standing in the battle royale of the Western Conference may be the team hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of it all in June.

Center of Attention: Top 10 NBA Centers

 

In today’s NBA, the center position has lost its significance as it has became diluted and heavy guard play in the association. The league lacks a true dominance at the center position and no consistent play unlike Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, or Patrick Ewing. The prerogative of a big man on majority teams is to set screens and rebound as opposed to being a focal point on the low block in an offense. Let’s appreciate the elite big men in the league as we take a look at the top 10 centers in the NBA right now.

 

 

 

10. Nikola Vucevic

While the Orlando Magic continue to improve for the future, an important piece to their puzzle of success is Nikola Vucevic. During his third season, his offensive productivity has elevated as he is averaging a career high in points at 14 points per game while grabbing 10.8 rebounds. The former USC Trojan can become a focal point for this Orlando franchise with the talents surrounding him in Aaron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, and Victor Oladipo. For a player of his size and stature, the key to Vucevic taking that next step involves becoming more of a defensive side of the ball. Orlando will contemplate on opening their check books to retain him as he awaits free agency.

 

 

9. Andre Drummond

     Andre Drummond has grasped the attention of many around the league with his athletic abilities for the Detroit Pistons. Becoming a starter this season, he has been able to show us his capability as a center, averaging a double double at 13.2 ppg and 12.9 rpg. His ability to score without plays being called for him is an asset while scoring off second chance points. As he continues to improve his overall game, Drummond can become a franchise player where Detroit can build around him.  His growth as a player may slow down if the Pistons do not fix the logjam in the frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Josh Smith.

 

 

 

8. DeAndre Jordan

This season has been a turnaround for Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. Due to the change at coach with Doc Rivers taking over, he has been playing the best basketball of his five year stint in Los Angeles becoming a strong candidate for Most Improved Player of the year. Averaging career high numbers in points, rebounds, and blocks, he must sustain his overall play for the Clippers in order to reach championship aspirations. While Jordan continues to improve his free throws and post moves, his athleticism has allowed him to become a defensive anchor.

 

 

 

7. Marc Gasol

The current reigning Defensive Player of the Year has had a difficult season with knee injuries. However, Marc Gasol is the best player for the Memphis Grizzlies when healthy as he is a focal point on both sides of the ball.  Since his return to the team, the Grizzlies have been playing +.500 basketball as they make a late regular season push towards the NBA Playoffs. Memphis will not reach the postseason without their man in the middle performing at a high level.

 

 

 

6. Roy Hibbert

The Indiana Pacers success begins with their productivity on defense that starts with the 7 footer in Roy Hibbert. The former Georgetown Hoya has not lived up to expectations with the max contract deal he signed in 2012 worth $58 million dollars. He is inconsistent and does not rebound well for his size. Nevertheless, his role for head coach Frank Vogel does not undermine his value to the Pacers as he is the last line of defense to the rim. Hibbert allows Indiana’s perimeter defenders to become more aggressive. When called upon, Hibbert can have an offensive post presence. His post moves allows the Pacers to slow the game down in the postseason.

 

 

 

5. DeMarcus Cousins

As the Sacramento Kings continue to find ways to improve its team, the centerpiece for their franchise is DeMarcus Cousins. Averaging career highs in points and rebounds, Cousins is having his best season as many considered him an All-Star snub. His downfall continues to be his lack of maturity in his fourth season in the NBA. Many remain skeptical if he is the player to build around due to his antics that were recently on display against the Houston Rockets which resulted in an one game suspension. Cousins talent is not the question, rather his leadership skills and intangibles are.

 

4. Dwight Howard

     The Houston Rockets are beginning to peak at the right time of the season on the eve of playoffs. The answer? Dwight Howard. Although his stats from his previous season in Los Angeles (17.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg) mirror this season’s (18.9 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Howard is playing in a comfortable role in Houston with the arsenal of James Harden and Chandler Parsons surrounding him while being an eminent force on the defensive side of the ball.

 

3. Chris Bosh

You can make the argument that Chris Bosh is the Miami Heat’s second most valuable player to their team this season. Being undersized at the center position, he is able to pose as a threat to the opponents center due to his talents on offense and defense. Becoming more efficient behind the arc has also helped spread the floor in Miami for Lebron James. Although he is not averaging staggering stats at 16.9 ppg and 6.8 rpg, he has shown the ability to step up in clutch situations when his number is called. It is difficult seeing Bosh leave Miami under any circumstances as he has the option of becoming a free agent this summer. However, his worth may increase as the season progresses.

 

 

2. Joakim Noah

      The storyline remains the same for the Chicago Bulls as Derrick Rose ends his short season with yet another knee injury. However, the Bulls continue to find success with the help of All-Star center Joakim Noah. A strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, he has elevated his role on the offensive end  as he averages a career high in points and assists along with two triple doubles this season. Noah’s leadership and dominance has became contagious to his teammates that may lead to a spot on the All-NBA team. With the postseason in reach, Noah will relish the opportunity in leading his team with the possibility of taking down the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers.

 

1. Al Jefferson

The center who is most effective for his team this season, thus far, has been Al Jefferson for the Charlotte Bobcats. As the Bobcats are fighting for playoff position, the catalyst has been the man in the middle who is arguably the most underappreciated player in the NBA. Averaging a double double with 20.5 ppg and 10.4 rpg, the offseason acquisition has helped turn Charlotte in the right direction of success going towards the future. Jefferson is a load to handle on offense as he score inside and outside the paint. With limited exposure nationally, the playoffs should help Jefferson and the Bobcats gain respect going forward.

Deserved All-Star Reserves

 

While NBA fans have their vote to be accounted for, All-Star selections continue to become to lose its significance while turning into a popularity contest. It has benefitted many players such as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Indiana Pacers forward Paul George among first time starters in the All-Star game. Yet, it becomes a difficult process when there are players going unnoticed due to the marquee players in the league. Here are those player who deserve an invite to New Orleans to be an All-Star.

Western Conference

LaMarcus Aldridge- Portland Trail Blazers

     Make no mistake that forward LaMarcus Aldridge is having a  MVP season thus far.  Portland’s early season success has been led by Aldridge who is averaging a career high in points and rebounds as they have matched their win total from the previous season. Aldridge has certainly been the catapult for that success as he looks like he is in the prime of his career.

 

Chris Paul- Los Angeles Clippers

Before the shoulder injury to Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers were clicking on all cylinders. While average double digit numbers in points and assists, Paul has arguably been the best point guard in the association as he is responsible for his teams 42 points per game. Due to the injury, his goal is to return in time for the game.

 

David Lee- Golden State Warriors

David Lee has played himself into the All-Star conversation and deserves a second consecutive selection to New Orleans. While Curry has stepped into the leadership role, Lee’s productivity has not regressed from last season as he becomes a reliable second option for Curry and the Warriors to go to.

 

Damian Lillard- Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers are one of few NBA teams who deserve multiple All-Star bids for the exceptional play of Damian Lillard. Picking up where he has left off last season, Lillard has continued to play with poise and leadership from the second year player. Hitting back to back game-winning shots on the road, he has shown us why four years of college basketball can groom a player before making the leap into the NBA.

 

 

DeMarcus Cousins- Sacramento Kings

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins deserves an All-Star spot for what he has done on the court for Sacramento. With dramatic growth in his maturity, Cousins may be the best offensive center in the game today with career high averages in points, rebounds, and steals. The Kings are not having large amounts of success in wins, but they continue to improve this season starting with the man in the middle with an opportunity to join the USA Men’s Basketball roster.

 

 

James Harden- Houston Rockets

James Harden is the best shooting guard on the offensive side of the ball in the Western Conference. Leading his team in scoring at 23.7 ppg, Harden is still growing as his game evolves to a higher level. However, the Houston Rockets will need him to lead the way in order to take off and make a championship run.

 

Dwight Howard- Houston Rockets

After a nightmare season in Los Angeles as a Laker, Howard hasn’t had the ideal season that would silence his critics. Only averaging 18 points per game from 17 the previous season, he has not lived up to expectations as the next great Rockets big man. However, Howard’s ability on the defensive end makes him an All-Star in the Western Conference. There aren’t many prolific centers in today’s NBA which is a positive for him to flourish as an All-Star.

 

Eastern Conference

Demar Derozan- Toronto Raptors

     Since the Rudy Gay trade, the Toronto Raptors have found success led by the play of the dynamic swingman Demar Derozan. Evolving into a premier shooting guard in this league, he is having an all-star caliber season averaging career high numbers in points, rebounds, and assists as the Raptors sit atop of the Atlantic Division while maintaining a steady mindset geared towards the postseason.

 

Joakim Noah- Chicago Bulls

Joakim Noah is the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls as they thrive through the adversity of injuries and trades for another season. His intangibles have became a healthy virus to his teammates that is preached by head coach Tom Thibodeau. Noah is the least flashy player on this list, but he plays with 110% effort every night and plays for more than the name on his back. Noah might not be the most talented in New Orleans if he gets the nod, but he certainly will be the most passionate, energized, and the hardest worker.

 

 

John Wall- Washington Wizards

If the season would end today, the Washington Wizards would clinch a playoff berth led by the terrific play of John Wall. After signing a $80 million dollar extension, Wall has been spectacular displaying his talents to the world. While averaging a career high 20 ppg, Wall is confident he will lead the Wizards into the postseason. We should see some dazzling highlights in the All-Star game if he is named as a reserve.

 

Chris Bosh- Miami Heat

Due to the problematic knees of Dwyane Wade, various NBA fans have a found new respect and appreciation for what Chris Bosh does for the Miami Heat. Some nights, he is being asked to defend the opponents best low post player while carrying a heavy set of the offensive load. Numbers do not tell the story of how much Bosh means to this Miami team as he will be counted on. The playoffs should definitely be indicative of Bosh’s worth and/or future in Miami.

 

 

Lance Stephenson- Indiana Pacers

Indiana’s early success during the regular season has been somewhat predicated on the play of Lance Stephenson. As he leads the league with three triple doubles, Stephenson is having fun where there are nights when he is the Pacers best player with playmaking abilities that catches the crowds attention.

 

Roy Hibbert- Indiana Pacers

Roy Hibbert is the NBA’s best defensive post player in the association. Being the backbone and last line of his team’s defense, he is a natural NBA center with old school post moves in the paint that we don’t see today. He may not necessarily be box office or must see TV, but Indiana deserves multiple All-Stars.

 

 

Kyle Lowry- Toronto Raptors

In a contract year, while being the topic of discussion in trade rumors, the play of Kyle Lowry has warranted himself an all-star bid to New Orleans this season. Becoming a jack of all trades in Toronto, Lowry is averaging a career high in points and assists as he pairs well with Derozan to lead the Raptors on a mission of being division champions and ultimately earning himself a lucrative contract in the near future.