A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The NBA’s 50 Most Interesting People of ’10-11 (Part I)

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A countdown of the 50 most interesting people in the NBA this year based on what they have and have not

Image via nba.com

done. This post will count down from 50 to 31.

50. Joel Anthony

Who’d have thunk that the 4th most important player after Miami’s Big 3 would be an undrafted guy who spent more time on the bench than on the floor in college? Dude’s become a living symbol of team balance. The Heat have so much focus on scoring with their 3 stars that not only can they afford to have a 2 PPG guy as stater – they STILL are putting too much emphasis on scorers even with a guy like Anthony.

49. LaMarcus Aldridge

With Roy falling on hard time, Aldridge has emerged as the Blazers’ star, as they continue to both disappoint and overachieve. Aldridge has yet to really capture our attention with star-like intrigue, but his new prominence is noteworthy.

48. George Karl

Coach Karl is in the midst of what could become one of the great experiments or the era: Trade Melo the volume scoring star, and still maintain the best offense in the league. The team rather fizzled come playoff time, but if the team begins next season with a bang, Karl will reach a new level of respect as an offensive genius.

47. Tyreke Evans

We actually haven’t seen a sophomore slump like Evans had in quite a while. The slump is less interesting than if he had shown signs of being the next great superstar but intriguing nonetheless, particularly on the heels of his off-season habit of driving ridiculously fast. Evans may be the next great trainwreck.

46. Ray Allen

As Allen ages and breaks records, he becomes more singular. While his peak impact runs a touch below teammate Pierce, the way Allen has gone about his greatness with role changes and perfectionism makes him a role model for future players like few others.

Image via popcrunch.com

45. Greg Oden

The injury tragedy like no other. He may never be able to get on the court again for all we know, but at this point he’s still fascinating.

44. Tim Duncan

43. Gregg Popovich

Timmy, Pop, and the Spurs moved into new territory this year and like everything else in there incredible run, it’s amazing how seamlessly they make the transition. How many superstars make the transition to crucial role player like Duncan has? And the Spurs move from being the greatest defensive dynasty since the Russell Celtics toward elite offense as their superstar declines is frankly bizarre.

42. JJ Barea

Gave us evidence that hobbits can play basketball. He was fantastic to watch, and it’s great seeing any longshot like him succeed. On the other hand, we’re already being inundated with “If Barea can tear up NBA defenses, imagine what X could do!”. Heard it about Jimmer Fredette yesterday as someone talked about him as a future all-star. Yeah, not holding my breath on that.

41. Serge Ibaka

As we saw again with the draft this year and Biyombo, there’s no prospect as exciting as a superathletic unknown from Africa. Unfortunately, most mysterious upside prospect never come close to living up to the hype. Ibaka on the other hand backed up his hype-augmenting rookie campaign with a sophomore campaign that saw him become the premier shotblocker in the league. Heady stuff. Of course, he’s still got a ways to go. It was disheartening to see him lose playing time against Dallas because Collison could guard Dirk better than Serge could. Here’s hoping we continue to see big improvements.

40. John Wall

Wall fits the mold for the new breed of superstar (superfast scoring point guard) more than any prospect we’ve seen. On the other hand, because of that, it was hard not to be a bit disappointed with his rookie season. Still though, he’ll be one of the most watched players of the next season.

Image via ESPN

39. Kevin Garnett

In his 16th year in the league, Garnett is still the best per minute defender around. His fiery personality and his ability to still give offensive explosions like he did against Miami keep him on the forefront of the NBA’s collective consciousness.

38. Sam Presti

The golden boy of NBA management continued to have nothing but success this year. He acquired Perkins, and got rid of Green making more room for Ibaka & Harden, and of course the Thunder made the Conference Finals. Realistically, Presti’s had plenty of luck along the way, but still, he’s batting 1000 right now.

37. Tyson Chandler

Finally established himself for something more firm than his part in the 2001 Draft which was the absolute pinnacle of the high school bubble. Of course, Chandler’s career was always the most defensible of any of 4 high school bigs drafted in the lottery, but then again, Chandler was also the one traded for Brand. Chandler didn’t become a new player this year, but the addition of him to the Mavs was absolutely crucial to them getting over the top, and any player who can claim that has had a good year.

36. Mike Conley

35. Michael Heisley

The Grizzlies are a beautiful mess. Owner Heisley unwittingly made clear that he has no idea what he’s doing over last off-season, and the signing of Conley was supposed to be his greatest folly. Instead, Conley actually performed quite well, and the Grizzlies were only a game away from the Conference Finals. And to his credit, Hesiley admitted as this success was happening he just got lucky.

34. Kendrick Perkins

Perkins became the toast of the NBA for a while this season when he got traded to Oklahoma City. I don’t think there’s any doubt that people overrated his level of impact, but it’s great to see a hard working, tough defender get his due. Also, there’s something cool about a straight-from-high-school guy becoming such a team guy.

33. Erik Spoelstra

“Who is this kid that Riley handed the franchise to? A boy wonder? A patsy? Well of course, Spoelstra isn’t a boy, he’s 40 years old, he just looks 21. No doubt Riley saw something in him, and I see a guy with a lot of potential. Whip smart and with backbone. Still one hell of a pressure-packed assignment for him. If the Heat don’t win the title next year, he’s probably gone.

Image via emptythebench.com

32. DeMarcus Cousins

More interesting than either the star of his own team (Evans) or the putative star of his draft (Wall). Dude’s the crazy we’ve been waiting for. At this point, there are still a lot of believers that he has the talent to become a major star. Not sure I’m sold on that as his an offensive big man whose claim to fame so far is scoring that’s dependent on inefficient volume. He will though help to make the Kings interesting for the near future.

31. Mark Cuban

The most colorful owner in the Association finally got a ring this year, and managed to do so while actually being pretty low key. It’s a joy to have the guy in the league though, and I expect him to run a great franchise for a very long time.

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