We are back to what the NBA was when Michael Jordan retired for the first time in 1993. There is no true ultimate dominator in this league who is head and shoulders above everyone. Remember that time? Malone, Stockton, Olajuwon, Shaq, Kidd, Miller, Barkley, Richmond, Pippen, Payton, and more became prominent when Jordan left. As of 2011, there is no one head and shoulders above anyone. We can make arguments for a few select, but they each have flaws whether it’s getting old, shrinking up, or whatever.
From 1988 – 1993, it was MJ. From 1994 to 1995, no one stood out. People made cases, but no player took the consensus. From 1996-1998, it was Jordan again. From 1999 through 2004, the arguments were between Shaq and Tim Duncan. From 2004-2008, the race was between Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, and Dwyane Wade. Then from 2008-2010, it was definitely LeBron James. During this time, he was becoming the ultimate dominator like Mike. Now, in 2011, there isn’t anyone.
This came up before the 2011 NBA Finals even went down. People were still giving James the “Best player in the NBA” tag. I was doing that just based on numbers until the actual Finals occurred. Can anyone honestly say that LeBron is still the best today? I’m pretty sure there is some who will regardless of what happened against the Dallas Mavericks. That’s fine. Go for it.
Here are the top five guys right now in no order:
Dirk Nowitzki – He earned the Finals MVP and a championship leading the Mavs to something they never had before until now. Congratulations to him and he earns his place in the top 5. Remember that he also has an MVP trophy somewhere. His 4th quarter performance in the Finals was top notch. Dirk is very efficient, too. Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points and 8.1 rebounds while maintaining a true shooting percentage of 61.
Dwyane Wade – Wade came up huge for the entire 2010-2011 season. He made clutch baskets after clutch baskets, but still succumbed to some foolishness in closing minutes of certain games like game 4 of the 2011 NBA Finals. 24.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists during the playoff run were good stuff. He’s still a top 5 player.
– He earned his third consecutive defensive player of the year. Howard is the best center in the game, but cannot be relied upon with free throws and court vision is poor. 27 points and 15.5 rebounds with the true shooting percentage of 67 in the first round were nice. 22.9 points, 14.1 boards, and 2.4 blocks were great during the regular season. He earned his top 5 place.
– He barely has any flaws because Paul becomes the best statistical player in the game when 100% healthy. He stayed healthy this season playing in 80 games, but his production was lacking. Paul’s efficiency is usually around 28-30, but fell sharply to 23.7 the past two seasons. His playoff PER at this year’s playoffs was 28.9 against Kobe’s Lakers. The guy managed to log a triple double in game 4 – 27 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds.
– He is not the best because of becoming a sidekick with the vanishing act in the 2011 Finals, but still a top 5 player and the best small forward. 23.7 playoff PER is not great compared to what he did in the past with 28.6 and a monstrous 37.4 in 2008-2009.
All of these guys have a case to be the best player in the league, but no one is convincing.