NBA: 2012-13 Player Power Rankings #20-11

20. Dirk Nowitzki: The 2011-2012 season was a rough one for the reigning NBA Finals MVP. Dirk Nowitzki’s 2011-2012 campaign consisted of a team record 36-30 and getting swept in the first round by the Thunder. After coming off a championship many expected the team to do much better, but it is safe to say the Mav’s were a disappointment.  Dirk on the other hand, well Dirk was Dirk. He is still one of the best shooters in the game, shooting 36% from long range and averaging right below his career average for points per game at 21.6. At age 34, Dirk is still one of the leagues best big men who is a threat in the paint, mid-range, and with the deep ball. Not too many players can do that and can do it for 14 seasons like he has. Expect Dirk to carry on as one of the leagues most dominant forces and recognizable players.

19. Pau Gasol: Its tough for me to write this because I really just don’t like Pau, at all. I think he complains too much and tries to be Kobe’s sidekick so hard but Kobe just isn’t having it. It’s like when the older brother (Kobe)  does something really cool, and the younger brother (Pau) tries to emulate it but just can’t no matter how hard the younger brother tries. Back to my main point, as much as I hate Pau Gasol, I respect the man’s game and how he plays. In 2012, Pau averaged per game 17 points, 10 rebs, 1.5 blocks, and 4 assists (not bad for a big man). The 2012-2013 season could go both ways for Pau, can be great and see his numbers go up by playing with a true PG, Steve Nash. On the other hand we could see Pau overshadowed by the humongous Dwight Howard (I meant that literally and figuratively). Either way, Gasol is still an athletic 7 footer with an offensive repertoire that most GM’s dream of a 7 footer having. Whatever his role is, Pau will be a big key to the Lakers success in this season.

18. Tony Parker: The NBA of today is a predominantly point guard driven league. Quietly, Tony Parker remains to be one of those top point guards in the NBA. In 2012, Tony Parker led the ageless San Antonio Spurs to a remarkable season, finishing 48-18 in the regular season and to the Western Conference Finals in the playoffs. For majority of last season, Parker was an MVP candidate and I wouldn’t sleep on him for the 2013 season. After an off-season that consisted of bar fights and playing in the Olympics, we can be sure to see Tony led the Spurs to dominance again in the West. At age 30, he hasn’t lost a step and is quick as ever. He still has that niche to score and complete those miraculous lay ups when it seems like there is no way of getting to the hoop. I think reliable is the best way to describe Tony Parker overall as a player, and I think we will see that once again this upcoming season.

17: Blake Griffin: Blake Griffin is great for the NBA. Not only for his high flying, jump-out-of-the-gym dunks but for his personality (if your not following him on twitter, do so now). Quick side note, there should be something called the “Griffin Rules” where instead of jumping over guys like Kendrick Perkins, I think we should have Blake jump over pools filled with alligators and through rings of fire. I honestly think he could do it. David Stern should really consider it. Its a shame we didn’t get to see Blake in London this past summer, but you be sure to see plenty of him this upcoming season. Expect Blake to continue dunking on opposing players (on purpose) and re-watching the clip on YouTube and Sportscenter Top 10. “LOB CITY!” Blake is a freak athlete, we already knew that. What we will see more from Blake this season is an outside game and his developing a jumper.  I’m sure we will see it after working with Coach K and some of the games best minds with Team USA. Dunking on players is great and all don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t help win championships. His help defense will come with time and as seasons go on. The Clippers will and already are a threat, no doubt about it. Expect Blake to be a big reason why.

16. Andrew Bynum: This is the games second best big man. In 2012, I truly believe we will see a totally different Andrew Bynum. Not as a player, but as a person and I think that will help his game. Ever since he was drafted in ’05 by the Lakers as a 17 year old, he has been an immature player. We’ve seen his immaturity throughout his 7 year career from taking unnecessary 3 pointers, calling out Kobe (you don’t call out Kobe), f-bombing refs, and cheap shoting 6’0 Puerto Rican point guards. Some may make the argument that this immaturity and anger is from his original team constantly putting him on the trading block and throwing his name into deals, which could definitely be the case. Overall, I don’t think we have seen an Andrew Bynum that has been totally focused, 100% all in. To be honest, I don’t understand why he would be with all that trade talk that was going on in L.A. the past few seasons. As for this season, expect to see a more focused Bynum, where a lot of the attention is devoted. Andrew Bynum is walking into a fresh start in Philadelphia with a team that has a lot of talent that includes Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday. I expect Bynum to bring some of his championship experience to Philly, but I wouldn’t really count out Bynum being fully matured just yet.

15. James Harden: If we were ranking best beards in the NBA, I think we all know who would be number on the list. Now I had a whole blog ready about Harden and how he needs a big season in OKC with it being a contract year, but since being traded to the Rockets this past weekend, I had to change it up. Its a shame the two sides couldn’t agree on an extension but in Harden’s best interest this is a great move for him. James Harden still has the best beard in the League, and is still in my eyes one of the most efficient scorers in the League, with a 49% FG percentage last season. Harden is one of the best decision makers in the NBA and has some of the best game senses in all of basketball. He knows what to do in every situation, where to go, and how to handle it. Not mention the guy can straight up ball. Playing alongside Jeremy Lin will help Harden. Be sure to see him get a lot more touches. Harden’s game will grow with being the go to guy now in Houston. Expect there to still be beef with Harden and the Lakers, and Metta World Peace (ironic right?). I expect Harden to come out hard in 2012-2013, proving all the haters wrong that he can start for a team and help a franchise his own way with out under the shadows of guys like Durant and Westbrook. I think its safe to say Harden will make OKC wish they had signed him to an extension.

14. Deron Williams: One of the top players to come out the 2005 Draft, and in 2012 is still one of the top players in the league. Williams has a lot to look forward to this upcoming season, and its not seeing Jay Z or the Kardashian’s in the front row. A new city, a new arena, a new look, and for the most part a new team.  Not that Williams needs one, but he could be a big reason the Brooklyn Nets are so successful this year. There’s a buzz in Brooklyn about this team and Williams is the leader of it. I have no doubt in my mind that he will do a good job leading this team, as he did in Utah early in his career and when he was in the Olympics. With a re-vamped roster filled with guys like Joe Johnson, Reggie Evans, Josh Childress, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace, expect the Nets to make some noise in the East.

13. LaMarcus Aldrige: One thing I hate about the NBA is that the small markets don’t ever get enough love. In Portland, the Trailblazers have a special player in LaMarcus Aldridge and I feel as if not too many people really know about him. Aldridge, at 6’11 is one of the top 5 PF’s in the NBA. Aldridge, a franchise player has a great outside touch. Don’t believe me ask his 51 % FG percentage from last seaosn. The reason people really don’t talk about him is because he plays on an average team and in a small market that isn’t televised as much. This past season, Aldridge was named an All-Star for the first time. I’d expect to see the former Longhorn in plenty more All-Star games when its ll said and done.  In ’09, Aldridge signed a five year $65 million extension with the Blazers. With only 2 more seasons to go, you can guarantee LaMarcus Aldridge to be one of the top FA’s in the market. As for the 2012-2013 season, I expect Aldridge to keep making a name for himself. The skill is there, he has great footwork for a big man and an amazing touch. Now it’s just a matter of the Trailblazers building something around him and making a run.

12. Carmelo Anthony: The New York Knicks poster boy had an eventful summer, living most of it in London and winning his 2nd Olympic gold medal. Everyone in New York is hoping this will rub off on Carmel Anthony and hopefully the lead Knick’s past the first round since 2000. There are high hopes in NY this year. With the Big 3 having almost a year to adjust to each other and with no Jeremy Lin grabbing all the attention, this Knick team should do some damage. The Knicks’ off-season acquisitions of Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton should help the team as well. As for Melo, expect him to take a lot of shots and score a lot of points, because well that’s what he does and what he was brought in to do. So enough with the hate already and just enjoy watching one of, if not the best scorer in the League (inside and out). With a helpful supporting, so experience with Coach Woodson, and no distractions, Melo will be very dominant. I expect him to have the “Killer-Instinct” that all the great scorers in the League have. The “Assassain’s Mentality”. Don’t sleep on NY as on paper they are probably the 3rd best team in the East (behind Miami and Indiana) and who knows what will happen when a little chemistry is built. What I’m trying to say is don’t sleep on the Knicks and especially Melo. In the 2012-2013, everyone will really have to apologize to Melo.

11. Chris Paul: Arguably the best PG in the league. A true leader, who on and off the court does everything right. A great representative for the league and a master at his craft.  He has all the tools and attributes one would look for in a point guard. Chris Paul can change the pace of a game in a second and can hurt you in every category. He displayed this in the 2012 season leading the Clippers to a 40-26. I’m sure getting swept by the Spurs in the playoffs  left a bad taste in Paul’s mouth so we can definitely expect Paul and Clippers to come out swinging in 2013. Paul’s 2012 averages were solid, and I expect those to go up. With new additions such as Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom, Paul will have more options to go to when running the offense. For the 2013 season, I expect Chris Paul to be Chris Paul. There are not many competitors in the league like Paul, who is still looking for his first title. With powerhouses like the Lakers, Thunder, and Spurs it’ll be tough for Paul and the Clippers. Is it possible? Absolutely, and it should be very exciting to see how Paul and the rest of the Clips handle it.