Amar’e has a lot to prove to himself and to New York. After last year’s dismal season, Stoudemire hopes to bounce back and work himself into the Knicks offense. With fingers being pointed at him as being the reason why New York can’t mesh well, and how the team can’t function with him and Carmelo Anthony on the court, it puts STAT in a tough place. Truth is, Amar’e has an unbelievable mid-range jump shot and can get to the rack at will. Timing is his problem. He has to look at Melo and Tyson Chandler as security blankets to pick him up when he’s slacking, instead he’ll just play through his poor basketball and in turn just crap the bed. After a few years of getting to know each other and with a new mind behind the playbook, look out for the 29 year-old Stoudemire to perform better then expected. Unless he gets hurt……..again.
9. Kevin Garnett Boston Celtics 36 years old
KG is old and so are the Celtics, but he’s one of the best ever. Still effective down low, though he is not as agile and forceful on the block, Garnett brings 100% intensity every game and that is admirable. With his mid-range jump shot as good as it’s ever been, he will continue to knock down open and contested shots. Garnett shot over 50% from the field last year and with Rondo running point, he will have plenty of open shots. Grandpa Garnett is still here and has a lot of basketball left.
8. Zach Randolph Memphis Grizzlies 31 years old
Z-BO. Probably one of the scariest most underrated power forwards in the NBA. As a Knick fan, I wish we still had him but things happen and once you leave New York you’re supposed to have a career year, right? Randolph is a monstrous force down low and will bully opposing big men and wear them down to nothing. When his post game is on, he is close to impossible to stop and don’t be surprised if he steps back and knocks down a jumper or two because he will. Another big man coming off an injury, so we shall see how Randolph plays. A healthy Randolph could mean a serious playoff run for Memphis, that is if Gay and him can stay on the court.
7. Josh Smith Atlanta Hawks 26 years old
Smith is hands-down the most physically talented player in the NBA. After averaging a career best 18.8 PPG in 2011-2012, Smith is out for more. A high flying power forward, much like a lankier Shawn Kemp, Smith can beat you inside and outside and is deceptively quick for his 6’9” frame. Shot selection and confidence is what separates Smith from above average to elite. He can knock down the three ball, don’t get me wrong, but a trigger happy Smith sometimes forgets that he is a power forward and falls in love with the jump shot. When you can jump over the defender it seems silly to chuck 109 threes and only hit 28.
6. Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs 36 years old
The most decorated power forward ever- Timmy D. Still playing and playing well. Last year, the ageless Duncan continued to do what he does best: win. After averaging 15 points and 9 boards at age 36 and leading the Spurs to a 50-16 record and a Western Conference Championship appearance, can he do it again in 2013? Or will age catch up to Duncan? According to the Spurs training staff, Duncan is healthier than he has ever been and getting better? Impossible. Duncan and the Spurs know how to win, but can an older team compete with teams like Oklahoma City and Denver? I’m not too sure. Timmy D is still playing at a high level and knocking down that 12-15 shot off glass consistently and shows no signs of slowing down. It is safe to assume that Tim Duncan truly is a vampire and cannot age. 2013 will be a test to see if Duncan is the greatest, most winning, and most consistent PF ever.
5. Pau Gasol Los Angeles Lakers 32 years old
Pau gets a lot of criticism but if you really know the game of basketball, you would love to have Pau Gasol on your team. He brought 2 championships to the Lakers and is coming off a silver medal in the Olympics. Pau is no longer the second fiddle in L.A with big Dwight Howard in the paint with him. Gasol is a wizard with the ball and the high-low game with him and Dwight should be a basketball masterpiece. Gasol and the Lakers will have another big year.
4. Dirk Nowitzki Dallas Mavericks 34 years old
Last time this year Dirk was untouchable and everybody loved him. He single handily beat LeBron and the Heat and will forever be remembered for that. He had a little championship hangover last year but you would be foolish to count out Dirk. When he is on and focused not many can compete with his offensive skill set. He’ll finish at the rim and absorb contact or just pop it right in your face.
3. Blake Griffin Los Angeles Clippers 23 years old
The NBA’s new poster child has been all over the place the last two years. He is on every commercial and a fan favorite. If Blake wants to continue to see all the love and attention he’s getting, he better lead the Clippers deep into a playoff run. We all know he can dunk but he must develop a consistent mid range shot to open up his game. If Blake does this there is no limit of what we can see to the 23-year old highflyer.
2. Lamarcus Aldridge Portland Trailblazers 27 years old
Portland’s lone star is one of the most underrated players in all the NBA. Maybe it’s because he plays in the most irrelevant corner of the country, but Aldridge is a monster. Coming off a 21 and 8 season where he was the only nightly threat for the Trailblazers, I can see LaMarcus having an even bigger year. Damian LIllard might be the star point guard Blazer fans have been waiting for and he might hold the keys to taking Aldridge’s play to a whole other level.
1. Kevin Love Minnesota Timberwolves 24 years old
He’s not a secret anymore. Kevin Love went from a solid player people didn’t give enough credit to, to a superstar and the league’s best power forward. The 24-year old can do it all and has great potential to become even better. He is a monster on the boards, averaging 13 rebounds last year. He wasn’t just a massive rebounder, he also averaged an astonishing 26 points a game, 2 behind league leader Kevin Durant. Kevin Love has amazing post moves and a great 3-point shot. Love is a defensive player’s worst nightmare, as it seemed no one was able to stop him last season. K-Love’s game might have gotten stronger playing with Team USA and winning the gold over the summer. Kevin has said he is sick of losing and I see him elevating his game even more to lead the Timberwolves into the playoffs for the first time since the Kevin Garnett days.