We have finally made it into the double-digit jersey numbers in our countdown. None of my top 5 players of all time wore single digit numbers for much if at all in their career. Jordan and Lebron wore 23, Kareem wore 33, Magic wore 32, and Wilt wore 13. Now this isn’t a diss at the single digit guys, I’m just saying we’re in for quite a ride here with the double digits.
#11: Kyrie Irving
Kyrie is a new addition to the double-digit number club after rocking number 2 for the first 6 years of his career in Cleveland. Kyrie’s first season in Boston was a success and turmoil all in one. The success was due to his team making it all the way to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The turmoil came when Kyrie missed the end of the regular season and entire playoffs with a knee injury. Through all of this, Irving’s averages were 24.4ppg, 3.8rpg, and 5.1apg. He stepped into Boston as the best player on the team and along the way worked with the emergences of Brown, Tatum, Rozier, and Smart. Many believe that Kyrie is salty with their success but, he’s clearly shown to be proud of what they’ve done. The Celtics next season will easily be a top 2 team in the Eastern Conference with Finals hopes.
Honorable Mentions: Klay Thompson (20ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.5apg) and Jrue Holiday (19ppg, 4.5rpg, 6apg)
#12: LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge really stepped it up last year as the Spurs best player with Kawhi Leonard barely playing. All their successes were with him as their leader. The Spurs managed to get the 7th seed in a crowded Western Conference where the 3rd and 8th seed were separated by 2 games. Aldridge had averages of 23.1ppg, 8.5rpg, and 2apg. The Spurs pose a realistic chance to be better than last season with the addition of Demar Derozan. I mentioned in the last edition of this countdown how I believe that the Spurs will be a 4-6 seed. Even as an underdog I believe they could upset every team besides the Warriors and Rockets. I’m excited to watch the new look Spurs next season.
Honorable Mentions: Steven Adams (13.9ppg, 9rpg, 1.2apg) and Dwight Howard (16.6ppg, 12.5rpg, 1.3apg)
#13: James Harden
Even though this is somewhat of an opinion-oriented countdown, any other answer would be wrong. This guy just won the freaking MVP. Harden and the Houston Rockets were the top seed in the Western Conference and took the Warriors to 7 games in the conference finals. Many have said the Rockets would have won the game had Chris Paul been healthy the final 2 games of that series. Harden’s MVP averages were 30.4ppg, 5.4rpg, and 8.8apg. The Rockets are still a top 2 team in the Western Conference next season and are expected to be in the conference finals again. Houston will look a bit different without Ariza on the team and Carmelo Anthony being his replacement. As long as Melo accepts his role as being less important than Chris Paul and Harden, things will run smoothly.
Honorable Mentions: Paul George (21.9ppg, 5.7rpg, 3.3apg) and Marcus Morris (13.6ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.3apg)
#14: Gary Harris
Gary Harris is a nice young player, but quite the drop off from Harden, Aldridge, and Irving. Harris is the shooting guard for the Denver Nuggets who just barely missed the playoffs last season. His averages were 17.5ppg, 2.6rpg, and 2.9apg. I firmly believe that Denver will make the jump into the playoffs next season as a 7th or 8th seed. They drafted Michael Porter JR. and signed Isaiah Thomas to bulk up the roster a little bit. Jokic and Millsap are one of the best big man combos in the league and Jamal Murray along with Harris and Barton are a great starting 5. I’m a Celtics fan, but the Nuggets will be the Western Conference team I root for.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Ingram (16.1ppg, 5.3rpg, 3.9apg) and Gerald Green (12.1ppg, 3.2rpg, 0.6apg)
#15: Kemba Walker
The Hornets suck, but Kemba Walker doesn’t. Kemba’s been a great scoring point guard going all way back to his college days at UCONN. Walker is the kind of player that you feel bad for because he’s in such a shitty situation. His name has been thrown around in trade discussions, and it might personally be best for him to be traded. Last season, Kemba Walker averaged 22.1ppg, 3.1rpg, and 5.6apg. I was close to making my first guy in the honorable mentions the choice here, but Kemba needs some love himself. The Hornets will be bad again next season. Kemba will continue to ball out and have great stats, but with zero help behind him. I personally hope the Hornets trade him and just do a complete tank rebuild.
Honorable Mentions: Nikola Jokic (18.5ppg, 10.7rpg, 6.1apg) and Clint Capela (13.9ppg, 10.8rpg, 0.9apg)
Tune in next time for numbers 16-20.
-Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)