|1||TIM DUNCAN, F-C, SAN ANTONIO: We told you about his math teacher in St. Croix in last week’s rankings. This week, we’ll ask a math question: What is 62 divided by 80? The answer is 77.5, which is Duncan’s FT percentage. He also is averaging 18.9 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting nearly 54 percent, and Memphis had no answer for him as he put up 27 and 15 in Saturday night’s OT thriller. He and Tony Parker are carrying the team while Manu Ginobili struggles through what has looked like his worst NBA season ever.||4|
|2||LeBRON JAMES, F, MIAMI: Good thing Ray Allen was open when LBJ dribbled into the middle of four collapsing defenders Thursday night, lost control of the ball and then watched Allen bail him out. Not only did that play give him an assist, it earned another old man a spot in this Top 10 list (see below). Poor fella has to get on a plane this week (to Washington) for the only time over a 30-day stretch. Yes, the schedule-maker (Matt Winick of the NBA league office) was quite kind to the Heat in December — even if they’ve struggled more than expected in home games against the Cavs, Bucks, quasi-Spurs and Nets (when D-Wade finally broke out). ‘Bron has scored at least 20 in every game this season.||1|
|3||KEVIN DURANT, F, OKLAHOMA CITY: Steadily moving northward as these rankings move from week to week, and it sure looks as though he and Kobe Bryant are on their way to another 1-2 finish in the scoring race (especially with Carmelo Anthony fading after his red-hot start to the season). Durant has been more efficient than Bryant and is ahead of him in all other important categories except assists. But Kobe has better big men to throw the ball to. Also, Durant does not play for a .500 team.||5|
|4||CARMELO ANTHONY, F, NEW YORK: Assuming they defeat the Suns today in yet another noon start at MSG (WTF?), their winning percentage since Mike Woodson took over is .750. No team is better equipped personnel-wise to challenge the Heat in a playoff series. And no, I do not expect Woody to rest his starters for their showdown in Miami on Thursday night that’ll help show whether opening night in Manhattan (Knicks defeated Miami by 20) was an aberration or not. Hoping that Jason Kidd is ready to return by then; he has been as important to their success as anyone.||2|
|5||ZACH RANDOLPH, F, MEMPHIS: Le’s face it, even if the Grizzlies finish with the No. 1 record in the entire NBA, there is a zero percent chance this guy is going to get the MVP award. The guy who will get recognized will be Lionel Hollins, and deservedly so. But we still must give props to Z-Bo for being the rock on this team — although Rudy Gay is starting to rock it pretty consistently, too. Z-Bo had 17 and 15 in loss at San Antonio, but was a minus-16 during his 39 minutes. Hence the drop to his lowest spot of the season in these rankings.||3|
|6||KOBE BRYANT, G, L.A. LAKERS: He leads the NBA in scoring, his team is turning things around, but there are some negatives that should be pointed out. He is turning the ball over 4.1 times per game. When he scores 40 points, the Lakers are 0-2. When he scores 30-plus points, the Lakers are 1-5. With anyone else, numbers like those would relegate you to a 9 or 10 spot. But he is the Mamba, and he has a way of turning things around and inspiring his teammates. Maybe his public tantrum at practice Friday will do the trick this time.||6|
|7||JRUE HOLIDAY, G, PHILADELPHIA 76ers: Welcome to the MVP rankings, young man. Betcha never thought you’d be valued ahead of another former UCLA guard, Russell Westbrook. But that is indeed the case here, because Russ has Kevin Durant playing with him, and you do not have Andrew Bynum playing with you. If the refs had given you the continuation call you deserved Saturday night late against Chicago, y’all might be 11-6. So stay patient, Jrue. Sixers fans will come around eventually, and the first word out of their mouths if this keeps up will not be “Andrew” for much longer.||–|
|8||DAVID LEE, F, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Went for 31 on 13-for-15 shooting in crazy late Thursday night win vs. Nuggets when all anyone wanted to talk about was Popovich v. Stern. But it did not go unnoticed here — nor has the Dubs’ 10-5 record that has them in 4th place in the Western Conference as the new week begins. Probably the most underappreciated player in the NBA over the course of his career, which includes 514 regular-season games and zero playoff games. Steph Curry has been no slouch, but D.Lee is a rock who can be counted on without having to hold one’s breath awaiting the next ankle sprain.||–|
|9||RAY ALLEN, G, MIAMI HEAT Let’s face it, the guy has hit more big shots for Miami this season than D-Wade or Chris Both — both of whom arguably belong in this top 10 list. But his 3-pointer against the quasi-Spurs saved both the Heat and the commish from a national embarrassment of epic proportions, and this piece needs some pro-Stern balance given the intro. Replaces O.J. Mayo in the 9-spot despite trailing Mayo in 3-point percentage by one-one thousandth of a point for 2nd in NBA behind leader Matt Bonner.||–|
|10||ANDERSON VAREJAO, C, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Rarely will we give props to players from teams who are bottom-feeders. But in this case, we’re givin’ ’em to Andy because he remains the one reason why this is still a strangely compelling team to watch despite the absence of Kyrie Irving. And no, we are not counting Team Comic Sans out of the playoff race this early in the season. There is always one team that comes back from the dead, and the Cavs are our choice to be that team this year. No player has averaged this many rebounds (15.3) since Ben Wallace a decade ago.||–|
DROPPED OUT: Chris Bosh (7),Jamal Crawford (8), O.J. Mayo (9), James Harden (10).
TEAMS CONSPICUOUSLY UNREPRESENTED: Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Boston Celtics, L.A. Clippers.
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