The Best NBA Players Not Named Kobe or LeBron

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Obviously Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and many others could be included on this list. However, these are guys I feel are having breakout seasons over and above what we’ve seen from them in the past. I got some of the information for this by ranking all NBA players in order of production in my Fantasy Basketball league. Many of these guys are near the top.

December 27, 2010 Blake Griffin

Currently the 5th best fantasy player under my leagues scoring (which actually rewards 3 pointers) I didn’t realize how explosive Blake Griffin’s game was until I saw one recently against Phoenix. He actually got rebounds and dribbled the ball all the way up court and started transition offense like Charles Barkley used to do. This guy has the potential to be one of the best NBA players. Period. He also has the ability to turn the Los Angeles Clippers into a relevant team in the NBA … not just in LA, where they play step-child to the Lakers. It took Kevin Durant a few seasons to get the Thunder into contention – and if Blake Griffin stays healthy and develops his game during the off-season, he will be one of the most collected NBA players in a few seasons.

As you already know – he missed all of 2009/10 with a knee injury, and anyone that bought cards during that time can certainly start to cash in. His ‘best’ rookie card is possibly the 09/10 Panini National Treasures — which I remember saying at the time, are some of the best looking NBA Rookie Cards ever made.

2009/10 Panini National Treasures Blake Griffin Patch Autograph Rookie Card

They currently sell for huge prices online with Gold Parallels serial #/25 selling for close to $1,000 dollars on eBay! Blake Griffin has a 09/10 UD Exquisite rookie featuring him in his College uniform and is serial numbered #/225. Although the card is not autographed they still sell for over $250 on eBay.

Kevin Love

Another guy buried on a team that always struggles to win games (see Blake Griffin). Love is currently behind only LeBron James in terms of total fantasy points in my league which essentially gives you 5 points for 3’s … so he’s actually the #1 player. This guy hustles and gets rebounds, all while shooting for a high percentage. You’d think he and coach Kurt Rambis (who had a similar playing style) would see eye to eye, but apparently they’ve had their disagreements. He still gets big minuets and if he was in Boston, Chicago or on the Lakers, his cards would be worth even more.

Love’s cards still have been getting just that … love. His 2008/09 Upper Deck Exquisite Auto/Jersey Rookie #/225 sells for just around $200 on eBay at the current time – which is still half that of Russell Westbrook (see below). I would consider this card a really solid buy considering they could go up if Love gets into the leagues MVP race, as many think he might.

2008/09 Upper Deck Exquisite Kevin Love Autograph Jersey Rookie RC Card

Russell Westbrook
This PG doesn’t get a lot of attention compared to Chris Paul, Derrick Rose or Deron Williams, but his production is as good or better. In fact, he has more fantasy points in my league than Kevin Durant because Durant has missed a few games due to injury. Overall, Westbrook’s shot selection and leadership are as good as any young PG I’ve seen in the NBA in a long time. He’s led the Thunder to wins even when KD has been down with injury – showing he can run the show without the main guy in the lineup. If I was starting an NBA team today – and I had a pick of Point Guard, it’d be a toss-up between Williams and Westbrook because they both don’t take bad shots like many other PG’s I see around the league (see Derrick Rose play).

Westbrook’s rookies have taken off since coming into the league and pairing up with Kevin Durant. His most valuable rookie card is the 2008/09 Upper Deck Exquisite Jersey Autograph serial #/225. It usually sells for more than $400 on eBay. This is a card that could go in either direction depending on how well the Thunder do. People/fans are expecting them to do big things in the next couple of seasons, so Westbrook and Durant will have to deliver to meet these expectations and maintain $400+ value on his Exquisite rookie.

2008/09 Upper Deck Exquisite Russell Westbrook Autograph Jersey Rookie RC Card

LaMarcus Aldridge
All you need to know about this young man is when teammate Andre Miller’s NBA leading consecutive game played streak came to an end earlier this season … it was Aldridge that organized a team event where they honored Miller’s accomplishment. Those are the type of leadership qualities NBA GM’s dream of. His production has gone up because of Brandon Roy having knee problems all season. Aldridge’s other high profile teammate, Greg Oden, also has knee issues keeping him out. I expect LaMarcus Aldridge to emerge as a top NBA player this season because of the opportunities to score will be there all season long.

If you are looking for someone to buy on this list – LaMarcus Aldridge might be the best ‘value’ at the moment. His 2006/07 Autograph Rookie often sell for less than $75 (even his Exquisite RC sells for affordable prices on eBay). I would consider these a super strong buy with tons of upside considering they are the least expensive cards (other than Wesley Matthews – see below).

2006/07 Upper Deck Exquisite LaMarcus Aldridge Jersey Autograph Rookie RC Card

Wesley (Wes) Matthews
No one has benefited from Brandon Roy being out more than Wesley Matthews. Talk about a guy that did it right…undrafted in 2009/10 and signed by Utah, Matthews ended up signing a huge multi-million dollar deal with Portland (one much richer than most 1st or 2nd round picks in the same draft can have at this stage in their career). So he’s gotten paid, and now his energy and production is paying off for the Trailblazers. If Roy misses even more games, or has to cut back his minuets, most of those opportunities will go to Matthews. He stands out to me because he can create his own shot with the ball and cut/move off screens – making him very valuable late in the shot clock and games.

Matthew’s Cards have gotten some attention due to his recent play. We actually pulled one of his 09/10 Upper Deck Draft Edition Autographs for a Fan Forum Member when we did a box break of this product. His most collectible rookies might be his 2009/10 Panini Classics Autograph serial numbered to just #/99 copies and they currently sell for around $30 on eBay. His National Treasures RC is also serial numbered #/99 and sells for slightly more on most occasions.

2009/10 Panini National Treasures Wesley Wes Matthews Autograph Rookie Card

Monta Ellis
Currently out-scoring Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade in my leagues scoring system. Being close to the Bay Area, I actually hear a lot about Monta Ellis. He always seems to have some kind of lingering injury, but when he plays … he obviously has production that is near the top in the league. Personally, I know he’s gotten his life together (after that Moped accident that kept him out for most of one season) he now has a wife and a son named Monta Jr. Like Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, Monta’s cards would be worth even more if Golden State was a winning team or if he played in a bigger market. That being said – he’s still very young and if he stays healthy – Ellis will put up numbers that are tops in the league.

Ellis most collectible rookie might be his 2005/06 Upper Deck Exquisite Jersey/Autograph Rookie serial #/225. This card usually sells in the $200 range on eBay, but could easily go up a few hundred or go down 50 – 75% depending on if Ellis can stay healthy. His production is not in question and if he can turn the Warriors into a winner, his cards will go up like many of the SF Giants cards did when they won the World Series.

2005/06 Monta Ellis Upper Deck Exquisite Autograph Jersey Rookie RC Card

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