in the Western Conference. Durant is also second in the league in scoring with an average of 27.9 ppg, just shy of Kobe’s 28.1 average. At 6’9 235lbs, it’s difficult to find any weakness in KD’s game. The former University of Texas star has become an assassin in every sense of the word. Within his ability to accumulate points by the bunch, he’s managed to notch several game winning shots throughout his four year NBA career.
At age 23, “The Durantula” has helped his team to improve in each season. After leading the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals in 2011, they are the favorite to represent the West in the 2012 NBA Finals. With the immense talent and the killer instinct you expect of a franchise player, would Kevin Durant be your choice to build your future around?
Dwayne Wade, SG Miami Heat
Career Averages: 25.2 ppg 5.1 reb 6.2 ast 1.8 stl 1 blk
Two-Time All NBA First Team, Three-Time All NBA Defensive Second Team, 2006 NBA Finals MVP, 2010 NBA All-Star MVP, Seven-Time NBA All-Star
Although Allen Iverson created the blueprint for undersized shooting guards, the 6’4 220lb Dwayne Wade took it to the next level upon his entrance into the league in 2003. “The Flash” was taken by the Heat with the fifth pick in the draft, after leading the University of Marquette to a Final Four appearance the year before. Wade’s momentum continued throughout his pro career, directing the Heat to an NBA Championship in 2006 and being named the Finals MVP.
The eight year veteran has been a marquee player in the NBA, and would widely be seen as the best shooting guard in the game if not for one Kobe Bean Bryant. Wade has tasted both championship victory and defeat, after falling short to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals. The lone bright spot in last year’s loss was the play of the Chicago native. Wade experienced an awful shooting slump throughout the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls, but bounced back tremendously in the Championship series. The Flash raised his averages to 29 ppg, 8.7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.7 blocks throughout the six game series. The irony of it all, this wasn’t the first time that Wade stepped up his play on the big stage. En route to earning his ’06 Finals MVP trophy, the former Marquette standout put on one of the greatest series runs in league history. The star guard averaged a mind-blowing 34.7 points per game, with just fewer than eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in a 4-2 series win.
While he may be seen as an undersized player for his position, D-Wade plays with an unmatched amount of tenacity, heart and an unwavering killer instinct. A seemingly fearless athlete, he gives his team 110 percent on each end of the court. The Chi-town baller would easily have been a perennial first team defensive player, if not for Kobe Bryant consistently snagging the honor. When playing at full strength, it’s hard to argue anyone’s selection of the 30 year old shooting guard to lead their franchise. Wade is undoubtedly seen as one of the game’s best closers, and may be on his way to a second finals MVP trophy if the Miami Heat fulfills expectations this time around.
Chris Paul, PG Los Angeles Clippers
Career Averages: 18.7 ppg 9.9 ast 4.5 reb 2.4 stl .1 blk
2008 All NBA First Team, 2009 All NBA Defensive First Team, 2006 NBA Rookie of the Year, Five-Time NBA All-Star
Since 2005, the NBA would be hard-pressed to find a better point guard than Chris Paul. After being taken with the fourth overall pick by the New Orleans Hornets, Paul has been the true definition of a franchise player. CP3, as he’s known around the league, single-handedly led the Hornets to their first ever division title in 2008 and the second seed in the western conference. After defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, the Hornets pushed the 2007 defending champion San Antonio Spurs to seven games before falling short.
While playing as the floor general for the Hornets, the 26 year old turned the franchise into a contender despite very little surrounding talent. In his five seasons, the former Wake Forest standout led New Orleans to three playoff appearances and a division title. At the start of the lockout shortened 2011-2012 season, CP3 was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers in a blockbuster trade. Paired with rising star Blake Griffin, the North Carolina native has turned a historically terrible franchise into the fourth seeded team in the western conference.
When a team invests in a franchise player, they assess an individual’s intangibles as much as they do his/her overall talent. Chris Paul possesses everything you look for in a point guard, with his ability to make everyone