9). Brandon Roy, 25, Portland Trailblazers. B-Roy (photo above) possesses the all-around skill set to eventually creep inside our list of Top 5 current NBA players in the game. He can do it all on the floor and loves being the go-to-guy in tough, pressure situations. Playing in Portland thankfully hasn't dimmed the spotlight on his rapid climb to the top of the league.
8). Chris Bosh, 25, Toronto Raptors. Bosh is another big name free agent who should be available next offseason. He averaged 22.7 points and 10 boards a night in '08-'09, but a more defining year as that "franchise player" would do wonders for his marketability. The agile, lanky Bosh epitomizes the evolution of the NBA big man with his crisp inside as well as outside game.
7). Carmelo Anthony, 25, Denver Nuggets. Melo still displays the smoothest game in the NBA today. Everything looks so natural and effortless on the court. The addition of veteran PG Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets last season will only further enhance his overall game in '09-'10.
6). Chris Paul, 24, New Orleans Hornets. Forget Kobe and LeBron, Paul (photo above, dribbling) is the most exciting player to watch in the league right now. Hornets head coach Byron Scott may be forced to release the reins if he hopes to contend with the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets in the West. That would be nothing but sweet music for CP3 fans.
5). Deron Williams, 25, Utah Jazz. Yes, Williams gets the slight nod over Paul from a pure physical standpoint. Both young, cagey PGs seemingly have eyes in the back of their heads and are exceptional floor generals. But at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, D-Will is the better overall defender and offensive threat.
3). Dwyane Wade, 27, Miami Heat. D. Wade (photo above) is a lot closer to the No. 2 spot than most may realize. Last season was his best to date, coincidentally coming in 3rd in the Most Valuable Player voting in May. His teammates need to contribute big early in the season, so Wade can save his heroics for down the stretch.
1). Kobe Bryant, 31, Los Angeles Lakers. He's closing in on our list of Top 10 NBA players of all time. A fifth championship ring this season would only boost his legacy. Some say Kobe's slowing down. We say he's conserving energy for crunch time.