Top 50 players going into the 2003-2004 season.
1. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs: The 2-time MVP now has 2 rings and nearly had a quadruple-double in 2003 Finals clincher. Any more questions?
2. Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves: Duncan nosed out Garnett for MVP by the slimmest of margins, and K.G. is still getting better.
3. Shaquille O'Neal, Los Angeles Lakers: If Shaq is in shape and focused, he's by far the best player -- make that No. 1 and No. 1A.
4. Kobe Bryant, Lakers: He does it all on both ends of the floor, but the sexual assault case is overshadowing basketball at the moment.
5. Tracy McGrady, Orlando Magic: He's right on Bryant's heels as the great all-around player, and if his back is right, he'll improve again.
6. Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets: The prototype pg, he has back-to-back East titles and a now nine-figure contract. Is a championship next?
7. Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers: He is the people's choice as the leave-it-all-on-the-floor overachiever at barely 6-feet, 165 pounds.
8. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: He's a star of the 21st century -- a 7-footer who runs the floor and shoots from the perimeter like a guard.
9. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics: Unlimited shooting range and great strength in the post, he is as tough a player as there is to prevent from scoring.
10. Chris Webber, Sacramento Kings: Knee surgery has caused him to slip this far. A remarkable all-around talent at pf.
11. Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana Pacers: Still only 24, he is climbing the charts with great skills at both ends of the floor and his shooting range is improving.
12. Ray Allen, Seattle SuperSonics: One of the great guys in the game, sometimes, his off-the-floor brilliance overshadows his on floor talent.
13. Stephon Marbury, Phoenix Suns: Rapidly becoming the most explosive scoring pg in the game, and the team is climbing along with him.
14. Steve Francis, Houston Rockets: Very similar to Marbury in skills, he's still figuring out how to be a pg in this league but getting close.
15. Gary Payton, Lakers: At 35, he's still an All-Star performer and will make the Lakers that much better offensively and defensively.
16. Jamal Mashburn, New Orleans Hornets: The best small forward in the game, he handles the ball and shoots like a guard with a pf's body.
17. Yao Ming, Rockets: He only scratched the surface last year with special skills packed into a 7-5, 300-pound body. His potential is endless.
18. Peja Stojakovic, Kings: Perhaps the best pure shooter in the game, his rebounding is underrated, and he defends better than you think.
19. Shawn Marion, Suns: Another special talent whose unorthodox shooting and ball-handling sometimes blur just how good he really is.
20. Baron Davis, Hornets: A natural pg with extraordinary strength and floor savvy, knee and back problems have dropped him this far.
21. Rasheed Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers: Every bit as talented as the other great pfs, if his head is on straight, he is a superstar.
22. Elton Brand, Los Angeles Clippers: Undersized as a pf, he makes up for it with long arms and great skills. He is another off-court star.
23. Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors: When healthy, he is a top 10 player, at least, with staggering jumping ability and superior shooting range. We'll see.
24. Karl Malone, Lakers: Now at the big 4-0, the Mailman still delivers, just a little later. He is the best pf ever.
25. Steve Nash, Mavericks: He is relentless pushing the ball and delivering to his teammates, and capable of scoring big himself.
26. Antoine Walker, Celtics: He should be every bit as good as Mashburn, if not better. He just doesn't move as well or perform as consistently.
27. Michael Finley, Mavericks:Were it not for persistent hamstring problems, he, too, could be higher. A very quiet star.
28. Kenyon Martin, Nets: The jury is still out as he fizzled late in the Finals, but a superior defender and improving rebounder.
29. Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons: The best defensive pf and rebounder in the game would rank higher with any kind of offense.
30. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Cavaliers: Talent-wise, he's probably top 15, but chronic foot problems always bring him down in the pack.
31. Mike Bibby, Kings: This is a key year to prove whether it was the fractured foot, or the 2003 playoffs were just a fluke.
32. Pau Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies: He keeps improving every year and is just loaded with talent on a 7-foot frame that needs to get stronger.
33. Latrell Sprewell, Timberwolves: This will be his second rebirth, and the 'Wolves are counting on him to raise their level of play.
34. Ron Artest, Pacers: Like Rasheed Wallace, if he ever gets his head straightened out, he's a superstar instead of a sometimes star.
35. Allan Houston, New York Knicks: Another superior shooter, knee surgery will delay his season somewhat, or he would be ranked a little higher.
36. Nick Van Exel, Golden State Warriors: People either love him or hate him, but nobody denies Nicky's talent and confidence -- just consistency.
37. Antawn Jamison, Mavericks: A great natural scorer moving to a team full of scorers should make for an interesting mix.
38. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Atlanta Hawks: He puts up great numbers, but he is clearly a great talent who makes you want to go, "huh?"
39. Richard Hamilton, Pistons: He proved last season that he'll be a big-time scorer for a long time -- inside and outside.
40. Vlade Divac, Kings: He doesn't get in good enough condition, but his skills and leadership remain invaluable to the Kings.
41. Brian Grant, Miami Heat: Playing out of position (center), he's still a workhorse and a double-double machine.
42. Brad Miller, Kings: The heir apparent to Divac, acquiring him will help inside as a kinder, gentler version of Bill Laimbeer.
43. Amare Stoudemire, Suns: The best performance ever by a kid right out of high school, we'll see if he adds some finesse to the power.
44. Chauncey Billups, Pistons: If it weren't for an ankle injury, he would have been the surprise star of the playoffs. He's coming on fast.
45. Jerry Stackhouse, Washington Wizards: A great natural scorer, he still has to prove he can lead a young team and help them win.
46. Richard Jefferson, Nets: He came on strong his second season on the offensive end as a starter. He was a steal for this team.
47. Bonzi Wells, Trail Blazers: He's as tough in the post as any guard in the league and a great streak shooter ... just very erratic.
48. Glenn Robinson, Philadelphia 76ers: A great mid-range scorer, it will be interesting to see how he fits in with Iverson.
49. Rashard Lewis, SuperSonics: They badly need him to take the next step to stardom; a marvelously talented shooter and jumper.
50. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards: He had a great second season, wanted big money and got it from the Wiz. Now we'll see if he's worth it.
Honorable mention: Reggie Miller, Pacers; Sam Cassell, Timberwolves; Jalen Rose, Chicago Bulls; Troy Murphy, Warriors; Antonio Davis, Raptors; Dale Davis, Trail Blazers; Ricky Davis, Cavaliers; Tony Parker, Spurs; Alonzo Mourning, Nets; Jason Terry, Hawks; Eddy Curry, Bulls.