With summer dragging on and on and on before the NBA tips off, we’ve decided to initiate a multipart series that will be the definitive look at the best players in the NBA today.

Over lunch at the Outback Steakhouse (word to Steve Irwin), your crack SLAMonline.com staff sat down and ranked the 50 best players in the NBA today. We realize that’s kind of ambiguous, but that’s how basketball is and that’s how we like it. Basically, though, we tried to list the 50 guys we think have the most value to their teams, right now, at this moment. This doesn’t mean they’ll never be traded, and it doesn’t mean they’re due tremendous contract extensions, but it does mean — since value is king in the NBA — that over the next month or so we’ll run down the 50 guys that we think are the 50 best players, right here, right now.

Before long it’ll be time for our annual NBA team previews. Right now it’s time for some law and order…

41. Andrew Bogut

by Khalid Salaam

I am by no means a Bogut fan per se, just a fan of different styles and personalities. Bogut has both of those in abundance.

I recall when he was in college and it was one of the early season games that always come on around or after Thanksgiving. He had a lot of finesse in his game for a big man but at the same time he didn’t shun the contact. He didn’t have that overseas stereotype thing going on. He wasn’t gonna try and shoot a three. He played with a chip on his shoulder, not a big one to where the anger consumes him, but enough to where people had to think to themselves this guys is nuts. I’m a fan of players likes that. Really I’m a fan of people like that I suppose.

I thought to myself immediately this guy has a chance to be the number 1 pick. He came out in the one of the years where there wasn’t a surefire, franchise-saving kind of player. So people slept on his worthiness, thinking he got over due to lack of competitive talent. His numbers last year were solid, 9 and 7 in the regular season. And 8 and 6 in the 5 game 1st round series against the Pistons. The Bucks shipped out Magloire in the offseason and instantly made Bogut the biggest big man because they see the future.

His talent doesn’t jump out at you in obvious ways but he knows where to be on the court and he will fight for a rebound but he’s no stiff, he is a decently skilled player with good hands. He’ll average something like 16 and 9 next year and will get in a few All-Star games before it’s all said and done. And for that team, in that city, that will officially be awesome.