Quiz time, sports fans: What did the New York Yankees of the '50s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s have in common? (And exactly how can this help you with your portfolio?)

It wasn't just that they had some of the best individual players of the time -- Yogi Berra, Michael Jordan, and Emmitt Smith, respectively -- although that certainly helped. And it wasn't just that they were able to bring home world championship trophies on a regular basis. It was simply that their organizations and performances were consistently excellent.

Consistent excellence is rare anywhere, but imagine seeing it in your portfolio. Impossible? No way! Because that's what carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks can offer.

Build the next investing dynasty
Finding these long-haul outperformers can help you build your fortune, as studies from investing gurus such as Jeremy Siegel have shown time and time again. Finding them for you is precisely what we do at our Motley Fool Income Investor service.

ONEOK (NYSE:OKE), for example, is up 97% since December 2005, and it is currently rewarding investors with a 2.6% yield. Then there's JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM), which has returned 51% since August 2005 on top of a current 2.6% yield. And while both stocks happen to be Income Investor recommendations, you don't need to be a subscriber to get these great gains.

Identify new talent
With that last thought in mind, I'd like to introduce you to our new community intelligence database, Motley Fool CAPS. There, savvy investors help one another identify stocks that can create consistent and substantial growth for any type of investor. That means whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you are welcome to strut your stuff. And, just as in professional sports, the cream inevitably rises to (and stays at) the top.

So what are the best dividend-paying stocks around, according to CAPS? Here are a few dividend picks with five-star ratings:



ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP)


Tsakos Energy Navigation (NYSE:TNP)


Olin Corp. (NYSE:OLN)




Aracruz Celulose (NYSE:ARA)


Sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of May 25.

Stake your claim
I encourage you to join CAPS to learn more about why investors are so bullish on these companies, and perhaps to add your own thoughts to the system. I'll get you started with some thoughts about one company here that may be worth checking out: ConocoPhillips.

Right up front, why don't I just say I'm not going to try and tell you where crude prices are going. I'm quite sure that I'm no T. Boone Pickens, and even he doesn't get it right all the time.

Though fellow Fool Robert Aronen deftly argued that the price of gasoline on a historical, inflation-adjusted basis isn't unreasonably high, the simple fact is that prices have gone up a bunch in the past few years. What this means -- as Robert also pointed out -- is that as long as that lasts, the companies selling oil should do quite well.

Accompanying the higher prices have been plenty of hand-wringing and choruses of "it's different this time." Many believe that we have hit or will soon hit peak oil, the high point of oil production after which production will slowly decline. If this is the case, it surely would mean things are different this time, since declining oil production (as opposed to reduced short-term supply) would very likely not only keep prices high but cause them to creep ever higher.

I'm not planning on debating here whether we have hit peak oil, but what I do know is that this isn't the first time some have said we have. This makes me a bit cautious, and it means I'm not going to be willing to overpay for an oil or oil services company based on the assumption that oil prices will hit $1,000 a barrel.

That's where ConocoPhillips comes in. Despite the fact that the company's operating metrics are largely in line with or better than its competitors and it's projected to grow faster than many of them, it trades at a discount. On a trailing basis, ConocoPhillips is currently trading at 4 times EBITDA versus 5.6 for Exxon (NYSE:XOM) and 4.5 for Chevron (NYSE:CVX).

CAPS player ronbeasley has noticed this and shares:

ConocoPhillips shares are selling at a large discount to its competitors, based on cash flow and reserve values. The company's low reserve replacement rate in 2006 was largely a result of project timing and not indicative of its long-term track record. Multinational operations and my expectation that oil will be increasingly priced in currencies other than the dollar make this a good currency hedge. It investment in Russia's Lukoil is also a valuable and underappreciated asset. Management has instituted a sizable share buyback to take advantage of the low share price.

You can check out more of what others have to say about ConocoPhillips, as well as chime in with your own thoughts, by heading over to CAPS. You may also want to check out a few of the other top-rated dividend payers above while you're there.

And looping back around to conclude my (very) extended sports metaphor, allow me to suggest that dividend stocks will help you turn your portfolio into the dependable New York Yankees, rather than the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins. And if you hate the Yankees, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More CAPS coverage:

Yankees fan and Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer hopes the Yanks can continue (regain?) their legendary excellence, and has his fingers crossed that the Cowboys will never get back to the top again. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is a true investing dynasty.