NBA Player Power Rankings: Definitive Top 20 Heading into 2012-13 Season

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 22, 2012

NBA Player Power Rankings: Definitive Top 20 Heading into 2012-13 Season

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    While the NBA is full of the best basketball players in the world, these 20 are the best of the best heading into the 2012-13 season. 

    From a 20-year-old Wunderkind to the reining MVP, each of these standouts is fully capable of carrying his team to victory on any given night. They're just that good. 

    There is one twist to these rankings, though. You'll notice that some prominent names are missing, and that's because of a key phrase in the title: "Heading into 2012-13 Season." 

    These are current rankings, and individual production will be taken into account during the season for any future rankings that come out. As a result, currently injured players are not eligible. 

    My arbitrary decision was to exclude any player who is not expected to suit up for the next two weeks. That means that you won't be seeing Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Love, although all three are certainly elite players when healthy. 

    Let's see how the top 20 stacks up right now. 

20. Kyrie Irving

1 of 20

    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PG

    Age: 20

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.1 steals


    Even though Kyrie Irving is going to be the designated driver for the Cleveland Cavaliers until March, he's still one of the best point guards in the NBA. And that's after playing only one season that was shortened by an injury and the lockout. 

    Irving has unbelievable control over the ball, even when he's wheeling through hoards of defenders. He can create shots whenever he desires and has terrific finishing ability around the rim. 

    He'll need to prove that he can remain durable, but by the end of the season, Irving could very well prove that he's being drastically underrated here.  

19. Steve Nash

2 of 20

    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: PG

    Age: 38

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals


    Steve Nash is about to enter into "pure point guard" heaven.

    After racking up 10.7 assists per game while passing the ball to Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley, there's no telling what he can accomplish with Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant running the floor. 

    We don't yet know how much time Nash will spend with the ball in his hands, but he'll have an abundance of options when he does have control. 

    The damage he could do just in the pick-and-roll game is hard to imagine. 

18. Chris Bosh

3 of 20

    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 28

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.9 steals


    Chris Bosh gets hated on for his decision to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat, becoming the third option in their offense instead of the top one in Toronto or elsewhere. 

    But despite his perceived softness and occasionally passive nature, Bosh is still tremendously talented, especially on the offensive end of the court. 

    He can rebound fairly well for his size, fill in at center when the Heat go small, and knock down mid-range jumpers with remarkable ease. 

    His defense has also continued to improve throughout his career, even though that has been largely unnoticed by the average fan. 

17. James Harden

4 of 20

    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.0 steals


    Although James Harden's efficiency might go slightly downhill because of the new flopping rules, he's still going to be one of the league's best shooting guards in the 2012-13 season. He won't be able to flail around after drawing contact on his drives, but Harden's style of play will still earn him frequent trips to the charity stripe. 

    While the bearded one doesn't truly excel on defense, his offensive game is simply sensational. Between his accuracy from the perimeter and his ability to both draw and finish through contact, it's nearly impossible to keep the Oklahoma City Thunder's sixth man off the scoreboard. 

    Right now, Harden should be considered the prohibitive favorite to pull a Detlef Schrempf and be named Sixth Man of the Year in consecutive seasons. 

16. Josh Smith

5 of 20

    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 26

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.4 steals


    Is this the year that Josh Smith puts it all together and ensures that he can't be snubbed from the All-Star squad?

    The Atlanta Hawks certainly hope so. Now that Joe Johnson and the "Iso-Joe" offense has been shipped out to Brooklyn, someone will have to step up, and Smith is that someone.  

    With his ridiculous athleticism, Smith just has to start playing to his strengths, which would involve actually showing a conscience when shooting the ball and cutting the long two-pointer out of his game. Running pick-and-rolls with Jeff Teague from tipoff to the final buzzer would be a good start. 

    Between his top-notch defense and offensive versatility, Smoove is ready for a monster campaign. 

15. Pau Gasol

6 of 20

    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: PF

    Age: 32

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.6 steals


    I wouldn't be even a tiny bit surprised if Pau Gasol finished the 2012-13 season averaging about 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game while making a serious contribution in blocks. 

    Gasol's versatility and passing skills will allow him to become a focal point of the Los Angeles Lakers' offense, even if he doesn't score as many points or get as much attention as Dwight Howard or Kobe Bryant. 

    The Spaniard is a premier pick-and-pop player because of his smooth jumper, and he'll be fed better passes than ever with Steve Nash running the point. 

    Although his stats will look quite different than they ever have during his remarkable career, he'll remain just as—if not more—effective. 

14. Blake Griffin

7 of 20

    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.8 steals


    The amount of vitriol spewed in the general direction of Blake Griffin is just ridiculous. In only a year, he went from being the golden boy of the NBA to a player most viewed as overrated. Really though, he's one of the most misunderstood players in the league. 

    Griffin isn't a great defender, but his passing skills and ability to finish make him an incredibly valuable player on the Los Angeles Clippers' roster. 

    At the end of the day, 20 points and 10 rebounds per game is a combination that very few NBA stars can produce. And Griffin hasn't even finished tapping into his massive potential. 

13. Tony Parker

8 of 20

    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 0. blocks, 1.0 steals


    The San Antonio Spurs are no longer the plodding defense-oriented team of the mid-2000s. Instead, Gregg Popovich has been running a fast-paced offense that relies on lots of ball movement and screens. 

    Tony Parker has developed into the perfect point guard for the system, thanks in large part to both his physical skills and near-flawless understanding of his role on offense. 

    Expect the French floor general to take over more than ever this season, particularly with his ability to pull up for a mid-range jumper. Not many guards in the modern era have been better than Parker at hitting long two-pointers with consistency. 

12. LaMarcus Aldridge

9 of 20

    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PF

    Age: 27

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.9 steals


    We all know how talented LaMarcus Aldridge is when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. The former Texas Longhorn thrives when shooting mid-range jumpers and using his turnaround out of the post. 

    Although he must continue learning how to play through contact, Aldridge's post moves are very developed for a 27-year-old. 

    On defense, though, Aldridge is tremendously underrated. For whatever reason, he's thought to put forth little effort on that end of the court, which supposedly results in little success.

    But that's just false. The Portland Trail Blazers allowed 7.8 points per 100 possessions less when he was on the court during the 2011-12 season, and the power forward held opposing players at his position to a PER of just 15.4, according to

11. Carmelo Anthony

10 of 20

    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF

    Age: 28

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.1 steals


    Carmelo Anthony is the most complete scorer in the NBA, although he's by no means one of the most efficient.

    If you tell Melo that he should score in a certain way, he's going to be able to do so. Whether that's with his back to the basket, in an isolation setting on the perimeter or spotting up and waiting for the pass, this small forward can put the ball in the basket. 

    However, Melo won't be able to truly take the next step in his offensive development until he either improves his mid-range shot or stops hoisting the ball up from outside so often. 

10. Deron Williams

11 of 20

    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.2 steals


    Whatever style Deron Williams plays during the 2012-13 season, he's sure to be effective. 

    Now, what style will he end up playing? 

    There's a chance that D-Will maintains his shot-happy ways and takes control of the scoring load for the Brooklyn Nets. However, it's more likely that he'll be more efficient with his shooting and choose to set up his teammates. 

    Brook Lopez is healthy (for now). Gerald Wallace is back. Joe Johnson has entered the picture. 

    The Nets are a trendy pick to compete in the Eastern Conference, but the decisions made by the star point guard will determine just how much they succeed. 

9. Andrew Bynum

12 of 20

    Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.9 blocks, 0.5 steals


    Andrew Bynum established himself as the No. 2 center in all of basketball last season, but he'll have to prove that he can handle being the top option on a team before he can ascend up the overall ranks. 

    The big man's knees are still giving him a bit of trouble, and we have no idea how he'll be able to handle the notoriously fickle Philadelphia fans that support the 76ers. 

    Bynum has a great arsenal of moves from the low block, excels when running pick-and-rolls and is a terrific defender. Other than his health and occasional attitude problems, there isn't much to dislike about this young center. 

    But will he be enough to push the Sixers over the top in the Eastern Conference?

8. Rajon Rondo

13 of 20

    Team: Boston Celtics

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 11.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.8 steals


    Rajon Rondo is a tremendous talent at point guard, but it remains to be seen whether his jumper will carry over into the regular season after he drilled some long-range shots during the 2012 playoffs. 

    When three-pointers were falling and teams were forced to play tight defense against the floor general, he looked like he had the potential to challenge LeBron James as the best player in all of basketball. However, it's too early to tell how much of that effect was sustainable. 

    Personally, I think that Rondo is going to show off an impressive offensive game and challenge teams with a newfound scoring ability and the same old court vision he has always possessed. 

    Until that manifests itself in regular-season action, though, I can't push him past the next guy on this list. 

7. Russell Westbrook

14 of 20

    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder 

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 23.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.7 steals


    Russell Westbrook inched past Rajon Rondo by only the slimmest of margins, and only because of my newfound respect for just how good his mid-range game has become.

    Only Kobe Bryant hit more shots from 16 to 23 feet during the 2011-12 season than Westbrook, but the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard was far more efficient with his shooting. 

    Westbrook has improved during each and every year that he has spent with the Thunder. If that trend continues, he'll be in the MVP conversation when the 82-game season draws to a close. 

    Although he's a popular player to hate on due to his inability to play the role of a traditional point guard, that doesn't make him any less effective. 

6. Dwyane Wade

15 of 20

    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 30

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.7 steals


    A healthy Dwyane Wade has looked fantastic during preseason action, which is a terrifying proposition for any opposing defender. 

    If he shows any semblance of an outside shot as the Miami Heat attempt to defend their title, he'll move past the top shooting guard in these rankings. His slashing game is still as good as anyone's in the league, and he remains a premier defender at his position. 

    Add in his contributions on the glass, as well as his ability to facilitate for the other players on the court, and you've got a nearly complete basketball player. 

    Wade's body has taken a beating during his time in the Association, so he plays older than his age would indicate. But that doesn't stop him from being an elite player. 

5. Kobe Bryant

16 of 20

    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SG

    Age: 34

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.2 steals


    Just like Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo at No. 7 and No. 8, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are separated by only the slimmest of margins. So much so that the first few games of the regular season could reverse the order of the league's top shooting guards in these rankings. 

    Although I'm picking Wade over Kobe to make the All-NBA First Team, I still think that Kobe is ever-so-slightly ahead of him in player rankings. He just won't put up stats that are as glamorous this year. 

    If Kobe is as intelligent on the basketball court as he's perceived to be—I say "perceived" because basketball I.Q. is impossible to quantify—he'll take a bit of a backseat and concede ball control to the other stars on the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    His counting stats will decline, but his efficiency should skyrocket as he helps the Lakers challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder for supremacy in the Western Conference. 

4. Dwight Howard

17 of 20

    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.5 steals


    Although Dwight Howard got posterized by Thomas Robinson on a put-back slam in his preseason debut, he definitely proved that he is back, putting in 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, 12 rebounds, two assists and four blocks. 

    When healthy, D12 is the best center in basketball. There really isn't any question about that. 

    He's an elite player on offense who thrives running the pick-and-roll. Well, he thrived while running the pick-and-roll with Jameer Nelson. We might have to invent a word to describe just how effectively he scores while running it with Steve Nash. 

    And, of course, his defense is pretty darn good.  

3. Chris Paul

18 of 20

    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 27

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 19.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.1 assist, 0.1 blocks, 2.5 steals


    With Derrick Rose out for the foreseeable future, the gap between Chris Paul and the rest of the point guards in the NBA is pretty sizable. 

    CP3 does it all, and, more importantly, he does well. 

    Whether he's knocking down perimeter jumpers, mid-range shots or getting to the rim, he can score in any way imaginable on offense. As if that wasn't enough, he's also one of the best passers in basketball and truly embodies the "floor general" moniker that his position has earned. 

    On the other end of the court, Paul is just as effective. He's one of the best perimeter defenders out there and should threaten to lead the league is steals once more in 2012-13. 

    Let me put it this way: Paul has a much better chance passing the next player for the No. 2 spot in the rankings than he has falling behind Dwight Howard. 

2. Kevin Durant

19 of 20

    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 28.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.3 steals


    Just imagine what Kevin Durant is going to be able to do once he fills in the holes in his game. 

    Durant is already the league's No. 2 player at 24 years old, and has already led the league in scoring three times with no signs of slowing down. 

    Now that he has bulked up a bit and added some post moves, the spidery small forward should be even more dangerous in his sixth professional season. 

    As for Scott Brooks and the Oklahoma City Thunder, I'm sure they're loving that Durant can seriously play the power forward position during the 2012-13 season. 

    Durant must improve his defensive play and his passing skills before he can be placed in the same tier as the top player in the league, but that's not out of the realm of possibility given the young stud's incredible work ethic. 

1. LeBron James

20 of 20

    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF

    Age: 27

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.9 steals


    Don't act surprised to see LeBron James holding down the fort as the best player in the NBA. It's not even close right now. 

    LeBron now gets to embark on the encore to one of the greatest individual seasons this sport has ever witnessed. He's only 27 years old and still well within his prime. If anything, he might still be getting better. 

    The small forward—although we might have to start calling him a combo-forward if he continues to improve his post game for the Miami Heat—is arguably the best offensive player in the game. Between his top-tier scoring efficiency and ability to run the offense, there is very little opposing teams can do to stop him when he's in a rhythm. 

    James is also a perennial challenger for Defensive Player of the Year, thanks in large part to his versatility. 

    Expect LeBron to maintain the top spot in the player rankings for a long time coming.