Grading the Top 25 NBA Stars Thus Far in the 2012-13 Season

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterNovember 8, 2012

Grading the Top 25 NBA Stars Thus Far in the 2012-13 Season

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    The 2012-13 NBA season is heating up, and with it the star players that make this league so much fun to watch.

    As a teacher by day and professional basketball connoisseur by night, it's in my and other NBA fans' nature to analyze, predict, praise, criticize, fail at imitating and, more importantly, grade the performance of the best players in the league.

    The following is a list of the NBA's top players, complete with current stats and grades. For complete grading information, please see the next slide.

How the Report Card Works

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    To come up with some sort of a system to accurately grade these 25 stars, I've compiled the following:

    Every player starts with an A+ rating.  The grade drops following each deduction they encounter (A+ to A, A to A-, etc.)

    One grade deduction is made for every major stat category (points, rebounds, assists and player efficiency rating, or PER) in which a player has declined from their previous season. For example, Dwyane Wade's scoring dropped from 22.1 points to 20.0 per game, so his grade would go from an A+ to an A.

    Since basketball is a team game and these players are expected to lead their respective teams, one deduction is also made for every loss their team has. For example, James Harden is setting career highs in his statistical categories, but Houston is 2-1, moving Harden from a perfect score down to an A.

    Also worth noting, star players who haven't played a single game this season (Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, etc.) were left off this list since they have no stats with which to formulate a grade.


    All statistics and win-loss records accurate as of the conclusion of games on Nov. 6, 2012.

25. Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 13.9 PER 

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 17.6 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-3

    Grade: B-

    Just four games into his Nuggets career, Iguodala has played well despite the team's struggles.

    His points and rebounds are up from last season in Philadelphia, but drops in PER and assists combined with the team's struggles lands Iggy at a "B-".

    Fresh off its first win of the season against the Detroit Pistons, Denver should be just fine moving forward. The Nuggets are about as fast and athletic as any team in the league.

    Iguodala needs to improve upon his efficiency, which should equal more wins in the Mile High City.

24. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 10.9 PER 

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 14.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 21.1 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: B+

    Curry is a budding star when healthy, and he could very well lead the Warriors to the postseason this year.

    Seeing an increase in almost every stat category is a great sign for Golden State fans, as Curry averaged 18.6 points per game in his sophomore year and could reach that number again soon.

    With a new $44 million contract extension, hopefully Curry won't suffer any setbacks with his ankle and will instead continue to have a strong season.

    The Warriors are a respectable 2-2 and will need their leader to carry them the rest of the way.

23. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 21.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 26.6 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 18.4 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-1

    Grade: A-

    Gasol is quietly becoming one of the best centers in the league.

    In addition to his sudden outburst in assists, Gasol is shooting a dynamite 56.8 percent from the field and is 21-of-22 from the free-throw line this season.

    The Grizzlies are off to a nice start thanks in part to his strong overall play. They should make some noise in the Western Conference this season.

22. Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 19.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 13.1 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 19.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 17.8 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-1

    Grade: B+

    The second Grizzly to make this list, Gay has put up almost identical numbers this season as he did last year.

    A dynamic scorer from anywhere on the floor, Memphis needs a healthy Gay to be their go-to scorer and remain around his 19 point-per-game mark or higher.

    A drop in assists and efficiency hurt him slightly, as does the porous 37.5 percent Gay is shooting from the field thus far.

21. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 16.0 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 16.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 19.4 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-3

    Grade: B-

    Another Nugget hurt by a poor team start, Lawson has 48 million reasons to perform this season.

    Signing a new long-term deal in Denver, Lawson now assumes a leadership role on a young Nuggets team looking to make some noise in the West.

    An increase in assists has been nice to see, but Lawson's overall scoring will likely need to go up, especially if teammate Danilo Gallinari's horrid shooting streak continues.

    Expect Lawson to bounce back as an "A" player before too long.

20. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 5.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 14.6 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 12.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 24.1 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-0

    Grade: B+

    It's almost unfair to assign a grade to Ginobili, given that he's only played in two minute-limited games.

    Dealing with back spasms to begin the season, Ginobili has only played a grand total of 33 minutes in his two games, both Spurs wins.

    Despite his limited playing time, his assist numbers have remained steady. A drop in scoring and rebounding is inevitable thus far, but his grade is helped with the fact the Spurs have yet to lose a game.

19. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 11.7 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 21.1 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-0

    Grade: B

    Having played in just two games thus far, it's hard to get an accurate look at the season stats of "J-Smoove."

    We know he can score and rebound, but a recent seven-assist game against the Indiana Pacers was impressive as well.

    Smith will get likely get a max contract from somebody this offseason, or at least a deal similar to the five-year, $75 million contract Carlos Boozer signed with the Chicago Bulls.

18. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 15.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 18.1 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 20.5 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-3

    Grade: C+

    Gasol's grade could either be a C or C+, depending on how picky you are about his difference in rebounding.

    The Lakers' struggles have been well documented, and Gasol has quickly become the third option offensively.

    His 15.8 points and 44.8 percent shooting are both career lows. Hopefully when the next guy on this list returns, Gasol's offense will return to form.

17. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 4.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 7.2 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 20.3 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-3

    Grade: C+

    Nash has only played about a game-and-a-half for L.A., but even those results weren't pretty.

    Stuck somewhere between a Princeton offense and Nash's pick-and-roll style, the Lakers offense has been about as exciting as a PBS telethon.

    Currently sidelined with a fractured fibula, Nash must regain his old form or adapt to Mike Brown's offense to help get the Lakers back on top in the West.

16. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 22.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 28.6 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 18.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 18.9 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 3-1

    Grade: A-

    Bosh has played extremely well thus far this season and would have a solid "A" rating if not for a slight dip in assists.

    With a sky-high efficiency rating, Bosh has enjoyed his move to center, as evidenced by his jumps in scoring and shooting percentage (58.3 percent).

    Bosh has arguably been the Heat's best player this season, if only through four games.

15. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 19.1 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 18.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 22.0 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 4-0

    Grade: A-

    Parker is enjoying another fantastic start to a season.

    Setting a career high in assists last year, the early results of 2012-13 have been even better in the dime department.

    With Ginobili and Tim Duncan both on the wrong side of 35, Parker will once again have to put up big numbers for the Spurs to grab a high seed in the West.

14. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 14.4 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 20.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 23.4 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: B-

    To Griffin's credit, the man's playing hurt right now.

    Playing with a burst bursa sac in his elbow, Griffin has seen a decrease in scoring and rebounding, and his field-goal percentage is at a career-low 45.1 percent

    The Clippers enjoyed a nice win over the Lakers but turned around to lose a home game to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Griffin registered just six rebounds in the loss and had a season-high five turnovers.

    Without a healthy Griffin, "Lob City" could be grounded this season.

13. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 23.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 21.4 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 18.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 21.4 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: A-

    Quickly becoming one of the best players in basketball, Irving has the young Cavs off to a nice 2-2 start.

    Cleveland is a buzzer-beating three-pointer away from 3-1, and it had a big win in Los Angeles over the Clippers.

    Irving has amazing handles and can beat any defender off the dribble. He also does a great job of getting to the basket, showing the ball to the defender, pulling it back and then finishing in what often ends up being a wild, twisting layup.

    Shooting 41.2 percent from three-point range so far this season, it's hard to believe Irving is still just 20 years of age.

12. James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 35.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 30.6 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 21.1 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-1

    Grade: A

    Harden is possibly off to one of the best starts in NBA history with his new team.

    The four-year veteran is a stone-cold, bearded offensive assassin.

    While his minutes and shot attempts will eventually come back down to earth, it's been a fun ride while it has lasted.

    The only thing keeping Harden from an "A+" is the Rockets' record.

11. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 22.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 19.6 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 22.7 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: B+

    Consistently overlooked when mentioning the game's best big men, Aldridge would be a household name if he played in New York or Los Angeles.

    Staying low-key may not be a bad thing, however, as the 27-year-old is currently putting up career highs in points, rebounds and assists.

    Paired with Damian Lillard, Portland has a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

10. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 12.0 assists, 20.4 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 11.7 assists, 17.5 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-2

    Grade: A-

    Rondo's grade would be perfect if not for the Celtics' poor record.

    Putting up MVP-type numbers right now for Boston, Rondo looks to take the next step into superstar status this season.

    Once an afterthought with the original Big Three, Rondo's assist total has gone up every single year since he came into the league in 2006-2007.

9. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 18.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 18.9 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 21.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 20.3 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-1

    Grade: B

    Needless to say, a "B" grade may be a little generous for Williams thus far.

    The face of the new Brooklyn Nets, Williams is shooting a low 42.3 percent from the field, and though he has seen an uptick in assist numbers, he's averaging four turnovers per game thus far—a number that has been on the incline for several years now.

    For the Nets to make the playoffs and actually do something in them, Williams has to be the man to lead Brooklyn there. To do so, he should round out his stat line to look more like that of last season (and, of course, cut back on turnovers).

    With additional scoring in the fray courtesy of Joe Johnson, that could be all the Nets need in order to claim a postseason berth.

8. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 20.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 18.0 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 23.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 22.9 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: B

    Westbrook certainly has a lot to prove this season.

    The Thunder star is now not only playing under a max contract, but he will be expected to pick up some of the scoring load left from the James Harden trade.

    Some criticize his ability to be a true point guard, especially with his dip in assists last season. This year, the dimes are up but the scoring and efficiency are down.

    One of the most dynamic players in the league, Westbrook can't let the Thunder hover around .500 and expect to be praised this season.

7. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 26.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 25.6 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 21.1 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 3-0

    Grade: A

    Anthony is making a strong case for league MVP thus far.

    A bump in scoring and rebounding combined with the Knicks' perfect record thus far has Melo and New York feeling good about their chances in the East this season.

    While his shooting (43.5 percent) could use some work, I don't think anyone in New York would say Melo deserves anything less than an "A" right now.

6. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 20.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 23.0 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 22.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 26.3 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 3-1

    Grade: B

    Wade hasn't enjoyed his best statistical season, but the Heat are sitting pretty at 3-1 right now.

    Currently with career-low marks in rebounding and assists, age may be slowly creeping up with Wade.  The Heat star will be 31 in February and can no longer be considered in his prime.

    He remains an elite talent and very efficient player while on the court, but Wade just isn't the same player he was a few years ago.

5. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 26.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 25.4 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 21.9 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-3

    Grade: C+

    While a quick look at Kobe's stats may seem impressive, the 34-year-old is seeing a decline in points, rebounds and assists from last season.

    Combine this with an 0-3 Lakers start, and Bryant can't even crack the "B's" yet, even with all the Lakers' new talent.

    Even diehard Kobe fans can admit that he and the Lakers aren't playing their best ball right now, and neither he nor the team deserves an good grade.

    A recent blowout win against the Detroit Pistons should inspire some confidence, but Bryant will have to up the assist numbers if the Lakers do indeed decide to stay in the Princeton offense.

4. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 23.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 27.3 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 24.2 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 1-3

    Grade: B

    Howard is off to a fantastic start offensively with the Lakers.

    His 23.3 points on 68.8 percent shooting from the field are both career highs. Even his 2.3 assists per game are more than he ever had in Orlando.

    Rebounding has taken a hit, probably because Howard has never played with as talented a post teammate as Pau Gasol.

    While Gasol gets his share of boards, there's no reason to believe Howard won't come away with another 20-10 season with two to three blocks per game as well.

3. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 18.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 11.5 assists, 27.9 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 19.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 27.0 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: B+

    The Clippers are only a marginal team thus far, the only thing keeping Paul from being an "A."

    The league's best point guard is once again putting up fantastic numbers and is shooting a career-high 88.2 percent from the free-throw line.

    Once Blake Griffin is fully healthy, expect Paul and the Clippers to really take off.

    Until then, expect Paul to carry the load and keep the Clippers competitive.

2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 20.8 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 20.9 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 28.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 26.2 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 2-2

    Grade: B

    Somehow, someway, the 95-pound Durant is fourth in the NBA in rebounding.

    Seeing an unusually high total in both rebounds and assists, perhaps it's scoring that Durant should be most concerned about?

    The NBA's second-best player is off to another hot start, even if his team is just at room temperature.

    Durant and the rest of the Thunder have to shake off their NBA Finals hangover if they want to reach that hallowed ground again this season.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    2012-13 Stats Per Game: 23.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 28.8 PER

    2011-12 Stats Per Game: 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 30.7 PER

    Team Win/Loss: 3-1

    Grade: B

    Tired of hearing how great LeBron is and seeing his name at the top of every list?

    So is everyone else outside of South Florida, but that doesn't mean James doesn't deserve to be there.

    James' stats certainly aren't the best he's ever had, but that rebounding number seems awfully impressive.

    For someone who averaged 8.6 assists per game during his last season in Cleveland, those measly five assists per contest better go up as long as Mario Chalmers is still running the point in Miami.

    James is off to a fine start, but at this point we expect so much out of him that anything less than a triple-double every night almost seems disappointing.

    Is it fair?

    No, but that's the price of being the NBA's best.