NBA Star Player Power Rankings: The Chase for LeBron James Continues

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 19, 2012

NBA Star Player Power Rankings: The Chase for LeBron James Continues

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    The rest of the top 20 players in the league might as well be chasing LeBron James in the weekly NBA player power rankings, as he continues to distinguish himself as the best player in the league. I'm not exactly giving anything away when I reveal that he still holds down the top spot.

    However, how do the rest of the elites in the Association stack up? What has changed since last week's edition? 

    With most players now at or nearing 10 games played during the 2012-13 season, things are starting to become clearer. Hot starts are coming to a close, or continuing in some cases. 

    Read on to see the latest set of rankings, including two new players who finally worked into the top 20. 

     

    Note: Unless specified, stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18. 

Injured Players

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    As a quick housekeeping note, injured players are not considered for the star player power rankings. If a player is out for a prolonged period of time, he's automatically ineligible for the next 20 slides.

    Therefore, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Andrew Bynum and Dirk Nowitzki will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.

20. Zach Randolph (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: PF

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 13.9 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, 19.80 PER

     

    Zach Randolph has truly been a man amongst boys during the early portion of the 2012-13 season. 

    He recorded a double-double in each of his first nine games and has absolutely dominated on the glass. Plus, some hot shooting this past week has seen Z-Bo raise his field-goal percentage to a respectable 48.0 percent. 

    Efficiency is still the area this power forward needs the most work in, but at least his percentages don't look too putrid for a big man who predominantly plays close to the basket. 

19. Pau Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 19)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: PF

    Age: 32

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.7 steals, 16.36 PER*

     

    Pau Gasol continues to prove himself as one of the most versatile power forwards in the NBA, but that might not last for too much longer. Once Mike D'Antoni shows up at the Staples Center, no one is certain what his role will be. 

    The mustached head coach has never had a player quite like Gasol, so it's going to be a learning process when the Spaniard is on the floor. 

    The only thing that's certain is that Gasol will thrive in whatever role he's assigned. He's too good to experience a decline even if he's pigeonholed into one particular facet of the game. 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

18. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.8 blocks, 1.1 steals, 27.91 PER

     

    Ever heard that wonderful saying about how age is just a number? If there's any player who has taken the message to heart, it is Tim Duncan.

    The San Antonio Spurs' big man has played at a ridiculously high level during the early portion of the season, nearly averaging a double-double in just over 30 minutes of action per game. His efficiency has been staggering, and his defense a force to be reckoned with.

    Normally, I'd be surprised to see this level of play out of a 36-year-old, but this is "The Big Fundamental" that we're talking about.  

17. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 16)

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 21.57 PER*

     

    James Harden's scoring is actually staying fairly consistent now that we no longer have his ridiculously hot start to the season out of the way. Averaging at least 25 points per game over the course of the season is well within the realm of possibilities for the bearded shooting guard.

    Harden is learning how to play with his teammates, and it's paying dividends, as you can see from his steadily climbing assist average. 

    His defense could stand to improve, but his offense is almost assuredly going to remain at an extremely high level.

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

16. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 17)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.6 steals, 20.23 PER

     

    Numbers aren't really able to express just how valuable Marc Gasol has been to the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that's arguably been more impressive than any other squad in the league.

    His passing has been particularly phenomenal. Not only is the seven-footer averaging just under five assists per game, but he's doing so while turning the ball over less than once per contest. 

    The younger of the Gasol brothers is a steady presence in the paint for the Grizzlies on both ends of the court, and has established himself as the clear driving force behind Memphis' 8-1 start to the season. 

15. Chris Bosh (Previous Ranking: No. 15)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.82 PER

     

    During the week before Thanksgiving, Chris Bosh put up two stellar 24-point performances. 

    First, he dropped that number against the Houston Rockets, hitting 10-of-14 shots from the field and all four of his free throws. The power forward also added 10 rebounds, three assists and a block to his line. 

    Bosh equaled the total less than a week later, this time turning up the heat against the Phoenix Suns to the tune of 9-of-11 shooting while recording nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal. 

    He doesn't get the same attention that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade draw, but Bosh has been fantastic for the Miami Heat all season long. 

14. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 14)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.3 steals, 20.20 PER

     

    Blake Griffin has been on an absolute tear during his last three games.

    Against the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, the powerful forward has averaged 20.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 blocks and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 57.8 percent from the field and 76.9 percent from the foul line. 

    There are a number of impressive figures in that last sentence, but the final one is the most impressive for Blake. We'll see if he can keep that up as the sample size grows, but his stroke has looked solid from the charity stripe. 

    That said, we're still waiting for Blake's first posterizing dunk of the season. 

13. Tony Parker (Previous Ranking: No. 12)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 17.23 PER

     

    It took Tony Parker a few games to fully recover from the flu, but the Frenchman now looks healthy and ready to go for the San Antonio Spurs. 

    Most importantly, he's becoming more and more involved in Gregg Popovich's offense. The ball is often in his hands as he looks to spark San Antonio's ability to put points on the scoreboard, but the point guard is starting to get his own number called as well. 

    Once Parker has more healthy games under his belt, he should start to climb back up the rankings, assuming that the early returns are a sign of things to come.

12. Kyrie Irving (Previous Ranking: No. 13)

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PG

    Age: 20

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.1 steals, 22.47 PER*

     

    Kyrie Irving is averaging 22.9 points and 5.6 assists per game despite a nine-point outing on Sunday and a doughnut in the assists column the game prior.

    If hockey assists—which seems to be coming more and more en vogue during the 2012-13 season—actually showed up in box scores, we would be evaluating the sensational sophomore even more effusively.

    Irving may be a score-first point guard, but he creates so many plays for his teammates with his penetration or threat of penetration into the interior of the opposing defense.

    His own defense needs to improve before he can truly threaten the top 10, but he's getting awfully close.

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

11. LaMarcus Aldridge (Previous Ranking: No. 11)

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.8 steals, 19.37 PER*

     

    LaMarcus Aldridge has struggled with his shot at times during the first month of the 2012-13 season, but he has improved his game in other ways. 

    In addition to making a concerted effort on the defensive end of the court, the power forward is also showing off an increased set of passing skills. His 3.6 assists per game are double his career average and represent a huge jump from the 2011-12 campaign's average of 2.4 dimes per contest. 

    The 5-5 Portland Trail Blazers have used Aldridge quite effectively thus far, and his increased facilitation skills have resulted in steps forward for both Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

10. Deron Williams (Previous Ranking: No. 10)

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.49 PER*

     

    It appears as though Deron Williams is finally comfortable with his surrounding pieces, although it certainly makes him look good when Andray Blatche manages to go 11-of-12 from the field during a game. 

    The physical point guard is now scoring and distributing at the level expected of him, averaging over 21 points per game during his past three contests and recording double-digit assists in two of them.

    D-Will's numbers should steadily climb as the year progresses, but they're already nearing an elite level.  

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

9. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder 

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 steals, 19.54 PER*

     

    Russell Westbrook's passing skills have to be scaring the rest of the league right now. Long thought to be his primary weakness, the point guard's distributing abilities have increased dramatically, and he's now starting to rack up the dimes. 

    He has also done a fantastic job limiting turnovers. If you remove the two outlier performances from his game log (a six-turnover game in the season opener and an eight-turnover outing against the Cleveland Cavaliers), then Westbrook would be averaging only 1.9 turnovers per game. 

    It's terrifying to think about what this ever-improving floor general might do when he finds his shot again. 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

8. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 6)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.3 steals, 19.07 PER

     

    Dwyane Wade's two-game absence from the Miami Heat mercifully ended a streak of three poor performances in a row. He just hasn't been the same player that he was at the beginning of the year, since so much of his game relies upon his incredible athleticism. 

    There isn't much new to report here, as Wade will perform at a much higher level when he's fully healed and ready to go. 

7. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 20.36 PER*

     

    Carmelo Anthony wasn't able to keep the New York Knicks in the undefeated club, but he has done just about everything else. 

    The small forward is scoring at a high level—no surprises there—but he's also crashing the boards with intensity and playing defense to the best of his capabilities. According to 82games.com, Melo has actually held opposing power forwards to a PER of just 12.8 through Nov. 13. 

    I'd still like to see Anthony average more assists than turnovers, but that doesn't seem like it's happening anytime soon, no matter how much he minimizes his giveaways. 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

6. Rajon Rondo (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 13.1 assists, 0.0 blocks, 1.9 steals, 20.74 PER*

     

    Thirty-four games in a row with at least 10 assists? Check. 

    Dropping 20 dimes in a single game? Check. 

    Racking up 20 dimes in a single game more than once in a season? Check.

    Is there anything that Rajon Rondo can't do when it comes to passing the ball?

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

5. Dwight Howard (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.7 blocks, 1.0 steals, 22.74 PER*

     

    It's safe to say that Dwight Howard is back. He has been absolutely unbelievable in recent games, dominating on both ends of the court. 

    The center has truly established himself as the best player at his position, no questions asked. He's just on a different level from the rest of the big men in the league. 

    Look no further than how he has played since November hit the teens. In those four games, D12 has averaged 20.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 3.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 56.3 percent from the field. 

    His free-throw shooting remains problematic, but it hasn't hindered his production elsewhere as of late.

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

4. Chris Paul (Previous Ranking: No. 3)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 10.2 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.3 steals, 26.62 PER

     

    Chris Paul's ability to manage a game is simply breathtaking. Whether he's scoring at a high level or racking up the dimes, CP3 always thinks everything through.

    And by everything, I mean every single move that he makes with every part of his body. He creates opportunities with hesitation dribbles, head fakes and everything in between. 

    Even during stretches in which he struggles with his shot, Paul still impacts the game positively by locking down on defense and involving his teammates even more than normal.  

3. Kobe Bryant (Previous Ranking: No. 4)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SG

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.0 blocks, 1.5 steals, 27.29 PER*

     

    Is it possible that Kobe Bryant is saving the best season of his career for 2012-13? The 34-year-old is playing like a man on a mission and completely dominating the game night after night. 

    His offensive skills have simply been off the charts, as he has actually managed to average 26.4 points per game on 52.8-percent shooting through the first 10 games of the season. And he's doing so while taking quite a few difficult shots every night. 

    The Black Mamba has even managed to put up a triple-double and a streak of five-straight games with at least six assists. The latter is a feat he has only accomplished one other time over the last five years of his career. 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

2. Kevin Durant (Previous Ranking: No. 2)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 24.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.6 steals, 25.72 PER*

     

    Kevin Durant is looking like an MVP candidate during the early goings of the 2012-13 season, although he could stand to be a bit more selfish.

    Averaging 24.5 points per contest on 51 percent shooting is incredibly impressive, but it also indicates that the reigning scoring champion should be hoisting up a few more attempts. 

    That said, I'm more impressed with the other facets of Durant's game. He's still passing at a high level and the board-crashing has remained consistent as well.

    As long as he keeps contributing across the board, he's going to be a lock for the No. 2 spot in the rankings, and could potentially make a run at "The King." 

     

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Nov. 18, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Nov. 17.

1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 24.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.9 steals, 29.02 PER

     

    LeBron James is just on another level when compared to the rest of the players in the NBA. 

    After backing off for a week and letting his teammates lead the charge, LeBron stepped up in mid-November to make up for the absence of Dwyane Wade and completely dominated.

    In the four-game stretch bookended by victories over the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns, the reigning MVP averaged an insane 29.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals. The only possible knock against him has been his inconsistency from the not-so-charitable stripe. 

    For LeBron, it's another week and another No. 1 ranking.