NBA Player Power Rankings: The Association's Biggest Ballers

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 10, 2012

NBA Player Power Rankings: The Association's Biggest Ballers

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    You know how you try to imitate NBA players when you go out for a friendly game at the local gym or park? Chances are you're attempting to mimic the actions of one of the 20 members of the NBA Player Power Rankings, an elite group of players who have each earned the right to call themselves one of the Association's biggest ballers. 

    The NBA is where amazing happens, but the incredible tends to occur even more often when one of these 20 guys is on the court. Excellent defense, sensational shooting and phenomenal passing abound in the ranks of these stars. 

    So, is your favorite player present? Has he moved up or down since last week?

    Read on to find out, and don't hesitate to voice your own opinions in the comment section. 

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are accurate as of Sunday, Dec. 9. 

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, Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum and Dirk Nowitzki will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.

Honorable Mentions

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    LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

    The power forward for the Portland Trail Blazers dropped out of this series entirely for a week, but he's back in the honorable mentions section after three double-digit rebounding performances in a row, solid defensive play and a 25-point scoring outburst. 

    Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum are pushing him for supremacy on the bench-less Blazers, but the big man holds down that spot this week. 

     

    Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

    It's amazing how much Stephen Curry can accomplish when his ankles actually work like they were designed to. 

    The sharpshooter has been locked in offensively during the 2012-13 season, but he's also playing more inspired basketball on the defensive end. His matador-like play has kept him from stardom in the past, but he's now allowing a respectable 15.6 PER to opposing point guards, according to 82games.com. 


    Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

    While Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala have struggled at times for the Denver Nuggets, Kenneth Faried has established himself as the top performer on the Western Conference contender through the first quarter of the 2012-13 season. 

    The Manimal never runs out of energy, hustling, crashing the boards and diving for anything and everything at all times. His offensive game needs some more diversity, but the Morehead State product is still averaging an efficient double-double. 

     

    Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

    While the breakout point guard fell back to earth a little bit during the early goings of December, he's still been sensational throughout the season. 

    Jrue Holiday has been the unquestioned leader on this Andrew Bynum-less Philadelphia 76ers squad, averaging 17.7 points and 9.0 assists per game.  


    Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz

    Al Jefferson is destined to be one of the more underrated players in the league every single year. He just doesn't play a glamorous style of basketball, as fancy footwork doesn't typically show up on SportsCenter

    That doesn't bother Jefferson, who seems to be perfectly content with letting his fundamental excellence show up in his gaudy stat line and the Utah Jazz's record, one that leaves them in contention for a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. 

20. Al Horford (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, 19.29 PER

     

    The Atlanta Hawks might go as far as Jeff Teague can take them during the 2012-13 season, but Al Horford is undoubtedly the anchor of this team. An incredibly consistent big man, he can be counted on day in and day out for something at least close to an efficient double-double. 

    Horford has been attacking the boards with a vengeance in recent days, cleaning the glass to the tune of back-to-back 14-rebound nights against the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies. 

19. Zach Randolph (Previous Ranking: No. 19)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: PF

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.7 steals, 20.29 PER

     

    Zach Randolph's field-goal percentage is skyrocketing after an efficient three-game stretch against the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks. While helping the Memphis Grizzlies go 2-1, Z-Bo knocked down 30 of his 47 shots from the field. 

    And of course, he's continued to absolutely punish opponents on the glass, highlighted by his 22-rebound outing against the aforementioned Suns. 

18. Deron Williams (Previous Ranking: No. 18)

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 18.56 PER*

     

    The Brooklyn Nets' four-game stretch of losses to open December can be credited to a number of things, but Deron Williams' play certainly isn't one of them. 

    D-Will finally found his stroke from the outside against the Oklahoma City Thunder, then quickly proved that it was a mirage, hitting just three of his next 17 attempts from downtown. That's been one of the few flaws in the floor general's recent performances. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

17. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 15)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.7 steals, 20.83 PER

     

    Marc Gasol continues to astound me with his versatile contributions to the Memphis Grizzlies' winning ways. Don't point to his rebounding numbers as evidence that he's ranked too high, as Gasol isn't asked to crash the boards with the same ferocity as Zach Randolph. 

    Instead, Gasol has been the pillar around which Memphis has built. 

    You know that you're going to get a well-rounded line from the Spanish seven-footer each and every night. 

16. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 14)

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 24.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.7 steals, 20.79 PER

     

    Just when you thought James Harden was doomed for a prolonged shooting slump, the bearded shooting guard put those beliefs to rest. His 3-of-19 brick-fest against the Los Angeles Lakers was quickly followed up by a combined 20-of-33 shooting against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. 

    The former Oklahoma City Thunder sixth man has experienced some growing pains as he's adjusted to being the featured guy in a lineup, but none of the growing pains have prevailed for too long. 

    Harden is no longer playing like an MVP candidate, and he's struggling to keep the Houston Rockets in playoff contention, but he's still playing at an All-Star level. 

15. Anderson Varejao (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 15.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.5 steals, 22.63 PER

     

    Anderson Varejao's per-game stats look absolutely incredible. Those 15.2 rebounds are something that the Wild Thing should definitely be proud of through the first quarter of the 2012-13 campaign. 

    However, they're a little bit deceiving, and I'm not talking about the fact that the floppy-haired big man hasn't been able to lead his Cleveland Cavaliers to victory much in the absence of Kyrie Irving.

    Varejao's rebounding-percentage figures show that he's leading the league in offensive rebounding percentage, defensive rebounding percentage and total rebounding percentage.

    That's absolutely insane.

14. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 16)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 21.08 PER*

     

    Blake Griffin has struggled—relative to the enormous expectations his first two seasons set for him—during the beginning of the 2012-13 campaign, but he finally seems to be picking up his scoring pace. 

    Perhaps he's been adjusting to a reduction in playing time, going from 36.2 minutes per game to 32.7 through the first 21 games of the season as a result of the Los Angeles Clippers' host of capable bench players. 

    Regardless of the reason, Griffin has been a scoring machine for the last week, averaging 23 points per contest on 63.9 percent shooting. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

13. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 12)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.2 steals, 21.28 PER

     

    We're starting to see more vintage Dwyane Wade performances, but they aren't coming on a consistent basis. It's clear that Wade is still an elite basketball player, but he certainly has nights where he's anything but elite. 

    The shooting guard is fully capable of going 3-of-13 against the New York Knicks and bouncing back with a sensational 9-of-12 performance against the New Orleans Hornets just two days later.

    Until he's playing more consistent basketball, Wade won't be able to take the spot in the top 10 that his talent indicates he should be holding down. 

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

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 22.24 PER

     

    Now this is the vintage Tony Parker that we're used to seeing. 

    A three-game stretch against the Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets and Charlotte Bobcats saw the French point guard average 20.3 points and 8.7 assists per game on 71.9 percent shooting from the field, as Parker picked his spots perfectly and ran the San Antonio Spurs offense to perfection. 

    However, I don't want to give him too much credit for the run of standout performances, because all three backcourts he faced are rather porous. 

11. Chris Bosh (Previous Ranking: No. 11)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.6 steals, 22.50 PER

     

    Chris Bosh's defense and scoring continue to operate at a high level, but his hold on the No. 2 spot in Miami is now tenuous at best. Until he starts working a little closer to the rim and finding more success on the glass, he's going to see the gap between himself and Dwyane Wade continue to narrow.

    Even though Tony Parker now provides some separation between Wade and Bosh, the gap is still closing.  

10. Dwight Howard (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.7 blocks, 1.1 steals, 21.25 PER*

     

    Dwight Howard is struggling to make the same defensive impact in L.A. that he made in Orlando, he's not as aggressive on the offensive end of the court and his free-throw shooting woes have been problematic. 

    There's a lot of negative to go along with positive for D12, but his overall impact is still squarely on the positive side of the spectrum. Despite his flaws, he's the game's most dominant center and a true game-changer on both defense and offense. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

9. Rajon Rondo (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 12.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 2.0 steals, 20.48 PER

     

    Even though he went 0-of-5 from downtown during the first three games back from his two-game suspension, Rajon Rondo maintained the status quo in his return. 

    Kris Humphries has still been the only person able to keep the floor general from reaching double-digit assists in a game. 

8. Kevin Love (Previous Ranking: No. 10)

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    Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Position: PF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.2 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.0 steals, 22.41 PER

     

    Kevin Love's individual numbers should speak for themselves. Despite playing himself back into shape (not typical human shape, but basketball shape), Love has been flat-out dominant in many areas. 

    He's broken the 30-point barrier twice in his first nine games and has yet to record less than 10 rebounds in any single game. That said, most of his performances still pale in comparison to his 24-board showing against the Sacramento Kings. 

    It'll be fun to see what happens when Ricky Rubio rejoins the team and takes some of the pressure off Love. 

7. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 0.3 blocks, 2.0 steals, 22.57 PER*

     

    It looks like Russell Westbrook is starting to find that elusive shot once more. Since the calendars switched over to December, the dynamic point guard is hitting 46.2 percent of his attempts from the field. 

    He could still stand to display better shot selection at times, but his misses are no longer occurring at too high a frequency. That more efficient scoring, when coupled with his still-impressive passing, is enough to push him back into the No. 2 spot for point guards. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

6. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.4 blocks, 0.8 steals, 26.47 PER

     

    Gregg Popovich has used Tim Duncan slightly less since December started, mostly because the San Antonio Spurs have been putting opponents away well before the final buzzer sounds. 

    As a result, the big man hasn't put up gaudy statistics, averaging "just" 16.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 blocks per game during the early portion of the month. He has maintained his efficiency, though, by knocking down 53.7 percent of his shots from the field. 

    The Big Fundamental just continues to make Father Time look incompetent. 

5. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: No. 6)

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 23.95 PER*

     

    A lacerated left middle finger kept Carmelo Anthony from doing his thing against the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls, depriving us fans of a marquee matchup between Melo and LeBron James, but he continued his high-scoring ways by dropping 34 in his return against the Denver Nuggets. 

    That said, Melo needs to take a little more care to involve his teammates in the future. He's been slipping into selfish mode more and more as the season has progressed, and his field-goal percentage has dropped as a result. 

    In the three games surrounding his injury, Anthony averaged only 1.7 assists per game while shooting just 38.8 percent from the field. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

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

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SG

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.7 steals, 25.81 PER*

     

    The Los Angeles Lakers may not be winning many games, putting up a disappointing 9-12 record during the first 21 games of the 2012-13 season, but Kobe Bryant continues to play tremendous basketball. 

    Although he's prone to the occasional poor shot selection as a result from his take-over-mode tendencies, Bryant is still shooting the ball efficiently from the field and putting up points in bunches.

    Becoming the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 career points was an incredible achievement as well, and Bryant shows no signs of slowing down. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

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

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.7 steals, 25.49 PER*

     

    This means absolutely nothing, but it's an interesting piece of information, so bear with me.

    As of Dec. 9, 2012, Chris Paul has played in 505 career games. He's only gone 5-of-10 from the field in six of those 505 contests, and three of those occurrences came in the recent three-game stretch from Dec. 5 through Dec. 9. Weird, huh?

    On a more significant note, Paul continues to play fantastic basketball from the point guard position. He isn't scoring that much, but he's shooting well from the field, finding teammates easily and limiting his turnovers with the best of them. 

    The game's best floor general hasn't missed more shots than he's made since a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 24. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

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

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, 28.12 PER* 

     

    Another week, and another great string of performances from Kevin Durant. Yawn. 

    Since December began, the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar has averaged 29.3 points per game on 54.2 percent shooting. That's just not even fair. 

    Durant is firing on all cylinders and just racking up the points and wins, helping spark the Thunder to a 17-4 record to open the season. 

    *While the per-game stats are updated through Sunday, Dec. 9, the PER is only updated through Saturday, Dec. 8.

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

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 25.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.3 steals, 28.99 PER

     

    Even though the Miami Heat have been in a bit of a funk, the blame cannot rest on the shoulders of LeBron James. The best player in the world has been exactly that: the best player in the world. 

    LeBron is one of the few players in basketball who literally can mess around and get a triple-double. Ice Cube is another, but he's not exactly one of the 20 best ballers in the world right now. 

    Besides his free-throw shooting, which is still inexplicably hovering at 65 percent, it's just hard to find a weakness in the reigning MVP's game.