5 NBA Stars Who Can't Be Better Than 2012

Maxwell OgdenCorrespondent IIIJanuary 1, 2013

5 NBA Stars Who Can't Be Better Than 2012

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    One of the most commonly used words in the NBA is "upside." It is the definition of how far a player can go with their mix of fundamental abilities and athletic gifts.

    Every year, players reach their peak level and end their affiliation with said word. 2012 was no different, as five NBA stars reached their highest level of play

    From the fan favorites to the production wizards, there are major names who have reached their ceiling. This is not to say that it is all downhill from here, but instead to acknowledge that they are at a level that they will sustain or not exceed.

    By sustaining this production, they can still build an impressive resume. The question is, which players are at the peak of their prime?

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 27

    Experience: 7th Season

    2011-12 Season Averages

    22.73 PER, 21.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.8 BPG, 0.9 SPG

    2012-13 Season Averages

    20.86 PER, 21.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG

     

    Statistically speaking, LaMarcus Aldridge hit his peak during the 2010-11 NBA regular season. It was 2011-12 that proved he was for real.

    Aldridge averaged 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals in 2010-11. In 2011-12, his averages sat at 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 0.9 steals.

    2012-13 has been no different, as Aldridge sits at 21.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals.

    In other words, Aldridge has reached his highest level of production. Expect him to post these numbers until his decline begins on the other side of 2015.

    Who's going to complain with 21 and eight the rest of the way?

Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Position: Power Forward

    Age: 32

    Experience: 12th Season

    2011-12 Season Averages

    20.51 PER, 17.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 BPG

    2012-13 Season Averages

    15.69 PER, 12.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.4 BPG

     

    If you actually believe that Pau Gasol is a player that will average 13 points and nine rebounds on a team other than the Los Angeles Lakers, you're off your rocker.

    Gasol is still that same 17.4 point and 10.4 rebound per-game player that he was a year ago. It just so happens that he has reached his peak.

    No more progression, just a further honing of the fundamentals.

    Due to the fact that Gasol is surrounded by Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, his numbers will suffer. With that being said, that doesn't mean Pau is no longer one of the top power forwards in the game.

    Whenever you begin to forget that, he will remind you of such.

Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Position: Small Forward

    Age: 26

    Experience: 7th Season

    2011-12 Season Averages

    17.85 PER, 19.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG

    2012-13 Season Averages

    15.76 PER, 18.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.8 BPG

     

    Technically speaking, Rudy Gay reached his peak during the 2010 NBA season. Since then, his numbers have been consistent:

    19.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in 2011-12.

    18.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks in 2012-13.

    These are the numbers Gay will continue to post until he meets his decline.

    Many players on the Memphis Grizzlies would produce at a higher level upon leaving the team-oriented franchise. Gay just so happens to be the type of player that his numbers suggest.

    Borderline elite but unable to take the leap to the next level.

    Fortunately, there's always a market for a player that is capable of performing in such a well-rounded manner. Gay will have a lengthy career as he posts these numbers for roughly the next five seasons.

    It's just a shame Gay never met his true upside.

Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

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    Position: Shooting Guard

    Age: 31

    Experience: 12th Season

    2011-12 Season Averages

    18.50 PER, 18.8 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.7 RPG, 0.8 SPG

    2012-13 Season Averages

    13.80 PER, 16.8 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 0.6 SPG

     

    Joe Johnson is more than capable of matching his 19 point-per-game production from the 2011-12 regular season. With that being said, he is no longer in position to exceed that average.

    The fact that Johnson is 31 years old and in his 12th season is a major reason why.

    Johnson is no longer the explosive athlete that he was in Phoenix or Atlanta. Instead, he is a jump shooter that is capable of utilizing his size and strength to post up the average 2.

    Johnson is also capable of creating off of the dribble, even if he doesn't get the rise on a finish in the paint that he had in recent years.

    On a team with an elite facilitator such as Deron Williams, Johnson should have more than a handful of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Look for him to thrive in a change of scenery.

    Even if his numbers never reach their previous high.

Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

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    Position: Forward

    Age: 27

    Experience: 9th Season

    2011-12 Season Averages

    21.14 PER, 18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.4 SPG

    2012-13 Season Averages

    17.51 PER, 16.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 2.2 BPG, 1.4 SPG

     

    If you're not impressed with the statistical versatility of Josh Smith, you need to check yourself.

    In 2011-12, Smith became the 15th player in NBA history to post averages of at least 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals.

    Should he maintain his current 2012-13 season averages, Smith will become the 12th player in league history to average at least 16.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals.

    If you have a problem with his maintaining this pace, there's something wrong with you.

    The truth about Smith is, there are ways for him to improve his game. For instance, developing a right hand out of the post.

    Regardless, Smith posted the type of averages in 2011-12 that you can expect to see throughout his prime.

    Enjoy this while it lasts, folks. It's rare that you'll see production this well-rounded.