NBA Player Power Rankings: LeBron James Putting League on Notice
LeBron James continues to put the rest of the league on notice as he still dominates the NBA Player Power Rankings.
What, you were expecting a spoiler alert?
Don't worry, though, as there are still plenty of incredible players in the Association gunning for No. 6. As the calendars flip over to 2013 and the action continues to unfold, quite a bit has changed since the pre-Christmas version of these rankings of the top 20 players in the league.
Did your favorite player make the cut this time? If he was already present, did he move up or down?
You'll have to read on to find out.
Note: All stats, unless others indicated, are current through Saturday, Jan. 6.
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 and Andrew Bynum will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland Trail Blazers
It's quite impressive that LaMarcus Aldridge continues to stand out against the talented backdrop of elite starters for the Portland Trail Blazers.
As good as Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, J.J. Hickson and Wesley Matthews have been in Rip City, it's the power forward that has continued to emerge as the team's top contributor.
Stephen Curry, PG, Golden State Warriors
As Stephen Curry continues to stay healthy, he continues to rack up the offensive numbers and highlights. He's more than just a sharpshooter, and his creativity helps out both himself and his teammates on the surging Dubs.
Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford barely edges out Josh Smith as the Atlanta Hawks' top player as he continues to be a steady, reliable source of production on both ends of the court for the Eastern Conference's most surprising contender.
Al Jefferson, PF/C, Utah Jazz
Underrated because he doesn't often get the chance to play on national television, Al Jefferson isn't going unnoticed here for his incessant knocking on the door of 20-and-10 performances. Apparently being named Al is beneficial if you're trying to make the player power rankings.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Bobcats
Narrowly edging out Jrue Holiday for the final spot among the honorable mentions—and note that Walker is listed last here due to alphabetical order, not a ranking within this section—Kemba Walker continues to put together a fearsome Most Improved Player campaign.
20. Brook Lopez (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 2.3 blocks, 0.6 steals, 25.92 PER
Brook Lopez's offense has reached such a high level under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo that it's impossible to deny him his rightful place in the power rankings any longer.
The seven-foot Stanford product still struggles to make much of an impact on the glass—his 15.0 total rebound percentage leaves him well shy of Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries, per Basketball-Reference.com—and his defense still lags far behind where it should be.
Yet despite those flaws, Lopez has emerged as a valuable player for the Nets because of his virtually unstoppable offensive game.
19. Zach Randolph (Previous Ranking: No. 18)
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.00 PER
While Brook Lopez plays more of a glamorous offensive game, Zach Randolph is just a banger down inside the paint. He doesn't shy away from contact, but rather invites it, thrives with it and seems to genuinely enjoy getting physical.
Z-Bo's rebounding has fallen off pace a bit, and he's only broken into double digits on the boards once in his last five appearances, but he's still the beating heart of a very good Memphis Grizzlies squad.
18. David Lee (Previous Ranking: No. 20)
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 steals, 20.85 PER
The Golden State Warriors continue to take the league by storm, thanks largely to the sheer offensive dominance of David Lee.
Lee's string of 12 consecutive 20-point performances came to an end right after Christmas, but he's broken past that mark in three of the four games since its termination. The power forward could stand to pick up his shooting efficiency just a little bit, but he's still contributing across the board on the offensive end of the court.
The Dubs have also found success when letting Lee guard opposing power forwards. According to 82games.com, the 29-year-old has allowed power forwards and centers to post PERs of 15.7 and 19.8, respectively.
17. Paul Pierce (Previous Ranking: No. 17)
Team: Boston Celtics
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.5 steals, 20.03 PER
Apparently whatever gifts Paul Pierce received during the holiday season have distracted him, causing his focus on the court to lapse. At least, that's the most likely explanation I can come up with for his dip in field-goal percentage.
Since Dec. 25 got here, Pierce has shot only 38.2 percent from the field.
He's still scored in volume while playing underrated perimeter defense, but the truth of the matter is that he must regain his shooting stroke if he hopes to move up any further in the rankings.
16. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 16)
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.9 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.58 PER
If Paul Pierce is distracted by his presents, maybe Marc Gasol just doesn't like cold weather?
Since Christmas, Gasol has averaged just 9.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.7 blocks and 2.2 steals per game on 46.8 percent shooting.
While his defensive presence has certainly been impressive—the center for the Memphis Grizzlies both racks up the counting stats and makes the type of defensive impact that doesn't show up in box scores by rotating properly and playing help defense—the lack of offensive output has been rather disconcerting.
15. Rajon Rondo (Previous Ranking: No. 12)
Team: Boston Celtics
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 11.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.9 steals, 18.91 PER
Rajon Rondo's decline in the player power rankings is more of a testament to the struggles of the players surrounding the talented point guard than to Rondo's talent itself.
That said, the 26-year-old floor general has still struggled (relatively) over the last few weeks. Even though he had a triple-double against the Atlanta Hawks, Rondo hasn't been able to match his early-season form.
Take that triple-double for example. The accomplishment was more unique than excellent, as he hit the necessary benchmarks but only shot 43.8 percent from the field and turned the ball over five times.
14. Chris Bosh (Previous Ranking: No. 14)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.7 steals, 21.43 PER
Chris Bosh continues to play consistently well for the defending champions, but it's been a while since he's truly taken over the game. As LeBron James and Dwyane Wade continue to dominate in all facets of the game, Bosh has slipped back into the comfortable third-wheel role.
That would be an insult on most teams, but it most certainly isn't on the Miami Heat.
Even though he's the third-ranked player on the squad, Bosh's offensive contributions still leave him as one of the premier scoring big men in basketball.
13. Dwight Howard (Previous Ranking: No. 13)
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 2.6 blocks, 1.0 steals, 20.15 PER
Dwight Howard may have recorded his league-leading third game with 20 or more rebounds against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 6, but he's still a far cry from the dominant Superman that we watched suit up for the Orlando Magic throughout the first chapter of his career.
Things have been picking up lately for the Los Angeles Lakers center, but consistency is still a question mark for D12.
Plus, his back is still causing him to be tentative on defense, partially negating his biggest asset on the court: help/pick-and-roll defense. B/R's own Ethan Strauss summed it up rather succinctly:
More of Dwight's hands doing what his feet used to— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 7, 2013
Remember, a fully healthy Howard is unquestionably a top-five player in the Association.
12. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 10)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 22.47 PER
Blake Griffin went through an uncharacteristic bout of inconsistency when the Los Angeles Clippers' league-best stretch of undefeated basketball came to an end, but he's rebounded rather nicely.
And speaking of rebounding, that's something that the big man could stand to focus on a little bit more in coming games. He's shifted slightly too far from the basket to make the impact on the glass that the Clippers need from him.
Despite these negative aspects to Griffin's play, the dunking machine continues to prove the doubters wrong. It doesn't take much to realize that Griffin isn't only a dunking machine, even though he most certainly is one of those.
11. Kyrie Irving (Previous Ranking: No. 15)
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.5 steals, 21.32 PER
If you take the time to watch a Cleveland Cavaliers game at any point in the near future, it will be virtually impossible to avoid honing in on Kyrie Irving. It's so hard to take your eyes off him, and the facemask does nothing to change that.
And when you watch him for a prolonged period of time, it's a near certainty that you'll be convinced of his greatness. Irving is only 20 years old, but there shouldn't be any doubt that he's going to join the ranks of the elite point guards in the near future.
Of course, that's assuming that he isn't already there...
10. Tony Parker (Previous Ranking: No. 9)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 23.00 PER
Is it possible that Tony Parker has been saving the best season of his NBA career for when he's on the wrong side of 30?
The French point guard has been nothing short of sensational for the San Antonio Spurs throughout the 2012-13 campaign. He's doing everything that Gregg Popovich could possibly ask for, and then more.
If the season ended after just 34 games, Parker's 23.00 PER would leave him trailing only his 2008-09 campaign, when he averaged a career-high 22.0 points per game to go along with his 3.1 rebounds and 6.9 dimes per contest.
9. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: No. 6)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 25.55 PER
Making it back-to-back San Antonio Spurs in the top 10, Tim Duncan falls a few spots to No. 9. That's nothing to be ashamed of when you remember that The Big Fundamental is 36 years old and playing absolutely incredible basketball on both ends of the court.
The reason for the fall isn't Duncan's play when he's on the court. His 25.55 PER just about says it all, as Duncan has contributed both in volume and with tremendous efficiency.
However, he hasn't been on the court as often as the rest of the players in the top 10. Duncan is doing everything possible in just 30 minutes per game, but that means that he's also spending 18 minutes per contest relaxing on the pine.
8. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 8)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.3 steals, 22.77 PER
Dwyane Wade picked up where he left off after serving his one-game suspension for an unfortunate blow to the groin of Ramon Sessions.
The shooting guard continues to put together what is rapidly becoming an underrated season. Although he's played at a high level, there seems to be some residual animosity from his lackluster postseason performances and inadequate play during the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
Wade is contributing across the board and doing so at a high level. He may not be the Wade of his prime, but he's still an elite shooting guard.
7. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 7)
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 2.1 steals, 22.83 PER
It seems as though not even the all-too-dangerous elbow of Luis Scola is enough to slow down Russell Westbrook right now. Of course, that's also slightly problematic as not even Westbrook can slow down himself at times.
He still displays that frustrating tendency to play out of control and force the issue for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it's a tendency that everyone should be perfectly willing to live with. After all, this point guard offers so many positives on a nightly basis.
As 2012 came to a close, Westbrook started to pick up his scoring contributions. That's carried over to 2013, and he also continues to find teammates with remarkable ease. Both his assist totals and the difficulty of those assists have continued to improve.
6. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 11)
Team: Houston Rockets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 2.0 steals, 23.81 PER
At first glance, it may seem a little bit weird to see James Harden this high up in the rankings. Well, it's not so strange once you start to truly break down his performance during the 2012-13 campaign and recognize just how great the bearded 2-guard has been for the Houston Rockets.
As of Jan. 5, Harden was on a 12-game string of 25-plus-point performances, and he hasn't scored less than 20 in a contest since Dec. 4, when he went 3-of-19 from the field in a two-point victory against the Los Angeles Lakers.
He's learning how to coexist with Jeremy Lin in the Houston backcourt while maintaining his scoring prowess, racking up assists and just generally terrorizing the league.
Harden was the easy choice for Sixth Man of the Year during the 2011-12 season, but he could become a dark-horse MVP candidate if the Rockets keep up their winning ways.
5. Kobe Bryant (Previous Ranking: No. 5)
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 30.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.6 steals, 25.89 PER
As great as James Harden has been, we still can't call him the best shooting guard in the NBA. That title unquestionably resides in Kobe Bryant's camp.
Kobe has been on a scoring tear throughout the 2012-13 season, even if it hasn't necessarily resulted in wins for the Los Angeles Lakers. It's tough to fault the Black Mamba, though, as he's scoring with both volume and efficiency.
Where you can fault him is on the defensive end of the court. The Lakers still can't communicate well with each other there, and the defense often resembles more of a sieve than anything else. Part of the blame definitely goes to Kobe there, as he's appeared disinterested at times and rotates properly with alarming infrequency.
4. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: No. 3)
Team: New York Knicks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 29.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 26.75 PER
Health problems held Carmelo Anthony to just nine appearances in 15 games for the New York Knicks during December, but he's started off January with a vengeance. Maybe he just wants to make up for lost time and is craving that wonderful feeling he gets when the ball swishes through the net perfectly.
Since the ball dropped not too far from Madison Square Garden, Melo has averaged 36.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 0.7 steals per game on 50.7 percent shooting from the field. He's also hit 11 of his 25 attempts from downtown and gone 23-of-27 from the charity stripe.
There's being on fire, and then there's being on Melo-fire.
3. Chris Paul (Previous Ranking: No. 4)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.6 steals, 26.61 PER
If you're looking for the textbook example of how to play point guard in the NBA, just go watch Chris Paul. No one plays the position at a higher level than CP3.
Quite frankly, it's not even close.
The race for MVP currently features a quintet of players, and Paul is squarely in the middle of it thanks to his balanced offensive contributions and peskiness on defense. Plus, he should be up for Coach of the Year with the amount of jawing that he does on the court.
2. Kevin Durant (Previous Ranking: No. 2)
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.5 steals, 28.06 PER
We're starting to see a little bit of feistiness from Kevin Durant, as he's growing even more competitive than he already was.
Getting ejected for the first time in his professional career wasn't something that was expected of Durant, but if anything, it's a positive sign.
Durant's facilitating skills and defensive chops are getting better on a daily basis, and he continues to play some of the best offensive basketball we've seen in years. Much has been made of Durant's chase for a 50/40/90 season, and for good reason.
1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 steals, 30.21 PER
If you thought Kevin Durant's quest for improvement was scary, well, you might not want to think about what LeBron James is doing to the rest of the league. Especially since he isn't finished evolving as a dynamic, multifaceted basketball player.
LeBron continues to take over games night in and night out. The gap between himself and Durant isn't exactly shrinking anymore, and LeBron still stands head and shoulders above the rest of the league.
In 32 games this season, James has scored 20 or more points 32 times. During that same stretch, he's only missed more shots than he's made six times. Seriously, just try to wrap your head around that.
Now try to grasp the fact that scoring isn't even what makes James truly special.