Updated NBA Superstar Rankings, Midseason Edition
As much as Dennis Green would hate to admit this, all of the NBA superstars who populated the various rankings before the start of the 2012-13 season are no longer who we thought they were. That's where these updated NBA superstar rankings come in.
Some players, like the numerous first-time All-Stars and should-be All-Stars you'll see represented, have exceeded the expectations and emerged as premier players in the Association. Others have fallen from the ranks of the best in the business.
Then again, some players have maintained their spots in the NBA hierarchies, but they've morphed into slightly different basketball monsters. Kobe Bryant would be proud of their abilities to become different animals while remaining the same beasts.
So, where does your favorite player rank, and how has he changed since the last edition?
Read on to find out.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are updated through Jan. 27.
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, Rajon Rondo and Andrew Bynum will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.
Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford might not play the most glamorous style of basketball, but he's been a steady presence for an Atlanta Hawks squad that just refuses to fade away into the backdrop of the Eastern Conference.
Kevin Garnett, PF/C, Boston Celtics
It's time for Kevin Garnett to become an even bigger presence for the Boston Celtics now that Rajon Rondo is out for the rest of the 2012-13 season.
Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Under P.J. Carlesimo, Deron Williams has begun his ascent back to his rightful place in the rankings, one he enjoyed before the season started, before he forgot he was an elite floor general.
Kemba Walker, PG, Charlotte Bobcats
It's time to accept Kemba Walker as a top-flight point guard, even though he plays for one of the NBA's worst teams.
LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland Trail Blazers
The closest player to taking over the No. 20 spot, LaMarcus Aldridge continues to grow on defense while maintaining his steady presence on offense and the glass for the Blazers.
20. Al Jefferson (Previous Ranking: No. 19)
Team: Utah Jazz
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 steals, 20.62 PER
Al Jefferson might not be on the hottest streak of his career, but he's played just well enough to hold onto the No. 20 spot against a strong batch of candidates. His track record certainly helps him here as well.
While playing solid, albeit unspectacular, defense, the underrated big man has been a constant double-double threat while always playing efficient basketball. Big men aren't supposed to have good hands, but Jefferson rarely turns the ball over.
Even when he isn't shooting the ball at a high percentage, Jefferson typically adds value while minimizing the damage he does.
19. Stephen Curry (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 19.78 PER
Stephen Curry's shot is now so flawless from the outside that I'd be less surprised if he missed a wide open fast-break layup than I would if he failed to drop in the three-ball without a man in his face. In fact, Curry is shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 45.4 percent from behind the arc, meaning he's made a higher percentage of three-pointers than two-pointers.
While the baby-faced point guard's field-goal percentage might not blow you away, his historically great combination of volume and efficiency from downtown more than makes up for it. Between that and his creative passing skills, Curry is just an offensive dynamo.
When you combine that with an increased level of intensity on defense under Mark Jackson, it's almost unfathomable that Curry didn't end up with an All-Star spot.
18. David Lee (Previous Ranking: No. 16)
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.42 PER
The Golden State Warriors aren't content with just one player in the top 20. Instead, they have to have two representatives show up in back-to-back fashion.
David Lee comes in a spot ahead of Stephen Curry, but it would have been a larger gap if the big man hadn't suddenly gone cold from the field. Over his last five games, Lee is making only 38.8 percent of his shots, but he's making up for it partially by getting to the line and connecting 89.5 percent of the time.
Additionally, he continues to be a monster on the boards while passing with skills that should belong to a player roughly six inches shorter than Lee.
17. Paul George (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Indiana Pacers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.7 steals, 17.39 PER
Paul George was expected to be one of the NBA's biggest breakout players before the start of the 2012-13 campaign. Then play began, and he struggled to make the impact expected of him.
Well, that is now firmly in the past.
This first-time All-Star is a bona fide stud on both ends of the court, anchoring the vaunted perimeter defense of the stingy Indiana Pacers while contributing across the board on offense. He might not truly excel in any one area, but he's at least above average in all of them.
16. Jrue Holiday (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, 19.37 PER
From one first-time All-Star to another we go.
Jrue Holiday has been more than just the Philadelphia 76ers' star player while Andrew Bynum focuses on growing out his hair. In a lot of ways, he's just been the Sixers. They've gone as he's gone.
And the scary part is that we haven't seen the best of what this 22-year-old floor general can do. Games like his 33-point, five-rebound, 14-assist masterpiece might become more common as his career continues to trend in a positive direction.
15. Chris Bosh (Previous Ranking: No. 13)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.80 PER
Chris Bosh needed two overtime periods against the Boston Celtics to record his 16 rebounds, but he still managed to haul in double-digit boards for the second time in January. It was also the second time in three games that he'd done so, so perhaps things are trending upward on the boards for Bosh.
Even when he's not crashing the glass, Bosh is still scoring rather effectively.
He's truly settled in as a third option for the Miami Heat, though, and his role in the offense is going down by the day. Over his past five games, the power forward masquerading as a center has averaged only 12.0 points and 1.0 assists per game on 43.4 percent shooting from the field.
14. Brook Lopez (Previous Ranking: No. 18)
Team: Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 2.2 blocks, 0.5 steals, 25.41 PER
Brook Lopez isn't slowing down on the offensive end of the court, and he's getting better when it comes to the other facets of his game.
The 7-footer still isn't a very good rebounder, but he's at least maintained his competency for a prolonged stretch now. After averaging 8.1 boards per contest during December, Lopez has settled in at 7.3 per game since the calendars flipped over to 2013.
He's become more of a defensive presence under P.J. Carlesimo as well, and his block numbers are starting to move into elite territory. Lopez has recorded a block in nine straight games, and he's averaging 3.0 swats per contest over his past five.
13. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 14)
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.0 steals, 19.28 PER
Marc Gasol finally rediscovered his lost scoring touch, averaging 13.4 points per game on 56 percent shooting from the field over his past five games for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Of course, he coupled that with a number of other contributions.
Gasol's assist numbers were down during the past week, but so too were his turnover figures. He continues to be a versatile offensive contributor, despite the lack of gaudy scoring average, while anchoring a stellar Memphis defense in the paint.
12. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: No. 8)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.93 PER
Soreness in his left knee has kept Tim Duncan out of the San Antonio Spurs' lineup for four of the team's last five games, as much as we'd love to believe that he's simply been receiving DNP-OLDs for the past week.
During the one game in which he played, Duncan sparked a 90-85 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers with 24 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.
It remains to be seen how much Duncan's knee will affect him when he's back on the court, but he has to drop a few spots due to sheer inactivity.
11. Tony Parker (Previous Ranking: No. 11)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 23.39 PER
Tony Parker has had no problem maintaining his level of play without the protection afforded him by Tim Duncan's presence on the court. If anything, the French point guard has been even better while his comrade has rested on the bench.
Over the past five games, Parker has averaged 24.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 10.0 assists and 0.8 steals per game while knocking down 56.8 percent of his shots from the field. And of course, the San Antonio Spurs have an unblemished record during that period.
If you were looking for a glaring flaw in Parker's game right now, you'd have to do some serious nitpicking.
10. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 12)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.5 steals, 23.16 PER
Blake Griffin just keeps getting better and better for the Los Angeles Clippers.
He's been more featured in the lineup—both in terms of minutes played and usage—while Chris Paul has sat out, and he's helped ease Eric Bledsoe's journey into his starter's role. Over his last five games, Blake has averaged 23.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.0 blocks and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 57.5 percent from the field and 68.6 percent from the charity stripe.
His passing in particular has just been fantastic, as the Clippers can pass him the ball with quite a bit of confidence that something positive will happen.
9. Kyrie Irving (Previous Ranking: No. 10)
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 24.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.7 steals, 22.93 PER
Is there any doubt that Kyrie Irving is going to be prominently featured in the "Who's the best point guard in the league?" conversation in the very near future? He isn't quite there yet, but he's teetering on the edge after locking down the first of many All-Star spots he'll earn in his career.
Freed from the extra weight of the facemask, Irving has been unstoppable on offense. Over his past five games, the 20-year-old floor general has averaged 31.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game on a mind-numbing 55.0 percent form the floor.
To do that on 22.2 attempts per contest is just ridiculous.
8. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 7)
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.9 steals, 22.73 PER
Even when Russell Westbrook has terrible shooting days, he still manages to contribute positively to the Oklahoma City Thunder's cause.
Take his 6-of-22 brickfest in a losing effort against the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite his struggle to get to his 17 points, Westbrook also crashed the boards with unrelenting enthusiasm and found teammates quite frequently, finishing with nine rebounds and 13 assists.
Bad Westbrook might show up some nights, but at least Good Westbrook will be there right beside him.
7. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 6)
Team: Houston Rockets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.9 steals, 22.51 PER
Out of curiosity, what would happen if James Harden lost his beard? Would he suddenly forget how to shoot the ball because his beard has Samson-esque powers?
If we just trimmed it down to half its current density and length, would his skills decline accordingly, making him a D-League-level shooting guard?
While those questions are fun to ponder at night, they're irrelevant because Harden still has his beard. And as you might have guessed, he's still playing at a high level.
6. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 9)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.4 steals, 23.24 PER
Even though he struggled with both his shot and his control over the ball in a double-overtime loss to the Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade has looked like he's back in is prime during January, just as he did during December.
Basically, Wade is metaphorically laughing in the face of the critics who claimed he was washed up and in the midst of a disappointing season.
Even while ceding control of the Miami Heat to some talented teammate, Wade has still managed to put together an elite blend of statistics, all the while helping his team pace the Eastern Conference.
5. Kobe Bryant (Previous Ranking: No. 5)
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.5 steals, 23.80 PER
We won't know how much of a coincidence it was that Kobe Bryant's emergence as a willing and creative passer occurred at the same time as the Los Angeles Lakers' two-game win streak until the sample we're working with is significantly larger.
Still, it was an intriguing development, as the Mamba recorded back-to-back 14-assist games against the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Bryant's shooting efficiency and shooting volume have both experienced slight dips, but I'm guessing No. 24 is willing to suffer those declines if his team can work its way out of the lottery.
It's a testament to how impressive this shooting guard is on a basketball court that we all consider it a serious possibility that he could completely re-invent his style of play in the middle of a season and not skip a beat.
4. Chris Paul (Previous Ranking: No. 3)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 2.6 steals, 26.12 PER
I'm keeping Chris Paul in the rankings rather than dropping him to the injured section because unless some part of his diagnosis changes rather drastically, he could be back in the lineup any game now.
The bone bruise on his knee has kept him out for each of the Los Angeles Clippers' past four games, and it might limit him when he returns, but CP3 has demonstrated a remarkable ability to play through knee troubles in the past.
There isn't much new to talk about when it comes to the league's top point guard, so let's move on.
3. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: No. 4)
Team: New York Knicks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 29.4 points 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 24.99 PER
Carmelo Anthony might bide his time, scoring 25 points or so on a nightly basis with varying levels of efficiency, but when he decides it's go time, you might as well decide it's go time as well. Except for Melo, go time involves drilling threes, and for you, go time involves just going home.
Such was the case when the forward caught fire against the Atlanta Hawks, staving off an upset bid from Josh Smith and Co. by knocking down nine three-pointers in only 12 attempts. He finished the night with 42 points on only 28 shots.
As long as Anthony is suiting up for the New York Knicks, they're going to remain competitive in the East.
2. Kevin Durant (Previous Ranking: No. 2)
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 29.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 29.16 PER
Kevin Durant has garnered quite a bit of hype this season as he's attempting to become the latest member of the exclusive 50/40/90 club by shooting over 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point land and 90 percent from the stripe in the same season.
However, he's quickly proving that some of those benchmarks are too low. After all, his latest five-game stretch involved scoring 32.2 points per game on 48.9 percent from the field, 46.4 percent form downtown and 94.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Is it possible that Durant could join the 51/41/91 club? It doesn't have that same fancy, round-number ring to it, but it's more impressive and has less members.
There have been nine 50/40/90 seasons, recorded by five different players: Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash (four times).
Only Bird's second such season (1987-88) and Nash's first (2005-06) have met the 51/41/91 requirements.
1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.7 steals, 30.37 PER
If you're wondering why LeBron James still ranks above Kevin Durant despite the clear offensive greatness of the No. 2 player in the rankings, let me clarify things for you.
Durant may have the scoring edge on LeBron, but he's only scoring three points per game more than the reigning MVP while playing with a slightly higher level of efficiency. According to Basketball-Reference.com, James has a 61.5 true shooting percentage, and Durant has posted one only four percent better.
That's the only facet of the game in which Durant has the advantage.
Rebounding? LeBron wins the per-game matchup, and the margin grows if you start to look at the advanced stats.
Passing? Even though Durant has clearly improved his facilitating skills, he still can't touch LeBron in this area.
Defense? Let me ask you another question: When was the last time you heard Durant mentioned as a potential Defensive Player of the Year who could guard every position on the court?
I'm not trying to take anything away from Durant, but we need to appreciate how truly dominant LeBron has become.