Updated Rankings of the Top 5 NBA Players at Every Position
The updated rankings of the top five NBA players at every position are a measure of productivity this season. This is not a ranking of who has the most talent at each position, nor is it a projection of who will have the best season by year's end.
While not including players like Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Andrew Bynum—superstars who are inactive at the moment—this list is ranking each position in terms of who is playing the best right now.
Generally speaking, the point guard position is the deepest in the NBA. Despite an All-Star season, Jrue Holiday, for example, was not included in the top five. Meanwhile, the center position is currently the league's shallowest.
While not grading out as high in terms of depth from top-to-bottom, the three players with the best chance of winning the league MVP this season are all small forwards.
Team wins also played a role in assembling these ranking. However, a greater emphasis was placed on individual production.
*All stats as of Monday, February 4.
No. 5 Point Guard: Stephen Curry
2012-13 Stats: 21.1 PTS, 6.5 AST, 45.7 3PT%, PER 20.8
Stephen Curry has played well enough to be an All-Star this season.
If there wasn't so much depth in the Western Conference backcourt he would be.
While leading his Golden State Warriors to the fifth-best record in the West through Monday, Curry has graded out as the sixth-most efficient point guard in the NBA in terms of PER.
He's also the third-leading scorer among point guards while ranking first in the league overall with an average of 3.2 three-pointers made per game.
Curry's 45.7 percent from three-point territory is also second in the NBA in terms of accuracy.
If he continues to post these numbers next year, an invite to the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans should be in the bag.
No. 4 Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
2012-13 Stats: 22.6 PTS, 8.2 AST, 5.3 REB, 23.4 PER
Russell Westbrook ranking fourth overall at his position is a perfect example of the league's point-guard depth.
Currently the NBA's seventh-leading scorer while ranking fifth in assists and ninth in terms of PER, Westbrook has been sensational this season.
Over his last 10 games, he's upped his scoring average to 24.3 points.
Though he matches up with both guard spots on defense, Westbrook is holding opposing point guards to an average PER of 14.2 on the season, according to 82games.com.
Despite throwing the occasional tantrum, he's a major reason why the Thunder have the second-best record in the Association.
No. 3 Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
2012-13 Stats: 24.0 PTS, 5.4 AST, 41.2 3PT%, 22.78 PER
Kyrie Irving is the Eastern Conference's best point guard. He deserves the All-Star Game start in relief of Rajon Rondo.
Through Monday, Irving leads all point guards in scoring. He is scoring the sixth most points in the NBA overall, in fact, while also ranking fourth at his position in terms of PER.
Most remarkably, Irving has led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a respectable 5-5 record over their last 10 games.
His assist totals rank lower than others on this list, but Irving doesn't have anything close to the playmaking options alongside him that other top point guards do at the moment.
Once his defense improves from allowing opposing point guards to grade out at an average PER of 18.1, according to 82games.com, Irving will become the NBA's best point guard.
For now, he's third.
No. 2 Point Guard: Tony Parker
2012-13 Stats: 20.1 PTS, 7.6 AST, 53.4 FG%, 23.51 PER
Gregg Popovich called Tony Parker the NBA's best point guard last week, according to Spurs Nation's Dan McCarney.
While I don't quite agree with that assessment, Parker is certainly close.
A floor general in its truest sense, Parker has maximized production from a roster that varies in age and experience while leading the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA's best record.
At his position, he ranks second in PER and fourth in scoring.
Though his playmaking ability gets its due, what's often overlooked is Parker's work on the defensive end of the floor—this season in particular.
According to 82.games.com, Parker is holding the opposition to an average PER of 13.2—a more than respectable number for a guy whose primary role is to generate offense.
No. 1 Point Guard: Chris Paul
2012-13 Stats: 16.6 PTS, 9.7 AST, 2.6 STL, 26.12 PER
Even though he's missed his team's last seven games, including Monday's loss to the Washington Wizards, Chris Paul is still the best point guard in the game.
Paul ranks first in terms of PER at his position while leading the NBA in steals.
With Rondo sidelined for the duration of the year, Paul's 9.7 assists lead all active point guards as well.
He is holding opposing point guards to a PER of 12.5, according to 82games.com, while spearheading a defensive attack for the Los Angeles Clippers that is markedly better with him on the floor.
He will need to return relatively soon to hang onto the top spot, but for now, he remains the league's top floor general.
No. 5 Shooting Guard: J.R. Smith
2012-13 Stats: 16.3 PTS, 5.0 REB, 2.8 AST, 15.71 PER
While Brook Lopez deserved to replace Rajon Rondo on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, it sure would have been fun to find room for J.R. Smith.
This season, more than any other previously, Smith is blending his unique athleticism with the professional maturity needed to excel in the NBA.
As the sixth man for the New York Knicks, Smith ranks 10th at his position in scoring through Monday.
He could be a starter elsewhere in the league, but is instead providing the depth necessary for New York to contend in the Eastern Conference.
No. 4 Shooting Guard: O.J. Mayo
2012-13 Stats: 17.8 PTS, 4.4 AST, 3.8 REB, 41.9 3PT% 16.44 PER
O.J. Mayo started this season on a torrid pace.
Despite cooling off over the past couple of months, he's still dishing out a career-high number of assists while shooting the best he ever has from three-point range.
Among all shooting guards, Mayo is the fourth-leading scorer while also ranking 11th in terms of PER.
He was a pleasant surprise for Dallas Mavericks fans when the season began, and continues to be as the All-Star break approaches.
No. 3 Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade
2012-13 Stats: 20.6 PTS, 4.6 AST, 4.8 REB, 23.0 PER
For as much as we've heard that Dwyane Wade has supposedly fallen off this season, he's still the NBA's third-best shooting guard.
In terms of PER at his position, Wade ranks second overall while also ranking third in terms of scoring. He has also quietly shot a career-high 50.5 percent from the field this season.
Despite a scoring average that is as low as it's been since his rookie season, Wade continues to pick his spots and provide scoring at an efficient volume.
Defensively, Wade has held opposing shooting guards to the staggering 9.4 PER, according to 82games.com.
No. 2 Shooting Guard: James Harden
2012-13 Stats: 25.8 PTS, 5.5 AST, 4.5 REB, 22.62 PER
James Harden has embraced the opportunity to be a franchise player for the Houston Rockets and launched himself into the MVP race as a result, posting career highs across the board.
Through Monday, Harden is the NBA's fifth leading scorer overall while also ranking third at his position in terms of Player Efficiency Rating.
His Rockets need to improve collectively on the defensive end, but Harden has been providing as much versatility as he can by defending positions 1 through 4 throughout the season.
He's been more than Houston fans could have hoped for, and should only get better in the coming years.
No. 1 Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant
2012-13 Stats: 27.7 PTS, 5.4 AST, 5.2 REB, 23.02 PER
The Los Angeles Lakers have been a major disappointment this season.
On a nightly basis, however, we can at least count on Kobe Bryant to put up points in bunches.
Bryant ranks third in the NBA in overall scoring, while boasting a PER good for 10th in the league.
He has flirted with a career-high shooting percentage for much of the season as well, despite being relied on to carry the Lakers' offensive load.
As the All-Star break approaches, Bryant is less than one percentage point away—currently at a field-goal percentage of 46.4—from surpassing his career-best shooting from the floor.
No. 5 Small Forward: Luol Deng
2012-13 Stats: 17.2 PTS, 6.7 REB, 3.0 AST, 15.29 PER
Luol Deng has continued to provide a tireless defensive presence for the Chicago Bulls this season.
He's holding opposing small forwards to an average PER of 10.8, according to 82games.com, while leading the Bulls' hounding attack on the perimeter.
While defense is typically why Deng gets recognized, he has also been scoring at an impressive clip.
His 17.2 points per game ranks seventh among all small forwards in scoring, and is a big reason why he was made an All-Star for the second time in his career this season.
No. 4 Small Forward: Paul George
2012-13 Stats: 17.4 PTS, 7.7 REB, 3.9 AST, 17.27 PER
Paul George has done more than simply fill in for Danny Granger this season. He's used his absence as an opportunity to emerge as an All-Star.
As the sixth-leading scorer and fifth-leading rebounder among all small forwards this season, George appears poised to make annual trips to the NBA's midseason exhibition for many years to come.
Beyond simply positing offensive numbers, though, George is also bringing it on defense while helping his Pacers to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.
A mark that wasn't expected when Granger went down.
No. 3 Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony
2012-13 Stats: 28.4 PTS, 6.2 REB, 41.2 3PT%, 24.18 PER
While the point guard position might be the NBA's deepest, small forward is the most top-heavy in terms of premiere talent.
Carmelo Anthony, for example, ranks third at his position right now, but I would rank him third in the MVP race for the work he is putting in.
His 41.2 percent shooting from three-point range, along with a PER that ranks sixth in the league overall, are numbers we simply did not expect from Anthony this season. We also couldn't have predicted him leading the New York Knicks to contention in the Eastern Conference.
As the NBA's second-leading scorer through Monday, Anthony has been simply spectacular during the first half of the season.
No. 2 Small Forward: Kevin Durant
2012-13 Stats: 29.4 PTS, 7.5 REB, 4.4 AST, 29.14 PER
Kevin Durant is as close a second in these rankings as any other player on this list.
If his team still held the NBA's best record, he might get the No. 1 nod.
At the moment, though, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 1.5 games back of the San Antonio Spurs for first place in the Western Conference.
The NBA's leading scorer, Durant also ranks second overall in terms of PER. He could end up winning the league's MVP award and scoring title if he keeps up his current pace.
For now, just sit back and enjoy the brilliance Durant brings to the court on a nightly basis.
No. 1 Small Forward: LeBron James
2012-13 Stats: 26.7 PTS, 7.0 AST, 8.3 REB, 30.61 PER
The Miami Heat's conference-best record is the perfect complement to everything LeBron James has accomplished this season from an individual standpoint.
He's leading the league in PER once again while averaging more rebounds than he ever has in his career.
James is also the fourth leading scorer in the NBA through Monday while dishing out the 10th most assists.
The 55.5 percent conversion rate that James is enjoying from the field is a career high as well, along with his 40.4 percent mark from three.
According to 82games.com, James is doing all of this while also holding opposing small forwards to an average PER of 13.2 on the defensive end.
It will take a monster effort in order to win his fourth MVP this season, but James has given himself every opportunity to do just that.
No. 5 Power Forward: Blake Griffin
2012-13 Stats: 18.5 PTS, 8.6 REB, 3.6 AST, 23.14 PER
Blake Griffin is developing from an individual skills standpoint this season.
Despite what he might suggest in his series of Kia commercials, Griffin's game is not only about dunking the basketball anymore.
While he is the NBA's most powerful finisher, Griffin has also improved from 52 percent last season to a reasonable 65.6 percent from the free-throw line so far this time around.
His rebounding totals are down from a year ago, but he's still collecting enough to rank 21st overall in the league in that category.
More important than any statistic—or explosive finish—for Griffin is that his Los Angeles Clippers still hold the third-best record in the Western Conference despite dropping seven of their last 10.
No. 4 Power Forward: David Lee
2012-13 Stats: 19.4 PTS, 11.1 REB, 4.0 AST, 19.68 PER
David Lee is an All-Star this year for good reason. He's the NBA's 12th-highest scorer through Monday, while also ranking seventh in rebounding.
The 31 double-doubles he's registered in the process are the most in the league this season.
In addition to all that, though, Lee's passing ability has also helped generate open looks for his teammates on the perimeter all season long.
Whether kicking it out directly to Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson or using the hockey assist to eventually find an open shooter, Lee's versatility is unrivaled at his position.
He's done the unthinkable for Golden State, too, leading his Warriors to a more than likely playoff berth.
No. 3 Power Forward: Zach Randolph
2012-13 Stats: 15.5 PTS, 11.7 REB, 18.33 PER
The Memphis Grizzlies employ the best power forward-center combination in the NBA this season. Zach Randolph is one-half of that combination.
While holding opposing power forwards to a PER of 13.1, according to 82games.com, Randolph is second in the NBA with 28 double-doubles.
He is the primary reason why the Memphis Grizzlies could still make noise in the postseason this year sans Rudy Gay, and deserves a lot of credit for their current No. 4 standing in the Western Conference playoff race.
No. 2 Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge
2012-13 Stats: 20.6 PTS, 9.0 REB, 1.3 BLK, 19.87 PER
For as good as rookie Damian Lillard has been for the Portland Trail Blazers this season, we can't let that overshadow what LaMarcus Aldridge continues to do from the power forward position.
Heading back to the All-Star Game for a second time this season, Aldridge is currently tied for ninth in the NBA in scoring while ranking 17th overall in rebounding.
He has anchored a Trail Blazers starting five that has them in contention for the eighth spot out West right now too, despite a bench that's been largely ineffective.
Aldridge also has to be credited, to an extent, for the season that J.J. Hickson is having alongside him in Portland.
No. 1 Power Forward: Tim Duncan
2012-13 Stats: 17.3 PTS, 9.7 REB, 2.7 BLK, 24.96 PER
According to Jeff McDonald of Spurs Nation, Duncan is currently listed as day-to-day after suffering a knee injury against the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
The sooner he can return for the San Antonio Spurs, the better. Duncan has been the NBA's best power forward this season and might even be the best big man regardless of position.
Defensively, the 2.7 blocks that Duncan is averaging are his highest total since the 2003-04 season.
He's leading his team in rebounding as well, while also grading out as the fifth-most efficient player in league through Monday.
At 36-years-old, Duncan is somehow putting together his best season in years.
No. 5 Center: DeMarcus Cousins
2012-13 Stats: 17.2 PTS, 10.0 REB, 20.33 PER
DeMarcus Cousins was recently ejected for antagonizing a referee.
The act itself certainly isn't the worst thing Cousins could've done.
Yet it does scuttle any thought of Cousins turning the proverbial corner since his team suspended him earlier this season.
Maybe he hasn't turned that corner quite yet, I suppose.
Regardless, Cousin still remains among the league's most talented players.
He should probably be a 20-point-per-game scorer based on his skill set, but averaging a double-double with a PER above 20 is certainly worthy of a top-five center spot for now.
No. 4 Center: Joakim Noah
2012-13 Stats: 12.1 PTS, 11.3 REB, 2.1 BLK, 17.46 PER
Joakim Noah is an extremely difficult player not to root for.
He does everything you want on the defensive end of the floor, and then some.
His ability from a talent standpoint doesn't blow you away—nor do his numbers—but the relentlessness with which Noah attacks has provided All-Star-caliber value for the Chicago Bulls this season.
While only holding opposing centers to an average PER of 15.2, according to 82games.com, Noah captains the Bulls' defense at the rim by primarily communicating like a quarterback to his teammates in front of him.
He is always in the correct position from a help-side perspective and is a big reason why the Bulls are in the position they are as a team right now.
No. 3 Center: Marc Gasol
2012-13 Stats: 13.7 PTS, 7.7 REB, 1.8 BLK, 19.32 PER
Maybe even more than they do for Joakim Noah, statistics provide less of a true gauge for how productive Marc Gasol has really been this season.
He is a steady influence on both ends of the court and will be leaned on even more offensively now that Rudy Gay is a member of the Toronto Raptors.
Gasol is also dishing out 3.6 assists per game this season and does a little bit of everything in the name of winning basketball games.
No matter how much different the Memphis Grizzlies' roster looks now from when the season began, Gasol is going to be a tough matchup for anybody come playoff time.
No. 2 Center: Brook Lopez
2012-13 Stats: 18.7 PTS, 7.2 REB, 2.2 BLK, 25.4 PER
I gave strong consideration to ranking Brook Lopez No. 1 on this list.
If he averaged 10 rebounds per game—while maintaining the same production otherwise—I would have.
For now, though, Lopez has to settle for the title of second-best center in the NBA.
With Andrew Bynum still sidelined for the Philadelphia 76ers, Lopez is far and away the best center in the Eastern Conference.
He's shooting 52.6 percent from the floor while providing a shot-blocking presence the Brooklyn Nets desperately need up front.
He is the best player on a team with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson this season and will remain as such for as long as he plays in Brooklyn.
No. 1 Center: Dwight Howard
2012-13 Stats: 16.5 PTS, 11.9 REB, 2.4 BLK, 19.72 PER
I enjoy a friendly verbal jab directed at Dwight Howard as much as the next guy.
Regardless of what he does or says off the court, however, I still can't refer to him as anything but the NBA's best center.
Howard is having a lot of trouble adjusting to life with Kobe Bryant this season. He may be also struggling to live up to the legacy of the great Lakers centers before him as well. Who knows?
Despite the circus-like atmosphere in Los Angeles this season, though, Howard is still averaging a double-double while leading the NBA in rebounding.
If we could all be so lucky as to "not live up to expectations" while putting a tag line like that on our resume.