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Re-Ranking the Top 100 NBA Players, All-Star Break Edition

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2013

Re-Ranking the Top 100 NBA Players, All-Star Break Edition

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    Now that a fresh crop of first-time All-Stars has joined an established batch of superstars in Houston for the midseason festivities, it's time for a new set of rankings for the top 100 players in the NBA

    A lot has changed since the last time I published a version of these rankings back in early December, so it's time to shift the spots accordingly. 

    Some players have ascended up the totem pole rather dramatically, while others are failing to keep from slipping down further and further. 

    Where do the members of your favorite team rank? How high up did your man- or woman-crush make it? 

    You'll have to read on to find out, starting with five honorable mentions (in alphabetical order) and finishing with the No. 1 player in the Association.

Injured Players

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    The following players (listed in alphabetical order) would have received strong consideration for the various spots in the top 100 if they were healthy. However, they're unable to play at the moment and therefore are unable to be ranked:

    Andrew Bynum, Andre Drummond, Pau Gasol, Danny Granger, Gordon Hayward, Chris Kaman, Andrei Kirilenko, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Anderson Varejao, Lou Williams, Mo Williams and Thaddeus Young.

Honorable Mention: Chauncey Billups

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.0 points, 1.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.0 blocks, 0.9 steals, 22.83 PER

     

    Even at the ripe old age of 36, Chauncey Billups still has some quality basketball left in the tank. That was made abundantly clear when he torched the Los Angeles Lakers on national television, scoring 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting. 

    That made it back-to-back standout performances for Mr. Big Shot as he headed into the All-Star break. It's hard to imagine him keeping up this torrid pace once play resumes, but with his play, Billups has let it be known that the Clippers bench is now even deeper. 

    There's a solid chance Billups rises up the rankings throughout the second half of the 2012-13 campaign, but with only seven games under his belt before the break, it's just too difficult to justify making him more than an honorable mention. 

Honorable Mention: Jared Dudley

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    Team: Phoenix Suns

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 15.12 PER

     

    Still a potent shooter from the outside, Jared Dudley clearly misses Steve Nash. 

    During the 2011-12 season, Nash's final year with the Phoenix Suns, Dudley became the perimeter threat, scoring often on kick-outs following Nash pick-and-rolls. As good as Goran Dragic is, the new point guard just can't set Dudley up quite as well. 

    In fact, Dudley seems to be falling out of favor in the desert. His minutes and production have been declining, although he's still playing at a respectable level when he's on the court. 

Honorable Mention: Ersan Ilyasova

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    Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Position: PF

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 17.29 PER

     

    Ersan Ilyasova is trending upward after a disappointing start to the 2012-13 season, but his defense prevents him from earning anything more than an honorable mention. 

    With his lanky arms and diverse skill set, the versatile offensive contributor averaged 13.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per game during January, even shooting over 50 percent from behind the three-point arc. 

    He took a slight step even further forward during seven February games despite cooling off from downtown. Ilyasova just made up for it by catching fire from inside the arc this time. 

    So, how about that defense? 

    Ilyasova often seems out of place and just isn't physically strong enough to hold down his man throughout a game. According to 82games.com, he's allowing opposing power forwards to post a 19.4 PER against him. 

    NBA.com tells a similar story. Although the Milwaukee Bucks are undeniably better on offense when the forward is on the court, they allow an additional 4.2 points per 100 possessions more when Ilyasova is playing. 

Honorable Mention: Ricky Rubio

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    Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.0 blocks, 1.8 steals, 13.35 PER

     

    I want to have Ricky Rubio higher than this. I really do. 

    There aren't many players in the NBA who put on a more entertaining show than this Spanish maestro does with his flashy passes and occasional tendency to try doing too much.

    However, between his recovery from a torn ACL and his lack of production—those are related, by the way—I can't give him the bump. 

    Check back a year from now, and you'll see Rubio quite a bit higher. His ceiling is pretty darn high, after all. 

    But for now? 

    Rubio is shooting 34.3 percent on the season, has a sub-15 PER, averages 2.7 turnovers in just 26.4 minutes per game and is a very limited defender. 

    He started to turn it on right before the break, but it was too late for him to earn anything but an honorable mention.

Honorable Mention: Evan Turner

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    Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.9 steals, 12.77 PER

     

    Evan Turner is another one of those guys I just love to watch. It's been that way ever since he dominated the rest of the NCAA while he was still at Ohio State. 

    Unfortunately, that level of dominance hasn't exactly carried over to the NBA. 

    He's improved dramatically during the 2012-13 season, but Turner's slump during the most recent stretch of games prevented him from working into the ranked portion. He just tends to overshoot and turn the ball over far too often on occasion. 

    While Turner contributes across the board, his per-game numbers are also a bit inflated because he spends over 36 minutes per game on the court. 

100. Metta World Peace

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SF

    Age: 33

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.7 steals, 13.20 PER

     

    Metta World Peace started the season scoring at a relatively high rate, but the new calendar year has seen him snap back to reality on the offensive end of the court. 

    Let's be real here, though. 

    The artist formerly known as Ron Artest isn't holding down the fort at No. 100 because of his scoring prowess. Even though he was once a dynamic scorer back in the day, MWP has always been a defensively oriented contributor. 

    According to NBA.com, the Los Angeles Lakers allow 1.02 points per possession when this small forward is on the court. That would put them fifth in the NBA. 

    Without World Peace, though? In that situation, the Lakers allow 1.07 points per possession, good for 21st in the league. 

99. DeAndre Jordan

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.7 steals, 16.91 PER

     

    From an individual standpoint, it's hard to tell whether DeAndre Jordan went into the break on a high note. On one hand, he did record 11 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal in a dominant win against Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    On the other hand, there was this. Which led to this

    Who opened up the door to Staples Center when I shot that first free throw?! Haaaa...great team win!!!

    — DeAndre Jordan (@deandrejordan) February 15, 2013

    Jordan's performance against the Lakers essentially summed up what he brings to the table for the Los Angeles Clippers: He is an incredibly athletic seven-footer who plays to his strengths on the court, but his free-throw shooting is so bad that he's a liability in tight games.

98. Roy Hibbert

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.5 steals, 15.19 PER

     

    When the Indiana Pacers offered Roy Hibbert a max contract before the start of the 2012-13 season, I don't think they thought the big man would completely forget how to play offense. 

    Hibbert is barely on this list despite his terrific interior presence on defense for this stingy Pacers squad, and that should speak volumes about his horrifying offensive performance. 

    It's not like Hibbert's 41.3 percent shooting from the field is a fluke, either. If it wasn't for a 45.9 percent showing during January, the mark would be even lower, especially after he made only 39.8 percent of his attempts in February. 

    Shooting 41.3 percent is bad for a guard. It's beyond awful for a player who lives in the paint and takes the majority of his shots from close range. After all, 390 of his 545 pre-All-Star-break shots came from right around the basket. 

97. Andrew Bogut

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.6 blocks, 0.2 steals, 17.20 PER

     

    Before all the Golden State Warriors fans flock to the comment sections, let me assure you that Andrew Bogut will be ranked higher once he actually plays more. It's just tough to put the Australian any higher after he's played only 22.5 minutes per game for seven total contests. 

    Bogut has shown glimpses of what he's going to be able to do when healthy, but he hasn't actually done it yet. Plus, the Dubs haven't won many games when he's on the court yet. 

    I promise I'm not forgetting how talented this big man is. I'm just rewarding people who have actually played (and played well), something you'll find is a constant in these rankings. 

    Reputations only matter so much. When Bogut's play matches his reputation, he'll ascend to his rightful place in the top 50. 

96. Arron Afflalo

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    Team: Orlando Magic

    Position: SG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, 13.19 PER

     

    Believe it or not, Arron Afflalo is behind three other members of the Orlando Magic in these rankings. He was supposed to be the prized return in the trade that sent Dwight Howard across the country, but that hasn't worked out too well. 

    Afflalo has scored in volume during the 2012-13 season, but he hasn't been remarkably efficient from the field, and his contributions elsewhere have been rather limited. This is especially true when you consider the fact that he plays 36.4 minutes per game. 

    The shooting guard's defense has been solid for the Magic, but he's struggled when moving over to small forward, something that Orlando is making him do more and more. 

    Afflalo's most impressive feat since he was traded to the Magic has probably been earning a shoutout from Kendrick Lamar.

95. Carl Landry

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PF

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.4 steals, 17.52 PER

     

    Carl Landry was a sleeper Sixth Man of the Year candidate for a little bit of the season's first half, but he's been less effective as the season has worn on. 

    Still, Landry is too good to just be called a "backup" for David Lee. 

    You'll never see the former Purdue Boilermaker play with anything less than everything he has in the tank, and he always plays within his limits. Landry is quite physical on both ends of the court, which allows him to succeed despite his undersized frame. 

    His much-maligned help defense has improved as well under Mark Jackson.

94. Derrick Favors

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    Team: Utah Jazz

    Position: PF

    Age: 21

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 steals, 17.54 PER

     

    Is there any doubt that Derrick Favors is going to be a future stud in this league? 

    Those per-game numbers you see up above come in only 22 minutes per game because the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is blocked by both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, two players who you won't get to in the rankings for quite a while. 

    I saw Favors play a few times when he was in college and, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't all that impressed. My opinion steadily rises each time I see him play for the Utah Jazz, though. 

    As soon as he gets his chance, Favors will shoot up these rankings.

93. Wesley Matthews

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: SG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 14.41 PER

     

    Now we come to the lowest-ranked member of the Portland Trail Blazers' potent starting five. 

    Wesley Matthews was supposed to be much better than he was during the 2011-12 season because he was finally coming into the year fully healthy. But he hasn't been that much more effective, and the injuries have still been piling up for him. 

    The perimeter marksman has been more accurate from the field as a whole, and he's shooting only 0.3 percent worse from downtown despite taking 0.8 more attempts per game. 

    Matthews still hasn't made that big jump, but he's remained a solid option in Rip City.

92. Luis Scola

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    Team: Phoenix Suns

    Position: PF

    Age: 32

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 16.64 PER

     

    Luis Scola has proven to be one of the few bright spots in the desert. He's been a very effective contributor in the frontcourt for the Phoenix Suns just one season after the Houston Rockets chose to use the amnesty clause on him. 

    This long-haired big man will never blow you away because he isn't overly athletic and uses his physicality and fundamental skill to torture the opposition, but he's usually a positive contributor. 

    Scola's role in the desert has been declining as the season progresses, but that's more a testament to the rebuilding mode than to his level of play.

91. Shawn Marion

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    Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, 17.19 PER

     

    Age is catching up to Shawn Marion, who just isn't able to stuff the stat sheet quite like he did before the grasp of Father Time took hold. He's still a solid across-the-board contributor, but he no longer excels in any one statistical category. 

    It's this versatility—and possibly the thrill of watching his unorthodox (I'm trying to be nice by calling it "unorthodox") jumper—that keeps him in this spot despite his declining defensive play. 

    According to 82games.com, the Matrix has allowed opposing small forwards and power forwards to post PERs of 15.9 and 15.3, respectively, against him during the 2012-13 season. 

    In the season prior to this one, Marion allowed the same positions to post 13.0 and 14.4. 

    Marion is still a great defensive player because of his knack for doing it all on the less glamorous end of the court, but he's no longer the game-changer he once was.

90. Carlos Boozer

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    Team: Chicago Bulls

    Position: PF

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.7 steals, 17.13 PER

     

    A solid rebounder on both ends of the court, Boozer is a terrific offensive player who doesn't offer much in the way of defense. This is especially true when the Bulls go small and Boozer has to guard the other team's center. 

    Chicago has allowed 6.5 more points per 100 possessions when this power forward is on the court, although that number is slightly misleading due to the defensive prowess of his backup, Taj Gibson (per NBA.com). 

    It doesn't get much better when you look at his offense, either, as the Bulls score five fewer points per 100 possessions when Boozer is playing. 

    Boozer still has some skills, but it's hard to imagine that Chicago can continue to give him more than 30 minutes per game from this point forward.

89. Ramon Sessions

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    Team: Charlotte Bobcats

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 steals, 18.74 PER

     

    Ramon Sessions might not be be the best point guard on the Charlotte Bobcats, but he's still been quite effective for the Eastern Conference bottom-feeders. 

    Escaping the brutal Los Angeles media has served him well. 

    Even though Sessions isn't the most efficient shooter in the world, he does minimize his turnovers with the best of them. Given how much he controls the ball when he's on the court, the lack of cough-ups is rather impressive. 

    He's also great at getting to the free-throw line and is shooting 85.5 percent on nearly six attempts per game.

    It's hard to believe, but Sessions is still only 26 years old. He's got a lot of solid basketball left in his NBA career.

88. Tiago Splitter

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.06 PER

     

    When the whole Josh Smith-to-the-Spurs rumors started flying around, this Atlanta Hawks fan got pretty excited. That's because Tiago Splitter would likely have to change uniform colors to make the deal work. 

    Trust me: If Tim Duncan didn't exist, you'd be hearing a lot more about this Brazilian big man. He's averaging 10.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in less than 24 minutes per contest. And he's doing so while shooting 59 percent from the field. 

    Splitter has been getting better and better as the season has progressed, and he's going to make quite the name for himself once he eventually lands a starting role. His physicality down low demands it.

87. DeMar DeRozan

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    Team: Toronto Raptors

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.0 steals, 14.40 PER

     

    DeMar DeRozan simply hasn't shown the level of improvement that we'd expect from a player with both his type of potential and four capital letters in his name.

    Sure, the 23-year-old is still capable of remarkable feats of athleticism that leave your jaw firmly affixed to the floor. For evidence, you need look no further than his Mozgoving of none other than Timofey Mozgov. 

    However, while he's got the hops and the lockdown defensive abilities, DeRozan is still a volume scorer who doesn't play efficiently. Remember, scoring 17.6 points per game is valuable, but only if you can do so without shooting your team out of game after game. 

    Until DeRozan develops his shot from the outside, he won't live up to that lofty ceiling. 

86. Jarrett Jack

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PG

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 steals, 17.42 PER

     

    Jarrett Jack was one of the most underrated players in the league when he was running the show for the New Orleans Hornets. Now, he's been replaced by a new underrated point guard in the bayou, and he's toiling away under an even thicker invisibility cloak. 

    Backing up Stephen Curry for the Golden State Warriors has allowed Jack to thrive, but it's also preventing him from receiving the sort of recognition he deserves for his play. 

    Despite the limited minutes, Jack is having one of the best seasons of his career. He's scoring while shooting a high percentage from the field—especially considering his proclivity for shooting three-balls—while putting up a fantastic assist-to-turnover ratio. 

    A lot of credit for the Dubs' season should go to this Sixth Man candidate. 

85. Eric Bledsoe

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.6 steals, 18.91 PER

     

    Is there any doubt that this kid is going to be a stud one day? 

    Eric Bledsoe has already proven to be quite the talent on the court, although he has a lot of developing left to do. In 12 games as a starter, the 23-year-old averaged 14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 2.5 steals per game. 

    With his physical skill set and tendency to play at full speed, Bledsoe is already a two-way force when he's on the court. He can create on offense and disrupt on defense, although he's going to have to maintain his efficiency the next time he's given a starting role. 

    Let's not make the mistake of comparing him to Chris Paul. The Los Angeles Clippers may have slipped when Paul was replaced by Bledsoe, but what did you expect? Bledsoe is good, but he's not an MVP-caliber floor general. 

    Yet. 

84. Chandler Parsons

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, 14.84 PER

     

    If it weren't for a disappointing December, Chandler Parsons' numbers would look a bit better. Take his February, for example. 

    In seven games, the second-year player averaged 16.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 0.4 blocks and 0.9 steals while shooting a sparkling 49.5 percent from the field. He's shifted his game more toward the outside, and he's finding more success, both for himself and when creating offense for his teammates. 

    Parsons is just one of those players who's good at everything. And yes, that's a bit of a backhanded compliment. 

    It's definitely complimentary because Parsons does contribute across the board. However, I am indeed saying that the former Florida Gator isn't really great at anything, either. 

83. Ray Allen

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 37

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 15.17 PER

     

    Ray Allen picked up his game against the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder right before the All-Star break, but he's still having a horrific February. 

    In seven games, Allen averaged only 6.0 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists on—wait for it—25 percent shooting from the field. He knocked down only 21.7 percent of his attempts from behind the three-point arc.

    For a glorified one-trick pony, that's not going to get it done. And based on his track record, we won't have to worry about Allen shooting such a low percentage for too much longer.

    Allen is still having a successful first campaign with the Miami Heat, but he's trending downward as his age continues to advance.  

82. JaVale McGee

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    Team: Denver Nuggets

    Position: C

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 2.0 blocks, 0.3 steals, 21.52 PER

     

    Ah, the enigma that is JaVale McGee. 

    Even though Pierre makes ridiculous plays on the court and often seems to have a ridiculously low basketball IQ, he also contributes positively more often than not for George Karl's Denver Nuggets. 

    Playing just 18.7 minutes per game during the pre-All-Star-break portion of the season, McGee averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds per contest in incredibly efficient fashion. He shot 56.5 percent from the field and knocked down his only three-point attempt of the season. 

    That's right. JaVale has a perfect 100 percent mark from downtown. 

    Is there anything this guy can't do?

81. Raymond Felton

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.3 steals, 15.27 PER

     

    Raymond Felton can be frustrating to watch when he goes into that annoying zone where he convinces himself that he's the best player on the court. When that happens, you can be sure to see Felton jacking up far too many shots, and his floaters from the paint probably aren't going to start falling. 

    However, when Felton plays within the flow of the New York Knicks offense, he's quite effective. 

    He's a great passer who takes the Knicks' philosophy of minimizing turnovers to heart. Plus, he enjoys getting out in transition and increasing the pace of the game, something that also meshes well with the surrounding pieces in the Big Apple. 

    It's no coincidence that Felton's return in late January coincided with a nice run from his team.

80. Nene Hilario

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    Team: Washington Wizards

    Position: C

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 18.68 PER

     

    Nene Hilario's return to his pre-injury level has been a process, but lately the results have been pretty solid. 

    During his last five games, the Brazilian big man averaged 15.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 63.6 percent from the field. Playing with John Wall has helped spread out the court and open things up for Nene to go to work down low. 

    Despite his recent hot shooting, Nene has still made more shots than he's missed during the 2012-13 campaign. Seeing as he's a career 55.6 percent shooter, that, more than anything else, shows just how much his foot was bothering him during his return to action.

79. Marcin Gortat

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    Team: Phoenix Suns

    Position: C

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, 0.7 steals, 15.88 PER

     

    Going into the 2012-13 season, there was a little bit of a question as to whether Marcin Gortat was a great big man or if he was a product of Steve Nash's prowess in pick-and-roll situations. 

    It appears we have our answer. And that should speak volumes about Nash's PnR greatness, since Goran Dragic is still a great point guard.

    Gortat just hasn't been able to reach the levels he ascended to during the 2011-12 season. He's still a solid offensive player and a decent defender in the post, but he's not a 15-and-10 threat without a Hall of Famer feeding him the ball when he rolls to the hoop. 

78. Jameer Nelson

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    Team: Orlando Magic

    Position: PG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.2 steals, 15.26 PER

     

    Jameer Nelson has struggled with his shot throughout his latest season with the Orlando Magic, but he's been one of the few players capable of generating offense for this lackluster squad. 

    Even if he's having difficulty calling his own number efficiently, he's been able to get other players going with his pick-and-roll capabilities, solid passing skills and leadership both on and off the court. 

    Nelson might be 31, but he's still a part of Orlando's plans moving forward because of what he brings to the table when playing and in the locker room on a nightly basis. 

77. Tony Allen

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: SG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.6 steals, 12.38 PER

     

    Tony Allen is one of those guys whose ridiculously difficult to rank. 

    On one hand, he offers little to nothing on the offensive end of the court. He's not exactly a great shooter, and his athleticism can only add so much when the Memphis Grizzlies are trying to score.

    But defense exists. And boy, is Allen a terrific defender out on the perimeter. 

    According to 82games.com, Allen is allowing opposing shooting guards to post a 13.1 PER against him. That doesn't even come close to representing his full value on that end of the court, though. 

    The 31-year-old also averages 1.6 steals per game, proving that he knows how to gamble effectively while shutting down his man. Memphis is just significantly better on defense when he's on the court, and the Grizzlies are already a standout defensive team. 

    NBA.com reveals that Memphis allows 100.4 points per 100 possessions when Allen is on the bench. That's already a solid mark, but when Allen is on the court, the number drops to 95.4. 

76. Tristan Thompson

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PF

    Age: 21

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, 16.19 PER

     

    Tristan Thompson has made quite the sizable jump during his second season at the professional level. 

    The big man has been a terror on the boards and is nearly averaging a double-double for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And ever since Anderson Varejao went down for the season, Thompson has emerged as even more of an offensive threat. 

    During January, the Texas product averaged 15.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. Of course, the field is rather limited for Thompson. 

    He isn't much of a threat from outside the paint, and his range will have to increase rather dramatically if he's going to move too much further up the rankings. Just take a look at this shot chart

75. Kawhi Leonard

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: SF

    Age: 21

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.8 steals, 15.92 PER

     

    Don't expect Kawhi Leonard to sit down here in the rankings for too much longer. He's too talented for that. 

    Leonard started to break out for the San Antonio Spurs right before the All-Star break, even knocking down the game-winning corner three off Tony Parker's feed to beat Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    In six February games, the former San Diego State standout averaged 15.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.8 steals per game. 

    He just does it all, and he'll continue to be a versatile contributor as long as Gregg Popovich is pacing the sidelines and helping him out.

74. Amar'e Stoudemire

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: PF

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.8 blocks, 2.4 steals, 22.14 PER

     

    I have to admit that I thought the New York Knicks were foolish to relegate Amar'e Stoudemire to the bench when he returned to health. Yes, the starting lineup was thriving as is, but I didn't think Stoudemire could accept a spot outside the starting five. 

    Well, STAT is thriving as a sixth man for the Knicks. 

    His shooting percentages are up, his per-minute numbers look terrific and his turnovers are down. Stoudemire hasn't even been playing bad defense, much to the shock of just about everyone.

    The only reason this goggled big man doesn't rank higher is because he's playing just 22.8 minutes per contest.  

73. Nikola Vucevic

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    Team: Orlando Magic

    Position: C

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.4 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, 17.93 PER

     

    If there's any consolation to losing Dwight Howard for the Orlando Magic, it's the fact that they got this guy in return. 

    I've been high on Nikola Vucevic ever since he declared for the 2011 NBA draft, and he has yet to prove me wrong. 

    The true seven-footer is an absolute monster on the glass, even recording 29 rebounds to go along with his 20 points in a Dec. 31 game against the Miami Heat. To be fair, the Heat aren't exactly good at rebounding, but still, 29 rebounds is special. 

    Vucevic is also a capable offensive player in the post. As he proved during the Rising Stars Challenge, he can even knock down three-pointers. Don't expect to see him doing much of that during the actual season, though. 

72. Klay Thompson

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 12.97 PER

     

    Klay Thompson has played a large part in the Golden State Warriors' defensive turnaround. The Dubs have been quite solid on that end of the court, and Thompson's play has been a major reason. 

    The swingman has looked quicker on his feet during the 2012-13 season, and that's resulted in effectiveness guarding both shooting guards and small forwards. According to 82games.com, he's held those positions to PERs of 13.6 and 13.7, respectively. 

    Thompson, though, hasn't been quite the shooter we've expected for him to be. Although he's averaging 16.4 points per game, he's shooting only 41.6 percent from the field, and his three-point prowess can only make up for so much. 

71. Larry Sanders

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    Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 3.2 blocks, 0.7 steals, 18.43 PER

     

    Larry Sanders has been one of this year's breakout players, coming out of nowhere to lead the league in blocked shots during the first half of the season by a rather sizable margin. 

    However, rejecting shot after shot doesn't necessarily mean that Sanders is a great man-to-man defender. He's a ridiculously solid help-defender (just look at his on-court/off-court splits for proof), but in one-on-one situations, he's struggled.

    Throughout the first half of his breakout campaign, the 24-year-old allowed opposing centers to post an 18.3 PER against him (per 82games.com). 

    In a lot of ways, he's like Serge Ibaka was in the past: a shot-blocking presence who has yet to develop into a true defensive monster. 

    Fear not, Sanders fans. He'll get there.

70. Omer Asik

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.5 steals, 15.10 PER

     

    At least Omer Asik is perfectly aware of the fact that he's not an offensive standout. He doesn't try to do too much on that end of the court, taking shots when he's capable of taking them and conserving his energy for defense. 

    That's where Asik excels. 

    Asik allowed opposing centers to post a 15.0 PER against him during the first half of the season (per 82games.com). According to NBA.com, he also helps the Houston Rockets allow 6.6 fewer points per 100 possessions when he's on the court. 

    The big man thrives in all defensive situations, not just man-to-man ones. 

69. J.J. Redick

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    Team: Orlando Magic

    Position: SG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 16.79 PER

     

    There's a reason that J.J. Redick has been mentioned as a trade asset so many times during the 2012-13 season, and it's not just because his contract expires at the end of the year. 

    Playing with the largest offensive burden of his professional career, Redick has morphed into so much more than a three-point marksman. He's quickly become the best player on the Orlando Magic. 

    Redick has kept up his prowess from the outside despite an increase in attempts, but he's also taken advantage of having the ball in his hands more often. His assist numbers have taken a massive spike. 

68. George Hill

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.9 steals, 16.38 PER

     

    When the Indiana Pacers handed over the starting point guard job to George Hill, they were making the right decision. 

    Hill and his gigantic shoulders have done a terrific job keeping the turnovers in control while becoming a multi-faceted threat on the offensive end of the court. He's been a consistent force throughout the 2012-13 season, and that's applied to his defense as well. 

    The floor general has been quite dangerous out on the perimeter for the Pacers' stellar defense. He might not rack up a ton of steals, but remember, defense isn't just about those counting stats. 

67. Kevin Martin

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.0 steals, 16.33 PER

     

    Kevin Martin has cooled off quite a bit after his torrid start to the season. Shifting from a featured role for the Houston Rockets to a sixth-man spot on the Oklahoma City Thunder offers him a much better shot at a title, but there's less of an opportunity for individual glory. 

    The shooting guard has continued to do his thing, just less often. He knocks down three-pointers at a tremendous rate, and he has a knack for drawing contact when he drives into the lane. 

    Other than that, though, K-Mart doesn't bring all that much to the table. His defense and facilitating skills aren't up to par compared to his undeniable strengths. 

66. J.J. Hickson

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.5 steals, 20.01 PER

     

    J.J. Hickson has quickly become one of the more underrated players in the league, and all it took was a fresh start. 

    He was given the opportunity to succeed with the Portland Trail Blazers, and it's an opportunity he's certainly capitalized on. 

    Remember last year when we were wondering which Hickson was for real? The choices were the Sacramento Kings version, who averaged 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, or the Blazers version, who averaged 15.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest. 

    Damian Lillard's presence in the lineup has taken away from some of Hickson's touches, but I think we have our answer. 

65. J.R. Smith

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.3 steals, 15.54 PER

     

    Making it back-to-back players with initials in the place of first names, J.R. Smith checks in here. 

    The über-athletic shooting guard with a flair for the dramatic has been a valuable contributor for the New York Knicks this season, catching fire at all the right times while helping out tremendously on the defensive end of the court. 

    While saying he was deserving of some All-Star hype was overselling Smith a little bit—he's not exactly the most efficient guy out there and can shoot his team out of a game just as often as into it—it's not praising him too much to say that he's been a terrific player. 

64. Jamal Crawford

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG/SG

    Age: 32

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 16.57 PER

     

    It might not be the most popular opinion to suggest that Jamal Crawford is better than J.R. Smith right now, but it is the correct one. 

    Smith brings more to the table with his presence on the boards and knack for hitting open teammates, but Crawford counters that simply by having his strengths be a bit stronger. 

    The two dynamic guards off their teams' respective benches are both averaging a little more than 16 points per game, but Crawford does so much more efficiently.

    He requires 1.3 fewer field-goal attempts to reach his average level of points per game—which is higher—and shoots a higher percentage from the field, from downtown and from the charity stripe. 

    Plus, Crawford has been a slightly more impressive defender for the Los Angeles Clippers than Smith has been for the New York Knicks.

63. Anthony Davis

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    Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 19

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.9 blocks, 1.2 steals, 20.55 PER

     

    With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist just missing the list due to his recent slump and Andre Drummond injured, Anthony Davis is one of only two members of the current rookie class to find himself squarely within the top 100. 

    The Unibrow has had his ups, downs and injuries during his first season out of Kentucky, but all in all, he's been rather successful. There has been no indication that the New Orleans Hornets selected the wrong guy at No. 1. 

    Davis has shown off a more impressive arsenal on offense than we expected, and he's blocked shots quite effectively. Once he adds strength to his frame, he'll be more of a point-stopper in one-on-one situations, but we knew development was necessary there. 

62. Joe Johnson

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: SG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.6 steals, 14.41 PER

     

    Joe Johnson has been better since the calendars flipped over to 2013, but he still hasn't been all that great in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets. 

    Yes, he's scored a lot of points, broken Paul Pierce's ankles and hit some game-winners, but Johnson clearly hasn't played at the All-Star level we came to expect when he was balling for the Atlanta Hawks. 

    Johnson has continued to be a stellar defender in one-on-one situations for the Nets, but P.J. Carlesimo needs to keep him matched up against shooting guards in order to maximize his defensive talents. 

61. Jose Calderon

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    Team: Detroit Pistons

    Position: PG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, 19.96 PER

     

    The Detroit Pistons got a nice point guard for themselves when they decided to help facilitate the trade that sent Rudy Gay north of the border to the Toronto Raptors. 

    Jose Calderon might not get a lot of attention from the media, but he can flat-out pass the ball. His court vision is topped by only a handful of players around the league, and Calderon has the physical ability to make the plays that only he can see. 

    No one has really mentioned this either, but there's an outside shot that Calderon could make the 50/40/90 club as well. Going into the All-Star break, the 31-year-old floor general was shooting 48.4 percent from the field, 44.6 percent from downtown and 90.4 percent from the charity stripe. 

    In January, Calderon knocked down 52.6 percent of his attempts from the floor, and he followed that up by hitting 56.9 percent of them in February. 

    There really is a chance. 

60. Eric Gordon

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    Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Position: SG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.1 steals, 15.00 PER

     

    According to his PER, Eric Gordon has been an exactly league-average player for the New Orleans Hornets. 

    Fear not, though, as the 24-year-old is just playing himself back into shape after missing the majority of the first half with his troublesome knee injuries. Gordon hasn't been able to find his shot yet, but he's had a positive impact on his team. 

    In the 18 games that the young shooting guard has played, New Orleans is 10-8. Without him, the soon-to-be Pelicans have only mustered up a 9-26 record. 

59. Manu Ginobili

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: SG

    Age: 35

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.4 steals, 21.30 PER

     

    Manu Ginobili has been undeniably effective when on the court for the San Antonio Spurs, but he's missed 13 games and is playing only 23.3 minutes per contest when he makes it off the bench. 

    Those 35 years under his belt are really starting to catch up to the Argentine, who is ceding minutes to some of the younger players on Gregg Popovich's squad. 

    With his creativity and vision, though, Ginobili is still contributing positively, earning a 21.30 PER during the first half of the season. His passing in particular has been as impressive as ever. 

    Ginobili is an incredible talent, but he just doesn't play enough to merit a better spot in the rankings. 

58. Steve Nash

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: PG

    Age: 39

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 16.05 PER

     

    Is there anybody out there who doesn't like Steve Nash? Seriously, the guy can do no wrong in most people's books. 

    That's why it pains me to have the Canadian floor general outside the top 50, even though I can't justify having him any higher. Nash just hasn't found his groove with the Los Angeles Lakers yet. 

    He missed a lot of time after breaking his leg against the Portland Trail Blazers early in the season, and he's been relegated to spot-up-shooting duties lately as Kobe Bryant has taken over as the primary facilitator. 

    Still, with that ridiculous court vision and uncanny shooting ability from the perimeter and on his patented one-legged floaters, he's still a positive contributor in purple and gold.

57. Kyle Lowry

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    Team: Toronto Raptors

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, 20.07 PER

     

    If Kyle Lowry's fantastic start to the 2012-13 campaign, his first with the Toronto Raptors, seemed like a long time ago, it's because it was. So if you don't remember, let me fill you in. 

    During his first three games in a Raptors uniform, Lowry averaged 23.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.3 blocks and 3.7 steals per game on 23-of-40 shooting from the field. Those are just video-game numbers, obviously unsustainable over the course of the season. 

    Since that red-hot start, Lowry has been injured, lost his job for a while to Jose Calderon and then reclaimed his starting role. 

    Whenever the 26-year-old floor general has been on the court, though, he's contributed across the board and helped the Raptors stay afloat. 

56. O.J. Mayo

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    Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Position: SG

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 16.38 PER

     

    After shooting well over 50 percent from downtown during the first few months of the 2012-13 season, O.J. Mayo has seriously regressed to the mean. Going into the All-Star break, the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks had "only" made 41.3 percent of his three-point attempts. 

    The beginning of his season was essentially the equivalent of a baseball player putting up a .450 BABIP and trying to claim that his batting average was here to stay. 

    Mmhm. Sure. 

    Don't get me wrong, though, as Mayo has still been a fantastic offensive contributor for the Mavs and should absolutely be a part of Mark Cuban's plans going forward. 

55. Goran Dragic

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    Team: Phoenix Suns

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 16.97 PER

     

    If the Phoenix Suns are looking to rebuild—which they certainly should be doing at this point—Goran Dragic should certainly be in the long-term plans. 

    He's proven time and time again that he's worth building around in the desert. 

    Don't make the mistake of comparing Dragic to some legendary point guard named Steve Nash. He might not be at that same level, but he's only 26 years old and is still learning how to function as a starter. 

    Plus, he actually plays solid defense. 

54. Tyreke Evans

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    Team: Sacramento Kings

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, 18.20 PER

     

    The fact that Tyreke Evans has produced a rather impressive statistical season while in a toxic environment is rather impressive. 

    Despite Evans' individual prowess, the Sacramento Kings backcourt is a mess, with far more players who should be playing than there are available spots.

    But thanks to this 23-year-old's ability to line up at point guard, shooting guard or small forward and contribute positively, things have worked out for him. 

    Evans still doesn't have much of a shot from the outside, but his slashing abilities are nearly unmatched across the Association. He can get to the rim and finish with ease, and that's something he's been asked to do a lot of in Sacramento. 

53. Rudy Gay

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    Team: Toronto Raptors

    Position: SF

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.5 steals, 14.77 PER

     

    Rudy Gay is a force to be reckoned with when he's playing defense, and he has a knack for knocking down big shots in tight situations, but he's become pretty overrated. Why do you think a John Hollinger-led front office for the Memphis Grizzlies decided to trade him?

    The small forward obviously brings a lot to the table, but he's eventually going to start having to hit shots from the outside. 

    On the season, Gay is shooting only 40.4 percent from the field, and the mark goes down even further when you look at his three-point shooting. From downtown, the former Grizzly and current member of the Toronto Raptors has knocked down 28.8 percent of his attempts. 

52. Dirk Nowitzki

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    Team: Dallas Mavericks

    Position: PF

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.5 steals, 16.89 PER

     

    Dirk Nowitzki started to find his shooting stroke before the All-Star break, but he's still struggled to regain his pre-injury form during the 2012-13 campaign. In the 23 games since he returned from the first surgery of his incredible career, Dirk has shot only 42.3 percent from the field. 

    As he regains his old form, Dirk will move up these ranking rather dramatically. Even at 34 years old, he absolutely has the talent of a top-20 player. 

    He just hasn't shown it yet. 

51. Nikola Pekovic

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    Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.6 steals, 19.23 PER

     

    Without Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko in the lineup, Nikola Pekovic has unquestionably been the best player on the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

    It seems like every member of the Wolves has succumbed to the pesky injury imp at some point this season, and Pek has been no exception. When he's on the court, though, the bruising center has been spectacular. 

    His help defense could still use a bit of work and his physical play sometimes leads to early foul trouble, but the big man has been an efficient source of offense and a terror on the glass.

    Once his passing poses more of a threat to the opposition, he'll be even more efficient in the scoring column. 

50. Jeff Teague

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.5 steals, 16.35 PER

     

    Get ready for an absolute barrage of guards to kickstart the top 50, as eight of the next 10 players line up in their team's backcourt. Jeff Teague is one of seven point guards in that eight-player group as well. 

    Ever since Lou Williams went down with a torn ACL, Teague has been nothing short of sensational. From Jan. 19 until the All-Star break, the talented Wake Forest product averaged 17.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game. 

    Even more impressively, Teague maintained his efficiency and peskiness on defense despite the increased role. Since the Lou injury, he's made 50 percent of his shots from the field, knocked down 42.5 percent of his triples and hit 89.1 percent of his freebies. 

49. Damian Lillard

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.0 steals, 16.05 PER

     

    For those of you surprised to see Damian Lillard so soon, just know that this depressed spot in the rankings is due almost primarily to his defensive shortcomings.

    The Rookie of the Year front-runner is an offensive stud with his well-developed game, and he's helped the Portland Trail Blazers quite a bit on that end of the court. 

    However, it's another story on defense. 

    According to NBA.com, the Blazers have allowed 103.5 points per 100 possessions when Lillard is on the bench. When he plays, though, that number rises to 106. Simply put, that's not very good. 

    When you consider the fact that Portland's bench is one of the worst in the Association, it looks even worse. 

    Lillard can hold his own in isolation settings, but he struggles navigating pick-and-roll sets and won't be able to rise higher in the rankings until he acclimates defensively to the professional game. 

48. Greivis Vasquez

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    Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Position: PG

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.8 steals, 16.92 PER

     

    It seems like the New Orleans Hornets are destined to always have an underrated point guard running the show in the bayou. And no, I'm not talking about Austin Rivers. 

    Greivis Vasquez has been one of the best floor generals in the Association during the 2012-13 season, even if his level of recognition lags well behind his level of play. He has a phenomenal outside shot and finds teammates with ease. 

    The Maryland product might not have much presence on defense, particularly when he's asked to guard quicker guards, but he more than makes up for it with his versatile offensive contributions. Additionally, his size enables him to help the Hornets tremendously on the glass. 

47. Monta Ellis

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    Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Position: SG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.9 steals, 15.26 PER

     

    Let's just get Monta Ellis' flaws out of the way. He's an inefficient shooter—I'm trying to be nice—and doesn't offer much in the way of defense. Don't confuse lofty steals numbers for good defense, because Ellis gambles for those steals far too often. 

    That said, he has quite a few strengths as well. Ellis can score from anywhere on the court and is able to create looks for both himself and his teammates time and time again. 

    Ideally, his perfect role would involve coming off the bench as a featured sixth man rather than starting. Think about what he can do in a 2011-12 James Harden role. 

    Playing alongside Brandon Jennings on the Milwaukee Bucks doesn't really allow him to play to his strengths. 

46. Mike Conley

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: PG

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.3 blocks, 2.2 steals, 17.10 PER

     

    Mike Conley hasn't gotten enough credit for the job he's done with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

    His defense is excellent unless he's posted up by a bigger guard, and he's fantastic when it comes to jumping passing lanes and coming out of nowhere to swipe the ball away from an unsuspecting offensive player. Those 2.2 steals per game are no fluke. 

    On offense, Conley is a terrific leader. He might not be the greatest shooter, but he plays to his strengths and involves the right player at the right time. Basically, he's exactly the kind of player I enjoy watching, as you might have guessed by now.

45. Andre Iguodala

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    Team: Denver Nuggets

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 14.80 PER

     

    Andre Iguodala has started to find his shot as the season has progressed, but he's still only hitting an almost career-low 44.6 percent from the field during his first season spent a mile above sea level. Perhaps a brutal stretch of road games to start the year affected him quite a bit. 

    Even when Iggy's shot isn't falling, though, he still manages to contribute positively for the Denver Nuggets. 

    He's a great passer for his size, crashes the boards effectively and plays some of the best perimeter defense in the league. When guarding shooting guards, Iggy has held them to just a 12.9 PER. The story is similar against small forwards, as he's kept them to a PER of only 12.0 (per 82games.com). 

44. Ty Lawson

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    Team: Denver Nuggets

    Position: PG

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 steals, 16.82 PER

     

    Ty Lawson didn't lose his speed going into the 2012-13 campaign, but it did take him a while to get warmed up. 

    I was one of the many who predicted big things from this North Carolina product, expecting him to assert himself as one of the elite players in this league. Quite frankly, I thought he'd be in the top 20 at this point. 

    Well, his cold start to the year prevented that from happening, but Lawson is turning it up. Over the five games leading into the All-Star break, the speedy floor general averaged 22.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field, 58.8 percent from downtown and 76 percent from the charity stripe.

    He's gotten better every month of the season. 

43. Ryan Anderson

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    Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Position: PF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.5 steals, 19.61 PER

     

    Ryan Anderson is good at two things: offensive rebounding and three-point shooting.

    Seriously. That's about it. 

    Fortunately for the sharpshooting power forward who was traded to the New Orleans Hornets before the start of the 2012-13 season, he's really good at those two things. 

    Anderson is averaging 7.5 attempts from downtown per game, which makes his 40.2 percent shooting from behind the three-point arc all the more impressive. Once Eric Gordon re-establishes himself as one of the league's better scorers, Anderson will look even better. 

    And he's already looking pretty darn good. 

42. John Wall

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    Team: Washington Wizards

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.0 steals, 17.55 PER

     

    John Wall's numbers might not be overwhelmingly impressive, but the impact he's had on the Washington Wizards is palpable. 

    For the first time in a while, there's actually a little bit of hope in the nation's capital. 

    The former No. 1 pick's sheer presence on the court opens up things for his teammates. His ability to drive has to be respected, and Wall possesses the passing ability to hit those open jump-shooters while charging toward the rim. Just imagine what will happen when he develops an outside shot. 

    Washington is 10-8 since he returned. For the Wizards, that's pretty much a miracle. 

41. Brandon Jennings

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    Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Position: PG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.9 steals, 16.62 PER

     

    For all those people who are talking about this being a "breakout year" for Brandon Jennings, sorry, but what? 

    His PER has gone down from 18.46 to 16.62. He's averaging fewer points and shooting less efficiently from the field. And while his assist numbers are up, so too are his turnovers. 

    Don't get me wrong, though. 

    Jennings is still a great talent at point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks, even if he hasn't taken that next step. That much should be clear from the fact that he checks in just outside the top 40 players in the league. 

40. Kenneth Faried

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    Team: Denver Nuggets

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.1 steals, 18.96 PER

     

    Kenneth Faried's performance in the Rising Stars Challenge essentially summed up what makes him a special player. From the moment he steps onto the court until the sound of the final buzzer, Faried is going to play as hard as he can. 

    Even in a relatively meaningless game, Faried is going to contest your layup. He just can't help himself. 

    In a lot of ways, Kenneth Faried just can't turn off Kenneth Faried. 

39. Kemba Walker

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    Team: Charlotte Bobcats

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.9 steals, 18.77 PER

     

    Kemba Walker slumped going into the All-Star break, and he's still in the top 40. At one point, he was actually fighting for a spot in my top 20 power rankings of the league's stars. 

    The dynamic second-year point guard has taken a massive step forward. 

    As a rookie, Walker couldn't hit anything at all. At times it seemed like he had trouble even connecting with the rim, much less actually making the shot he was attempting. 

    However, during his second year after winning a championship with Connecticut, Walker's shot has been much more consistent. That, combined with his leadership, facilitating skills and knack for minimizing turnovers, has produced one of the few bright spots for the Charlotte Bobcats. 

38. Luol Deng

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    Team: Chicago Bulls

    Position: SF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.0 steals, 14.92 PER

     

    The Chicago Bulls haven't slipped too much while Derrick Rose has rehabbed his torn ACL, and a lot of the credit for that should go to Luol Deng. 

    Tom Thibodeau loves playing his stars to the brink of exhaustion, and Deng has shown no signs of slowing down despite playing just under 40 minutes per game. 

    The small forward is a versatile offensive player, but his true talent lies on the defensive end of the court. Deng has played 64 percent of Chicago's available minutes at small forward, and he's held opposing players at that position to a 10.8 PER (per 82games.com). 

37. Deron Williams

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 17.91 PER

     

    Deron Williams looked nothing like an elite point guard under Avery Johnson, which played a major part in the aforementioned coach's firing. Since P.J. Carlesimo took over, D-Will has looked a bit more like the D-Will of old. 

    Still, though, Williams hasn't been the player he used to be.

    We expect this guy to be putting up 20 points and 10 assists on a nightly basis, and his contract demands it as well. That hasn't been the case, even if Williams has still been quite effective for the Brooklyn Nets.  

36. Serge Ibaka

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 2.9 blocks, 0.3 steals, 18.47 PER

     

    One of the hidden benefits to trading away James Harden was realizing that Serge Ibaka could contribute significantly more on offense for the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

    The big man has a fantastic mid-range jumper, and he's used it often en route to averaging 13.4 points per game on 55.3 percent shooting from the field.

    He's achieving the rare feat of averaging both his level of volume and his efficiency, which is a big reason OKC has been able to stay near the top of the Western Conference. 

    And of course, Ibaka is still swatting away shots like he has something against basketballs. Larry Sanders might be beating him in blocks per game, but Ibaka's numbers are still impressive. Plus, he's improving as an overall defender. 

35. Danilo Gallinari

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    Team: Denver Nuggets

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.8 steals, 17.29 PER

     

    Danilo Gallinari's excellence at small forward for the Denver Nuggets is going largely unnoticed. 

    While leading the team in scoring and catching fire from behind the three-point arc, Gallo has also asserted himself as one of the better perimeter defenders that the league has to offer. According to 82games.com, the Italian import has held opposing small forwards to a 13.3 PER thus far. 

    Although he does shoot a low percentage from the field, the three-point shooting from this 24-year-old makes up for it. He knocks down 37.2 percent of his three-balls, but he also takes 5.4 attempts per game from downtown. 

    Gallinari is going to be a quality contributor in this league for a long time.

34. Nicolas Batum

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.3 steals, 16.45 PER

     

    Nicolas Batum has cooled off after his torrid start to the season, but he's still playing fantastic, well-rounded basketball each time he steps onto the court. 

    Plus, he's achieved a few statistical oddities during the first half of the 2012-13 campaign:

    In a 95-94 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Dec. 16, the versatile small forward became the latest player to record the elusive five-by-five, dropping 11 points, five rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and five blocks. Damian Lillard's final shot may have won the game for the Portland Trail Blazers, but it was Batum who made history. 

    The first player in Blazers history to go five-by-five, Batum became the first man to do so regardless of team since Andrei Kirilenko joined the club for the third time in 2006. 

    But he wasn't done making his mark. 

    With 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 21, Batum recorded his first career triple-double. Notably, it was the third ever by a Portland player at the Rose Garden, even if it wasn't enough to overcome Jordan Crawford's dagger at the end of the game. 

    Trust me when I say that Batum isn't done putting up those type of numbers.

33. Kevin Garnett

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.61 PER

     

    We had a nice run of point guards earlier in the rankings, but now it's time for some big men. Starting with Kevin Garnett, 13 of the next 14 players will be either power forwards or centers. 

    The Big Ticket doesn't make people flock to the Boston Garden in droves like he used to back with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he's still playing basketball at a remarkably high level. 

    Garnett's rebounding numbers are down as he strays further from the basket, but his mid-range jumper is as money as it gets, and he still plays terrific defense with his trademark intensity. 

    Plus, he's 36 years old. What more could you want from this guy?

32. Paul Millsap

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    Team: Utah Jazz

    Position: PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.3 steals, 20.66 PER

     

    Paul Millsap is the highest ranked player that the average NBA fan might not know a lot about. Even though the Utah Jazz are a solid team and Millsap is having a great season, he just doesn't get much media exposure. 

    The undersized power forward doesn't care, though. He still plays well each time he's out on the court. 

    Millsap is a great rebounder for his size and never stops hustling on the court. Just like the number of stocks (steals plus blocks) that he records despite his 6'8" frame that isn't exactly suited for either of those statistics. 

    It's a shame that few get a chance to see him play.

31. Josh Smith

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.2 steals, 17.92 PER

     

    If Josh Smith would stop shooting long two-pointers with alarming frequency, two things would happen. 

    First, he'd be making a push for a top-10 spot while helping the Atlanta Hawks to a better record. 

    Second, I'd have much lower blood pressure while watching the Hawks play. 

    As it stands, Smoove is a ridiculous basketball talent capable of making an impact in whatever way he deems fit. Unfortunately, he also has a negative basketball IQ, so that decision isn't always the right one. 

30. David West

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: PF

    Age: 32

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.97 PER

     

    David West ushers in the next tier of players in these rankings, as we've now moved into the true studs of the top 100. And yes, the league is deep enough to have 30 of them. 

    The Indiana Pacers power forward is living up to his free-agency contract from the summer of 2011, playing fantastic defense—just like everyone else on the team—and contributing quite a bit on offense. A lot of the time, the play actually flows through West in the post. 

    He's become a vital part of Indiana's offense whenever he's on the court, and he hasn't exactly been letting his team down. While the Pacers have allowed only 0.1 points fewer per 100 possessions when West is on the court, the offense has spiked from 92.5 to 103.4 (per NBA.com). 

29. Paul Pierce

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Position: SF

    Age: 35

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 18.28 PER

     

    We all know how good Paul Pierce is on offense at this point. Even though he slumped his way into the All-Star break, the Truth of the matter is that Pierce still excels shooting the ball, especially given the offensive burden he's forced to carry without Rajon Rondo in the lineup. 

    Now, could someone please explain to me why he never gets enough credit for his defensive play? 

    Pierce has always been a solid perimeter defender, and this hasn't changed despite his advancing age. During the 2012-13 season, Pierce has held opposing power forwards to a 12.8 PER, according to 82games.com

28. Greg Monroe

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    Team: Detroit Pistons

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.3 steals, 19.82 PER

     

    I know it's hard to make yourself watch a Detroit Pistons game, but try to do it just to catch Greg Monroe doing his thing. He's enthralling to watch if you appreciate the fundamentals of the game. 

    Much like any other standout big man from Georgetown, Monroe excels passing the rock. Detroit can run a lot of offense through its center because of the ease with which he hits spot-up shooters and cutters crashing toward the rim, and this is reflected in his 3.2 assists per game. 

    Monroe's defense has also been trending upward as he continues to gain experience. Once he starts becoming more of an impact player on that end of the court, he and Andre Drummond are going to make one hell of a big-man combo. 

27. Al Jefferson

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    Team: Utah Jazz

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 21.14 PER

     

    Speaking of great fundamentals, now we come to one of the great back-to-the-basket players left in the Association. 

    The master of the left block, Al Jefferson loves embarrassing defenders with his footwork, going up and under or just flat-out around the people trying to slow him down. His game might not be glamorous, but it's certainly effective. 

    Again, Jefferson is one of those players who you can't fully appreciate until you tune into a Utah Jazz broadcast and focus your attention on him throughout the game.

26. Al Horford

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 blocks, 0.9 steals, 18.98 PER

     

    Making it back-to-back players named "Al" who get by with more fundamentals than flash and pizazz, Al Horford checks in just outside the top 25. 

    Horford is the rock that the Atlanta Hawks are built around on both ends of the court. 

    He can contribute from all areas of the court on offense, knocking down mid-range jumpers despite his unorthodox form and dominating the opposition in the paint. On defense, the story is similar. 

    Horford is terrific defending pick-and-rolls, and his man-to-man defense down on the blocks is undeniably solid. 

    There's a reason that Atlanta's point differential per 100 possessions is 8.4 points better when Horford is on the court rather than the bench (per NBA.com). 

25. DeMarcus Cousins

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    Team: Sacramento Kings

    Position: C

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.6 steals, 20.51 PER

     

    DeMarcus Cousins might be a head case at times, but boy is he a talent. If his noggin stays screwed on straight, he's going to completely dominate for years. 

    Boogie has all the physical talents you could ask for, and he knows it. Even though Cousins is only 22 years old and in just his third season at the professional level, he often looks like a man among boys. 

    Going into the All-Star break—something he'll be participating in sooner rather than later—Cousins enjoyed a five-game stretch in which he shot 56.4 percent from the field. The biggest knock on the former Kentucky Wildcat is usually his inefficiency from the field, so if that changes, look out.

24. Zach Randolph

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: PF

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.9 steals, 18.33 PER

     

    Zach Randolph absolutely loves contact. At least, I have to assume that he does based on the way he plays basketball. 

    If Z-Bo's body isn't banging up against another big guy, he loses some of his powers. But if there's physical contact, you can be sure that the power forward is going to make an impact. 

    The 31-year-old has become one of the NBA's premier double-double threats, and he's an absolute monster on the glass.

    Even after slowing down from his ridiculous pace on the boards to start the year, Randolph is still averaging 11.5 rebounds per game and has the seventh-best total rebounding percentage in the league. 

    He excels in particular at grabbing shots after he or one of his teammates miss an attempt, coming in at No. 5 in offensive rebounding percentage. Only Andre Drummond, Roy Hibbert, Tyson Chandler and Reggie Evans have been better, according to Basketball-Reference.com. 

23. Chris Bosh

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.9 steals, 21.40 PER

     

    When you look at Chris Bosh's per-game stats, keep in mind that he's accumulated them while serving as a third option for the Miami Heat. They could be so much better if he were in more of a featured role. 

    However, Bosh has accepted his role and thrived in it. 

    Before the 2012-13 season, the big man's career high in field-goal percentage came back in 2009-10 when he knocked down 51.8 percent of his shots for the Toronto Raptors. This season, though, that number has skyrocketed to 55.5 percent. 

    Bosh still isn't an outstanding defender, and he needs to spend more time around the rim so that he can help solve the Heat's rebounding woes, but his offensive contributions have just been fantastic. 

22. Dwight Howard

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.3 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.20 PER

     

    When you scratch your head and try to figure out how in the world Dwight Howard can come in at No. 22, keep in mind that we aren't talking about a fully healthy version of Superman here.

    Instead, we're dealing with a clearly injured version who has to wear a specialized T-shirt just to keep his labrum from bothering him too much. 

    A healthy Howard is a dominant defender, capable of pulling down 15 rebounds in a game while completely neutralizing the other team's interior offense. 

    An injured Howard plays defense with his hands instead of his feet and does things like letting Jermaine O'Neal put up 12 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and five blocks in only 27 minutes. He might also manage to look less impressive than DeAndre Jordan on both ends of the court. 

    So, which Howard are we dealing with? I'll give you a hint: Both of the aforementioned things actually happened in the two games just prior to the All-Star break.

    Howard is still a tremendous glass-cleaner who can score efficiently and play great defense, but so are a lot of other players in this tier of the rankings. When healthy, he'll start to challenge for the No. 3 spot he held down before the injury, but not yet. 

21. Joakim Noah

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    Team: Chicago Bulls

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals, 17.02 PER

     

    I'm about as big a stat guy as you'll find, but even I am more than ready to admit that Joakim Noah's value to the Chicago Bulls can't be quantified. His intensity, versatility and willingness to step into any role that Tom Thibodeau asks him to fill make him a crucial part of the squad. 

    Noah might not be a great scorer, but he's an improving one. Chicago has started to run some of the offense through Noah because of his deft passing touch and knack for making the right decision. 

    If you'd read that previous sentence to someone when Noah was just coming out of Florida, there's a solid chance they'd have laughed in your face. Now, Noah can do all of the laughing. 

    And, of course, I haven't even mentioned his defense. If the floppy-haired center doesn't earn serious consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, something is wrong with our voting process. 

20. Tyson Chandler

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: C

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.6 steals, 20.43 PER

     

    Speaking of great defenders, let's move on to Tyson Chandler to kick of the top 20. 

    Chandler is the absolute anchor of the New York Knicks' middle-of-the-pack defense. The Knicks have allowed 106.1 points per 100 possessions, which ties them with the Detroit Pistons for the 15th-best mark in the league. Or 15th-worst, depending on whether you're a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person. 

    The best thing about Chandler's offense is that he knows exactly what he's capable of. He often puts up some of the most efficient numbers in the league because he always plays to his strengths. 

    If he's not throwing down an alley-oop or a put-back dunk, he's waiting to do it. 

19. Stephen Curry

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 19.84 PER

     

    Stephen Curry may not have won the Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend, but he's still one of the absolute best marksmen that the Association has to offer. And I'm not just talking about right now. 

    I mean ever. 

    Curry's level of efficiency and volume from the outside is virtually unmatched in the league's history. It shouldn't be possible to shoot 6.9 times per game from behind the three-point arc and still hit 44.7 percent of your attempts, but Curry is proving that it is. 

    And the scary part is that he does more than just shoot triples. His creativity and dribbling skills allow him to facilitate for his talented teammates as well, and his defensive play is steadily improving under Mark Jackson's tutelage. 

18. David Lee

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 19.42 PER 

     

    David Lee narrowly edges out his teammate here despite his lack of presence on defense. 

    The Golden State Warriors' first All-Star in what seems like forever is one of the NBA's top 20-10 candidates thanks to his tendency to attack the glass and score in a variety of ways. Averaging nearly four assists per game is another facet to his game.

    Quite frankly, it's hard to believe he can put up those video-game numbers even when you watch him play. But put up those numbers he does. 

17. Brook Lopez

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 2.2 blocks, 0.5 steals, 24.88 PER

     

    Brook Lopez isn't going to get a lot of consideration for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award, but he should. 

    I'm not going to focus on Lopez's offense here, because we already know how good he is at putting the ball in the basket. You can read about that almost anywhere. And if you don't believe what you read, just go watch the Brooklyn Nets play. 

    Instead, let's hone in on his defense and rebounding, the two areas that the Stanford product has struggled in throughout his professional career. 

    According to 82games.com, Lopez has held opposing centers to a PER of 16.7. Although that's by no means an elite mark, it's better than the 26.1 he allowed the year before—albeit in limited action—or the 17.1 from 2010-11. 

    NBA.com tells a similar story, as the Nets have actually allowed two points fewer per 100 possessions when Lopez is on the court. 

    As for the rebounding, Lopez's 14.5 total rebounding percentage is a marked improvement from the putrid marks he's put up over the last few seasons. 

16. LaMarcus Aldridge

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.26 PER

     

    Now that LaMarcus Aldridge is playing respectable defense whether he lines up against power forwards or centers, he's truly become an elite power forward.

    With Kevin Love on the sidelines and Dirk Nowitzki attempting to regain his old form, he's become the second-best 4 in the league. 

    Aldridge may have ramped up his defensive efforts, but there's still no denying that the big man is an offensively oriented player. He plays a lot like Chris Bosh did in his younger days. 

    If you look at his shot chart from the 2012-13 season, you'll see how truly dominant he's become with his mid-range jumper. 

15. Jrue Holiday

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    Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.5 steals, 18.30 PER

     

    Well, it didn't take too long for Jrue Holiday to become elite. 

    The Philadelphia 76ers have relied almost completely on the 22-year-old floor general when it comes to generating offense, and he hasn't let them down. Those 19 points and 8.9 assists per game don't look too shabby, especially when you consider the amount of defensive attention he receives. 

    Don't fool yourselves into thinking that Holiday is going to slow down any time soon. He's still getting better, and the sky is the limit when he's joined by a legitimate post presence. 

    I'm looking at you, Andrew Bynum.

14. Marc Gasol

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.0 steals, 19.07 PER

     

    Over the last few months, I've had Marc Gasol rather high up in my player power rankings for Bleacher Report. Obviously that hasn't changed now that the "power" part is no longer present. 

    His lofty ranking has been criticized a few times, but I'm remaining bullish on the man who's played like the second-best center in the league during the 2012-13 season—and yes, the guy checking in above Gasol will go down in history as a power forward, but he's played center for his team this year. 

    Gasol's value is just off the charts for the Memphis Grizzlies. He can score when they need him to, his passing skills allow them to run offense through the blocks and he's developed into a defensive stud in the middle of the paint. 

    The younger of the Gasol brothers is another guy who needs to generate some serious DPOY buzz. 

    At this point, I'd advise you to open up this piece by Grantland's Jordan Conn in a separate tab or window, continue on through the rankings and then check back on Conn's thoughts after you finish. 

13. Paul George

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.39 PER

     

    Now we come to this year's highest riser: Paul George. 

    I'm not talking about George's hops, impressive as they may be, but rather the fact that he's gone from breakout candidate to legitimate top-10 candidate in only half a season for the Indiana Pacers. 

    The All-Star weekend revealed just about the only hole in George's game. He isn't very good in Three-Point Contests, although he's still a threat from the perimeter during in-game situations. 

    Whether we're talking about his potent perimeter defense or the offensive skill set that allows him to either spot up or run the show with the ball in his hands, George will leave you impressed. 

    This is the first time we've seen George participate in the All-Star Game, but something tells me it won't be the last. 

12. Blake Griffin

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 23.50 PER

     

    All Blake Griffin does is du...

    All right, fine, I couldn't keep a straight face while typing that sentence, and it amazes me that some people still can. To those people: Seriously, have you bothered to watch the Los Angeles Clippers this season? If not, you should, because they're kind of fun. 

    Griffin's game continues to evolve as his mid-range jumper improves, his arsenal of post moves grows by the day and his defense becomes better and better. Those per-game stats are impressive already, but they're more outstanding when you realize he's only playing 32.5 minutes per game. 

    And that relative lack of playing time isn't due to Griffin's skills, but rather the prowess of the Clippers' unfairly deep bench. 

11. Kyrie Irving

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PG

    Age: 20

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.7 steals, 22.39 PER

     

    If I've learned anything from the past two All-Star weekends, it's not to bet against Kyrie Irving. He will make you regret it. 

    First, Irving torched the field en route to winning MVP at the 2012 Rising Stars Challenge, going 8-of-8 from three-point land. This year, he embarrassed Brandon Knight a few times before taking home the Three-Point Contest trophy by defeating Matt Bonner in the final round. 

    I'm writing this before he actually plays against the other All-Stars, so I'm sure there's going to be at least one memorable moment. 

    With apologies to Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford and the other great dribblers out there, this 20-year-old already has the best handles in the league. He's a near lock to become one of the top five players in the world in the near future, and there might be an MVP or championship in that future as well. 

    The player he's become already is one that's absolutely breathtaking to watch.

10. Tim Duncan

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.99 PER

     

    Please don't think of Tim Duncan's inclusion in the top 10 as a legacy vote. That would be selling this center—yes, I said it—far shorter than his play has merited. 

    When healthy and on the court, Duncan has been absolutely sensational. While that condition hasn't been met as often as San Antonio Spurs fans would like, it's still happened with relative frequency. 

    The moral of Duncan's 2012-13 campaign is twofold. One, Father Time does't always have a negative impact on the careers of legends. Two, Tim Duncan is not human. 

    It's just ridiculous that a 36-year-old is playing at this level. He's put up some vintage performances while posting the fourth-highest PER in the league. 

    Whether we're talking about defense, leadership or offense, Duncan is still getting it done out there. 

9. Russell Westbrook

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.02 PER

     

    Russell Westbrook makes dumb decisions. There's no doubt about that, given his turnover numbers and his frustrating tendency to call his own number in bad situations. 

    However, when you have a player as talented as Westbrook, sometimes you have to learn to take the good with the bad. It would be better if you didn't have to (duh), but it's worth doing when you can have the league's third-best point guard on your side. 

    And again, I'm not complaining about Westbrook keeping the ball from Kevin Durant until his teammates do. 

    The numbers don't lie, either. NBA.com's stat pages reveal that the Oklahoma City Thunder score 111.7 points per 100 possessions when Westbrook is on the court and 105.3 when he's getting a rest. That's a pretty sizable difference. 

8. Dwyane Wade

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 steals, 23.83 PER

     

    So, ummm, when exactly did that decline happen for Dwyane Wade? I can't really find any evidence that one took place. 

    Wade's role might have declined, but not his level of play. 

    The shooting guard is shooting a career-best 50.5 percent from the field, picking and choosing his spots better than ever, and still scoring 21 points per contest. His slashing ability is still there, and his outside shot isn't. Fortunately for the Miami Heat, Wade is aware of the second clause there. 

    And, of course, there's still his defense. 

    The 31-year-old is still a stopper on the less glamorous end of the court, holding opposing 2-guards to an 11.1 PER during the 2012-13 campaign (per 82games.com).

7. James Harden

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.38 PER

     

    Everyone who has played the Houston Rockets this season has become all too familiar with the fact that they should fear the beard. 

    I learned that rather quickly when James Harden torched the Atlanta Hawks for 45 points on 14-of-19 shooting in the second game of the year. It was simultaneously brutal and magnificent to watch. 

    Harden hasn't exactly struggled in his jump from Sixth Man of the Year to unquestioned superstar and leader of a team. He's averaging an efficient 26.1 points per game because of his knack for drawing contact and finishing at the line, and he's finding teammates with impressive frequency. 

    The nonexistent defense is the only reason that he can't jump up any higher at this point in his career, but that's a phenomenon that many players go through when experiencing such a massive increase in offensive responsibility. 

6. Carmelo Anthony

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.8 steals, 23.86 PER

     

    Carmelo Anthony absolutely deserves to be considered for MVP votes thanks to his work for the New York Knicks on both ends of the court. Winning it is a different story, but the power forward version of Melo that actually tries on defense should at least get some third-place votes. 

    The high-scoring forward's three-point percentage has declined during every month of the 2012-13 season, though, as he falls a little bit back toward earth on offense. 

    Even if he "only" shoots 35.8 percent from downtown, as he did in February, Melo is still a top-flight scorer. 

    It's defense where Melo has truly impressed me. The effort he's putting in on there is both palpable and contagious, and it's helped create a winning culture at Madison Square Garden.

5. Kobe Bryant

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SG

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 22.53 PER

     

    Kobe Bryant deserves at least a tip of the cap for maintaining his effectiveness after undergoing a complete role reversal during his 17th season in the NBA. Not many players could go from a shoot-first mentality to a facilitating role and not skip a beat. 

    Yet that's exactly what the Mamba did when Mike D'Antoni asked for a change to be made. 

    Throughout the 2012-13 season, while the Los Angeles Lakers have floundered and succumbed to injury around him, Kobe has remained a steady presence. The level he's playing at offensively has been simply ridiculous, but his off-ball defense has become ridiculously bad. 

    Kobe loves to stand and watch when his man doesn't have the ball, often getting caught flat-footed. He's a terrific on-ball defender, but that's only part of the game. 

    The inability to carry L.A. despite the presence of other stars in the lineup and the lack of off-ball defense both helped contribute to Kobe's failure to rise any higher than No. 5. And you know you're good when coming in at the bottom spot in the top five is a "failure." 

4. Tony Parker

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 24.55 PER

     

    Back in early December, I ranked Tony Parker 12th in the last edition of the top 100, saying the following about the dynamic point guard: 

    Doesn't it seem like everything happens quietly in San Antonio until the Spurs are making a devastating run through the postseason? 

    Tony Parker has been sensational at the point for Gregg Popovich's squad, yet he hasn't received nearly enough credit for a season that looks like it could end up being one of the best years of his storied career. 

    He's posted the first triple-double of his career and is knocking down over half of his attempts from the field while distributing the ball just as the Spurs' system demands. 

    I was wrong when I said it "could" be one of Parker's best years. This is his best season. No conditionals needed. 

    What he's done for the Spurs in 2012-13 has been just ridiculous, especially when Tim Duncan has been missing from the lineup. In five February games before the All-Star break, the Frenchman averaged 26.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game while shooting 56.2 percent from the field. 

    The scary thing is that it doesn't seem like those numbers are fluky. 

3. Chris Paul

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.6 steals, 26.80 PER

     

    I've gotta be honest here. Without Derrick Rose playing at all, I didn't expect anyone to come anywhere close to closing the gap between Chris Paul and the rest of the point guards in the NBA. And if anyone was going to, I expected it to be either Russell Westbrook or Kyrie Irving, not Tony Parker. 

    But close the gap Parker did, especially as CP3 sat out and nursed a knee injury for an extended portion of the first half. His absence may have proven his value to the Los Angeles Clippers, but it allowed Parker to slip into the point guard limelight for a little bit. 

    Still, Paul is the best in the business at his position.

    His control over a game is unmatched, and there's no one better at getting to spots on the court. If there's something Paul can't do—besides block shots—I have yet to find it. 

2. Kevin Durant

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 29.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 29.22 PER

     

    In a lot of ways, I feel bad for Kevin Durant. He'd be the clear-cut No. 1 player in the league during quite a few seasons in NBA history, but it's just not meant to be with a prime LeBron James in the league. 

    With his 50/40/90 quest, increased defensive efficiency and improvement passing the ball, Durant should be a once-in-a-generation player. I'm no longer shocked when I hear about or watch his exploits because I've come to expect them. 

    I'm not going to feed you any numbers here because you know how sensational they all are. He's just really good at basketball. 

    However, every time I feel bad for Durant, I quickly stop. It's not too hard to guess why, seeing as I'm the one writing about him and not vice versa.

1. LeBron James

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.7 steals, 31.46 PER

     

    And now for the anticlimactic No. 1 spot in the rankings. I'm sure you're all shocked to see LeBron smiling at you from the picture on this slide. 

    You know, because there's no way you possibly could have expected anyone to call him the best basketball player in the world. 

    It's not like he's putting up ridiculous per-game stats with remarkable efficiency numbers to boot. He couldn't possibly have averaged 31.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 66.9 percent from the field during the pre-All-Star-break portion of February. 

    I understand that rankings can be subjective, so I don't typically go for this type of black-and-white approach. That said, if you don't think LeBron deserves the No. 1 spot, well, you're wrong. 

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