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Updated NBA Superstar Rankings: Is It Even Possible to Catch LeBron James?

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2013

Updated NBA Superstar Rankings: Is It Even Possible to Catch LeBron James?

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    It's really no secret that LeBron James is going to hold down the No. 1 spot in the updated NBA superstar power rankings.

    If you feel like I just spoiled the reading experience for you by revealing the top player too soon, well, you might want to check out your surroundings once in a while. The rock you're living under might be living under a rock of its own. 

    The better question is: Is it even possible to catch LeBron at this point? 

    After his torrid shooting pace has continued for far longer than humanly possible—or alienly possible—it's quite clear that LeBron is the best player in the NBA and will be for the foreseeable future. 

    No disrespect meant to the other superstars out there, but he's just that good. 

    So, to find out where the rest of the best in the Association rank, as well as how they've changed since last week's edition, you'll have to read on. 

     

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Sunday, Feb. 10. 

Injured Players

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    As a quick housekeeping note, injured players are not considered for the star-player power rankings. If a player is out for a prolonged period of time, he's automatically ineligible for the next 20 slides.

    Therefore, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan, Rajon Rondo and Andrew Bynum will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.

Honorable Mentions

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    Chris Bosh, PF/C, Miami Heat

    Missing two games with the flu knocks Chris Bosh out of the rankings for the first time during the 2012-13 season. When healthy, the big man has continued to score at a high level, but he hasn't been able to offer that much else. 


    Tyson Chandler, C, New York Knicks

    Talk about knowing your limits and sticking to them. Tyson Chandler's self-awareness has allowed him to become one of the NBA's best players, as he knows he shouldn't do anything but finish alley-oops and prevent teams from scoring. 


    Al Jefferson, C, Utah Jazz

    It was tough to drop Al Jefferson out of the rankings after averaging a near-double-double in efficient fashion over his last five games, but a few young big men were able to trump him.  


    Paul Pierce, SF, Boston Celtics

    Paul Pierce's triple-overtime boosting triple-double was enough to get him into this section, but the veteran small forward still falls barely short of the actual numbered part of the rankings. He's still playing great defense and scoring, but his shot must start falling with more frequency.


    David West, PF, Indiana Pacers

    David West may have struggled with his shot on Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets, but the whole Indiana Pacers team seemed to be playing with a seal over the net. Let's not let one performance take away from what's been a fantastic and extremely underrated 2012-13 campaign. 

20. Greg Monroe (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Detroit Pistons

    Position: C

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.3 steals, 19.66 PER

     

    With Andre Drummond out for the foreseeable future, the Detroit Pistons have leaned even more heavily on Greg Monroe. That's a decision that they haven't regretted thus far. 

    Over the Pistons' four games since the talented rookie exited the rotation—he played a combined 13 minutes in the first two, so I'm counting them—Monroe has been nothing short of sensational. The former Georgetown Hoya has averaged 19 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 54.4 percent from the field. 

    If you're looking for how to work your way into the superstar power rankings, Monroe has provided a rather convenient example. 

19. DeMarcus Cousins (Previous Ranking: No. 20)

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    Team: Sacramento Kings

    Position: C

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.6 steals, 20.27 PER

     

    DeMarcus Cousins' physical tools have never been questioned. It's tough to watch him play and not think to yourself that he's one of the prototypes when it comes to big men in the modern NBA landscape. 

    However, one of the biggest knocks on Boogie—other than his all-too-apparent mental fragility—has been his lack of consistency shooting the ball. For a player who rarely strays too far from the basket, Cousins shoots an awfully low percentage from the field. 

    Lately, that hasn't been the case. 

    Cousins is honing in his shot and has knocked down 58.6 percent of his attempts during his last five games. 

18. Stephen Curry (Previous Ranking: No. 16)

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 19.69 PER

     

    In NBA history, 103 players—multiple seasons by the same player are counting as multiple players here—have attempted at least six three-pointers per game over the course of a season, according to Basketball-Reference.com

    No one has ever let it fly from downtown with more frequency than Baron Davis, who somehow managed to loft up 8.7 treys per game. He only made 32.1 percent of those shots, though. 

    Stephen Curry is only taking seven attempts per game from downtown, but he's also making them at a 44.8 percent clip. That's a nearly unmatched combination of volume and efficiency from behind the three-point arc. 

    Of the 103 players, only Kyle Korver has topped Curry's 44.8 percent, checking in at 46.4 percent this season for the Atlanta Hawks. He's taking 6.1 attempts per game, though, which makes his season from deep just about comparable to Curry's. 

17. David Lee (Previous Ranking: No. 12)

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.59 PER

     

    For the first time in a while, David Lee has struggled a bit on offense. And when you're a player whose value is derived almost solely on that end of the court, that can be problematic and cause a subsequent dip in the rankings. 

    During the Golden State Warriors' four-game losing streak, the talented power forward has averaged just 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and two assists per contest. He also failed to record a single dime for the fourth and fifth times of the 2012-13 season. 

    Lee is still a stud on the boards and a tremendous offensive force, but he hasn't stood out quite enough to maintain his lofty spot this week. 

16. Jrue Holiday (Previous Ranking: No. 13)

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    Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.5 steals, 18.48 PER

     

    Jrue Holiday continues to carry the Philadelphia 76ers quite admirably, especially as the team has started to win games at a higher rate. 

    Despite playing 41 minutes per game over his last five contests, Holiday didn't see his performance slip all that much. That high workload and level of responsibility has depressed his field-goal percentage while forcing his turnover numbers up a bit, but Holiday is still playing masterfully on offense and contributing defensively as well. 

    During those five games, the breakout point guard averaged 18.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.6 blocks and 1.8 steals per outing. 

15. LaMarcus Aldridge (Previous Ranking: No. 17)

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    Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.35 PER

     

    If it wasn't for a stomach bug that affected him during the first half of a loss to the Orlando Magic, LaMarcus Aldridge might have recorded his eighth double-double in a row. And even during his failure to record 10 rebounds, the big man dished out five assists. 

    Aldridge is on fire in just about every facet of the game. 

    He's rebounding effectively, scoring at a high level and, even more impressively, he's doing so with quite a bit of efficiency. 

14. Paul George (Previous Ranking: No. 15)

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.40 PER

     

    When Paul George isn't recording 26 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against the Toronto Raptors, he's putting up slightly lower numbers and playing incredible defense. Although, to be fair, he's playing incredible defense regardless of the situation. 

    George actually managed to contain LeBron James during the Indiana Pacers' 13-point win over the Miami Heat. The reigning MVP was held to 28 points, six rebounds and three assists per game on 9-of-17 shooting. 

    Trust me. With the way LeBron has been playing, that's containing him. 

13. Brook Lopez (Previous Ranking: No. 14)

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: C

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 2.2 blocks, 0.5 steals, 25.05 PER

     

    Brook Lopez continúes to improve on an almost daily basis. Many people, myself included, have griped about his defensive shortcomings and failure to attack the boards with anything resembling success, but the big man has essentially spit in our faces with his play. 

    And quite frankly, I'm glad he's doing so, because he's fun to watch. 

    Lopez has been a shot-blocking menace all season, and his overall defensive play is getting better. He's also starting to rebound at a slightly higher rate, averaging 8.2 boards per game over his last five contests.

12. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.0 steals, 19.07 PER

     

    Two awful shooting performances—a 2-of-8 outing against the Phoenix Suns and a 2-of-7 performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves—have caused Marc Gasol to fall out of the top 10. 

    The big man was supposed to take up some of the leftover scoring load after Rudy Gay was shipped off north of the border, but he's actually scoring at an even lower level. Gasol just seems to be allergic to a role of high involvement in the offense. 

    So, why does he still check in this high up? 

    Even when he's not scoring, Gasol affects the game positively in so many ways. He's a defensive stalwart in the paint who should be drawing some DPOY consideration, and his passing is just phenomenal, among other skills.

11. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 11)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 22.99 PER

     

    Blake Griffin missed a few games with a hamstring injury, but it didn't take him too long to regain his form. 

    Although he turned the ball over too frequently in both games since his return, Griffin has shot the ball efficiently and been a menace on the boards. His mid-range jumper in particular was clicking in a big win against the New York Knicks as he shot 7-of-12 from the field en route to a 17-point performance. 

10. Kyrie Irving (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

    Position: PG

    Age: 20

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 24.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.7 steals, 23.07 PER

     

    We all know how impressive Kyrie Irving is as a scorer by now, but his ability to minimize turnovers has gone overlooked lately. 

    Over his past five games, Irving has coughed the ball up just 1.8 times per game. The young point guard had some problems with ball security during the middle of January, recording a few plus-five turnover performances, but he's clearly worked on that part of his game. 

    For a player who uses as many shimmies and shakes as Irving does, having eight consecutive games without more than three turnovers is pretty impressive. 

9. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 10)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 steals, 23.88 PER

     

    Since the calendars flipped over to 2013, Dwyane Wade has averaged 22 points, 5.4 rebounds and five assists per game while making more shots than he's missed. 

    If it weren't for some guy named LeBron James, Wade would be receiving quite a bit more attention. He's been incredible in his second-fiddle role for the Miami Heat. 

    And while LeBron's greatness really has turned him into a second fiddle, Wade is making all fiddles look awfully good due to his presence in that category. 

8. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 0.3 blocks, 2.0 steals, 23.25 PER

     

    Russell Westbrook is on one of those runs. When he's playing like this, anything and everything seems to fall, making the Oklahoma City Thunder all the more dangerous. 

    The explosive point guard has averaged 22.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game over his past six contests, but he's doing so while shooting 51.5 percent from the field. He's shown more restraint with his mid-range game, and he tends to hit his shots when he does let fly.

    While Westbrook has continued to play like an elite point guard—and he's still the second-best healthy one in my book even if he's the No. 3 floor general in these power rankings—he hasn't been quite as dominant as the guys who jumped him. 

7. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 6)

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.8 steals, 23.48 PER

     

    Are we seeing the start of another ridiculous scoring streak from James Harden? 

    His beard has enabled him to average 33.7 points per game over his last three outings, and he's knocked down 63.5 percent of his shots from the field, 52.6 percent of his three-pointers and 83.3 percent of his freebies. 

    No big deal. 

    Plus, Harden has been upping his assist rate, recording seven or more assists in four of his last five games, including two 11-dime outings. 

6. Chris Paul (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.5 steals, 26.03 PER

     

    Chris Paul's absence from the Los Angeles Clippers' lineup proved his value. Then he started to return and prove it once more. 

    Although CP3 exited the No. 3 spot in the rankings due to injury, he comes back a few spots lower simply because he missed time. This guy is still the best point guard in the league, and he'll jump back up to his rightful spot once the sample size of recent games is large enough. 

    He's well on his way already—hence the No. 6 ranking—after just two full games back. CP3 officially returned by playing 20 minutes against the Miami Heat, but let's arbitrarily throw that performance out. 

    In 29 minutes against the New York Knicks, the floor general recorded 25 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals on 10-of-17 shooting. Then, he one-upped himself against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

    Helping spark the Clippers' blowout victory, Paul put up 21 points, two rebounds, 11 assists and five steals in just 25 minutes of action. And he did so on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. 

    Paul is back. 

5. Tony Parker (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 24.42 PER

     

    Until sitting out against the Chicago Bulls, Tony Parker has been on an MVP-like tear for the San Antonio Spurs. It's impossible to oversell just how good he's been while leading the Spurs to the top of the Western Conference yet again. 

    The 10-game run that Parker is on is just absolutely ridiculous. 

    Starting with a 23-point, 12-assist outing in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Parker has averaged 25.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 9.6 assists per game on 58.4 percent shooting. 

    Shooting 58.4 percent from the field is not fair, especially for a guard.

4. Kobe Bryant (Previous Ranking: No. 3)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SG

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 23.04 PER

     

    Kobe Bryant falling one spot isn't an accurate reflection of his play. Instead, think of it as a compliment to the player who jumped him. 

    The Mamba has been as dominant as ever, but he's chosen to strike in a different way. 

    Essentially switching roles with Steve Nash, Kobe has been dishing out assists with remarkable frequency. Since the change that followed a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, the shooting guard has averaged 19.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game.

    How remarkable is it that a 34-year-old can undergo such a drastic shift and not skip a beat? 

3. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: No. 4)

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 29.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.55 PER

     

    It's hard to fault Carmelo Anthony for the loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. 

    Even though the New York Knicks fell to the healthy version of the Western Conference power, Melo made five three-pointers and scored 42 points on only 26 shots. That's quite the impressive game to add to his ever-growing resume. 

    Over his past five contests, Anthony is averaging 29.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game on 49 percent shooting from the field.

    And that's including a lackluster 4-of-12 shooting night against the Sacramento Kings. 

2. Kevin Durant (Previous Ranking: No. 2)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.5 steals, 29.03 PER

     

    It's time for your...drum roll...Kevin Durant 50/40/90 update!

    On the season, the Durantula is shooting 51.6 percent from the field, 42.7 percent from downtown and 90.4 percent from the charity stripe. He still qualifies for the exclusive club, even if his last five games have seen him fail to reach the first and last marks. 

    You can credit a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers for that, as Durant's shot was off and allowed him to be outdueled by Kyrie Irving down the stretch. 

    In that game, Durant hit only 8-of-21 shots from the field and 13-of-17 freebies to record 32 points. You know you're good when that's undeniably a lackluster performance.

1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.6 steals, 30.95 PER

     

    The original question posed in this article dealt with whether or not anyone could catch LeBron James this season? 

    Never say never, but based on the way the league's best player has been performing, you might as well start to utter the first syllable of that off-limits word. 

    Over the past five games, LeBron has shot 55-of-77 from the field. Yes, that's 71.4 percent. 

    Averaging 31.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and six assists per game during that stretch, the reigning MVP became the third player in league history to top 30 points and 60 percent shooting in five consecutive games. 

    He's playing at a level many of us have simply never seen before. No matter how fancy I get, how many accolades I fling his way and how many stats I throw at you, I simply can't do this justice. 

    Do yourself a favor. Next time you want to see greatness personified, go to YouTube, type in "LeBron James" and enjoy. 

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