The 2013 All-Star weekend has come and gone, providing us with plenty of memorable highlights, so now it's time to focus on how the studs of the NBA stack up for the second half of the season.
Allow me to inform you right off the bat: This is going to be a more fun, slightly sillier version of the rankings than normal. Because we haven't had much actual basketball played since the last edition, I'm going to focus solely on the events of the All-Star festivities.
Wearing the wrong pants might even be able to affect a player's spot in the rankings.
Next week, things will return to normal, but let's have a little fun with this set and recap the more entertaining and important moments of the weekend.
As a quick housekeeping note, injured players are not considered for the star-player power rankings. If a player is out for a prolonged period of time, he's automatically ineligible for the next 20 slides.
Therefore, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Rajon Rondo and Andrew Bynum will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.
Also please note that there will be no honorable mentions this week. Due to the All-Star break, there is no need to highlight recent performances in regular-season games. That section will resume in next week's edition.
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 19.84 PER
My picks for the All-Star weekend contests were Chris Bosh's squad in the Shooting Stars competition, Jeff Teague in the Skills Challenge (yes, that was a homer pick), Stephen Curry in the Three-Point Contest and Terrence Ross in the Slam Dunk Contest.
Two out of four ain't bad, but Curry and Teague let me down. Teague in particular was just embarrassing, looking unenthused and failing to even make the final layup after struggling through the rest of the course.
As you can see, I had high hopes for this sharpshooter from Davidson:
So there's a chance @stephencurry30 knocks down every shot he takes today, right?— Adam Fromal (@fromal09) February 16, 2013
Yeah, that didn't work out so well. Curry led off the competition with a score of 17, recovering after an ice-cold start, and it wasn't enough for him to make it to the final round.
Steph, for letting me down, you're falling to the final spot. Deal with it.
Team: Golden State Warriors
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 was the last player to enter the All-Star Game, but he played pretty well when he was on the court.
The Golden State Warriors' lone All-Star finished the contest with six points, two rebounds and two steals on 3-of-4 shooting, but he failed to really leave an indelible impression on those viewing the festivities. That's not exactly Lee's fault, though, as he doesn't have the high-flying game that we look for.
Look for Lee to pick up where he left off when the second half of the 2012-13 campaign begins. The Dubs need him to if they're going to break out of their slump.
Team: Chicago Bulls
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals, 17.02 PER
Joakim Noah fell just outside the rankings going into the All-Star break, but how could I possibly exclude him after his performance in the East vs. West contest?
The floppy-haired center simply can't turn off his motor. There isn't a switch that makes him slow down. No matter what, he's going to leave it all on the court, even when playing in a relatively meaningless game that is supposed to be filled with offense and a lack of defense.
We normally expect dunks, fancy passes and dribbling tricks to be the highlights of the All-Star Game, but this year, one of the most enjoyable spectacles was seeing Noah bust his butt out on the court. He played defense simply because he doesn't know how to play basketball any other way.
For that, he's moving up into the rankings.
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.8 steals, 20.26 PER
I'll be honest here. LaMarcus Aldridge failed to leave any sort of lasting impression on me with his performance for the Western Conference, even though he blocked a few shots and made an impact on the boards in the fight against the East.
Aldridge's game isn't really built for the All-Star Game, much like his teammate Zach Randolph. That's not a knock on his skill set, though, when it comes to the regular season.
Plus, the power forward had one of the more entertaining moments of the weekend when he told the world that he could beat Michael Jordan in a mid-range shooting contest.
Now that's bold, even with M.J. celebrating his 50th birthday.
Team: Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 2.2 blocks, 0.5 steals, 24.88 PER
There's a reason I'm rolling with a picture of Lopez from the Shooting Stars competition. He wasn't on the court long enough to generate any great images during the actual game.
And speaking of that Shooting Stars performance, it was pretty impressive to see this seven-footer lofting up half-court attempts like they were just typical jumpers. It seemed effortless for him to get the ball to travel that far.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.0 steals, 19.07 PER
Nothing to report on here, as Marc Gasol was conspicuously absent during the All-Star weekend.
He's staying in the rankings, but the big man has to move down below those just below him who made a positive impression.
Fear not, though, as Gasol will rise to his rightful spot after regular-season action begins again and he continues to anchor the Memphis Grizzlies defense.
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.5 steals, 18.30 PER
Watching Jrue Holiday run up and down the court for the Eastern Conference All-Stars, I couldn't help but get the impression that this would be the first of many times I'd be viewing a similar sight. This was Holiday's first appearance in the midseason festivities, but it won't be his last one.
The 22-year-old floor general played fairly well when he was in the game, but he didn't really make much of an impact on the overall spectacle. His six points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals were solid, but nothing special.
Then again, he did surprise everyone by throwing down a big left-handed dunk on a fast break.
Team: Indiana Pacers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.39 PER
Paul George might not have enjoyed the Three-Point Contest that much, but the actual All-Star Game was a different story.
He got off to a slow start then quickly adjusted to playing with a whole collection of superstars, finishing the game with 17 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals. Just like he does for the Indiana Pacers on a daily basis, George contributed in every way possible for the Eastern Conference.
Here's another guy you just know is going to be representing his team around midseason year after year.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.99 PER
One of my favorite moments from the All-Star break involved Tim Duncan and a missed shot.
The Big Fundamental always plays basketball the way it's supposed to be played. He excels at making the right decisions and playing to both his strengths and the strengths of his teammates. No matter how often you watch the San Antonio Spurs, you probably won't see Duncan force anything up that could even be remotely classified as "ill-advised."
All that flew out the window when Duncan lofted up a three-point attempt.
Did it go in? Of course not!
Did it matter? Of course not!
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.02 PER
I don't care what else Russell Westbrook did during All-Star weekend.
I'm moving him down for these pants.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 steals, 23.50 PER
It should come as no surprise that Blake Griffin threw down a couple sensational dunks during All-Star weekend. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing that some of those came in the Slam Dunk Contest, though.
Griffin's alley-oop to himself off the backboard late in the game was absolutely sensational, showcasing just how high above the court the Los Angeles Clippers' power forward could elevate. And that wasn't even the best part of the dunk.
If you look carefully, you'll see Kevin Durant jumping up behind Griffin, anticipating a pass.
Seriously, Durant? You expected Blake to pass up on a dunking opportunity?
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 steals, 23.83 PER
If the Eastern Conference had ended up winning the All-Star Game instead of falling 143-138 to the West, Dwyane Wade probably would have been named the MVP.
He was fantastic throughout the game, crossing people up, knocking down jumpers and dunking on everyone.
Wade finished the game with 21 points, three rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. He hopefully also put to rest the ridiculous notion that he's starting to decline.
Team: Houston Rockets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.38 PER
Serving as an unofficial host for the weekend, James Harden was entertaining in his role as the Western Conference's "coach," then he looked pretty good during the actual All-Star Game.
He Euro-stepped his way to the basket a couple times, hit some threes and generally filled his two primary roles: being an entertaining scorer and having an awesome beard.
I wondered aloud whether or not the Internet would break if Harden shaved right before the All-Star introductions, but boy am I glad he didn't.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 24.55 PER
I've got to make Tony Parker pay somehow for his embarrassing effort during the Skills Challenge.
Does it actually mean anything to Parker? No, probably not.
But despite the highlights of his weekend—like nutmegging Chris Bosh during the All-Star Game—Parker still completely failed to show up and defend his title against Damian Lillard and the rest of the field.
I recently ranked Parker as the No. 4 player in the Association, so take this momentary drop in the power rankings for what it's worth: a good-natured poke at Parker's lackluster showing.
Team: New York Knicks
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, if you're out there reading this piece, I have two requests.
First, don't be mad at me for moving you out of the top five, because I'm sure you'll almost immediately jump back into that section of the rankings as soon as you start dominating again and the games actually count.
You shot the ball well during the All-Star Game and became a menace on the boards, but you didn't dominate multiple competitions like the next guy in these rankings.
Don't be offended.
Second, let's play chess. Hit me up.
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.7 steals, 22.39 PER
For the second year in a row, Kyrie Irving owned All-Star weekend.
One year after going 8-of-8 in the Rising Stars Challenge and completely running away with the MVP award for the game, Irving made a name for himself in three different competitions.
First was the Three-Point Contest. With Stephen Curry, Steve Novak and Matt Bonner in the field, Irving wasn't getting much hype as a potential winner. But then he scored 18 points to advance to the finals and caught absolute fire.
Irving knocked down 17 of his first 18 attempts and finished the contest with 35 makes in 50 tries, good for 70 percent from downtown.
One of my friends expressed his disbelief that a non-specialist won the Three-Point Contest for the second year in a row, to which I responded, "Wrong. Kyrie Irving is a specialist at basketball."
Irving's fantastic weekend didn't end there.
Out of respect for Brandon Knight's feelings, I'm only going to link you to this video. That's enough, and I don't need to pile on by describing what happened to the Detroit Pistons guard.
Finally, Irving showed up to play in the actual All-Star Game.
He finished with 15 points, three rebounds and four assists, came up big in the fourth quarter and even earned Erik Spoelstra's respect as he was on the court in crunch time.
Irving isn't just going to be special. He already is.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.4 steals, 22.53 PER
It should come as no surprise that the uber-competitive Kobe Bryant put up a nice, well-rounded stat line during the All-Star Game. The Mamba recorded nine points, four rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks.
Kobe kept that pass-first mentality going during the festivities, but that didn't prevent him from breaking down a few different guys off the dribble. His domination of Chris Bosh on the left baseline stands out in particular.
Of course, the big Kobe story ended up being his defense on LeBron James, as he blocked the world's best player twice down the stretch. The biggest takeaway from that occurrence should simply be that Kobe respects LeBron.
If he didn't respect the greatness of the Miami Heat superstar, he never would have bothered to play him so tough in a meaningless game.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.6 steals, 26.80 PER
Chris Paul's mastery over the game of basketball doesn't end when the regular season takes a hiatus.
He did a great job "coaching" the Western Conference—I suppose, since they won the overall competition—and then took home the MVP trophy at the end of the All-Star Game. Well, not before he took it to a club in Vegas:
Chris Paul made a stopover in Vegas last night and brought the All-Star MVP trophy to the club. twitter.com/ESPNChrisPalme…— chris palmer (@ESPNChrisPalmer) February 19, 2013
Paul was phenomenal during the actual contest, recording 20 points, 14 assists and four steals on 7-of-10 shooting from the field.
The list of All-Stars to go 20 and 15 now reads as follows: Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 29.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 29.22 PER
Kevin Durant scored 30 of the quietest points you'll ever see during the All-Star Game, with the exception of his stunningly easy two-handed reverse slam in transition. With everyone scoring, it almost seemed surprising that Durant had managed to hit the 30-point benchmark.
Per ESPN, Durant has now scored 115 points in his first four All-Star contests.
No player in league history has scored more. Durant broke LeBron's record by 18 points, and it doesn't look like anyone else is going to be coming close in the near future.
It's not a bad record to hold, as the top five spots are populated by the two aforementioned stars, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain.
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.7 steals, 31.46 PER
Even though LeBron James got blocked by Kobe Bryant twice down the stretch and failed to produce a win for the Eastern Conference, I can't move him out of the top spot.
For better of for worse, that spot is reserved for the best player in the world, barring some sort of prolonged slump. And last I checked, LeBron was most assuredly not slumping.
During the All-Star Game, LeBron put up 19 points, three rebounds and five assists. That's not exactly living up to his regular-season standards, but that's by no means a bad game.
The other big LeBron story of the weekend was the inevitable comparison to Michael Jordan. And that, my friends, is something I'm not going to be touching with a 10-foot pole in this article.
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