Whenever an NBA superstar catches fire, it's well worth watching. Unfortunately, there are some under-the-radar stars who don't get the attention they deserve when they start heating up.
Fear not, NBA fans. Those underrated players will be represented properly in these updated NBA-superstar power rankings. Your heroes shall not go unnoticed here.
Of course, the most prominent studs won't, either.
So, how have your favorite players in the Association risen or fallen in the first post-All-Star-break edition?
As a quick housekeeping note, injured players are not considered for the superstar 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.
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 20.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 19.80 PER
LaMarcus Aldridge put up a stinker of a performance directly before the All-Star break, dropping only six points and three rebounds against the New Orleans Hornets in a 36-point blowout loss. Time off apparently wasn't what the big man needed.
The 27-year-old hasn't been able to find his shot since the return to action, and his performance on the boards has been even worse. Aldridge's résumé provides him with enough of a cushion that he doesn't slip out of the numbered portion of the rankings entirely, but another week of poor showings would do the trick.
It should come as no surprise that the Portland Trail Blazers haven't been able to find their stride, either. This team comes and goes as Aldridge does.
Team: Chicago Bulls
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 blocks, 1.3 steals, 17.13 PER
Joakim Noah's unique skill set and versatility afforded him his first All-Star trip of his career this season.
But while the big man has continued stuffing stat sheets of late, his numbers don't pack quite the same punch when his team isn't performing. Chicago's offense has sputtered to a near standstill of late, which makes Noah's offensive limitations harder to ignore.
The Bulls have dropped six of their last nine games, including an embarrassing 30-point blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
Noah's still one of the league's best passing big men, averaging five assists per game over his past five outings. But he has scored more than 11 points just once and grabbed double-digit rebounds twice during the stretch.
When the Bulls are rolling, it's hard to ignore Noah's countless contributions. But when the team struggles, he's not the kind of player capable of carrying it back into the win column.
*Updated 2/26/2013 by Zach Buckley
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 19.74 PER
Speaking of aesthetically pleasing things on a basketball court, not many shots are more beautiful than Stephen Curry's three-ball. The baby-faced assassin can absolutely stroke the ball from the outside.
ESPN's Beckley Mason holds a similar opinion:
When you consider accuracy, frequency and degree of difficulty, the only comparable shooting profile to Curry’s belongs to Steve Nash. But while he is also an off-the-dribble shooter, Nash shoots far fewer threes per 48 minutes—peaking at 4.7 in 2007-08—and has hit Curry’s career rate of accuracy just three times in his 17-year career.
Nash is no Curry. No one is—because NBA fans have never seen a shooter this good.
Curry hasn't exactly cooled off after the All-Star Game, either. Although he wasn't invited to participate in any part of the festivities other than the three-point shootout, the Davidson product has done more than hit from downtown for the Golden State Warriors.
The Dubs have certainly enjoyed his scoring output, but they're also liking the fact that he's distributing the ball effectively and becoming even peskier on the defensive end of the court.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 blocks, 1.0 steals, 19.04 PER
Marc Gasol's value to the Memphis Grizzlies goes beyond what you can see in a box score, but that doesn't mask the fact that he put up some stinkers right after the All-Star break.
A combined 4-of-19 shooting in back-to-back games against the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors isn't going to get it done when you're competing against the best of the best in the superstar power rankings.
Gasol rebounded nicely (yes, pun intended) against the Orlando Magic and then contributed across the board (I can't stop!) in a low-scoring victory over the Brooklyn Nets, but the two poor outings are enough for him to fall down despite his under-the-radar status.
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.5 steals, 18.37 PER
It's been a while since Jrue Holiday led the Philadelphia 76ers to a victory, though it's certainly not for a lack of effort. The dynamic young point guard has still been playing quite effectively on both ends of the court, but his insane workload at the helm of the Sixers seems to be wearing him down.
Until his 30-point outburst against the New York Knicks, the first-time All-Star had been struggling to assert himself in the scoring column. He also only has one outing with double-digit assists in his last seven attempts.
Holiday is still playing like one of the best point guards in the Association, but his overall level of dominance has been slipping as the grueling march to the 82nd game continues.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.12 PER
In his five games since returning to action, Tim Duncan has only put together one dominant performance. And even that one was marred by inefficiency from the field.
In that game against the Golden State Warriors—which the Dubs won—Duncan recorded 19 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, four blocks and a steal. However, he made only six of his 16 field-goal attempts, and his seven made free throws weren't enough to make up for the misses from the rest of the court.
Duncan just hasn't been quite the same since he was injured, but the 36-year-old will certainly rise back up in the rankings if he can manage to string together a few stellar showings.
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.67 PER
Al Horford is on a LeBron James-esque tear through the league, coupling high-volume outputs with ridiculous displays of well-roundedness and efficiency.
You might want to sit down before getting to the next paragraph and reading his stats over the past six games.
During that span, which dates back to a Feb. 11 win over the Dallas Mavericks, Big Al is averaging 24.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 steals per game on 69.1 percent shooting from the field. Those are just ridiculous numbers, highlighted by a 23-point, 22-rebound performance against the Detroit Pistons in which Horford knocked down 10 of his 13 field-goal attempts.
Somehow, someway, people outside of Atlanta think he's boring. I don't get it.
Team: Indiana Pacers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.34 PER
The New York Knicks might be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, but there's a simple way to beat them by 34 points: Have Paul George on the roster.
In that massacre, George recorded 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal on 11-of-19 shooting from the field, 4-of-9 shooting from downtown and a perfect 1-of-1 showing at the charity stripe. He asserted himself in every facet of the game, and the Knicks weren't too happy about it.
George has been doing things like that throughout his breakout campaign, though not always to the same extent.
He's here to stay.
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.8 steals, 19.60 PER
When I saw David Lee play in the short-sleeved t-shirt jersey and striped shorts, I'm sure I had the same thought that crossed many of your minds: "Hey, that looks like the fraternity dude who tried to dominate the intramural basketball league...except he's six inches taller!"
Of course, those guys we thought of never dreamed of putting up performances like his 25-point, 22-rebound outing against the San Antonio Spurs. And it's not like that was his only dominant showing after the All-Star break.
In Lee's past three games, he's averaged 22 points, 15.3 rebounds and three assists per contest while going 25-of-48 from the field and 16-of-18 from the charity stripe.
It's officially time that the average NBA fan recognize Lee as a truly elite power forward. Honestly, it's been that time for a while now.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.4 steals, 23.36 PER
It's hard to say that Blake Griffin as a whole flies under the radar.
First of all, Griffin doesn't fly "under" anything. He prefers to jump over whatever the object in question may be, even if it's a car.
Secondly, Griffin is one of the most media-friendly athletes out there, and both ESPN and YouTube tend to promote the hell out of him. His highlights are fun, but they've given fans the impression that all Blake does is dunk.
And for that reason, Griffin's skills still fly under the radar.
Of the NBA's Top 20 rebounders, only Golden State's David Lee has a higher scoring average (19.0 points per game). Among that same group, Griffin only trails Lee (3.7), Atlanta's Josh Smith (4.2) and Chicago's Joakim Noah (4.2) in assists per game.
He's more than just a walking highlight reel. Even if he'll do his best to tell you otherwise.
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.6 steals, 22.65 PER
Even though Kyrie Irving hasn't been playing particularly fantastic basketball—just great ball—over his past few games, he's not dropping out of the top five due to his on-court performances. Instead, he's falling in the rankings because I ranked him too high in the last edition.
That prior version of these rankings was a more-fun-than-serious one, taking the top 20 players and then focusing almost solely on All-Star Weekend. His crossover on Brandon Knight alone moved him up a few spots.
Now that we're focusing on the regular season again, Irving is settling back in right around the 10th spot, which is where he's spent much of the past few months.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.20 PER
Sometimes, I'm convinced that Russell Westbrook thinks he's playing a part in a Batman movie. The two-faced point guard almost certainly has a Good Westbrook and Bad Westbrook version, and you never know which one is going to take the lead on any given night.
Seeing as how he's topped 20 points in each of his last six games, Good Westbrook is showing up more and more. Plus, he's doing so efficiently (although he could certainly stand to cut back on the turnovers).
Even when Westbrook is missing shots from the field, he's working his way to the foul line over and over again, then converting his attempts. Over a three-game stretch surrounding the All-Star break, Westbrook knocked down 30 of his 32 free-throw attempts.
Bad Westbrook is scary for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Good Westbrook is even scarier for the rest of the NBA.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 0.0 blocks, 2.5 steals, 26.02 PER
After watching each of Chris Paul's past two games, I'm convinced that the point guard isn't fully healthy. He isn't asserting himself on the offensive end of the court, and his shot isn't falling.
Normally, CP3 gets to the spot he sets his sights on, but that just hasn't been the case since he won MVP at the All-Star Game.
It's hard to imagine Paul struggling for much longer, especially when he's surrounded by so much talent on the Los Angeles Clippers. But if he continues to, Vinny Del Negro might want to consider letting Eric Bledsoe have a bit more of a run while Paul gets himself back into tip-top playing shape.
Team: New York Knicks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.8 steals, 23.31 PER
If Carmelo Anthony could start hitting three-pointers with anything even resembling consistency, he'd be able to regain his spot in the top five.
However, that just hasn't been happening.
Since the All-Star break, the 28-year-old forward has averaged over 25 points per game, but he's knocked down only three of his 20 attempts from downtown. If you factor in the last game before the festivities, 'Melo has made just four of his last 26 tries.
Even a scorer as potent as 'Melo can slump, and that's exactly what's happening right now. Fortunately for the Knicks, he's become more than a scorer, so he's still contributing in other ways as his efficiency lags behind where it should be.
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.6 steals, 23.95 PER
Even though he's missed his only attempt from behind the three-point arc, Dwyane Wade has played ridiculously effective basketball over his past five games.
Dating back to a 10-point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 31-year-old shooting guard has averaged 21.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.0 blocks and 2.2 steals per game. And because that's not enough, he's been remarkably efficient.
Wade is shooting 53.5 percent from the field, highlighted by a 14-of-18 outing against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Amazingly, though, Wade hasn't received nearly enough attention for his great play. He has a certain teammate's sheer dominance to thank for that.
Team: Houston Rockets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.69 PER
Want to know why James Harden is moving up? It's based on two numbers: 46 and 19.
When you face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that already knows all of your tendencies since you were once on the roster, and drop a career-high 46 points while only taking 19 shots from the field, you get to move up.
That's exactly what Harden did when he knocked down 14-of-19 shots from the field, including 7-of-8 from downtown, and drained 11 of his 12 freebies in the three-point victory for the Houston Rockets. Plus, he added eight rebounds and six assists.
According to ESPN, Harden averaged 2.11 points per play.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 24.71 PER
The San Antonio Spurs better hope that Tony Parker's right-triceps contusion doesn't have any long-term ramifications, because the French point guard has truly become the engine that makes this potent offense go.
When Parker hit only seven of his 18 shots against the Golden State Warriors, it was only the second time in February that he'd missed more attempts than he'd made. That, my friends, is efficiency.
It's becoming more and more clear that Parker has a legitimate case to be made for his MVP candidacy.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 22.99 PER
Before his Los Angeles Lakers dropped a game to the Denver Nuggets, Kobe Bryant had been on a ridiculous tear, and his team was enjoying it.
Scoring 78 points over a two-game stretch is nothing to sniff at, especially when those points come on 28-of-44 shooting from the field.
I'm not even going to pretend like I fully understand the Mamba's role with the Lakers because I'm not even sure that he does. He can apparently function simultaneously as a distributor and a scorer, and it works wonderfully.
Plus, Kobe won Twitter. It's not even a competition, and he still managed to win.
Amnesty THAT— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 24, 2013
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.5 steals, 28.72 PER
Believe it or not, I'm not even going to discuss Kevin Durant's scoring here.
Lately, Durant has been asserting himself more and more in the less glamorous aspects of the game. He's been passing to teammates both willingly and effectively, crashing the boards with relentless fury and locking down on defense.
In the Thunder's three contests since the All-Star break, Durant has averaged 11.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.3 blocks and 0.7 steals per game.
Just another week in the life of a young stud continuing to develop into an all-around superstar.
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.7 steals, 31.64 PER
During his past five games, LeBron James has really struggled. He's averaging less than 30 points (26.6) and is shooting under 60 percent (58.8 percent after failing to top the 60 percent threshold in four of those five games).
Shame on him.
I'm guessing there are roughly 6,289,781 basketball players out there who are incredibly jealous that those types of numbers are considered struggling. After the precedent James set with his record-setting games, though, doesn't it have to be?
Don't worry, Miami Heat fans. That was certainly a tongue-in-cheek analysis.
The Heat are on an 11-game winning streak, and LeBron has been the driving force behind that success.