Updated Rankings of the Top 5 NBA Players at Every Position

Brendan Bowers@@BowersCLEContributor IIMarch 5, 2013

Updated Rankings of the Top 5 NBA Players at Every Position

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    The updated rankings of the top five NBA players at every position slot each player according to his production to date this season.

    Thus, this list does not include injured players like Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love or Andrew Bynum.

    The point guard position is currently the deepest in the league, and as a result Stephen Curry was left just outside the top five. 

    Centers Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah and Al Jefferson just missed the cut as well, while power forward David West was tantalizingly close to landing in the top five before being omitted.

    At the small forward position, All-Star Luol Deng would finish sixth too, but we are only ranking the top five.

No. 5 Point Guard: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

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    The Philadelphia 76ers’ season has been ultimately doomed by the injury to Andrew Bynum.

    Despite that, Jrue Holiday has been nothing short of spectacular.

    In addition to playing himself into the All-Star Game last month, Holiday has earned his way into the elite stratosphere of NBA point guards during the 2012-13 campaign.

    Averaging 19.1 points and 8.5 assists per game, Holiday has increased his production in each category by 5.6 and 4.0 respectively from last season.

    His current totals also rank 12th in the NBA in scoring overall and fourth in assists through Monday.

    If help ever does arrive in Philadelphia and defenses are no longer able to focus exclusively on stopping Holiday every time the Sixers take the floor, those numbers should only increase moving forward.

No. 4 Point Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    It really is difficult slotting Russell Westbrook as low as fourth on this list, but that's how deep the point guard position is in the NBA these days.

    There isn't a player faster and more explosive with the ball in his hands from baseline to baseline than Westbrook. He is a constant threat to attack the rim from any angle and currently leads all point guards in scoring at 23.4 points per night.

    In addition to his overwhelming athleticism, Westbrook ranks fifth in the league averaging 7.9 assists.

    Alongside Kevin Durant, he continues to be a primary reason why the Oklahoma City Thunder are a legitimate threat to win an NBA championship this summer.

No. 3 Point Guard: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    All-Star Weekend shined a national spotlight on what Cleveland Cavaliers fans have witnessed from Kyrie Irving over the last two seasons.

    At 20 years old, he is already among the most skilled players in the NBA.

    After discussing the evolution of his crossover move this summer, Irving's dribbling displays have left defenders tripping over themselves like Brandon Knight all season long.

    The Three-Point Shootout champion is connecting on 42 percent of his attempts from long range this year as well, to go along with averaging 23.3 points per night.

    After missing his previous three games, Irving returned to the lineup on Monday to score 22 more in a 102-97 loss to the New York Knicks.

    By next season, he could challenge for the title of league's best point guard. As of now, he's currently ranked behind two future Hall of Famers.

No. 2 Point Guard: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    We learned this weekend that San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker could be out for as long as the next four weeks.

    The news couldn't come at a worse time for basketball fans who enjoy watching the point guard position played as close to perfectly as possible.

    During the month of February, Parker was simply flawless on the basketball court.

    In 11 games last month, he shot 54 percent from the floor, averaging 26.1 points and 8.3 assists per contest. On the season, Parker's 21 points per game rank 10th in the NBA overall, while his 7.6 assists rank sixth.

    If he can return from injury to similar form before the regular season concludes, the Spurs will be an extremely tough out come playoff time.

No. 1 Point Guard: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

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    As long as Chris Paul is healthy and doing what he's always done, he will remain the benchmark by which all NBA point guards are measured.

    Leading the Los Angeles Clippers to the third-best record in the Western Conference through Monday, Paul provides a superstar spark at both ends of the floor.

    At 2.46 steals per game, CP3 leads the NBA in that department while also dishing the most assists among all active point guards at 9.5 per night.

    The competitive fire he plays with is written all over his face, and it's that same intensity that could lead this Clippers team much further than anyone might think come playoff time.

No. 5 Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

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    After starting the 2012-13 campaign slow—and failing to make the All-Star team for the first time since 2007—Joe Johnson has helped play his Brooklyn Nets into postseason contention over the last two months.

    While the 42.4 percent Johnson has shot from the floor this year is his lowest mark since the 2002-03 campaign, the 16.8 points he's scored in the process is still good for eighth in the NBA at his position through Monday.

    Along with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, Johnson's ability to put points on the board consistently will enable the Nets an opportunity to make noise in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs no matter who they are eventually matched up with.

    Though he might not be the 20-plus points per game scorer he was with the Atlanta Hawks, you can still do much worse than Johnson at the shooting guard position.

No. 4 Shooting Guard: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

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    In addition to being the NBA's highest-scoring reserve, Jamal Crawford has emerged as one of the best players at his position this season for the Los Angeles Clippers.

    He comes off the bench on a nightly basis to provide a star-caliber scoring punch on his way to averaging 17 points per game through Monday.

    In only 29.5 minutes of relief work per night, Crawford's scoring effort currently ranks sixth in the league overall among all shooting guards.

    He enters the final stretch of the season having scored at least 20 in his last three games, and he will continue to be counted on heavily as the Clippers move towards postseason play.

No. 3 Shooting Guard: James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    Currently the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer at 26.2 points per night, James Harden has been among the league leaders in that category all season long.

    He's helped fuel an offensive attack with the Houston Rockets that currently ranks first overall in scoring, averaging 107.03 points collectively through Monday.     

    More importantly, however, Harden has also provided the very real possibility for playoff basketball in Houston as his Rockets currently cling to the seventh seed in the Western Conference.

    Along the way, Harden has evolved from the NBA’s top sixth man a season ago with the Oklahoma City Thunder to a superstar in every sense of the word.

    In addition to the scoring work, he dishes out 5.7 assists and collects 4.8 rebounds per night, which represent career highs in each category.

No. 2 Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    As a footnote to the headlines that teammate LeBron James has made this season, we haven't necessarily given Dwyane Wade's campaign its proper respect.

    His 52 percent shooting from the field through Monday represents a career high for the future Hall of Fame shooting guard in his 10th NBA season.

    He is also tied for fourth in player efficiency rating at 24.57 while averaging the ninth-most points in the league at 21.7 per night.

    In short, Wade has been everything you'd expect him to be in 2012-13, even if you haven't noticed yet.

    He has his Miami Heat team locked into the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference because of all that too.

No. 1 Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Despite his team's circus-like tour through the NBA’s regular season, Kobe Bryant has managed to keep the Los Angeles Lakers relevant in playoff discussions as March unfolds.

    At 30-30 overall through Monday, the Lakers sit only two games back of the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

    Bryant's scoring average of 27.3 points per night ranks third in the league, while his player efficiency rating of 23.19 ranks 12th. 

    Quietly, Bryant has also inched his field-goal percentage up to a career high of 47.2 percent in year 17 of his NBA career.

    Regardless of the issues the Lakers have had thus far, you can count on Kobe to make this team one that no opponent wants to see in the first round.

No. 5 Small Forward: Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

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    In the days leading up the NBA trade deadline, it seemed unlikely that Josh Smith would finish this season as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.

    As we make the final push towards the postseason, however, that's exactly what J-Smoove is scheduled to do.

    He continues to bring averages of 17.2 points and 8.7 rebounds onto the court for the Hawks on a nightly basis. Despite Atlanta losing its last three games through Monday, Smith has been critical in helping it to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. 

    His shooting percentage of 45.7 percent isn't as low as some NBA fans might assume either, and he's dishing out a career high of 4.3 assists.

    While this season might be his last in a Hawks uniform for the free-agent-to-be, there is certainly more to come from Smith in Atlanta before the 2012-13 campaign concludes.

No. 4 Small Forward: Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Paul George has evolved from a young player loaded with athleticism to the NBA's version of a three-tool star for the Indiana Pacers in 2012-13.

    Averaging 17.6 points to go along with 7.9 rebounds and four assists, the Paul-Star ranks sixth, fifth and seventh respectively at his position in each category.

    In addition to his offensive exploits, George has done work on the defensive end of the floor for a Pacers unit that ranks first overall in defensive efficiency through Monday.

    After making his first All-Star appearance in February, expect George to perennially appear in the NBA's midseason showcase for years to come.

No. 3 Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    Carmelo Anthony did not return for the second half on Monday during the New York Knicks' 102-97 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    He told reporters following the game that his right knee was sore, and hopefully the setback isn't any more severe than that would sound.

    Scoring 28.2 points per game on the year, Anthony is currently in a two-way battle with Kevin Durant for the NBA scoring title.

    More importantly, however, he has helped his Knicks earn the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference thus far, and they appear poised to make a deep run in the postseason.

    Anthony has been the primary reason for the Knicks' success this season. A quick and healthy return from Monday's injury is obviously paramount in maintaining that position as we head toward the playoffs.

No. 2 Small Forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Kevin Durant is going 50-40-90 this season while scoring a league-best 28.6 points per game.

    Most years, an MVP trophy would typically be awarded to a scoring champ who shoots 50.9 percent from the field, 42.2 percent from three-point territory and 90.7 percent from the free-throw line.

    Unfortunately for Durant, there is one player in the league who might be having a better season.

    Regardless, Durant has his Oklahoma City Thunder team sitting only three games back of the San Antonio Spurs through Monday for the Western Conference's best record.

    Whether Durant ultimately leads OKC to the No. 1 seed or not by season's end, he will continue to make the Thunder the likeliest team in my estimate to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

No. 1 Small Forward: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James needed to do more than most MVPs typically would in order to convince voters he deserves the fourth MVP award of his career this season.

    On the strength of an historic run through February—and a 15-game Miami Heat winning streak through Monday—there is seemingly no denying him that opportunity at this point.

    James is shooting a career-high 56.3 percent from the floor in 2012-13. He's also shooting a career-best 40.7 percent from three while collecting the most rebounds he ever has at 8.2 per contest.

    The 27 points he scores ranks fourth in the league, and he leads the NBA in PER again with a rating of 31.53.

    James has the Miami Heat playing the best basketball collectively of any team in the league as a result and appears on course for a second consecutive championship this summer.

No. 5 Power Forward: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    Even more of a burden will be placed on Tim Duncan while San Antonio Spurs teammate Tony Parker works his way back from injury this month, but the future Hall of Famer appears up for the challenge.

    Playing in his 14th All-Star Game this season—after being left off the roster last year—Duncan has had a resurgence of sorts in 2012-13.

    The 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds he averages through Monday are his highest in three years.

    Defensively, the 2.7 blocks Duncan's accounted for this year are the most he's averaged since 2004.

    He's helped his Spurs to the league's best record through Monday and will be even more critical down the stretch in their quest to hold on to that spot.

No. 4 Power Forward: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Blake Griffin has matured into more than just a Lob City dunker this year.

    While he's certainly the high-flyer he's always been, Griffin has used an improving post game to shoot 54.6 percent from the field through Monday.

    His 18.6 points per game in 2012-13 represents a dip from the 20-plus number he averaged in each of the last two seasons, but Griffin scores winning points for the Los Angeles Clippers these days.

    He's blended his talents well with the weapons that now surround him in Los Angeles and provides an inside presence for a team that figures to be extremely dangerous this postseason.

No. 3 Power Forward: David Lee, Golden State Warriors

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    David Lee leads the NBA in double-doubles with 40 registered on the season through Monday.

    While his Warriors have dropped six of their last 10, Lee provides a level of consistency that I expect will ultimately lead Golden State to securing the No. 6 seed it currently owns in the Western Conference.

    The 18.9 points that Lee averages rank 13th in the NBA thus far, while his 11.3 rebounds rank fifth.

    The two-time All-Star has been among the best at his position for the last few seasons and has only further emphasized that fact in 2012-13.

No. 2 Power Forward: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    The 11.6 rebounds that Zach Randolph has averaged this season are second in the league behind only Dwight Howard.

    Despite a trade that sent teammate Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in late January, Z-Bo has helped his Memphis Grizzlies maintain the fourth-best record in the Western Conference through Monday.

    The Grizzlies have gone 9-1 over their last 10 and could open the postseason with home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

    When the postseason begins, defending Randolph in the painted area will continue to be the nightmare it's always been for whoever's matched up against him.

No. 1 Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

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    As the league's 11th-leading scorer overall, the 20.8 points LaMarcus Aldridge averages this season are more than any power forward in the Association.

    The two-time All-Star collects 8.6 rebounds per game as well, while shooting 79.1 percent from the free-throw line, uncharacteristic of a big man.

    He's meshed well with rookie Damian Lillard this year and will continue to be the primary piece of the Portland Trail Blazers' efforts next season.

    If the Trail Blazers had any depth at all coming off their bench, we might have even seen Aldridge in the postseason this year, but unfortunately for Portland fans that won't be the case.

No. 5 Center: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

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    It would be an understatement to say DeMarcus Cousins has been frustrating at times throughout his tumultuous career.

    We all realize that, and I also know I'm slotting him fifth ahead of NBA centers who have been All-Stars as recently as this season.

    But Cousins' offensive talent and production from an individual standpoint are too much to ignore even with the suspensions, technicals and any other drama you want to lump in.

    At 17.2 points per game, Cousins ranks fourth among all centers in scoring this season, while his 9.9 rebounds rank eighth.

    If you're looking for excuses for Cousins—and the rest of his Sacramento Kings teammates for that matter—they have had plenty in a season with rumors of an impeding move swirling over their heads.

No. 4 Center: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

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    As the NBA world discussed trade speculation surrounding teammate Josh Smith for much of this season, Al Horford put in star-quality work for the Atlanta Hawks.

    The 17.3 points Horford averages are good for third-best at his position, while his 10 rebounds rank seventh.

    Posting a double-double on a nightly basis, Horford has been a driving force for the playoff berth the Hawks are on schedule to earn by season's end.

No. 3 Center: Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks

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    When Tyson Chandler shoots, he usually scores.

    The NBA's leader in field-goal percentage at 65 percent on the season, Chandler has anchored the New York Knicks' interior attack on both ends of the floor.

    He averages a double-double at 11.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and continues to provide veteran leadership that's helped the Knicks win at a high rate.

    After winning an NBA title two seasons ago with the Dallas Mavericks, Chandler's championship pedigree will become even more valuable for New York when the postseason begins.

No. 2 Center: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

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    Brook Lopez didn't earn his way into the All-Star Game until Rajon Rondo suffered a season-ending ACL injury, but the appearance he made was well deserved regardless.

    Lopez has been the Brooklyn Nets' most consistent and best player this season, a surprising turn of events for a team that also employs Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

    Besides averaging 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, Lopez has also made a difference on the defensive end this season with 2.2 blocks per contest. 

No. 1 Center: Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Dwight Howard has been perpetually frustrating to NBA fans everywhere for the last two seasons, but you're still lying to yourself if you think there's any center in the NBA that's better.

    In what is a down season for Howard according to many statistical metrics, he leads the NBA with 12 rebounds per game while scoring 16.1 points.

    The 57.9 percent Howard shoots from the field ranks fifth in the league this season as well, as do his 2.31 blocks.

    While there is undoubtedly room for Howard to improve with the Los Angeles Lakers—or get back to the level he played at for most of his career—he is still the best at his position.