Updated NBA Superstar Rankings: How Far Can Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard Rise?
The Los Angeles Lakers have been rising up the Western Conference standings, finally asserting themselves as a legitimate playoff team during the 2012-13 season. What does this mean for their best players, though?
Kobe Bryant has been terrific all season, and Dwight Howard is playing his way back toward the level he reached with the Orlando Magic, so how high do they find themselves in the updated NBA superstar rankings?
Better yet, how far can they rise before the 82-game season comes to a close?
Of course, players who don't wear purple and gold comprise these rankings as well. Did your favorite player make this edition? And if he was already there, how far did he rise or fall?
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Sunday, March 10.
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, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo and Andrew Bynum will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.
20. DeAndre Jordan (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 1.4 blocks, 0.6 steals, 16.96 PER
DeAndre Jordan didn't belong anywhere near these power rankings until one moment over the weekend.
When Chris Paul lobbed the ball up near the rim and Brandon Knight contested the play, the seven-footer just absolutely destroyed everything in sight. Credit to Knight for both his effort and being a good sport after the fact, but his pride has to be hurting right now.
Jordan submitted the early favorite for Dunk of the Year, and, quite frankly, it's not even close. When that happens, you deserve a one-week berth in the top 20.
19. Ty Lawson (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Denver Nuggets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 steals, 17.89 PER
Ty Lawson's spot in the rankings isn't just a gimmick. He could be present in the weekly updates for quite some time if he maintains his current level of play.
So many players have stood out for the Denver Nuggets lately, but Lawson has emerged above the rest with his shooting efficiency, willingness to take over down the stretch and overall level of play. During his past five games, the diminutive point guard has shot 54.8 percent form the field and averaged 21.2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game.
Even more impressively, he's hitting game-winners, maintaining control of the ball and knocking down shots from the outside.
18. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: No. 17)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.8 steals
Tim Duncan hasn't shouldered quite as much of the offensive burden as I would have expected since Tony Parker went down for an extended period of time, but he's still been a fantastic big man for the San Antonio Spurs.
Even though the Big Fundamental has played less than 30 minutes per game over the past week, he's played with efficiency on both ends of the court.
Gregg Popovich can count on Duncan to make proper decisions when he has the basketball in his hands, but he also relies on the 36-year-old to serve as the defensive anchor when he's on the court. Duncan's 2.8 blocks per game over his past five contests don't tell the whole story, but they still show just a bit of his defensive dominance.
17. Paul George (Previous Ranking: No. 14)
Team: Indiana Pacers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.07 PER
Paul George played fantastic defense against LeBron James when the Indiana Pacers battled it out with the Miami Heat, and he's been quite good on that end of the court throughout the most recent stretch of games.
However, this first-time All-Star has been slipping on offense.
During his past five games, George has knocked down only 38.7 percent of his shots from the field, and neither his free-throw shooting nor three-point shooting has been enough for the swingman to make up for his misses.
16. Dwight Howard (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.01 PER
It's been a while since Dwight Howard has found himself back in the numbered portion of these player power rankings, but it's hard to deny what he's been doing lately now that his health isn't failing him to the same extent.
The Los Angeles Lakers are finally back in the playoff picture, and a large portion of the credit is due to the big man's return to his old form.
Remember, when he was in perfect shape and comfortable with the Orlando Magic, D12 was one of the four best players in the league. He's still only 27 years old, and he absolutely has the potential to make it all the way back up to that upper echelon.
If he keeps up his current level of play, he'll be there sooner rather than later. Over his past five games, Howard has averaged 15.4 points, 16.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
15. Joakim Noah (Previous Ranking: No. 16)
Team: Chicago Bulls
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.1 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 17.88 PER
Joakim Noah may have plantar fasciitis, but he's dealing with that remarkably well. The long-haired center has been a dominant two-way force, even if the Chicago Bulls are starting to take some steps backward.
Noah has averaged a solid double-double since March began, recording 14.0 points and 12.6 rebounds per contest, but his value is by no means limited to those two stats.
At this point in the 2012-13 season, Noah should be considered the unquestioned front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year.
14. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 15)
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.66 PER
Marc Gasol ranks ahead of Joakim Noah for one more week due to two parts of his game: his defense and passing ability.
Noah may be the DPOY favorite, but Gasol's defense is on the same level, and it's actually resulted in victories for the Memphis Grizzlies lately. Gasol has anchored a unit that has allowed only opponents to top 90 points only twice in their last five games during a stretch in which the Grizz went 4-1.
As for his passing, the 28-year-old center has averaged 5.8 assists per game over those same five contests, topping out at 11 dimes against the Orlando Magic.
13. Stephen Curry (Previous Ranking: No. 13)
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 20.27 PER
Even though Stephen Curry remains put in his No. 13 spot, he actually moved down a little bit. Kyrie Irving has dropped out of the rankings due to injury, and one player previously behind Curry has jumped him.
Perhaps the Golden State Warriors sharpshooter used up all of his magic dropping 54 points against the New York Knicks. Recently, his shot hasn't been falling at the same rate.
Curry is shooting only 43 percent from the field over his past five contests, and his 36.4 percent shooting from behind the three-point arc is decidedly un-Curry-like. The floor general's passing has still been on point, but the substantial decrease in accuracy prevents him from actually rising in the rankings.
12. Brandon Jennings (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.08 PER
Apparently Brandon Jennings has decided that he's a left-handed version of John Stockton.
This is an awfully high ranking for a guy who spent last week in the unranked category, but what this Milwaukee Bucks floor general has done over his past five games is just ridiculous. He's averaged 13.2 assists and only 2.6 turnovers per game, highlighted by his 19-assist, three-turnover game against the Toronto Raptors.
Usually, an uptick in dimes results in a decrease in scoring, but Jennings has upped his points per game average as well. During those past five outings, the 23-year-old has averaged 19.2 points per game in remarkably efficient fashion.
He's shot 47.7 percent from the field—a far cry above his number on the season—and even knocked down 17 of his 32 attempts from downtown.
11. David Lee (Previous Ranking: No. 12)
Team: Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.37 PER
Watching David Lee is always an interesting experience.
On one hand, the 29-year-old big man rarely blows you away. His game isn't based around any sort of stellar athleticism, and he generally surprises you when you look at a box score and realize how many stats he's piled up.
However, Lee always seems to play well, and his finesse game can be a pleasure to watch.
The top-ranked member of the Golden State Warriors has been hindered by a right knee contusion lately, but he was on one heck of a role before the injury, and it hasn't kept him out long enough to push him into the injured players slide.
10. Al Horford (Previous Ranking: No. 11)
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 20.27 PER
Al Horford has quickly become the NBA's most underappreciated superstar. If it wasn't for this Florida product, the Atlanta Hawks would be slumping even more than they currently are.
The big man has been on a tear for a while now, and he doesn't appear to be showing any signs of slowing down. During 11 games in February, Horford averaged 21.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game on 62.1 percent shooting from the field.
He's declined slightly in March, but in six games he's still averaging 20 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.7 steals per contest on 55.6 percent from the field.
9. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 8)
Team: Houston Rockets
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.77 PER
The players who comprise the rest of the rankings are the nine truly elite guys in the Association. Well, at least the ones who are healthy at the moment.
For the most part, these nine guys will find themselves jumping one another throughout the rest of the season depending on who's hot and who's cold.
For now, James Harden is cold. Well, relatively at least. He's just not as hot as the other players in this tier.
The bearded shooting guard is averaging 26.2 points and 8.6 assists per game over his past five contests, but he's also shooting 39.2 percent from the field during that time. Harden's free-throw shooting certainly helps make up for this, but it's still problematic that he's had so much trouble knocking down his attempts from the field.
8. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: No. 6)
Team: New York Knicks
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.8 steals, 23.22 PER
After scoring 32 points against Miami Heat in a six-point loss, things went downhill for Carmelo Anthony.
He only recorded six points against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 14 minutes, leaving with his New York Knicks well behind the underdogs once he suffered a knee injury. The Knicks climbed back into the game and eventually won, but Melo can't be credited for that.
Since then, he's sat out three games and is only included in these rankings because he's expected to return against the Golden State Warriors.
Note: This was written before Carmelo Anthony's performance against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
7. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 9)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.4 steals, 24.03 PER
Blake Griffin just continues to absolutely dominate for the Los Angeles Clippers, even if he isn't receiving the necessary attention. It boggles my mind how people can continue to deny that Blake is an elite player in this league.
Highlighted by his 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists against the Milwaukee Bucks, Griffin has averaged insane numbers over his past five games. In less than 30 minutes per contest, the power forward has averaged 19.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per contest, and he's done so on 62.5 percent shooting from the field.
He's put up those numbers by doing far more than just dunking the ball on a regular basis.
6. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 5)
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.8 steals, 23.63 PER
Well it was a nice run at the top of the point guard rankings within these player power rankings for Russell Westbrook, but he checks in as the No. 2 player at his position this week.
The dynamic floor general for the Oklahoma City Thunder didn't exactly decline too sharply, but he wasn't quite as stellar as the player you'll come to next.
Westbrook has scored points in bunches and shot the ball efficiently from the field, but he's had some problems on defense and been a bit too hesitant passing the ball. After his 10-assist performance against the Los Angeles Clippers, the former UCLA standout has recorded only 17 dimes in a four-game stretch.
5. Chris Paul (Previous Ranking: No. 7)
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 2.4 steals, 26.25 PER
Chris Paul's highlight of the week may have been the alley-oop he threw to DeAndre Jordan, but it was by no means his only terrific play for the Los Angeles Clippers. As always, the league's best point guard has displayed fantastic court vision from tipoff until the final buzzer.
Paul's passing in particular has been on point lately.
In his past five games, CP3 has averaged 11.2 dimes per contest, including a 15-assist performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers and a 14-assist outing versus the Detroit Pistons. And it gets more impressive.
While doing all that shot-creating for his teammates, Paul has maintained complete control over the game. He's turned the ball over just four times in the same span, and three of the cough-ups came in one game, a loss to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
4. Kevin Durant (Previous Ranking: No. 3)
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.5 steals, 28.59 PER
If it seemed strange to see Kevin Durant occupying the No. 3 spot in these rankings last week, than you're in for another surprise. He's dropped one more spot, checking in at No. 4 this week.
Durant would still be a part of the 50/40/90 club if the 2012-13 campaign ended today, but he's not exactly trending in the right direction. Over his past five games, Durant has shot only 42.1 percent from the field, 29.2 percent from downtown and 89.3 percent from the charity stripe.
He's still averaged 27.4 points per game to go along with his 8.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest, but he's done so without posting Durant-like efficiency numbers. Those are impressive numbers, but not nearly impressive enough to hold off the charge of a Player of the Week.
3. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 4)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.8 steals, 24.72 PER
What Dwyane Wade is doing lately is just utterly ridiculous, as he's found a way to stand out even on a team featuring LeBron James. He's been a crucial part of the Miami Heat's 18-game win streak by contributing in just about every way possible.
Take the recent win over the Indiana Pacers. Wade was an absolute menace on defense, ripping the ball away from his opponents six times and brutalizing Paul George more than once.
Three games earlier, in a 97-81 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wade chose to make his mark on offense. He recorded 32 points and 10 assists on 15-of-23 shooting from the field.
Over his past five games, this shooting guard has averaged 24.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 0.4 blocks and 3.0 steals per game, but it's even more impressive that he's done so while shooting 58.6 percent from the field and 86.4 percent from the charity stripe.
2. Kobe Bryant (Previous Ranking: No. 2)
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 23.71 PER
If it weren't for the gaudy turnover numbers, Kobe Bryant would have a chance to surpass everyone else and take over the top spot in these power rankings. He's not going to be the best player in the league again at this stage of his career, but power rankings are a different story.
Kobe just refuses to slow down, and he's been the driving force behind the Los Angeles Lakers' recent run, much like he has throughout the 2012-13 season as a whole.
Over his past five games, the 34-year-old shooting guard has averaged 33.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from downtown and 82.1 percent from the charity stripe.
His free-throw shooting is even more stellar because he's gotten to the line 11.2 times per contest.
1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)
Team: Miami Heat
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.7 steals, 31.20 PER
LeBron James hasn't been as impressive as Kobe Bryant on the offensive end of the court, but two things keep him ahead of the Mamba in these rankings.
First is his defense. While Kobe is a great on-ball defender who conveniently forgets that off-ball defense is important, LeBron thrives in all aspects of the game on that part of the court. Miami hasn't allowed more than 93 points in any of its past six games, and James has been a major part of that trend.
Secondly, it's hard to drop James below No. 1 while he remains the best player in the world on a team that can't lose. Even though these are individual rankings, the success of a team does matter a little bit. The Heat have shown no signs of letting their 18-game streak come to an end, and LeBron certainly won't let it happen easily.