It's official: The 2012-13 NBA season shall henceforth be remembered as the Year
That LeBron James Blew Away the Competition of the Injured Superstar.
Derrick Rose has yet to play a single minute on account of a torn ACL. The same goes for Andrew Bynum and his chronically problematic knees. Dwight Howard's been himself only in name since undergoing back surgery last April, as was Amar'e Stoudemire in between knee operations and Kevin Love when his shooting hand wasn't trapped in a cast.
Deron Williams has been battling Father Time (and his own feet) since picking the Brooklyn Nets over the Dallas Mavericks, who are only now getting Dirk Nowitzki back into proper shape. Rajon Rondo's knee, Tony Parker's ankle, Pau Gasol's foot and Kyrie Irving's shoulder (and hand and nose and immune system) have all shown up on injury reports over the last few months.
You could say, then, that those who've managed to hang around this particular list are not only great players, but also survivors of an ever-more-rigorous trade. Starting this week, we'll be including each player's stats from the week prior so you can get a better idea of why each guy grades out the way he does from week to week.
So how do our competitors rank now? And which, if any, have been voted off Superstar Island?
Stats from the Week that Was: 19.8 points, 7.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals, .397 from the field, .448 from three, 3.3 turnovers in 38.3 minutes (four games)
Just as Stephen Curry was establishing himself as a top-10 superstar, he went and had a week that was, in many ways, subpar by his own lofty standards. He twice fell short of the 20-point plateau, including one game, against the Sacramento Kings, in which managed just 13 points to go along with six turnovers.
Those numbers might not have mattered quite as much had the Warriors enjoyed a better week on the whole. But losses to the Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks dropped Golden State ever closer toward the bottom of the Western Conference playoff standings, where Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers are eager to pounce.
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B (10)
Stats from the Week that Was: 20 points, 16.3 rebounds, 4.3 blocks, 2.3 steals, .578 from the floor, 2.0 turnovers in 39.9 minutes (three games)
It's been a while since Dwight Howard last appeared on this list, though he's done plenty of late to earn his way back into the mix. Howard's looked much more like his old self over the last month or so, during which he's averaged 15.6 points, 13.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
Granted, Dwight's free-throw shooting is as atrocious as ever, and he's still a long way off from being the dominant force he once was. But on the whole, he's playing much better than he did during the first three months of the season.
And as a result, the Los Angeles Lakers have climbed out of their former hole to move over the .500 mark and firmly into the playoff hunt out West.
Current Grade: B (84 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): N/A (NR)
Stats from the Week that Was: 14 points, 10 rebounds, no assists, no steals, no blocks, .267 from the field, .000 from three, one turnover in 34 minutes (one game, 3 DNPs)
Carmelo Anthony has slipped dangerously close to the abyss known otherwise as "Everybody Else in the NBA" on account of his own recent injury woes. Anthony missed three games with a bum knee suffered during the New York Knicks' comeback win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 4.
'Melo looked like anything but himself in his first game back. He scored just 14 points (on 4-of-15 shooting) in 34 minutes and committed five fouls in a 92-63 loss to the Golden State Warriors on March 11.
Not exactly play becoming of a bona fide superstar. The Knicks can only hope that Anthony and his doctors figure out what's wrong with his knee before the situation deteriorates, for star as well as team.
Current Grade: B (85 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B+ (7)
Stats from the Week that Was: 18 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, .408 from the field, .333 from three, 3.3 turnovers in 33.1 minutes (four games)
Bad Russ didn't quite show up during Russell Westbrook's first three games of the week. He was hobbled during the second half of the Thunder's one-point win in New York and wasn't exactly required to dominate during OKC's relatively easy victories opposite the Charlotte Bobcats and the Boston Celtics.
It wasn't until Game No. 4, in San Antonio, that Bad Russ came to play. Westbrook finished that game with a solid 25 points, but he needed 27 shots to get them. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant needed just 13 attempts from the field to rack up his game-high 26 points.
Of course, Westbrook's relative dud would've been a bit more acceptable if: a) he hadn't shot 2-of-8 during the fourth quarter; b) the Spurs hadn't handled the Thunder so easily, even without Tony Parker; and c) that loss hadn't dropped OKC another game back of San Antonio in the race for first place in the Western Conference.
Current Grade: B (87 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A- (6)
Stats from the Week that Was: 20.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, .658 from the field, .000 from three, 2.7 turnovers in 29.2 minutes (three games)
Blake Griffin's week began with a bang, to say the least. His triple-double against the Milwaukee Bucks—the third of his career—was summarily overshadowed by the above alley-oop he shared with Jamal Crawford.
Which, in turn, took a backseat to DeAndre Jordan's mugging of Brandon Knight just a few nights later.
The fact that "Pumpkin Spice" was able to tally 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in under 33 minutes against a team with as much size as Milwaukee would've been plenty impressive, even if it hadn't sparked a de facto dunk-off between himself and D.J.
His subpar showing against the Clippers' best opponent of the week (17 points, two rebounds, two assists in 33:17) would've meant more had it not come on the dreaded second night of a back-to-back in the thin air of Denver.
Current Grade: B+ (89 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B+ (9)
Stats from the Week that Was: 28.7 points, 9.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, .373 from the field, .480 from three, 14.0 free-throw attempts, 4.3 turnovers in 40.9 minutes (three games)
James Harden would garner greater consideration as one of the truly elite superstars if he played better defense and his best efforts correlated more closely with positive results for the Houston Rockets. His team lost twice in three games this past week, despite Harden scoring and facilitating as if he were Kobe Bryant circa the last seven weeks.
As it stands, the Beard is doing rather well for himself and his squad. He's currently fifth in the league in scoring, helping his Rockets move within sniffing distance of the No. 6 seed out West.
Current Grade: A- (91 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): B+ (8)
Stats from the Week that Was: 23 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 4.3 steals, .583 from the field, .000 from three, 3.3 turnovers in 36.8 minutes (three games)
The Miami Heat's mammoth winning streak carries on, thanks in no small part to Dwyane Wade. All he did this week was turn in a trio of 20-point performances, including a crucial 24 points to help fend off the hard-charging Orlando Magic on March 6.
It wouldn't be entirely fair to either player to compare Wade's current role with the Heat to Scottie Pippen's with the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan years. Nonetheless, like Scottie before him, D-Wade has done a masterful job of establishing himself as the NBA's best and most reliable sidekick.
Current Grade: A (95 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A (5)
Stats from the Week that Was: 16.7 points, 11 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 steals, .600 from the field, .333 from three, 0.3 turnovers in 33.6 minutes (three games)
A perfect point guard never turns the ball over. By those standards, Chris Paul isn't a perfect point guard, but he came darn close this past week. Paul gave the ball away just once in three games, during the Clippers' blowout loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
All the while, CP3 tallied 33 assists (on 46.5 percent of his teammates' baskets) while using a relatively modest 18.2 percent of L.A.'s possessions.
Paul may not be perfect, but he's about as efficient a floor general as you'll find on planet Earth.
Current Grade: A (98 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A (4)
Stats from the Week that Was: 34 points, 11 assists, 6.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, .542 from the field, .429 from three, 12.0 free-throw attempts, 5.7 turnovers in 41.8 minutes (three games)
Kobe Bryant's detractors will readily point to the 15 turnovers he tallied in games against the New Orleans Hornets and the Toronto Raptors as proof that he's a selfish, wild ball hog whose antics endanger his team's chances of success.
Everyone else, on the other hand, will note how well he shot from the field and how frequently he set up his teammates for buckets. They'll credit Kobe for dragging the Los Angeles Lakers back into the playoff hunt and perhaps give him some dap in the race for MVP runner-up.
Sure, Bryant's miscues contributed to L.A.'s big deficits against New Orleans and Toronto. But, conversely, the Lakers never would've pulled out those games and wound up back in the postseason picture without Kobe's clutch heroics.
Current Grade: A+ (100 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A (3)
Stats from the Week that Was: 25.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, .459 from the field, .286 from three, 11.0 free-throw attempts, 4.3 turnovers in 36.7 minutes (four games)
At the moment, the gap between Kevin Durant, at No. 2, and everyone else is as close as it's been all season.
Not that Durant has necessarily been playing poorly. His numbers were admittedly dragged down by a short showing against the bumbling Bobcats, and his 21 second-half points in New York saved the Thunder from what would've been a bit of an embarrassment against the Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks.
But, like OKC as a whole, Durant's efforts have gone largely forgotten on a national scale as news of the Heat's winning streak and the Lakers' climb back into playoff contention has come to dominate the headlines.
Current Grade: A+ (104 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A+ (2)
Stats from the Week that Was: 21.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks, .537 from the field, .333 from three, 3.0 turnovers in 36.3 minutes (three games)
LeBron James' pure productivity has cooled off considerably since his scorching performance in February. In his first six games in March, James averaged 21.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists on 50 percent shooting from the floor after putting up 29.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists while shooting 64.1 percent during the previous month.
Of course, no player nowadays can honestly be expected to post such historic stats over as extensive a period of time. Frankly, those that LeBron has amassed this month are fantastic in their own right.
But because LeBron is who he is and has done what he's done this season, even a spectacular calendar month is bound to seem patently average by comparison. Such is the plane on which James exists these days.
For better or worse.
Current Grade: A++ (109 Percent)
Last Week's Grade (and Ranking): A++ (1)