Updated Rankings of the Top 5 NBA Players at Every Position

Brendan Bowers@@BowersCLEContributor IIMarch 26, 2013

Updated Rankings of the Top 5 NBA Players at Every Position

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    The updated rankings of the top five players at every position are measuring the NBA's elite as the regular season winds down.  

    As teams prepare for the playoff push, this list includes only those stars who are expected to be healthy for the final stretch of the 2012-13 campaign. 

    Kyrie Irving and Marc Gasol, for example, fell out of these updated rankings only because of injury. If healthy, they would both be included at their respective positions.

    Derrick Rose would be as well, along with Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and Andrew Bynum in all likelihood.

    In addition to players who've posted All-Star-caliber numbers throughout the year, these rankings are also highlighting those players who are coming on strong during the month of March specifically.

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

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    Despite a lack of support in Philadelphia, Jrue Holiday turned in an All-Star campaign for the 76ers.

    On the strength of 18.4 points and 8.6 assists per game, Holiday emerged as one of the NBA's best point guards in 2012-13. 

    His work as a facilitator ranks fourth in the league, while his scoring effort ranks 16th.

    If teammate Andrew Bynum were healthy enough to play alongside Holiday, the Sixers could have been on their way to a special season. Instead—to no fault of their point guard—Philadelphia will finish the year in the lottery.

No. 4 Point Guard: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    Among the top 19 players in terms of three-point field-goal percentage, Stephen Curry is the only one averaging over 20 points. 

    While he is scoring 22.5 per night specifically, the 45.6 percent that Curry is shooting from long range is tied for second.

    During the month of March, Curry has also improved his career highs in both scoring and assists to average 24.4 and 7.3 per game, respectively. 

    At 41-31 overall, his Golden State Warriors are currently one game up on the Houston Rockets for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference as a result of his efforts.

No. 3 Point Guard: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    What's sometimes lost in discussing Russell Westbrook's premier athleticism is that he's also matured into a well-rounded, dominant point guard.

    Westbrook currently ranks sixth, seventh and seventh with 23.3 points, 7.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game in 2012-13. He is also combining with Kevin Durant to form the highest-scoring tandem in the league.

    While helping his Oklahoma City Thunder win seven of their last 10, Westbrook has his team threatening for the Western Conference's best record with 11 games remaining.

    Just as he did in the 2012 playoffs, expect Westbrook to have a major hand in deciding the conference title once again this summer.

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

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    Tony Parker picked up right where he left off after returning to action on March 22.

    Over his last two games, Parker has averaged 22.5 points, six assists and three rebounds while shooting 57.7 percent from the field. 

    His San Antonio Spurs were able to maintain the Western Conference's best record in Parker's absence and obviously become more dangerous now that he's back on the floor. 

    Maybe the most underrated point guard of his era, Parker will have a legitimate chance to add a fourth NBA title to his Hall of Fame resume just as soon as the 2013 playoffs begin.

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

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    Chris Paul has remained the NBA's best point guard in 2012-13.

    While helping his Los Angeles Clippers to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, Paul's 9.7 assists lead all active players.

    Along with the 16.8 points he's pouring in on a nightly basis, Paul is also spearheading the defensive effort by collecting a league-high 2.4 steals per contest.

    He is proving once again to be the elite-level superstar capable of leading his team on a quest for an NBA championship while making everyone around him better.

No. 5 Shooting Guard: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

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    While anchoring the top reserve unit in the NBA, Jamal Crawford is coming off the bench to rank sixth at his position in scoring at 16.8 points per night. 

    Among the 12 highest-scoring shooting guards in the league, Crawford is the only one who is averaging less than 30 minutes.

    His ability to create for himself and others while shooting 44 percent from the floor has provided star-quality depth for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2012-13.

    The mismatches Crawford will create with second-team guards in the postseason could also be enough to decide a series once the playoffs are under way.

No. 4 Shooting Guard: Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

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    Prior to Monday's loss to the New Orleans Hornets, Andre Iguodala had helped fuel a 15-game winning streak for the Denver Nuggets.

    He has brought a defensive toughness and winning attitude to his new team that has been contagious since the moment he's arrived in Denver. 

    The 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and five assists per game only begin to describe Igoudala's value for the NBA's best team that nobody wants to talk about. 

    Sparked by Iguodala's team-first, veteran approach, his well-balanced Nuggets expect to carry their winning ways deep into the 2013 playoffs. 

No. 3 Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    Buried among the headlines of winning streaks and MVPs is the fact that Dwyane Wade is shooting better than he ever has in 2012-13.

    On the strength of 51.9 percent from the field, Wade's 21.5 points per game are good for eighth in the league. His player efficiency rating of 24.26 also ranks seventh.

    While teammate LeBron James will collect the individual accolades associated with the Miami Heat's dominance, Wade will continue to be the next most important reason his team has an opportunity to repeat.

    Defenses might be able to slow either James or Wade down on a given night, but the chances of stopping them both are extremely minimal.

No. 2 Shooting Guard: James Harden, Houston Rockets

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    At only 23 years old, James Harden has already entered the stratosphere of NBA superstars.

    The 26.3 points he's averaged in 2012-13 have kept Harden among the league's top five scorers from wire to wire.

    In a short time, he has recalibrated expectations for a Houston Rockets organization that has all but secured the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. 

    As a full-time starter for the Rockets, Harden has also posted career highs in assists and rebounds at 5.8 and 4.8 per game, respectively.

    Whether he helps his team advance out of the first round in 2013 or not, Harden will be the foundation of winning in Houston for many years to come.

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

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    Despite his Los Angeles Lakers' third straight loss on Monday, Kobe Bryant exploded for a game-high 36 points. 

    After willing his team into the No. 8 seed, Bryant continues to do everything in his power to secure a playoff berth in 2012-13. 

    To go along with the NBA's third-best scoring average of 27.1 points, the 5.8 assists that Bryant is also dishing out represent the third-highest average of his 17-year career.

    He has upped his assist game to 6.8 per contest during the month of March specifically. Kobe would provide must-see drama on the postseason stage if Los Angeles is able to sneak its way into the playoffs.

No. 5 Small Forward: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    Don't sleep on the Boston Celtics just yet—not while Paul Pierce is still doing his thing, anyway. 

    Fueled by a 53.3 percent shooting effort, Pierce is averaging 20 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game during the month of March. 

    Despite the injury to Rajon Rondo, Pierce has kept his Celtics relevant in the playoff mix over the last half of the 2012-13 campaign. 

    Having helped his team to the No. 7 seed through Monday, Pierce's Hall of Fame ability is the single biggest reason nobody will be taking the Celtics lightly in the first round of the 2013 postseason.

No. 4 Small Forward: Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Paul George has emerged as a three-tool star for the Indiana Pacers in 2012-13.

    While leading his team in scoring at 17.6 points per night, George is also collecting 7.8 rebounds and dishing out four assists from the small forward position. 

    He has used his athleticism on the defensive end to help Indiana hold opponents to a league-leading 41.4 percent from the field as well, which helped him earn his first trip to the All-Star Game.

    George is also a major reason the Pacers remain the primary Eastern Conference threat to upset the Miami Heat in the 2013 playoffs heading down the final stretch.

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

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    After returning from an injury to his right knee on March 20, Carmelo Anthony has averaged 28.6 points per game in his last three to help his New York Knicks ride a four-game winning streak through Monday.

    Only Kevin Durant has totaled more than the 27.6 points that Anthony has averaged on the year, and Anthony has his Knicks positioned for a deep run in the postseason. 

    Current owners of the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, New York is just a half-game back of the second-place Indiana Pacers.

    If Anthony is able to extend his dominant play over the final 14 games of the regular season, New York could secure the second-best conference mark before the playoffs begin.

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

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    If not for LeBron James, Kevin Durant would be the unanimous choice for league MVP.

    While leading the NBA in scoring for the fourth straight time at 28.3 points per night, Durant has kept his Oklahoma City Thunder within striking distance of the San Antonio Spurs for the Western Conference's best record through Monday.

    Despite the loss of James Harden, Durant has helped improve the Thunder's winning percentage to .732 in 2012-13—up from the .712 ball they played to secure the No. 2 seed in the West a year ago.

    Shooting 50.3 percent from the field, 40.6 from three and 90.6 from the free-throw line, Durant is also on pace to join the exclusive 50-40-90 club for the first time in his career.

No. 1 Small Forward: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James is the most dominant single force on the NBA hardwood.

    After going wire to wire as the league MVP in 2011-12—while winning his first championship—James has returned to lead his Miami Heat to their 27th straight win through Monday.

    He is posting career highs in field-goal percentage and rebounding at 55.7 percent and 8.2 per game, respectively, while also leading the NBA in player efficiency rating for the sixth straight time.

    James has capitalized on his playmaking ability to help Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shoot better than they ever have from the field en route to the Heat earning the league's best record of 56-14.

No. 5 Power Forward: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Now more than ever, the Memphis Grizzlies will only go as far as Zach Randolph can take them.

    After responding well to the trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, the Grizzlies announced this weekend that Marc Gasol would be out indefinitely with an abdominal tear. 

    His loss may be too much for Randolph and Co. to overcome in a potential first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers or Denver Nuggets. 

    While averaging 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, however, Randolph has finished 11 games this season with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds. If that type of production becomes the norm for Z-Bo down the stretch, I suppose anything is still possible.

No. 4 Power Forward: David Lee, Golden State Warriors

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    David Lee is leading the NBA in double-doubles by a considerable margin. 

    Lee has posted 48 in total; the next closest competitor in that category is seven games away from catching the Golden State Warriors power forward.

    The 11.2 rebounds Lee has collected on a nightly basis rank sixth in the league as well, while his 18.6 points per game are good for 15th.

    As the Warriors have worked to maintain the No. 6 seed over the last month—although Lee's scoring average for March has dipped to 16.5 points—he has posted 11 of those double-doubles in his last 13 games.

No. 3 Power Forward: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Along with the looping reel of highlights he's produced for the Los Angeles Clippers, Blake Griffin has demonstrated the ability to score in the half-court during the 2012-13 campaign.

    While shooting a career-best 75.9 percent on shots attempted at the rim, Griffin has also posted career highs from three to nine feet and 10-15 feet of 48.3 and 41.1 percent respectively, according to Hoopdata.com.

    He is leading the Clippers with 8.6 rebounds per night, too, while helping them earn the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference through Monday.

No. 2 Power Forward: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    At the age of 36 years young, Tim Duncan has helped lead the San Antonio Spurs to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference through Monday.

    Blocking 2.7 shots per night, Duncan has made a major impact on the defensive end of the floor while also averaging 17.3 points and 9.9 rebounds. 

    After missing nine of the Spurs' 11 games from Jan. 19 to Feb. 11, Duncan is winding down the month of March by posting 19.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

    Duncan's player efficiency rating of 24.32 also ranks him fifth in the league, and he will have a major say in deciding the Western Conference championship once again this summer.

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

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    LaMarcus Aldridge is closing out the 2012-13 campaign by leading all power forwards in scoring. 

    At 21 points and 8.9 rebounds per night, Aldridge did everything he could for the Portland Trail Blazers to bring playoff basketball to Rip City. If not for the NBA's worst bench, he might have accomplished as much. 

    Despite his team's 33-37 record through Monday, Aldridge is shooting career highs of 70.9 percent on field goals attempted at the rim and 48.8 percent from 10-15 feet according to Hoopdata.com.

    If this type of production continues—combined with the steady growth of Damian Lillard and development of a second unit—the Trail Blazers could find themselves in postseason contention by this time next year.

No. 5 Center: Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks

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    After missing the last six games with a bulging disk in his neck, Tyson Chandler says there is "definitely a chance" he returns to the lineup on Tuesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.

    Despite the New York Knicks managing a 4-2 record in his absence, Chandler's healthy presence is a requirement for postseason success.

    While anchoring the interior attack at both ends of the floor, Chandler has fueled his 10.7 points per game by converting 64.5 percent of his field-goal attempts.

    The 11 rebounds per night he's collected to go along with that scoring punch currently ranks Chandler seventh in the league.

No. 4 Center: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Plantar fasciitis in his right foot kept Joakim Noah out of the last two games for the Chicago Bulls.

    After missing time in February for the same reason, Noah is currently listed as day-to-day, according to Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com.

    Highlighted by a triple-double on Feb. 28, Noah had previously averaged 14.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and three blocks during his last 10 games.

    While defending the painted area as if he were born to play in Tom Thibodeau's system, Noah has emerged as one of the league's top centers in 2012-13.

    As soon as the pain in his right foot becomes remotely tolerable, expect Noah's competitiveness to have him back on the floor for Chicago.

No. 3 Center: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

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    Al Horford has been a model of consistency for the No. 5-seeded Atlanta Hawks.

    As trade speculation swirled around teammate Josh Smith at the deadline—following a deal that sent Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets this summer—Horford has continued to post a double-double through Monday.

    He ranks third in the league with 40 double-doubles in total while leading the Hawks in scoring and rebounding at 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

    During the month of March, Horford has scored at least 20 points seven times while improving his per-game averages to 18.5 points and 10.8 rebounds.

No. 2 Center: Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

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    Brook Lopez is the NBA's highest-scoring center at 19 points per night.

    On a team that was supposed to be led by veteran All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, Lopez has been the biggest reason the Nets clinched their first playoff berth since 2007 last week.

    He is blocking a career-best 2.1 shots per game while also shooting 52.2 percent from the field. 

    Though his rebounding totals could stand to improve, Lopez's consistent efficiency—highlighted by a PER of 24.71 that ranks fourth in the league—has been the foundation for Brooklyn's success in 2012-13.

No. 1 Center: Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Dwight Howard struggled to begin his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he is still the league's best center. 

    During the month of March specifically, he's improved his production to 17.1 points and 15.2 rebounds per game in pursuit of a playoff berth.

    Despite his lowest scoring output since the '05-06 campaign, the 56.7 percent that Howard is shooting from the field ranks sixth in the NBA. 

    He is also leading the league in rebounding at 12.5 per contest while ranking fifth overall in blocks.

    If his Lakers manage to navigate their way into the postseason, Howard will be the problem he's always been for whomever is tasked with defending him.