Updated NBA Superstar Rankings: What's Changed During the NBA's March Madness?

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 26, 2013

Updated NBA Superstar Rankings: What's Changed During the NBA's March Madness?

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    March Madness might be a college basketball event, but that doesn't mean the month in question has been any less mad in the NBA

    The topsy-turvy landscape of the Association has produced more than a few changes in these updated NBA superstar rankings, both near the top and at the bottom. Injured players are returning, and unfortunately, more are dropping out as well. 

    With multiple streaking teams, including the seemingly unstoppable Miami Heat, the action has been quite compelling, even if the sport's amateurs have stolen away some of the spotlight. 

    So, how do your favorites fall into place? How have they risen or dropped since last week's edition of these power rankings

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Sunday, Mar. 24. 

Injured Players

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    As a quick housekeeping note: Injured players are not considered for the superstar power rankings. If a player is out for a prolonged period, he's automatically ineligible for the next 20 slides.

    Therefore, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah and Andrew Bynum will not be appearing, although they would certainly make the cut if healthy.

Honorable Mentions

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    The influx of previously injured stars forced a number of quality players either out of the rankings or out of contention. Seeing as the league is getting ridiculously deep at the top with a number of players clamoring for positive attention, I thought it would be beneficial to include a sizable list of honorable mentions. 

    I wanted to include each of these guys; I just didn't have the space in the top 20 to do so. 

    LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Portland Trail Blazers

    The big man in Rip City has been on a tear recently, putting up a double-double in four of his past five contests. Averaging 22.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest over that stretch is nothing to sniff at. 

    DeMarcus Cousins, C, Sacramento Kings

    Although he's been less involved than normal during the most recent stretch of action for the Sacramento Kings, Boogie has still been a physical presence on both ends of the court. When fully engaged, there are few better centers in the Association than this Kentucky product. 

    Rudy Gay, SF, Toronto Raptors

    If Rudy Gay has taken the next step and learned how to shoot, then look out NBA. Averaging 21.0 points on 52.5 percent shooting from the field over a four-game stretch is a great way to put your name in the imaginary player power rankings goblet of fire, but that has to be maintained for the goblet to spit the name back out. 

    Jrue Holiday, PG, Philadelphia 76ers

    Jrue Holiday was the first player to fall short of the top 20, so consider him the top dog among the honorable mentions. I just need to see a bit more consistency from him as he attempts to rebound from his first true slump of the season. 

    Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    What rookie wall? 

    Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks

    Is it possible that Dirk Nowitzki has grown out the NBA's second-most awesome batch of facial hair? 

    Impressively enough, Dirk's recent play on the court has even managed to outshine the burgeoning follicular forest. 

    The Denver Nuggets

    No one player on the Denver Nuggets has played well enough as an individual to make it into this edition of the rankings—Ty Lawson is the closest, and he's hurt—but as a whole, it's hard not to at least give the team a mention. 

    This is a squad that wins by committee, and it's done a whole lot of winning lately. 

20. John Wall (Previous Ranking: No. 17)

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    Team: Washington Wizards 

    Position: PG

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.4 steals, 19.21 PER

    John Wall continues to be a dynamic offensive threat, and it's turning things around for the Washington Wizards. If someone in the nation's capital wanted to argue that the Wizards could make the playoffs next year, I wouldn't have much of a problem with that now that I've seen this kid return to form so quickly. 

    Particularly impressive has been the development of Wall's jumper. It's still below league average, but the Kentucky product has actually been dropping his long-range attempts with some consistency lately. 

    And of course, his passing remains phenomenal. 

19. Monta Ellis (Previous Ranking: No. 15)

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    Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Position: SG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.5 blocks, 2.0 steals, 16.19 PER

    Monta Ellis' mind must be a fascinating place. Sometimes I'm not even sure that it's aware of what it's thinking. 

    Lately, though, the 27-year-old shooting guard has been in full control of those mental faculties, allowing him to assert himself as an elite offensive force. His 2-of-14 game against the Atlanta Hawks notwithstanding, Ellis is actually picking and choosing his shots quite well. 

    Even with that brickfest included in the calculations, Ellis is shooting 44 percent from the field over his past five games. That's a significant improvement over his shooting numbers, and it looks even better when you consider his 2.6 makes per contest from downtown. 

    The only reason Ellis moves down in the rankings is the influx of healthy stars reentering the equation in these power rankings. 

18. David Lee (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 29

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.3 blocks, 0.9 steals, 19.35 PER

    While David Lee has remained a terrific rebounder, even recording 15 boards against the Washington Wizards for his fourth double-double in a row, he's been slumping a bit. 

    The 29-year-old offensive whiz is normally a potent scorer, fantastically blending volume and efficiency, but that hasn't been the case over his past five games. He's struggled with his shot tremendously, averaging just 13.2 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from the field. 

    Since Lee doesn't have all that much to offer on the less glamorous end of the court, it's of paramount importance that he gets his shot back on target sooner rather than later. 

17. Paul Pierce (Previous Ranking: No. 19)

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    Team: Boston Celtics

    Position: SF

    Age: 35

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.04 PER

    While the rest of the Boston Celtics seem to be dropping like flies, Paul Pierce is remaining healthy and playing at an extraordinarily high level. 

    The Truth has now made at least half his shots in each of his past eight contests, and over his last five, he's averaging 20.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. Even more impressively, he's done so while shooting 55.7 percent from the field, 75 percent from the charity stripe and a scorching 60 percent from downtown. 

    Pierce is carrying the load for the C's, even if the lack of protection in the lineup has led to his efforts being ultimately futile.

16. Deron Williams (Previous Ranking: No. 18)

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    Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Position: PG

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.0 steals, 19.43 PER

    Deron Williams has been thriving lately, thanks to both his health and the occasional absence of Joe Johnson from the lineup. Talented as Johnson may be, the increased responsibilities handling the ball serve D-Will well. 

    The surprisingly svelte floor general has simply had everything clicking. His crossover is devastating, his three-point shot is tuned in and his passing is on point. 

    Over his past five games, Williams has averaged 23.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.8 swipes per contest. That's not too shabby.

15. Paul George (Previous Ranking: No. 14)

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 22

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.6 blocks, 1.8 steals, 17.27 PER

    As can be expected from a player with a large increase in responsibilities, Paul George hit a bit of a wall after the All-Star break. The pressure constantly on him was a bit too much to shoulder, and his shooting declined. 

    Well, George is pushing through that wall now. 

    He's dominated from inside the three-point line lately, and he's still contributing in all areas. The beautiful thing about a player like George is that even when the three-ball isn't falling, he can still make a decisively positive impact on the outcome of a game. 

14. Al Horford (Previous Ranking: No. 13)

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    Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 26

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 steals, 20.04 PER

    Nothing that Al Horford has done on the court lately necessitates a decline in the rankings. The only reason he's experiencing one here—as is the case with a number of these top-20 players—is the return of a number of injured stars. 

    In fact, Horford has continued to dominate for the Atlanta Hawks in so many different ways. There's a reason he finished at No. 1 in the rankings of dynamic players at his position. He just impacts the game from start to finish. 

    Horford has been a double-double machine lately, and his March numbers are sensational. During the month best known for a certain type of madness, the Florida product has posted 18.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.9 blocks and 1.6 steals per game on 52.4 percent shooting.

13. Blake Griffin (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.3 steals, 23.45 PER

    Blake Griffin is still playing terrific basketball, but his numbers have been declining lately. Even though his minutes are up, the power forward is averaging fewer points and rebounds during his past five games. He's also shot with less efficiency. 

    Over those five contests—a span in which the Los Angeles Clippers have gone 3-2—Griffin has averaged just 15.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field. 

    He might be passing the ball tremendously, but he's going to have to play to his strengths more in order to creep back up in the rankings. He's earned a lofty spot before, and it's likely he will again once he catches fire. 

12. Stephen Curry (Previous Ranking: No. 10)

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    Team: Golden State Warriors

    Position: PG

    Age: 25

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 22.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.6 steals, 20.82 PER

    Stephen Curry is knocking down quite a few shots at the moment, particularly when he strays further and further from the basket. 

    In each of his past four games, he's made at least four triples. Over that span, he's actually hit 21 of his 38 attempts from behind the three-point arc. Those are just staggering numbers, and they aren't in the least bit fluky for this baby-faced assassin. 

    Unfortunately, though, Curry has also been turning the ball over a bit more often than normal, and his assist numbers are slightly down. He had back-to-back contests with only three dimes, and turned the ball over seven times in one of those games. 

11. Dwight Howard (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: C

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.19 PER

    Dwight Howard is still a bit physically limited, but he's starting to insert his brand of dominance once more. Well, not exactly once more if we're only discussing the Los Angeles Lakers portion of his career. 

    Although he's struggled with his shot at times recently, most notably during his 6-of-18 outing against the Phoenix Suns, Howard has been a force to be reckoned with on the glass. He's now averaging 15.2 rebounds per game during March, highlighted by a 21-board performance and the continuation of a 16-game string of double-digit rebounds. 

    Howard could still use more touches on a consistent basis. Once that happens, he has a chance to truly reassert himself as an uber-elite player. 

10. Kobe Bryant (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Position: SG

    Age: 34

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.3 steals, 23.06 PER

    I couldn't bring myself to leave Kobe Bryant out of the top 10. The precedent he's set during the previous portion of the 2012-13 campaign was just too stellar. 

    However, the Mamba hasn't played enough recently to justify moving up any higher in the rankings. 

    In the one game since returning from his ankle injury—and this does not count his outing against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night—Kobe was terrific, but not in all facets of the game. He recorded 21 points, four rebounds and 11 assists, but he also coughed up the ball six times and only shot 8-of-18 from the field. 

    Fear not, though, Lakers fans. 

    Kobe will be back in the top five before too long, assuming he regains his pre-injury level of dominance.

9. Carmelo Anthony (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: New York Knicks

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 27.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.5 blocks, 0.7 steals, 22.82 PER

    Take everything that I just said about Kobe Bryant and apply it to Carmelo Anthony

    Melo has only played in three games since returning from injury. He's just been a bit better than Kobe during those games. So he has the advantage in both quality and quantity. 

    The New York Knicks haven't lost since the 28-year-old forward returned to the lineup, and Anthony has averaged a sensational 28.7 points and 7.3 rebounds on 46.9 percent shooting during that time. 

    He's another guy who will move back up once he's played more.

8. Tony Parker (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.9 steals, 24.29 PER

    Now we come to the third superstar who was a mainstay in the top 10 before succumbing to injury. 

    Tony Parker hasn't been back from his sprained ankle for long, but he's already asserted himself as one of the league's best floor generals once more. He was the second-best in the league while healthy, and he should be able to take over that mantle yet again once he has more games under his belt. 

    In the two games he's played recently, the dynamic floor general has averaged 22.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per game on 57.7 percent shooting from the field. 

    That's called picking it up where you left off.

7. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: No. 11)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PF/C

    Age: 36

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 blocks, 0.8 steals, 24.33 PER

    These are Tim Duncan's average numbers over his past five games:

    23.8 points. 

    13.4 rebounds. 

    3.8 assists. 

    2.8 blocks. 

    Fifty-four percent shooting from the field. 

    83.3 percent shooting from the line. 

    Thirty-six years old. 

    I have no idea which is most impressive. 

6. Russell Westbrook (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: PG

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 0.3 blocks, 1.8 steals, 23.50 PER

    Russell Westbrook has been doing a fantastic job limiting his turnovers, but his shot is finding the rim more than the bottom of the net lately. 

    Over his last five games, the ridiculously athletic point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder has averaged 24 points per contest on 44.2 percent shooting. Those are great numbers, but not great enough to move up into the top five. 

    If Westbrook could connect from downtown, the story might play out a little bit differently. But since he's put up a doughnut on 18 tries...

5. James Harden (Previous Ranking: No. 6)

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    Team: Houston Rockets

    Position: SG

    Age: 23

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.9 steals, 23.91 PER

    No shot was bigger than the crunch-time dagger James Harden stabbed into the collective back of the San Antonio Spurs at the end of a 96-95 victory for the Houston Rockets. The shot was the finishing stroke of the 29-point, nine-rebound, six-assist, one-turnover masterpiece that the Beard painted that night. 

    You've heard me say this all year, but I'm not terribly concerned when Harden misses shots, as he did against the Spurs. He makes up for it with his three-point shooting and ridiculous knack for working his way to the charity stripe. 

    Over his past five games, Harden has spent a lot of time at the foul line. He's attempted 13.6 freebies per game and knocked down 12.2 of them, connecting at a 89.7 percent rate. 

4. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: No. 2)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 31

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.8 blocks, 24.30 PER

    Dwyane Wade has still been playing fantastic basketball, but he and the next two players are clumped together so closely that even a slight decline in play can come back to bite him. 

    Unfortunately for the veteran shooting guard, he has declined slightly. 

    Wade hasn't been quite as involved in the Miami Heat offense lately, and he's shot the ball at a lower clip than he has in a good bit of time. Over the past four games he's played in—so we're excluding the rest he took against the Charlotte Bobcats—Wade has averaged 17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 48.3 percent shooting. 

    Again, those are fantastic numbers. They just aren't quite on the level we've come to expect. 

    If that doesn't speak to Wade's overall greatness, I'm not sure what possibly can.

3. Chris Paul (Previous Ranking: No. 4)

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    Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Position: PG

    Age: 27

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 2.4 steals, 26.43 PER

    The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one. Well, faithful B/R readers, it's time for me to come clean. 

    I can't stop watching this Chris Paul video. Seriously. At the time I linked to it, the YouTube view counter was at 128,141. I'm convinced I provided at least 10 percent of those views. 

    The scary part is that CP3 can't stop creating highlights. He won't stop either. In fact, he doesn't even know how to stop. 

    Over his past five games, the league's best point guard has averaged 20.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 0.6 blocks and 2.8 steals per contest on 51.7 percent shooting from the field. He's not exactly helping me get rid of my personal problem. 

2. Kevin Durant (Previous Ranking: No. 3)

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    Team: Oklahoma City Thunder

    Position: SF

    Age: 24

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 28.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.5 steals, 27.91 PER

    Dwyane Wade's hold on the No. 2 spot last week was so tenuous that Kevin Durant just needed a handful of great games to take back over his season-long stranglehold on the penultimate spot in the rankings. 

    Well, that's exactly what Durant gave us. 

    After scoring over 30 points in three straight outings, the Durantula cut down on his point output but increased his overall level of play during the next two games. First, he recorded 25 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals on only 14 shots. For an encore, Durant put up 24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals on just 17 shots. 

    K.D., the No. 2 spot is yours once more. Treat it well. 

1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 26.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.7 steals, 31.32 PER

    Sorry for the anticlimactic ending to these rankings, but anything else would be wrong. LeBron James is head and shoulders above the rest of the field right now. 

    This is LeBron's world, and we're just living in it. 

    Over his last five games—not including his outing against the Orlando Magic on Monday night—James averaged 29 points, 9.4 rebounds, 9.6 assists, 1.6 blocks and 2.4 steals per game on 57.6 percent shooting from the field. Those are inhuman statistics. 

    When LeBron goes into takeover mode, there's just no way to stop him. He's just too honed in right now. 

    The best word to describe at the moment is "unfair."