Kevin Durant and James Harden both are Top Five at their respective positions.
Superstars flood the NBA playoffs.
As the league's postseason moves through its first round, the top players at each position are adding to their elite-level statures.
But the game's greats are ultimately decided by team success, and series wins here speak more than statistics.
Some players rise up on the grandest stage while others back away from the challenge.
* Players declared out for remainder of season were omitted.
Regular-season stats: 32.9 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 7.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 52.2% FG, 35.3% 3PT
Tony Parker’s reputation may be more intimidating than his current shape this postseason.
Still just 30 years old, his resume includes three titles and five All-Star Games; he's averaging 17.1 points and 6.0 assists for his career. This season has been one of his better years.
But he isn't fully healthy. Parker missed eight games in March with a Grade 2 ankle sprain and missed four of nine games in April dealing with new injuries:
Pop fears Tony Parker might have tendinitis in shin. Different injury from ankle, says he's very concerned.— Jeff Caplan (@Caplan_NBA) April 5, 2013
Now he's playing with a layer of rust, and he hasn't looked the same.
Tony Parker, informed Steve Nash says he doesn't feel like himself: "That makes two of us."
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 22, 2013
Parker is a top-five guard based on past success, but he isn't as dangerous as some of these other guards.
Regular-season stats: 38.2 MPG, 22.9 PPG, 6.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 45.1% FG, 45.3% 3PT
Stephen Curry is about to fully break out.
The postseason stage is large enough to hold the weight of Curry's distinctive season. Curry's gourmet shooting was on display all season for the Golden State Warriors, as the fourth-year point guard set a new three-point record of 272 made three-pointers.
Stephen Curry is gettin' his Reggie Miller on.— ESPN (@espn) April 21, 2013
Curry is also set to reveal what makes him an all-around offensive player.
His best-in-show three-point shooting this season is the obvious attraction, but watch his passing out of the double-team to see why he plays so well with the ball in his hands.
Regular-season stats: 36.4 MPG, 18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 44.0% FG, 37.8% 3PT
Deron Williams is rejuvenating his status among elite point guards.
Williams heated up throughout the season, increasing his scoring each month and finishing with an average of 22.9 points and 8.0 assists after the All-Star break.
He continued that trend into the Brooklyn Nets' postseason.
Williams glided past the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 with 22 points and seven assists.
But Game 2 didn't offer the same results. Williams still helped guide the offense, but he went cold and shot just 1-of-9 on Monday.
What happened to the Deron Williams we saw in Game 1/the last few weeks?— Jared Dubin (@JADubin5) April 23, 2013
The Nets will only go as far as Williams can take them.
Regular season-stats: 34.9 MPG, 23.2 PPG, 7.4 APG, 1.8 SPG, 43.8% FG, 32.3% 3PT
Russell Westbrook dresses like he plays; he's not always going to do what everyone thinks he should do, but the end result is exquisitely incomparable.
Russell Westbrook is off to a great start in these playoffs, and I ain't talking about his game... twitter.com/DarnellMayberr…
— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) April 22, 2013
The attacking talent of Westbrook could ultimately decide the Oklahoma City Thunder's return to the postseason.
His bouncing rhythm is a near-impossible guard, and he's the greatest offensive threat at the point guard position in this postseason.
Regular season-stats: 33.4 MPG, 16.9 PPG, 9.7 APG, 2.4 SPG, 48.1% FG, 32.8% 3PT
Chris Paul is the best point guard in the playoffs.
He also has a lot more to prove.
Paul has performed well in the playoffs and has averages of 20 points, 10 assists and five rebounds through his 36 postseason games.
He carries a coach's voice on the floor, and he leads an offense better than any player at his position.
Paul isn't known as a top-tier scorer, considering he spends much of his time focused on providing opportunities for his teammates, but he is elite in putting up points when necessary. His shooting percentage of 49.2 percent is the highest of the league's 10-best scorers in the clutch.
But the postseason is about winning, and that has to be the next step for Paul.
Chris Paul's buzzer-beater in Game 2 shot in super slow motion through the lens of the NBA's Phantom Camera. youtube.com/watch?feature=…— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 23, 2013
Regular-season stats: 37.5 MPG, 19.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.1 SPG, 41.6% FG, 28.7% 3PT
Monta Ellis doesn’t have it all.
He still doesn’t have a series win in the postseason, at least not since he came off the bench in a limited role during the 2006-07 "We Believe" Warriors run.
He’s still one of the most electric scorers in the league.
This regular season, Ellis was 11th in points at 19.2 points per game.
Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis combined for 48 of Bucks' 87 points in Game 1 against Miami.
— cfgardner (@cf_gardner) April 22, 2013
He also ranked fourth in steals per game (2.06), a product of his third-highest minutes and a quickness that plays passing lanes and overplays defensively.
That doesn't make him a great defender, though, an issue against a Miami Heat team stacked with offensive talent. Ellis isn’t going to defend Miami’s transition game.
Monta Ellis have it all. LeBron James has the ball.
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) April 21, 2013
Regular-season stats: 23.2 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 42.5% FG, 35.3% 3PT
Manu Ginobili doesn't seem hurt.
He is continuing the non-aging process in the postseason, returning to form once again with the San Antonio Spurs.
Ginobili made the most of his 19 minutes in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.
Bad news for the rest of the West: Ginobili looks healthy. Spurs an entirely different team when Pop can unleash him for 25 mpg.
— NBA Guru (@NBAGuru) April 21, 2013
"I'm feeling good," he said, according to The Associated Press. "I'm a little tired, of course, playing after such a long time, but I didn't play that much, either. I feel real good."
Ginobili averages 16.2 points on 44.1 percent shooting and 3.8 assists per game in 137 postseason appearances. Of those 137 games, he has come off the bench in 88.
The Spurs trio of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker played in their 137th playoff game together, the most playoff games by any active NBA trio.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 22, 2013
Regular-season stats: 29.3 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 43.8% FG, 37.6% 3PT
Jamal Crawford is the second top-five shooting guard who comes off the bench, and he's the third-best at his position this postseason.
No Sixth Man of the Year award? Crawford made his retort in Game 2, scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, recording a plus/minus of plus-13.
He is a game-changer off the bench, an offensive scoring threat who can jump-start himself.
Crawford is a shooter who can get hot quickly and make defenses adjust their game plan. Not all assists come by pass; Crawford helps his teammates by reorienting the opposing team.
Memphis is making a mistake - they should be matching TA vs. Jamal whenever Jamal is in. Like when NHL teams want to shut down hot scorers.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 23, 2013
Crawford is one of the most valuable shooting guards in the postseason.
Regular-season stats: 33.5 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 42.2% FG, 35.6% 3PT
The best shooting guards are apparently best off the bench.
But the greatest bench player is this season's Sixth Man of the Year. J.R. Smith is gaining confidence in his shot selection and he's become less erratic.
Unfortunately for those fans, payroll could be an issue. At least embrace him this postseason.
J.R. Smith is going to get paid this summer. New York, enjoy him while you can.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 24, 2013
Regular-season stats: 38.3 MPG, 25.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 43.8% FG, 36.8% 3PT
There’s no need to feel sorry for James Harden.
One of the more intriguing storylines of the first round is Harden’s rough return with the Houston Rockets to Oklahoma City, but don’t start dwelling on poor Harden.
The newest NBA superstar and the second-best shooting guard of the postseason has become a near-MVP-type candidate in his first year as a team leader.
He is surrounded by young talent, in a vulnerable spot against the West’s top team.
Kevin Durant said it's still weird for him to look across the court during the national anthem and see James Harden with another team.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 22, 2013
The outcome in Game 1 was embarrassing, a lopsided 120-91 loss to the Thunder, but it’s somewhat to be expected of a young, but talented, Rockets team.
Meanwhile, Harden has made himself into one of the best. He scored 25.9 points and 5.8 assists for the Rockets this season.
Regular-season stats: 34.7 MPG, 21.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 52.1% FG, 25.8% 3PT
Dwyane Wade just finished what may be one of the most overlooked seasons of success in recent history.
He had one of his best seasons, but recognition is hard to come by in the cover of this season's likely Most Valuable Player, LeBron James.
But Wade’s numbers are incredibly efficient.
Not many superstars are willing to take lesser roles in their prime. Wade has stepped aside to allow James to be the clear commander of the Heat, and the team has thrived because of it.
But just because he’s no longer the headliner, doesn’t mean Wade isn’t just as much a part of Miami’s success this season.
With Kobe Bryant out, Wade is the best shooting guard in the playoffs.
Regular-season stats: 33.4 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 43.6% FG, 38.0% 3PT
Paul Pierce may not be what he once was, but he isn't going down easily.
Now playing in his 10th postseason, Pierce has 131 games and a championship under his green belt. He averages 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds per game in the playoffs.
Paul Pierce is quietly doing everything for the Celtics right now. They'd be down by 15 if not for him.— Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) April 20, 2013
Pierce shows up against fellow superstars, and the first-round matchup with Carmelo Anthony offers the ideal challenge.
Regular-season stats: 37.6 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 41.9% FG, 36.2% 3PT
The league's Most Improved Player could become the biggest obstacle in disrupting the Miami Heat's run of the Western Conference.
That's not to say he will, but he at least has the best chance.
George put himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year in addition to being named MIP.
George is a unique wing with versatility as a scorer. His numbers jumped this season with an increase in minutes and role, shouldering more after the season-ending injury to Danny Granger.
Now, George looks to lead the Indiana Pacers past a first-round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks and a potential second-round series against the New York Knicks or Boston Celtics.
He's off a nice start:
Paul George: 23 Pts, 11 Reb, 12 Ast; 2nd playoff triple-double in franchise history (Mark Jackson had the other)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 22, 2013
Regular-season stats: 37.0 MPG, 28.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 44.9% FG, 37.9% 3PT
Carmelo Anthony won his first scoring title this season.
But can he finally succeed in the postseason?
He’s off to a good start. Anthony led the New York Knicks with 36 points in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics.
The Knicks haven’t won a playoff series since 2000, and Anthony has only made it past the second round of the playoffs once, a 2008-09 postseason that ended with a Western Conference Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
He might try to do it himself:
Carmelo Anthony: 26 first-half touches of the basketball. He passed the ball on only 3 of those.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 20, 2013
Carmelo Anthony passed the ball only 3 times in the first half, but passed it 10 times on 23 touches in the 3rd quarter— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 20, 2013
Anthony was in the mix as the regular season’s Most Valuable Player behind both LeBron James and Kevin Durant. At some point, Anthony must earn team success if he ever wants to receive next-level credit.
His legacy with the Knicks is on the line.
Regular-season stats: 38.5 MPG, 28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 51.0% FG, 41.6% 3PT
Kevin Durant should just change his jersey to No. 2.
Well, maybe that’s somehow what the mathematical difference of 3 and 5 represents.
Either way, Durant cannot even earn the title of best player at his position, thanks to the not-so-small forward greatness of LeBron James.
But this postseason, Durant can make it about himself, not James. Durant will be the best pure scorer standing in the Western Conference.
Kevin Durant has scored 20+ points in 27 straight playoff games…Per Elias, that’s the longest such streak by any player since Michael Jordan— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) April 22, 2013
He’s tough to guard in the regular season, and he’s equally as good in the playoffs. He is averaging 28 points on 46.5 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists through 44 postseason games.
He's actually second in his team in shots.
Regular-season stats: 37.9 MPG, 26.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 56.5% FG, 40.6% 3PT
No surprise here.
The game’s greatest player is the best at his position, and he’s ready to do damage this postseason.
After breezing through the league in what should be his fourth Most Valuable Player season, the only MVP award he is chasing is his second Finals MVP.
If he were a mortal, James would have nothing left to prove. But he’s not chasing the ghost of Dirk Nowitzki or Richard Hamilton. He wants those six Michael Jordan titles or at least Kobe Bryant’s five rings.
Do your thing, LeBron:
Russell Westbrook's outfit was pretty crazy, but LeBron James gets the award for worst shirt for the day: twitter.com/CountOnVic/sta…— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 22, 2013
Regular-season stats: 32.2 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.4 BLKPG, 0.8 SPG, 47.7% FG
The Chicago Bulls are planning on doing it without Derrick Rose.
And if they are going to succeed without their superstar, as they have done all season, they will need continuing postseason production out of Carlos Boozer.
Since his days with the Utah Jazz and now in his third postseason with the Chicago Bulls, Boozer has always been a presence as a scorer and rebounder. In 68 playoff games, Boozer averages 17.8 points and 11.6 rebounds.
He has tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds in the first two games of the first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets. He had success against them in the regular season:
Carlos Boozer averaged 21.3 points on 53.8 percent shooting and 10.7 rebounds in his 3 games vs. Nets. #Bulls— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 18, 2013
Regular-season stats: 31.1 MPG, 13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 0.5 APG, 3.0 BLKPG, 0.4 SPG, 57.3% FG
Serge Ibaka is the new other guy in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder's power forward is the fourth-best at the position this postseason, thanks to an offensive surge to his game that's made him into more than just a shot-blocker.
The offense doesn't run through Oklahoma City's big man, but he's opportunistic when defenses key in on both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Find Ibaka moving freely when defenses move to help, both offensively and on the boards.
The efficient scoring of Ibaka means less pressure on everyone. And yes, he still defends the interior as the postseason's premier blocks guy.
The best part about watching Ibaka play well is knowing the Thunder kept him on the bench for the last two years in the playoffs— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) April 22, 2013
Regular-season stats: 34.3 MPG, 15.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.4 BLKPG, 0.8 SPG, 46.0% FG
The first-round matchup between Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin is a beautiful sight.
Randolph is one of the more physical posts in the league, and he's doing his best to bully the younger, but also brawny, Griffin.
Randolph and Griffin look like they're playing Twister, then both get called for a foul, and both get upset. #AmexNBA— Lang Whitaker (@langwhitaker) April 23, 2013
The veteran doesn't mess around, though he may motivate Griffin more than he hinders him.
Either way, Randolph is a value at the power forward spot. The left-hander's ability to score on the block is obvious value, but it's his mid-range game that draws out defenders and makes for second-chance opportunities.
Regular-season stats: 32.5 MPG, 18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.6 BLKPG, 1.2 SPG, 53.8% FG
The walking YouTube highlight waiting to happen and TV commercial junkie has found more cameras.
Blake Griffin is primed for the spotlight of the postseason.
The loudest gift from Lob City is growing as a player. He's finding more paths to the hoop rather than open air, creating opportunities in the lane through interior scoring or passing.
His health appears just fine.
Blake Griffin is reportedly “at 70%” health-wise but outmuscled three Grizzlies who are at 100% for the layup, and-1.— Daniel Martin (@DMartinCSN) April 21, 2013
Regular-season stats: 30.1 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 2.7 BLKPG, 0.7 SPG, 50.2% FG
No need to update your browser. This is 2013, and yes, Tim Duncan is still the best power forward in the game.
Don't you wish Duncan adapted to the times? His tweets would probably just be all emoticons :-/
On why he isn't on social media, Spurs Tim Duncan says: "Because I have no desire to tell you what I'm doing."— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) April 22, 2013
But no adjustments have been necessary as Duncan delivered a near-MVP season for the San Antonio Spurs. He is set for even expanded production through more postseason minutes.
Duncan still does all the same things well: He understands positioning on rebounds, he finds his highest percentage shots on the floor and maintains competitive fire.
He's also well-rested and primed to move.
The Spurs' first-round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers is a perfect showcase against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol to reveal what Duncan has left in the tank.
Regular-season stats: 33.2 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.4 BLKPG, 0.9 SPG, 53.5% FG
Call him a center, call him a power forward, either way he’s the forgotten piece of the system working so well for the Miami Heat.
If Bosh wasn’t a “superstar” when he signed alongside LeBron James, his role with the Miami Heat would be much more celebrated.
As it stands, he’s commonly referred to as the least of the Big Three in Miami. But take a step back, look at the numbers and it’s clear Bosh is an incredibly efficient, productive part of the Heat.
His versatility allows the Heat to do more with James and Dwyane Wade.
Ethan Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post wrote:
“Everybody wanted to make him a low-post, back-in, give-us-a-post/paint presence,” Spoelstra said. “He can do that. But if you only have him do that, you limit him. He does so many other things. The other things that he’s done for us (that) allow us to play our game, ironically, are the things that he often would be criticized for.”
Regular-season stats: 37.2 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 BLKPG, 1.1 SPG, 54.3% FG
If Chris Bosh is the least talked about star of the Miami Heat, then Al Horford might be the least recognized star of the NBA.
Horford has led the Hawks in the playoffs, but never deep enough to gain national recognition. His production of 11.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game has never been enough to push Atlanta further.
Horford has played through his shoulder injury, and he scored 14 points on 58.3 percent with six rebounds in Atlanta's Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Atlanta needs more this postseason if it has a shot to upset the Pacers.
Regular-season stats: 36.8 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 2.1 BLKPG, 1.2 SPG, 48.1% FG
The face of Joakim Noah says it all.
The symbol of cliched heart and soul, the Game 2 performance of Joakim Noah playing through plantar fasciitis helped lift the Bulls and even the series with the Brooklyn Nets.
How many minutes can Joakim "fasciitis grimace" Noah manage over the rest of this series?— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) April 23, 2013
His energy, even standing by the bench, brings momentum to the Bulls.
But it's not all show.
Noah is a difference-maker as the team's top defender, and his presence is necessary for the Bulls to continue to win.
The Bulls' ability to play deep into the playoffs will depend on how long Noah can play through the pain.
Regular-season stats: 30.4 MPG, 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, 2.1 BLKPG, 0.4 SPG, 52.1% FG
The Brooklyn Nets are anchored by a 25-year-old center who is on the brink of recognition as the real deal.
Brook Lopez is following up a tremendous regular season with an excellent start to the postseason.
In his first two postseason games, the first of his career, Lopez averaged 21 points on 48.3 percent shooting. His ability to step out and knock down shots pulls Joakim Noah out of the paint and helps to open the Nets offense.
Brook Lopez gets the first playoff basket in Brooklyn #Nets playoff history a minute in. "BROOKLYN" chants follow. This is gonna be fun.— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) April 21, 2013
Regular-season stats: 35.8 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.4 BLKPG, 1.1 SPG, 57.8% FG
Dwight Howard is still the best at his position.
The absence of Kobe Bryant is supposed to be Howard's opportunity to have his own team again. He just needs the Los Angeles Lakers to realize that.
Howard scored 20 points on eight of 12 attempts and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Lakers' Game 1 loss against the San Antonio Spurs.
As Coach Bryant tweeted, get him the ball:
Gotta milk pau in the post right now and d12. Will get good looks from it— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 21, 2013