Stephen Curry has definitely established himself as a bona fide superstar for the Golden State Warriors.
Now that 16 teams have their sights firmly set on a championship, these updated NBA superstar power rankings have become even more exclusive.
If you're not playing in the postseason, only one word can describe your chances of appearing in the rankings: fuhgeddaboudit.
Eliminated players have been bounced from the last edition and replaced by stars who are actually still playing. The pool is shrinking.
In the Association, the postseason is a time to firmly establish oneself as a star, and it's an opportunity that a number of players have already taken advantage of (see: Curry, Stephen).
Trust me, there will be plenty who follow suit as we continue the march toward the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Tuesday, April 23 and come from ESPN or Basketball-Reference.com.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.3 blocks, 23.9 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 26.3 PER
Injury Update (April 26 at 4:20 PM ET)
Russell Westbrook came in at No. 6 before the Associated Press (via ESPN) broke the news that the uber-athletic point guard had torn his lateral meniscus. Now he's doomed to fall in the injured section for the time being.
It's a shame, both for us basketball fans and, more importantly, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Almost everyone enjoys watching Westbrook produce remarkable highlights, and the Thunder relied on his offensive prowess quite a bit. Unless Kevin Durant goes into complete takeover mode, the Western Conference got a lot weaker when news of this injury broke.
Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.
Hideous as Russell Westbrook's leather outfit may have been, we're now in the postseason. It's not like the All-Star break has just ended, meaning that I can no longer legitimately dock the talented point guard for his fashion choices.
Plus, I don't want to make Westbrook mad. As Patrick Beverley found out during the Houston Rockets' Game 2 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, an angry Westbrook is a dangerous player. He might take a few more ill-advised shots, but when he attacks without regard for human life, the results are largely positive.
Westbrook fell just two rebounds shy of a triple-double to open the first-round series, and he followed the outing up with another 29 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
While the dynamic floor general has been terrific thus far, he has to fall a few spots in the rankings because he hasn't put together an early postseason resume that's comparable to the ones the next two players have already compiled.
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.
Additionally, only players taking part in the postseason action are eligible for this edition. As a result, the following players, all of whom were ranked in the last edition, were automatically knocked out: Greg Monroe (No. 19), DeMarcus Cousins (No. 14) and John Wall (No. 10)
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 11.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.2 blocks, 19.0 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 39.2 PER
Health seemed to be plaguing the San Antonio Spurs leading into the 2013 postseason, but Manu Ginobili's return to prominence has given Gregg Popovich's squad a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.
Coming off the bench in each of the Spurs' first two victories over the Los Angeles Lakers, Ginobili has provided an incredible offensive spark. His creativity and accuracy from downtown has confused L.A.'s "defense" time after time, allowing him to post 31 points in just under 38 minutes.
For the sake of comparison, the Lakers' bench has scored only 34 points total in the two outings.
Somehow, someway, the Spurs seem to be flying under the radar a bit. You know, because we clearly haven't learned anything over the last few years.
If Ginobili keeps playing at this level, everyone will regret sleeping on San Antonio once more.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 22.4 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 1.5 blocks, 16.5 PER
Blake Griffin was strangely disengaged at the end of the regular season, particularly on the offensive half of the court. The trend carried over into Game 1 of the opening-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, a contest in which Zach Randolph managed to get under Blake's skin over and over again.
However, Griffin got the best of Z-Bo in Game 2, helping keep the Los Angeles Clippers close enough that Chris Paul could take over in the final minutes.
The power forward finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists, but most importantly, he showed a bit of passion again.
Team: Denver Nuggets
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.7 blocks, 15.2 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 18.1 PER
When Andre Iguodala is dominating on offense, he's clearly one of the best players the NBA has to offer. After all, his perimeter defense is almost always just about as good as it gets.
The problem is, Iggy's defense hasn't been so stellar during the first two games against the Golden State Warriors. It's likely an aberration, but despite his best efforts, the Dubs' wing players have been able to post some pretty stellar offensive numbers and control the game with their scoring.
They use so many screens that even Iguodala has struggled to keep up at times.
In an interesting twist, it's actually been Iguodala's versatile offensive contributions that earned him a spot in the Top 20 this week.
Team: New York Knicks
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 17.6 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 12.4 PER
J.R. Smith's scoring prowess off the New York Knicks' bench led to a Sixth Man of the Year trophy.
The 27-year-old has been a crucial part of the team's 2-0 start to the series against the Boston Celtics, providing scoring, rebounding and defense once he finally enters the game. Smith is no backup, even if he isn't on the floor when the ball is thrown up at center court.
New York needs the shooting guard to start connecting from three-point range with a bit more frequency, especially since Mike Woodson's system is so dependent on long-balls. If that happens, he could continue to rise in the rankings.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 13.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.2 blocks, 16.7 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 16.0 points, 16.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 12.2 PER
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to emerge victorious against the San Antonio Spurs. Pau Gasol has done everything in his power to provide L.A. fans with a different result, though.
The big man was a triple-double machine at the end of the regular season, and his versatile contributions haven't stopped coming now that the importance of each game has risen.
Gasol dominated the boards in Game 1, recording 16 rebounds to go along with his 16 points and six assists. Game 2 didn't afford the Spaniard the same level of success, as San Antonio locked down on him much more effectively.
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.4 blocks, 20.3 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 15.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 21.1 PER
When dealing with such a small sample size, as we're doing here by focusing primarily on the events of this young postseason, even one sub-par game can drastically affect a player's rank.
Such is the case for Deron Williams, who just couldn't find his shot in Game 2 against the Chicago Bulls. The 28-year-old point guard let fly from downtown five times and still put up a goose egg in three-pointers made. As a whole, he was only 1-of-9 from the field.
Williams did a great job distributing the ball around to the rest of the Brooklyn Nets, but without his scoring, the team wasn't even able to match the 90 points put up by Chicago.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.7 blocks, 19.5 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 16.1 PER
If the Memphis Grizzlies want to have any chance of advancing past the Los Angeles Clippers, Marc Gasol will need to start hitting a higher percentage of his shots.
In Game 1, the newly minted Defensive Player of the Year knocked down only four of his 12 attempts from the field en route to 16 points. One contest later, Gasol went 6-of-14 and finished with 17 points.
The points are indeed there, and Gasol's passing continues to be phenomenal, but if he's going to assert himself in the offense more, the shots must find the bottom of the net with greater frequency.
Team: Brooklyn Nets
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, 2.1 blocks, 24.7 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 3.0 blocks, 26.7 PER
Without a healthy Joakim Noah patrolling the paint, the Chicago Bulls just haven't been able to contain Brook Lopez. The 7-footer has too much size and offensive talent, and he's both running the floor well and performing admirably in half-court sets.
Lopez's contributions on the boards have been virtually nonexistent, but his scoring is quite valuable.
The Stanford product is averaging 21 points per game in the postseason while shooting just under 50 percent from the field. He's also getting to the free-throw line often and converting, allowing him to make up for the slight inefficiency in his field-goal percentage.
Unless Noah miraculously recovers from his plantar fasciitis, don't expect this to change.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.7 blocks, 24.4 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 17.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 15.0 PER
Although he's been able to contain Dwight Howard reasonably well, Tim Duncan hasn't enjoyed the same type of all-around success that he grew accustomed to during the regular season.
The Big Fundamental has shot less than 50 percent from the field in both of the San Antonio Spurs' series-opening victories, and he's recorded just one assist to his three turnovers. His rebounding hasn't been particularly impressive either.
Duncan has been a valuable cog in the machine that is the Spurs, but he's failed to stand out thus far.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.3 blocks, 18.3 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 20.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 23.1 PER
Mike Conley struggled to establish himself against the suffocating defense of Chris Paul in the opening game of the first-round series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers.
That already seems like part of ancient history, though, because the southpaw put on a point-guard clinic in Game 2. He used pick-and-rolls remarkably well, confusing defenders as to whether he'd accept or reject the screen then masterfully splitting defenders. His floater was on point, and so too was the rest of his game.
CP3 ultimately got the best of him, but Conley kept the Grizzlies in the game with his 28 points and nine assists.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.4 blocks, 19.4 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 20.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 16.9 PER
Without Kobe Bryant in the Los Angeles Lakers lineup, Dwight Howard needed to step up and become a much more aggressive offensive player.
While the big man has been a solid interior defender with constantly improving mobility, he hasn't been able to carry the purple-and-gold-clad squad like he needs to. Through two games, he's only taken a total of 24 shots.
That's not a per-game average. It's a total.
Team: Houston Rockets
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 22.9 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 20.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 11.8 PER
In Game 1, James Harden was nowhere to be found on defense. The Oklahoma City Thunder attacked the bearded shooting guard aggressively, and the results weren't pretty, as his minus-28 plus/minus indicates.
Harden managed to record 20 points and two assists, but he wasn't exactly efficient from the field. Without his typical contributions, the Houston Rockets had no shot at keeping pace with Harden's former team.
Things changed in the next game, when Harden exploded for 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. His six turnovers were costly, but the Houston 2-guard was quite a bit more successful attacking the basket and drawing contact, a strategy that allowed the Rockets to give the Thunder quite a scare.
Team: Indiana Pacers
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 16.8 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 23.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 12.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 25.8 PER
Paul George recorded a triple-double against the Atlanta Hawks in his first outing of the postseason, then he followed it up with another stellar performance.
The swingman was everywhere on the court for the Indiana Pacers, helping push his team to a 2-0 start by recording 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals on 11-of-21 shooting. He also didn't record a single turnover as he clipped the Hawks' wings little by little.
It's becoming increasingly clear that George is "the man" in Indiana.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 20.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 23.0 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 18.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 15.6 PER
Next time you watch the San Antonio Spurs, keep your eyes on Tony Parker whenever he's on the court. He might not record too many flashy plays, but he's an extraordinarily heady player who can basically give you a perfect example of what to do in every possible situation.
Parker has exploited the Los Angeles Lakers' lack of backcourt defense simply by staying within the confines of Gregg Popovich's offensive system and making the right choices whenever he touches the ball.
After recording 18 points and eight assists in a Game 1 victory, the French floor general one-upped himself in Game 2. Without coughing the ball up a single time, Parker controlled the game by exploding for 28 points, four rebounds and seven assists.
Team: Miami Heat
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 21.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 24.0 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 25.5 PER
Only on the court for 32 minutes, Wade recorded 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals, including a breathtaking putback slam that no player over 30 should ever be able to complete.
Milwaukee's backcourt isn't exactly familiar with the whole "defense" thing, so expect Wade to continue exploiting the holes around the perimeter. He's slashing with confidence, and that should inspire fear in the hearts of whoever Miami squares off against.
Note: Dwyane Wade was previously unranked due to the injury keeping him out of the lineup near the close of the regular season.
Team: Golden State Warriors
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 22.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 21.3 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 23.1 PER
Stephen Curry has already established himself as a fan favorite and unquestioned superstar during the first two Golden State Warriors postseason contests. If he somehow sparks a series victory without David Lee in the lineup, it's crazy to think how he'll be viewed.
At this point, Steph cannot take a bad shot. He has the ultimate green light, and he uses it well.
Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are better all-around scorers, but Curry is quickly emerging as the No. 1 shooter in the NBA.
If you need confirmation, just ask any member of the Denver Nuggets.
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 16.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.1 blocks, 26.4 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 23.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 38.5 PER
If you still have reservations about Chris Paul being the best point guard in the NBA, stop having them.
Seriously. Just stop.
CP3 has been absolutely incredible during the Los Angeles Clippers' first two games of the postseason, earning a staggering 38.5 PER thus far.
He was terrific in Game 1, putting up 23 points and seven assists on just 11 shots. Paul also turned the ball over just once as he consistently made the right choices in Vinny Del Negro's offense. And amazingly enough, that performance pales in comparison to Game 2.
Paul's defense against Mike Conley was a bit more porous during the second go-around, but he came up big down the stretch. Recording only a single turnover once more, CP3 scored the Clippers' final eight points, including the tiebreaking—and game-winning—shot with only 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
Team: New York Knicks
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 28.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 24.8 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 35.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.0 blocks, 31.3 PER
I've never understood why people need to manufacture faults in outstanding performances. That type of nit-picking is just unnecessary.
Carmelo Anthony may have recorded only two total assists during the New York Knicks' first two playoff victories, but that hasn't exactly hindered the winning efforts. It would be different if Melo were shooting the ball inefficiently.
Through two games, though, the newest scoring champion has dropped a combined 70 points on 53 shots. He might misfire from the field occasionally, but his work from downtown and the charity stripe more than makes up for the bricks.
If the Knicks were losing games, complaints about Melo's passing—or lack thereof—might be valid. The same would be true if he weren't scoring efficiently.
At the moment, those complaints just seem to be ones drummed up by people who can't appreciate the greatness of the scorer known as Carmelo Anthony.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.3 blocks, 28.3 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 2.0 blocks, 28.4 PER
The rest of the Western Conference should be scared, because Kevin Durant is starting to make good on his claim that he's tired of finishing second:
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 23, 2013
At the moment, I certainly wouldn't want to mess with the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar. He's doing everything well right now, with the slight exception of connecting from the outside. Fear not, though, Thunder fans. He'll find his shot from the outside before too long.
Particularly impressive during the 2-0 start to the inevitably deep postseason run has been Durant's facilitating. He's recorded 13 assists and just three turnovers thus far.
Sadly for Durant, he still plays in a league that features a certain Miami Heat forward. That means he'll have to settle for second in these rankings, much to his chagrin.
Team: Miami Heat
Regular Season Per-Game Stats: 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks, 31.6 PER
Postseason Per-Game Stats: 23.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks, 29.0 PER
LeBron James opened the postseason with a performance that reminded us exactly why he's the only logical choice for MVP.
In 35 minutes of action, the 28-year-old scored 27 points, recorded 10 rebounds and dished out eight assists, falling just 20 cents shy of the triple-double. Even more impressively, he did so while shooting 9-of-11 from the field.
Admittedly, James could have displayed a bit more care for his possession of the ball, but the good certainly outweighed the bad.
LeBron also understood the Heat's defensive schemes perfectly, all but abandoning the Milwaukee Bucks' jump-shot-challenged forwards to play overaggressive help defense. He was everywhere on that end of the court, knowing that he didn't have to worry about his man making him pay.
This was the case in Game 2 as well, and the same story will likely continue throughout the first round of the playoffs.
James hasn't needed to put up gaudy numbers yet, but unless he records a few stinkers in a row, there's no reason to move him from this spot.