Ranking Top 5 Players at Every Position in NBA Playoffs, Second Round Edition

Jimmy SpencerNBA Lead WriterMay 7, 2013

Ranking Top 5 Players at Every Position in NBA Playoffs, Second Round Edition

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    As the postseason slims down to just eight teams, the pool of talent in the NBA playoffs has been cut in half.

    Some of the top players at each position have exited, making room for new names that may have once seemed improbable to make this list.

    The elite players given walking papers include Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, James Harden, Ty Lawson, Paul Pierce, Josh Smith and Deron Williams.

    A new slew of names still playing now populate the ranking of these top five players at each position.

Point Guard No. 5: Kirk Hinrich / Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls

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    Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, not surprisingly, is going to be yelling often in his team's series against the Miami Heat.

    "WE DON'T WANT THOSE SHOTS!"

    Nate Robinson will turn and look, shrug and heave another jumper—and at this rate, it'll likely go in.

    That's how things started for Robinson in the Bulls' Game 1 upset of the Miami Heat, as the backup-turned-starter scored 27 points and recorded nine assists.

    If Kirk Hinrich, who is the team's top defender, can return to health from his bruised left calf, the duo of replacement point guards can combine for their best Derrick Rose impression.

    If you thought guard depth was an issue for Chicago, the fact that these two are ranked here shows what's happening across the NBA postseason.

No. 4: Raymond Felton, New York Knicks

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    Carmelo Anthony is going to hoist the greatest share of the New York Knicks' shots.

    J.R. Smith won't be too far behind.

    But the third offensive option, on a limited offensive Knicks team, is point guard Raymond Felton. He could be the X-factor in the Knicks' second-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

    The one defensive flaw of the Pacers is their inability to stick the opposing point guard. Felton scored 18 points on 66.7 percent shooting in New York's Game 1 loss. He's averaging 17.3 points per game in the postseason.

    Felton is one of the most influential point guards remaining this postseason.

No. 3: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

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    For all the talk surrounding the Memphis Grizzlies frontcourt, the team will only go as far as point guard Mike Conley takes them.

    Conley averaged 17.3 points and 8.3 assists in the Grizzlies' first-round series victory against the Los Angeles Clippers.

    While it wasn't Conley's defensive efforts against Chris Paul that made the difference, Conley's regular-season steal rate of 2.3 per game will prove effective against the inexperienced Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    As seen late in the Grizzlies' Game 1 last-second loss to the Thunder, Memphis will need perimeter scorers to step up late.

    Conley has it in him.

No. 2: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    Maybe Tony Parker deserves the No. 1 spot at his position.

    After all, the San Antonio Spurs star point guard has collected a lifetime of playoff success.

    This is Parker's 12th postseason run, a span of 157 games in which he has averaged 19 points and 5.2 assists. Against the Los Angeles Lakers in Round 1, he averaged 22.3 points on 49.3 percent shooting and added 6.5 assists per game.

    Parker's health was in question entering the series, but he's received plenty of rest since the Spurs' early finishing of the Lakers.

    Parker will have the opportunity to reclaim the top spot against Golden State's Stephen Curry. For now, though, Curry is much more of an offensive threat than Parker.

No. 1: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    Stephen Curry has been the breakout star of the postseason.

    The Golden State Warriors point guard—after the exits of Chris Paul and Deron Williams and the injury to Russell Westbrook—is now the most dangerous offensive threat at his position.

    Curry averaged 24.3 points, including 3.8 of 8.8 three-pointers per game, in the first-round series victory against the Denver Nuggets. Curry wasn't just scorching nets, though, as he also averaged 9.3 assists.

    In his first postseason, Curry didn't allow a left ankle sprain in Game 2 of the opening round hold him out.

    Reigniting the images of his Davidson days, Curry will, once again, need to be the electric if the Warriors have any hope of upsetting the San Antonio Spurs in Round 2.

    He's off to a good start after tallying 44 points and 11 assists in the Warriors' double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Shooting Guard No. 5: Marco Belinelli, Chicago Bulls

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    Here's the award for the guy least expected to be named in the top five at his respective position. Congratulations, Marco Belinelli.

    With eight teams remaining in the postseason, Belinelli is filling in nicely for the Chicago Bulls. He has become one of the top remaining shooting guards.

    His 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting in Chicago's Game 7 series clincher against the Brooklyn Nets offers prime evidence.

    Belinelli was less potent in the Bulls' Game 1 victory Monday against the Miami Heat, as he hit just 3-of-10 from the field. Still, he contributed seven rebounds to go along with his 10 points.

No. 4: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

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    The second-year shooter of the Golden State Warriors is getting an accelerated lesson in the NBA.

    One of the top shooting guards still playing, Thompson has had early highs and lows this postseason.

    In the Warriors' series-deciding Game 6 win against the Denver Nuggets in the opening round, Thompson was just 3-of-13 for seven points. Thompson opened that series averaging 21.5 points through Games 1 and 2.

    Ultimately, Thompson scored 14.7 points on 46.3 percent shooting per game in the opening-round series, hitting an average of two three-pointers per game.

    In Game 1's double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Thompson went 8-of-15 for 19 points, but he showed inexperience when he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.

    Golden State needs his scoring—especially due to the missed scoring of David Lee—if the Warriors hope to rally for a series upset against the Spurs.

No. 3: J.R. Smith, New York Knicks

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    Somebody better wake up J.R. Smith, because he's about to miss the second round of the playoffs.

    The New York Knicks scorer, known for being an erratic shooter, is slipping into old ways.

    Smith was 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) in the team's Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers. After shooting 42.2 percent in the regular season and 48.3 percent in April, Smith has cooled off as the target of two perimeter-defensive teams—the Boston Celtics and now the Indiana Pacers.

    Smith is shooting just 36.4 percent through six postseason games.

    He has the ability to heat up in a hurry, and the Knicks will rely on his scoring if they hope to continue to make noise this postseason.

No. 2: Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

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    San Antonio Spurs veteran guard Manu Ginobili opened the second round as a hero with his game-winning shot to clinch Game 1 in double-overtime against the Golden State Warriors.

    He got off to a rough start, hitting 4-of-19 prior to the game-winner, but ultimately, the guy who has hit so many big shots for San Antonio throughout the years came through.

    Ginobili has always been a figure in the the Spurs' success, and he has averaged 16.1 points through 141 postseason games.

    The Spurs will continue to lean on his shooting through the end, even if it means waiting until the final moments of overtime.

No. 1: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    Dwyane Wade is the forgotten hero of the Miami Heat—a reality of playing alongside LeBron James.

    But the best No. 2 option in the league is coming off of a regular season of superb efficiency.

    Wade shot 52.1 percent this season as a product of finding selective shots in a Miami offense that executed better this season than in Wade and James' first two seasons together.

    In last season's Heat championship run, Wade averaged 22.8 points and 4.3 assists per game. He'll need to return to that level this postseason for Miami to repeat.

    Though he's currently scoring just 13.8 points per game in these playoffs, Wade is also putting up nightly figures of 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists and three steals. There's no better shooting guard this postseason than him.

Small Forward No. 5: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

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    The youth and athleticism of the San Antonio Spurs belongs to Kawhi Leonard.

    The 21-year-old small forward shot 55.3 percent in the Spurs' first-round series sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers. In Monday's double-overtime victory against the Golden State Warriors, Leonard shot 7-of-11 for 18 points and added nine rebounds.

    The length of the second-year wing gives him the ability to be a strong defender for the Spurs.

    If San Antonio has hopes of returning to a title, Leonard will be a much-needed lift defensively and in offensive transition.

No. 4: Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    The more the Indiana Pacers succeed this postseason, the more the casual NBA fan will come to know Paul George.

    George is on the list of the game's elite small forwards, an all-purpose talent who can defend better than any wing left in the postseason (other than Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies).

    George's length and strength around the basket makes him a valuable inside presence, as he is averaging 8.9 rebounds per game this postseason.

    George isn't an efficient scorer, despite being the team's primary wing option. He shot just 41.9 percent in the regular season, and he's hitting at 40.9 percent in seven games this postseason.

    But Indiana is built around defense and rebounding, and George is the symbol of that.

No. 3: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

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    Carmelo Anthony is picking the wrong time to turn cold.

    The New York Knicks superstar—and winner of the league's scoring title—is still getting his points, hitting just 10.1 of 26.9 shots per game for 28.9 points through seven postseason games.

    His 37.8 shooting percentage is low, but it's aided by his 90.9 percent free-throw shooting, connecting at the line for 7.1-of-7.9 per game.

    That's the beauty and the beast that is Anthony. He can shoot you into a game, but his volume launches will devour the Knicks' chances at a title if he goes cold.

No. 2: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    A superstar can't settle into greatness.

    Kevin Durant told Sports Illustrated he was tired of being No. 2. And now, here he is, with the opportunity to prove he can be No. 1—as the only one.

    The loss of Russell Westbrook crushes the Oklahoma City Thunder's chances of winning a title, but it does open up an opportunity for Durant to prove he's enough. Thus far, KD has made the most of it, averaging career playoff highs of 32.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 87.7 percent free-throw shooting through seven games.

    Narratives of true greatness include the improbable.

    This could be Durant's moment.

No. 1: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    Hoist that Most Valuable Player trophy high, LeBron James.

    This is your time.

    The best player in the game, of course, is the best small forward in the league. LeBron's all-world, all-around abilities at the position feature more than just offensive prowess.

    Sure, the Miami Heat star is one of the most gifted scorers and passers. He averaged 24.5 points (at 62.7 percent) and 6.8 assists in 36.8 minutes per game through Miami's first-round sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks.

    But just as James could conceivably win the MVP award every season, he could also win the Defensive Player of the Year award.

    There is no player better at doing it all than James—maybe in the history of the game.

    The Heat took an early knock in a Game 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls, but that likely won't stop James on a quest to win his second consecutive championship.

Power Forward No. 5: David West, Indiana Pacers

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    David West is in a luxurious position with the Indiana Pacers.

    The guy who has a career that's flown mostly under the radar is now operating under that same sentiment with the Indiana Pacers.

    The power forward is averaging 16.9 points on 49.5 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds per game in these playoffs. He's hitting 85.7 percent from the free-throw line. His ability to score inside and outside helps create room for Roy Hibbert's post presence and also Paul George's slashing abilities.

    West brings a physicality that Indiana relies on without a high-scoring offense. He's incredibly valuable at his position, and he's a top power forward remaining in the postseason.

No. 4: Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls

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    It's starting to feel like Carlos Boozer is the only fully healthy player on the Chicago Bulls.

    The power forward is shooting 51.8 percent from the field for 16.0 points per game this postseason. He's also averaging 10.1 rebounds for Chicago.

    The Bulls, with the obvious injury to Derrick Rose and the day-to-day injuries of Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, have little margin for Boozer to underperform. Alongside Joakim Noah, Boozer becomes a pivotal need for Chicago in continuing its success against the Miami Heat.

    Boozer's play can be maddening at times for Bulls fans, but he's been the consistent force for Chicago.

    His inside scoring and rebounding will be required if Chicago hopes to continue winning against the Heat.

No. 3: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    There's an added heap of pressure resting on the broad shoulders of Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka.

    Without Russell Westbrook, the call for Ibaka to be the team's second option is becoming louder. But a 1-of-10 shooting performance in Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies was a rough start.

    The scene of an outstretched Ibaka, fallen to the floor after missing a putback that would have lifted the Thunder to a Game 4 victory against the Houston Rockets in the opening round, could be the enduring image of this Oklahoma City postseason—even if the Thunder won that series after all.

    Ibaka may be the X-factor as the Thunder continue through the postseason, because behind the inconsistency of Kevin Martin, there may be no other options.

No. 2: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    The league's best interior bully now holds a No. 2 spot vacated by the now-missing Blake Griffin.

    Who better to replace Griffin than the guy who pushed him out?

    The nimble feet and soft touch of Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph continues to be a leading postseason presence as the Grizzlies move into the second round.

    Randolph is averaging 20.4 points per game this postseason on an impressive 54.8 percent. His 8.3-rebound average in seven playoff games is a dip from his regular-season average of 11.2, an effect of going up against equally tough opponents in Griffin and now Serge Ibaka.

    If Memphis hopes to move on, it will have to rely on its interior, led by Randolph and center Marc Gasol.

No. 1: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    It seems impossible that 2013 Tim Duncan is playing at a level similar to those of the San Antonio Spurs' championship seasons.

    The surprising return to brilliance has Duncan's franchise as the team to beat this postseason. His average of 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds came in just 32.3 minutes per game through the first round against the Lakers.

    Duncan is a tough matchup for the Golden State Warriors frontcourt, and his play may be the difference-maker. He left for moments of the Spurs' double-overtime Game 1 loss with the flu, but he did finish with 19 points and 11 rebounds, hitting 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

    As was the case for so many years, no one is better at the power forward position than Duncan.

Center No. 5: Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

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    Andrew Bogut has been more valuable than Tyson Chandler, who isn't on this list.

    Bogut, who has been kept off the court for most of his Golden State Warriors career due to ankle issues, has become a big factor in the Warriors' postseason success.

    His first-round numbers against Denver were far from eye-popping, as the 28-year-old center averaged 8.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. But the presence inside was invaluable for Golden State, especially following the injury of All-Star David Lee.

    Bogut tallied 10 points, 15 rebounds and a block in the Warriors' Game 1 loss to the Spurs.

    Bogut has been the enforcer down low, guarding the paint but also acting as the team's most physical player.

    He's still playing through ankle pain, and he's far from 100 percent, but his play this postseason has provided a hopeful glimpse of what Golden State could expect next season.

No. 4: Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

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    Roy Hibbert is quietly developing himself into one of the league's most valuable centers.

    He received the 10th-most votes for Defensive Player of the Year this season, and his 7'2", lane-clogging presence has been good for 2.3 blocks per game this postseason.

    Hibbert is also scoring at an efficient rate in the playoffs, shooting 50 percent for 14.6 points per game. He has also added 8.7 rebounds per game.

    For the Indiana Pacers to advance, they will rely on the defensive abilities of Hibbert to continue to keep the New York Knicks' interior quiet.

No. 3: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

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    There's a reputation that has been smacked onto the Miami Heat's Chris Bosh: The center/power forward is "soft."

    But there's a less-spoken, more powerful reality that has been missed: Bosh is a highly versatile post whose ability to step out and knock down mid-range jumpers fulfills the small-ball offense of the Heat.

    He's the perfect option within Miami's current system, and he is shooting 49 percent for 12.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game this postseason.

    Bosh will continue to gain more recognition with each championship Miami is capable of winning.

    But that's not going to happen if Bosh continues to disappear against the defense of Joakim Noah. In the Heat's Game 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls, Bosh was just 3-of-10 for nine points and grabbed six rebounds.

No. 2: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

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    This is the respect that Marc Gasol has earned.

    The center, and the league's Defensive Player of the Year, is the lane-filling hub of the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol's 7'1", 265-pound presence has been good for 17.7 points on 48.3 percent shooting and 7.9 rebounds for the Grizzlies this postseason.

    In his seven games—six against the Los Angeles Clippers, one against the Oklahoma City Thunder—Gasol has also averaged 1.7 blocks and 3.3 assists.

    One of the better passing big men, Gasol can help move the ball inside-out and spark open perimeter looks for the Grizzlies.

No. 1: Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls

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    Joakim Noah won't be denied.

    The pain of plantar fasciitis isn't enough to debilitate the always-grimaced playing face of Noah, nor is it affecting his ability to perform.

    Noah led the Chicago Bulls in a Game 7, series-capping win against the Brooklyn Nets. He averaged 31 minutes per game along with averages of 11.4 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.

    But the Miami Heat will challenge the paint more than the Nets, and his attacking interior presence is necessary in the second round.

    Noah got off to a good start, limiting Chris Bosh to nine points in the Bulls' Game 1 win. Noah tallied 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the series opener.

    The best remaining center will need to repeat his first-round play if Chicago has a shot at the upset.