Updated Ranking of Top 5 Players at Every Position in 2013 NBA Playoffs
Positions may not be as relevant in the NBA as they used to be, though they've provided an insightful structural overlay for the 2013 playoffs to this point.
For instance, it's hardly surprising to see the league's list of remaining small forwards as stacked as it is, what with LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony (among others) still alive in the chase for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
But the center position—recently considered a wasteland for seven-foot stiffs—has reemerged as both long on talent and important to the hopes of those teams doing their darndest to survive and advance through the NBA's Big Dance.
Though, in all honesty, at least two of the other spots (shooting guard and power forward) could desperately use a boost in talent, if the current crop of players in the postseason is any indication.
Who ranks where at what position from the eight teams left in the field?
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5. Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls
Nate Robinson has lost considerable steam since his 27-point, nine-assist virtuoso performance in the Bulls' Game 1 stunner against the Miami Heat. Robinson's managed about as many points (28) and assists (nine) in the two games since as he did in just that one, and he's shot a subpar 34.8 percent from the field (and 25 percent from three) over that same span.
That being said, Chicago managed to hang with the Heat in Game 3, thanks in no small part to Robinson, whose hustle, energy and enthusiasm continues to fuel whatever is left of the Bulls' flickering fire.
4. Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
Jarrett Jack has morphed into the Lewis Black of the Golden State Warriors: When Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson fall through the cracks, Jack catches them in a segment called, "Hey, Remember When I Almost Won Sixth Man of the Year?"
Jack came up big once again in Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs. With Gregg Popovich's defense pestering Steph and Klay into poor shooting nights, Jack stepped in with 24 points—half of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime—to propel Golden State to a 97-87 victory.
3. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley seems to be enjoying this whole "No Russell Westbrook" thing. Sure, he'd probably prefer to prove himself against one of the NBA's best, just as he did in the opening round opposite Chris Paul.
That being said, Conley can't complain about the field days he's had at Reggie Jackson's expense.
Conley went particularly bonkers in Game 2, when he strung together a spectacular line of 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in just over 42 minutes.
2. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
Tony Parker's string of consecutive 20-plus-point games came to a halt at six on Sunday, when he registered 17 points (on 6-of-17 shooting) in the Spurs' 97-87 overtime loss at Golden State.
Parker played brilliantly in Games 1 and 3 of the series, but he struggled to score efficiently (and dish to his teammates with Tony-like regularity) in San Antonio's two losses.
The task of handling the bigger, stronger Harrison Barnes in the post time after time can't be helping Parker's performance, though he did make the Warriors rookie work hard for his points in Game 3, as Barnes' 9-of-26 shooting performance might suggest.
1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Never mind that Stephen Curry shot just 19-of-52 from the field (36.5 percent) over his last three games. He's still been the most exciting player of this postseason, due to his penchant for heating up from deep at a moment's notice.
His 44-point, 11-assist outburst in Game 1 against the Spurs was the stuff of legends. His shooting stroke has formed the foundation of a spectacular Cinderella run, the likes of which the NBA has rarely seen.
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5. J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
It wouldn't be surprising to see a picture of J.R. Smith's jumper on the next milk carton. That thing went missing at the end of the regular season (though not before Smith was able to wrap up Sixth Man of the Year honors) but has been particularly tough to find amid the Knicks' series against the Indiana Pacers.
At the very least, Smith managed to attack the basket in Game 1 (7-of-10 on free throws) to make up for his dismal 4-of-15 shooting performance.
But in the two games since, Smith has made it to the stripe just four times total while missing 22-of-29 shots and scoring as many points (17) as he did in Game 1 alone. The fact that he still ranks among the top five shooting guards in these playoffs says more about "depth" of the competition than it does about the play of Earl III.
4. Marco Belinelli, Chicago Bulls
Marco Belinelli has fared about as well as anyone could've expected given the Bulls' circumstances, and then some. The sweet-shooting Italian guard has scored in double figures in each of his five postseason starts while shooting 40 percent from three.
Along the way, Belinelli has shown off a surprisingly well-rounded game for Chicago. He's chipped in 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists as a starter, hustling after loose balls and playing with energy, focus and determination on the defensive end.
3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Statistically speaking, Game 4 against the Warriors was Manu Ginobili's finest of this postseason. He scored 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting (including 5-of-10 from three), with four rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
But, in a cruel reversal of fortunes from Game 1—in which the Argentine started poorly but finished strong with a game-winner—Ginobili came up empty when his team needed it most this time around. He did wonderfully to shake Harrison Barnes with less than 30 seconds to play, but he couldn't convert the open look from three-point land.
That being said, if it weren't for Ginobili's preceding performance, the Spurs wouldn't have been in position to give anything away to begin with.
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors could certainly use another show out of Klay Thompson like the one he delivered in Game 2 against the Spurs (34 points, 14 rebounds, 13-of-26 from the floor, 8-of-9 from three).
Not that they need another one. That one shooting performance from Thompson was more than enough to remind Golden State's foes of his lethal potential from the perimeter.
He has the ability to force opposing defenses to account for him on every possession—which makes Stephen Curry's life that much easier.
1. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Truth be told, Dwyane Wade hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire so far through the postseason. He's topped the 20-point plateau just once in six games, and he sat out Game 4 of the Heat's sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks on account of lingering discomfort in his right knee.
(For clarity's sake, it is not the same knee that bothered him throughout Miami's championship run in 2012.)
Nonetheless, Wade hasn't allowed his latest ailment to preclude him from being a productive and impactful player beyond the scoring column. He's averaged five rebounds and 5.5 assists per game to this point and has defended opposing shooting guards (first Monta Ellis, now Marco Belinelli) with the same vigor we've all come to expect from D-Wade over the years.
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T5. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs; Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Kawhi Leonard's combination of rebounding (particularly on the offensive glass), occasional outside shooting and perimeter defense on the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson has rendered him an invaluable part of the Spurs' hopes for prolonged postseason success.
But the Warriors would be sitting at home right now, watching the playoffs from the comfort of their couches, if not for the play of Harrison Barnes.
The rookie out of North Carolina has nearly doubled his scoring and rebounding averages from the regular season since David Lee was relegated to "symbol" status with a hip injury in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets.
Barnes hasn't always been particularly efficient (9-of-26 from the floor in Game 4), but his ability to post up against smaller players, however rudimentary, has proven invaluable to Golden State's perimeter-oriented offense in Lee's stead.
4. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
It's tough to chastise Paul George too much for not doing more as a scorer for the Pacers. After all, he's preoccupied with slowing down Carmelo Anthony.
Which, to this point, he's done quite well—for the most part, anyway.
In Indy's two wins, George has helped to hold 'Melo to 16-of-44 (36.4 percent) from the floor while chipping in 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and six assists of his own.
The Pacers aren't exactly replete with scoring options, but I'd imagine if Frank Vogel had his druthers, he'd rather Paul use the bulk of his energies to pester Carmelo than devote his efforts to producing points.
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
When Carmelo Anthony shoots well, the Knicks usually win. When he doesn't, the Knicks lose.
That dictum may seem a simple one (if not too simple), but so far, it's held true. Anthony has shot worse than 40 percent from the floor on five occasions, and New York has lost all but one of those—an undeserving Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden.
With J.R. Smith also struggling with his shot, Anthony can ill afford to wait any longer to find his own, lest the Knicks find themselves out of the playoff picture after just two rounds.
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Game 3 against the Memphis Grizzlies saw Kevin Durant register his "worst" scoring output sans Russell Westbrook (25 points on 9-of-19 from the field) and the Oklahoma City Thunder fall into a 1-2 series hole as a result.
The Thunder had their fair share of opportunities to steal an ugly one, but they were undone (in part) by a missed jumper and a surprising pair of clanked free throws by KD during the final minute of the fourth quarter.
On the whole, Durant's been brilliant without Westbrook (34 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, .506 from the floor), but it's clear he can't do it alone and is losing steam from trying.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
What's remarkable about LeBron James' 2013 postseason isn't that he's playing well (that's to be expected), but rather that he's doing so without stirring up a storm.
For instance, consider his performance in Game 3 against the Chicago Bulls. James poured in a game-high 25 points (12 in the fourth quarter, 11-of-11 at the free-throw line), with eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals.
And yet, his story was only the third-biggest of the evening behind the early scrums between the Heat and the Bulls—one of which resulted in Nazr Mohammed's ejection—and Chris Bosh's 20 points and playoff career-high 19 rebounds.
Such is the price of greatness, I suppose: Everyone takes said greatness for granted when it's so often on display.
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5. Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
Say what you will about Carlos Boozer and his sieve-like defense, but the oft-maligned forward's been a pivotal part of keeping the Bulls' floundering offense afloat amid mounting roster losses. Boozer shot abysmally during Games 1 and 2 against the Miami Heat (14 points on a combined 6-of-20 from the field), but he bounced back quite well with 21 points and 10-of-16 shooting in Game 3.
Albeit in a loss.
The Bulls could certainly use more from Boozer on the boards (he's collected just 21 rebounds total against Miami), but with their dearth of healthy bodies, they can beg but can't very well choose what Carlos brings to the table from night to night.
4. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
It's a good thing Serge Ibaka is such an impactful defender. Otherwise, the 2012-13 first-team All-Defensive performer would rank just above "dead weight" in the Oklahoma City Thunder's pursuit of post-Westbrook success.
Ibaka shot just 6-of-17 from the field in Game 3 against the Memphis Grizzlies, including a particularly painful missed dunk. That marked the fourth time since Westbrook went down that Ibaka has failed to hit 40 percent of his looks in a given game. According to Thunder blogger Royce Young, that is only five times fewer than he did during the entire regular season.
3. David West, Indiana Pacers
David West's scoring is down a bit from the Pacers' opening series against the Hawks, but he's done well to refocus his efforts elsewhere against the New York Knicks. West is rebounding more, sharing the ball more frequently and doing a solid job of checking Carmelo Anthony when Paul George isn't busy with that bear of an assignment.
Not bad for a guy who might just be the most underrated player left in the 2013 postseason.
2. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Zach Randolph has had issues getting his shot off against longer, more athletic defenders in these playoffs. Part of that struggle emanates from an ankle injury, though much of it can be traced back to Z-Bo's lack of athleticism.
All told, Randolph saw three of his shots sent back in Game 3 against the Thunder and has been blocked seven times total in this series alone.
Yet, Randolph has managed to leave his mark at OKC's expense, thanks to a wide array of crafty moves and a soft finishing touch. Z-Bo managed a mere eight points in Memphis' most recent triumph but still had a monumental impact on the proceedings with a team-high 10 boards.
Just as any All-Star big man worth his salt would.
1. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Whatever Tim Duncan's doing to stay so productive at the tender age of 37 (Extra gummy vitamins? A vegan diet? Occasional trips to Germany? Blasting R. Kelly on repeat?), it's working.
To say the least.
Through the first four games of the Spurs' series against the Golden State Warriors, Duncan has averaged 21 points and 11.3 rebounds, with 1.5 assists and 1.3 blocks, in a shade over 38 minutes a night.
Of course, those efforts haven't boosted San Antonio to another sweep, though the Spurs can thank Duncan for swinging the balance of power in this series back in their favor for the final three games.
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5. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors
Andrew Bogut was never a great offensive player and probably never will be on account of his bad ankle and bum elbow.
But, frankly, the Warriors don't need him to be, so long as he continues to defend and rebound to the extent that he has of late. The awesome Aussie has nabbed 15.4 rebounds per game over his last five, beginning with a 21-board bonanza during Golden State's Game 6 elimination of the Denver Nuggets in Round 1.
Frankly, the Dubs don't need much more than that from Bogut, so long as their perimeter stars continue to carry the scoring load.
4. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
At long last, Roy Hibbert appears to have regained his scoring touch. After disappearing in Game 2 (six points on 3-of-7 shooting), Hibbert came back to dominate at home in Game 3 with 24 points and 12 rebounds in Indy's 82-71 win.
Interestingly enough, it was the only game of these playoffs that saw Hibbert fail to register a single block, though his mere presence on the defensive end was plenty in the Pacers' effort to limit the Knicks to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor.
3. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Every once in a while, Chris Bosh has his moment in the sun when LeBron and Wade aren't busy soaking up all of the available rays.
Game 3 against the Bulls was one such moment for Bosh. Miami's de facto center scored 20 points and grabbed a playoff career-high 19 rebounds—with four assists, two blocks and a steal, for good measure—as the Heat fended off the feisty Bulls again, 104-94.
The more Bosh contributes, the less James and Wade have to do...and the better off the Heat will be in their quest for a second straight title.
2. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
"Hero" is (for the most part) too strong a word to be used in connection to pro sports, though whatever the appropriate equivalent of that label happens to be for the NBA would be well applied to Joakim Noah.
The first-time All-Star and All-Defensive first-teamer has been a galvanizing force for the short-handed Bulls in the 2013 postseason. He's fought through wincing pain in his foot to pile up six double-doubles in 10 games, including an impressive line of 15-11-4 with two blocks and two steals in Chicago's Game 3 loss at home to the Heat.
The Bulls are likely to be bounced in the coming week, but they wouldn't even be here without Noah's extraordinary efforts in the middle.
1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Remember when Kendrick Perkins, with his top-notch post defense, was supposed to be a crucial component in the Oklahoma City Thunder's plans against teams with size like the Grizzlies?
Well, Marc Gasol appears to have put any remaining notions of Perkins' "value" out to pasture.
In three games against Perk and the Thunder, Gasol has averaged 21.3 points on 53.7 percent shooting with eight rebounds, four assists, 1.7 steals, 1.7 blocks and eight free-throw attempts per outing to boot.
In all fairness to Perk, Gasol's operating in his own plane of existence right now—and has the Grizzlies targeting their first-ever trip to the Western Conference Finals as a result.