How far can Tim Duncan and Tony Parker rise?
With only six teams remaining in the 2013 NBA playoffs, the NBA Playoff Superstar Rankings are contracting as well.
From the start of the season up through the most recent edition, published two weeks before this version, 20 players have been featured. Now that number has shrunk in half, making each spot all the more coveted.
Will any of the six squads—Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors—have three players represented? Do each of them occupy at least one spot in the rankings?
Moreover, how have the rankings of your favorite players shifted around?
As we advance throughout the postseason, each game matters more and more. One bad game by a superstar could doom a team's entire season, so each slip-up is punished in the rankings.
The playoffs are shaking up the rankings. There's no doubt about that.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current through Wednesday, May 15.
The focus is no longer on Kevin Durant.
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 these rankings.
Additionally, only players still 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: Paul Pierce (No. 20), Jeff Green (19), Josh Smith (18), Deron Williams (17), Ty Lawson (16), Andre Iguodala (14), James Harden (9), Brook Lopez (8), Chris Paul (6), Kevin Durant (2).
Team: Indiana Pacers
Regular-Season Stats: 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.6 blocks, 17.3 PER
Postseason Stats: 13.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.1 steals, 2.3 blocks, 18.8 PER
Roy Hibbert's struggles during the first half of the regular season are now just part of the distant past. Ever since the All-Star break, the 7-footer has remembered how to shoot the basketball, and he's showing that now more than ever.
Hibbert is known primarily as a defensive stopper in the paint. He protects the rim as well as Indiana head coach Frank Vogel could hope, and any offensive output is usually gravy on top of an already delicious biscuit.
Well, there's been a lot of gravy during the second-round series with the New York Knicks. His 24 points in Game 3, for example, certainly helped propel the Indiana Pacers to victory. His consistent defensive output has been invaluable.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Regular-Season Stats: 14.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.3 blocks, 18.3 PER
Postseason Stats: 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 21.4 PER
Mike Conley comes in at No. 9 in these new and condensed superstar power rankings, and he's the first of three Memphis Grizzlies you'll run into. In fact, the Grizz are the only team with an entire trio represented here.
The lefty floor general couldn't get his shot to drop with much consistency against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but he still recorded a number of timely baskets. Plus, those sweeping hooks while running across the lane are just beautiful.
Conley is also one of those players who can dramatically alter the outcome of a game without putting up ridiculous scoring totals. He's rebounding the ball effectively, distributing the ball well and filling his traditional role as an outstanding perimeter defender.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Regular-Season Stats: 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.7 blocks, 24.4 PER
Postseason Stats: 18.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks, 20.2 PER
Tim Duncan doesn't slow down as he ages, and he doesn't let the quality of his play dip as the postseason progresses. He's just not human.
Although the Big Fundamental has struggled with his shot at times, he's still taking over on the boards and accepting even more responsibility within the San Antonio Spurs offense. While he took only 14.1 shots per game during the regular season, he's lofting up 18.2 per contest against the Golden State Warriors.
Fortunately for the Spurs' chances, Duncan hasn't expended so much energy on offense that he fails to make an impact on defense. The 37-year-old still turns away driving players with the best of them.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Regular-Season Stats: 15.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.9 PER
Postseason Stats: 18.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 20.1 PER
Game 5 was the pièce de résistance during Zach Randolph's reign of terror against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He dominated the game from start to finish with 28 points, 14 rebounds and two assists.
Fortunately for him, his two missed free throws in crunch time didn't bite him in the butt. They'll ultimately be forgotten about, but the power forward's overall performance won't.
Earlier in the series, during Game 3 in particular, Z-Bo struggled with his shot, but he still always managed to control the glass.
The big man's game takes place almost entirely below the rim, and it just doesn't matter. His post moves are immaculate, and he's such a physical presence in the paint.
Things will get tougher for Z-Bo as the postseason continues to progress, but he's leaving an indelible impression thus far.
Team: Golden State Warriors
Regular-Season Stats: 22.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 21.3 PER
Postseason Stats: 23.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 21.3 PER
Against the San Antonio Spurs, Stephen Curry hasn't looked quite as impressive. His injured ankle—surprise, surprise—has clearly impacted him, and that's enough to knock him down in the rankings rather significantly.
Again, we're firmly within the playoffs now. Every game truly matters.
Hounded by Danny Green, the Davidson product has averaged 22.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game against the Spurs, but he's only shot 40.6 percent from the field and is coughing it up three times per contest.
Moreover, Curry's shot isn't falling from the perimeter with nearly the same frequency to which we've become accustomed. He's having trouble finding open space, and the contested threes aren't going in as often as they had been in the previous round against Denver.
Team: Indiana Pacers
Regular-Season Stats: 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 16.8 PER
Postseason Stats: 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.7 blocks, 16.8 PER
I was recently on a hiking trip with a few friends, and while strolling through the backcountry at Cloudland Canyon, we happened upon the subject of Paul George's long-term potential. Phrases like "Hall of Fame" and "small sample size" were thrown around, but one interesting comparison surfaced.
Could Paul George's ceiling be LeBron James on a night when LeBron James doesn't feel like completely taking over?
Trust me, that's a compliment, because even non-takeover-mode LeBron is an MVP-caliber player. During the playoffs, George has certainly looked the part.
He's struggled with his shot and ball security at times, but the Indiana Pacers' best player now takes the game over in a ridiculous number of ways. And that includes both ends of the court.
As soon as he raises that ugly field-goal percentage, one sitting below .400, George's performances will be just about as complete as they get.
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Regular-Season Stats: 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.7 blocks, 19.5 PER
Postseason Stats: 19.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.1 blocks, 22.1 PER
Even without dominating on offense, Marc Gasol has completely changed outcomes in the five-game series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He shut down the paint and dealt with an aggressive, driving Kevin Durant while avoiding any foul trouble.
Plus, it's impressive enough that a true 7-footer has been so involved on both ends of the court while averaging 41.4 minutes per game going into the Game 5 clincher.
And Gasol has dominated on offense at times. The first phrase of this text wasn't meant to disparage his offensive output, but rather to highlight his defensive ability since coaches choosing the All-Defensive teams overlooked it.
He's called his own number more often during the playoffs, yet he's been scoring without sacrificing efficiency. A lot of what Gasol does goes unnoticed in box scores, but it shouldn't go unnoticed by fans watching him play.
Team: New York Knicks
Regular-Season Stats: 28.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 24.8 PER
Postseason Stats: 27.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 19.9 PER
It's hard to put up points efficiently on the Indiana Pacers' stingy defense, but is anyone else tired of the New York Knicks' offensive strategy?
More often than not, the ball is thrown to Carmelo Anthony on the wing, and he attempts to go one-on-one. The results haven't been too pretty, even if Melo is still producing some gaudy point totals. He just needs loads of shots to get them.
Fortunately, Anthony is contributing in other ways. He's still rebounding, minimizing turnovers and providing some surprisingly solid defensive efforts.
Now the shots just need to start falling.
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Regular-Season Stats: 20.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 23.0 PER
Postseason Stats: 23.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.2 blocks, 25.3 PER
While Stephen Curry and the collection of underdogs known as the Golden State Warriors were busy stealing the headlines, Tony Parker has been quietly dominating the postseason.
In a lot of ways, that's only appropriate.
Whether he's racking up impressive seasons or games, Parker goes about his business in under-the-radar fashion. He doesn't provide many glamorous plays, and he won't blow you away often. But when you look at the final product, it's usually one capable of making your jaw drop.
In five games against the Dubs, Parker has averaged 24.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 0.2 blocks and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. And I haven't even gotten to the most impressive number yet.
Despite his inordinately high level of responsibility in Gregg Popovich's system, Parker virtually never coughs the ball up. During the series against Mark Jackson's squad, he's turned the ball over only 2.4 times per game while playing nearly 40 minutes in each contest.
Team: Miami Heat
Regular-Season Stats: 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks, 31.6 PER
Postseason Stats: 24.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 27.6 PER
Jimmy Butler played some incredible defense on LeBron James, and the league's MVP still managed to average 23.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game during the Heat's five-game series win over the Chicago Bulls.
James can be slowed down, but he still can't be stopped. Butler learned that, just like the rest of the Association has time after time.
And that's only on offense.
When the forward is on the defensive end of the court, he's going to be stopping his opponents. Whether he's guarding Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Jimmy Butler or someone else entirely, LeBron is a legitimate defensive ace for the Miami Heat.
If the Indiana Pacers match up with Miami, Paul George and David West will provide James with new, unique challenges, but he'll still find a way to overcome them.