Updated NBA Playoff Superstar Rankings: How Conference Finals Are Shaking It Up

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistMay 23, 2013

Updated NBA Playoff Superstar Rankings: How Conference Finals Are Shaking It Up

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    The players populating these updated NBA playoff superstar rankings are so close to a championship that they can taste it. Well, maybe some of them are still using their noses rather than their taste buds, but the point still stands. 

    We're into the conference finals now, so only players from four teams—the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs—are still eligible for the rankings. 

    This round features a number of incredible individual matchups. Tony Parker and Mike Conley are going head-to-head out on the perimeter. Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan are banging bodies in the paint. LeBron James and Paul George are doing everything they can to embarrass each other on both ends of the court. 

    So, who's emerging out of the pack? Has anyone dethroned the league MVP? How are things changing from last week's edition?

    You'll have to read on to find out. 

    Note: All stats, unless otherwise noted, come from ESPN and Basketball-Reference.com and are current through Wednesday, May 22. 

Injured and Non-Qualifed Players

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    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: Stephen Curry (No. 6) and Carmelo Anthony (No. 2).

10. Zach Randolph (Previous Ranking: No. 7)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: PF

    Age: 31

    Regular-Season Stats: 15.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.4 blocks, 17.9 PER

    Postseason Stats: 18.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 19.0 PER

    Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan did an absolutely fantastic job shutting down Zach Randolph for 1.5 games at the start of the Western Conference Finals. But then Z-Bo decided to dominate down the stretch and pulled the Memphis Grizzlies squarely back into Game 2 contention. 

    Randolph was a monster against the Oklahoma City Thunder. When Game 1 with the San Antonio Spurs rolled around, though, he disappeared. A 1-of-8 showing left him searching for answers, and the first half of Game 2 did him no favors. 

    Fortunately for the Grizzlies—and this should give them hope for the rest of the series, despite facing a 2-0 deficit—the big man finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal on 6-of-18 shooting. 

    Randolph's no-shows cause him to slip a few spots, but don't be surprised if he climbs back up the rankings in a later edition. 

9. Dwyane Wade (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SG

    Age: 31

    Regular-Season Stats: 21.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, 24.0 PER

    Postseason Stats: 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.8 blocks, 18.1 PER

    Dwyane Wade's knee has clearly held him back during the 2013 postseason, but he's starting to round into form as the level of competition increases. 

    The shooting guard was less involved than normal when the Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls in five games, but he played with enough efficiency that he was still a valuable piece. During the second-round series, he averaged 12.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game on 50.9 percent shooting. 

    Then he made a couple key shots during Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers, finishing with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists on 60 percent shooting from the field. 

    The Heat have survived without a fully healthy Wade thus far, but they'll need consistent output from him to get by Indiana. 

8. Mike Conley (Previous Ranking: No. 9)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: PG

    Age: 25

    Regular-Season Stats: 14.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.3 blocks, 18.3 PER

    Postseason Stats: 17.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 20.6 PER

    Things haven't gone quite as smoothly for Mike Conley ever since he stopped playing the Los Angeles Clippers. 

    The left-handed point guard shot only 36.5 percent from the field against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and while that percentage has risen to 42.3 against the San Antonio Spurs, he's also significantly more hesitant to pull the trigger. 

    Tony Parker and Danny Green have done a nice job corralling the breakout floor general, but the same can't be said about Conley's defensive efforts. He's struggled to prevent points whether he's guarding point guards or shooting guards. 

7. David West (Previous Ranking: Unranked)

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: PF

    Age: 32

    Regular-Season Stats: 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.9 blocks, 20.1 PER

    Postseason Stats: 16.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 16.6 PER

    David West was absolutely fantastic during the first half of Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he slipped in the second half and missed four crucial shots from the charity stripe down the stretch. All in all, it was a great outing. 

    A strained right calf has hampered him at times during the postseason, but he looked just fine against the Miami Heat. Well, except for when Miami's players showed an interesting knack for hitting West in what the TNT broadcast team called "his midsection." 

    He didn't exactly look fine then. 

    West remains a two-way stud and a crucial player for the Indiana Pacers. They'd be lost without his physical play on both ends of the court. 

6. Tim Duncan (Previous Ranking: No. 8)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: C

    Age: 37

    Regular-Season Stats: 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.7 blocks, 24.4 PER

    Postseason Stats: 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.5 blocks, 20.2 PER

    Tim Duncan is still playing fantastic defense, but Marc Gasol has kept the San Antonio Spurs big man in check throughout the early portion of the Western Conference Finals. 

    Through two games, Duncan is averaging 11.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 3.0 blocks per contest. To compound matters, he's shooting only 39.1 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the charity stripe. 

    Duncan's versatility enables him to be a valuable offensive contributor even when his shot isn't falling with any frequency, but he's been a rather ineffective scorer against the Memphis Grizzlies. 

    I hate to even suggest this, but could Duncan be starting to wear down? He is, after all, 37 years old and coming off a series against the Golden State Warriors in which he played 35.7 minutes per game. 

5. Roy Hibbert (Previous Ranking: No. 10)

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: C

    Age: 26

    Regular-Season Stats: 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.6 blocks, 17.3 PER

    Postseason Stats: 14.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.2 steals, 2.5 blocks, 19.3 PER

    Everything is clicking for Roy Hibbert during the postseason. 

    No player has protected the rim better than the centerpiece of the Indiana Pacers defense. That includes defensive standouts like Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan. When he's in the game, offenses are forced to adjust rather drastically. 

    In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James visibly looked hesitant to attack the basket when Hibbert was patrolling the paint.

    The big man has also started to get things clicking on offense. His jump hook is devastating, and the shots are falling with much greater frequency than they were at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. Hibbert's slump to start the year is now firmly rooted in the distant past. 

4. Marc Gasol (Previous Ranking: No. 4)

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    Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Position: C

    Age: 28

    Regular-Season Stats: 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.7 blocks, 19.5 PER

    Postseason Stats: 17.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 2.2 blocks, 20.4 PER

    Marc Gasol played incredible basketball against the Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder, but it's been a different story against the San Antonio Spurs. 

    He's done a great job limiting the offensive effectiveness of Tim Duncan, but the same can be said about the work Duncan has done controlling him. Through two games against The Big Fundamental and Tiago Splitter, Gasol has averaged 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest on 39.3 percent shooting from the field. 

    While he's turned the ball over only once against San Antonio, he's also played with an astounding lack of aggressiveness. Gasol has only made six trips to the line, and he's more hesitant to actively create looks for his teammates with his superb passing. 

    Expect the Spaniard to bounce back, but the last few games haven't exactly reached the otherworldly level we've come to expect from this 7-footer. 

3. Paul George (Previous Ranking: No. 5)

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    Team: Indiana Pacers

    Position: SG/SF

    Age: 23

    Regular-Season Stats: 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks, 16.8 PER

    Postseason Stats: 19.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 17.1 PER

    I wish I could have seen Paul George's face when he realized that he'd just controlled Carmelo Anthony for an entire series and was being rewarded with the opportunity to defend LeBron James. From one easy matchup to another, right? 

    During Game 1 against the Miami Heat, though, George actually outplayed the league MVP for large portions of the proceedings. He was fantastic during the end of regulation, especially when he hit a ridiculous game-tying three-pointer to send the game to overtime. 

    George's brilliance continued in the extra period when he nailed three free throws to take a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left. You can be sure that he had at least a few butterflies in his stomach, but they didn't faze him in the slightest.

    Not bad for a 23-year-old just getting used to being the go-to guy. 

    Given the energy he's expending while guarding James, any offensive output from George should be considered gravy. There was a whole lot of that sauce during Game 1.

    The only big negative from that performance was over-pursuing on the final play and giving LeBron James a lane to the rim. 

    Unfortunately, that's a monumental negative since James' shot just happened to be a buzzer-beating, game-winning layup. 

2. Tony Parker (Previous Ranking: No. 2)

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    Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Position: PG

    Age: 30

    Regular-Season Stats: 20.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.1 blocks, 23.0 PER

    Postseason Stats: 21.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, 23.4 PER

    If the Memphis Grizzlies can't figure out how to stop Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs might as well start booking hotel rooms in either Miami or Indiana for the 2013 NBA Finals. The French point guard has absolutely torched them in both of their first two games. 

    During Game 1, it was all about Parker's scoring. He dropped 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and still managed to add nine assists. Mike Conley couldn't stop him. Tony Allen couldn't either. 

    Maybe he was just bored with that method of domination, because Game 2 saw a very different Parker come out to play. His shot wasn't immediately falling, so Parker became a distributor first and foremost. 

    He finished the game with a playoff-high 18 dimes, but he also dropped 15 points. The most notable ones came in the second half when he drilled back-to-back deep twos on pull-up jumpers to end a Grizzlies run. 

    Throughout the Western Conference Finals, Parker has been able to get to any spot he desires, and he's always making the right decisions once he arrives there. 

    A bad Game 1 from LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals would have been enough for Parker to ascend to the top spot, but, as we all know, that's not exactly what happened. 

1. LeBron James (Previous Ranking: No. 1)

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    Team: Miami Heat

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 28

    Regular-Season Stats: 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks, 31.6 PER

    Postseason Stats: 24.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 27.3 PER

    What new superlatives can we possibly throw toward the man who recorded the ninth playoff triple-double of his career en route to beating the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals? 

    LeBron was hounded by Paul George throughout the game, and, quite frankly, his younger opponent outplayed him for rather lengthy segments of the game. However, James still came out on top.

    He was absolutely everywhere during the series opener, and no plays were bigger than his rebound near the end of regulation—one that gave the Miami Heat the extra possession they needed to tie up the game—and his game-winner in overtime. 

    With 2.2 seconds left, James' drive sealed Miami's huge win.

    Now let's just wait and see what he can do when he's not hampered by foul trouble.