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Updated Postseason Grades for Every NBA Superstar, Conference Finals Edition

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterOctober 9, 2016

Updated Postseason Grades for Every NBA Superstar, Conference Finals Edition

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    It's these superstars that make the NBA playoffs what they are. It's almost like you tune in every night expecting something epic.

    This past week, it was Paul George and LeBron James dropping buzzer-beaters in the same game of the Eastern Conference Finals. It took a wild overtime game for the San Antonio Spurs to build a 2-0 lead over the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals.

    Though there's still plenty of ball to be played in both these conference finals, we've updated each superstar's report card to reflect their overall body of work this postseason.

LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James is now at the point where he's just inventing records:

    LeBron is the first player in NBA postseason history with a triple-double and a buzzer-beater game winner in the same game.

    — J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) May 23, 2013

    But really, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals seemed like just another day at the office for LeBron, who can pretty much do whatever he wants whenever he wants with the basketball in his hands.

    James' consistency is off the charts. He's dished out at least six assists in 10 of Miami's 11 playoff games.

    That said, the first break in the assist streak also came on the night LeBron turned the ball over twice in crunch time. With the Heat relying so heavily on James to be their game-closing player now, it's no coincidence that was the pivotal moment in their Game 2 loss to the Pacers on Friday.

    The numbers don't even tell the real story. LeBron is just dominant in so many areas of the game that there's not much coaches can do to game-plan for him anymore. But the Pacers are game-planning for everyone else, and their stingy defense has exposed at least a few cracks.

    This grade would be a perfect "A+" if Game 2 hadn't ended as it did. For now, just an old "A" will have to suffice.

    Playoff Grade: A

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

3 of 10

    Dwyane Wade hasn't been the aggressive go-to scorer that we've seen in the past, though he's been doing a nice job of picking his spots.

    He looked sharp and healthy in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, finishing 9-of-15 for 19 points, six boards and five assists. Wade was finishing athletically at the rim and shaking off the dribble, making you forget he ever had a knee issue to begin with.

    Except for Game 3 against Milwaukee (1-of-12, four points) and Game 4 against Chicago (3-of-10, six points), Wade has been fairly efficient throughout the playoffs. We're just not seeing him score with the volume we're used to.

    At some point, the Heat will need some more quantity with that quality. Wade's stat line in Miami's Game 2 loss to the Pacers continues to prove what we've all been whispering about: He's fading, becoming a supporting cast member rather than a superstar sidekick.

    LeBron James and the Heat probably need more—if Wade still has it in him.

    His performances in Game 5 against the Bulls and Game 1 against the Pacers show it's possible. But not every night.

    Playoff Grade: B-

Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

4 of 10

    Chris Bosh contributed his fair share of offense in Miami's Game 1 win over Indiana, finishing with 17 points, though two rebounds is borderline unacceptable.

    He's become a floor-spacer instead of a featured scorer, which obviously has been working just fine. Technically, Bosh's presence alone on the final play of Game 1 against the Pacers forced coach Frank Vogel to overthink his game plan and ultimately make the wrong call in pulling Roy Hibbert.

    But with Indiana's daunting front line, Miami will need Bosh to bang down low when he's not stretched out as a shooter. The Pacers continue to attack him with David West, Hibbert and any big they throw out there. Bosh's length can only make up for so much of his bulk deficiency.

    His 17 points on only 43 percent shooting, along with another paltry five boards in the Game 2 loss, prove that Bosh is contributing to Miami's strengths while not necessarily covering up their weaknesses.

    Bosh has been somewhat consistent in terms of efficiency, though he hasn't made an impact by putting up points in bunches. Only once all postseason has he finished with 20 points.

    Playoff Grade: B-

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

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    Paul George is starting to make memories in just his third year as a pro. George knocked down a contested 30-footer to send Game 1 into overtime, and he later nailed three straight free throws to give Indiana a one-point lead with less than three seconds left in overtime.

    LeBron James pretty much spoiled the fun, but he didn't erase George's production.

    The league's Most Improved Player finished Game 1 with 27 points, five assists and four boards, but the best-yet moment was a Game 2 slam that showed us all where George is and where he's going: up.

    George has been a little erratic from downtown this postseason (29.1 percent), but his numbers don't really reflect the impact he's made. He is putting this Pacers team on his back, has given them a 1-1 split going back to Indianapolis and is providing the star power they otherwise don't have and can't survive without.

    A star is being born before our eyes.

    Playoff Grade: A-

Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

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    The Miami Heat scored 60 points in the paint in Game 1 against Indiana, though it's tough to blame Roy Hibbert for the loss, considering he was benched for the four points that sank them.

    Hibbert played well offensively, going for 19 points and nine boards in 41 minutes of action. The 18 shots he took tied for his most this postseason.

    Though the max-contract center may not be a superstar, he's quickly proven to be worth both the cash and any "wrecking ball" adjectives one could bestow. He's the one Pacers weapon for which the Heat don't have a good answer, and his sheer size, finishing ability and shot-blocking prowess are quickly proving to be the Pacers' X factor. 

    He was a difference-maker against the New York Knicks in the previous round, and his absence in the closing seconds of Game 1 might have been the difference in the outcome against Miami.

    Frank Vogel didn't make the same mistake again in Game 2, as he kept Hibbert in down the stretch. The big man responded with a monster 29-point, 10-board stat line while also clogging the paint en route to a 97-93 Pacers victory.

    Paul George is not alone. Roy Hibbert is helping Indiana in a BIG way.

    Playoff Grade: A-

Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    Tied up in overtime of Game 2 against Memphis, Tim Duncan ripped down an offensive rebound and put it back in for two. He followed the next possession with a floater in the lane. A floater—as if he were Tony Parker taking a runner over traffic.

    It was classic Duncan, as he did whatever had to be done to get those buckets, regardless of how awkward it looked.

    He's not a guy who should be judged on statistics, but he's putting them up anyway. Duncan had an insignificant six points in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, but he followed that with a monster line of 17 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals in Game 2.

    For someone like Duncan, it's not about how many he gets, it's when he gets them. The fact that the Spurs are knocking on the NBA Finals door—again—just adds to Duncan's legend.

    Grade: A-

Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

8 of 10

    You know you're a star when you're great on an off night. Tony Parker missed 14 shots in Game 2 against Memphis, and none of that mattered much thanks to his 18 assists.

    Parker was able to manipulate Memphis' defense with the dribble, consistently driving and dishing to open shooters, slashers or finishers.

    He just has that ability to make people around him better by allowing them to maximize their strengths.

    This postseason, Parker is averaging 21.8 points, 7.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. That stat line and noticeable composure in pressure situations serve as reminders of how underrated he is not just as a point guard, but as a superstar in this league.

    Playoff Grade: A

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

9 of 10

    Marc Gasol was a presence on the boards (14 rebounds) in Memphis' Game 2 loss to San Antonio, but just like Game 1, he struggled to get the easy baskets he normally gets. Thus far in the Western Conference Finals, he's averaging 13.5 points on just 39.3 percent shooting.

    You'll often see Memphis run the offense through Gasol because of his ability to draw the double-team and pass out of it in the post. Sometimes that works to his disadvantage as a scorer, as he's used more as a facilitator.

    But it just illustrates Gasol's versatility as a scorer, rebounder, passer and defensive-minded center. He's played a major role in the Grizzlies' success, and his well-rounded game is the reason they're here today.

    Playoff Grade: A-

Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Zach Randolph was smothered by San Antonio's front line in Game 1. He made just one basket for two points in 28 minutes, as he struggled to finish inside or connect in the mid-range.

    He was more effective in Game 2, though he again struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end, finishing just 6-of-18 for 15 points. But seven of Randolph's 18 boards came on the offensive end, and that gave his team the second-chance opportunities they needed to stage a comeback and force overtime.

    Consider Game 1 of the conference finals an outlier, as Randolph has been fairly consistent and extremely productive throughout the playoffs. But he'll need to step up offensively to bring the Grizzlies back in the series.

    Playoff Grade: B+

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