Here’s an updated ranking taking into account the players’ whole Round 2 performance, with some irresistible recency bias. The list is down from 20 to 18, because the rotations are cinching tighter as each game goes by.
1. Kevin Durant (+2 from last rankings)
This is the former MVP’s rightful spot, and he snatched the crown from Leonard on both ends to close out Game 4.
2. Kawhi Leonard (+0)
He’s still coming up with monster defensive plays, but his shots aren’t falling and we can re-insert his “KD-stopper” descriptor into those scare quotes.
3. Russell Westbrook (+2) & 4. Steven Adams (+2)
Neither Westbrook nor Adams have had an individually better Round 2 than Aldridge thus far, but their strength as a duo is—aside from Durant’s lethal scoring–the most crucial factor in the Thunder turning the tables on the series. They’re now overwhelming Tim Duncan in the pick-and-roll game so badly that he pretty much just fouled and sat in Game 4. And once Duncan hits the bench, Westbrook feasts as both a distributor and rim attacker, since the other Spurs bigs can’t put up much resistance in the paint.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge (-4)
The Aldridge of the last two games has been the one the Thunder prepared for. Smartly, they didn’t abandon their scheme when he was making everything, and his high-volume two-point shooting isn’t really hurting them anymore.
6. Serge Ibaka (-2)
I dinged Ibaka for his painfully slow decision-making (he freezes so bad mid-ball-swing sometimes that he might as well ask the scrambling defenders whether he should pass or shoot) and putrid rebounding in Game 4, but his defensive presence and availability from the arc on offense is still invaluable to what the Thunder are doing. Also, a rare blemish in Billy Donovan’s Game 4 performance was his choice to play Nick Collison for a few minutes in the first half. Since Ibaka sat to close, his 28 total minutes played make the Collison thing look even sillier.
7. Tony Parker (+0)
Parker’s fortune is the Spurs’ misfortune, as the easy pick-and-pop passes he was making have mostly evaporated. He’s made due by increasing his throwback scoring every game, but it hasn’t been enough. He’s also been a disaster defensively.
8. Dion Waiters (+3)
[Insert Waiters Island joke.] Waiters had an uncharacteristically hot shooting night in Game 4, but none of what he’s done throughout the playoffs has been based on unsustainable step-backing or And-Onnnnnne-ing. He’s succeeding by taking better shots, the kind of shots he’s been fine at making throughout his career. His ball-handling and ability to defend Leonard when needed has transformed him from a liability to a necessity for the Thunder’s rotation.
9. Andre Roberson (+0)
Doing his job on defense, but his scoring average has slipped below 1 point per contest for the series.
10. Enes Kanter (+2)
The idea that Kanter surviving on defense makes him a super sub isn’t new, but him pulling that off better than ever in the postseason is a surprising, knock-on-wood development.
11. Danny Green (-3) & 12. Tim Duncan (-2)
It’s become clear that Duncan can’t fight gravity and Adams at the same time. (Sorry, Timmy.) Now he’s facing his third game in five days; things are not looking good for the blue hair.
Like Leonard, the mirage of Green’s effective defense on Durant has disappeared, as has his ability to contain Westbrook without the Duncan/Aldridge frontline behind him. Green’s growing frustrations on defense are matched by struggles on the other end, where his failure to find open threes is one of the major reasons the Spurs’ offense has started grinding down to a halt.
13. Boris Diaw (+5)
Diaw did some things on offense, but not enough to make up for what the Spurs bigs gave up in size and athleticism on defense when he played in Game 4. San Antonio needs a Diaw and/or David West renaissance.
14. Manu Ginobili (+1)
15. David West (-2)
16. Patty Mills (-3)
17. Randy Foye (N/A)
Donovan’s ploy to prove the veteran-intangibles thing worked like a charm, eh? Are you ready for 15 minutes of Foye in Game 5? I don’t think you’re ready.
Honorable mentions: Cameron Payne (better suited as a full-time dancer from here on out), Kyle Anderson (playing okay, but there’s just nowhere for him to hide when every lineup is big).
Dishonorable mentions: Nick Collison (his hustle game is only showing up in offensive fouls now), Boban Marjanovic (as the Spurs’ frontcourt crisis continues, Popovich isn’t willing to give his 7’3” rookie a shot).