Stars win games in the NBA, and the result is a postseason studded with them. But not every great player makes it. USA TODAY Sports' Adi Joseph picks seven players whose absence will be noticed over the next two-plus months:
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
The high-scoring small forward has never before missed the playoffs, for all the criticism he takes about being selfish. True, Anthony only has three playoff series victories under his belt, but he has reached the postseason two more times than fellow 2003 draftee LeBron James. Anthony is the NBA's second-leading scorer and had one of his best individual seasons as the Knicks fell to pieces around him.
PHOTOS: Carmelo, from Syracuse to MSG
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
What would the NBA's most notorious hothead do in the playoffs? That alone would be worth the price of admission. Cousins will miss the Kings' final regular-season game because he picked up his 16th technical foul of the season Sunday. He is a constant, aggressive complainer who has gotten himself in trouble on the court more than anyone since prime Rasheed Wallace. But Cousins also is remarkably talented, averaging 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game.
JOKING? Cousins' weird April Fools prank
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The hype around the 21-year-old blossoming superstar has reached a new height this season. Davis is posting 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, an NBA-best 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals a game, all for a team that has been so beset by injuries that its promise never took off. Davis has faced injury himself, but there may not be a more talented young player in the league.
21st BIRTHDAY: Davis' ridiculous celebration
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
The top pick of the 2011 NBA draft has missed 49 games in three seasons yet still would top many lists of point guards younger than 25. He also is one of the most charismatic and marketable stars the NBA has, despite not yet playing in the postseason. Cleveland seemed to be ready to contend this season after some offseason moves but instead ends up back in the draft lottery. Washington Wizards point guard John Wall was drafted first overall the year before Irving and finally reached the playoffs this year, so patience could pay off.
UNLOADS: Kyrie upset by reports he wants out
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
What else could the All-Star power forward do this season? After being limited to 18 games last year because of injuries, Love is fourth in the NBA in scoring, third in rebounding and even tied for 10th in three-pointers made. He has had a season to remember, all while keeping the Timberwolves hovering around .500 and playing better than that, as victims of many close-game losses.
LOVE DUNK: T'wolves star mocks LeBron pregame
Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA's oldest player moved up to third in career assists last week as he plays intermittently through a variety of injuries. Nash, 40, has two MVPs and eight All-Star bids on his Hall of Fame-worthy résumé. But he doesn't have a championship, which obviously was not in the cards with these Lakers. He is expected to return next season, if his back allows. A 12th trip to the playoffs would be a nice send-off for the often-overlooked legend.
'I WANT THE MONEY': Why Nash won't retire this year
Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Few in the NBA rise to the occasion quite like the 28-year-old champion point guard. Rondo averaged 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds a game in the 2012 playoffs, including a 44-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound, 3-steal outburst against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. But injuries have limited him and the Celtics the past two seasons. Rondo was built for the playoffs, and he leaves a big hole to fill.
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