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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

NBA Leaderboard, Part IX

All-Star Weekend is fast approaching and the 2006-07 NBA season is already well past its midpoint. The Dallas Mavericks, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash sit atop the leaderboard in wins, scoring, rebounding and assists respectively. Who will wear those crowns at the end of the season? Nash is the only sure bet at this point; the races for most wins and best rebounding average are too close to call and it is still possible that Anthony will fall back to the pack and/or one of his closest competitors will get hot for a sustained stretch of time.

Best Five Records

1) Dallas Mavericks, 39-9
2) Phoenix Suns, 39-10
3) San Antonio Spurs, 32-16
4) Utah Jazz, 32-17
5) Houston Rockets, 31-17

It has pretty much become a two horse race for the best record in the NBA. It will be interesting to see if Steve Nash's shoulder injury tips the balance in favor of Dallas; one of the few questions about Nash concerns his durability, both in terms of becoming worn out over the course of a long season and also in terms of getting injured. The Spurs, Jazz and Rockets are in an extremely tight race for the third spot; just behind them are the Lakers, who feasted on their early home games and will have to do well on the road the rest of the way in order to move up in the standings (they are currently 30-19). What about the East? Detroit is number one, for the moment, with Washington and Chicago not too far behind; the Pistons would be sixth in the West, barely ahead of the Lakers.

Top Five Scorers (and a few other notables)

1) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 31.0 ppg
2) Gilbert Arenas, WSH 29.4 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 28.9 ppg
4) Kobe Bryant, LAL 28.8 ppg
5) Dwyane Wade, MIA 28.8 ppg

8) LeBron James, CLE 26.6 ppg

10) Vince Carter, NJN 25.0 ppg

13) Tracy McGrady, HOU 23.8 ppg

The top five has not changed since the previous leaderboard, but Melo's average is going down while Bryant and Wade's are going up. Last week I expressed doubt that Kobe will repeat as the scoring champion but now he is only about 2 ppg back with about 30 games to go. If Melo drops below 30 ppg I think that Kobe will repeat as the scoring champion. LeBron's numbers are going down as he battles his toe injury. T-Mac should receive serious All-NBA consideration this year: the Rockets are 15-6 since Yao Ming got hurt and, laudable as Dikembe Mutombo's contributions have been, let's get real: without T-Mac's scoring and ability to draw defenders, the Rockets would be in big trouble. Last year they could barely win a game without T-Mac in the lineup, even when Yao played.

Top Five Rebounders (and a few other notables)

1) Kevin Garnett, MIN 12.4 rpg
2) Marcus Camby, DEN 12.2 rpg
3) Dwight Howard, ORL 12.0 rpg
4) Carlos Boozer, UTA 11.8 rpg
5) Tyson Chandler, NOK 11.5 rpg

8) Tim Duncan, SAS 10.8 rpg

11) Shawn Marion, PHX 10.1 rpg
12) Ben Wallace, CHI 10.0 rpg

22) Rasheed Wallace, DET 8.3 rpg
23) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.0 rpg

The likelihood of Howard becoming the youngest rebounding champion ever seems increasingly remote; early in the season he was ahead of everyone by more than 1 rpg but now KG has opened up a .4 rpg lead over him. Marion is within shouting distance of the top ten, which is pretty remarkable considering the listed heights and weights of the other leaders. Kidd has stayed steadily in the 8 rpg range throughout the season.

Top Five Playmakers

1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.8 apg
2) Deron Williams, UTA 9.1 apg
3) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.8 apg
4) Baron Davis, GSW 8.7 ppg
5) Chris Paul, NOK 8.6 apg

For the first time in quite a while we have a change in the top five. Davis moved up to fourth and Andre Miller slipped to sixth as Andre Iguodala assumed some of the playmaking duties for Philadelphia. "Starbury" dropped to 22nd and is averaging 5.4 apg.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com; also, the previous leaderboard should have been numbered "VIII," not "IX." This is in fact the ninth leaderboard that I have posted here.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:25 AM



At Wednesday, February 07, 2007 1:58:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

kobe is great, but in your love of him, consider:

how many NBA teams could he play for?

Dallas -- no
Phx -- no
Cleve -- no
Wash -- no

what I'm getting at is that he wouldnt share w/another star --esp perimeter star

Kobe is THE BEST in the league if you put him on a crappy team -- he carries the load

but what about on a good team?

Nash isnt worth much on a crap team like Charlotte.

but you put him on any really good team, and he makes them GREAT. he could play with Arenas, Lebron, Marion, Dirk, etc -- & get them tons of easy shots

so who is more "Valuable"?


At Wednesday, February 07, 2007 2:24:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yeah, Kobe really struggled when he made All-NBA, All-Defense, led the team in assists and won three titles playing alongside Shaq...

It makes absolutely no sense to say that Kobe cannot play with another star when he has already done so.

Pairing him with another perimeter star would make less sense than pairing him with a good/great big man but there is no reason that it would not work. I don't understand why you think that he could not play for Dall, Phx, Cle or Wash. It will be interesting to see him play with Team USA in the Olympics; hopefully that will lay to rest the idea that he cannot play with other great players. I'm sure that Kobe would prefer that he had more great players on the Lakers, so his passes out of double teams would lead to assists and wins.

Nash would have much more trouble playing on other teams or in another style in which his defensive deficiencies would not be as well hidden; how good would he look on a grind it out team when he would have to play a lot of half court defense?

Meanwhile, Kobe has this year's Lakers in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt even though Odom has missed significant time, Mihm has been out all year and Kwame Brown has missed a lot of time as well. Kobe has a CBA point guard (Smush Parker), the youngest center in the league and a bunch of other journeymen who, without Kobe's presence, collectively do not have nearly as much talent as the other West playoff teams; that is why when Kobe sits out for four minutes, everything falls apart (like the Indiana game that I went to on Friday). Jackson's coaching has brought out the maximum in the other players and Kobe's all around game has lifted the team into the status of a "second tier" contender (as Jackson put it today on PTI). Odom has talent and Bynum has potential but if you switched Nash for Kobe this year the Suns would still be great and the Lakers would be in the draft lottery.

At Thursday, February 08, 2007 1:19:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

you think Smush is CBA quality?!

have you watched bball before?

that guy could play for most teams -- good offense, great defense

you don't give Nash his due, either

as for Odom -- he's the rare Pippen-like #2 man... give him credit more than Kobe

Kobe is great, but I'm confused as to why you are so head-over-heels for him that you won't ever take a 2-sided, detached perspective

ever player has weaknesses -- MJ's demeanor & for the 1st half of his career his jumper... odd that you gild Kobe in pure gold

At Thursday, February 08, 2007 5:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I respect Smush for his determination and the work ethic that he employed to make it to the NBA but he is not--at this point at least--a high caliber NBA player. Prior to signing with the Lakers, the bulk of his NBA experience came as a reserve on a 17-65 Cavs team in 2002-03. Other than that season, he had played in only 16 NBA games before becoming a starter with the Lakers last year--meanwhile, he logged 47 games in the CBA, Greek League and NBA Development League.

Phil Jackson likes Smush primarily because of his ability to apply pressure to ball handlers--but Smush is also susceptible to getting torched by said ball handlers if he does not force them into turnovers. Compared to other starting NBA point guards, Smush is a below average shooter (.652 FT % this year), a below average passer, and a below average rebounder. The only statistical category that he is above average in is steals. He is athletic enough to get to the hoop at times and deliver some nice dunks but he can't do this with consistency. There is a reason that the Lakers drafted Farmar and signed Shammond Williams. Smush is a stop gap starter who is much better suited to a reserve role. Look at the other starting point guards on Western Conference teams: Nash, Terry, Paul, Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Allen Iverson, Rafer Alston, Sam Cassell, Chucky Atkins, Mike James, Bibby, Ridnour, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack. I submit that Smush is the worst starting point guard in the West--and he isn't better than too many in the East, either. The Lakers can get away with starting him because he is playing alongside the best shooting guard--and best player--in the NBA. In that regard, Smush is a lot like Steve Kerr, except that Kerr's one skill was not ball pressure but rather making open three pointers. Jackson has a knack for finding a way to utilize one dimensional players, highlighting their one strength and hiding their many shortcomings. Smush could play for some teams as a backup but I doubt that he would be starting for too many other NBA clubs. If not for Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, he'd still be in the D-League. The Lakers signed him as a free agent and I don't think that other teams were clamoring for his services.

I think that Nash is an excellent point guard and deserves to be mentioned as an MVP candidate--but I would not have voted him as the MVP in either of the last two seasons and would not vote him as the MVP this year. Shaq should have won two years ago and Kobe should have won last year. Kobe or Dirk deserve it this year more than Nash. I think that what Nash is doing is not that much different than what Stockton, Price and KJ did in their time, when they were All-NBA players but not multiple MVP winners; they were somewhat underrated and, for whatever reason, Nash is now somewhat overrated (but still excellent).

Every time someone compares Odom to Pippen I have to shake my head. Pippen is one of the Top 50 players of all-time. In my book, he's closer to 25th-30th than 50th. Some media members and fans may dislike him but if you talk to anyone who played with or against him or anyone who coached him or coached against him--and I've spoken with people from all of those categories--they have tremendous respect for his game. Pippen made numerous All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams, played a key role on two Olympic teams and was the primary playmaker on six NBA championship teams. Odom has yet to make one All-Star, All-Defensive or All-NBA Team. He is a talented player but he is a lot closer to being Derrick Coleman--except that Coleman actually won some of those honors--than he is to being Scottie Pippen. Odom has yet to maximize his abilities or shown the desire to consistently be a top level player. In that regard, he is also a little like Sheed--except that even the deferential Sheed has made multiple All-Star teams.

I know that Odom puts up decent numbers--double figure scoring, good rebounding average, etc.--but he does not have the impact that Pippen did. That is why he has never been accorded any of the honors that I referenced in the preceding paragraph. He is a talented player who is content to be an above average pro.

Like I did with Smush and the other point guards, let's compare Odom to the second best player on the other West teams: Josh Howard, Iverson/Melo (whose team that is could be another discussion), Yao/T-Mac (ditto), Amare/Marion (since everyone says Nash is the MVP...), Parker/Ginobili, Okur/Williams. What you will quickly notice is that several of the other top West teams have an All-Star as their number two guy (I'm assuming that Melo and Howard will make it as replacements). In many cases, the second and third guys are so close in impact that it is difficult to separate them--and then you have the Lakers, with Kobe the clear number one, non-All-Star Odom at number two and a CBA point guard at number three. Kobe has that team in the thick of the Western playoff hunt and he's not the best player in the league? Take Kobe off the Lakers, make Odom number one and that team's roster suddenly looks worse than the Memphis Grizzlies.

Hey, Walton is a nice passer for a small forward and I do like Bynum's upside--he'll be the number two guy on the team in a year or two--but the Lakers' success is a product of Kobe's skill/will and Jackson's coaching.

I don't see how anything that I've written about Kobe "gilds him in pure gold." I'm just stating the truth; the problem is that so many people have been down on Kobe for so long--for a variety of reasons--that the truth sounds strange to people.

At Monday, February 12, 2007 2:25:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

people arent down on Kobe -- he gets MVP chants in boston & atlanta

he is also a turnover machine waiting to happen -- and his turnovers are more careless than almost any other elite player

you judge great players by how much they make the others around them better: Jordan & Pippen was synergy; Bird/McH/Parr/; Magic, Worthy,Kareem, etc.

Kobe's mentality is MUCH better than it was -- but still you get the feeling it is too much about him, at the expense of other guys

the other lakers arent as bad as you say; Smuch isnt d-league or cba; he's a solid backup or maybe starter

lamar is pippen-like in versatility not quality -- but he is much better than his stat-line. he makes big jumpers and doesnt turn it over. he is all over the boards

Kobe is the man -- and his 28 foot turnaround jumper is the best athletic site in all sports (esp from baseline).

that said, Kobe's defense isnt what it used to be (if it ever was); watch WORTHY SPIN with James Worthy on Kcal 9 for almost any Laker game & he'll show Kobe out of position on some key defensive plays; and the turnovers are not on high-reward plays -- he turns it over many times from carelessness... just like he & smush were carelessly joking around at end of 3rd quarter v indiana (we know what happened in 4th)

Pippen wouldnt have been pippen playing on the Grizzlies. JOrdan helped make him, & vice versa. Until Kobe makes the players around him greawt, then there is a problem in comparing him to Nash

Look at PHx without Nash --losing to Atl at HOME?!

double digit loss to Chicago at HOME?

Nash is nothing like Stockton or Others you mentino. Stockton was pick&roll w/Malone. Nash sees things on teh court that would be hard to get in slow-motion on TV, much less game time on court. He is a genius/magician who also shoots hightest FT & 3 %s (or close to highest) in NBA

He is a large part of reason why everyone on PHx is excellent. Who is Marion on the Hornets? Stoudemire is excellent but what if he is on Philly? How is it that ALL these scorers on Phx coexist w/no squabbling & each one is awesome? b/c Nash creates opportunities that arent even there -- he is a magician & if healthy probably MVP

Arenas stock has fallen

SO my MVPs are

1 Nash
2 Dirk (maybe 1 but havent seen enough of him, plus Terry & Howard are too good)
3 Kobe
4 Bosh
5 Hibachi Arena

I'm probably leaving someone out, but I watch almost every Lakers game, and maybe I just see Kobe's flaws, but it's so frustrating -- esp the careless turnovers

& he shot an airball with 1+ seconds left (& time on shot clock) in 1st quarter vs. Cleveland -- Cleveland converted it for dunk on the other end at end quarter, for a 4 point swing

the guy is great -- but Nash is more of a winner who makes others around him great, more of a true champion

(I'm talking about the present, regardless of who was what 5 years ago)

At Monday, February 12, 2007 8:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

MVP chants for Kobe in Boston and Atlanta are a fairly recent thing. When I say that people have been down on Kobe for a long time, I am referring to how his on court image took a hit because of the situation with Shaq and how his off court image took a hit because of his well known Colorado situation. Since those two things happened, I think that people look for excuses to discount his obvious abilities as a player. If that isn't the reason, then people just plain don't understand what they are watching. This year seems to mark a turning point in some ways for his image, both on court and off court--except that instead of people admitting that they were wrong about Kobe as a player they are saying that he has "transformed."

Kobe the "turnover machine" currently ranks seventh in turnovers per game. He is a heavy minutes player who leads his team in scoring and assists, meaning that he handles the ball a lot, is double-teamed a lot and has to make a lot of decisions in traffic. He is averaging .3 tpg more than LeBron and .7 tpg less than Wade. If anyone is a "turnover machine" among the elite players, it is Wade and Iverson, the co-leaders at 4.3 tpg. Nash averages .1 tpg more than Kobe (yes, he averages more assists but he also scores less). Teams understandably seek to limit their turnovers but it is hard to think of too many great players who did not average a lot of turnovers, at least since this stats has been officially kept (77-78 season). Magic always had a lot of turnovers. I'm not sure how one could prove which player's turnovers are more "careless." I also wonder how many of Kobe's passes that are fumbled are "credited" to him as turnovers.

You may "get the feeling" that it is too much about Kobe but that does not prove that this is in fact true. Kobe was the leading playmaker on three championship teams. There is a reason that I repeat that fact in almost every Kobe discussion: it is very important, because it shows that this business about him being selfish and not giving the ball up is not true--or at least not any more true than it is of every other great player who also wanted to take the big shot at the end of a game (West, Bird, MJ, etc.).

Smush is a solid backup and no more than that. Other than starting for the Lakers (which they can afford to do because of Kobe's scoring, playmaking and ballhandling), he has spent most of his career in the minor leagues.

Odom is an erratic jump shooter, although he does make some big ones from time to time. If it's time for a last second shot, I'd much prefer to have Kobe shooting it than Lamar. By the way, he averages 3.4 tpg, just .3 tpg less than Mr. "turnover machine."

Kobe's defense this year may be affected a little bit by his recovery from the knee surgery; I think it is easier to compensate on offense than on defense. Anyone who gambles for steals gets out of position on occasion; a lot of your analysis consists of taking one or two film clips and thinking that you have discovered a trend when the stats show otherwise, i.e., your comments about Kobe's turnovers versus Lamar's; their numbers are virtually identical and Kobe handles the ball a lot more than Odom does.

Jordan and Pippen helped make each other into champions. They could have been great individually on their own but needed each other to win six titles. Pip had an MVP caliber year when MJ played baseball; by the time Pip was in Portland, he had had a second back surgery and a foot surgery and physically was no longer able to play MVP caliber ball night after night.

Phoenix was also without Diaw in the Chi loss. Anyway, if you want to select the MVP based on how the team does when the MVP candidate does not play, then T-Mac is the MVP last year and this year in a landslide. They are a .600+ team with him and the '73 Sixers (9-73) without him. While you are watching Worthy dissect the Lakers, look at what happens everytime Mr. Turnover Machine Whose Defense is Overrated sits out for two and a half minutes--the Lakers can't score and can't defend. It happened in the Indy game I went to and it happened in Cleveland. It's asking a lot for Kobe to bring the team to a lead (or at least have things close), sit out for two minutes, lose all of the momentum and then put him in and say "win the game again." After the momentum is lost, even his arrival back on the court does not fix everything because the other team has confidence now. Doc Rivers talked about that once; when he was a player he would shut a guy down for a quarter, sit out a few minutes and his backup would let the guy get going. Then when Doc came in he couldn't cool him off. Same principle, on a bigger scale.

You're right that Nash is not like Stockton. Stockton was better--more assists, nearly as good a shooter, comparable scorer (in his prime), better defender, physically stronger, more durable. Nash has excellent court vision but let's not sell short the all-time assists leader; they didn't all come on pick and roll plays (by the way, aren't a lot of Nash's assists pick and rolls with Amare?).

Marion wasn't good before Nash? He made the '03 All-Star team and steadily improved each year of his career before Nash arrived. Amare wouldn't be good without Nash? Are you serious?

Arenas for MVP was a joke and I can't believe that so many "experts" took that seriously. He's not even First Team All-NBA in my book. Kobe, Nash, T-Mac are ahead of him for sure; maybe Iverson too. I'd probably take JKidd for his all-around game. I wouldn't find it wrong to put Arenas on the All-NBA Third Team behind those guards.

Kobe would be my MVP choice, with Dirk second. Duncan has to be in the top five somewhere. Wade and LeBron deserve mention. I wouldn't put Bosh in the top five just yet.

I don't think that one airball versus the Cavs invalidates Kobe's greatness. He had a pretty fair game, wouldn't you agree? 36, 7, 6, 12-24 fgs, 11-11 fts, outscored LeBron 25-0 for the better part of the second half, guarded LeBron more often than LeBron guarded him (Cavs had to send the whole team to shut him down, which doesn't say much for the skills of Smush, Odom and the others who apparently cannot score even when they are left entirely alone).

I know that it was the end of a long road trip and I expect the Lakers to look better in the upcoming games, but against the Cavs it sure looked like Kobe plus a lottery team versus a much deeper and more talented team.

At Monday, February 12, 2007 10:54:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

some of what you say is convincing.

but i'd find it easier to accept if you didnt seem to have an agenda.

look at some of your arguments from your prior post (before this one):

kobe the victim? yeah, that's why his jersey is top-seller (oh, i forgot, you're talking about 2003.)

Lakers got Farmar & SHammond, invalidates Smush? Right, Shammond plays about as many minutes for the Lakers as you and I do. And I guess by that logic, Lakers getting Maurice Evans means that Kobe isnt good?

Awards are meaningful is assessing Lamar -- never NBA All-Star, etc. But awards mean nothing in assessing Nash's game -- we'll just discount those 2 NBA MVP awards, as meaningless. How many did Stockton win? (By your logic: Pip won none, but is one of greatest of all time; Nash won 2 but that is different. ON the other hand, Lamar's lack of individual awards is true.)

Kobe has such great gifts that he cant be compared to Smush & Lamar -- as much his advocates are always comparing him to teammates. His gifts are on Jordan's level. But the mental game still has missing pieces.

As for the turnovers, you need to watch them, not look just at #s. Many are on low-reward plays -- entry passes far from basket, attacking 2ble teams, etc.

THe guy is one of the greatest atheletes ever in the sport.

But in team sports it is about winning, and Kobe has trouble knowing when to take over and how to IMPROVE TEAMMATES.

You'll say it is a cliche -- but great players improve their teammates. I havent seen that enough from Kobe. And Nash has done it remarkably.

I'm not interested in hearing anymore about Colorado & Shaq -- if you want to go there, let's talk about Calvin Coolidge and the Gold Standard. I'm interested in teh 2006-07 NBA, and I have problems with trusting your analysis, due to the apparent & inexplicable bias.

Is there something I'm missing here, on the above points, regarding: your disregarding Nash's awards but not Pips? Your suggesting that getting depth at PG means something bad about Smuch but depth at swing (Mo Evans) is not bad about Kobe? ...otherwise, those argument to me are just another case of showing bias that I don't relate to or understand

At Monday, February 12, 2007 5:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Yes, Kobe's jersey has moved back up and he is getting cheered in visiting cities. All of these things are recent developments (this season). I'm speaking more in regard to how he is viewed as a player, particularly by MVP voters. It is my impression that their thinking is influenced by the idea that he is "selfish" and "broke up the Lakers." Otherwise, how could he not be MVP last year and not be the top candidate this year? Last year he had the most dominant scoring season since MJ averaged 37.1 ppg (and won his first MVP). This year, he has increased his assists, increased his shooting percentage and has his team in contention in the West despite not having an All-Star level sidekick like Nash, Dirk and the other MVP candidates have. If the MVP is not given to him when he is the most dominant individual and it is not given to him when he is "making his teammates better" (look at that roster and their record) then when will he win it? The funny thing is that just about everybody admits that he is the "best" player but then tries to argue their way out of calling him the MVP.

The Lakers drafted Farmar to eventually be the starting point guard. Do you really believe that the Lakers signed Evans to replace Kobe? There is a big difference there.

Odom has received no All-Star, All-NBA or All-Defense recognition. Unless you believe that he is grossly underrated, it is safe to say that he is not viewed as an elite level player. I don't say that Nash's MVPs mean nothing. He has been worthy of consideration. I would not have voted for him either year but he would have been in my top five. Pip is one of the greatest players of all-time because of the body of his work: All-NBA, All-Defense, championships, etc.

I've watched Kobe play and I don't see how his turnovers are worse (or better) than the turnovers that other great players make. Wade is sloppier with the ball than Kobe but both of them do so many great things that you live with the occasional miscues. I can't see any coach getting rid of either player because of his turnovers.

I completely disagree that Kobe does not understand when/how to take over or how to make his teammates better. Look at how those guys play when he is not on the court. Individually, they just are not very good. The Lakers are a lottery team without him (as they were two years ago when he missed about 20 games due to injury). When he is playing they are a solid playoff team. His passing is excellent and provides them a lot of opportunities but they have to make the shots.

I think that Kobe would be willing to trade Lamar and Bynum for Amare and Marion and see who can make whom better. It used to be said of Jordan that he didn't make his teammates better like Magic and Bird did and he replied that you can't make chicken salad out of chicken (you know what). When MJ got Pip and Grant and a couple others, he started winning titles. As Doug Collins said once, Kobe's career is like MJ in reverse: he won with talented players early and now he is trying to win with lesser players in a rebuilding situation. Kobe learned how to win very early in his career and now he is trying to teach his young teammates; it is they who have much to learn, not him.

To summarize: I don't disregard Nash's MVPs. He is a great player who is worthy of being in the MVP discussion and certainly worthy of All-NBA status. Pip never won an MVP but received numerous All-NBA, All-Def and All-Star selections. I'm not disregarding anyone's awards. It's difficult to talk about Odom's awards because he hasn't won any...

Farmar is a first round pick and I don't think that teams generally intend for first round picks to be backups. I listed the West's starting point guards a few comments ago; do you honestly think that Smush is better than any of them? Where exactly do you place Smush among current NBA starting point guards?

At Monday, February 12, 2007 11:42:00 PM, Blogger JF said...

Hard to rank Smush, b/c Lakers -- like Phil's Bulls -- dont use a traditional PG.

I'm sure he compares fine with many Eastern Conf PGs (i don't know the East that well). As for West, there is just some ridiculous talent. But he is definitely NBA level, even just as solid backup. He is athletic, can make jumpers, and is an above avereage defender. He will never be confused with Isiah, but that doesnt mean he isnt a decent NBA player.

He isnt CBA or D-league -- night in, night out, he is a solid player. Farmar has a ton of talent & will be better, but SMush is still better now --that's why he gets more minutes.

As far as Kobe's MVP candidacy, maybe it's like saying you dont see how Karl Malone or Ewing never won a title. Steve Nash's last 2 years are off the charts. Particularly last year -- when Kobe had a great year. Last yr, Nash had almost 19 ppg, with Shooting & of 51.2% and 3p% of 43.9%,and FT 92.1%. That is ABSURDLY EFFICIENT. Add in 10.5 APG, and 4+ boards, and you're talking one of the great efficiency years of all time

plus, that 43.9% on 3s came when he took 342 three pointers!

oh, and his team won a ton of games -- what, high 50s or higher?

so the efficiency & team results were just absurd. that's why I cant believe you dont give him his props.

Kobe's %s last yr: 45%, 34.7%, 85% -- all lower, signficantly (close at FT but lower). At 6'7, he had only 1 more board per game. and his team was not near the same level (not his fault, but no sympathy either)

MVP is a team award in part -- and the individ stats favor Nash, as I said

as for Dirk and Lebron beating out Kobe last year, those are tougher calls. but Dirk had a better team and a great year, and Bron's #'s were more well rounded -- 7 boards, 6.6. ASG, and 31ppg on 48% shooting.

if Lakers get the 1-seed in west last year, then maybe Kobe moves up above some or all of those guys

but that's the breaks -- Kobe got to play on great teams early on, and like you say, it's reverse of MJ

but you watch Nash play & you look at his #s, and if you're going to say Stockton was better, then i hope you're saying stockton was an all-time great. He had some similar statistical years, but nothing like the depth at 3point range and the imagination on teh passes -- plus, MJ took most of those MVPs, when MJ was winning titles with high seeds in Eastern Conf

KarlM & Ewing never won titles b/c of MJ. and some guys may not win MVP for some good years b/c of Nash. just think of 43.9% on 342 threes, and add in the assists, etc., and tell me this guy isnt MVP-worthy?

the stats guys with sabermetric type stuff -- you konw more than I do, but I'd like to here how they ranked Nash last year. I remember a few years ago, a newspaper peace by the stats guys had Kobe & Iverson ranked pretty low, though, b/c the turnover & missed shots waste possesssions

At Tuesday, February 13, 2007 7:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Your statement about how hard it is to rank Smush is a cop out. My analysis of his game, as I wrote in an earlier comment, is: "Compared to other starting NBA point guards, Smush is a below average shooter (.652 FT % this year), a below average passer, and a below average rebounder. The only statistical category that he is above average in is steals. He is athletic enough to get to the hoop at times and deliver some nice dunks but he can't do this with consistency." Regardless of the role of the pg in Jackson's offense, it is indisputable that Smush is a poor shooter, not a good passer and not a good rebounder (in spite of his athleticism and jumping ability). He is a marginal NBA player. That is the reason that he has bounced around so much; this isn't the Chauncey Billups story, where Smush will develop into an All-Star. Billups was a highly skilled lottery pick who just had to find the right situation. Once Farmar develops, Smush will be on the bench or out of the league.

I disagree that Nash's last two years are off the charts. They are very good, but not unprecedented. Stockton shot .515 for his career and he played until he was 41. He shot .384 from three point range and had several seasons over .400, so you are wrong about his shooting range. He was not quite as good a free throw shooter as Nash is but was hardly a slouch at .826. Stockton averaged more than 12 apg for 8 straight years, while averaging between 14.7 and 17.2 ppg; Nash's "unprecedented" assists numbers would be a below average season for Stockton in his prime. He never came close to winning an MVP. He is the career leader in assists and steals and a much better defender than Nash is.

I've already said that Nash would have been in my top five for MVP last year. Do I have to go along with the pack that made him a two-time MVP in order to give him sufficient "props"? I think that Nash is a lot like Mark Price, one of my favorite players from the 90s. Price was a bit underrated and Nash is, now, a bit overrated. At their peaks, both deserved to be listed among MVP candidates but not necessarily win the award.

Nash's Suns play at a fast pace and that partially explains his career high rebounding average, nearly a full rpg better than his previous best (more shots=more misses=more rebounds). The ball is up in the air and Kobe and Nash are equally well positioned to get it. Care to put money on who comes up with the ball?

Speaking of coming up with the ball, let's talk about the other half of the game: defense. Recently I hear people talking about Nash drawing a lot of charges but that is an unofficial stat--I don't know who is keeping it or how reliable it is. I do know from watching Nash that he can be attacked off the dribble and he can be posted up. He averages less than 1 steal per game during his career and has to be one of the worst defensive point guards in the game. Of course, his play on offense makes up for a lot of this but when you talk about efficiency you can't ignore what happens in the other part of the game. Meanwhile, Bryant is capable of shutting down point guards, shooting guards or small forwards.

You may have noticed a post I did here a while ago comparing Nash to Price. I posted that item at APBR Metrics to get some feedback. Here is a link to that discussion:


The bottom line is that some people agree with my contention that Nash and Price are roughly equal and others disagree.

I don't think that comparing Nash to Price is an insult. Nash reminded me of Price very early in his career. Price was an All-Star and an All-NBA player who was a great shooter--he and Bird are the only players other than Nash to pull of the 50-40-90 shooting stat--who also ran the pick and roll to perfection (check out my article about Brad Daugherty for details on that). Nash's reputation has gotten so out of proportion to what he is doing that you think my comparing him to one of the top guards of the late 80s and early 90s is some kind of insult.

At Tuesday, February 13, 2007 7:26:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The funny thing about all of this is, as I indicated, Price was one of my favorite players and I think that Nash is a lot like him. I've always enjoyed watching Nash play, particularly since Price's career was cut short. What I object to is the elevation of Nash to multiple MVP status, particularly when Kobe is in the prime of a truly exceptional career. Ironically, his former teammate/rival Shaq, for all his dominance, only won a single MVP award. Shaq deserved more of them and by my count Nash took one from Shaq ('05) and one from Kobe ('06).

I still enjoy watching Nash play but I dislike the way that everyone feels that they have to jump on the Nash for MVP bandwagon (although I much prefer that to the Arenas for MVP bandwagon...). It's like there is some code now that if you say that you don't think that Nash is the MVP that you have committed some kind of basketball heresy. Well, I think that he is an All-NBA point guard and one of the league's top players but that he is not the very best player in the league.

Purely from an entertainment standpoint, the only point guard I prefer watching over Nash is Kidd, because Kidd has a more complete all around game. He's not a great leaper, but he rebounds like a power forward.

At Tuesday, February 13, 2007 5:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

By the way, I neglected to correct something that you said a few comments back: Kobe's shot at the end of the first half versus Cleveland came with two seconds left on the shot clock. It was an airball because Pavlovic got a piece of it. If you get to see a replay of that entire possession, Bryant brought the ball up the court and the Lakers tried to set up for the last shot (three second diff. between shot and game clock). The spacing does not look good and Bryant can be seen pointing to various spots on the floor as he handled the ball at the top of the key. When he went into his move, the Cavs blitzed him with three guys but it was too late to pass (maybe he should have gone into his move sooner, but the Lakers were clearly trying to get the last shot of the half). The Cavs made a good defensive play. If Kobe could be faulted for anything on the play, it would not be the shot but the fact that he did not follow Pavlovic when Pavlovic leaked out on the break.

Considering how Kobe basically singlehandedly brought the Lakers back in this game and that he had a stellar stat line, I find it curious that this is the one play you chose to mention from this game--and you say that I am biased? More typical of Kobe's play in this game--and this season--is his defense on Hughes on the first play of the second half, forcing a miss, grabbing the rebound and dribbling coast to coast for a slam dunk. Now that's a four point swing.

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 10:38:00 PM, Blogger JF said...

bottom line is the Lakers need to get some more players...

Phil had odom take last shot vs nyk, b/c it was "time to give someone else a chance"

that said, Kobe's defense wasnt much against Jamal Crawford.

i disagree on Nash, b/c he wins more games than the others you mentino. plus VOLUME of 3s -- he takes a ton more than stockton. tougher to have a high %, when you take that many shots.

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 11:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

It's funny that you mention Kobe's defense on Crawford--funny because I don't think that Kobe was guarding him that often (maybe on switches or after Crawford blew by Smush). Wasn't Smush "guarding" Crawford on the decisive play of the game? Bynum had to pick up Crawford after he blew by Smush, which left Curry open for the lob. The Lakers' biggest problem in this game was that their point guard--Smush--could not contain dribble penetration. Kobe was generally matched up with Marbury, who was guarding Kobe on the last play when Odom seemed unable to deliver an entry pass into the post, opting instead for a fadeaway.

Nash shoots more 3s per season that Price or Stockton did (the three pointer is used more often in general now). Just for comparison's sake, coming into this season, Nash had made .421 of his 2178 career threes. Price shot .402 on his 2428 threes, while Stockton shot .384 on his 2202 threes. Keep in mind that Price and Stockton's numbers--like most players--went down at the end of their careers, so Nash's career percentage may not end up that much higher than theirs.

I would still be curious to hear how you would rank Smush among the other Western Conference point guards. Do you think that any Western Conference team would want him straight up for their starting point guard? Disregard age or salary cap for this and just look at quality of play. I don't think that any of the Western Conference teams would consider Smush an upgrade--certainly none of the playoff teams would. Kobe is working with a lot less talent on the floor than most of the league's other elite players.

At Thursday, February 15, 2007 1:34:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

i was responding to your statemetn that SMush is CBA/NBDL

he is maybe the least valuable STARTING pg in west -- but he is viable bench player/marginal starter

that was my main point on him -- you overstate by saying he's not NBA level, even if not legit starter

on kobe/nash, the point in volume is that is what distinguishes players. if it isnt harder to shoot high % with higher volume, then why do we care about how many pts/game anyone has? obviously, the more shots you take, the fewer unguarded ones, the more shots at end of 24second clock -- so % goes down. that's why Kobe's only at 46%, right?

so Nash's accomplishment is the volume 3s at that %. many of those must have been guarded or with little time on shot clock -- that's more of accomplishment than price/stockton, who only took 100 threes each year -- most probably wide open, off of a screen

i want the #s -- sabermetrics, whatever. Nash averages how many pts per possession? assists. then 43% on 3s -- that's 1.2 points; 53% overall (incl 3s) that's more than 1 point; 92% FT -- that's 1.8 points. when he has the ball, is is worth a bunch of points -- b/t assists and his value on 3s, FG, FT -- far more than 1 point when he does something with it... AND HE HAS VOLUME

kobe's #s may not be as good. (46% on FG is lower than 1 point, excluding 3s; 34% on 3s is barely more than 1 point; lower FT; fewer assists). partly that is b/c volume pushes down his FG % -- others cant shoot on lakers, so he has to take forced shots at end of shot clock. but part is turnovers, and taking wild shots.

THIS YEAR he is much better at playing team ball, FINALLY-- but i dont think he was as good last year (hence last year his 35ppg, this year, under 30ppg -- but he is much better this year)

but you are arguing about LAST YEAR's MVP award -- when he was taking a ton of wild shots

i'd need to see more #s. points per game -- kobe's biggest stat -- are misleading as a stat, b/c they dont factor in shooting %. it's not baseball, where home runs/season is a stat, because everyone has 500 - 600 at bats. Nash takes half the shots of Kobe and scores more than half the points (i'm not sure if it is half -- but it is some smaller fraction). so I think Nash is more efficient -- and with the assists, he may have comparable volume

MVP also is a political award that usually goes to playesr partly by team record. Suns had a far better record last year than Lakers. that is the nature of that award.

the lakers arent built like the bulls were -- LA lacks rebounders (Grant/Rodman). Odom is not in same defensive universe as Pippen -- who was far better on D than Jordan. There are no spot-up outside shooters (Kerr, BJ, Paxson).

so what are they thinking? Kobe is trying to play MJ style -- but the system doesnt have the parts for that. I'm not sure what else Kobe can do, but those are the breaks of playing a team sport. he benefited from Shaq & Horry, etc -- now it's the flip side

are we supposed to feel sympathy for him, b/c he once had a great team -- as opposed to Paul Pierce who never did and still doesnt?

Kobe may be a victim of his own talents -- he is the best shooting option on EVERY possession, on this mediocre a team... so it is a bizarre offense.

on the other hand, Nash's talents are a perfect fit for Phx.

either way, i dont think points per game are a good measure --so, in a team sport, I dont see how you can critique last yr's MVP going to a more efficient player on a far better team (and a team that stinks without him)

At Thursday, February 15, 2007 4:46:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

You make some very valid points (although I don't necessarily agree completely with all of them).

I agree that Smush could be a good bench player. My point is that the Lakers took somebody from straight out of the CBA (or NBDL) and made him a starter. I don't think we really disagree here--we are just emphasizing different things.

I also agree that Nash is a very efficient offensive player. Part of why Nash can be more efficient than Kobe is that he can really pick and choose when he shoots. His primary role is to create for others and he has some very good scorers surrounding him. Kobe is primarily a scorer who also has to assume a lot of the playmaking (because he has a CBA--er, marginal--starting point guard). Even if I concede that Nash is more efficient offensively, that does not necessarily make him more valuable than Kobe. Defense also has to be factored in. Plus, Kobe's ability to command a double-team creates open shots for his teammates, even if he does not get assists on those plays. His PRESENCE creates opportunities, similar to the way that Nash creates opportunities by driving to the hoop.

It is my opinion that Nash is a very valuable player--if you look at my Who Should be MVP article from last year, I had him second behind Kobe--but that last year and this year Kobe is the MOST valuable.

PHX is struggling without Nash, but Diaw has also been out, so they are without both of their primary playmakers. Also, I believe that Amare is actually scoring even more without Nash. Amare and Marion would be All-Star caliber players even without Nash, while Kobe has no All-Stars on his team.

It's an interesting debate/discussion but unless we could actually trade Kobe for Nash straight up and see what happens we will never know for sure.

My other point regarding Nash doesn't relate to whether or not Kobe is MVP but rather to the production that Stockton, Price, KJ and others had about a decade ago. Whether or not you agree that any of them were just as good as Nash, they certainly were at least in the same ball park (Stockton was the best defender of any of them and I think that should count for something). In the past, credit for a team's success was usually given to the big guy (Karl Malone) or the versatile mid-sizer (Barkley). Phx has a great big guy (Amare) AND a great mid-sizer, but Nash seems to get most of the credit, at least in terms of MVP voting. Not sure if this is wrong or right, but it is an interesting change in perception.

I'll be in Vegas for the next few days, so if you post more comments I probably won't get a chance to answer until next week; don't worry, it won't mean that I am ignoring you.


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