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Thursday, February 15, 2007

NBA Leaderboard, Part X

Just two games remain before All-Star Weekend. I will be filing daily reports from Las Vegas for HoopsHype.com, so I decided to post the final pre-All-Star Game Leaderboard now; the rankings don't figure to change substantially after TNT's Thursday night doubleheader.

Best Five Records

1) Dallas Mavericks, 43-9
2) Phoenix Suns, 39-12
3) Utah Jazz, 35-17
4) San Antonio Spurs, 35-18
5) Houston Rockets, 33-18

Phoenix has been slowed by injuries to Steve Nash and Boris Diaw and Dallas is starting to pull away. The Jazz, Spurs and Rockets are still bunched closely together. The Lakers have gone just 3-7 in their last ten to slip a bit behind that group. Detroit has the sixth best record but is number one in the East--for now; Miami has creeped up to .500 by going 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Top Five Scorers (and a few other notables)

1) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 30.8 ppg
2) Gilbert Arenas, WSH 29.0 ppg
3) Dwyane Wade, MIA 28.8 ppg
4) Kobe Bryant, LAL 28.7 ppg
5) Allen Iverson, DEN 28.7 ppg

8) LeBron James, CLE 26.2 ppg

11) Vince Carter, NJN 24.8 ppg

13) Tracy McGrady, HOU 23.8 ppg

Arenas' average dropped by .4 ppg after his hibachi melted down in Portland, but he still retains the number two position. Melo and Iverson's averages moved downward slightly.

Top Five Rebounders (and a few other notables)

1) Kevin Garnett, MIN 12.5 rpg
2) Tyson Chandler, NOK 12.1 rpg
3) Dwight Howard, ORL 11.8 rpg
4) Carlos Boozer, UTA 11.8 rpg
5) Emeka Okafor, CHA 11.5 rpg
6) Tim Duncan, SAS 10.8 rpg

9) Shawn Marion, PHX 10.3 rpg

11) Ben Wallace, CHI 10.3 rpg

23) Rasheed Wallace, DET 8.1 rpg
24) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.0 rpg

Chandler vaulted from fifth to second and Duncan and Marion each moved into the top ten (Marion is mere percentage points ahead of Jermaine O'Neal and Ben Wallace). Howard continued his retreat from the top spot.

Top Five Playmakers

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

The standings have not changed much in this category since the season began. Starbury moved into the top 20 (19th) with a 5.5 apg average.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

posted by David Friedman @ 12:06 AM



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

in response to your question on straight-up trade...

i dont think the lakers OR suns would trade kobe - nash

kobe is perfect for the lakers young building efforts -- they need a #1 scorer who can create on his own, and he is the best in the league at that. nash could make the other players better but there just isnt enough raw material to work with

nash is perfect for phx's running style -- and they have enough firepower in Amare & Marion... what they need is to get the most out of those players. there wouldnt be enough shots to go around w/Kobe

i think Dallas would prefer Nash

Toronto -- Kobe

the thing is that they play different positions -- so part of it is a question of which a team has a greater need for

you will probably argue that phx would be better w/Kobe than w/Nash. I dont see how you could say that, though, given Phx's makeup and needs

as to the Boris Diaw point -- I am not convinced that he is the reason for Phx's troubles.

you talk about how Kobe draws double teams; well the # of 3s that Nash takes shd stretch any defense, as well -- again, last year I think he too 347 threes, and hit near 50%. you factor that in to points per possession when Nash has the ball -- and also how that stretches the defense & creates spaces for Matrix, Amare, & company

no way that Phx prefers Kobe OR that LA prefers Nash. 2 players at different positions in different systems to teams w/different needs

At Monday, February 19, 2007 11:12:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

a few additional points

1) there is a question as to whether or not you can win a title with the league's # scorer

They said it couldnt be done until Jordan did it 6 times

but wasnt he the exception that proves the rule?

he was a very-high-volume shooter who also shot at or above 50% for most of his career -- amazing for a guard. also, he played with Pippen -- whom you acknowledge as a phenomenon unto himself. And then they had the perfect cast of complementary players -- rebounders who didnt need shots (Grant; Rodman didnt EVEN WANT shots); outside marksmen (Paxson, BJ, Kerr); and big men inside (who didnt need shots -- like Longley or Wennington). Plus Phil coaching, to keep MJ's shooting in check a bit in triangle (Jordan never again got near that 37ppg year that he put up in his early years; so at least Phil kept him from shooting on every possession)

aside from that scenario, having the leading scorer would seem to upset team balance. that's why Jordan was the 1st leading scorer to win a title -- and maybe the last? (no one has done it since, have they?)

so when you emphasize Kobe's leading league in points last year, I'm confused. he was rewarded -- he was the scoring champion. but what does that have to do with the MVP or with winning games?

(Let's hope Denver has considered the basic issue that there is only one ball to go around.)

Here is another issue:

the fact is that before Jordan the teams that won titles had dominant big men. Between Jordan reigns and after, let's see who won... Olajuwon (between). Duncan & Robinson together (after Jordan's final Bulls' retirement and final title). Shaq 3x with Lakers. Then Duncan again. Then Pistons -- who maybe didnt have dominant OFFENSIVE big man, but their center, Ben, has been 4x defensive player of year. Then Shaq again.

So it seems to me that's the trend. Big men score a ton and shoot high %, and get boards, and change the game on defense.

Without a dominant big man, is Kobe destined to be spending late May and June at home for the foreseeable future?

finally, on TV for all-star game it looked like pre-tipoff, Shaq shook (almost) everyone's hand on West starting lineup but that Shaq & Kobe never shook. did you see uplive to know: was this poor camerawork (and they really did shake), or is it true (they never shook)?

At Wednesday, February 21, 2007 4:12:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

As you know, I usually respond quickly, but it has been a hectic past few days.

I agree that in the real world neither team would make this trade. My point is that if this were to occur the Lakers' record would be more adversely affected than the Suns. The All-Star Game is admittedly an exhibition but nevertheless it is pretty clear that a lot of guys can get assists by throwing the ball anywhere near Amare and Marion (T-Mac had 11, Parker had 10, Kobe had 6, the team set an All-Star record). I don't think anyone is going to be setting assists records passing to the guys on the Lakers (other than Kobe and even he can't pass to himself). The Lakers with Kobe are a playoff team. Without Kobe and with Nash they would not be a playoff team. The Suns with Nash are one of the top teams in the West. The Suns without Nash and with Kobe would be just as good, if not better. Whatever playmaking they would lose in that trade--and it is less than you seem to think--they would gain more in scoring and defense. The Lakers won championships with Kobe scoring 28-30 and passing for 5-6 assists, so why couldn't the Suns do the same with Kobe, Amare and Marion? Of course, all of this is speculation because, as you say, both teams will publicly say that they prefer their own guy and we will never actually see such a trade happen.

Kareem and Mikan won championships as the scoring leader. Of course, there is only one scoring leader each year, so the odds are against his team winning a title. Plenty of high scoring players have won titles--Shaq in his prime, Jerry West and Goodrich each averaged 26-plus ppg, Rick Barry averaged 30 ppg and there have been others--so I don't buy the argument that a high scoring player cannot lead a team to a title; one great player cannot win a title by himself, period, whether his greatness comes as a scorer or anything else--he needs help.

I emphasized Kobe leading the league in scoring for two reasons--one, the last time anyone scored at that level (35-ppg plus) was MJ two decades ago and he won the MVP (despite not leading a championship team that year). Two, Kobe didn't win MVP last year despite his scoring brilliance and may not win this year despite reducing his scoring while increasing his assists and shooting percentage, leading to my question: if a player who most people will admit is the most talented player in the league cannot win MVP when he scores 35-plus ppg and cannot win MVP when he reduces his scoring and improves in other ares, when will he ever win MVP? Does it make sense for the best player to never win an MVP?

Right after Denver got Iverson, I said that they are not going to be as good as people seem to think, for a variety of reasons.

Kobe does not need a dominant big man--although that would certainly help--but he needs consistent production on the boards and defense plus some low post scoring from Bynum and Odom. You are of course right that most if not all championship teams have some kind of post presence, though it does not have to involve a big time scorer.

I have to confess that I did not really pay attention to who shook whom's hand prior to the game. From talking to both Kobe and Shaq--and listening to them talk to other reporters as well--I think that any feud between them is about the last thing on either guy's mind at this point, so if they did not shake hands I would not read too much into it. I predict that in 10 years (maybe 15) we will see them together on some ESPN or TNT show laughing and joking about their feud and reminiscing about the good old days when they won championships together.

At Friday, February 23, 2007 12:22:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

"The Suns without Nash and with Kobe would be just as good, if not better. "

that is crazy

Kobe as MVP -- of a team that is around .500?

Your point that Boris Diaw is the reason the Suns were bad is absurd. WHy are they rolling again now that Nash's back?

I like a good argument -- where someone takes a stance-- but you're pushing it. everything on this blog is pro-Kobe. who is your 2nd favorite NBA player -- the Lakers' lockerroom assistant who folds Kobe's clothes?

if you think the suns would be as good w/Kobe -- who plays 2 or 3, which is not a need of theirs -- then you know A LOT less about bball than i thought

At Friday, February 23, 2007 4:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I have taken a very clear stance: Kobe is a multi-dimensional player who scores, passes, rebounds and defends. His ability to command double teams makes everyone around him better.

I did not say that Diaw being out is the reason that the Suns lost; I just mentioned that he also missed the games that Nash missed.

I didn't know that beating the bad Clippers and horrible Celtics with Nash means that the Suns are now "rolling." Hey, I said that I would have put Nash among my top five MVP candidates last year, so it is not surprising that the team would be worse when he is out. I just don't think that because he and Diaw missed some games that the Suns lost that Nash has to be given this year's MVP. Based on that logic, T-Mac should get last year's MVP and this year's because the Rockets look like the '73 Sixers when he doesn't play.

"Everything" here is not "pro-Kobe." A substantial portion of what I write about has nothing to do with Kobe whatsoever, including recent posts/articles about Dave Bing, Brad Daugherty, Mark Aguirre, etc. When I do write about Kobe I write the truth about him as a basketball player without talking about off the court, irrelevant issues (you may have noticed a few other recent off the court issues not involving Kobe that also are not being discussed here)--and the truth about Kobe is that he is the best player in the NBA right now. I'm not the only one who says that, either. Mark Jackson and Greg Anthony would agree (not that I would care if they didn't...). Others also agree, but then talk their way into saying that Kobe is the best but someone else deserves to be MVP.

You are strictly looking at position regarding the hypothetical Kobe-Nash trade, while I am looking at impact. Before the '84 draft, Bob Knight told Portland that they should take MJ but the Blazers said that they had Jim Paxson and Clyde Drexler and needed a center. Knight told them then play MJ at center but if you don't draft him you are going to regret it. The Blazers took Sam Bowie. If Kobe were on the Suns and Nash were on the Lakers, the Suns would put Barbosa at PG or put Banks there and keep Barbosa as a sixth man. If Kobe-Odom-Smush is a playoff team, then I think that Kobe-Amare-Marion-Barbosa/Banks (plus Diaw, Bell, etc.) is a championship contender. Odom-Nash and the rest of the Lakers looks like a lottery team to me. How exactly would a team defend against Amare and Marion down low with Kobe on the wing? Kobe gets more than five apg passing to guys who can barely catch and finish. He'd be good for 7-8 apg with the Suns while still scoring a ton. He'd also play better perimeter defense than anyone on the team and he and Bell would be a formidable defensive backcourt. If the Suns went small with Amare-Marion-Kobe-Bell-Barbosa they could be a fearsome pressure team. If Nash were on the Lakers opposing teams would not have to double team anybody. Nash does not have the ability/stamina to be a 25 ppg scorer for an entire season and he would not be getting tons of assists passing to Lakers who are covered (Kobe gets 5-6 apg passing to Lakers who are wide open because he draws double teams; Nash would be passing to those same players when they are not open). To me, this is as simple as if someone would have asked me 10 years ago what would happen if the Jazz and Bulls traded MJ for Stockton. The Jazz would be better and the Bulls would be worse, although they would of course be in a much better position to succeed than these Lakers because they would still have Pippen, Rodman, Kukoc, etc.

Kobe is a better player than Nash. It may not be popular to say that, a majority of people may or may not agree but it is the truth. Kobe is bigger and more versatile. Nash is the first small point guard since Bob Cousy that has been considered the very best player in the league but I don't think that he is any better than Stockton was.

Again, I think that Nash is one of the top players in today's game and that he is the best point guard (though I like a healthy J Kidd very much) but Kobe is the best all around basketball player in today's game.


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