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Thursday, March 01, 2007

NBA Leaderboard, Part XI

All-Star Weekend is over and the stretch run to the NBA playoffs has now begun in earnest.

Best Five Records

1) Dallas Mavericks, 48-9
2) Phoenix Suns, 44-14
3) San Antonio Spurs, 39-18
4) Utah Jazz, 38-19
5) Detroit Pistons, 36-19

The Suns are having a tremendous season but cannot gain ground on the Mavericks, who have a chance to post one of the best records in NBA history. The Eastern Conference finally has made its presence felt in the top five, as the Detroit Pistons supplanted the Houston Rockets; Detroit's acquisition of Chris Webber has made up for the mistake of losing Ben Wallace and has positioned Detroit as the team to beat in the East (of course, Flip Saunders' history as a playoff coach suggests that someone will indeed beat them).

Top Five Scorers (and a few other notables)

1) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 30.6 ppg
2) Gilbert Arenas, WSH 29.2 ppg
3) Kobe Bryant, LAL 29.0 ppg
4) Dwyane Wade, MIA 28.8 ppg
5) Allen Iverson, DEN 28.1 ppg

7) LeBron James, CLE 26.7 ppg

10) Vince Carter, NJN 25.4 ppg

12) Tracy McGrady, HOU 24.6 ppg

Since the last leaderboard, Kobe Bryant moved up one spot and cut the deficit separating him from first place from 2.1 to 1.6 ppg. With Anthony's average inching downward and the Lakers once again becoming increasingly dependent on Bryant's scoring, Bryant's chances to repeat as the scoring champion are looking better by the day. If Wade is unable to return to action then he will of course eventually drop off the list because he has not played in enough games or scored enough points to meet the NBA's minimum qualification standards for a complete season. McGrady's average has gone up more than two ppg since January 10.

Top Five Rebounders (and a few other notables)

1) Kevin Garnett, MIN 12.8 rpg
2) Tyson Chandler, NOK 12.4 rpg
3) Dwight Howard, ORL 12.2 rpg
4) Emeka Okafor, CHA 11.7 rpg
5) Carlos Boozer, UTA 11.5 rpg

7) Tim Duncan, SAS 10.8 rpg

9) Ben Wallace, CHI 10.4 rpg

11) Shawn Marion, PHX 10.2 rpg

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

Marion slipped just outside of the top ten but is still having an incredible season for an undersized inside player. The top three players each increased their averages by about the same amount since the previous leaderboard.

Top Five Playmakers

1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.9 apg
2) Deron Williams, UTA 9.3 apg
3) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.9 apg
4) Baron Davis, GSW 8.7 apg
5) Chris Paul, NOK 8.6 ppg

Davis and Paul switched spots and the rest of the top five stayed the same, as it has for most of the season. Starbury fell out of the top 20 and now ranks 23rd (5.5 apg), but he is just percentage points behind the players who are in the 19th-22nd positions.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

posted by David Friedman @ 1:22 AM



At Thursday, March 01, 2007 8:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always the Pistons hater, eh? Funny how letting Ben Wallace go can be a mistake, when it hasn't hurt Detroit and hasn't helped Chicago! Try for an interview with Joe Dumars, really. Could do wonders for your outlook, and help you understand why Detroit is going to keep contending while the flavors of the month come and go.

At Thursday, March 01, 2007 1:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I don't hate the Pistons. I just write what I see. Since the championship year, Detroit has lost earlier in the playoffs each season. The championship coach is no longer there, nor is the Defensive Player of the Year who was the heart and soul of the way that the team played.

What was the Pistons record this year before C Webb dropped into their laps? Was that really part of the plan when they let Wallace leave? What happened to the great Nazr Mohammed experiment? It seems like he has disappeared to wherever the Heat sent Stan Van Gundy.

The Bulls don't have a great record--in part because of Nocioni's absence--but they are still in the thick of the Eastern Conference race, only 5.5 games behind Detroit; that margin has largely been created in the past 10 games, when Det. went 9-1 after getting C Webb while Chicago plodded along at 5-5 without Nocioni. The Bulls have tended to be a good second half team in recent years and played Detroit right down to the wire in their most recent game.

I will judge the success of the Wallace move for each team based on the postseason results, not the regular season records; that has been my position all along.

I did say that Detroit currently LOOKS like the Eastern Conference team to beat; I just am skeptical that a Flip Saunders-coached team is going to make it to the Finals. Based on recent NBA history, if I were a Pistons fan I would not feel great about my team's playoff chances depending so heavily on his coaching and CWebb's performance.

At Friday, March 02, 2007 12:45:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

"I think that Kobe-Amare-Marion-Barbosa/Banks (plus Diaw, Bell, etc.) is a championship contender."

yeah, and last time I checked, Nash-Amare-Marion-Barbosa/Banks (plus Diaw, Bell, etc.) is a championship contender.

you are FAR too hierarchical in evaluating players. you dont take into account team chemistry enough.

YEah, Scottie is one of the all-time top 30. But would he be if he had played on Toronto? Yeah, Kobe has 3 titles, but how many would he have had playing on Atlanta? WOuld ring-less Dominique WIlkins not have won a title with Shaq in his prime?

Kobe is better than Nash on most teams, yes. But Nash on the Suns is like Oreo cookies and milk. Ice cream and apple pie. Yes, pizza is better than Oreos. But Oreos go better with milk.

Kobe on the SUns is redundant -- you dont get the fast breaks, filling the lanes, Amare, etc.

Plus, Nash's game is NOTHING like Stockton's . I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're not going racial --b/c that's the only similarity. Nash is far more similar to Isiah Thomas -- creating his own shot, etc.

Steve Nash's ability take acrobatic shots and drain 3s in VOLUME is nothing like Stockton's pick& roll game.

If you dont care about volume of 3s (Nash 342 threes, Stockton 100, in their best years), then why do you care about volume of scoring.

Nash fits the Suns needs. Plus the gap b/t him and Kobe isnt what you think it is. Kobe shoots too much, which takes the other players out of the offense & Flow and impedes their development.

At Friday, March 02, 2007 2:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Granted, Phoenix is a championship contender by virtue of making last year's Western Conference Finals and their record this year but they have yet to even make it to the Finals, let alone win a title; Kobe and the far less talented Lakers came within one defensive rebound of taking them out in game six of last year's first round. Put Kobe on the Suns and Nash on the Lakers and the Suns would have swept that series.

If you saw my interview with Coach D'Antoni he agreed that Phx has more talent than the Lakers. I suggested to him that perhaps Nash's game would be less effective on a team like the Lakers that does not have as many good shooters. He retorted that the Phx players shoot much better when playing with Nash than otherwise--implying that Nash could have the same effect on the Lakers--but he also acknowledged that this question is impossible to answer (that is, the question of whether the Lakers or Suns would benefit more by a straight up swap of Kobe for Nash). D'Antoni believes that last year four players had legit claims for MVP: Nash, Kobe, Dirk, Wade.

I think that chemistry is generated by winning. Players don't have to like each other off the court as long as they function well together on the court (as Shaq and Kobe proved by winning three titles). We saw in the All-Star Game that there are a lot of players (Kobe, Parker, T-Mac) who can get assists by throwing lobs to Amare and Marion; I just do not believe that their games would fall apart without Nash. Kobe gets 5.5 apg on the Lakers and he would get 7-8 apg on the Suns; the extra 3 apg that Nash gets would be offset by Diaw/Barbosa. Meanwhile, opponents would have to double team Kobe, leaving the court wide open for Amare and Marion (teams don't have to double team Nash). Kobe can guard 1s, 2s and 3s, making the pick and roll defense even better (for instance, he and Marion could switch if one got screened off without giving the other team the postup advantage it would get if Nash is stuck guarding Marion's man).

Toronto did not even have a team during the early part of Pip's career, but I understand your point. If Pip had played for a non-title contending team he would have averaged 20+ ppg for several years in a row. He would have led his team in assists. He would have made the All-Defensive Team every year. He would have earned recognition as a great player. He was third in MVP voting the year that MJ was out, so if he had played his whole career without MJ he probably would have strung together several top five MVP finishes. I can't say for sure that he would have made the Top 50 list but I think that he would have made a very good run at it. He had more dimensions to his game than Nique (passing, defense, rebounding). Would Nique have won a title with Shaq? Maybe. I think that we had this kind of discussion before regarding Ray Allen and others versus Kobe. You believe that many players could have filled Kobe's role equally well. I disagree. Yes, Wade did it last year, but Wade is one of the top five players in the league, with or without Shaq. Nique would have provided a top scoring option and some rebounding but he would not have led the team in assists like Kobe did. He would not have been an All-Defensive Team member. Considering some of the close calls that the Lakers pulled out, in no small part because of Kobe's playmaking, defense and shot making, I don't believe that the Lakers would have had the same degree of success with Shaq/Nique.

Nash does fit in very well with the Suns. I've never suggested otherwise. I would have had him among my leading MVP candidates the past two seasons; I just would not have put him first.

I don't understand why you think that Kobe on the Suns would be "redundant" or that the team would not be able to fastbreak. His threepeat Lakers finished sixth, third and third in the NBA in scoring, despite slowing the ball down at times to feed Shaq in the post. Kobe wanted to run even more and I think that he would love playing in D'Antoni's system (he looked good in the All-Star Game, which is admittedly an exhibition).

My Nash-Stockton comparison has nothing to do with race. It has to do with size and the fact that both are perennial assist leaders. D'Antoni did not think that this was a bad comparison, saying that they are the two best at the pick and roll play. He, like you, gives Nash the edge as a shooter. Stockton had several years in which he attempted more than 200 three pointers. The three pointer was not used as much in general back then as it is now and the Suns are using it more than any team ever has. I just don't believe that Nash has won two MVPs compared to Stockton's none purely because of three point shooting, so I'm not sure why you keep bringing up this issue. Stockton had ten straight years of 10+ apg--usually well over 12 apg--and is the all-time leader in steals. I don't think that Nash's roughly .420 career three point shooting compared to Stockton's roughly .380 career three point shooting outweighs Stockton's edge in assists and steals.

I wouldn't compare Nash to Isiah. Isiah had more of a scoring mentality, did not have Nash's three point range (or the same overall shooting percentages from any distance), got many more steals and was a bigger clutch performer--Finals MVP, two rings, several clutch playoff performances, including 13 points in about 90 seconds versus the Knicks, 25 points in one quarter of a Finals game, the much replayed game winning drive versus Atlanta, etc., etc.

Kobe is impeding the Lakers' development? Look closely at the roster. A CBA/marginal NBA point guard. An career underachiever at power forward. The center is the youngest player in the league. These guys are not capable of doing more. That is why Kobe averaged 35 ppg last year--that was the only way that the Lakers had a shot at winning. This year he is down to 30 ppg because some of those guys have a better understanding of how to play within the triangle. If you look at the shooting percentages of Mihm, Kwame and others who played elsewhere before playing with Kobe, they all did better alongside Kobe than they had previously. Kobe is absolutely helping the Lakers to develop--there is just less talent there than perhaps you think there is (you still have yet to rebut my contention that Smush is the worst starting point guard in the West and probably the entire league; I'd like to hear a good case that even one Western Conf. starting point guard is clearly worse than Smush).

At Friday, March 02, 2007 1:07:00 PM, Blogger JF said...

"I'd like to hear a good case that even one Western Conf. starting point guard is clearly worse than Smush). "

Denver has no real starting PG, do they? AI is a 2, no matter what they list him as. Smush is better than (non-starter) Steve Blake, though.

"I think that chemistry is generated by winning."

Maybe you're getting too metaphysical there. Chemistry isnt complicated -- it is having the right mix of rebounders, scorers, and defenders, who play a compatible style of both ends. Look at Team USA basketball if you want to see what bad chemistry -- too many scorers, no rebounders or outside marksmen -- does to you. Look at Jordan's Bulls -- plenty of one-dimensional marksmen (Kerr, Pax, BJ), role players (Longley, Wennington, Cartright) -- if you want to see an example of everyone filling a role, to maximize a team that has only a couple of talented scorers.

By the way, you mentino that Isiah had more steals. But as you often concede, steals are a flawed measure of D. You want to knock Nash's D -- I havent seen it closely enough, but I think the Lakers had a point guard who played in the '80s, who was not noted for his defense (e.g., finals vs. Dennis Johnson). Did that point guard ever win any MVPs? My recollection is he won about 3, including 2 in a row -- in years where he beat out Jordan, when Jordan was at or near his prime. But you can correct me on that, if I'm wrong.

As far as Stockton, I just dont see Stockton as an open ct player with the vision and creativity of Nash. He was a Princeton offense half-court guy, with backdoor cuts and pick & roll -- but no athleticism like Nash's, in Nash's in hitting some of the fadewawy and shots around the basket. Nash is far more dangerous at getting his own shot. NO comparison

that's fine if you want to put Lebron, Kobe, Nash, and Dirk in a 4 for last yrs MVP and say it's too close to call among the 4. That's a tenable argument

but i dont buy that any of those other guys was clearly above Nash -- and I think you could more easily argue that he was more clearly above them, esp based on the difference b/t his team with or without him in lineup

At Friday, March 02, 2007 5:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

You can call Iverson a "2" but he is the team's starting point guard and leader in assists. Blake comes off of the bench now after starting some games for Denver. By the way, Blake has averaged 8.3 ppg and 7.1 apg with Denver, while Smush is averaging 11.8 ppg and 2.4 apg as the Lakers starter.

Team USA's problem is not "chemistry" in the sense that you are describing. Team USA outrebounded their opponents in the world championship 36.4-30.8 and outshot them from both two point range and three point range (they shot poorly on free throws but that was not the reason for their sole loss). Team USA lost one game played under FIBA rules against a team that plays together year round under these rules.

MJ's Bulls had two of the top 50 players of all-time. MJ is arguably the greatest player ever and Pip is one of the top 25. Each of the threepeat clubs also had one of the top power forwards of that era (Grant, then Rodman) and the second team also had a top sixth man (Kukoc). Those teams were very talented. Their "chemistry" consisted of being talented and understanding how to play well together. Some of those guys are not as close off the court as many might think, by the way, but they understood how to play together.

I have made two points about steals. One, from a team standpoint, defensive field goal percentage and point differential correspond more directly to winning than just getting a lot of steals. Some teams, like the early 80s Sixers with Dr. J, Bobby Jones and Maurice Cheeks, got a lot of steals without compromising their defense. Jones and Coach Billy Cunningham described to me how they did that in articles that I have posted here. But if you just have one or two guys randomly going for steals without an overall system in place, the defense is going to fall apart; an example of this are the recent Sixers teams with Iverson--lots of steals, but not good defensively overall. This is discussed in my NBC article titled "Is it possible to steal a championship?"

Two, getting a steal is the best way to end a defensive stand because it results in a possession for the defensive team (a blocked shot may go out of bounds, a forced miss may be rebounded by the shooting team). So, if a team has a structure in which its quick wings go for steals and other players actively recover for those times when they go for the ball and miss, then steals can be a good thing. I discussed this aspect of basketball thievery in my NBC article "Pro basketball's greatest ball hawks."

The bottom line is that steals have to be considered in a larger context. Isiah was the steals leader on a tremendous defensive team that won two titles. Magic led the league in steals twice while playing for a team that won five titles during the 80s; I don't think that his thievery was hurting the team's overall defense. Magic, like Bird, was a good "team" defender. He did what was necessary within the team's overall scheme even though he was not a shutdown, one on one defender like MJ, Cooper, Bowen, Kobe, etc.

When I spoke with Coach D'Antoni, he insisted that Nash is an above average defender. I mentioned to him that other observers, including ESPN's Greg Anthony--who was an excellent defensive guard during his career--disagree. Coach D'Antoni still maintained that Nash is above average. D'Antoni candidly admitted that he realizes that he has a certain "bias," as he put it, because he is Nash's coach, but he told me that he believes that Nash plays good defense and that Nash has improved a lot in this area (which suggests that Nash has not always played good defense, but I guess that is a subject for another day).

For years, Stockton to Malone was a fast break combination ending in a dunk. You are probably thinking more of their last few seasons together, when they were older and slower and played more of a halfcourt game. Malone used to get tons of points on the break, courtesy of laser feeds from Stockton. Stockton was very capable of getting his own shot and was actually a much more reliable late game scorer than Malone. When the Jazz needed a bucket at the end of the game, they usually went to Stockton (for instance, his three that beat Houston and sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals). At his best, Stockton was a 17 ppg scorer, which is the same range that Nash has been in the past 2-3 years--Stockton did this for much longer, of course.

Both Stockton and Nash are great but if I had to pick one of them in his prime I would take Stockton, narrowly. Stockton is a better defender and is more durable--played into his 40s and rarely missed a game. He had a physical edge to his game, too, bordering on being a dirty player (high elbows, cheap shots on screens).

Actually, it was D'Antoni who listed four players--from last year--and he had Wade, not LeBron, in that group. In his opinion it is a "two horse" race this year between Nash and Dirk, with Kobe being next in line.

"Clearly above" is of course a subjective idea. As I've said, I would have picked Shaq in '05 and Kobe in '06. I agree with D'Antoni that in any given year there are usually several deserving candidates.

The whole thing about Phx with Nash versus without him is a bit overplayed. Miami is terrible without Wade, Cleveland is bad without LeBron, LAL is horrible without Kobe--all of these teams suffer without their best player. Everyone gets all excited when Nash sits out and Phx loses but none of these teams do well without their top guy. Houston appears to miss T-Mac more than any of these teams miss their top guy, for whatever that is worth.

At Sunday, March 04, 2007 1:50:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

some good points on Nash, but I have two main problems with your argument

First, it's too anecdotal. I want to see the sabermetrics.

again, nash last year: something like 43% on 340 threes. and, correct me if I'm wrong, but the 3s go into the overall shooting %. his overall shooting % of over 50%. free throws around 92%. plus the assists. so, to me that says that this guy is worth a ton of points whenever he does anything with it (three pt shots at 1.2 points per possession; 2 pointers at around the same mark, b/c you have to factor out the 3s from his overall fg%; free throws at 1.85 points per possession; points off of assists vs. turnovers, etc.).

nash generates a ton of points without wasting possessions on missed shots or turnovers. that's the bottom line -- his average points per possession has to be one of the best in league history.

yeah, he plays with some great players -- so did MJ and Pippen (each other). so did bird/mchale/parrish/dj (each other).

great players come in clusters b/c they make each other great, both by positive contributino -- assists -- and by spreading the defense thin.

Shaq made Kobe great and vice versa. But i think you have to look at the fact that shaq took penny & wade to the finals. Kobe hasnt won a playoff series without shaq.

i don't want to get into the stockton business, b/c stockton didnt win MVP due to guys like jordan and Magic -- they were more efficient than kobe. jordan's FG%, before 1st retirement was always OVER 50%. even after 1st retirement, it was usually very close to 50%, i believe, if not above.

and my second main point is this:

MVP is measured partly by how good you make your team -- i'm still waiting for an explanation of how -- from an objective quantitative standpoint -- you can question Nash's winning MVP, with a team that wins 62 games last year, and with the efficiency that he has had over the past few years.

do you think MVP is not supposed to be measured by team performance?

how valuable is kobe this year, when his team loses 6 straight, including at home to portland and including a game to toronto? he is great, but does his style make his team win -- or is it fun to watch, but kind of like eating doritos (cosmetic)? Obviously, there is great substance to his game -- but where are the #s?

the wins, the shooting %s, the all favor Nash, dont they?

At Sunday, March 04, 2007 2:43:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

You can't compare the fg% of perimeter players of the 80s and early 90s to the fg% of perimeter players now due to the fact that nowadays players are taking lots of 3-point attempts.

At Sunday, March 04, 2007 4:17:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

My reasoning may be too anecdotal for your taste but I don't believe that the MVP should be selected just by numbers (or just by anecdotes). I think that our disagreement is more a matter of semantics than anything else. I have Nash in my top five for MVP consideration the past two years (and this year). Assuming that you also have Kobe in your top five for that period, we are basically talking about how to rank the three, four or five players that, as Coach D'Antoni suggested, are legit MVP candidates in a given season. I would have voted Shaq the MVP in '05 and Kobe last year.

There is no question that Nash is a very efficient player and an outstanding shooter--but from my standpoint there is more to being an MVP than shooting percentages and points per possession. Defense is part of the equation and the ability to defend multiple positions is a bonus--this mitigates foul trouble and injuries and limits the damage that the opponent can cause via mismatches on pick and roll plays. Whether or not teams double team you is important. I incline to the view that Coach Karl expressed that Kobe and T-Mac are playmakers on par with Nash; they see the court very well and are willing and able to deliver a variety of passes.

Kobe has had two full seasons without Shaq. The first year he and Odom missed a lot of games due to injury and the team missed the playoffs. The Lakers also had two coaches that year (Rudy T., then Frank Hamblen), so Kobe is hardly to blame for the team not making the playoffs. They were on pace for the eighth seed before the injuries struck.

The Lakers' post-Shaq plan is to rebuild around Kobe and the young players. Last year's team did better than most observers expected and pushed the Suns--who had MVP Nash and a superior overall team--to seven games. I believe that if Kobe had been on the Suns and Nash had been on the Lakers that the Suns would have won more easily. No matter how efficiently Nash shoots, I don't believe that he can put up 30+ ppg for an extended period. His passing is superb but Kobe is an excellent passer, too; when you pass to guys who can't shoot, you do not get assists. Nash would not get 11 apg on this Lakers team. The Lakers are very dependent on Kobe's ability to explode for 50 points in a game or 20+ points in a quarter. Nash's passing and efficiency would not be enough to replace that raw scoring power.

Shaq took Penny, Kobe and Wade to the Finals when those guys were healthy, at the top of their games and All-NBA First Team caliber players. Other than Shaq, Kobe has yet to play with an All-NBA caliber player. Since the Lakers rebooted, he has not even played with an All-Star caliber player.

In the 80s and 90s the overall field goal percentages were higher, as Vednam mentioned, in part because there were not as many three pointers attempted. Any way you slice it, Kobe's offensive explosion last year is one of the top ten ppg averages in NBA history--spanning six decades--and the best performance since MJ himself averaged 35 ppg nearly 20 years ago. The word "unprecedented" is sometimes used to describe Nash but I see a lot of precedents for him--Stockton put up better assists numbers for a solid decade, scored in the high teens, shot very well (even if his three point shooting was not quite as good as Nash's) and was a much better defender. Kobe has done a bunch of things for which the only precedents are named MJ and Wilt--81 point game, 35.4 ppg average, 40 ppg in a month twice, 62 points in the first three quarters of a game (outscoring eventual NBA Finalist Dallas by himself).

I don't think that the MVP should be judged solely by team wins. Kobe's value to his team is obvious and if anyone doubts that he can be valuable on a championship team he has already proven on three occasions that he can do that as well. How many championships has Nash won?

Kobe's Lakers were a top four-five team in the West this year, despite subpar overall talent, until injuries completely destroyed the rotation. Their ideal starting five would be Smush, Kobe, Kwame, Odom, Walton. Or, in other words, CBA point guard, Kobe, underachieving number one overall pick who showed some flashes last year, talented enigma, overachieving player who passes well but does not have the explosive scoring ability that small forwards generally have. Without Kobe, that group spells L-O-T-T-E-R-Y. That is the Lakers' best starting lineup but Odom, Walton and Kwame have missed extensive time. Radmanovic is hurt now, which means Kobe has one less shooter who can spread the floor. Mihm has been out for the whole year. The Lakers have had to depend heavily on Andrew Bynum, who I think will be a very good player one day but who right now is the youngest player in the entire league. Right now, it is like Kobe is driving one of those NASCAR vehicles that is held together by duct tape and bailing wire, with sparks flying and parts falling off as he tries to nurse it around the track--and despite all of this the Lakers are still a playoff team in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, Wade couldn't keep the Heat above .500 without Shaq. Nash has two All-NBA caliber players, plus solid pros like Kurt Thomas, Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa. I think that Kobe's value is pretty evident.

Early in the season, Kobe had a 30 point quarter versus Utah en route to a 52 point game in a 132-102 Lakers rout. In my post about that game, I quoted from a Ric Bucher article that nicely sums up my thoughts about Kobe's status in the NBA:

"How many times must Kobe demonstrate that no one in the league--and I mean no one--has his combination of skill, tenacity, understanding of time and score, killer instinct and ability to control the game at both ends? And how many times must I be the one taking the flag and waving it? Trust me, if you're sick of me sticking up for Kobe, I'm equally sick of having to do it. It shouldn't be this difficult to have the man recognized as the league's all-around best player. OK, so you don't like him. I'm good with that. But not respect him? Not give him his due? Anoint anyone who hasn't accomplished half of what he has as The King or The One or The Whatever?"

At Sunday, March 04, 2007 10:48:00 PM, Blogger JF said...

"In the 80s and 90s the overall field goal percentages were higher, as Vednam mentioned, in part because there were not as many three pointers attempted."

yeah, and what does that say for Nash's overall FG % of 51.6% last year, with 342 threes out of 1056 shots?! or this year, overall fg% of 53.6% with 256 threes out of 688 total shots?!

compare Kobe: last year 45% overall fg%, with 180 threes ouot of 2173 shots; this year overall 46.3% with 94 threes of 1127 total shots. those #s are not in the same ballpark as Nash

and you want to talk defense -- well how about turnovers on offense. last year, Nash 276, to Kobe 250; this year, Nash 199 to kobe 192. advantage...OBVIOUSLY NASH. he's a point guard, with pretty comparable turnovers to kobe who is a 2! (actually, this year, Nash has fewer turnovers per game)

yeah, we both agree that Nash and Kobe are in the top five of mvp voting (this year, I'd probably go Nash, Dirk, Kobe, Lebron, TMac)

but I couldnt disagree more with that Ric Bucher stuff that Kobe is head and shoulders above others

yes, he is the best athlete, and yes, if i had to build a one man team with all lousy role players except for one star, then kobe is by far the player who I would want

but in the realities of the NBA, when there are a lot of good players. on many teams that have some good talent, i would prefer the more efficient player, who scores significant points without wasting possessions on missed shots and turnovers, and who has the higher assist totals

(yes, Kobe is a good passer and playmaker; no, he does not compare as a playmaker with Nash, who is a historically great playmaker)

you can't make a point about kobe not getting assists b/c other Lakers can't shoot -- that's irrelevant b/c I've already conceded that kobe is by far a better fit for Lakers than Nash. but by same token, i say Nash is better fit for phx or dallas

Ric Bucher, meet Gregg Doyel: "NASH AND MVP AND GREAT POINT GUARD..."

again, please tell me how you cite Ric Bucher, even in teh face of teh stats i've got above, on fg%, # 3s, turnovers?

at most, you can argue that this is a push -- too close to call, b/c of different systems. but that bucher stuff? no way -- that is totally whack, unsupportable, when you compare to Nash

At Monday, March 05, 2007 6:36:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

We agree on a lot but then we come to different conclusions. We agree that Nash and Kobe are in the top five for MVP consideration. We agree that Nash is a great point guard and that Kobe is the best athlete. The crux of our disagreement is that I believe that the Suns would be even better with Kobe than they are now and that the Lakers would be worse with Nash than they are with Kobe.

I think that you place too much emphasis on Nash's efficiency. Kobe shoots a more than acceptable percentage considering his role. His job is to shoot 20-25 times a night, to shoot the "hand grenade" shots at the end of possessions and to score at times despite being double-teamed. Because of the composition of his team and the nature of the position he plays he does not have the luxury of being "efficient" the way that you are defining it. Nash has two All-Stars and a cast of great shooters, so he can pick and choose what kind of shots he takes. Again, I think that Nash is great. I just think that Kobe is even greater.

Kobe is actually slightly better in terms of turnovers. Nash is averaging 3.8 tpg this year in 35.3 mpg while Kobe is averaging 3.5 tpg in 39.5 mpg. Nash's average is the fifth highest in the league, while Kobe's is seventh. The "all-turnover" team this year is Iverson, Wade, Melo, Dwight Howard, Nash, Pierce, Kobe, Arenas, Eddy Curry and Andre Iguodala. Make it a 12 man roster and you can add Odom and LeBron. I think that team would do pretty well. Yes, turnovers are bad but great players have always tended to have a lot of them because they play the most minutes and handle the ball the most. Assist/turnover ratio is one of the most bogus stats because assists and turnovers are not an either/or proposition. You can make 15 great passes in a game that lead to neither assists nor turnovers. If you're Kobe and you are passing to Kwame Brown, you can make a great pass that becomes a turnover. You can also get a turnover by committing an offensive foul, getting the ball stolen from you, stepping out of bounds, etc. Nash and Kobe handle the ball a lot and commit more turnovers than most players. They are also two of the best ballhandlers and passers in the game. Nash's steal to turnover ratio is the worst of the 12 players listed above; he takes the ball away a lot less than he turns it over but I don't put too much weight in that stat, either.

I don't agree that Kobe would not fit in on Phx or Dal. Why should that be the case--because those are winning teams that have talented players? Kobe has played on three championship teams that had one other great player and several other very good ones. Nash played several seasons with Nowitzki and never won a title. We'll see if Nash and Phx win a title this year. The proof is in the pudding regarding your assertions about what you term "efficiency." If Nash is as exceptional and unprecedented as you are suggesting, why has he not won a title or even reached the Finals? Nash has played on some very talented teams. The longer he goes without winning a title or reaching a Finals, the weaker your case looks.

Two other points: (1) During the LAL-PHX game, Mike Breen mentioned that in a recent Sports Illustrated poll of NBA players they said that Kobe is the toughest player to guard in the league. Whether or not he meets your standards in terms of efficiency, his peers think that he is a very tough cover. (2) There was a discussion at APBR Stats regarding Nash and his MVP seasons compared to the numbers put up by 80s/90s guards like Price, Stockton, KJ, etc. One point that I made about Nash is that I cannot think of another MVP in the history of the league who left a team and then that team markedly improved by replacing him with a non-All-Star. In other words, Dallas let Nash go, replaced him with Jason Terry--a very good player who has yet to play in one All-Star Game--and made it to the Finals. This year they may threaten the 70-win mark. If Nash is truly the very best player in the game, how is it possible that his former team replaced him with a good player and became much better? Everyone talks about how the Suns do when Nash doesn't play but what about how the Mavericks are doing? Dirk's game has not been hurt by Nash's absence. Look back in history--Wilt left the Sixers and they declined, eventually posting the worst record in league history. Kareem left the Bucks and they declined. The same is true of Barkley and the Sixers. When teams lose an MVP or MVP-caliber player they tend to suffer unless they replace him with another MVP-caliber player.

I think that Nash is a great player and that the Suns are fun to watch. I do not believe that he has been the very best player in the NBA for the past two seasons.

As for Gregg Doyel, I actually did meet him--at least, I stood next to him in the Pacers visiting locker room when he was asking Nash those questions. In my interview with D'Antoni earlier that evening I tried to explore the nuts and bolts of how Nash is similar to or different from Stockton instead of getting a soundbite from Nash regarding Shaq's "tainted" comment. Shaq should not have said that and it is nice that Nash has heard from other players who support him but none of that interests me as much as why a point guard is getting MVP credit that used to go to big men or dominant "mid-sizers" like Kobe.

At Monday, March 05, 2007 12:03:00 PM, Blogger JF said...

there seem to be some misunderstandings of my position:

"The crux of our disagreement is that I believe that the Suns would be even better with Kobe than they are now and that the Lakers would be worse with Nash than they are with Kobe."

ah, no -- I do not disagree that the lakers are better w/kobe than they'd be with Nash. I only disagree that the suns would be better w/kobe

"(1) During the LAL-PHX game, Mike Breen mentioned that in a recent Sports Illustrated poll of NBA players they said that Kobe is the toughest player to guard in the league. Whether or not he meets your standards in terms of efficiency, his peers think that he is a very tough cover."

i never disputed that kobe is the more athletic player, a better pure individual scorer -- I conceded this upfront

"Dallas let Nash go, replaced him with Jason Terry--a very good player who has yet to play in one All-Star Game--and made it to the Finals. This year they may threaten the 70-win mark. If Nash is truly the very best player in the game, how is it possible that his former team replaced him with a good player and became much better? Everyone talks about how the Suns do when Nash doesn't play but what about how the Mavericks are doing?"

gee, could it be that other players -- who were younger when they played w/nash -- have stepped it up? Is dirk the exact same player he was w/Nash -- no better? i dont remember josh howard on those Nash mavericks -- you must have a better memory than I do... but Howard is only an All-star. Stackhouse -- where was he with Nash.

also, by that logic is Stephon Marbury negative in value, considering how the Nets surged when they replaced him w/kidd?

...I'm partly skeptical of you for bias here, b/c you said the Suns were losing due the absence of diaw -- funny how phx is about 7-1 since nash returned but still no Diaw. what was their rcd w/o nash? pretty bad...

if it werent for things like the Diaw comment, etc., i'd be less skeptical of the other analysis

and you've admitted to a pro-kobe agenda b/c of off the court things that happened in the coolidge administration

AS for the turnovers point... here's your list "Iverson, Wade, Melo, Dwight Howard, Nash, Pierce, Kobe, Arenas, Eddy Curry and Andre Iguodala. Make it a 12 man roster and you can add Odom and LeBron"

seems to me that no one on that list makes passes that are as productive as Nash -- so the risk/reward of his passes has got to be the best in the nba, even if you blame that on his having marion & amare

At Monday, March 05, 2007 9:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Thank you for clarifying your position. I apologize for misunderstanding part of your point.

Howard was a rookie in Nash's final year in Dallas. Being without Nash does not seem to have hindered his development (Nash is constantly given credit for Amare and Marion's development, but Dirk and Howard continued to develop after Nash left--and Amare and Marion would have continued their development even if Nash had not arrived). Those '04 Mavericks had Dirk, Finley, Jamison and Antoine Walker in addition to Nash and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Can you cite a team other than the Mavericks that gave up an MVP (or a player who was about to win two MVPs, to be precise), replaced him with a non-MVP and became markedly better? Yes, Howard developed but the Mavericks also got rid of Jamison, Finley and Walker. The bottom line is that Nash is very good at what he does but he is replaceable. The Mavs signed Jason Terry and made it to the Finals. This year they might win 70 (I don't think that they will but it is possible). Kobe is not similarly replaceable (you can't put whoever you consider to be the two guard equivalent of Jason Terry on the Lakers and expect the team to do better). T-Mac is not similarly replaceable. LeBron is not similarly replaceable. Neither is Dirk. On the basis of what he does, Nash deserves to be in the MVP discussion--but I would not make him MVP ahead of guys who are clearly not replaceable by lesser players.

In case I didn't make it clear, "my" list actually is simply the list of the 12 players who are turning the ball over most frequently this season; it's not some team that I just randomly picked. I don't get your point about "risk/reward." I see no benefit in taking extra risks if a simple play is available. The guys on that list, with the exception of Howard and, to some extent Curry, are very productive offensive players who are also above average passers. They handle the ball frequently and provide the main offensive thrust for their teams. As I mentioned in my post after yesterday's Lakers-Suns game, Kobe is as productive as Nash when you add up ppg and apgX2. If you don't agree with crediting the passer with two points for each assist then of course Kobe is more productive than Nash because he scores 10+ ppg more than Nash does. Wade, Iverson and other players on the turnovers list are also very productive when you add their ppg and apgX2.

Nash is great and I don't think that anyone is denying that, Shaq's "tainted" comment notwithstanding. Is Nash demonstrably, clearly more valuable than Kobe, Dirk, Wade, LeBron? Is he really on par with other players who have won two straight MVPs? I asked D'Antoni this and, not surprisingly, he says that Nash belongs in that category (he also candidly admitted that he realizes that he is somewhat biased because he is Nash's coach).

As for Marbury, this opens another can of worms and is a completely different subject but yes I absolutely think that Marbury has a negative value. When he arrives his team gets worse and when he leaves his team gets better. Marbury is a talented player but he is extremely overrated and his assertion that he is the best point guard in the league is laughable.

Back to the Suns, I didn't say that the Suns were losing because Diaw was out. I just mentioned that Diaw also did not play in the games that the Suns lost without Nash. Diaw is a versatile player and the team's second best playmaker, so Nash's absence was compounded by Diaw also being out. I would expect the Suns to do better once either returned. It just so happened that Nash came back first. Of course, I understand that Nash is more valuable than Diaw but I think that some people are so anxious to justify Nash's two MVPs that they jump on any excuse to praise him. Yes, the Suns are worse without him--so is every other NBA team when one of their All-Stars sits out.

I don't understand your frequent accusations of bias on my part. I've very clearly explained the reasoning behind my position. You may think that I am mistaken but I don't see how you can accuse me of being biased. I like playmaking guards like Nash, Kidd, Stockton, Price, etc. I think that earlier playmaking guards were a bit underrated in terms of MVP consideration but now the pendulum has swung entirely the other way to the point that I think that Nash gets a little more MVP consideration than he deserves.

At Tuesday, March 06, 2007 1:23:00 AM, Blogger JF said...

i can accept most of what you have to say

but (in other posts) you make it sound like i'm eccentric in valuing shooting percentages

I think you underrate nash & the value of his shooting %.

you say, "As I mentioned in my post after yesterday's Lakers-Suns game, Kobe is as productive as Nash when you add up ppg and apgX2."

yes, but Nash gets those points with far few fewer shots and without any more turnovers

that's my point, and despite your other strong points, you have done nothing to dispel the fact that Nash creates those points while wasting fewer possessions (by missed shots combined with turnovers)

at the end of the day, your argument comes down to the superior supporting cast on phx; i agree that phx has a superior supporting cast, but i'm unconvinced that an elite shooting guard could maximize the value of this team the way a superb passing PG (with an unreal 3pt % and overall fg %) can.

At Tuesday, March 06, 2007 4:08:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I would not describe your emphasis on the value of shooting percentages as "eccentric" at all. Shooting percentages are important and not turning the ball over is also important. I just don't think that one category or one statistic makes or breaks a player as an MVP. Kobe clearly makes the Lakers a better team than they would be without him. He has already shown that his skill set blends in well on championship teams. If one were to evaluate his game from a scout's perspective, Kobe has no weaknesses. Think of the categories a scout would consider: Kobe can score inside with either hand; he has a midrange game; he can shoot threes; he draws fouls and shoots an excellent free throw percentage; he can dribble well with either hand; he can feed the post; he can pass well to cutters; he can guard three positions effectively; he is crafty in the passing lanes; he is a good shot blocker for his position and is even capable of blocking the shots of larger players from time to time; he is a good rebounder; he is strong and will not be overpowered physically by any 1s or 2s or by most 3s; despite playing the 2 he often leads his team in assists; he has demonstrated the ability to hit clutch shots. Those are the reasons that I consider Kobe to be the best player in the NBA. Nash has many of the traits that I listed above but he does not have all of them. Kobe's complete skill set means that he could fit in on a run and gun team like Phoenix or on a slow down team like Houston. Kobe can carry a mediocre team and can perform well playing alongside another star. I think that his versatility and his defense would put the Suns over the top if he were there in place of Nash. Clearly, despite all the wondrous things that Nash can do, something is missing because his teams have never won a title or reached the Finals. I don't think that Kobe's status as a three-time champion should be dismissed or viewed lightly.

I think that the recent games between LAL and PHX indicate the truth of what I am saying. We agree that Kobe is a tremendous athlete and that he is carrying a team that has subpar talent relative to the Suns. So how can it be that Nash is better than Kobe and he plays alongside two All-Stars yet Nash's team is barely better than the Lakers head to head?

On Sunday, Nash's Suns beat a depleted Lakers team by five points. A less depleted--but still clearly inferior--Lakers team led by Kobe Bryant took a 3-1 lead over Nash's Suns in last year's playoffs and was one defensive rebound away from a 4-2 victory.

Yes, Nash's Suns have a better record than the Lakers but that is no surprise--they have a better team overall. Furtheremore, the Suns' style is very difficult to deal with during the regular season. However, in the playoffs teams are able to focus completely on one opponent and always have at least one day off between games. If the Suns had Kobe they would not only be just as good or better in the regular season but they would be a more credible championship contender.

Of course, Kobe and Nash will never be traded for each other. Still, based on my observations of both players and both teams, I do not think that the Suns as currently constructed will win a title. I think that Kobe-Odom-Bynum has a chance to be the nucleus of a championship contender within a couple years. The main things that the Lakers need are for their core guys to stay healthy, Bynum to continue to progress and Farmar (or someone else) to emerge as a competent point guard.

By the way, why do you think that the Mavs have been able to jettison Nash and suffer no ill effects? Isn't that a little odd? Teams sometimes get rid of good or great players before a title run but they then bring in someone of equal status. The Pistons got rid of Dantley but brought in Aguirre. The old Knicks got rid of Hall of Famer Bellamy but brought in Hall of Famer DeBusschere, enabling Reed to shift to center. If the Mavs win this year's title, they will have gotten rid of an eventual two (or possibly three) time MVP and replaced him with Jason Terry. Yes, Howard has developed but as I said before they got rid of Finley, Jamison and Walker, all of whom have been All-Stars. You and others point to the Suns' record when Nash is out as proof that he is MVP but I think that Dallas' Finals run last year and performance so far this year just as strongly show that he is not the very best player in the league. Isn't Dirk, a 7-footer who scores inside and out and rebounds, more valuable? He is much more "unique" than Nash. Is there another guy his size who combines that kind of shooting range with Dirk's rebounding ability and ability to score off of the dribble?

At Tuesday, March 06, 2007 6:37:00 PM, Blogger JF said...

"I think that the recent games between LAL and PHX indicate the truth of what I am saying. "

maybe, but look at a ton of easy games LA has lost -- incl home ws. portland, etc. in LA's 6-game slide

I would argue that Nash's style enables consistent team performance -- b/c he keeps guys involved, and b/c Nash wastes fewer possessions

but we're probably not in disagreement that much at this pont

At Wednesday, March 07, 2007 4:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The Lakers are sliding because several key players are out of the lineup now--Odom, Walton, Radmanovic, Mihm. Kwame is just back after missing a huge chunk of games. If the Suns were missing their starting power forward, starting small forward, backup small forward and a guy who was supposed to play key minutes at center, they would not be doing so well either. On Tuesday, Kobe had 40 points, 13 rebounds (!) and eight assists from the two guard position but his team lost in double overtime. I didn't see the game, but apparently Minn. went to a zone in the overtimes, packed the lane to stop Kobe from driving and dared anybody else to beat them--and if they had thought of that earlier the game probably would not have gone to two overtimes. The Lakers don't have much firepower at the moment. I respect Kobe's game as much as anyone does but if they don't get some players back soon they very well could miss the playoffs no matter how well he plays. When your two guard gets 40-13-8 and you lose, that is not a good sign. He can't play much better than that (I know that you will look up his shooting percentage for this game but I'd be willing to bet that at least two or three misses were "hand grenades").

I do agree that Nash's efficiency enables consistent team performance but it is easier to do that with Amare, Marion, etc. than with the crew that Kobe has. Nash can score his 19-20 points and make the same passes each night and be reasonably certain that guys will make shots. Kobe does not know from night to night if Cook will hit shots, how Smush will play, etc. I don't think that too many teams would try a zone against PHX--not with Bell, Jones (and Nash) shooting threes.


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