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Monday, December 17, 2007

NBA Leaderboard, Part VI

Kevin Garnett's minutes and production have dipped but his Celtics keep right on rolling, maintaining a 70-win pace. Kobe Bryant moved a little bit closer to LeBron James in the race for the scoring title--or, more precisely, James slipped back toward Bryant, whose average has stayed around the 27 ppg mark for most of the season. Dwight Howard continues to put up Moses Malone-sized double doubles, while Steve Nash is on track to join Bob Cousy and John Stockton as winners of four straight assists titles.

Best Five Records
-------------------

1) Boston Celtics, 20-2
2) San Antonio Spurs, 18-5
3-4) Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, 17-7
5) Orlando Magic, 17-8

The Spurs dropped a couple games when Tim Duncan sat out due to injury, so the Celtics--owners of a nine game winning streak--pulled away a bit. Are the Magic going to duplicate last year's fast start and slow fade? Dwight Howard is still putting up MVP caliber numbers but the Magic are just 5-5 in their last 10 games; they are also 5-5 at home, which is very strange considering their 12-3 road record. One of those numbers will turn out to be a fluke; if it is the former, then Orlando could win 50-plus games but if it is the latter then the Magic will end up with 40-45 wins. Detroit has been winning "quietly," fueling the predictable and tired talk that the Pistons have been disrespected. Guess what? The Pistons have four All-Star caliber players and no one questions their ability to do well in the regular season. In recent years the Pistons have had very good records only to fall short of winning a title and it remains to be seen if Detroit can return to the championship mountain top this season--anything less will be a disappointment for a nucleus that won a ring in 2004 and that believes it should have won multiple titles during this era.

Top Ten Scorers (and a few other notables)
------------------

1) LeBron James, CLE 29.4 ppg
2) Kobe Bryant, LAL 27.0 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 25.4 ppg
4) Carlos Boozer, UTA 24.9 ppg
5) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 24.6 ppg
6) Kevin Martin, SAC 24.5 ppg
7) Richard Jefferson, NJN 24.4 ppg
8) Tracy McGrady, HOU 24.2 ppg
9) Michael Redd, MIL 23.7 ppg
10) Dwight Howard, ORL 23.7 ppg

14) Yao Ming, HOU 21.8 ppg

17) Paul Pierce, BOS 21.0 ppg

19) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 20.8 ppg

24) Manu Ginobili, SAS 20.0 ppg
25) Kevin Durant, SEA 19.7 ppg

26) Ray Allen, BOS 19.2 ppg

29) Kevin Garnett, BOS 18.9 ppg

James returned after missing several games due to a finger injury but he has averaged just 22.3 ppg since he came back, shaving 1.3 ppg off of his average and placing Kobe Bryant just a couple 50 point games away from taking the lead. However, the Lakers are doing well with Bryant scoring 27-28 ppg and he has a few nagging injuries of his own, so while it is always possible that he will erupt for 50 points it does not seem likely that he will do so any time soon. The Nuggets' Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony could become the first teammates to rank in the top five in scoring since the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal did it in 2002-03. Kevin Durant is who I thought he was: a high volume, low percentage shooter who needs a lot of FGAs to average 20 ppg. That does not seem likely to change this season because Durant has not even hit the proverbial rookie wall yet, after which his production figures to decline a bit; the real test for Durant will happen next summer--not in the playoffs, but during his offseason workouts; he must improve his shooting, his ball handling and his overall understanding of the NBA game and he must add some bulk to his almost painfully thin frame. George Gervin and Reggie Miller were lean but even when they were young they were wiry and not easily pushed around. If Durant is going to be as good as most people seem to expect then about a year from now we should be able to see the fruits from his labors during the summer of 2008.

Top Ten Rebounders (and a few other notables)
----------------------

1) Dwight Howard, ORL 15.4 rpg
2) Marcus Camby, DEN 14.4 rpg
3) Chris Kaman, LAC 13.8 rpg
4) Carlos Boozer, UTA 11.7 rpg
5) Al Jefferson, MIN 11.5 rpg
6) Tyson Chandler, NOH 11.3 rpg
7) Emeka Okafor, CHA 11.1 rpg
8) Shawn Marion, PHX 10.9 rpg
9) Zach Randolph, NYK 10.7 rpg
10) Antawn Jamison, WAS 10.7 rpg
11) Zydrunas Ilgauskas, CLE 10.5 rpg
12) Kevin Garnett, BOS 10.5 rpg
13) Yao Ming, HOU 10.3 rpg
14) Andrew Bynum, LAL 10.0 rpg
15) Al Horford, ATL 10.0 rpg

22) Ben Wallace, CHI 8.9 rpg
23) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.6 rpg

21) Tim Duncan, SAS 8.9 rpg

23) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.7 rpg

28) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 8.2 rpg

35) Shaquille O'Neal, MIA 7.7 rpg

50) Kobe Bryant, LAL 6.1 rpg

Howard extended his lead over Camby but the top ten seems to have stabilized for the most part. Ben Wallace, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are all below their career norms as the season nears the quarter pole. Kidd's presence on this list is remarkable considering his age, his height and the fact that he had microfracture surgery a few years ago. Among shooting guards, Bryant and the Knicks' Quentin are tied for the lead (unless you believe the positional designations at ESPN.com, where forwards Mike Miller, Josh Howard, Luol Deng and Hedo Turkoglu are listed as shooting guards).

Top Ten Playmakers
----------------------

1) Steve Nash, PHX 12.1 apg
2) Jason Kidd, NJN 10.3 apg
3) Chris Paul, NOH 9.6 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 8.9 apg
5) Jamaal Tinsley, IND 8.6 apg
6) Baron Davis, GSW 8.3 apg
7) Jose Calderon, TOR 7.9 apg
8) LeBron James, CLE 7.8 apg
9) Chauncey Billups, DET 7.8 apg
10) Allen Iverson, DEN 7.5 apg

Nash is well on his way to becoming the first player to win four straight assists titles since John Stockton claimed nine in a row from 1988-96. Kidd won five in a six year stretch (1999-2001, 2003-04) but Andre Miller snuck in to take the 2002 title. The only player other than Stockton to win at least four assists titles in a row is Bob Cousy; like Kidd, Oscar Robertson once captured five in a six year period. Magic Johnson won all four of his in a five year period just before Stockton came into prominence.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:39 AM

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