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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

NBA Leaderboard, Part X

The Boston Celtics still have the league's best record but they just lost two games in a row to the Washington Wizards, which automatically disqualifies the Celtics from ever again being compared to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10. In a related note, yes, right about now it is fair to not only state that Gilbert Arenas is overrated but to also seriously raise the possibility that the Wizards are in fact better off without him and the accompanying baggage of his off court antics and on court narcissism. When I first pointed out that the Wizards were doing just fine without Agent Zero, Washington fans breathlessly responded that Washington had not beaten anybody who was any good, as if they could not wait for their team to go on a long losing streak to reaffirm the value of their favorite player. Well, now the Wizards have just won back to back games against the team with the best record in the league and their winning percentage without Arenas so far is better than the team has ever done with him. So, Washington fans can pray for a long losing streak to "prove" that I am wrong about Arenas but the facts speak for themselves.

Best Five Records

1) Boston Celtics, 30-6
2) Detroit Pistons, 28-10
3-4) L.A. Lakers, Phoenix Suns, 26-11
5) San Antonio Spurs, 25-11

What a difference three years makes: in that time, Shaquille O'Neal has gone from being the most dominant big man in the NBA to being a broken down center on the worst team in the Eastern Conference--and the Lakers have rebuilt around Kobe Bryant to the point that they now have one of the best records in the league. Andrew Bynum's injury is obviously a setback (see the scoring leaderboard for more about that subject) but there is no denying that a championship window in L.A. seems to be opening (not necessarily this season but soon) and that the championship window in Miami has long since slammed shut. The Lakers own the league's longest current winning streak (seven games) and are the only team that has won nine of its last 10 games.

Top Ten Scorers (and a few other notables)

1) LeBron James, CLE 29.1 ppg
2) Kobe Bryant, LAL 27.0 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 26.9 ppg
4) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 25.4 ppg
5) Dwyane Wade, MIA 24.5 ppg
6) Richard Jefferson, NJN 24.4 ppg
7) Michael Redd, MIL 23.2 ppg
8) Carlos Boozer, UTA 23.1 ppg
9) Dwight Howard, ORL 22.5 ppg
10) Amare Stoudemire, PHX 22.3 ppg
11) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 22.2 ppg
12) Yao Ming, HOU 22.1 ppg

20) Paul Pierce, BOS 21.0 ppg

26) Kevin Durant, SEA 19.8 ppg

28) Kevin Garnett, BOS 19.2 ppg
29) Brandon Roy, POR 19.1 ppg

44) Ray Allen, BOS 17.6 ppg

You may not have heard about it, but Kobe Bryant clinched the scoring title this week. Seemingly everyone is predicting doom and gloom for the Lakers now that Andrew Bynum has been sidelined for up to eight weeks by a knee injury. Maybe the Lakers are doomed and maybe they are not. The one thing that we do know is that last year when the Lakers were devastated by injuries Kobe Bryant responded by averaging more points after the All-Star break than anyone had in more than 40 years. So, what we will see in the next two months is a similar scoring outburst from Bryant. If the rest of the Lakers can manage to contribute something productive during this stretch then there is no reason for the team to completely collapse; the margin for error will be smaller without Bynum's presence in the paint but the Lakers should still be able to win some games. By the way, in the Lakers' first game after Bynum's injury, Bryant poured in a season-high 48 points, including six of his team's eight points in overtime (with the last two points coming on the game-winning jumper), as L.A. beat Seattle, 123-121, on Monday night. Bryant is averaging 29.6 ppg so far in January and has scored 37, 37 and 48 points in his last three games. LeBron James is consistently scoring around 29 ppg but if Bryant averages 35 ppg over the next few weeks then he could catch James by the All-Star break.

Top Ten Rebounders (and a few other notables)

1) Dwight Howard, ORL 15.2 rpg
2) Marcus Camby, DEN 13.9 rpg
3) Chris Kaman, LAC 13.7 rpg
4) Tyson Chandler, NOH 12.0 rpg
5) Al Jefferson, MIN 11.8 rpg
6) Antawn Jamison, WAS 10.9 rpg
7) Carlos Boozer, UTA 10.8 rpg
8) Tim Duncan, SAS 10.7 rpg
9) Yao Ming, HOU 10.5 rpg
10) Emeka Okafor, CHA 10.3 rpg
11) Andrew Bynum, LAL 10.2 rpg

14) Kevin Garnett, BOS 9.9 rpg

16) Al Horford, ATL 9.7 rpg

24) Ben Wallace, CHI 9.1 rpg

28) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.9 rpg

31) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 8.5 rpg

Dwight Howard maintains a firm grip on the top spot and remains on pace to have one of the best non-Dennis Rodman rebounding seasons of the past three decades. Tim Duncan moved into the top ten, while Andrew Bynum just missed the cut. Of course, due to inactivity Bynum will eventually drop off of the list.

Top Ten Playmakers

1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.9 apg
2) Jason Kidd, NJN 10.7 apg
3) Chris Paul, NOH 10.4 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 9.1 apg
5) Jamaal Tinsley, IND 8.5 apg
6) Jose Calderon, TOR 8.3 apg
7) Baron Davis, GSW 8.2 apg
8) LeBron James, CLE 7.5 apg
9) Chauncey Billups, DET 7.3 apg
10) Allen Iverson, DEN 7.0 apg

The first nine players are in the exact same order that they were in last week. Iverson slipped past Milwaukee's Mo Williams, who now ranks 13th with 6.8 apg.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:44 AM



At Thursday, January 17, 2008 6:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

i think kobe will win the scoreing title narrowly but it hink lebron will win the scoreing and asists title once or twice i remeber larry bird did it once and he was the last guy him or tiny archibald one of the two. to me the heat being 8-29 bears the question how good is dwayne wade really your a superstar like lebron or kobe your team should never be 8-29 lebron team would never be 8-29 or miami wouldnt even played on there micheal jordan team wouldnt as well. the people putting it on shaq shaq is 36 years old he cant carry a team anymore thats unfair to ask him to carry this team the legacy for shaq is etched in stone he doesnt have to win anything anymore he already proved himself. wade has too show me more than he has if he is the superstar everybody says he is he reminds me of fat lever great whent HEALTHY but always hurt.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 2:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Bird never won a scoring title or an assists title; you are thinking of Nate Archibald, who won both in the same year (as I mentioned in my recent Pantheon article).

LeBron looks like he is capable of winning multiple scoring titles after Kobe stops winning them--I agree that Kobe will win this year's scoring title and that it will probably be close. I don't think that LeBron will ever average 10-11 apg, which is what you need to do to win an assists title.

A team can have a sub .500 record despite having a great player if the great player is hurt a lot and has no help. That said, you make a valid point that Miami's complete collapse does at least raise the question of whether Wade is really as good as Kobe or LeBron. Of course, this has never been an issue for me, because I have been consistent in saying that Kobe is the best player in the NBA and that I would take LeBron over Wade. I gave Wade credit for his great Finals performance in 2006 but that still did not convince me that he is better than LeBron.

Shaq is being paid $20 million this year and will be paid $20 million in each of the next two seasons if he does not retire, so he is certainly being compensated as if he were still an impact player--and that is significant because due to salary cap considerations his team cannot fully replenish the roster to make up for what he is not doing because his salary takes up a lot of cap room. Shaq's legacy may be etched in stone but Kobe, Duncan, LeBron and possibly others are young and productive enough that one or more of them could carve out a bigger legacy than Shaq's. In fact, Duncan's historical legacy as the dominant big man/championship winner of the post-Jordan era is already at least equal to Shaq's. If Kobe wins another ring or two then his historical legacy will also rival, if not surpass, Shaq's.

I would take Wade over Fat Lever because Wade is bigger/stronger and a more dynamic and explosive scoring threat. By the way, Lever did not have serious injury problems until his ninth season, while Wade has been injury prone from the start of his career.


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