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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NBA Leaderboard, Part XII

The Boston Celtics are just 5-5 in their last 10 games and it is very possible that they won't even have the best record in the East, let alone post the best record in the NBA or challenge the all-time single season wins mark. LeBron James may not lose his grip on this year's scoring title as easily as Carmelo Anthony did with last year's scoring title. Dwight Howard is close to putting up scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage numbers that have not been seen together in the same season since Wilt Chamberlain patrolled the paint.

Best Five Records
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1) Boston Celtics, 34-8
2) New Orleans Hornets, 32-12
3) Phoenix Suns, 32-13
4-5) Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, 31-13

All hail the New Orleans Hornets! They now own the best record in the Western Conference and are closing in rapidly on the Boston Celtics for the best record in the entire NBA thanks to a nine game winning streak, by far the best active winning streak. The Dallas Mavericks made it to the Finals in 2006, had the best record in the league in 2007 and are just four games behind the Celtics this season but they are flying completely underneath the radar. They will be a dangerous team in this year's playoffs; don't count on them making an early exit this time around. There certainly is enough time for the defending champion San Antonio Spurs to straighten themselves out and their record is not terrible (28-15) but something seems to be missing this year in terms of intensity. They had a similar dead spot around this time last season and recovered nicely but the situation does bear watching, particularly since there are so many good teams in the West this season.

Top Ten Scorers (and a few other notables)
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1) LeBron James, CLE 29.9 ppg
2) Kobe Bryant, LAL 27.9 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 26.9 ppg
4) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 25.5 ppg
5) Dwyane Wade, MIA 25.3 ppg
6) Richard Jefferson, NJN 24.1 ppg
7) Michael Redd, MIL 23.0 ppg
8) Amare Stoudemire, PHX 22.7 ppg
9) Carlos Boozer, UTA 22.5 ppg
10) Chris Bosh, TOR 22.5 ppg
11) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 22.3 ppg

13) Yao Ming, HOU 22.1 ppg

24) Paul Pierce, BOS 20.4 ppg

32) Brandon Roy, POR 19.4 ppg
33) Kevin Durant, SEA 19.3 ppg

35) Kevin Garnett, BOS 19.2 ppg

43) Ray Allen, BOS 18.0 ppg

There has not been a lot of recent movement at the top of this leaderboard, so let's look at one celebrated player who has not come close to meeting the outlandish expectations that were placed on him. Bill Simmons, Rick Kamla and seemingly every basketball pundit around breathlessly said prior to this season that Kevin Durant was going to be a phenomenon right off the bat. I watched Durant play in the summer league and the preseason and simply reported what I saw, minus any hype: a one dimensional gunner who does not finish well in traffic, has bad shot selection, shoots poorly from the perimeter and does not excel in any statistical category other than free throw percentage. Last summer I concluded, "Barring some dramatic improvement between now and the start of the season I am skeptical that he is going to score 20-plus ppg as easily as so many people seem to believe--he may very well score 20-plus ppg out of necessity because Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are gone but he will likely have to do it on a high volume of shots with a low degree of accuracy...Durant is long and athletic and can get his shot off over most defenders but if he continues to shoot poorly and cannot post up, rebound or pass then I don't think that teams will be greatly concerned about him shooting a lot of faceup jumpers." Halfway through Durant's rookie season, permit me to go Dennis Green here and say that Durant is who I thought he was. Durant is the only player in the top 50 in scoring who is shooting less than .400 from the field. He is shooting .281 from three point range, which is the worst percentage among top 50 scorers who attempt at least three three pointers a game. Durant was initially advertised as a great rebounder based on his performance in one year of college but he was shifted to guard due to his slight frame and he is averaging 4.1 rpg, which is not bad for a shooting guard but it is hardly outstanding, either. Durant is averaging 2.1 apg and 2.9 turnovers per game. I'm not a big believer in assist/turnover ratio but that is not good any way you cut it. None of this means that Durant can't develop into a very good player--maybe even a true phenomenon--some day. What it does mean is that just because someone is a big name commentator that does not mean that he actually knows how to correctly evaluate basketball players.

Why focus so much attention on Durant? Simple--his rookie season is a great example of how hype and superficial "analysis" have become the stock in trade of too many people who cover the NBA.

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

1) Dwight Howard, ORL 14.9 rpg
2) Marcus Camby, DEN 14.2 rpg
3) Chris Kaman, LAC 13.9 rpg
4) Tyson Chandler, NOH 12.4 rpg
5) Al Jefferson, MIN 12.1 rpg
6) Tim Duncan, SAS 11.1 rpg
7) Yao Ming, HOU 10.7 rpg
8) Carlos Boozer, UTA 10.7 rpg
9) Antawn Jamison, WAS 10.4 rpg
10) Emeka Okafor, CHA 10.3 rpg

14) Al Horford, ATL 10.0 rpg
15) Kevin Garnett, BOS 9.9 rpg

28) Ben Wallace, CHI 8.6 rpg
29) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 8.6 rpg

32) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.3 rpg

Dwight Howard dipped just slightly below 15 rpg. If he can get above that figure and stay there, he has a chance to become the first player since Wilt Chamberlain to average 20 ppg, 15 rpg and shoot .600 from the field in the same season. The amazing thing about Howard is that he is so productive despite being a pretty raw player in terms of skill development. He does not have much of a back to the basket game beyond brute force and his approach to rebounding is pretty much "go get it" without much regard for positioning. In other words, he is an MVP candidate who still has the potential to become a much more polished player. There is a word for that: scary.

Top Ten Playmakers
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1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.9 apg
2) Chris Paul, NOH 10.7 apg
3) Jason Kidd, NJN 10.4 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 9.5 apg
5) Jamaal Tinsley, IND 8.6 apg
6) Jose Calderon, TOR 8.6 apg
7) Baron Davis, GSW 8.1 apg
8) LeBron James, CLE 7.3 apg
9) Raymond Felton, CHA 7.1 apg
10) Chauncey Billups, DET 7.0 apg

For the first time in a while, there is a change near the top: Chris Paul took over second place from Jason Kidd. One gets the impression that this could be Nash's last season in the top spot, which may well become Paul's residence for the next few years.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:13 AM

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2 Comments:

At Tuesday, January 29, 2008 10:16:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

And the Celtics were on pace to pass the 72 win mark of the Bulls. The Celtics have a nice team but the two all-star players they got this year are not clutch players.
It will be interesting to see how they perform in the playoffs and who will take that last shot.

Who cares what Kamla and Simmons say about anything? They dont know basketball. Just because they cover it doesnt mean they know what they are talking about....like a Stephen Smith. Im glad you included the game commentator comment. Those guys are lucky to have jobs but dont know the game.

You know the game, David. Its obvious Durant would get his 20 since they lost two 20 point scorers. He is very slight of build and has no post up game. 4 rebounds is not good at all since he is 6'9.

 
At Wednesday, January 30, 2008 4:00:00 AM, Anonymous jn said...

OFFTOPIC:

http://www.nba.com/games/20080129/TORWAS/gameinfo.html?nav=scoreboardhome

Oh, look! Garbajosa! He's recovered and back on the court! No, wait, no he isn't.

 

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