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Thursday, February 28, 2008

NBA Leaderboard, Part XV

The trade deadline has passed, so other than some veterans who may be bought out or waived (most notably Sam Cassell), the massive arms race between the contending teams is over for now. The next six weeks will be a race to the finish line as teams jockey for position while trying to develop the chemistry and continuity that is necessary to make a championship run. Although the general consensus is that the Lakers are the big winners by virtue of acquiring Pau Gasol in exchange for basically nothing, there are still some questions surrounding the team, namely whether or not Kobe Bryant's finger will remain healthy enough for him to be effective and how Andrew Bynum's return will affect the rotation. For now, I still say that the Spurs are the favorites and that the true value of the Shaquille O'Neal trade will not be evident until the playoffs begin.

If the All-NBA First Team this season does not consist of Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul at guard, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett at forward and Dwight Howard at center then something is seriously wrong.

Best Five Records
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1) Boston Celtics, 44-12
2) Detroit Pistons, 42-16
3) L.A. Lakers, 40-17
4) San Antonio, 38-17
5) Dallas Mavericks, 34-17

Look what happens when you give Kobe Bryant a decent big man for the first half of the season and a former All-Star to replace him after he gets hurt: the Lakers actually have a shot at finishing with the best record in the NBA. Where are all the "experts" who predicted that Bryant would sabotage this season by not playing hard or even hold out because the Lakers did not trade him in the offseason? We've seen Bryant carry a team to the playoffs despite having Smush Parker at point guard and Kwame Brown at center and now we are seeing the Lakers run roughshod over teams simply by adding one former All-Star. Let's not get things twisted, either; Pau Gasol is a very nice player, but he has made the All-Star team just once (2006), has never been selected to even the All-NBA Third Team and has yet to win a playoff game--yet as soon as he was paired with Bryant, a complementary piece in Lamar Odom, a solid point guard in Derek Fisher and a good bench the Lakers instantly moved up in the standings.

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

1) LeBron James, CLE 30.2 ppg
2) Kobe Bryant, LAL 27.8 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 26.6 ppg
4) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 26.1 ppg
5) Dwyane Wade, MIA 24.5 ppg
6) Amare Stoudemire, PHX 23.8 ppg
7) Richard Jefferson, NJN 23.4 ppg
8) Michael Redd, MIL 23.3 ppg
9) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 23.2 ppg
10) Chris Bosh, MIA 22.8 ppg

12) Yao Ming, HOU 22.0 ppg

21) Paul Pierce, BOS 20.6 ppg

35) Kevin Durant, SEA 19.3 ppg

38) Ray Allen, BOS 18.6 ppg

Yao Ming will of course eventually drop off this list because he is going to miss the rest of the season and he has not scored enough points or played in enough games to meet the minimum requirements to be ranked among the final leaders. USA Today's Jon Saraceno reported on Wednesday that Yao's injury--a stress fracture of the tarsal navicular bone--is the same one that ultimately ended the career of All-Star guard (and current TNT commentator) Doug Collins. Part of the problem for Collins was that he played in the pre-MRI era, so his injury was harder to diagnose and treat; hopefully, modern medical technology will help Yao to completely recover.

Kevin Garnett is not on the list because he missed several games recently but he presumably will play in enough games the rest of the way to be reinstated.

Since the arrival of Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant's scoring has gone down slightly--though he did have a 41 point game recently--but his field goal percentage and assists have both increased. LeBron James will win the scoring title unless he gets hurt; Bryant does not have to go on a record-setting post-All-Star break scoring splurge this season. On Wednesday, James became the youngest player in NBA history to score at least 10,000 career points and he did it in style, reaching the milestone with a left handed fast break dunk. The mark had previously been held by Bryant. Of course, Bryant and James both got a head start because they began their NBA careers right out of high school and James is "only" the ninth fastest player to reach 10,000 points in terms of games played.

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

1) Dwight Howard, ORL 14.4 rpg
2) Marcus Camby, DEN 14.1 rpg
3) Chris Kaman, LAC 13.3 rpg
4) Tyson Chandler, NOH 12.3 rpg
5) Al Jefferson, MIN 11.9 rpg
6) Tim Duncan, SAS 11.5 rpg
7) Emeka Okafor, CHA 11.1 rpg
8) Yao Ming, Hou 10.8 rpg
9) Carlos Boozer, UTA 10.8 rpg
10) Antawn Jamison, WAS 10.3 rpg

15) Al Horford, ATL 9.9 rpg

24) Ben Wallace, CLE/CHI 8.9 rpg

26) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 8.7 rpg

31) LeBron James, CLE 8.1 rpg

33) Jason Kidd, DAL/NJN 8.0 rpg

Yao will soon disappear from this list as well. Dwight Howard is back on top of the rebounding charts and has a good chance of becoming the youngest rebounding leader in NBA history. LeBron James recently had three straight games with at least 13 rebounds and he is averaging 9.0 rpg in February.

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

1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.5 apg
2) Chris Paul, NOH 10.7 apg
3) Jason Kidd, DAL/NJN 10.5 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 9.7 apg
5) Jose Calderon, TOR 8.7 apg
6) Jamaal Tinsley, IND 8.4 apg
7) Baron Davis, GSW 8.0 apg
8) LeBron James, CLE 7.5 apg
9) Allen Iverson, DEN 7.3 apg
10) Chauncey Billups, DET 7.2 apg

The top ten names remain the same since last time, though the order shifted slightly. Although Steve Nash appears to be on his way toward claiming his fourth straight assists title, Chris Paul has emerged as the best point guard in the league; Paul has dominated Nash in head to head matchups and is a better two-way player. Paul's only Kryptonite seems to be Deron Williams, who is able to overpower him when they play against each other.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:02 AM

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