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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

NBA Leaderboard, Part VIII

The Boston Celtics won four straight games since the previous leaderboard and are now on pace to surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' 72-10 record. I don't expect the Celtics to win 72 games--or even 70--but the way that this team has jelled so quickly, particularly on defense, is very impressive.

Best Five Records

1) Boston Celtics, 26-3
2) Detroit Pistons, 24-7
3) San Antonio Spurs, 21-8
4) Phoenix Suns, 22-9
5) Orlando Magic, 22-11

The Detroit Pistons own the longest winning streak in the league (nine games) now that Utah ended Portland's run at 13 games. If the Celtics and Pistons meet in the playoffs we will witness an interesting matchup between Boston's collection of stars who have never won anything and Detroit's group of stars who won one title but act as though it is disrespectful not to consider them the team of the decade. As usual, the Spurs are hiding in the weeds, attracting little attention and biding their time until the playoffs. The Suns have an excellent record but there are signs of discord in the desert. Despite their protestations to the contrary, Phoenix misses Kurt Thomas' low post defense and there seems to be a disconnect within the organization between one camp that believes that the team can win a championship as is and another camp that thinks that changes must be made.

Top Ten Scorers (and a few other notables)

1) LeBron James, CLE 28.8 ppg
2) Kobe Bryant, LAL 27.1 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 26.3 ppg
4) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 25.7 ppg
5) Richard Jefferson, NJN 24.8 ppg
6) Dwyane Wade, MIA 24.8 ppg
7) Carlos Boozer, UTA 24.1 ppg
8) Michael Redd, MIL 23.9 ppg
9) Dwight Howard, ORL 22.9 ppg
10) Tracy McGrady, HOU 22.8 ppg

16) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 21.7 ppg
17) Paul Pierce, BOS 21.6 ppg

20) Yao Ming, HOU 21.3 ppg

26) Kevin Durant, SEA 19.7 ppg

32) Ray Allen, BOS 19.1 ppg

37) Kevin Garnett, BOS 18.8 ppg

LeBron James still leads the pack but his scoring average and field goal percentage dropped dramatically in December (25.8 ppg, .457; he scored 32.1 ppg on .496 shooting in November). Kobe Bryant has yet to put together a string of 40 point games and if he does so then he will take over first place. Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony are the league's most explosive scoring duo but the Nuggets are not winning any more frequently with Iverson than they did before acquiring him. If Tracy McGrady's balky knee sidelines him for an extended period of time then he will fall below the minimum required number of games and thus drop off of the list. Richard Jefferson is the only player in the top 10 who has never made the All-Star team.

Top Ten Rebounders (and a few other notables)

1) Dwight Howard, ORL 15.5 rpg
2) Marcus Camby, DEN 14.2 rpg
3) Chris Kaman, LAC 14.1 rpg
4) Al Jefferson, MIN 12.1 rpg
5) Tyson Chandler, NOH 11.9 rpg
6) Carlos Boozer, UTA 11.5 rpg
7) Antawn Jamison, WAS 10.8 rpg
8) Emeka Okafor, CHA 10.6 rpg
9) Yao Ming, HOU 10.6 rpg
10) Kevin Garnett, BOS 10.5 rpg

12) Tim Duncan, SAS 10.2 rpg

16) Andrew Bynum, LAL 9.8 rpg

18) Al Horford, ATL 9.5 rpg

24) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 8.7 rpg

26) Ben Wallace, CHI 8.6 rpg

28) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.6 rpg

36) Shaquille O'Neal, MIA 7.8 rpg

48) Kobe Bryant, LAL 6.2 rpg

This list is largely unchanged, other than the reappearance of Tim Duncan, who has now played enough games to qualify. It seems virtually certain that Kevin Garnett's four year run as the rebounding champion is over; if Dwight Howard maintains his 15.5 rpg average that would be the best rebounding performance in the NBA since Dennis Rodman averaged 16.1 rpg in 1996-97. Rodman averaged at least 15.5 rpg in five different seasons but the last NBA player other than Rodman who averaged at least 15.5 rpg is Kevin Willis (15.5 rpg, 1991-92)--and the last player who accomplished this prior to Willis is Moses Malone (17.6 rpg, 1978-79). Howard is sometimes compared to Shaquille O'Neal; he does not yet possess the dominating offensive game that O'Neal had during his prime but Howard is emerging as one of the greatest rebounders of the past 30 years.

Top Ten Playmakers

1) Steve Nash, PHX 12.4 apg
2) Jason Kidd, NJN 10.6 apg
3) Chris Paul, NOH 10.2 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 8.7 apg
5) Jamaal Tinsley, IND 8.7 apg
6) Jose Calderon, TOR 8.1 apg
7) Baron Davis, GSW 8.1 apg
8) Chauncey Billups, DET 7.7 apg
9) LeBron James, CLE 7.6 apg
10) Allen Iverson, DEN 7.1 apg

The assists leaderboard tends to fluctuate less than the other ones. Mo Williams (7.1 apg) and Dwyane Wade (6.9 apg) are creeping up on the top 10, though, and Tony Parker is averaging a career-high 6.7 apg.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:57 PM



At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 10:37:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

The Boston Celtics won four straight games since the previous leaderboard and are now on pace to surpass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' 72-10 record. I don't expect the Celtics to win 72 games--or even 70--but the way that this team has jelled so quickly, particularly on defense, is very impressive.

How can that be correct, David? The Bulls were also 26-3 and ended up being 41-3 before their 4th loss. How can the Celtics be on pace to surpass it? That doesnt make sense. Now if the Bulls were 26-4 then I would understand that. Maybe I dont understand paces and projections but by sheer logic they arent near surpassing the pace unless they go 42-3. And I doubt they will win their next 15.

At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 11:09:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

Maybe this has to do with the weak NBA or the games the Celtics have left to play that they are on a pace to surpass. But the NBA was weak when the Bulls won 72 as well.

At Tuesday, January 01, 2008 11:14:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

Im interested in to what basketball books (new or old) the bloggers on here are reading or have. I have many books but want to know what else is there. This site made me aware of the Game 7 book (good lookin out David), which I probably wouldnt know about if it wasnt for this site because of its nonpromotion. If people dont want to reveal what they have thats fine. I just purchased Pat Williams book on the 82-83 Sixers and its very enjoyable and an easy read.

At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 3:56:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It's early and the Celtics have not played most of the elite West teams yet. Like I said, I don't expect the record to be seriously threatened. The Bulls went 72-10 and then went 69-13 (tying the old record) the next year--and if they had not had some injuries they could have won more than 70 that year as well (though, to be fair, that could be said of the '83 Sixers and some other teams that had a shot to win 70 games).

At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 4:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Sorry that it seems like I am responding to your comments out of order; I apparently did not moderate them in the order that you submitted them.

Anyway, to answer your first question last, the Celtics' 26-3 record is an .897 winning percentage. Multiply that by 82 games and you get 73.5, which is 1.5 wins more than the Bulls won. When the Bulls were 41-3 (.932) they were on pace to win 76 games but they "slumped" and "only" won 72. The Celtics don't have to get to 41-3 to be ahead of a 72 win pace. A 72 win pace is an .878 winning percentage, which would be 38.6 wins (call it 39) after 44 games. Obviously, if you start doing this too early in the season then it's like the baseball fans who say that their favorite player is "on pace" to get 300 hits or something--but 29 games is a significant portion of the NBA season and there have only been a handful of teams in league history that started out 26-3, so this is meaningful. I just don't believe that Boston will keep this up for 53 more games.

At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 8:44:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

O so there are some numbers to quantify the pace. I get that. Any books?

At Wednesday, January 02, 2008 5:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Yes, there are numbers. It's just a straight percentage calculation--and, as I noted, when the Bulls ran off so many wins to get to 41-3 they actually got ahead of a 72 win pace but they "slowed down" after that. To win 70 or 72 games a team has to win nearly nine out of ten games and if you think about that for a moment and consider four games in five nights, injuries, etc. then you understand why it is unlikely that even a 26-3 team will win 70 or 72 games.

At Friday, January 04, 2008 4:02:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

In response to Madnice's comment about basketball books:

I'm interested in Woten's book and Pat Williams' new book, but haven't gotten around to buying them. It's too bad they don't seem to be in any bookstores, as it would be nice to flip through them and see if they are worth it. I'm particularly interested in finding out about what Woten has called "Billy Cunningham's psychological gamble in the 1981 Eastern Finals" on his website.

The best basketball book to come out the last year or two which I've read is Walt Frazier's The Game Within The Game. It contains numerous interesting anecdotes from Frazier's career, and Frazier makes many striking observations about today's NBA which left me wondering why no one in the mainstream has made them.

Other interesting books that have come out in recent years are Oscar Robertson's autobiography, a Wilt Chamberlain biography by Robert Cherry, Elliot Kalb's book ranking all-time players, One Last Shot by Mitchell Krugel (about MJ's last comeback), a book on the 1967 76ers by Wayne Lynch, The Rivalry by John Taylor (about the Russell-Chamberlain rivalry), and Pomerantz's Wilt, 1962.

My favorite basketball book is probably Wilt Chamberlain's 1973 autobiography. It is very entertaining, humorous, and insightful.

At Friday, January 04, 2008 4:36:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I'm surprised at how many analysts have kept mentioning the Pistons as a title contender over the last year or so. You know that player who is horribly underrated, and then everyone seemingly figures this out at the same time and, word spreads, and eventually that player becomes overrated? The Pistons are like that player. Billups, Hamilton, and Wallace are all on the downsides of their careers. On top of their declining talent, they have imploded in the playoffs two years in a row (after reaching the conference finals without having to dispose of any heavyweights along the way). I think with their experience they could give any team in the East trouble (the only reason I'm including Boston in this group is because we haven't seen enough from them yet), but any of the top Western teams would stomp them out. I'm not as impressed by their success so far this season as many other people are. I still believe that come playoff time they won't have the horses to come out of the East. Boston and Cleveland would probably beat them, and Orlando would also have a good shot.

The Pistons lack a legitimate superstar. Yes, they won a title without one, but that was like capturing lightening in a bottle. They had the perfect mix of defense, depth, desire, and offensive balance in 2004. They really had a chance to win in 2005. The Spurs and Pistons were both playing bad in Game 7 and it was up for grabs. The difference was the Pistons had no big time player who could go out and generate points when they needed it. Ever since Larry Brown left, they've lost their edge. Ben Wallace's decline followed by his departure was the last straw.

At Friday, January 04, 2008 4:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Those are all excellent points. Particularly significant to me are those playoff implosions. Even when Detroit won 64 games I said that the Pistons would not win the championship; some people posted comments saying that I "hate" Detroit but the Pistons in fact "imploded," to use your word, exactly as I predicted that they would. The same thing happened to them last season. Before this season began, I said that Detroit would post a good record because their starting lineup is excellent but that the Pistons would not emerge from the East to make it to the Finals and I stand by that prediction now. As you correctly note, the departure of Brown and the decline/departure of Wallace were the death knell for the Pistons' championship aspirations.

At Sunday, January 06, 2008 11:30:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

The game 7 and Pat Williams book are both interesting and easy reads. I definitely need to get that Clyde book since I watch him rhyme for the NY Bricks every night. Hes comedy and the only reason I watch them. His book Rockin Steady is my favorite. Any suggestions, David?

At Monday, January 07, 2008 5:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I haven't found a copy of the new Williams book yet. The Frazier book is good.

I don't have any particular recommendations in terms of books that have been published recently.

At Monday, January 07, 2008 8:58:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

For some reason I couldnt find that Williams book in stores. I will definitely buy The Game within the Game soon. I did notice there is a book dropping about Bob Delaney called Covert My Years Infiltrating the Mob. Amazing how he did this and has been an NBA ref for 20 years. Imagine if he was involved in betting on games.

At Monday, January 07, 2008 4:09:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Delaney's story has already been told on ESPN (and other outlets). It has nothing to do with betting on NBA games; in fact, it predates his time as a referee. Delaney worked undercover and infiltrated the mafia.

At Monday, January 07, 2008 8:19:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

I know Delaney's story has been told, David, I was mentioning that a book about it is coming out since I was talking about books. I know he worked undercover. I just said imagine if he did gamble after what his past was like. I should have been more specific.

At Tuesday, January 08, 2008 3:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I just wanted to make it clear for people who don't know about Delaney or his book that it definitely is not about betting on the NBA.

At Sunday, January 13, 2008 12:11:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

Thanks Vednam. Ill definitely get Wilt, 1092, The Rivalry, and the BIg O's book. Ill stay away from the statistican Kalbs book because its his opinion, and he has ONeal as the best, which is a joke.


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