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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

NBA Leaderboard, Part XIV

After decades of watching the NBA as a fan and years of covering the NBA as a writer, I still don't quite understand the inner workings of the minds of the MVP voters. Kobe Bryant is widely acknowledged as the league's best player but he was "disqualified" from winning the MVP the past few years because of his team's record. Last I checked, his skills are still intact and his team is on pace for 55 wins. Why isn't he widely considered to be the MVP front runner this season? LeBron James' case was supposedly made by his team's poor performance during the six games that he missed, even though other key rotation players also missed those games and even though the team just got blown out with him playing and some of those players--most notably Anderson Varejao--out of action. Kevin Garnett's case consists of Boston's turnaround this season--but that turnaround is continuing even in his absence due to outstanding play by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the bench, plus the team's commitment to defense this season. I'm still saying the same thing that I've said for more than two years--Kobe Bryant is the NBA's best player and therefore he should win the MVP. James is not far behind Bryant and Garnett is having a very good season but now that the Lakers' record has caught up with Bryant's excellence there is no reason to deny Bryant this honor.

Best Five Records

1) Boston Celtics, 40-9
2) Phoenix Suns, 36-15
3) Detroit Pistons, 38-13
4) New Orleans, 35-15
5) Dallas Mavericks, 34-17

The Detroit Pistons are riding the league's best current winning streak--nine games--and have closed to within three games of the Boston Celtics, who have won four in a row despite the absence of the injured Kevin Garnett. The Orlando Magic have lost two in a row and are 10 games behind Boston, so the race for the best record in the East is between Boston and Detroit. Out west, there is a real dogfight between Phoenix, New Orleans, Dallas, Utah, the L.A. Lakers and San Antonio, six teams that are separated by only 3.5 games in the standings. It is funny to hear commentators talk at various times about what is supposedly wrong with Dallas, Utah and San Antonio, because any of those teams could end up finishing with the best record in the conference.

Top Ten Scorers (and a few other notables)

1) LeBron James, CLE 30.1 ppg
2) Kobe Bryant, LAL 28.0 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, DEN 26.8 ppg
4) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 26.2 ppg
5) Dwyane Wade, MIA 24.1 ppg
6) Richard Jefferson, NJN 23.4 ppg
7) Amare Stoudemire, PHX 23.1 ppg
8) Michael Redd, MIL 22.6 ppg
9) Chris Bosh, MIA 22.4 ppg
10) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 22.2 ppg
11) Yao Ming, HOU 22.1 ppg

24) Paul Pierce, BOS 20.4 ppg

34) Kevin Durant, SEA 19.4 ppg
35) Kevin Garnett, BOS 19.2 ppg

40) Ray Allen, BOS 18.4 ppg

Kobe Bryant had been gaining some ground on LeBron James but after Bryant dislocated his right pinkie finger he had a couple low scoring games that shaved about half a point off of his average. Bryant is still firmly in second place, but Carmelo Anthony's career-high 49 point game helped him to close in on his Denver teammate Allen Iverson, who has been holding down third place for a while. Overall, there was not much movement in the top ten.

Top Ten Rebounders (and a few other notables)

1) Marcus Camby, DEN 14.5 rpg
2) Dwight Howard, ORL 14.8 rpg
3) Chris Kaman, LAC 13.6 rpg
4) Tyson Chandler, NOH 12.4 rpg
5) Al Jefferson, MIN 12.1 rpg
6) Tim Duncan, SAS 11.4 rpg
7) Emeka Okafor, CHA 10.9 rpg
8) Carlos Boozer, UTA 10.8 rpg
9) Yao Ming, HOU 10.7 rpg
10) Antawn Jamison, WAS 10.4 rpg

13) Al Horford, ATL 10.0 rpg

24) Ben Wallace, CHI 8.8 rpg

27) Dirk Nowitzki, DAL 8.6 rpg

32) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.1 rpg

Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy briefly benched Dwight Howard because Van Gundy felt that Howard has become too focused on his scoring at the expense of his rebounding and defense. Some statistical proof of that can be found in the fact that Marcus Camby inched past Howard to take the lead in the race for the rebounding crown. Howard has had early leads in previous rebounding races only to fade down the stretch and he is running out of time if he wants to become the youngest rebounding champion in NBA history.

As proof that raw statistics don't mean everything, consider that Al Jefferson (21.4 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 1.39 bpg) is outscoring and outrebounding Kevin Garnett (19.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.41 bpg) and is blocking virtually the same number of shots. Jefferson certainly looks like a future All-Star but would anyone really take Jefferson over Garnett right now? I do like the fact that Jefferson can score on the block without using fadeaway moves but his numbers are helped a bit by the lack of talent around him, while Garnett's numbers are lowered because he is sharing the load with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Top Ten Playmakers

1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.7 apg
2) Chris Paul, NOH 10.9 apg
3) Jason Kidd, NJN 10.4 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 9.7 apg
5) Jose Calderon, TOR 8.8 apg
6) Jamaal Tinsley, IND 8.4 apg
7) Baron Davis, GSW 8.0 apg
8) Allen Iverson, DEN 7.3 apg
9) LeBron James, CLE 7.2 apg
10) Chauncey Billups, DET 7.1 apg

Allen Iverson jumped back into the top ten, bumping out Raymond Felton, but other than that there were not many changes on this leaderboard.

Note: All statistics are from ESPN.com

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:51 AM



At Wednesday, February 13, 2008 1:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the end of the season,Lakers probably will have one of the top four spots in the Western Conference.But this time the "haters" will point out that because of the huge contribution of Gasol and the low performance of the team right after Bynum's injury,Kobe cannot/should not be awarded the MVP trophy.What is your take on this?

Kobe Bryant is one of the biggest,if not the biggest "hate-or-adore" figures in the history of professional sports.There isn't much so-so thing about him.I really enjoy watching him perform the artistry of playing basketball(one of my top pleasures) and it's understandable that he has so many supporters/fans around the world.On the other hand,the haters say that they dislike him because of his personality and off-court events.Do they know him enough to be able to judge him?I don't think so.

Anyways,i don't see Kobe being the MVP this year but i'm sure he will win some play-off MVP's(as well as the rings,of course)in the next five years,which will make him happier(i guess).Maybe he will never win MVP in his career,but certainly he will be remembered as one of the greatest players,like Hitchcock being the greatest director of all-time without winning the Best Director Oscar.

Off-topic:Do you support a team in NBA?

At Wednesday, February 13, 2008 4:41:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think that you may be right that if the Lakers get one of the top four spots in the West that the critics will find a way to say that Gasol deserves so much credit for this that Kobe should not be the MVP--as if Nash did not receive help from Amare, Marion, Diaw, Bell, etc. during his MVP seasons.

I am a fan of outstanding basketball--both on an individual level and a team level--more than a fan of a particular team. I enjoy watching the best players and teams.


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