|Posted on December 24, 2012 at 9:45 PM|
We survived the Mayan Apocalypse despite some very ominous signs throughout 2012 suggesting that world would end, such as the Bobcats acutally playing decently for a period of time. But, as usual, the Bobcats lost 14 games in a row, the world didn't end, and here we are. To celebrate our existance, I am writing three different top 10 lists over the course of this week, starting with the top 10 MVP candidates of the season thus far:
* Percentages are listed in the order "field goal - 3 point - free throw"
10. David West – Indiana Pacers – 17.4 ppg, 2.7 ast, 8.1 reb, 50%-70%, 16-12 record
The Pacers have outscored opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions with West on the court. However, they have been outscored by 10.5 points per 100 possessions with West on the bench; that’s worse than the Bobcats and the Wizards! David West deserves a Nobel Prize for getting the Pacers above .500 despite the fact that Danny Granger has been injured all season, Ian Mahinmi is getting legitimate playing time for them, the only player on their entire roster shooting above 50% from the field is somebody named Jeff Pendergraph, and 7’2’’ Roy Hibbert can’t even muster double digit points or rebounds per game and is shooting 40% from the floor. By the way, can’t Washington D.C. just solve the Fiscal Cliff problem by using Roy Hibbert’s salary to pay off our debt? That should be enough money, right?
9. Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies – 14.5 ppg, 3.9 ast, 7.6 reb, 1.8 blk, 49%-88%, 18-7 record
It’s a shame that the best center in the NBA going isn’t going to be voted by the fans as a starting all-star because he’s losing votes to a guy who can’t even make half of his free throws (Dwight Howard).
8. Kobe Byrant – Los Angeles Lakers – 29.7 ppg, 5.0 ast, 5.4 reb, 1.6 stl, 2.1 threes, 3.8 turnovers, 47%-37%-86%, 13-14 record
Reasons that Kobe should be higher on this list:
Mike Brown… The Lakers outscore their opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions when Kobe is in the game, but are outscored by 9.2 points per 100 possessions when he’s out of the game… Chris Duhon and Darius Morris are running the Mike D’Antoni offense… Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting… Mike Brown… He’s playing 39 minutes a game in his 17th NBA season… Chris Duhon… Without him, the Lakers would be a poor man’s 2012 Orlando Magic… Mike Brown… Chris Duhon…
Reasons Kobe shouldn’t be on this list:
He’s playing with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol and has a losing record… The Lakers are 5-11 when he scores more than 30 points… He almost single-handedly lost the Lakers their game at Golden State on Saturday by taking 41 shots… The Lakers have a worse record than Portland!
7. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors – 20.2 ppg, 6.4 ast, 4.3 reb, 1.6 stl, 3.0 threes, 3.0 turnovers, 42%-44%-90%, 18-10 record
David Lee – Golden State Warriors – 20.0 ppg, 3.8 ast, 11.2 reb, 2.6 turnovres, 54%-81%, 18-10 record
The Warriors somehow have the seventh best record in the NBA (if was ever a year for the world to end, it was this year). Both Lee and Curry have been hugely important to a young team that has three rookies in its rotation (one of them being starting center Festus Ezeli… yikes!). This reminds me; didn't the Knicks trade David Lee for Ronny Turiaf two years ago? If only New York had David Lee as a power forward instead of Kurt "I don't do anything on the court (including jumping) except shoot 15-footers, and even that is shaky" Thomas...
6. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers – 16.0 ppg, 9.4 ast, 3.7 reb, 2.6 stl, 2.2 turnovers, 48%-35%-89%, 20-6 record
Paul, considered by many the only true point guard in the league, has found a perfect balance between getting everyone else involved and taking over the scoring when necessary. He also knows exactly when and when not to push the tempo, which is why he almost never turns the ball over, despite handling it for 75% of every Clippers' possession. CP3 is why the Clippers have won their last 13 games... wait a minute... Vinny Del Negro coached a team to a 13-game winning streak? The world really should have ended on Friday!
5. Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls – 13.5 ppg, 4.5 ast, 10.6 reb, 1.4 stl, 2.2 blk, 3.1 turnovers, 48%-81%, 15-11 record
Noah is the major reason why the Bulls, a team starting Kirk Hinrich (the youngest washed-up player ever) and Marco Bellineli, are winning their division without Derrick Rose (the Bulls have been outscored by 11 points per 100 possessions with Noah on the bench, but outscore their opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions with Noah on the court). Noah is the most underrated player in the league, probably because the first two things you notice when you look at him is that he has shoulder-length curly hair in a ponytail and that his jump shot form differs only slightly from his chest pass form.
4. Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs – 17.4 ppg, 2.6 ast, 10.2 reb, 2.5 blk, 50%-80%, 21-8 record
I think we need to name the 17 point, 10 rebound, 2 assist, 2 block, 47% field goal shooting performance in a season a “Duncan.” For example, this season, The Big Fundamental is going for his 13th career Duncan (for those of you who aren’t convinced yet that Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward in NBA history, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Bob Pettit, Kevin Mchale, and Kevin Garnett have a combined two career Duncans between them)!
In addition to the “Duncan”, we should also have the following terminologies named after players: Shooting under 50% from the free throw line in a game on double-digit attempts is a “Howard,” a stolen pass in the backcourt is a “Prigioni,” an offensive rebound batted out from underneath is a “Chandler,” five or fewer rebounds in a game by a 7-footer is a “Lopez,” and a bricked 20-foot jumper in transition is a “Westbrook.” This could work for all sports as well: An “A-rod” is three strikeouts in a playoff game, and a “Sanchez” is a fumble, an underthrown interception, and an overthrown interception in the same game. Just imagine Al Michaels on Sunday Night Football next week saying, “And with that interception, Tony Romo records his second Sanchez of the season and it comes at the worst possible time.”
3. Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks – 28.3 ppg, 1.9 ast, 6.1 reb, 2.6 threes, 2.6 turnovers, 47%-44%-83%, 19-7 record
Although Carmelo Anthony single-handedly won the Knicks yesterday's game against the Timberwolves by taking over the fourth quarter with 18 points, for the most part, his scoring has come within the flow of the offense. This is the reason why his shooting percentages are much better than usual, but is also why he’s not quite as valuable to his team as Kevin Durant or Lebron James. Regardless, ‘Melo hasn't played this well since Denver made the Western Conference Finals in 2009 with Chauncey Billups as his point guard. I credit his performance, in large part, to the presence of Jason Kidd, a similar player to Billups - someone who can get him the ball in the right places, spot up from behind the arc, and get Carmelo to play smart by setting an example. While New York has gotten hot from three-point range at times this season with Melo on the bench (like when they blew out the Heat in Miami by 20 points), their offense scores 113 points per 100 possession with him in the game, compared to 104 points with him sitting down.
2. Lebron James – Miami Heat – 25.4 ppg, 6.8 ast, 8.5 reb, 1.3 stl, 1.4 threes, 2.7 turnovers, 54%-44%-68%, 17-6 record
I've honestly been a little disappointed with the reigning regular season and Finals MVP. With the exception of the game at Houston back in November, he's simply not taking over games the way Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony have been this season, and the way Lebron himself did during the playoffs last year. He's still playing spectacularly with Dwyane Wade struggling a bit; he's scored at least 20 points on at least 40% shooting in every game this season, and the Heat have outscored their opponents by 10.3 points per 100 possessions with him in the game versus 0.5 with him on the bench. But losses to the Wizards and at home versus the Warriors... really? Let's just say there's no way Michael Jordan would have ever let that happen to his teams.
1. Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder – 27.9 ppg, 4.2 ast, 8.4 reb, 1.5 stl, 1.3 blk, 1.6 threes, 3.5 turnovers, 52%-43%-90%, 21-5 record
I'm officially done defending Russell Westbrook. For his entire career, I've been sticking up for him by arguing that Westbrook's attacking style draws enough attention off of Durant so that Durant can shoot a high percentage (if you look at the actual numbers from last year, the Thunder's performance in games was directly proportional to the number of shots Westbrook took), but I simply can't do it anymore. First, his 20-foot pull-up jumper in transition has become the least watchable play in basketball (he's literally shooting 34% on that shot this season). Secondly, with Durant averaging 1.189 points per possession he uses trying to score, but Westbrook averaging just 0.945, there's absolutely no reason that Westbrook should be taking more shot attempts per game!
Although the argument can be made that the Thunder have the best record in the NBA, so what Westbrook is doing can't be that bad, but in Oklahoma City's five losses this season, here are Westbrook's shooting totals: 6/21, 5/18, 6/19, 10/21, 9/28 (combined 34%). Westbrook is holding back this Thunder team, while KD is carrying it (Westbrook has made at least half of his shots in just five games this season, compared to 18 for Durant). With Durant on the court, OKC has outscored their opponents by 12.8 points per 100 possessions, but has been outscored by 1.7 points per 100 possessions with Durant on the bench.
His performance this season is eerily similar to Lebron James's last season. Both players became more of a presence of the boards and on defense (Durant's rebound, steal, and block numbers have improved since last year) and improved their shooting percentages significantly as a result of better shot selection. Most importantly, however, they were both hungry after losing the Finals the season before. We've seen quite a few players recently come back to win championships after being heartbroken on the big stage before, starting with Kobe in 2009, then Dirk Nowitzki in 2011, and finally Lebron in 2012.
Maybe this year is Oklahoma City's year, something that people would never have expected after they traded James Harden before the season. However, the Thunder’s success really shouldn’t be that much of a shock; Kevin Martin essentially fills the exact same role that James Harden filled last year, and Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka all have an extra year of NBA experience, so why shouldn’t they have gotten better? The fact that Oklahoma City has the best record in the league has me somewhere around 3.5 on the Surprised Meter (1 being “Javale McGee just did something stupid,” and 10 being “Andrew Bynum is healthy”;).
Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks
James Harden – Houston Rockets
Check back on Wednesday for the Post-Apocalypse Power Rankings Part 2: Plays of the Year
Categories: Top 10