NBA Superstar League: Durant by a distance

January 27, 2012

By Jack Maidment

A weekly statistical snapshot, out every Friday, ranking ten of the best players in the league.

Our 10: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James/Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge.

Let’s get to it.

Week 3.

1. Kevin Durant: NOH, DET, NJN. It was only a matter of time before Durantula made it to the top of the NBA Superstar League (5th last week). His Oklahoma City Thunder have won their last three and have the NBA’s best record at 15-3. KD had games of 25-7-4, 20-5-2 and 20-15-3 this week and he is the main reason OKC is looking like the best bet to come out of the West.

2. Kevin Love: DAL, HOU, UTA. New contract, same player. Nobody in the league is doing more to help his team win than Love who is top five in both rebounding and scoring. The Wolves did lose twice this week (Houston, Utah) but that’s to be expected. They are young and going through the same learning-to-win process experienced by the Oklahoma City Thunder two years ago. More than that they downed the champs in Dallas behind 31-10 from Love who was 4-6 from three. Can he do anything more?

3. LeBron James: DET, CLE, MIL. He was number one last week and he has continued his strong play in the absence of Dwyane Wade. Two wins and a loss to Milwaukee (urgh), but good James games them all. In each he had at least 5 assists as he sought to set the table for the whole team. He is a joy to watch at the moment. The question is, will things change when Flash returns?

4. Derrick Rose: IND, NJN, TOR. Rose was effectively exempt from the Superstar League last week due to injury but he has come back strong after two wins and a loss, all without Luol Deng who has caught the prevalent Bulls injury bug. Yes the wins were against bad teams (Nets, Raptors) but you can only play who is in front of you. Rose has Chicago tops in the East with a 16-4 overall record, 8-2 in their last 10. For the Bulls to carry on with that pace without Deng it will mean Rose giving even more for the cause. And he will. Rise.

5. LaMarcus Aldridge: GSW, MEM, SAC. The Blazers are slumping a little of late, 4-6 last 10, and LA has struggled with consistency but two wins and a loss this week should help steady the ship.

6. Kobe Bryant: LAC, IND, ORL. KB24 fell from 1st to 7th last week as the Lakers struggled to score. They are the league’s third best defense according to the numbers but the other end of the floor has been a problem, especially for the bench where production has been virtually non-existent. However, the Lakers snapped their skid on Wednesday night with a marquee win in a chippy game against the Clippers. Kobe threw the ball away 7 times but was successful in sharing the ball, especially early on, dishing 6 assists to go with his 24 points. He stays put, give or take one or two.

7. Chris Paul: MEM, LAL. CP3 has only just returned from a hamstring injury and this week we learned he doesn’t like people touching his head. Aside from that Paul gave us a demonstration of how to control a game by passing with his 4 points 12 assists against the Lakers. He drops but fitness and lack of activity is mainly responsible.

8. Dwight Howard: BOS, IND, BOS. Dwight Howard had a bad week with two awful losses against the Celtics, begging the question: is the trade speculation (this week the Knicks) getting to Dwight? Probably not. It’s more about the team he’s on and the relative lack of help he receives. If he doesn’t do it, who else will? The Celtics embarrassed the Magic and Howard twice this week. Good enough for a four place drop.

9. Carmelo Anthony: CLE, CHA, DEN. Uh-oh. 17 games into the season and there are already calls for the Knicks to blow up the roster and trade one of their stars. Carmelo was bottom of the Superstar League last week and he deserves to be there this week too. In their last 8 games, the Knicks have won 1, lost 7, the lone victory coming against the Charlotte Bobcats. Melo scored 1 point. Man. If he could be lower than 9th he would be.

10. Dirk Nowitzki. Has not played in almost 10 days due to injury and a terrible haircut, hence the fall.


NBA Superstar League: The reign of Kobe

January 13, 2012

Kobe starts off #1

By Jack Maidment

NBA Superstar League: A weekly statistical snapshot, out every Friday, ranking ten of the best players in the league.

Play well and your team wins, you move up the table. If you suck, lose or moan about team mates, you move down. Simple.

The ten are in place for this season with LeBron/Wade counting as one person.

Our 10: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James/Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge.

Let’s get to it.

Week 1.

1. Kobe Bryant: UTA, PHX, MEM. Three wins. More than 100 points scored. Nine total turnovers. At least 38 minutes played each game. Kobe is the superstar playing the best right now. It’s not even close. He is on a tear. Number one.

2. Kevin Durant: NOH, MEM, SAS. Three wins against two and a half good teams and lots of work from Durant. He has done a lot of everything this week, 29-3-10 with 4 blocks against New Orleans, 22-5-11 going 8-8 from the line against the Grizzlies and 21-7-10, 10-10 from the line against the Spurs. He has been doing what superstars do. Just win.

3. Dwight Howard: GSW, POR, SAC. Three good wins for a bad Magic team and Dwight did what he had to do to grab the Ws. He put up 45 and 23(!) against the Warriors who made him shoot 39(!) free throws to earn them, the most in NBA history.

4. Chris Paul: MIA, POR, MIL. Two wins and a loss to Portland. Huge win against the Heat in which he had 26-11-6 and three steals. Forgettable games against the Blazers and Bucks, but on the strength of his performance against Miami, Paul deserves his fourth place spot.

5. Derrick Rose: MIN, DET, ATL. Two wins and a loss. He put up 31 and 11 on Minnesota and 22 and 8 on the Pistons, both wins. He struggled against the Hawks, scoring just 8 with 6 assists in a tough loss. He outdueled Ricky Rubio, did what he had to do against Detroit and went 3-10 against the Hawks. A mediocre week by the MVP’s standard. But the Bulls are 10-2. He’ll move up next week.

6. Dirk Nowitzki: BOS, DET, NOH. A shadow of who he was last season but three wins nonetheless. He scored just 10 on 2-11 shooting against New Orleans before picking it up against hapless Detroit. He’s not Dirk right now, but he is getting there, and wins are wins.

7. LaMarcus Aldridge: ORL, LAC, CLE. A loss against a reasonably good Magic team and two wins against the Clippers and Cavaliers. He has been solid, if not stellar, and averaged about 22 and 8 in the last three. All he needs to move up further are a few big nights with marquee wins.

8. Carmelo Anthony: MEM, PHI, CHA. He put up 14 before spraining his ankle against Memphis and 27 and 22 the two games before. The Knicks had won four in a row before losing to the Grizzlies, but are 5-5 in their last 10, so hopefully his Knicks are starting to figure it out.

9. Kevin Love: CHI, TOR, WAS. Two losses and a win. Minnesota’s PF has struggled mightily this week. He went 5-18 from the field against the Bulls, 3-16 against the Raptors (both losses) and 7-16 in a win over the Wizards. He has less talent to work with than most of the other guys on this list, but still, he hasn’t played well the last three.

10. LeBron James: LAC, GSW, NJN. Two losses and a win. He was 9-17 from the stripe in a loss to the Clippers. His line was 23-7-13 but the free throws in the fourth quarter killed his team. In a loss to the Warriors he had 26-7-11. His best performance was reserved for a win against the horrible Nets who he torched for 32-9-7. Superstars win games when it matters. This week he didn’t.


The Sophomore Six: NBA’s Best Second Years

January 6, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Every year a whole host of new players enter the NBA as rookies. They are drafted and immediately thrown in at the deep end of pro basketball.

For one year they are under the spotlight.

But come the season’s end, the promise of the next NBA Draft guarantees a shift in the limelight to the next batch of freshman hoping to make an impression.

The annual process of the Draft, all hype included, effectively relegates second year players to the media wilderness.

With that in mind it is worth checking in with the NBA’s sophomore talents who are still trying to establish themselves in a League with a relatively short memory.

What up second years?

Derrick Rose

Chicago’s future has been hampered by the frankly awful play of his team. Yet, despite the Bull’s inability to anticipate the offensive hole left by Ben Gordon’s defection to the Pistons, Rose has done everything he can to help his struggling team. His assists (5.8) and rebounds (3.6) are both slightly down on last year but these drops have been supplemented by an increase in scoring, up 2 points on last year’s average.

Along with the play of Joakim Noah, Rose’s development is about the only bright spot so far for Chicago who need to get the young man some help.

Michael Beasley

Scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. All are up on last year and “Be Easy” is showing the kind of improvement that you would expect from a #2 pick.

Pat Riley said that Beasley could become the greatest offensive player in the NBA and in occasional flashes we gain a glimpse into that possible future. Occasionally he is as unstoppable as his GM wants him to be, providing Wade with an extremely capable sidekick.

It is to be great consistently that Wade’s second fiddle needs and his improvements this year, despite an ‘interesting’ pre-season, have shown that he is and will be worth the trouble.

Eric Gordon

All his stats are up this year which would suggest that Charles Barkley’s assertion that Mr Gordon is a stud is only looking stronger. He averages 17.3 a game this year, playing against shooting guards who are invariably taller than him but rarely stronger or quicker.

Every four or five games he will score 25+ giving Clippers’ fans hope that the tandem of Gordon and Blake Griffin (should he play some when) could do damage in the realtively near future.

As long as they get a new coach. And The Curse stays away.

Brook Lopez

His team stinks so bad that the Timberwolves and Bucks now look like basketball behemoths on the same court, but there is a reason why New Jersey Nets should put down that shotgun: Brook Lopez.

His averages this year, 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds, have confirmed the inkling that started to manifest last year that this guy could be really, really good. Or at least a great complementary piece on a really, really good team.

Imagine how much worse the Nets would be as a team and as a prospective free agent landing pad without Lopez.

Sure they suck this year, but without him their prospect of signing anyone worthwhile next summer would be cut in half. At least.

With him their turnaround could be rapid: Nets win the lottery, take John Wall. Sign LeBron who wants to play in Brooklyn for Jay-Z. Sign Chris Bosh who wants to play with LeBron and actually win.

Starting five of Wall, Harris, LeBron, Bosh and Lopez.

I’d take that to the Conference Finals right now.

Kevin Love

Kevlar (thanks Bobbito Garcia) has been so good this year and you didn’t even realise it.

You probably knew that last year he was a rebounding beast who led all rookies in anything to do with getting the ball of the glass.

He averaged 9.1 rebounds a game last year. He now grabs 12.3. Sorry to do the math for you, but that’s 3 boards a game more than last year. Just wow.

Combined with a 4 point increase in scoring (11.1 as a rookie, 15.2 as a soph) Love has improved more than anyone anticipated.

In fact, if there were an award for Sophomore Stat Leap of the Year then Love wins now. Regardless of what he does the rest of the season.

He’d also win the You Said I’m Overweight, Fuck You award. Catchy.

If only his Wolves weren’t so bad.

Danilo Gallinari

If you get drafted #6 overall, ahead of Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Jerryd Bayless and you happen to be white, God help you. You inevitably get the ‘White guy in top 10’ hype/scepticism.

As if that wasn’t enough hype to kill, Antoni calls you the best shooter he’s ever worked with. Nash, Nash, Nash. Enough said.

So he is hyped. And he has/did have/almost certainly will have a dodgy back. But hell, he’s here now and, whisper, he’s actually pretty good.

There is no doubt the Italian can shoot. 14.6 points a game in what is effectively his rookie year testifies to that.

And he can rebound, pulling in 5 a game. Not bad, huh?

He has been licensed to shoot what appears to be as much as he wants and as you might expect he’s a little streaky. Some nights he plays like the player Antoni believes in so fiercely. 26 versus Miami, 29 against Phoenix etc. The next night he can’t hit a barn door.

But. It is basically his rookie year. And, considering the hype, Danilo Gallinari is performing admirably.


NBA Trade Rumors: Minnesota Pursuing Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love Offered To Memphis?

June 16, 2009

loveby Jack Maidment

The Los Angeles Laker’s returned to the City of Angels, trophy’s and all, drawing to a close the 2009 NBA season.

All of the year’s meaningful, competitive basketball has now been played and teams around the League must now look forward to what can be achieved heading into a new year when currently dirty slates can be wiped clean: here’s looking at the Suns, Clippers and Wizards especially.

With the Draft less than two weeks away, every team is looking to make moves; whether that be to improve roster talent or to shed salary.

Perhaps the most interesting and intriguing draft possibility to emerge over the past couple of days has the Minnesota Timberwolves looking to trade Kevin Love plus filler to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for the #2 pick in this year’s draft.

All of the noise up to this point has suggested that the Wolves are extremely keen on Ricky Rubio and believe that he could be the man to help persuade the citizens of Minnesota to part with their hard earned cash and come watch.

Brining Rubio in would undoubtedly boost ticket sales given his penchant for flash. Yet, given the strength of Love’s rookie season, which saw him lead rookies in rebounds a game and most double doubles, sending him to Memphis for an unproven NBA point may raise a few eyebrows.

However, if the deal did go through, the Wolves would still hold the #6 pick where they could likely take Jordan Hill, the athletic power forward out of Arizona as Love’s replacement.

The fact that Rubio is looking to avoid Memphis like the plague, the move makes sense for the Grizz who would acquire a player who would compliment Marc Gasol in the paint.

The tandem of Gasol (Jr) and Love would be one of the League’s best rebounding front courts which would leave Rudy Gay to get his on the offensive end.

It would also allow Memphis to stick with their current backcourt pairing of Mike Conley and future League Top-Scorer O.J. Mayo, giving them the time needed to grow as individual players and as team mates.

Even if Rubio did want to play in Memphis, would a ball hungry pair of Mayo and Rubio click? In all likelihood, no.