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One of my favorite NBA traditions could be described as more than a little dorky.
If you’ve ever spent some time clicking around the “stats” portion of nba.com at the beginning of any NBA season, you can often find quite a few eyebrow-raising anomalies or, if you want sound more analytical, outliers.
Actually, that’s definitely giving what I do far more credit and sophistication than it deserves. Basically, I’m looking for strange things.
Every now and then,however, these early season blips tell us something.
Exhibit A: Early last season, Derrick Rose was one of the scoring leaders, averaging almost 27 ppg by the end of November, a huge jump from the year before (20 ppg). While his scoring did eventually drop, he wound up winning the MVP award.
With the condensed 66-game schedule, it was bound to be a little extra odd.
Weird Stat 1: Kevin Love is taking just over five 3-pointers every game
That’s as many as Ray Allen and the 15th-highest in the entire league. It is more than any other power forward in the league not named Ryan Anderson. That’s even more than Andrea Bargnani! You’d imagine Rick Adelman would take issue with this, if not for the fact that Love still manages to pull down almost 15 rebounds every night (second in the league behind Dwight Howard). He’s also shooting a relatively efficient 37-percent. Somewhere, Karl Malone is wondering what the hell is going on.
Weird Stat 2: John Wall is making Nick Young look efficient
Granted, he’s clearly playing on the worst, most dysfunctional team in the league, but still, who imagined this? Countless NBA pundits predicted this would be Wall’s break-out season. Instead, he’s shooting 34.8 percent and scoring three fewer points per game.
Weird Stat 3: Almost a quarter of the way through the season, Kobe Bryant is leading the league in scoring.
By now, Kobe’s scoring binge isn’t exactly news. He can’t seriously keep this up though, can he? Right now, at 33, with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist, Bryant is somehow scoring nearly seven more points than last season. With 32 points per game, it’s the most he’s averaged in nearly six years. What’s even stranger is that his efficiency hasn’t dropped…yet.
It’s also funny that Kobe has repeatedly snidely mentioned ESPN ranking him seventh overall in the NBA this past summer. You know he’s just waiting for talking heads to start saying, “You know, Kobe and MJ both took things personally when they didn’t have to. That’s what made ‘em great.” Just wait for it. It will happen.
Weird Stat 4: Dwight Howard is no longer the league’s most intimidating shot-blocker.
Howard’s time as THE league’s freakishly dominant shot-blocking center is gone. That’s not say that he isn’t a force – obviously, he’s still one of the best, if not THE best—but other centers are on his level, at least in terms of shot-blocking. Javale McGee (23) and Deandre Jordan (23) aren’t only averaging more blocks than Howard this season, but are also in the same athletic ballpark and able to make equally impressive plays.
Weird Stat 5: Nick Young is shooting 97% from the free throw line…
And even that isn’t enough to convince him to attack the rim more. He’s averaging just under three free throws attempts per game, which is part of the reason he’s shooting a mediocre 40-percent from the field. And he wonders why no team overpaid for his services last summer.
Weird Stat 6: DeMarcus Cousins is leading the league in fouls per game
After I wrote a trade piece featuring DeMarcus Cousins, the reaction I got from Sacramento fans ranged from angry to murderous. How dare I hypothetically trade the great DMC! Again, Kings fans, while I do believe Cousins could eventually be a top-five player at his position, that is by no means a sure thing. He could just as easily be Derrick Coleman: the sequel. 14-10 and almost five fouls per game does not make a player untradeable.
Weird Stat 7: Minnesota is D’Antoni’ing Kevin Love.
Rick Adelman appears to be taking a page out of the Knick’s coach. Just as D’Antoni wore down Amar’e by playing him far too many minutes at the beginning of last season, Adelman appears to have the same M.O. So far, Love is playing almost 40 minutes per game! And the team has a surplus of power forwards (Beasley, Williams, Randolph). Logical.
Weird Stat 8: The Philadelphia Sixers have a +15.1 points differential.
What the hell is going on in Philly? Their point differential is five higher than the second place Chicago Bulls! Thanks in large part to young legs, Philly has actually been able to capitalize on this brutally condensed schedule, despite the fact that Lou Williams is their leading scorer (16 ppg).
Weird Stat 9: Kyle Lowry has the fifth-highest PER
Yes, according to everyone’s favorite John Hollinger stat, Kyle Lowry is the 12th-most efficient player in the league, which sounds completely fluky until you realize he’s averaging 18-9. Similarly, Monta Ellis, who always seems to be characterized as a major ball-hog is dishing out nearly eight assists a game.
Weird Stat 10: Jose Calderon has the highest assist/turnover ratio…in the entire league
Calderon, yes the man who once broke his own ankles defending Mario Chalmers, has technically been a more efficient point guard this year than Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd, to name a few. And you can’t even accuse him of playing it safe. Nine assist per game in 35 minutes- with this Raptors team! Sell high, Toronto! Sell high!
One last thing: If it weren’t for his late-game blunders, LeBron James would be head and shoulders above every other MVP candidate.
Don’t you dare make a case for Kobe Bryant solely based on his scoring average. You don’t want to bring statistics into a LeBron-Kobe debate, if you’re arguing in Kobe’s corner (or playing devil’s advocate. Semantics. I kid, I kid). So far this year, LeBron is shooting a ridiculous 58-percent (fourth-highest in the league) and basically averaging 30-8-7. Combine his consistent trips to the low post, with the fact he’s taking fewer three-pointers than ever before, you could make the case that he’s a changed player this year. But will he ever get to the point where he looks comfortable with the game on the line? We’ll only know in the playoffs, but right now, statistical virtuosity aside, he still looks as shaky as he did last June.