King James in middle of MVP debate (USAT)
Over his past seven games leading into the All-Star break, LeBron James has averaged 32.0 ppg while shooting a ridiculous 68.9 percent from the field (80-for-116), becoming the first player in NBA history to score at least 30 points with at least a 60.0 FG% in six straight games (it would have been seven if not for a miss late in Thursday’s win in Oklahoma City). He’s attempted his regular amount of shots at the rim over this span (6.8) compared to his season numbers (6.7, which ranks third in the league behind only Greg Monroe and Nikola Pekovic), but he’s made an insane 89.1 percent of his shots from in close during this stretch – James should be considered the best finisher in the NBA right now (thanks in no small part to Dwight Howard’s health). Among all players who’ve averaged at least 6.0 attempts at the rim, no one is within five percentage points from James’ 78.8 mark. The only player in the league who’s shot better at the rim in a meaningful sample is Al Horford, who’s attempted 4.9 shots per game and has a 79.3 percent mark, but James has bested him in four of the past five years. While that’s impressive, LBJ has also shot a scorching 53.8 percent (14-for-26) from three-point land over this epic seven-game span, as his play has gone next level.
James opened the season scoring 20 points or more in 33 straight games, which is the second most in NBA history (he also had scored 20 points or more in seven straight All-Star games, which is a league record, until he was held to just 19 points Sunday night). He hasn’t fouled out of a game since 2008. Among the top-20 in FG%, only one other player (Tony Parker) averages at least 1.0 3pt other than James, who’s 56.5 FG% ranks sixth despite attempting 3.4 three-pointers per game. Kevin Durant has been the better fantasy property this year, although this has been James’ most valuable fantasy season of his career, and he’s now comfortably ahead of Durant when it comes to PER. So considering defense, who would you vote for league MVP over the first half of the season?
Here’s Kyrie Irving doing work in the Rising Stars Challenge. There was a lot more where that came from too, as he and Brandon Knight really competed at times in an otherwise exhibition event.
I was reluctant to put Chris Paul as the clear No. 3 fantasy player during my last Big Board update thanks to his uncertain health, so I bumped him down a bit, but after seeing less than 20 minutes of action during his return from a nine-game absence, he ended the first half by averaging 20.0 ppg, 10.5 apg, 3.5 spg and 2.0 3pt while shooting 60.0 percent from the field over four games. He did so while getting just 29:09 mpg. If that wasn’t evidence enough Paul is over his knee injury, he won MVP honors in the All-Star game, scoring 20 points with 15 assists, four steals and four threes, looking like the best player on the court while doing so. On a side note, Paul has now averaged the most apg (12.4) and spg (3.4) in All-Star game history. His PER of 26.05 is the third-highest in the league, and assuming he can remain healthy from here on out, he’s still the third best fantasy player as well.
Here’s harrowing footage of a crash landing. The guy filming it is a much, much braver man than me.
Steve Nash has actually played more mpg this season (32:53) than last (31:36) and has attempted nearly as many FG (9.0 vs. 8.7). His shooting has remained intact (51.2 FG%, 40.5 3pt%, 91.9 FT%), and his 0.6 spg, which is tied for his best since the 2008/09 season, suggests there’s been a minimal loss in athleticism. But Nash’s 7.4 apg is his lowest since 2002/03 despite playing alongside Dwight Howard, who’s scored the most points-per-possession on pick-and-rolls in each of the past three seasons, as Nash has essentially become a two-guard for the Lakers. Maybe he’ll improve over the second half of the year as he gets further removed from what was no minor leg injury, but his current role in Los Angeles’ system just isn’t going to allow Nash to produce anywhere near the kind of stats he’s used to…It really has been fascinating watching Kobe Bryant transform his game so much, and it’s hard to argue it doesn’t give the Lakers the best chance of winning right now. But it’s truly odd to go after Nash and Mike D’Antoni (not to mention Howard) and utilize this roster this way. Then again, apparently the Buss siblings (RIP Jerry) haven’t spoken since the Phil Jackson debacle, so the organization is dealing with dysfunction from top to bottom.
So I let people from “Kirby” Vacuums into my house Saturday night. It was easily a top-five worst decision of my life. Let this be a public service announcement for those who don’t know (like my naive self), you can’t slam the door fast enough if you ever encounter these people.
Here’s a Florida couple addicted to butt-chugging coffee. “It’s going to come flying out of there like a torrent.”
There have been a lot of tributes to Michael Jordan turning 50, but I especially liked this recent tidbit.
Saturday night of All-Star weekend was once again a disappointment, and I’m not quite sure what to make of the new East vs. West format. Some of the half court shots during the “Shooting Stars” event were genuinely painful to watch – it’s obviously not an easy shot to make, but coming close to the rim really shouldn’t be that tough…Damian Lillard dominated the “Skills Competition.” What a phenomenal rookie season…I thought Stephen Curry or Ryan Anderson would win the three-point contest, so naturally, neither even made the next round (in fairness, this was partly due to the new setup). Kyrie Irving, who also displayed some of the more impressive ball-handling skills you’ll ever see during Friday night’s Team Shaq vs. Team Chuck matchup, was the surprise winner. “Uncle Drew” is already a top-10 player in the NBA right now and unlikely to compete in these type of events moving forward, as he’ll be too big of a star…As usual, the Slam Dunk contest failed to live up to the hype, which was actually legitimate this year with some “YouTube” sensations participating. It’s pretty funny that the clear favorite, James White, has just two dunks this season (and was only able to successfully add one more to his ledger during the contest. Supposedly, he was going to try to dunk from the top of the key had he made it to the next round). I did enjoy White’s flight attendants gimmick, and whoa, Mark Eaton! While degree of difficulty should come into consideration, successfully dunking on a first attempt deserves credit over those who take multiple attempts. Like Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, it’s clear LeBron James entering the dunk contest is just never going to happen.
Here’s a ridiculous near full-court shot that bounces off the ground.
Here’s an emergency alert system, warning an impending Zombie Attack.
Here’s a small forward in high school making a rather prodigious dunk.
Over the first four years of Tyreke Evans’ career, here are his trajectories in mpg (37:12, 37:00, 34:17, 31:06), ppg (20.1, 17.8, 16.5, 15.3) and apg (5.8, 5.6, 4.5, 3.2), respectively. Notice a trend? His Usage Rate has suffered the same fate since entering the league (26.16, 25.30, 23.82, 22.86), but in fairness, Evans is shooting a career-high 48.0 percent from the floor this season, although that’s mostly because he continues to attempt as many shots at the rim as any guard in the league, because Evans’ mid-range jumper has actually gotten worse this year, which isn’t exactly an encouraging sign moving forward. Over the past two weeks, Evans has been the 136th ranked fantasy player. Meanwhile, teammate Isaiah Thomas has ranked 38th over that (admittedly small) span.
An eye-opening read about why it might actually be more preferable NOT to foul when up three points with little time left.
Quick Hits: Rudy Gay has the seventh highest Usage Rate in the NBA since joining Toronto – ahead of Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and James Harden…Since Lou Williams went down with a season-ending injury, Jeff Teague has averaged 17.0 ppg, 8.2 apg and 1.4 3pt, making him a top-40 fantasy player over that span…Kevin Durant’s flagrant foul Tuesday was the first of his career…Jason Kidd still ranks among the top-50 fantasy players this year, but he’s No. 146 over the past month, as the seemingly inevitable regression has hit hard and fast. Kidd has averaged 3.0 ppg while shooting 21.2 percent from the floor during February…Thanks mostly to an extremely high TO rate, the following players have had more fantasy value than Russell Westbrook over the past month: Kyle Korver, Kawhi Leonard, Vince Carter, Danny Green, Tristan Thompson, Shawn Marion, Nate Robinson and J.J. Redick…Charlie Villanueva is currently shooting nearly as well from downtown (39.3 percent on a whopping 4.0 attempts per game despite playing just 16:53 mpg) than he is from the free-throw line (40.6 percent). Now that’s impressive.
Each year, Brandon University gives an opportunity of handing out a semester’s worth of tuition if a half court shot is made, and this year, a student chose the team’s head coach to attempt the shot. And here was the result.
This guy was trapped in his car having to drive 125 mph with no brakes for about an hour.
Longread of the week: A worthwhile read about Jay Williams’ derailed career.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Some notable leaders at the league’s “halfway” mark: Oklahoma City has the best Offensive Efficiency (110.3) while Indiana has the best Defensive Efficiency (96.2). Houston ranks first in Pace (98.9), while Brooklyn is last (90.8) – seriously, what has happened to Deron Williams? Last year’s 3.9 attempts at the rim were easily a career low. This year he’s attempted 2.6 shots at the rim, as he looks like a shell of his former self (did “Shark Tank” inadvertently save Mark Cuban from a huge mistake?)…Kobe Bryant is 1-for-35 from behind the 3-point line over his last 13 games. His four points scored against the Suns last week were the lowest he’s ever had as a starter during his career, and he actually had twice as many turnovers (eight) in the game…Bring on the second half.