Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Pointing Towards the All-Star Game: East
The top of the East’s point guard All-star list has to begin with Devin Harris.
His superstar 26.2 PER is heads, shoulders, knees and toes ahead of any point guard out East. He’s scoring 24 a night and dishing 6.6 dimes. Newschool G.P.? Maybe, though, his lockdown D has taken a backseat to his scoring this season. I won’t rehash how crazy it is to be the only point guard in NBA history to win the defensive player of the year award and still average 9 dimes a game, but that’s G.P.’s story, and he’s currently working Tuesday nights with C-Webb doing commentary (funny as hell by the way).
So, no, Harris ain't G.P., but he has stepped up to G.P. -level, in some of the Nets bigger games to boot. Who can forget his 47-point, 8-assist, 7-rebound night against Phoenix or his 34 and 6 against Utah or his 41 and 13 against Dallas?
Those are some Herculean efforts, but none of those teams are elite. Who have the Nets really played? They’ve beaten Atlanta twice, but both games were without Josh Smith. Against the elite teams, they’ve lost by 24 to the Cavs, 27 to the Lakers, and 22 to the Rockets. And, that Utah game, Kirilenko left early in the second quarter with an injury, which allowed Devin to have his way with the Jazz interior defenders.
In the here and now, Harris’ team, though an early surprise, has regressed to the mean and is currently tied for the seventh seed in the East with Chicago.
Windy City fanatics will try to sell Derrick Rose as an all-star. While that’s kind of a nice thought to think about, D-Rose should concentrate on trying to take back the ROY lead from O.J. Mayo who’s playing in the toughest division in the league, with 2 other rookies starting besides him, on a team who’s best player is a third year dude. If I had to bet, I’d say D-Rose will eventually be the better player, but right now, there’s no question Mayo’s the ROY.
So, all-star? Maybe next season.
Mo Williams has really boosted the Cavs, but Big Z and that other dude on their team have been the All-star level talents. Of course, that 23-4 record is sparkling and the fact that the Cavs lead the league in Offensive efficiency and point differential after being nowhere near that mark last season, well, something’s changed. That something is the addition of Mo.
But point differential and wins an all-star does not make, and that’s why all this talk about Rajon Rondo making the all-star team is ludicrous.
Sure he leads the team in assists. Sure, that team just so happens to be the best team in the league, and on pace to be the best team in history. Sure the rest of the numbers are quite nice, especially that 20.6 PER, the 5 rebounds from the point guard position and those 2.4 steals per game.
But the kid is playing with three all-stars. Ray Ray is shooting 49.5 percent and leads the team in scoring. Paul Pierce is the self-proclaimed best player in the L. And KG is the trash-talking-but-only-to-himself, getting down-on-all-fours, finger-wagging-for-30-plus seconds-right-in-Calderon’s-face, heart-and-soul and emotional leader of the Green men.
Rondo’s a talent for sure. But he’s playing with the defensive player of the year (which allows him to gamble), one of the purest shooters in league history (assists?), and, again, the best player in the L. How can anyone not thrive in that environment? In fact, of all the stats that don’t rely on the excellence of those around him, Rondo is shooting a pitiful 64 percent from the line.
Everyone else on the Potential Eastern Point Guard All-Star list (PEPGAS for short), only Rose, a rookie, is shooting less than 85 percent.
Hey, I'm not an idiot. Freethrows, should never be the deciding factor for an all-star game, but as far as skill-wise, it does show where a player is at. So while that crazy 16, 17 and 13 game with 3 steals was, uh, CRAZY, and while his December numbers are Jason Kidd-like, I can’t put Rondo on the all-star team.
Rondo survives on his athleticism and getting to the hole. If he were asked to score like Devin Harris, or create like D-Rose, or space the floor like Jameer Nelson, he wouldn’t be close to the same caliber of player.
All this to say that I’m not saying Jameer Nelson should make the All-Star team, but, if we’re talking about which point guards are playing the best in the East right now, he’s no question been top dog.
For the month of December he’s shooting 59 percent. That’s 10 percentage points higher than his 7-foot, 270-lb teammate who plays down on the block. Jam’s been even better from beyond the arc drilling 26 of 43 treys. That’s 60 percent. This month, he's leading the team in scoring (tied with Rashard), assists and shooting percentage.
Besides the 21 points, 6 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and the 1.8 steals is that stellar 8-9 record the Magic have accumulated while he’s suited up (Jam missed the first two games of the month). And they haven’t just beaten up on scrubs. They handily defeated Utah, crushed San Antonio, eked by Portland and outplayed the Lakers. Their only loss was a 1-point defeat to the Suns.
Of the guards mentioned, Jam’s got the second highest PER, the second highest shooting percentage (by a tenth of a percentage point), and the third highest scoring average.
Over the past month, he’s killing every single one of the other point guards in both overall production and efficiency. All of them accept Rondo.
Jam plays with one All-star, Dwight Howard, while his other teammates, Lewis and Turk, are having down years across the board. Yet, the Magic are still the third best team in the East. Top five in the league.
On the other hand, Rondo plays with three all-stars on the best team in the league.
Who’s more important to their team?