Monday, June 20, 2016

NBA Top 10 Players of All Time

Both ESPN and SI came out with their Top 50 NBA players of all time in February.  Here are their top 10 lists.  (These were before Lebron's 3rd title, but it doesn't change the players within the 10).

ESPN (expert panel):
1) Michael Jordan
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3) Lebron James
4) Magic Johnson
5) Wilt Chamberlain
6) Larry Bird
7) Bill Russell
8) Tim Duncan
9) Shaquille O'Neal
10) Hakeem Olajuwon

SI (Jack McCallum):
1) Michael Jordan
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3) Wilt Chamberlain
4) Magic Johnson
5) Lebron James
6) Oscar Robertson
7) Larry Bird
8) Bill Russell
9) Jerry West
10) Tim Duncan

My Top 10

1) Jordan
5 MVPs, 6 Finals MVPs, 6 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 9 All-NBA Defensive Teams
30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 49.7 FG%
- Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals in 6 appearances.

2) Kareem
6 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, 6 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 11 All-NBA Defensive Teams
24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 55.9 FG%
- The best big man of all time and was fortunate to play with Magic.

3) Lebron
4 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 6 All-NBA Defensive Teams
27.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 49.8 FG%
- Lebron has never had a big man star and never had a great coach.  He is possibly the most dominant player to ever play the game and can play every position.  5 Lebrons beats 5 of any other player. 

4) Russell
5 MVPs, N/A Finals MVPs, 11 championships, 3 All-NBA First Teams, 1 All-NBA Defensive Teams
15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 44.0 FG%
- Russell never won a Finals MVP award even though he won 11 titles.  That's because they invented and named the award after him.  He played his best on the biggest stage.  Would have likely dominated defensive teams but they invented that award his last year.

5) Magic
3 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 5 championships, 9 All-NBA First Teams, 0 All-NBA Defensive Teams
19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 52.0 FG%
- Greatest point guard to ever play, and he could have played any position.

6) Duncan
2 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 5 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 15 All-NBA Defensive Teams
19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 50.6 FG%
- Duncan is the best PF in history and beats out Wilt because of his championships, leadership and sacrifice.  His 15 all-defense teams are the most of all-time (by 3).

7) Bird
3 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, 3 championships, 9 All-NBA First Teams, 3 All-NBA Defensive Teams
24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 49.6 FG%
- Best player of the 80s Celtics dynasty.

The top 7 has separated themselves as the elite who have consistently carried their teams in the regular season and in the playoffs.

8) Wilt
4 MVPs, 1 Finals MVP, 2 championships, 7 All-NBA First Teams, 3 All-NBA Defensive Teams
30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 54.0 FG%
- That Wilt only has 2 titles should be an embarrassment.  Wilt's lone Finals MVP is an indictment on his play on the biggest stage.

9) Shaq
1 MVP, 3 Finals MVPs, 4 championships, 8 All-NBA First Teams, 3 All-NBA Defensive Teams
23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 58.2 FG%
- Shaq's lone MVP is an indictment on a lack of season-long commitment.

10) Oscar
1 MVP, 0 Finals MVP, 1 championship, 9 All-NBA First Teams, 0 All-NBA Defensive Teams
 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 9.5 APG, 48.5 FG%
- The 2nd point guard in the top 10, Oscar squeezes himself into my 10th spot though his trophy achievements aren't as comparable.  But his numbers as the league's premier triple-double guy are impressive.  Aside from Lebron, he might be the league's greatest all-around player.

Random observations:

- The greatest basketball team of all time by position: Magic, Jordan, Lebron, Duncan, Kareem

- If Steph Curry can replicate the last 2 seasons for another few years and win another couple titles, he should lay claim to the 2nd best PG of all time.  He'll need to finish with 3 titles and 3 Finals MVPs (he was robbed in 2015), and 3 regular-season MVPs.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lebron James, 3 Time Champion

Lebron won his 3rd NBA Championship in his seventh visit to the NBA Finals and brought the Cavaliers their first title in their 46 years of existence.  More importantly to the city of Cleveland, it was their first major championship in 52 years.

He did it against the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, who had also claimed the title of best regular season team ever with a historic 73-9 record (besting Jordan and the Bulls' 72-10 in '95-'96).  The Warriors were led by Steph Curry, statistically the greatest shooter ever and also the reigning and 2 time NBA MVP.  Curry was universally considered as the best player in the world.

Coming back from down 3-1
The 2016 Cavaliers are the first team to come back from 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals (0 for 32 until now).  Teams without home court advantage were 0 for 23.

Before the 2016 Finals, teams trailing 3-1 in any playoff series had only won 10 times in 230 tries, which is 5% of the time, (including the 2016 Warriors in the West Conf Finals).

Even more astounding is that teams trailing 3-1 in any playoff series and didn't have home court advantage (which means 2 of the last 3 games are on the road) have only come back to win 2 times in 153 tries (1.3%).

Winning Game 7 on the road
Before these Finals, there have been 125 game 7's in any playoff series and road teams were only successful 24 times, a 19% rate.

The Cavs are just the fourth team in 19 tries to win game 7 on the road in the NBA Finals and the first in 38 years.  The other 3 are 1978 Washington (at Seattle), 1974 Boston (at Milwaukee) and 1969 Boston (at Los Angeles).

Lebron Random Observations
He is the first player to be the NBA Finals series leader (for both teams) in points 29.7, rebounds 11.3, assists 8.9, blocks 2.3 and steals 2.6.

He is the first player (along with teammate James Jones) to make 6 successive NBA Finals in 50 years.  Bill Russell and 6 other Celtics teammates did it, last appearing in 1966.  Keep in mind that back in Russell's days, there were only 11 teams in the league and only 6 made the playoffs.

Lebron's Finals History
Lebron is now 3-4 in the NBA Finals.  He was swept out on his first trip in 2007 against the Spurs, though Duncan correctly predicted that the league would be Lebron's one day.  However, that year he had no chance against the Spurs dynasty, as the 2nd best player on the team was either Drew Gooden or Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

His second shot came after his move to South Beach in 2011.  He mistakenly ceded the alpha dog role to Dwyane Wade and only scored 17 points a game in their 4-2 loss to Dallas.  That series will always be a black mark on Lebron's resume when the greats are measured.

In 2012, Miami learned from their failure and Lebron lead them to a 4-1 rout over Oklahoma City for his first championship.  He repeated in 2013 in what was an all-time battle of greats between Lebron and Duncan, prevailing in 7 games.

Duncan and the Spurs however won the rubber match vs a Lebron team in their 2014 4-1 series win, having evolved to a ball-moving, quick-tempo, 3-ball offense that an aging Miami couldn't match.

Seeing the writing on the wall for the Heat, Lebron returned to Cleveland in 2015 but again fell to a ball-moving, quick-tempo, 3-ball offense in the surprise Warriors.  It didn't help that Irving and Love were both out, leaving the 2nd best player role to either Tristan Thompson or Timofey Mozgov.  Would that be the cruel full circle to Lebron's career?  Finishing right where he started?

Down 3-1 in the 2016 Finals, Lebron finally had enough.  He scored 41 points in both game 5 and game 6, then finished game 7 with a triple-double and a monster block on Iguodala (the 2015 Finals MVP), manifesting his championship resolve.

With this 3rd ring, Lebron now has 4 MVPs and 3 Finals MVPs on his claim to all-time greatness.  With really just that one black mark on his resume, I have him in the top 5 of all time.  He's somewhere behind Jordan and Kareem, but has pulled alongside Russell and Magic in my book.  Considering the fact that Jordan had only won 3 titles at age 32 (Lebron's current age), Lebron has time to move up.  I think if he gets another MVP and another title, he moves to 2nd all time.  The GOAT title is probably too far out of his reach, but if you can overcome 0.013% odds to win this year's title, who can really doubt him?