Thursday, June 30, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #98 - Robert Horry


Robert Horry

Horry is the only player to make this list on the strength of his playoff performance alone. He was never among the top players in the league in any single season, and never even performed at an All-Star level, but he is the only player in the history on the NBA to win more than 6 championships without playing for the 1960's Celtics.

Of course, being on the winning team is not enough to make a player one of the all-time greats. In fact, Horry was a non-factor during two of his title seasons (2001 and 2007), so those rings did not factor into his appearance in the top 100. However, in the other 5 title seasons, he was a significant contributor, and that is the reason he's here.

Horry was drafted by the Rockets at #11 in 1992, and when Michael Jordan retired after Horry's rookie season, a huge vacuum was created, which was filled by the Houston Rockets. In just his second season, he was the second-best player on the championship team, helping Hakeem Olajuwon win his first title. The next season, Clyde Drexler joined the Rockets in a midseason trade, and that trade boosted the Rockets to a repeat title, with Horry still chipping in as the #3 player on the team.

The next season was his personal best as a pro, with a scoring average of 12.0, and following that "breakout," he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, who soon offloaded him to the Lakers, which was a fortunate move for him. He joined a team that had just acquired both Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, and within a couple years he was back at the pinnacle, although in a much-reduced role. He came off the bench for the 2000 and 2001 title teams, then earned back his starting role in 2002, becoming the third-best player on the team that completed the three-peat.

After failing to 4-peat, Horry left the Lakers to join the Spurs and bring him closer to his family in Houston, and that was another good move for him, as he was a strong contributor to the Spurs' 2005 title, behind only the three long-time Spurs stars. He held on for a few more years, and hit a few big shots along the way, but his final title was a gift from his teammates, with Horry only contributing 4.3 points per game in the playoffs.

The thing that helped Horry the most is that he always performed best in the playoffs, beating his regular season averages in every single one of his title runs. He earned the nickname "Big Shot Rob" for his many important late-game shots in the playoffs, and that ability earned him a spot among the top players of all time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #99 - Kevin Love


Kevin Love

Kevin Love is the first of many active players to find himself among the top 100 players of all time, but he didn't even get onto the list until last week. He shares a lot of similarities with Antoine Walker, the player ranked directly below him, as both are big men who can shoot the three, both played many seasons as stars on bad teams, then were traded to a contender and won a title as the third-best player on the title team.

Injuries have been a major problem for Love so far in his career, with three separate broken hand injuries stealing parts of two seasons with the Timberwolves and a dislocated shoulder costing him most of the 2015 playoffs. His breakout season came in his third season, when he averaged 20.2 points per game and led the league with 15.2 rebounds, which helped earn him the Most Improved Player award.

He continued his improvement the following season, raising his scoring average to 26.0 per game while finishing 2nd at 13.3 rebounds per game, which earned him a spot on the All-NBA Second Team despite not getting close to the playoffs. After missing most of the following season with a broken shooting hand, he came back strong in 2013-14, with 26.1 points per game and 12.5 rebounds, good for another appearance on the 2nd Team. Although his personal stats were great, he never helped his team to the playoffs while in a starring role.

Following his best personal season, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers to join LeBron James in his quest to bring a title to his hometown team, and though there was an expected drop in his stats after giving up his superstar role, he was still a solid player and an important player on the Eastern Conference champions, although he missed the final two rounds after a shoulder injury ended his season in round 2.

This past season, his numbers remained good but not spectacular, as he played an important supporting role behind all-time great LeBron James, but he was able to help guide the Cavaliers to a repeat appearance in the NBA Finals. There was a lot of talk deriding his play during the NBA Finals, during which he was not a huge contributor, but his overall playoff performance was not that far below his regular season performance, and he was still the #3 player on the team that won the championship.

Without the ring he earned a week ago, he would not have even been in the top 100 yet, meaning that the victory in game 7 kicked Tom Chambers out of the final spot in the all-time countdown. And just like Antoine Walker, Love's superstar seasons did not line up with his championship season, but Love is still young and talented, so he still will have plenty of opportunity to move up this list, especially if he is able to contribute to more titles or get another starring role.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #100 - Antoine Walker

5 years ago I posted my rankings for the top 100 NBA players of all time. A lot has happened since then, so I have added in the five new seasons of data, as well as adding in a bonus for winning a championship that awards more points than just reaching the Finals. As before,
players are awarded points based on their performance in each season of their career, as long as they are in the top 10 percent of players in that season. The factors that were taken into account were domination, longevity, all-around skill, and playoff success. Missing games for any reason counts against a player, meaning that several players whose careers were cut short by injuries are either ranked lower than you might expect or may have missed the top 100 altogether. Without further ado, here is the player who comes in at #100 in the all-time rankings:


Antoine Walker

It's easy to write off Antoine Walker when you see what happened to his promising career, as he allowed weight problems, financial difficulties, and indifference to hijack his career and cause an early exit from the NBA, but when he put everything out on the floor, he was one of the top players there was.

In 1997-98, just his second season in the league, he had already established himself as one of the top 10 players in the NBA. Despite missing the playoffs with Boston, he racked up some huge numbers, averaging 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. While the averages were always impressive, his shooting percentages rarely were. His career averages of .414 FG% and .633 FT% would be considered below average for players at any position, let alone a big man.

He missed half of the following season, and after one year to get back in the groove, he had his two best seasons as a pro in 2001 and 2002. It was around this time that Paul Pierce came into his own and became recognized as the best Celtic, but the two of them formed a very potent 1-2 punch and led the Celtics all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2002. Here are their stats from those two seasons:

Walker - 22.8 pts, 8.9 reb, 5.3 ast, 1.6 stl
Pierce - 25.7 pts, 6.7 reb, 3.2 ast, 1.8 stl

Those two players represented more than half of the points scored by the Celtics over those two seasons, and it was the most successful time enjoyed in Boston in nearly a decade, but it didn't last. Walker played one more good season in Boston before being shipped off to Dallas, where he was unhappy with his reduced role, which is where a lot of the bad opinions of him may have started.

Two years and three trades later, he landed in Miami, where, despite coming off the bench for the first time in his career, he was finally able to reach the ultimate goal and win an NBA Championship. Even though he was not a starter, he ended up ranking as the #3 player on that championship team, behind only Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, guaranteed Hall of Famers.

After that his stock dropped quickly, and he was out of the league within two years, after which stories of gambling debts and robberies started to put his name back in the news. It turns out that he was a horrible manager of money, and despite earning over $100 million during his career, he was completely broke less than two years after retirement.

Walker may not have ever achieved the popularity of some players, but he did manage to maintain a high level of performance for 8 seasons at the beginning of his career, which included a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Walker also owns a championship ring, and he was actually an important member of that team, not just someone who was along for the ride. His time with the Celtics was the biggest reason he is in the top 100, but he could not have made it without the championship in Miami.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

NBA MVP Rankings - 2016

Now that the season is over, I've compiled my list of the top contenders for each of the major NBA regular season awards, with the top 10 MVP candidates, the All-NBA Teams, and the top 5 Sixth Men, Rookies, and Most Improved Players of the season, all based on my statistical formula for player performance.

Most Valuable Player

1. Stephen Curry - GSW - 30.1 P, 5.4 R, 6.7 A, 2.1 S, .504 FG, .454 3P, .908 FT

2. LeBron James - CLE - 25.3 P, 7.4 R, 6.8 A, 1.4 S, .520 FG, .309 3P, .731 FT

3. Russell Westbrook - OKC - 23.5 P, 7.8 R, 10.4 A, 2.0 S, .454 FG, .812 FT

4. James Harden - HOU - 29.0 P, 6.1 R, 7.5 A, 1.7 S, .439 FG, .359 3P, .860 FT

5. Kevin Durant - OKC - 28.2 P, 8.2 R, 5.0 A, 1.2 B, 1.0 S, .505 FG, .386 3P, .898 FT

6. Draymond Green - GSW - 14.0 P, 9.5 R, 7.4 A, 1.4 B, 1.5 S, .490 FG, .388 3P, .696 FT

7. Klay Thompson - GSW - 22.1 P, 3.8 R, 2.1 A, .470 FG, .425 3P, .873 FT

8. DeMar DeRozan - TOR - 23.5 P, 4.5 R, 4.0 A, 1.0 S, .446 FG, .338 3P, .850 FT

9. Kyle Lowry - TOR - 21.2 P, 4.7 R, 6.4 A, 2.1 S, .427 FG, .388 3P, .811 FT

10. Kawhi Leonard - SAS - 21.2 P, 6.8 R, 2.6 A, 1.0 B, 1.8 S, .506 FG, .443 3P, .874 FT

Honora"Paul" Mention: Paul George - IND, Chris Paul - LAC, Paul Millsap - ATL

There is no real race here, since no reigning MVP has ever improved by this much in the following season, and he did it while destroying the record for 3-pointers in a season and leading his team to the best record in history. If Curry had sat out this season, the next 4 in line would all have legitimate claims to the MVP, although Harden would probably be eliminated due to barely making the playoffs, and Durant since he wasn't the best on his team this year.

Rookie of the Year

1. Karl-Anthony Towns - MIN - 18.3 P, 10.5 R, 2.0 A, 1.7 B, .542 FG, .341 3P, .811 FT

2. Kristaps Porzingis - NYK - 14.3 P, 7.3 R, 1.3 A, 1.9 B, .421 FG, .333 3P, .838 FT

3. D'Angelo Russell - LAL - 13.2 P, 3.4 R, 3.3 A, 1.2 S, .410 FG, .351 3P, .737 FT

4. Jahlil Okafor - PHI - 17.5 P, 7.0 R, 1.2 A, 1.2 B, .508 FG, .686 FT

5. Emmanuel Mudiay - DEN - 12.8 P, 3.4 R, 5.5 A, 1.0 S, .364 FG, .319 3P, .670 FT

Honorable Mention: Devin Booker - PHX

Also no real race here. Towns is a legitimate NBA center, and the rest of these guys have the potential to be stars. Okafor was on pace to finish #2 before an injury knocked him out late in the season, and Booker made a late push but didn't do enough in the first half of the season to make the top 5.

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Will Barton - DEN - 14.4 P, 5.8 R, 2.5 A, .432 FG, .345 3P, .806 FT

2. Enes Kanter - OKC - 12.7 P, 8.1 R, 0.4 A, .576 FG, .797 FT

3. Evan Turner - BOS - 10.5 P, 4.9 R, 4.4 A, 1.0 S, .456 FG, .827 FT

4. Ryan Anderson - NOP - 17.0 P, 6.0 R, 1.1 A, .427 FG, .366 3P, .873 FT

5. Darren Collison - SAC - 14.0 P, 2.3 R, 4.3 A, 1.0 S, .486 FG, .401 3P, .858 FT

Honorable Mention: Shabazz Muhammad - MIN, Jamal Crawford - LAC

Jamal Crawford won this award based on name recognition, since he had won the award multiple times before, but he did little more than score, just as he always has. Will Barton had better numbers in every category but free throw percentage, yet was overlooked because he plays in Denver.

Most Improved Player

1. CJ McCollum - POR - 20.8 P, 3.2 R, 4.3 A, 1.2 S, .448 FG, .417 3P, .827 FT
2015: 6.8 P, 1.5 R, 1.0 A, 0.7 S, .436 FG, .396 3P, .699 FT

2. Isaiah Thomas - BOS - 22.2 P, 3.0 R, 6.2 A, 1.1 S, .428 FG, .359 3P, .871 FT
2015: 16.4 P, 2.3 R, 4.2 A, 0.9 S, .421 FG, .373 3P, .868 FT

3. Rodney Hood - UTA - 14.5 P, 3.4 R, 2.7 A, .420 FG, .359 3P, .860 FT
2015: 8.7 P, 2.3 R, 1.7 A, .414 FG, .365 3P, .763 FT

4. Draymond Green - GSW - 14.0 P, 9.5 R, 7.4 A, 1.4 B, 1.5 S, .490 FG, .388 3P, .696 FT
2015: 11.7 P, 8.2 R, 3.7 A, 1.3 B, 1.6 S, .443 FG, .337 3P, .660 FT

5. Stephen Curry - GSW - 30.1 P, 5.4 R, 6.7 A, 2.1 S, .504 FG, .454 3P, .908 FT
2015: 23.8 P, 4.3 R, 7.7 A, 2.0 S, .487 FG, .443 3P, .914 FT

Honorbale Mention: Khris Middleton - MIL, Kemba Walker - CHA

There was a lot of talk saying that Curry should also win the MIP this season, and he obviously made a huge jump this year, but the improvement was almost exclusively in scoring. McCollum tripled his scoring average while also improving markedly in every other major category, so he definitely earned this award.

All-NBA Teams

First Team

F - LeBron James - CLE
F - Kevin Durant - OKC
C - DeMarcus Cousins - SAC
G - Stephen Curry - GSW
G - Russell Westbrook - OKC

Second Team

F - Paul George - IND
F - Draymond Green - GSW
C - Karl-Anthony Towns - MIN
G - James Harden - HOU
G - Kemba Walker - CHA

Third Team

F - Kawhi Leonard - SAS
F - Paul Millsap - ATL
C - Andre Drummond - DET
G - John Wall - WAS
G - Damian Lillard - POR

Friday, April 15, 2016

NBA Playoff Predictions 2016

The NBA Playoffs start tomorrow, and there are only a few teams with a realistic chance of actually winning the title, with the record-setting Warriors and Spurs in the West and juggernaut LeBron in the East looking for his 6th straight Finals appearance. I've gone through every single possible matchup, taking into account home court advantage, possible series length, momentum from the regular season, and overall performance this year to determine each team's odds of advancing through each round and eventually winning the title, along with my own picks for each series. Here are each team's odds:

Odds of Winning First Round

1. Spurs - 98.3%
2. Warriors - 97.5%
3. Thunder - 93.6%
4. Cavaliers - 87.3%
5. Clippers - 75.5%
6. Raptors - 74.0%
7. Hawks - 62.6%
8. Hornets - 55.2%
9. Heat - 44.8%
10. Celtics - 37.4%
11. Pacers - 26.0%
12. Trail Blazers - 24.5%
13. Pistons - 12.7%
14. Mavericks - 6.4%
15. Rockets - 2.5%
16. Grizzlies - 1.7%

Odds of Making Conference Finals

1. Warriors - 89.2%
2. Spurs - 74.5%
3. Cavaliers - 60.4%
4. Raptors - 51.5%
5. Thunder - 25.3%
6. Hawks - 24.9%
7. Hornets - 22.4%
8. Heat - 15.0%
9. Celtics - 11.6%
10. Pacers - 11.1%
11. Clippers - 9.1%
12. Pistons - 3.1%
13. Trail Blazers - 1.0%
14. Rockets - 0.7%
15. Mavericks - 0.2%
16. Grizzlies - 0.1%

Odds of Making NBA Finals

1. Warriors - 52.8%
2. Cavaliers - 42.4%
3. Spurs - 38.0%
4. Raptors - 24.1%
5. Hawks - 13.6%
6. Thunder - 7.7%
7. Hornets - 7.1%
8. Celtics - 5.2%
9. Heat - 4.0%
10. Pacers - 2.7%
11. Clippers - 1.3%
12. Pistons - 0.8%
13. Trail Blazers - 0.1%

Odds of Winning Championship

1. Warriors - 47.0%
2. Spurs - 33.6%
3. Cavaliers - 7.8%
4. Thunder - 5.4%
5. Raptors - 3.0%
6. Hawks - 1.4%
7. Clippers - 0.7%
8. Hornets - 0.5%
9. Celtics - 0.3%
10. Heat - 0.2%
11. Pacers - 0.1%

My Picks

First Round

(1) Cavaliers over (8) Pistons in 5
(2) Raptors over (7) Pacers in 6
(6) Hornets over (3) Heat in 7
(4) Hawks over (5) Celtics in 6
(1) Warriors over (8) Rockets in 4
(2) Spurs over (7) Grizzlies in 4
(3) Thunder over (6) Mavericks in 5
(4) Clippers over (5) Trail Blazers in 6

Second Round

(1) Cavaliers over (4) Hawks in 6
(2) Raptors over (6) Hornets in 6
(1) Warriors over (4) Clippers in 5
(2) Spurs over (3) Thunder in 6

Conference Finals

(1) Cavaliers over (2) Raptors in 6
(1) Warriors over (2) Spurs in 7

NBA Finals

(1) Warriors over (1) Cavaliers in 5

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

NBA Predictions - 13 Apr

Upset picks are in italics.

Miami at Boston - Celtics by 3
Toronto at Brooklyn - Raptors by 9
Orlando at Charlotte - Hornets by 6
Detroit at Cleveland - Cavaliers by 8
Atlanta at Washington - Hawks by 2
Philadelphia at Chicago - Bulls by 10
San Antonio at Dallas - Spurs by 8
Sacramento at Houston - Rockets by 5
Indiana at Milwaukee - Pacers by 3
New Orleans at Minnesota - Timberwolves by 2
Memphis at Golden State - Warriors by 15
Utah at LA Lakers - Jazz by 9
LA Clippers at Phoenix - Clippers by 9
Denver at Portland - Trail Blazers by 6

Prediction Results

NBA: 4-1 (.800) 849-385 overall (.688)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

NBA Predictions - 12 Apr

Upset picks are in italics.

New York at Indiana - Pacers by 6
Miami at Detroit - Pistons by 1
Philadelphia at Toronto - Raptors by 16
Oklahoma City at San Antonio - Spurs by 5
Memphis at LA Clippers - Clippers by 9

Prediction Results

NBA: 6-3 (.667) 845-384 overall (.688)
Upsets: 1-1 (.500) 83-95 overall (.466)