Sunday, August 28, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #34 - Patrick Ewing


Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing is remembered for never having won an NBA title, but he was one of the top centers in the entire league for a decade, and he never missed more than 6 games in a season over that span, during which the New York Knicks made the playoffs every year with Ewing as their star player.

Ewing hit his peak in 1989-90, when he ranked as the third-best player in the entire league and the top center, falling behind only Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in overall value. He was 27 years old at the time, and he appeared to be the next dominant center, although he never did dominate the game the way many expected. Here are his stats from his best season:

Ewing - 28.6 pts, 10.9 reb, 2.2 ast, 1.0 stl, 4.0 blk, .551 FG%, .775 FT%

You read that right. Besides averaging over 28 points and 10 rebounds every night, he was blocking 4 shots on average in every game. From there he kind of plateaued, maintaining his standing as one of the top 10 players in the league, but falling behind fellow centers David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O'Neal in production. Overall, he was still very impressive over the six seasons from 1989-1995, and those stats are below:

Ewing - 25.3 pts, 11.3 reb, 2.3 ast, 1.0 stl, 2.8 blk, .515 FG%, .749 FT%

That is what the Knicks were able to expect from Ewing every night for 6 straight years, quite impressive considering that no center today comes close to those numbers in a single season. For all the numbers he put up and all the seasons that they made the playoffs, Ewing still never saw big playoff success. The Knicks won their first round series nearly every season, but lost in the second round almost every time. The only two exceptions were 1993 and 1994, when they made the Eastern Conference Finals once and the NBA Finals after that, where they were beaten in 7 games by Houston.

Ewing hung around for a long time after his peak, but became less and less effective and was no longer the focal point of the Knicks' team, so when he finally made it back to the NBA Finals in 1999, he was more of an afterthought on a team featuring Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, and Marcus Camby. He never did get that elusive ring, which is the biggest reason that he's only at #34 all time.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #35 - Pau Gasol


Pau Gasol

You may not think that Pau Gasol deserves to be ranked among the all-time greats, or especially in the top 40, but there was a time that many would have said that about Scottie Pippen as well. The truth is that Pau Gasol brought about a huge change in Los Angeles after he was traded and helped the team regain its winning ways.

When Pau arrived in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant was already an established superstar, but the Lakers weren't winning with him as their only star. Here are their playoff results in the three years Pre-Pau and Post-Trade:

Pre-Pau - missed playoffs once, lost in first round twice
Post-Trade - Lost in Finals once, won two championships

The difference between the pre- and post-trade results in each season was exactly three playoff series. The only real difference between these teams was the addition of Pau Gasol. Can you really say that he's not a great player? It's obvious to me that Gasol was the catalyst the team needed to advance.

Gasol has been a star player since the day he arrived in America. He has averaged at least 16.5 points in 14 of his 15 seasons as a pro, and has steadily become a better rebounder, averaging over 10 per game for five of his past seven seasons. In each of the Lakers' title seasons he was one of the six best players in the league, although many overlooked him because he was only the second-best on his team.

He may not have ever been recognized as a superstar, but his career longevity, with 10 seasons at an All-Star level, and his big contributions to 2 champs and a runner-up have earned him a spot among the best players of all time.

Top 100 NBA Players: #36 - George Gervin


George Gervin

George Gervin was an amazing scorer and a big star for a number of years, but more than anyone else who reached this high on the list, he was not a winner. He was known for being somewhat selfish, but it doesn't diminish how great he was offensively.

Gervin was a four time scoring leader, and is one of 7 players all-time to win three straight scoring titles. In 1980 he averaged 33.1 points per game, and he eclipsed 30 points again 2 years later, when he again led the league with 32.3 nightly. He was twice the MVP runner-up, in 1978 and 1979, but he probably should have won in 1979, when it was given to Moses Malone. Here are how their numbers stacked up that season:

Malone - 24.8 pts, 17.6 reb, 1.8 ast, 1.5 blk, .540 FG%, .739 FT%
Gervin - 29.6 pts, 5.0 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.1 blk, .541 FG%, .826 FT%

Moses led the league in rebounding that year, and Gervin in scoring, so both were obvious candidates. In the other four categories, Gervin was obviously the better player, especially if you know that Gervin was a shooting guard and Malone was a center, because Gervin shot a higher percentage than the MVP that year, and blocked nearly as many shots.

Gervin was the best player on his team for nearly his entire career, but he never saw much playoff success in that role. His best finish was losing in the Conference Finals three times, making him the best player to never play in the NBA Finals, joining Dominique Wilkins, Steve Nash, Alex English, and Vince Carter on that dubious list.

For six straight seasons, Gervin was one of the top 3 players in the NBA, but because of his playoff failings he is usually not considered to be on the same level as those who were his peers during those years, including Moses Malone, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His averages over that time were spectacular, and they are listed below:

Gervin (1977-1983) - 29.2 pts, 5.0 reb, 3.0 ast, 1.3 stl, .514 FG%, .834 FT%

Gervin had the disadvantage of never having a true star for a teammate. As the only star in San Antonio for a long time, he did get them to the playoffs in every season of his career, even though he couldn't get them through to the Finals. His career was still very impressive, even though it only lasted for 10 NBA seasons.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #37 - James Worthy


James Worthy

James Worthy was one of the great sidekicks of the 1980's, playing alongside Magic Johnson on six teams that advanced to the NBA Finals and coming up big when it really mattered, which earned him the nickname "Big Game James."

While nobody will dispute the fact that Magic Johnson was a better player than James Worthy, Worthy was actually the Lakers' leading scorer in 3 of the 9 seasons they played together. For 7 straight seasons he averaged between 19.4 and 21.4 points. He always got between 5 and 6 rebounds per game, and the Lakers (almost) always made it to the NBA Finals. His steadiness makes it very difficult to pick out a single season and call it his best.

From 1984 to 1986, Worthy was the Lakers' third-best player, playing behind Magic and Kareem, and won a championship during that time. The Lakers went on to win two titles in 1987 and 1988, with Worthy supplanting Kareem as the #2 guy. In 1989, Magic had a down season and Worthy took over as the best player on the Lakers team that was swept in the Finals. In 1991, he made one final trip to the Finals, again playing behind Magic on the team that lost to Michael Jordan and Chicago.

Worthy was named the MVP of the 1988 NBA Finals after his great performances in the final two games of the title series. In game 6 he scored 28 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, then he easily surpassed that in game 7, when he put up a triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. While it was probably Worthy's performance in those two games that clinched the championship, he still wasn't the best Laker in those playoffs. Here are he and Magic's stats from 1988:

Magic - 19.9 pts, 5.4 reb, 12.6 ast, .514 FG%, .500 3P%, .852 FT%
Worthy - 21.1 pts, 5.8 reb, 4.4 ast, .523 FG%, .111 3P%, .758 FT%

Arguments have been made that Worthy would not have been considered one of the all-time greats if he hadn't been drafted by the Lakers, and that may just be true, but the fact is that it happened, and Worthy did exactly what he was supposed to do and fulfilled the role that was given to him perfectly for a decade, which allowed the Lakers to continue to prosper even after Kareem was well past his prime.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #38 - Jason Kidd


Jason Kidd

In 2011, Jason Kidd became the oldest starting point guard ever to win the championship, and although he was still a good player, he was nowhere near the level he was at a decade before, when he was one of the best players in the NBA, and one of the all-time great point guards.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Kidd hit his peak, because he played at such a high level for so long, but he was probably at his best during his first two seasons in New Jersey, when he led the Nets to the NBA Finals two straight times, even though the team didn't even have another All-Star caliber player on the roster. Statistically, those seasons look like a lot of others for him, but for a point guard it's still amazing to his these stats:

Kidd (2001-2003) - 16.7 pts, 6.8 reb, 9.4 ast, 2.2 stl, .403 FG%, .331 3P%, .831 FT%

Those seasons came in the midst of a streak of nine years that Kidd was named to the All-Defensive Team, and during the time that he led the league in assists 5 times in 6 seasons. Even with how good he was in the regular season, he stepped it up in the playoffs, and the Nets would have had no chance without him, so these numbers are the reason they got as far as they did:

Kidd (Finals runs) - 19.8 pts, 8.0 reb, 8.6 ast, 1.8 stl, .409 FG%, .263 3P%, .817 FT%

As good as Kidd was, he wasn't good enough to win a title by himself, and he was never given a star to play with, but even at age 37, he was still a major contributor to the Dallas Mavericks, who went on to win the NBA Championship, and allowed Kidd to leap up in these rankings to become one of the top 40 players of all time.

The only glaring weakness in Kidd's game was his shooting percentage, which was always among the worst in the league, hovering around 40%, which would have been acceptable 50 years ago, but is almost unheard of today. That one weakness, even with his greatness in so many other facets of the game, held him back from being the best point guard of all time, but there is no denying that he belongs in the conversation as one of the 5 best ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Top 100 NBA Players: #39 - Allen Iverson


Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson was an incredibly talented player, the shortest man ever to win the scoring title, which he did four times, and a player who fell just as quickly as he rose to prominence. Other than his shooting percentage, he was a very solid all-around player.

As I said above, Iverson won 4 scoring titles, in 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2005, all with the Philadelphia 76ers. He had his highest scoring season in 2006, when he put up 33 per game, but that year he was beaten out by Kobe's 35.4 per game, one of the highest averages in history. Iverson's signature season was the second season in which he was the scoring leader, and his stats from that year's regular season and playoffs are listed below:

Iverson (Regular) - 31.1 pts, 3.8 reb, 4.6 ast, 2.5 stl, .420 FG%, .320 3P%, .814 FT%, 42.0 min
Iverson (Playoffs) - 32.9 pts, 4.7 reb, 6.1 ast, 2.4 stl, .389 FG%, .338 3P%, .774 FT%, 46.2 min

Iverson was everything to the Sixers that season, and led the league in steals as well as scoring. He also led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Lakers, but he played nearly every minute during the postseason and found a way to increase his already impressive averages. It may have been the only time that he saw any sort of playoff success, but it was a season for the ages.

Iverson led the league in minutes per game 7 times, scoring 4 times, and steals 3 times, and in each of his first 12 seasons averaged at least 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.9 steals, and 39.4 minutes played. Those numbers alone are pretty impressive, but those were the minimum numbers he reached in 12 seasons.

One of Iverson's biggest struggles was clashing with his coaches over attitude problems. He is infamous for his distaste of practice, and his feud with Larry Brown was very well chronicled. The 76ers actually traded him during the 2000 offseason, but because of a problem with another player's contract, the deal was cancelled, and Iverson went on to lead the team to the Finals. He finally wore out his welcome in Philly in 2006, then in Denver, Detroit and Memphis over the next three years, before finally disappearing for good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

College Football Rankings - 2016 Preseason

It's that time again! The first college football game is being played this weekend, with the first full weekend less than 2 weeks away. I have gone through my usual process of analyzing each team's current roster and adjusting each team's final ranking from last season based on returning talent relative to other teams and transfers. After weeks of research, here are my full preseason rankings, along with my picks to win each conference and my 4 playoff teams at the bottom of the post:





Rec
ProjRec

TW
LW
Team
Rating
W
L
W
L
SOS
MOV
1
2
Oklahoma
-27.98


11
1


2
3
Clemson
-27.06


11
1


3
1
Alabama
-22.55


9
3


4
5
Ole Miss
-21.47


9
3


5
16
LSU
-21.33


10
2


6
14
Tennessee
-19.87


10
2


7
6
Stanford
-19.53


9
3


8
12
Florida State
-19.46


9
3


9
7
Michigan
-18.54


10
2


10
10
Washington
-18.11


9
3


11
15
USC
-17.22


8
4


12
17
Boise State
-16.89


11
1


13
4
Ohio State
-16.43


9
3


14
9
Baylor
-15.77


9
3


15
11
North Carolina
-15.55


9
3


16
34
South Florida
-15.53


10
2


17
20
Houston
-15.24


10
2


18
8
Notre Dame
-15


9
3


19
53
Georgia Southern
-14.43


10
2


20
13
Mississippi State
-13.85


8
4


21
31
Toledo
-13.74


10
2


22
38
Louisville
-13.71


8
4


23
21
Western Kentucky
-13.38


10
2


24
19
TCU
-12.96


9
3


25
27
Brigham Young
-12.68


8
4


26
32
Oregon
-12.1


7
5


27
23
Michigan State
-11.82


8
4


28
58
Boston College
-11.6


8
4


29
35
West Virginia
-11.49


8
4


30
44
Nebraska
-11.41


9
3


31
48
Georgia Tech
-10.93


7
5


32
18
Navy
-10.55


9
3


33
30
Wisconsin
-10.49


7
5


34
37
Oklahoma State
-10.2


8
4


35
22
Arkansas
-9.879


7
5


36
45
Virginia Tech
-9.833


7
5


37
52
Washington State
-9.566


7
5


38
28
UCLA
-9.408


7
5


39
33
San Diego State
-9.396


10
2


40
25
California
-9.345


7
5


41
51
Western Michigan
-9.134


9
3


42
43
Appalachian State
-8.939


9
3


43
42
Georgia
-8.864


8
4


44
40
North Carolina State
-8.764


6
6


45
36
Iowa
-8.761


8
4


46
46
Temple
-8.451


10
2


47
29
Memphis
-8.167


8
4


48
57
Miami (FL)
-7.936


6
6


49
49
Pittsburgh
-7.824


7
5


50
24
Utah
-7.798


7
5


51
41
Texas A&M
-7.138


6
6


52
26
Bowling Green
-6.332


8
4


53
54
Southern Miss
-5.427


10
2


54
70
Syracuse
-5.26


5
7


55
50
Arizona State
-5.107


6
6


56
39
Florida
-5.008


7
5


57
56
Duke
-4.95


6
6


58
47
Auburn
-4.539


5
7


59
62
Northwestern
-4.101


6
6


60
68
Minnesota
-3.482


7
5


61
59
Penn State
-3.447


6
6


62
72
Northern Illinois
-3.173


8
4


63
55
Air Force
-3.156


9
3


64
69
Texas
-2.633


5
7


65
73
Illinois
-2.373


5
7


66
61
Texas Tech
-2.352


6
6


67
76
Central Michigan
-2.213


8
4


68
82
Wake Forest
-2.177


6
6


69
64
Utah State
-2.045


7
5


70
78
Virginia
-1.918


5
7


71
71
Middle Tennessee
-1.829


8
4


72
74
East Carolina
-1.219


6
6


73
80
Vanderbilt
-0.902


5
7


74
91
Maryland
-0.803


6
6


75
60
Arizona
-0.626


5
7


76
89
Connecticut
0.4764


6
6


77
67
Cincinnati
0.6207


6
6


78
86
Akron
0.9367


6
6


79
79
Kansas State
0.9668


5
7


80
81
Colorado
1.0603


4
8


81
77
Missouri
1.4382


5
7


82
75
Indiana
1.6946


5
7


83
85
New Mexico
1.8122


8
4


84
93
Kentucky
1.8736


5
7


85
65
Louisiana Tech
2.1647


7
5


86
66
Arkansas State
2.378


8
4


87
63
Marshall
2.786


7
5


88
95
Nevada
3.2552


7
5


89
88
Ohio
3.3335


7
5


90
90
Iowa State
3.9517


4
8


91
83
San Jose State
4.4141


6
6


92
92
Tulsa
5.1507


6
6


93
84
Colorado State
5.6237


6
6


94
99
Purdue
6.7225


4
8


95
96
Rutgers
7.2177


3
9


96
87
South Carolina
7.5585


4
8


97
101
Oregon State
8.1414


2
10


98
94
Troy
9.6771


6
6


99
98
UNLV
10.414


5
7


100
100
Georgia State
10.539


5
7


101
105
Florida International
12.421


5
7


102
97
Buffalo
13.082


4
8


103
107
Ball State
13.494


4
8


104
103
Louisiana-Lafayette
13.828


5
7


105
113
Southern Methodist
13.868


3
9


106
109
Wyoming
14.291


3
9


107
102
Florida Atlantic
14.748


5
7


108
118
UTSA
14.968


5
7


109
114
Miami (OH)
15.17


4
8


110
110
Kent State
15.249


3
9


111
121
Old Dominion
15.638


5
7


112
119
Hawaii
15.743


3
10


113
111
Army
17.513


4
8


114
106
Fresno State
17.829


2
10


115
108
South Alabama
18.307


3
9


116
104
Massachusetts
18.387


3
9


117
120
Louisiana-Monroe
19.206


3
9


118
112
Idaho
19.208


4
8


119
124
UTEP
19.637


5
7


120
116
Tulane
19.787


3
9


121
117
Rice
20.209


4
8


122
122
New Mexico State
21.348


2
10


123
125
UCF
21.961


2
10


124
115
Texas State
23.395


3
9


125
123
Eastern Michigan
23.994


2
10


126
127
Charlotte
25.488


3
9


127
126
Kansas
27.741


1
11


128
128
North Texas
34.689


1
11



Conference Champions

American - South Florida (champ), Houston (runner-up)
ACC - Clemson (champ), North Carolina (runner-up)
Big 12 - Oklahoma (champ), Baylor (runner-up)
Big 10 - Ohio State (champ), Nebraska (runner-up)
Conference USA - Western Kentucky (champ), Southern Miss (runner-up)
MAC - Toledo (champ), Bowling Green (runner-up)
MWC - Boise State (champ), San Diego State (runner-up)
Pac 12 - Stanford (champ), USC (runner-up)
SEC - LSU (champ), Tennessee (runner-up)
Sun Belt - Georgia Southern (champ), Appalachian State (runner-up)

Playoff Teams

Oklahoma
Clemson
LSU
Tennessee