February 8, 2008
These guys have been doing it all. No job too big, none too small.
The stats which individual achievement is traditionally measured by–points, rebounds, assists–often paint an incomplete picture of a player’s true contributions on the hardwood. New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson is currently seventh in the NBA in scoring at 23.5 points, but he contributes very, very little else (and by the way, the Nets are dreadful). And as clutch of a scorer as Chicago’s Ben Gordon is, when he’s not scoring, he’s not contributing a damn thing–he just doesn’t offer much in the way of assists, steals, defense, etc. Jefferson and Gordon both serve very important roles for their respective teams, but all-around contributors they are not.
We don’t mean to single these two out (okay, we’re no fan of RJ), only to illustrate the point of this little exposé on some of the NBA’s best stat-stuffers since January 1. They score. They rebound. They set up teammates. They steal and block the living shit out of leather-bound basketballs. Some of these gentlemen would make this list every month of the season; others have just turned it up over the past month and change, doing it on both ends of the court with the kind of energy and hustle usually reserved for those hopped up on goofballs. They’re all playing extremely well right now.
There are more worthy of recognition, and we invite you to name them in the comments section. Players are listed in no particular order, and stats are taken from averages over the past month. And yes, we know that stats don’t capture everything. But they do capture a lot.
Josh Smith, G/F, Atlanta Hawks
Carnage: 18.2 points, 7.9 boards, 4.9 assists, 2 steals, 3.5 blocks, 47% FG
It’s time to start paying attention to the Hawks again, okay? These aren’t the Hawks of the last decade or so, the team with an NBA record of four consecutive 50-loss seasons–a moribund bunch with no hope, no future, no excitement. Quite the contrary, and the man known in some NBA circles as J-Smoove is one reason why. Yes, he’s a tad immature and maybe not the best teammate in the world, but man alive is this dude a walking highlight reel on both ends of the floor. Lately, he’s been terrorizing lesser opponents like that kid in the back of the school bus who wouldn’t stop giving Wet Willies to anyone within reach. You simply can’t shake Mr. J-Smoove lately if the ball is within blockable distance: since January 2, he’s recorded seven games of at least 4 blocks, including 7 on January 16 and 9 (!) on February 4. And as you can see, everything else is there too.
Amare Stoudemire, F/C, Phoenix Suns
Carnage: 24.1 points, 9.7 boards, 1.1 steals, 2.5 blocks, 61% FG
Like his former teammate Shawn Marion, below, it’ll be interesting to see how the change in personnel will affect Stoudemire’s production. The man has clearly been on a tear lately–not sure if the field-goal percentage or the blocks are more impressive–and if Shaq’s “witty” promises about rejuvenation and still being able to run the court and such prove to be fool’s gold, we could even see an uptick on Amare’s gross averages thus far in ’08. Neither of the ETB dons are confident that O’Neal’s failing health will magically be cured by the dry Arizona air or the Suns trainng staff shamans that keep Nash and Grant Hill out of wheelchairs. So, if he were to miss extended time, Stoudemire would be the Head Honcho recipient of Nash’s point-guard wizardry with Marion now out of the picture. Even so, the reportedly insidious effect Marion was having in the locker room is gone, and that no doubt makes Stoudemire happy, which means this tear should go on.
Click the following link to reveal, in all their glory, the Great Eight of this list…
Manu Ginobli, G/F, San Antonio Spurs
Carnage: 18.6 points, 5.1 boards, 4.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.1 three-pointers
We went back and forth between a few guys for this spot, ultimately settling on Ginobli because he’s been a big reason why the struggling Spurs haven’t completely fallen out of the race for the West’s top spot. In his team’s 85-77 win over the Pacers on Wednesday, on a night when his shooting touch just wasn’t there, the pesky 6-6 Argentinean compensated by recording 10 assists, which is just the second time he’s ever hit that number during the regular season. And back on January 23, when the Spurs bested the Lakers despite Manu mucking it up on offense (3-16 FG), he again found other ways to contribute, posting a season-high 8 steals along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Ginobli has been doing those kinds of things his whole career, and it’s been no different in this, the Year of the Rat.
Shawn Marion, F, Miami Heat
Carnage: 14.8 points, 9.2 boards, 2.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.5 three-pointers, 53% FG
We’ll now see what The Matrix is capable of without Stephen John Nash setting him for alley-oops and wide-open jumpers (there’s a slight dropoff between Nash and Jason Williams). The Miami Heat offense, as we know, is run at a much more deliberate pace, though that philosophy could be rejiggered with the arrival of new personnel. At any rate, Marion’s peripheral stats–steals, blocks, and boards–shouldn’t suffer too much, and his points could hold steady; he’s now his team’s unquestioned second scoring option behind Wade. Future performance with the Heat aside, Marion has had as well-rounded a new year as anyone in the league in his final days as a Sun. We expect that lofty field-goal percentage to take a dip, however… perhaps a drastic one.
Marcus Camby, C, Denver Nuggets
Carnage: 10.2 points, 15.3 boards, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 4 blocks
Camby is the definition of a stat-stuffer. Nobody in the NBA has bigger box scores outside of the points category, and over the last five weeks it’s been same old same old for the lithe 6-11 center. Over that stretch the C-Man is leading the league in rebounds and blocked shots, in the top 30 in steals, and only turning it over a measly 1.3 times per game. On January 14th Camby had a 20-20 game with 20 points, 23 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 blocks on 50% FGs and 100% FTs. He may have been even more impressive a few days later on the 17th: 24 boards, 8 points and 11 blocks. He’s even starting to rack up some assists with 34 in the new year, more than other centers like Eddy Curry, Samuel Dalembert or Sean Williams have had all season.
Andre Iguodala, G/F, Philadelphia 76ers
Carnage: 20.1 points, 5.3 boards, 4.3 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1 three-pointer
There were only three players in the NBA last season who averaged 18+ points, 5+ assists and 5+ boards: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Andre Iguodala. The ETB offices are somewhat divided on just how good Iggy is, but he’s a stud no matter how you cut it and his box scores have been popping of late. He’s always been a solid man defender who excels at stripping big men of the ball and grabbing lazy passes out of the air, turning them into fast breaks. Still, to average 2.4 steals a game is impressive even for him, especially when you consider his scoring and offensive efficiency are both up in 2008. He’s getting it done on both ends, and blocking nearly one shot a game to boot.
Danny Granger, F, Indiana Pacers
Carnage: 20.7 points, 5.9 boards, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks, 2.1 three-pointers
Granger has come into his own this season, becoming the best Indiana Pacer on the court and in the box score (only challenged by the surprising emergence of Mike Dunleavy Jr.). We haven’t seen Granger dominate one category very often, but in 2008 he’s had 29+ points four times already. In addition to the scoring he’s been doing a little bit of everything else: hitting treys, swatting shots and robbing people. His overall line just seems to get better every month, so who knows what the third-year man out of New Mexico has in store for us after the All-Star break.
Chris Bosh, F, Toronto Raptors
Carnage: 27.7 points, 8.7 boards, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks, 57% FG
Perhaps buoyed by his newfound “pop-culture popularity” following his ringing All-Star endorsement by Bubba, Toronto’s franchise player has just been silly as of late. A per-game blocks average closer to 2 would be swell, but there’s no quibbling with that high shooting percentage (thanks, Jose), especially since he’s not privy to quite as many gimme dunks as a few others on this esteemed list. We’re talking in relatively small sample-size terms here, but the 27.7 ducats are a full 5 points more than he’s ever averaged over the course of a full season, and the 57% is also a good 7 points higher. Since January 4, Bosh has scored at least 31 points six times, including his 40-point explosion against the Knicks on the 11th, a game in which he also chipped in 11 boards and 2 steals. That it came against a defensive powerhouse like Zach Randolph is even more impressive.
Gerald Wallace, F, Charlotte Bobcats
Carnage: 22.8 points, 7.7 boards, 4.7 assists, 2.6 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.3 three-pointers
Wallace has earned the nickname Crash because he plays the game with reckless abandon on both ends of the floor, but his offense has really been cooking this year too. He’ll drop 40 points and 4 three-pointers on your head one night, and 10 dimes another. That comes in addition to his already impressive hustle stats, where he can get 5 steals or 5 blocks in any given game. Wallace was posting an impressive 24-8-5 line in January before the foot injury, and should be back tonight. Look for voracious stat-mongering to ensue shortly after tipoff.
LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Carnage: 33.2 points, 9.5 boards, 6.8 assists, 49% FG, 2.6 steals, 1.3 blocks, 1.8 three-pointers
You were so close to making a snarky comment about the absence of King James that you could almost taste it. No, we didn’t forget about the NBA’s best stat-stuffer. With the notable exception of his FT%, LeBron’s lines are so beautiful they’ve been known to cause temporary blindness. Honestly, if James wanted to lead the league in any specific category, he could. Instead he chooses to do everything extremely well. LeBron is so strong, so long and so quick that scoring on penetration is just too easy. When defenses collapse, he’s all too capable of finding the open man anywhere on the floor. And unlike other premier scoring wings, he hits the glass hard and plays very solid defense. James’ timing, quicks and long arms let him snatch the ball out of passing lanes and, perhaps most impressive, average over a block a game. Who’s the best basketball player on the planet, LeBron or Kobe? We’re not really sure anymore.