Taking into account player performance over the last two NBA seasons here are five guys who are roughly as valuable as Carmelo Anthony. Numbers included are offense only so for the sake of this post defense is totally ignored.
These are players with similar shooting, rebounding, passing and ball control attributes to ‘Melo:
One big advantage for the Spurs during this playoffs has been their possession differential. Over the last two series San Antonio has done a great job at holding onto the ball and forcing turnovers. The Spurs forced Portland and Oklahoma City into an average of 15 turnovers per game.
The Western Conference champs gave the ball away an average of only 11 times/game vs. the Blazers and Thunder. When you win the possession battle your team can afford a few missed shots and still win the game.
The key to the Spurs “D” has been great wing play. Four of their guys are averaging over 2.5% steal rate. Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard are combining for 3.5 steals per game in the playoffs.
Turning the attention to the offensive side of the ball the secret has been The Big Fundamental. Tim Duncan has only turned the ball over 14 times in 18 games this playoff season. This is by far the lowest rate of his playoff career.
In fact among high usage players Duncan is averaging the lowest turnover rate in NBA playoff history. In the nearly four decades that turnovers have been tracked Duncan is tied with the ’03 version of Peja Stojakovic for the least turnovers in a playoff season.
Dalembert and Blair are posting two of the top-ten single playoff season rebounding rates in the NBA’s three-point era….
Rk Player Season Tm G TRB TRB
1 DeJuan Blair 2013-14 DAL 5 32 17.5
2 Dennis Rodman* 1994-95 SAS 14 207 16.2
3 Kevin Garnett 2001-02 MIN 3 56 15.5
4 Ralph Sampson* 1984-85 HOU 5 83 15.5
5 DeJuan Blair 2009-10 SAS 10 39 15.4
6 Marcus Camby 2007-08 DEN 4 53 15.4
7 Dennis Rodman* 1993-94 SAS 3 48 15.2
8 Samuel Dalembert 2013-14 DAL 6 53 15.0
9 Dennis Rodman* 1988-89 DET 17 170 15.0
10 Larry Smith 1986-87 GSW 10 137 15.0
The Philadelphia 76ers were the worst team in the NBA this season. Brett Brown started a dozen different players throughout the year. Including Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, four Philly players averaged at least 30 minutes/night. Three sixers played over 2,200 total minutes. Philadelphia had a relatively steady lineup in 2014.
The San Antonio Spurs were the best team in the NBA this season. Gregg Popovich started seventeen different players. No Spur averaged 30 minutes/night (Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard played 29 minutes each). Not one Spur played 2,200 total minutes. San Antonio played a very uneven lineup in 2014.
Pop and the Spurs are shattering the preconceived notion of great teams needing to find solid lineups in order to win in the NBA.
One thing we shouldn’t hear from NBA MVP voters is “He’s the best player on the best team”. Why? Because neither the Heat or Thunder are the best team. That honor goes to the San Antonio Spurs.
Gregg Popovich’s Spurs have five more wins than every other team in the league. So for argument sake who is their best player? While Tim Duncan is having another excellent season he isn’t San Antonio’s MVP. That honor goes to third year forward Kawhi Leonard.
The San Diego State product is over 60% True Shooting this year while playing great defense on multiple positions. Finally, without Leonard in the lineup San Antonio is 8-7 this year. With Kawhi they are 52-10.
I’m not arguing that a Spur should win the MVP but it is clear that the 2014 NBA MVP will not come from the best team.