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The fight for awards is heating up, statistical feats are going by the wayside, and the playoff picture is taking shape. I enlisted the help of some of the brightest minds from The Step Back and FanSided’s NBA network to decipher some of the most pressing questions in the NBA this week.
1. Which is the more spectacular old-guy accomplishment: LeBron’s scoring lead or Chris Paul’s assist lead?
Pippen, Candice Evans It’s Not Easy: By far the most amazing old guy accomplishment is LeBron’s leading the league in scoring.
Given that he is never included among the league’s most “talented” scorers, let alone in league history, his ability to routinely score is a testament to his versatility. Not to mention that he’s doing it with one of the NBA’s worst floor spacing teams.
Raptors Rapture’s Mike Luciano: LeBron James leads the league in scoring. In his 19th season, LeBron James is not only averaging 30 points per game, but he is also breaking Kareem Abdul-record Jabbar’s for points per game in a player’s nineteenth season.
That year, Kareem averaged 14.6 points per game. Because he’s on a bad Lakers team, James can get his shots up, but that doesn’t change the fact that his efficiency numbers are similar to what he was accomplishing in Cleveland during his second term.
Piston Powered and Pelican Debrief: Aaron Kellerstrass
Both are impressive, but LeBron’s accomplishments are unprecedented. Older point guards have led the league in assists (Stockton, Nash), but no one this old has ever led the league in scoring (though Jordan came close at 35).
When he returned to Washington at the age of 37, Kareem averaged 22 points per game, Karl Malone 23.2 points per game, Kobe Bryant 17.6 points per game, and Michael Jordan 22 points per game (age 38). LeBron is a one-of-a-kind player who, in my opinion, will be the unquestioned GOAT by the time he retires (if he ever does).
2. Which prospective play-in tournament matchup excites you the most?
Pippen, Candice Evans It’s Not Easy: The Nets-Raptors meeting will be the most entertaining play-in game (if Toronto finishes in the seventh). Kyrie would be unable to play in Toronto at this time, making the Nets less intimidating. KD didn’t have the impact he wanted in the 2019 NBA Finals against the Raptors, and now he’ll get his revenge.
Raptors’ Mike Luciano Rapture: Minnesota-Clippers. In my cold obsidian heart, I have a soft spot for teams that haven’t made the playoffs in a long time. While landing Chris Finch, Minnesota has drafted and developed a slew of homegrown talent. I’d like to see them receive a postseason series as a reward.
To win their only postseason series in franchise history, this team needed Kevin Garnett to produce an MVP season. They’ve been waiting for a fortuitous break for a long time. Ty Lue’s ability to scheme the Clippers to victory without him starting has been equally outstanding.
Piston Powered and Pelican Debrief: Aaron Kellerstrass
The Pelicans vs. the Lakers is a no-brainer. The Pelicans have a chance to not only knock the Lakers out of the playoffs, but they also have a chance to get the Lakers’ draft pick on top of that. Because of the Anthony Davis deal, the two clubs will always be linked, and I can assure you that Pels supporters would love nothing more than to knock them out and earn that choice.
3. Put Evan Mobley, Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, and Franz Wagner in order of their rookie status.
Pippen, Candice Evans It’s Not Easy: First and foremost, Evan Mobley — performing in important games should count. Mobley is the only one in this rookie class who has something to lose. He’s stepping up to the plate and playing a key role in Cleveland’s success despite their injuries. Second, Scottie Barnes is a difficult challenge for other teams because of his stature and versatility.
On the fast break, he is the most gifted rookie, and he has shown signs of being a decent perimeter defender. Cade Cunningham, third — the point guard position is the most difficult, and Cade has excelled in it, especially in the second half of the season. With him, the Pistons’ play has improved, demonstrating that he is their x-factor.
Franz Wagner, fourth, was the second most prepared player in this group due to his shooting and creativity on the perimeter, as well as his height. He swiftly established himself in Orlando’s core, but he hasn’t improved the team’s overall performance.
Raptors Rapture: Mike Luciano, Mike Luciano, Mike Luciano, Mike Luciano, Mike Luci
It’s Scottie Barnes, so call me biased. Cunningham and Wagner are stat-padding for tanking teams, so they can be left out of this conversation. To truly appreciate what Barnes has accomplished, I believe it is necessary to recall the pre-draft expectations. We all expected Mobley to be a Sixth Man in his first season since he was so raw at Florida State.
He’s started every game since then, establishing himself as a capable on-ball defender and finisher. He’s capable of around 1-2 highlight-reel plays per game. Barnes is shaping the future of basketball, and Masai Ujiri is giving him plenty of room to show off his skills with the Raptors.
Piston Powered and Pelican Debrief: Aaron Kellerstrass Cade is my guy, therefore I put him first, despite the fact that Mobley (2), Barnes (3), and Wagner (4) are all having fantastic seasons. Cade has a bigger role on a weak team, whereas Mobley and Barnes are both supplementary players on a good-ish team.
Cade, on the other hand, is continuously double-teamed, is the person the opposing team game prepares for, and has the ball for all of the critical possessions. Even though he doesn’t play with any All-Stars, he’s already the Pistons’ go-to player and has the finest all-around stats.
It makes no difference since this is the strongest draft class in recent memory, and all of these players will be All-Stars. Josh Giddey and Jalen Green are likely to be added to this list as well.
Other NBA stories include:
This week on The Long Two, a better offense and adaptable defense imply that the Milwaukee Bucks’ best basketball is yet to come, and that the defending champions may still be the best team in the league.
De’Aaron Fox has been the face of consistency for the Sacramento Kings after surviving several major roster changes. Is that, however, sufficient?
For the Philadelphia 76ers, James Harden and Joel Embiid have raised the bar. Tyrese Maxey could be the deciding factor in their success.
Jason Williams dazzled NBA fans with his dazzling passes, but winning a championship while playing in Miami’s winning culture was the best of his career.
The Spurs have multiple first-round picks in this draft, and Mark Williams, a rim-running big man who adds a new level to their pick-and-roll game, may be an ideal late-round pick.
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