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Harbingers of fate (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday January 31, 2006 1:34PM; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2006 5:21PM
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History has been even more unkind to passers. Magic Johnson won back to back championships while also winning the assist title, but in the last 18 years only one leading "dish man" has seen his team even make the finals -- when Jason Kidd's Nets lost in 2002-03.

Shot blocking, most improved and rookie of the year are apparently nice things to win for an individual, but a bad omen for a team's chances of playoff success.

So let's get back to the question that started this investigation: Is having a league-leading scorer a better indicator of postseason success than having the league's best defensive player? It's close on an average wins basis, but that's including the 21 wins Tracy McGrady's Orlando Magic recorded when he won the scoring title in '03-04. Of the seven instances when the league's leading scorer has won the NBA championship, six are thanks to Michael Jordan and one to Shaquille O'Neal. Given that Jordan also won a defensive player of the year, he clearly helped on both ends of the court.

In 23 years the team with the league's leading scorer team has gone further in the playoffs on 11 occasions, while the team with the league's best defender has been better on 10 occasions; on two occasions, the teams were equal in playoff performance.

Defensive Player of the Year and team success
Year Player Team Wins Finish
04-05 B. Wallace Det. 54 2
03-04 R. Artest Ind. 61 3
02-03 B. Wallace Det. 50 3
01-02 B. Wallace Det. 50 5
00-01 D. Mutombo Atl./Phi. 50 2
99-00 A. Mourning Mia. 52 5
98-99 A. Mourning Mia. 54* 9
97-98 D. Mutombo Atl. 50 9
96-97 D. Mutombo Atl. 56 5
95-96 G. Payton Sea. 64 2
94-95 D. Mutombo Den. 41 9
93-94 H. Olajuwon Hou. 58 1
92-93 H. Olajuwon Hou. 55 5
91-92 D. Robinson S.A. 47 9
90-91 D. Rodman Det. 50 3
89-90 D. Rodman Det. 59 1
88-89 M. Eaton Uta. 51 9
87-88 M. Jordan Chi. 50 5
86-87 M.Cooper LAL 65 1
85-86 A. Robertson S.A. 35 9
84-85 M. Eaton Uta. 41 5
83-84 S. Moncrief Mil. 50 3
82-83 s. Moncrief Mil. 51 3
* 1998-99 was a lockout-shortened season, so wins have been prorated from the 50 game schedule to a full 82 games.

On the other hand ...

Leading scorers and team success
Year Player Team Wins Finish
04-05 A. Iverson Phi. 43 9
03-04 T. McGrady Orl. 21 29
02-03 T. McGrady Orl. 42 9
01-02 A. Iverson Phi. 43 9
00-01 A. Iverson Phi. 56 2
99-00 S. O'Neal LAL 67 1
98-99 A. Iverson Phi. 46* 5
97-98 M. Jordan Chi. 62 1
96-97 M. Jordan Chi. 69 1
95-96 M. Jordan Chi. 72 1
94-95 S. O'Neal Orl. 57 2
93-94 D.Robinson S.A. 55 9
92-93 M. Jordan Chi. 57 1
91-92 M. Jordan Chi. 67 1
90-91 M. Jordan Chi. 61 1
89-90 M. Jordan Chi. 55 3
88-89 M. Jordan Chi. 47 3
87-88 M. Jordan Chi. 50 5
86-87 M. Jordan Chi. 40 9
85-86 D. Wilkins Atl. 50 5
84-85 B. King N.Y. 24 21
83-84 A. Dantley Uta. 45 5
82-83 A. English Den. 45 5
* 1998-99 was a lockout-shortened season, so wins have been prorated from the 50 game schedule to a full 82 games.

With Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson looking to distance themselves from the pack in a bid for the scoring title this season, it looks like an "out of the money" finish awaits the scoring leader.

On the other hand, Ben Wallace, the reigning defender of the year has helped the Pistons to the best record in the league this season, he must be consider the frontrunner again. Indeed, looking at the 82games on court/off court points per 100 possessions defensive splits, the leaders as of mid-January were:

Boris Diaw, Phoenix: -10.8
Ben Wallace, Detroit: -10.1
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit: -8.7
Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee: -8.5
Shane Battier, Memphis: -7.5

Ultimately it's not very fair to compare an objective measure, such as points per game, to a subjective "popularity vote" like the defensive player award. Nonetheless, the debate over which is more important -- offense of defense -- dating back to beyond the Bill Russell/Wilt Chamberlain clashes, will no doubt be with us forever.

Bottom line? Having a major NBA award winner on your team is always a good thing.


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