Hall of Famer Jack McCallum pondered the choice between Johnson and Paul Pierce this week, and while Johnson doesn't seem the sort of player to build a team around, his approximation of Jamal Mashburn at Mash's absolute peak has the Hawks in the playoff mix right now with a 4-5 record. Johnson is averaging 27.7 points while making a solid 49 percent of his shots and 41 percent from long-range. Pretty good for a guy who was drafted to be a stand-alone shooter and sometimes-slasher out of Arkansas.
Redd continues to shine offensively, averaging 29.7 points and making a pair of 3-pointers per game. His lack of defense, however, we can't overlook. Not only is Redd's individual defense porous, but his help-side and team defense is abysmal for a 27-year-old pro who spent four seasons at a good college program. An offensive-minded shooting guard getting beat on the perimeter? That can't be helped. But Redd's inability to see when and where to slide over to help worries us. If Redd is going to be on the court for more than 40 minutes a night, he needs to start pulling down more than 3.3 rebounds a game.
Martin continues to fill it up. His true shooting percentage (a measure of how many points a player scores per a player's possessions) of 67.1 is second in the NBA - league leader Steven Hunter) averages just 5.1 points per game. Martin averages 23.7 points a night, and his Kings (stuck at .500) need it more than ever. Martin's astonishing start is best summarized by Tom Ziller, who created the blog Sactown Royalty, and wrote: "I've stopped being surprised by the kid, because he has exceeded every expectation every reasonable Kings fan has had."
Wade's 4-7 Heat are struggling, and despite Wade's best efforts, he hasn't been able to carry his team above the .500 mark. Why? His rebounding numbers are down from last season, about a board per game. That means fewer chances for easy transition buckets. Also, his turnovers are up, to 4.4 a game, which is a killer on a team that looks as if it can barely average 70 points a night.
Arenas shot his Wizards out of three wins this week, combining to hit for just 24 of 71 (33.8 percent) in three losses to the Pistons, Mavericks and Rockets. Tough opponents, to be sure, but how are we to reconcile that with his 14 of 24 (64 percent) mark in a win over the Cavaliers? Arenas scored 45 in that conquest, adding six assists with one turnover. Still, that's 95 shots in four games - games in which teammates Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison needed the ball for their quick-hit style of scoring.
After taking two games off to work on overcoming back spasms, Nash returned this week with a pair of strong performances in entertaining wins over the Warriors and Hornets. The Golden State game, in particular, was a gas: Nash offered 19 points and 15 assists in 36 minutes while turning the ball over just twice in a fast-paced affair. He also hit the game-winning jumper in that contest, showcasing a late-game perimeter touch that was absent in a series of close losses early in this, and last, season.
We're not buying the twaddle about how frustrated Bosh is up in Toronto. No doubt he's peeved with all the losing, as his Raptors have lost eight of 11 to start the year, but Bosh is too smart a cat to have not anticipated this. He knows the rebuilding will take a while and he knows the results will likely include a whole heap of wins in games that are fun to fight toward. In the meantime, Bosh is leading his team in points (22) and rebounds (12.8) while making half his shots.
The Hornets have won eight of 12, they're tied for the fourth-best record in the dogged Western Conference, and -- even with the additions of defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler (the Hornets are sixth in defensive field-goal percentage, up from 21st last season) and leading scorer Peja Stojakovic (shooting 44 percent from long range) -- it's Paul that holds it all together. The second-year point guard might be the team's best help defender outside of Chandler; he's averaging 18.5 points and 8.9 assists and keeping this young group happy.
The Nets have lost three straight, and though Carter has put up big numbers during the swoon (26.7 points per game, 50 percent shooting), he really needed to apply his scoring talents down the stretch during road loses to Seattle and Portland. VC was hot against the Trail Blazers and he took 23 shots, but only made it to the line three times, as the Nets seemed to look in other directions while Portland pulled away in the second half.
We know that Howard has yet to turn 21, and we know he'll go an entire quarter without seeing an isolation play called for him, but his offensive game still needs a bit of work. He still can't go over his right shoulder, his turnovers (3.7 a game) are up and his free-throw percentage hasn't improved much in his third season. And yet, this gem is still leading his team in points (16.3) and rebounds (13.8) while making 61 percent of his shots. He might be the biggest reason the surprising Magic are 8-4.
On the cusp: Baron Davis, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson