Kobe cracks the top 20 after his 52-point outburst
Posted: Friday December 1, 2006 2:28PM; Updated: Friday December 15, 2006 10:15AM
We've just entered December, and while the NBA's best and brightest are well within their rights to average 30 and 15 each night out, each night off will be met with swift repudiation from these parts. After all, if Working Jane or Joe isn't allowed to sleepwalk through a day at the office, why should Emeka Okafor?
Don't worry, I think these players are quite capable of handling the upbraiding. Enjoy the weekend, and the latest batch of Player Power Rankings (all stats and records through Thursday).
Don't let his averages of 24.4
points and 9.7 rebounds in 36 minutes fool you; Nowitzki's numbers were tainted during a six-point, six-rebound performance
on Wednesday night against Toronto, one in which he had to leave in the first quarter with blurred vision. He's played
brilliantly on both ends during Dallas' 11-game winning streak. He's the go-to guy on offense, his board work has allowed
the Mavericks to outrebound its opponents by eight per game in the run, and his active defense (you heard me) has turned
Dallas' season upside-down. Teams are scoring 91.7 points against the Mavs during the winning streak, down from 102.5 in
the season's opening four games.
Though some are still searching, it's
become increasingly difficult to find fault with Yao's game. All he does is score 25.7 points per game for a Rockets team
that milks the shot clock like no other, blocks shots (1.7 a night), rebounds (10.1), nails 54.4 percent of his shots and
84.7 percent of his free throws. The man is remarkably consistent as well: Wednesday's foul-plagued, 18-point performance
against the Suns marked only the second time all season that Yao failed to score at least 20.
Though his Spurs lost to the
Northwest-leading Jazz on Wednesday, the defeat had less to do with Duncan's 21 and 10 and more to do with frontcourt mates
Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto combining for two rebounds in 63 minutes against a beefy Utah front line. The Spurs have
dropped three of four in a tough post-Thanksgiving run, but they can't blame their franchise player. Duncan is averaging 22.6
points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 blocks for the season.
The Cavaliers have lost three of
four, and though you can't pin those missteps on James, in Cleveland's loss to the Knicks he did remind of the
perimeter-happy superstar who let the Eastern Conference semifinals slip away. James seemed content to let his less-talented
teammates lose the game for the Cavs while he floated around some 25 feet from the hoop. And it's not as if those bombs are
falling: James is 6-of-24 from long range over the last six games, of which the Cavaliers have lost four.
Garnett's defense is as good as
ever, and the 30-year-old forward seems content to just plug along -- putting up great stats for a lousy Timberwolves team,
waiting for a phone call from the governor or Kevin McHale (or some sort of video conference with the both of them), and the
resulting plane ticket out of town. He is averaging 21.6 points, 11.9 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals.
Wade's turn as Miami's de facto
point guard (as in, nobody else gets to touch the ball, even to bring it up court) has gone swimmingly. The Heat split their
last four games, losing twice by a total of five points, and Wade is seamlessly mixing in the scoring with the ball
distribution. Wade is averaging more than 11 assists during the four games, alongside 31 points. More important, Miami is
averaging 98.5 points per game since letting Wade dominate the ball, up from 88.7 points in its first 11 contests.
Like Yao's Rockets, Randolph's
Trail Blazers are quite content to walk the ball up the court every time down, which suits this low-post monster just fine.
That's why his averages of 25.4 points and 10.2 rebounds -- while impressive -- don't scan as well as they should. His
defense is still lousy, but north of Houston, he's the league's best low-post scoring option.
Check out his game log and you'll notice a curio: a
four-point, seven-shot performance in 30 minutes in a loss to Golden State on Nov. 25. Umm, Carlos, you're a go-to guy on one
of the NBA's top teams, and you're just not allowed to do that anymore. Like some of the wispy shooters who dot the bottom
part of this list, Boozer is dependent on moving without the ball to do his damage. If he passes on working without the rock,
then the Jazz are usually stuck with a low-scoring loss.
Denver has won five of six, and
though Anthony has ceded the league's top scoring mark to Allen Iverson, he's cleaning up the rest of the game. Since we
chided the 22-year-old a last week for
averaging more turnovers than assists (and nearly rebounds as well), Anthony has totaled nine cough-ups in three games. Good
news, because Denver's ultra-fast pace (99.5 possessions per game, far and away the most in the NBA) allows for plenty of
miscues. Anthony is averaging 31.5 points and has scored under 28 points just once this season -- in a game from which he was
Even though the Suns have an annoying habit of letting its opponents back into games, they have won five in a row, all following Nash's return from the shelf with back spasms. Shawn Marion is finding his groove after a slow start, Amare Stoudemire looks fantastic (22.3 points on 67 percent shooting and nine rebounds over his last three games) and Nash is keeping everyone happy. The Suns' leading scorer is averaging 20 points to go with 11 assists.