I really got myself into it now. The last time I made a choice between two players of such high caliber was before the Christmas Day game between the Heat and the Lakers. I picked Kobe Bryant over Dwyane Wade, after which Wade went out and got himself 40 points and 11 assists, while Bryant looked like he had consumed too much eggnog and scored only 16 points in the Lakers' loss. Still, I stick by my pick.
And I'm going to stick by this one after I analyze the impossible task of deciding between Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I matched them because they are versatile, out-on-the-floor 7-footers who are still hungry for their first championship. San Antonio's Tim Duncan is, obviously, in their class (and may be above it), but he is more of a traditional post player and, anyway, he has three rings.
So, KG or Dirk?
Garnett's versatility is beyond reproach. By the time he hangs it up he will not be the best big man ever to play the game, but he may well be the best all-around big. Right now he is No. 1 in the NBA in efficiency, which measures all statistical categories. The fact that he gets 22.7 points and 12.6 rebounds is impressive enough, but he also gets 4.3 assists, 1.67 blocks and 1.3 steals.
Nowitzki, not nearly as nimble-footed, can't begin to match the blocks (0.86) or the steals (0.7). He is not a defensive stalwart. The question is whether his offense pushes him past Garnett. Nowitzki is averaging 25.4 points on 50 percent shooting, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He is a much more accurate marksman than Garnett, and, further, much more dangerous since he shoots almost 43 percent from three-point range. Garnett is practically a nullity from the arc (8-of-44 for the season).
"Here's what I consider to be the difference between them," says one head coach. "Garnett will wear you down the whole game and you'll be reminded every minute of how good he is. But in the end, Dirk will be the one to beat you. Right now, he's the most dangerous offensive player in the league, and I'm including Kobe Bryant in that."
I tend to agree, and cast my lot with DIRK. And, well, if KG dominates him in their final meeting of the season, on April 11 at the Target Center, you know where to find me.
Here's a sampling of your responses to last week's Choosing Sides between the Hornets' Chris Paul and the Jazz's Deron Williams:
Evan of West Bloomfield, Mich.: "Last year Paul basically had only David West and the Hornets won 38 games.
A rookie taking a team to that kind of level a year after an 18-win season is amazing. Williams is great, but look who he has
-- two All-Stars in Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. What does Paul have? An injured Peja Stojakovic and West again. The Hornets
were one of the best teams at the start of the season until everyone went down, and now they have gotten back into the
playoff race. If you put Paul on the Jazz, they'd be competing for the best record in the league."
Joseph Magwood of Brooklyn, N.Y.: "Well, that is a hard one, but the bigger question should be who do the
Hawks wish they had. I would have to take Paul, but you can't go wrong."
Matin Salaam Bari of Washington: "Paul is clearly the better athlete and basketball player. He's a natural
lead guard and when placed with a dominant, alpha-dog big, he'll probably have a Hall of Fame-type career. He's the second
coming of Isiah Thomas, even proving he has that nasty streak that Zeke has with that ball-punching incident at Wake Forest.
On the flip side, Williams has ALWAYS been the better point gaurd. He IS the alpha dog of that Jazz team. Boozer and Okur went to the All-Star Game, but if you ask them who runs the show, they'll still defer to their second-year point.
He basically oozed leadership and charisma at the end of his collegiate career at Illinois, being probably one blue-chip
wing player away from upsetting that uber-loaded Tar Heels squad. I can guarantee that it is this same 'it factor' that we can
attribute to the Jazz's recent surge. As their games have translated into the NBA, I see pretty much the same Paul as I saw
in college. His first step, jump shot and b-ball IQ will always make him a star, but I bet that he'll toil in team
mediocrity until he's paired with a certified superstar. But as you've seen with Williams at both Illinois and Utah, all he
needs is a decent system and serviceable parts. So maybe it is Jerry Sloan who should take the credit, but only take credit
in having selected Williams over Paul."
Dave of Davenport, Iowa: "You're forgetting one more point to compare. After the Jazz drafted Williams, they
told the fans that another main reason that they chose him was because of his size, that they felt he would be less prone to
injury. The point seems almost prophetic seeing as this year Paul has missed many games to injury. Is Paul possibly a better
player? Maybe. But no matter how good of a player you are, you're no help on the bench injured."
Rummy of Seattle: "Though both are great young talents, I would go for Williams for the following qualities:
1) Leadership -- he is a leader of a better team right now. Also, seems to be a more vocal player. 2) Ability to make two
other team players (Boozer and Memo) All-Stars. 3) Ability to control and dictate the pace of the game. 4) Tends to take
snubs and defeats more personally -- case in point the All-Star snub and his performance since then. 5) Improvement in the
past year also points to Williams being a quick study."
Mike of Oakland: "Paul is really good, but your argument for taking him cannot be the quickness angle. If
you take a look at their NBA Pre-Draft Camp numbers, I believe Williams [more than held his own]. Paul may look quicker but
that isn't necessarily the case. I'd take either of them, but long term I'll take Monta Ellis, thank you."
Matt of Michigan: "You have to take Paul. As was stated, Paul is better with a team that moves, while
Williams can set up a squad and produce. The problem is most teams you'll face these days are trying to move, and it's much
harder to slow the pace down and be successful. Paul can run his offense and do so smoothly against most teams, while
Williams will be constantly fighting to keep the tempo to what he wants. If I were the Jazz, who want to play half-court as
much as possible, I'd take Williams, but any other team I'd take Paul."
Will of Cedar City, Utah: "I was in the camp of the 'second-guessers' regarding the Jazz's selection of
Williams over Paul. I still think Paul is an incredible talent. That said, Williams has exploded on the scene this year --
not only statistically, but more importantly in the 'intangibles' department. If there is any area in which Williams could be
superior to Paul, it may very well be his leadership qualities and his penchant for making the big play at the crucial point
in the game. I look forward to a Paul/Williams rivalry extending well into the future."
Guy of Berkeley, Calif.: "I'm a Jazz fan, but I'd pick Paul. Not for any reason that you'd might expect, however. My reason is much more cynical. I'd pick Paul because he gets better treatment from league officials. Just look at the difference between how many free throws the two players get per game, even though both are almost constantly taking the ball to the hoop. The NBA anointed Paul the next great point guard last year, and he got star treatment from the referees as a result. Williams is just another player, as far as the league is concerned."
Yaminator of Oxford, Miss.: "It is certainly a tough call between the two, but I think your assessment that
Williams is a poorer rebounder is not entirely sound. The Jazz are a very solid rebounding team with Boozer, Okur, Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko and Paul Millsap all being solid rebounders, leaving fewer opportunities for Williams.
Meanwhile, Paul has more opportunities with the relatively smaller Hornets squad. So considering that Williams' offensive
stats are a hair better (17.3 ppg vs 17.6 and 9.3 apg vs 8.6) and his defense is better, at this point I would have to go
with Williams. This, of course, could change in the future depending on how their games progress, but right now, Williams is
a small step ahead."
Joe of Washington: "With the caveat that I'm a lifelong Jazz fan, I'd say I'd rather have Williams. There's
no point arguing the stats, because they're almost even. So the deciding factor has to come from something other than
statistics. Both the Hornets and Jazz are significantly worse without their starting point, so that is a draw, too. I'd say
the one area Williams has an edge is that, based on his body type, Williams -- knock on wood -- will prove to be more durable
than Paul in the long run. Also, I have yet to see Paul absolutely take over a close game against a good team, and I've seen
Williams do that numerous times this year already. So edge to Williams."
Matt of Salt Lake City.: "I wanted the Jazz to draft Paul, but now I have to say that I would go with
Williams. Jerry Sloan made Williams earn every minute; he would've looked equally as impressive as Paul last year if given
that opportunity. Paul is an excellent player, but Deron is Jason Kidd with the ability to shoot the lights out."
Jay of Milwaukee: "I would go with Paul. He puts up numbers equal to Williams with a far less talented cast
around him. While Williams is running the show for the Jazz, Paul IS the Hornets. Not only is he poised to become a great
point guard in the league, but he is also becoming a face of the NBA."
Anthony M. of Philadelphia: "Let me first state that I'm a Lakers fan. When my Lakers play the Jazz, only
one player terrifies me and that is Deron Williams. He's big, he's strong, he's deceptively quick and he's a great passer.
Before he was drafted, I said that he would end up being a tad bit better than Chauncey Billups. Williams is the type of
guard you want to have in a seven-game series. Paul, on the other hand, just lacks the defensive toughness needed to advance
deep in the playoffs. The difference between the two is that Williams can scorch his man as well as contain him; Paul can
scorch his man, but cannot contain him."
Keith of Salt Lake City: "The two are so close in every aspect of the game that I think the only true way to
decide who is better is to look at the nicknames. CP3 vs D-Will. Both stink. But I'll go with CP3 for a slight edge in