2001 NBA Finals

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Misleading numbers

Iverson's shooting percentage isn't a fair reflection

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Posted: Wednesday May 30, 2001 1:25 AM

If there's one knock on Sixers guard Allen Iverson's game, it's that he doesn't shoot for a high percentage. His 42 percent shooting this season was the lowest of any NBA scoring champ (other than himself) since 1958, and after his 10-of-32 performance against the Bucks in Game 4, he's now 42 of 144 (29.2 percent) over his past five playoff games. Some recent letters to the 'bag have noted the Answer's poor shooting and asked how he could be considered MVP material with such dismal figures on his nightly stat sheet.

Like his wicked crossover, Iverson's shooting numbers can be misleading.

As Sixers head coach Larry Brown notes, the 6-foot Iverson creates all sorts of easy baskets for teammates by drawing defenders to him as he darts around the court. Dikembe Mutombo, in particular, feasts off Iverson's missed field-goal attempts by hitting the offensive glass for putbacks.

Given his lack of size and the fact that he often has to create a shot when the 24-second clock is winding down, Iverson never will shoot a high percentage from the floor. But as long as his teammates can keep snaring those rebounds, it won't matter. It's an unusual formula, but Iverson is an unusual player.

Now onto the 'bag:

Why do sportswriters and commentators continually refer to Shaq as the most "skilled" player in the NBA? It's simply not true. He is a force not because of his "skill," but rather because of his size. Can he shoot a jump shot, a sky hook or a 3-pointer, or even a blessed free throw? -- Caleb Jordan, Midwest

For a guy 7-1, 330 pounds, Shaq is a very skilled player. While it's true that he gets most of his points by simply catching the ball underneath the basket, knocking his defender flying and then dunking the ball, he has a lot more to offer than just brute strength. He's got a drop step, a baby hook and all sorts of spin moves that a lot of smaller players wish they had. In fact, Shaq deserves credit for adding so much to his game since he came into the league in 1992-93. He's a vastly more complete and well-rounded player, even if he still needs to work on his free throws. Shaq might not have to show his offensive moves very often, but as opposing players will tell you, he's got some potent ones in his arsenal.

What are the chances of the Clippers acquiring either Shawn Kemp or Dale Davis to fill their breach at power forward? As neither was particularly content with his role this year, and with Portland likely to make some changes, could one of these two, assuming Kemp overcomes his current problems, provide both an inside presence and leadership for the up-and-coming Clippers? -- Simon Smith, Melbourne, Australia

Kemp on the Kiddie Clippers? Now there's a scary thought for head coach Alvin Gentry. Seriously, there is no way L.A. would take a chance on a bad influence like Kemp at this point, even if it were willing to pay his exorbitant salary. Davis would be a much better fit, though he still has four years left on a deal that pays him $7 million next season. The Clippers have cap room, but they have been reluctant historically to shell out the big bucks. Also, they would have to give up some players in a trade, and it's unlikely the Blazers would make the deal for Eric Piatkowski alone. Look for L.A. to acquire a power forward this summer, but probably not Davis or Kemp.

What do you think about the Sonics' future, and what should they do about Vin Baker? Do you think they should trade Gary Payton? -- Brian Lichty, Shoreline, Wash.

With a new owner in Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, the Sonics are seeking a fresh start. They have made it abundantly clear that they would love to unload the underachieving Baker. Unfortunately, few teams -- if any -- are going to be willing to take Baker's fat contract, which pays him $11.25 million next season and runs through 2006. More likely they will deal Payton, who wore out his welcome last season and could command some real talent in return. The Heat, Kings, Knicks and Bucks all are said to be interested in "The Glove." If any of them were willing and able to take Baker along with him, Schultz would throw in a café latte at no extra charge.

Why doesn't the NBA seed its teams 1-16 in the playoffs, rather than play by conference? In each of the past two seasons, fans have been robbed of what should have clearly been the true test of the NBA's best playing for the ring. Wouldn't there be more depth and drama, not to mention a more honest champion, if the two best teams met in the Finals? -- Val Clarke, St. Joseph, Barbados

While it's true that sometimes the two best teams meet prior to the Finals, the NBA likes its current format. It reflects tradition and maintains the integrity of the regular season, in which teams play their other conference foes more than they do teams from the other conference. It also is pragmatic in terms of travel. If Boston and Portland met in the semifinals, they'd be criss-crossing the country as many as four times in a seven-game series. Besides, how does one really know if the best two teams are from the same conference? Didn't we all think that about the Spurs against the Lakers?

What are the chances of Toronto making a run at Dikembe Mutombo in the offseason? Signing Mutombo and moving Antonio Davis (assuming that they can re-sign him) back to the 4 spot would provide the Raptors with a lineup that is both flexible and deep. -- Mike Hume, Toronto

Though Toronto was one of the cities on Mutombo's wish list in the past, it's now highly unlikely he will be in a Raptors uniform any time soon. Toronto has no room under the salary cap to sign Mutombo, and Mutombo has made it clear he intends to re-sign with Philly this summer for the maximum dollars. The only way Toronto could land Mutombo now would be through a sign-and-trade with the Sixers, and it would probably cost Davis and Alvin Williams to get any deal done. Meanwhile, Philadelphia probably could get a better offer elsewhere.

Have you heard of a nickname for Tony Delk? We have an ongoing debate in the office, and a guy said the nickname he had in Kentucky was "Tony Buckets." Can you help? -- Jay, Baltimore

Delk is known to his Suns teammates as "Tony Buckets," but the origin of the nickname is not clear. Jason Kidd is said to have bestowed it on Delk after he signed with Phoenix last summer, but it's possible Kidd heard it from somebody else. Incidentally, "Tony Buckets" lived up to the nickname one night last season when he pumped in 53 points in a loss to the Kings.

Marty Burns covers pro basketball for CNNSI.com. Click here to send Marty a question or comment.

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