Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Underrated Stars

By Anthony Peretore

Every few weeks or so (meaning once a month at the very most), I’ll be taking some time out to evaluate different players in the league and how much or little they are contributing to their teams based upon expectation. I will compose two top 5 lists one, ‘overrated’ and the other, ‘underrated,’ doing my very best to avoid 82games.com and their Roland Rankings (stats are only significant for players averaging 20-30 min). Instead, I will focus primarily on players’ statistics this season compared to those throughout their careers. Feedback of any kind is much appreciated.

5. Steve Nash
I know, I know, Nash is getting plenty of buzz around the league, but isn’t it ironic that now we all seem to recognize his true importance on this Suns’ team when he’s not playing? The Suns have currently lost three games in a row without their star point guard—not a big deal unless your team had only lost four games all season before this. Nash is the gas that makes this high-flying offense go, evident in the abundance of points Phoenix puts up every night. Before Stevie’s quad injury, the Suns led the league (and still do) with 110.0 PPG, but in their last three games they have averaged a disheartening 88.7. Their 80 and 83 point efforts in the last week were by far their lowest outputs of the season. The main difference Nash provides is his uncanny ability to distribute the ball. Phoenix averages 22.8 APG (4th best in the NBA), led by Nash and his league-leading 10.9 dimes per night. Last season, the Suns averaged just 19.3 APG, a total that placed them 24th in the league--quite a difference. In addition to his superb passing numbers, Nash ranks 10th in the league in FG% at 51.6, a stat that goes relatively unnoticed. No other point guard (in averaging 10 or more FGA per game) is even at the 50% mark for the season. Not only is Nash getting his teammates involved, but he’s also making wise decisions when he rarely decides to chuck one up. Many reporters and analysts consider Nash the MVP of the league thus far and by the effects he’s had on the team in missing their last few games, they might be right.
More Nash #'s: 1.1 SPG, 91.0-FT%

4. Paul Pierce
Once again, "The Truth" is being criticized for having yet another subpar season in Boston, especially with the Celts 3 games under .500. Last season, Pierce’s PPG dropped off by 2.9 and many fans questioned his dedication to the team and in particular, winning. In 2003-04, fans may have had a case, but if we look beyond just basic statistics this season, we actually find that Pierce’s scoring numbers in ‘04-05 are arguably the best of his career. Yes, his PPG average has fluctuated quite a bit over his 7 years in the league, but what fans fail to realize is that the main factor may not be his dedication, but rather simply, the number of shots he puts up per night. Take a look:

‘98-99: 16.5 PPG, 13.5 FGA, 1.22 points per shot (PPS)
‘99-00: 19.6 PPG, 15.1 FGA, 1.29 PPS
‘00-01: 25.3 PPG, 18.5 FGA, 1.37 PPS
‘01-02: 26.2 PPG, 19.5 FGA, 1.34 PPS
‘02-03: 25.9 PPG, 20.2 FGA, 1.28 PPS
‘03-04: 23.0 PPG, 18.7 FGA, 1.23 PPS
‘04-05: 21.5 PPG, 15.7 FGA, 1.38 PPS (12th in the NBA)

The numbers don’t lie and the evidence shows that Pierce, in terms of efficiency, is having his best shooting season of his career. His FG% (43.2) and 3-pt FG% (32.4) are his highest averages in three years. His turnovers per game (2.8) are a full point lower than last season and his lowest since ‘99-00 when, at the time, he was handling the ball considerably less. Now, maybe he hasn’t hit as many game winning shots or put up enough 30+ point nights (only 5) as he’s done in years past, but Pierce is still an elite scorer in this league. Another possibility to keep in mind is that by playing him less minutes (2.5 less per night than last season), maybe Coach Doc Rivers is simply saving his star player for the team’s playoff run. With the Celtics playing their next four against sub-.500 clubs, maybe then we will get to see the player behind the numbers.
More Pierce #'s: 6.6 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.6 SPG

3. Troy Murphy
Murphy has to be the front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year, unless they give it to Vin Baker for trimming his DPG (drinks per game) down to just 3.4. The Notre Dame graduate is quietly having his best season as a pro, averaging 16.2 PPG and 11.6 RPG (4th in NBA) in 35.1 minutes per game. Murph also ranks 6th in the league in offensive rebounds per game at 3.5 and is tied for fourth with 24 double-doubles. The problem is, the Warriors can’t stay healthy enough to provide Murphy with any support. The other four starters: Cliff Robinson (0), Jason Richardson (9), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (2) and Speedy Claxton (2) have missed a total of 13 games with most of them coming on separate occasions. When this unit does in fact start off a game, the Warriors are a respectable 7-7. In the games in which at least one of these guys has missed or come off the pine, the team is a dismal 5-20. Coach Mike Montgomery has to be happy with last night’s 107-97 win over Denver in which JRich came back from injury to drop 42. As for Murphy, well once again he played second fiddle, putting up a quiet 22 and 17.
More Murphy #'s: 48.2 3-pt FG%

2. Bobby Simmons
Here’s a cool story that I love to remind Paul of on a daily basis. After the conclusion of our fantasy draft, my NBA Source partner mentioned to me how well Simmons had been playing in the preseason. He also brought up the fact that with Kerry Kittles nursing an injured knee, Simmons should continue to warrant consistent minutes and in turn, decent numbers, in the near future. The problem was Paul had no one to drop, but conveniently, I did. So after Simmons scorched the Sonics for 30 on opening night, I quickly got rid of Mike James and welcomed my second Clipper (Maggette) with opened arms. Simmons, a big reason why the Clippers are a respectable 18-19 (equivalent to the Suns being 31-8), has started every game this season and should maintain the SF slot for the rest of the year, of course, barring an injury. The former DePaul star is averaging 15.9 PPG (on 48.6% shooting, 5th among starting SFs), 6.5 RPG and 1.4 SPG in 37.2 minutes. His main attribute however, doesn’t show up in the boxscore. At 6-7, Simmons has the nightly role of guarding opposing 2’s and 3’s and has done a brilliant job thus far. As the Clippers’ defensive stopper and number three scorer, Bobby may just be the Most Improved Player and to a lesser extent, the fantasy pickup of the year. Thanks Paul.

1. Manu Ginobili
As much as I hate this prick, he is probably the most undervalued player in the game. Why do I hate him, because he’s a whiner that thinks we’re in Argentina playing Euro rules, when much to his surprise, we’re in the U.S.A. playing with bigger, tougher players that aren’t going to let him skip and hop all over the court whenever he wants to. And that 70’s porn mustache/goatee is ridiculous. Someone like Devin Brown or Malik Rose was probably like, "yeah son, that looks hot, don’t shave that shit." Anyway, on to what he actually brings to the court when he’s not bitching. Ginobili absolutely tore it up this summer in Athens averaging 19.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.3 APG in just 29.9 minutes in leading his native country to a gold medal. The 6-6 swingman’s Olympic success has carried over to his play this season in San Antonio. Manu is averaging 14.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.9 APG and 1.8 SPG (7th in NBA) in just 29.2 minutes for Coach Gregg Popovich. He has started 38 games for the Spurs this season in helping lead the team to a 31-9 record, good for the league’s second best record overall. Another random stat: for players attempting 120 or more 3-pointers, Ginobili ranks 12th with a 38.9 shooting percentage—in case you were wondering. As you can see, Manu does a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor and most importantly, compliments Tim Duncan very well. The reason the Spurs are so darn good is that their players realize TD is their go-to-guy at any and every juncture of the game. Thanks in large part to Manu and his hideous facial hair, the Spurs are currently the team to beat for this year’s NBA Championship.

‘Overrated’ Stars coming later this week….


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, nash is good, but i'd say he's overrated. he's the third best player on his team and everyone wants him for mvp. methinks it's because 1) it's a great "story" the kind that sportswriters like to tout and 2) it's cuz he's white and speaks english without any kind of real accent, eh.

why is phoenix suddenly losing SOOO badly. it's not that steve nash is injured. it's that leandro barbosa is their starting pg now, and we saw how great he is last year, what with their worst record in the west and all. let's get real: if these games were at home, or against weaker teams, or if phoenix had an average pg replacing nash, the suns and nba fans' response would be much, much different right now.

he's been very good, and is a great fit, but he's not THAT good. just watch him play defense. when the spurs beat the suns 4-0 in the playoffs, it will be primarily because tony parker ate nash for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.


At 6:27 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

I def agree Nash isn't that great on the defensive end of the floor, but c'mon, no one is that bad (Barbosa) for them to drop off 20 PPG. 20 points dude. That means Nash makes his team 20 points better. People were talking about this team breaking the Bulls' 72-10 mark before his injury. Now everyone (including you) is saying they'll be done in four to San Antone, which isn't true. Feenicks will get at least two off the Spurs and I'll bet you on that. Hope you enjoyed the rest of the article. Thanks for writing. Peace


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