LeBron James vs. Larry Bird vs. Kevin Durant vs. Julius Erving

Heading into Game 5 of the NBA Finals, here’s how 28-year-old Kevin Durant’s career statistics stack up against three of the top small forwards of all time:

Kevin Durant 

Overall Career

PPG: 27.2

RPG: 7.2

APG: 3.8

SPG: 1.2

BPG: 1.0

FT% 88.2%

FG% 48.8%

3PT% 37.9%

 

Advanced 

PER 25.2

eFG% 53.5%

TS% 60.8%

WS/48 .219

 

Career Playoffs 

(105 games)

PPG: 28.7

RPG: 8

APG: 3.8

SPG: 1.0

BPG: 1.2

FT% 85.2%

FG% 46.6%

3PT% 34.1%

Career Playoffs Advanced*

PER 24 (26.9 with GS this postseason)

eFG% 51.5%

TS% 58.5% (.669 with GS this postseason)

WS/48 .189 (but .275 with GS this postseason)

 

LeBron James

Overall Career 

PPG: 27.1

RPG: 7.3

APG: 7

SPG: 1.6

BPG: .8

FT% 74%

FG% 50.1%

3PT% 34.2%

 

Advanced 

PER 27.6

eFG% 53.6%

TS% 58.4%

WS/48 .239

 

Career Playoffs

(216 games)

PPG: 28.3

RPG: 8.8

APG: 6.9

SPG: 1.8

BPG: 1

FT% 74.3%

FG% 48.4%

3PT% 33%

Advanced Career Playoffs

PER 27.8

eFG% 52.1%

TS% 57.4%

WS/48 .241

 

Larry Bird 

Overall Career  

PPG: 24.3

RPG: 10

APG: 6.3

SPG: 1.7

BPG: .8

FT% 88.6%

FG% 49.6%

3PT% 37.6%

Advanced Career 

PER 23.5

eFG% 51.4%

TS% 56.4%

WS/48 .203

Career Playoffs 

(164 games)

PPG: 23.8

RPG: 10.3

APG: 6.5

SPG: 1.8

BPG: .9

FT% 89%

FG% 47.2%

3PT% 32.1%

Advanced Career Playoffs 

PER 21.4

eFG% 48.5%

TS% 55.1%

WS/48 .173

 

Julius Erving [includes first 5 seasons (through 1975-76) played in ABA]

Overall Career 

PPG: 24.2

RPG: 8.5

APG: 4.2

SPG: 2

BPG: 1.7

FT% 77.7%

FG% 50.6%

3PT% 29.8%

Advanced Career

PER 23.6

eFG% 50.9%

TS% 55.8%

WS/48 .192

Career Playoffs 

(189 games)

PPG: 24.2

RPG: 8.5

APG: 4.4

SPG: 1.7

BPG: 1.7

FT% 78.4%

FG% 49.6%

3PT% 22.4%

Advanced Career Playoffs 

PER 22.1

eFG% 49.9%

TS% 55.3%

WS/48 .176

While Durant’s time with the loaded Warriors this season has hurt his scoring average, the numbers show above his actual shooting efficiency has skyrocketed. He’s also averaging a career-high in rebounding (8.3 per game) and blocked shots (1.6) while averaging a career-low in turnovers (2.2) per game. And, of course, Kevin Durant is winning at a higher clip than ever before.

“He’s probably going to win a title this week and he’s inordinately happy [according to] everyone who knows him well” NBA analyst Kevin Arnovitz said on Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast. “He’s the happiest he’s ever been professionally. He’s a guy who’s one of the best in the world at his craft who hadn’t really had a choice where to work, which firm to work for and under which circumstances. I think we’re going to see more of this—until the league decides we’re not going to have a max salary under the cap structure, so if you want Durant you’re going to have to pay him $80 million out of the $110 million available under the cap, and you’re not going to have room for another guy like that.”

Arnovitz added: “It started with LeBron in 2010. Stars are realizing that their value is driving the league and they want their work situations to be of a certain kind. It wasn’t that Durant wanted to stack the deck,” Arnovitz said. Kevin Durant “wanted it to be an attractive market, he wanted to play with a certain temperament of guy and he found a place to work that he really likes.”

Footnotes:

  1. *All statistics according to baskeball-reference.com.

PER = Player Efficiency Rating.

eFG% = Effective Field Goal Percentage

TS% = True Shooting Percentage

WS/48 = Win Shares Per 48 Minutes

Definitions are here.

2. Down 3-1, the odds are stacked against Cleveland to win Game 5 on the road despite the fact that LeBron James’ significantly raises his game in do-or-die situations. Five Thirty Eight forecasts Golden State still has a 98% chance to win the series overall, and the Warriors are 6-point favorites at home for tonight’s NBA Finals game, according to basketball lines for major sportsbooks.

Non-U.S. Team Has More NBA Experience Than Team USA; A Dream Team Era First

 Team-USA-vs-Spain-2

Kevin Durant’s withdrawal from Team USA earlier this month not only significantly altered the national team’s roster and chemistry. It also likely set into motion a domino effect ushering in a watershed moment in international basketball: For the first time in the Dream Team era, Team USA enters a major tournament with less total NBA experience than a competitor. Host Spain’s players have the most NBA experience in the upcoming FIBA World Cup with 49 cumulative years. Team USA is second with 46 years, followed by Brazil with 39 years.

 

This is only the latest tremor to ripple through a landscape that has dramatically shifted since the original Dream Team arrived in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics. Its 12 players had a total of 87 years worth of NBA experience. Germany followed with two players totaling 12 years. And not a single Spanish player had logged an NBA minute. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has firsthand seen much of this growth, wrote in an e-mail: “It is not a surprise that a national team other than the U.S. team has more NBA experience. In 1992, the NBA had 21 international players on NBA rosters and last season we had a record 92 international players so this really speaks to the global growth of the game.”

At the least, this benchmark is a sure sign Team USA must continue to work hard for its Gold medals. It may, however, point toward a basketball future where the Americans – despite their best efforts –  regularly lose to squads that are more seasoned and nearly as talented.

The 2016 Olympics may feature such a team: A loaded French squad could be the first non-U.S. team to feature a roster of all NBA players if dual citizen Joakim Noah joins the likes of Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Evan Fournier. In major competitions following that, Canada (with possible roster entries Andrew Wiggins & Tyler Ennis) and Australia (which appears to be on the brink of a golden generation with the likes of Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Ben Simmons and Thon Maker) also loom as potential rivals to Team USA. Of course, an advantage in NBA experience alone doesn’t portend ultimate success. In 2002, the Americans had a total of 65 NBA years but lost to three squads with far less. Two years later, they were eliminated in the Olympics by an Argentine team with a total of seven NBA years of experience.

Since that loss, Team USA has won 62 of 63 games. In 2014, though, a second loss in the Mike Krzyzewski Era has never looked more likely. The Spaniards are brimming with confidence and for good reason. They have a dominant front line featuring Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol, who looks to be in the best shape of his life and joins Anthony Davis as the tourney’s best all-around players. Spain boasts athletic and seasoned guards and wings who pushed American squads far more talented than this one in two Olympic Gold medal games. In all, these Spaniards have 11 players with a total of 701 international (FIBA) games played. This U.S. team has five players with 41 total games, according to ESPN.

2014 FIFA World Cup + host nation = sad
2014 FIFA World Cup + host nation = sad

Serbian head coach Aleksandar Djordjevic told one Spanish newspaper he believes Spain is the frontrunner. Meanwhile, Spanish guard Jose Calderon said the host nation’s team won’t crumble under the local weight of expectations (unlike a certain 2014 FIFA World Cup counterpart). “We are very laid back right now … the strength of this team is peace of mind to say you’ve got to compete and stay calm,” Calderon told as.com. “We know what we have to do, but there’s not the pressure of ‘Win no matter what.’”

Pressure to stay on top contributed to a bigger and younger Team USA roster than what was expected had Durant remained. For one, his training camp replacement Rudy Gay would not be traveling to Spain. But his absence might also have cost wing player Kyle Korver a spot. The 33-year-old sharpshooter would have been a perfect complement to  Durant’s supreme offensive abilities. Yet when Team USA announced its final cuts on Saturday, a premium was placed on size and strength rather than shooting skill and precision. As a consequence, Detroit’s Andre Drummond – who just turned 21 years old – is in. “USAB officials decided in recent days that they simply couldn’t resist carrying Drummond, especially with a potential rematch with Spain and its imposing frontcourt of Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka looming in the Sept. 14 championship game,” wrote ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Continue reading Non-U.S. Team Has More NBA Experience Than Team USA; A Dream Team Era First

Derek Fisher’s spring more than a Little Rocky

In Oklahoma City, greybeard Derek Fisher helped the Thunder wrest two games away from the favored Spurs.

For an NBA player, dry patches don’t come much more Saharan than this.

Twenty-two times over the course of the three biggest games of his season, Derek Fisher tried to put the ball into the basket. Eighteen times he failed. You’d get better percentages from Shaq picking up wood and trying to hit against Cliff Lee.

Even before last week, the Little Rock native was having a tough go of it. Indeed, this has been one of his most difficult seasons since coming out of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock nearly 16 years ago. He spent half of 2011 jetting around the nation, carrying out duties as the president of the National Basketball Players Association in the midst of a lockout. He spent hundreds of hours thumbing through papers and negotiating in boardrooms while younger players stayed sharp playing pickup games. In this way, Fisher sacrificed on-court maintenance for off-court progress, and it showed by the time the season finally started in December: the 6-1 point guard stumbled out of the blocks, shooting well below his career 40% field goal average while having trouble staying in front of younger, quicker opponents.

The man who had helped the Lakers win five NBA championships, who for 13 seasons served as a calming liaison between the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson, was suddenly expendable.

Continue reading Derek Fisher’s spring more than a Little Rocky