Thursday, December 16, 2004

New! Updated! Top 20!

We’re going to try to do this every couple of weeks, just to keep an eye on the elite of the elite. This is taking into account what we think these players’ value is over the course of the season. So …

1. Kevin Garnett, SF (MIN) – The last time someone averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds in a season? 1982-83, Moses Malone. I think. KG’s on pace (22.9/15.3).

2. Dirk Nowitzki, F/C (DAL) – We’re talking long-term here. Dirk is setting career highs in points and boards this year. His recent struggles shouldn’t be much reason for worry, though he might end up missing a game or two.

3. LeBron James, G/F (CLE) – Remember how everyone thought his jumper would be a problem? He’s shooting 50.6% from the floor. An 8-category stud.

4. Shawn Marion, SF (PHO) – It’s not a coincidence that he’s at the top of the Player Rater after every season. He deserves Top-5 respect.

5. Tim Duncan, F/C (SAS) – Don’t look now, but Timmy’s shooting 76.3% from the line this month. Thus, he moves up in our rankings.

6. Kobe Bryant, SG (LAL) – We yakked about Kobe plenty this week. His 7.6 boards and 1.2 blocks from the SG spot are spectacular. His .397 FG% is horrendous.

7. Tracy McGrady, SG (HOU) – In December, his points are up 5.8, steals up 1.7, rebounds up 1.2, 3PM up 1.3, and FG% is up 1.3%. It’s just taking some time.

8. Ray Allen, SG (SEA) – Everybody’s falling all over themselves in praise of Allen, but the interesting thing is, his numbers were even better last year.

9. Amare Stoudamire, F/C (PHO) – He’s shooting 57% from the field. He’s averaging 25 points, 9 boards, and 1.8 blocks. Just unreal. And nowhere to go but up.

10. Dwayne Wade, G (MIA) – Just the fact that he played through an injury yesterday, where last year he would have sat out, moves him into the first round.

11. Steve Nash, PG (PHO) – Nash for MVP? Who, other than LeBron perhaps, has had a bigger affect on his team?

12. Stephon Marbury, PG (NYK) – Very quietly, he’s keeping his owners happy while playing under the radar in New York. His percentages are both career-highs.

13. Paul Pierce, GF (BOS) – He just can’t seem to crack that upper echelon. He’s a great player, but still well behind James/Bryant/McGrady.

14. Peja Stojakovic, SF (SAC) – He’s in the top 5 in FT% and 3PM. He’s not even in the top 20 in any other categories. A disappointing year so far.

15. Andrei Kirilenko, F (UTH) – We didn’t have the heart to keep him out of the top 15. A top player, but his return date keeps getting pushed back. Not a good sign.

16. Allen Iverson, G (PHI) – Not only are his assists up to 7.4 per game, but his FT% is at a career-high 83.1%.

17. Steve Francis, PG (ORL) – A nice return to his pre-Van Gundy numbers is encouraging, but if he hit more 3’s he could jump a few spots.

18. Elton Brand, PF (LAC) – What happened? Under 10 boards, under 2 blocks, and Mr. Consistency is having problems. He should pick it up soon, though.

19. Ben Wallace, F/C (DET) – Is he really gonna average 10 points all year? I’d rather see him get his boards and blocks up to 2001/2002 levels.

20. Rashard Lewis, SF (SEA) – His scoring, 3’s, and blocks are all at career-highs. This might be the last year you could draft him in the 4th round or later.

Mo’ Pete, Mo’ Problems

Every year, at some point, Morris Peterson goes on a little run. Nothing great, but enough that you’ve at least got to THINK about picking him up. Well, that time is here. With Vince Carter hurting, and Jalen Rose playing truly terrible basketball in 4 of his last 5 games, MoPete is all of a sudden getting minutes. In the Raptors’ last 3 games, Peterson has averaged 33 minutes, putting up 15.3/5.3 with 1.3 steals and 2.3 3PM. Is it worth it to take a risk this time? Possibly. Let’s look at why:

- Vince Carter could be out for awhile with his Achilles problem. At first it was only supposed to be 2 games, but then the Raptors stuck him on the injured list. And this quote: "Once your Achilles' is done, that's pretty much a tough comeback … I'm just going to take precautions and make sure it's healthy" doesn’t sound like a guy who’s rushing to get back on the court.

- Any trade the Raptors make will likely involve both Carter and Rose. The Raptors have apparently insisted that in order to get Carter, any trade partner would have to take on Rose’s contract as well. And it’s unlikely that they would get 2 swingmen back in the deal. That could mean Peterson sees more time in the lineup just by default.

- You mean you really think someone else on this team will step up and take minutes away from MoPete? Don’t be silly. Matt Bonner? Lamond Murray? Pape Sow? No, no, no. Maybe Donyell Marshall could take away a little time on the court if the Raptors decide to go big more often, but that shouldn’t affect Peterson.

If you’ve got an extra roster spot lying around, I’d go ahead and grab him, just to see if he keeps getting minutes. But don’t drop anything of value for him just yet. Wait a few more games, see what happens with Carter. Peterson’s upside is pretty limited, and it’s not going to be a move that wins you any championships. You can afford to be conservative on this one.

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