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NBA AM: Forthcoming NBA Milestones

LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dirk Nowitzki are among those due for big milestones this coming season.

Joel Brigham

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Every season, NBA players do incredible things, but few are as impressive as the long-term achievements of those active hoops legends that somehow have dominated the league over long stretches of time. While players like Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter appear on some very prestigious all-time lists despite waning abilities, others like Chris Paul and LeBron James are in the twilights of their careers and still are moving their way up all-time stat lists, perhaps with eyes on the top spots in some categories.

The following is a look at which milestones are ahead for NBA stars this season. With some all-time greats moving into the back ends of their careers (or in some cases, the way-back ends of their careers), the all-time stat lists are bound to see some big movement in 2017-2018. The following are the career milestones we can expect to see this season:

Career Points

Dirk Nowitzki is 1,159 points away from passing Wilt Chamberlin for 5th on the all-time NBA scoring list. Nowitzki would need to score 14.1 points per game for 82 games to surpass him, which doesn’t seem likely considering he only played just over 50 games last season, so while it isn’t impossible, it also doesn’t seem like Nowitzki will quite get there.

LeBron James, currently 9th all-time in total points, should easily surpass Moses Malone and Julius Erving this season, and it’s not impossible that he passes Nowitzki, too, depending on Dirk’s health. At worst, James should finish the season 7th on the all-time scoring list. At best, James could finish in 5th, ahead of Nowitzki and Chamberlin, if he scores 32 points per game for all 82 games.

Vince Carter, currently 27th on the all-time scoring list, is only 387 points away from moving into the top 25 scorers of all time. He scored 584 points last year in Memphis, so he could easily hop over Patrick Ewing and Artis Gilmore on the list this year.

While no one knows where Carmelo Anthony (30th on the all-time scoring list) will play next season, it seems likely he still will be asked to score quite a few points. Were he to score around 1,600 points in 2017-2018, a slight downtick from last season, he would jump nine spots on the scoring list to 21st, leapfrogging not only Ewing, Gilmore and Carter, but also Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Rick Barry and Alex English.

Career Rebounds

Dwight Howard (23rd all-time) is the active player with the most career rebounds, and he could make even more ground on those totals this year as a member of the Charlotte Hornets. In the past few seasons, Howard has hauled in somewhere between 800 and 950 rebounds, and if he repeats that in 2017-2018 it’s possible for him to finish the season as high 16th on the all-time rebounds list, passing Charles Oakley, Paul Silas, Dikembe Mutomobo, Charles Barkley, Bob Pettit, Jerry Lucas and Buck Williams. Next on the list, with 1,010 more career rebounds than Howard, is Shaquille O’Neal.

Nowtizki, meanwhile, is 31st on the all-time rebounds list. Assuming he hauls in another 300-400 boards this season, he should easily finish among the top 30 all-time, likely settling in at 29th ahead of Dan Issell and Bill Bridges.

Career Assists

Currently 10th all-time in career assists, Chris Paul looks primed to dole out a whole lot more of them this season in Houston. When healthy, Paul’s floor is usually around 600 dimes a season, while he’s only topped 900 assists in a season once in his career. Finishing the year with 750 would push him over 9,000 career dimes, which would jump him ahead of Andre Miller and Gary Payton on the all-time list. If Paul were to top 810 assists, he’d jump Isiah Thomas for 7th all-time as well, though he’d need another full elite season in 2018-2019 to have any sort of shot at Oscar Robertson, who currently is 6th all-time with 9,887 assists.

LeBron James is moving up the assists list, too. Currently 12th with 7.461, James could add another 500-600 assists this season, putting him over 8,000 for his career and likely moving him into the top ten on the all-time list by year’s end.

While Deron Williams could potentially retire, playing another season would potentially move him up a bit on the all-time assists list, too. Currently 19th with 6,819 assists, Williams is only 102 assists from moving up to 18th all-time. Another 38 and he’d be 17th all-time. This requires he not only land with a team but also be given enough minutes to tack on a few more, but Williams already has solidified himself among the top 20 all-time, regardless of what happens this season.

Career Steals

Chris Paul is currently 16th all-time in steals with 1,912. Only once has he failed to steal fewer than 115 balls in a season, and he has a couple of seasons early in his career over 200. Conservatively, Paul should be penciled in for around 150 steals this season, which would be enough to push him over 2,000 career steals and into 13th place all-time. With exactly 200 steals, Paul would finish the season tied for 10th all-time with Alvin Robertson.

LeBron James is currently 22nd all-time and usually ends up with around 100 steals per season. If he does that again, perhaps topping 115 steals this year, he could surpass Isaiah Thomas and settle in somewhere around 17th or 18th on the all-time list.

Career Blocks

Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol both are on the low end of the top 25 all-time for career blocks, and both should see some upward movement on that list this season. Howard (23rd all-time), has blocked between 90 and 130 shots when healthy over the last four seasons, and doing so again would get him to 2,000 blocks all-time and jump him a few spots on the all-time list. He could finish the season 20th all-time if he were to swat away 112 blocks this year.

Meanwhile Gasol, currently 25th on the list with 1,847 all-time blocks, only swatted away 70 last year in San Antonio after two seasons with 145+ as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Blocking another 100 would move him to 23rd all-time, into Howard’s old spot.

Career Games Played

Nowitzki and Carter are the only active players currently among the top 20 players all-time in terms of games played. Carter (14th all-time) could jump as high as 8th on the list this season, while Nowitzki (8th all-time) could tie Karl Malone for 4th all-time if he played all 82 games.

***

While watching Nowitzki and Carter this year might be as exciting as watching their athletic rookie teammates, the numbers they continue to accrue are incredible. Big milestones await for several future Hall-of-Famers this season. It’s just a matter of how much higher those numbers go.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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NBA AM: Most Likely All-Star Snubs

Damian Lillard seems to top the All-Star snub list every season. It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Joel Brigham

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This year the NBA has famously decided to mix up the way the All-Star rosters work, while rather infamously deciding against televising the draft that will organize those players into teams, but even as some things change, some things remain the same.

Just like every year, there will be snubs when the All-Star reserves are announced on Tuesday night. Oh, there will be snubs.

The starters already have been selected, chosen by a combination of fan votes, media votes and player votes, the latter of which were taken so seriously that Summer League legend Jack Cooley even earned a single nomination from one especially ornery player voter.

For those that missed the starters, they include LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and James Harden from the Western Conference.

That leaves seven more reserves from each conference and way more deserving players than that from which to choose. These will be selected by the coaches, per tradition, but it’s anybody’s guess who ends up making the team. There absolutely are going to be some massive snubs this year, so let’s take a quick look at the most likely candidates to earn roster spots this winter, as well as who that might leave out of this year’s event in Los Angeles.

The Eastern Conference

Let’s start with the “sure things,” which almost certainly will include with Indian Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Not only is he putting up a career-best 24/5/4 line, but he’s also averaging two steals per night for an Indiana team that currently lives in the playoff picture despite dismal expectations. That’s almost entirely because of Oladipo.

In the frontcourt, there was plenty of healthy debate when Embiid was voted the starter over Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, so there’s a very good chance that those two guys find their way to the roster, as well.

Kevin Love, who also is having a monster statistical season, seems like the most obvious third frontcourt guy, but his defense stinks and the Cavs haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy of two All-Stars. Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris both are having borderline All-Star seasons for a borderline playoff team, but they are the closest contenders to stealing away that third frontcourt reserve slot from Love.

Beyond that, Bradley Beal or John Wall likely will be the “other” guard reserve, but choosing which one is dicey. Wall’s the four-time All-Star, but Beal arguably is having the better year and has been snubbed for this event entirely too many times already. It doesn’t seem likely that both guys will make the team.

The wild cards could be that “other” Wizards guard among Beal and Wall, one of those two Pistons players, Miami’s Goran Dragic (they are fourth in the conference, rather surprisingly), Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.

What seems most probable is that Oladipo and Beal earn the Eastern Conference reserve slots, with Horford, Porzingis and Love earning the backup frontcourt positions. Lowry and Wall feel most likely as reserves.

That means the most likely Eastern Conference snubs will be: Goran Dragic, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummod, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.

The level of controversy with this group feels fairly low, though if Dragic or Drummond were to make the team over Wall or Love, the conversation would be a lot feistier.

The Western Conference

Choosing the reserve guards in the Western Conference is a no-brainer. It will be MVP candidates Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook, which immediately means that if Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Paul George are not named as Wild Card players, they will be left off of the team. That’s about as “yikes” as “yikes” gets.

The battle for the frontcourt spots are going to be no less brutal, even with Kawhi Leonard effectively out of consideration having missed so much time at the beginning of the season. The Spurs will have an All-Star anyway, though, which makes LaMarcus Aldridge all but a lock.

Towns, who is averaging a 20/12 with over two assists and 1.5 blocks per game on one of the West’s top teams, also feels likely to get in. That means Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic are the two guys expected to battle over that last frontcourt spot, and both deserve real consideration. Green’s importance is less obvious to this Warriors team with Durant on the roster, but he’s no less essential even if his offensive numbers are down. Jokic, meanwhile, has kept Denver in the playoff hunt even without Paul Millsap, and is the best passing big man in the game.

The most likely scenario in terms of Western Conference reserves has Butler and Westbrook getting voted in at guard, Aldridge, Towns and Green voted in as frontcourt players, and Thompson and Lillard voted in as the wild cards.

That means the most likely Western Conference snubs will be: Chris Paul, Paul George, and Nikola Jokic.

Paul has missed 17 games this season, which is just too many when there are so many other great guards from which to choose, and George’s usage has dropped massively in Oklahoma City. As for Jokic, somebody has to get snubbed, and the other reasonable possibility is that he be named a wild card player at the expense of Lillard, and no NBA fan should have to see that happen yet again.

The 2018 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced at 7:00 p.m. EST on January 23 on TNT.

Tune in Tuesday night to see which players will make the team, and which will inevitably be snubbed.

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