The lockout shortened 2011-12 season has flown by. The Minnesota Timberwolves started on December 26th, and have played 13 games through January 16th. That is 13 games in 22 days! Unreal.
But it has been a blast.
There has been great games seemingly every night. And we have seen numerous teams do the unthinkable and win the third leg of a back-to-back-to-back.
What we have also seen in this shortened season is some younger talents rise their games to the elite level. While there has also been some familiar faces having their typical phenomenal years.
With the season just over three weeks in, this seems to be the right time to debut my list of the top 12 NBA players.
Before we get to the list, lets go over a few questions you may have.
Why 12 players?
So often “top player” rankings come in the form of top 5 or top 10 lists. But in the NBA, teams are able to dress 12 active players on a given night. That is why I choose 12 for my list. Relatively simple.
How was the list was choosen?
I used five categories. A mix of traditional basic stats, with new age advanced metric stats. I also took into consideration this fictitious conversation.
Owner X: “Brett, you are my new GM. You can have any ONE player for the rest of THIS season, who do you want?”
But note, that decision would be based heavily– but not fully– on those five categories that I chose to rank them on.
What are the five categories, Brett?
In no particular order: Points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, player efficiency rating (PER), and win shares per 48 minutes.
What is player efficiency rating and win shares per 48 minutes?
In simple terms, per basketball-reference.com:
PER: A measure of per-minute production standardized such that the league average is 15.
Win shares per 48 minutes: An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes. The league average is approximately .100.
Lets get to the list.
Here is my first installment of the top-12 NBA players in 2012.
Note: All stats are through Sunday January 15th.
Also worth noting: This installment will only consist of the player and their stats. Analyzing will take place in later lists.
TIER 5: THE UP-AND-COMERS
12) LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland
Aldridge is averaging 22.8 points per game which is 8th in the league. He’s pulling down 7.8 rebounds per game to go along with 2.4 assists per night.
His PER of 22.66 puts him 19th in the league. He also holds a win shares per 48 minutes of .192.
11) Rajon Rondo, Boston
Rondo is averaging just 14.7 points per game for 49th in the league, but his 10.1 assists per game facilitating the Celtics’ offense is good for 1st in the league. He is also pulling down 4.9 rebounds per night.
Rondo’s advanced metric statistics take a significant dip. He’s 37th in the NBA with a PER of 20.31. And his .134 win shares per 48 minutes is also rather low for a player contributing over ten assists per night.
10) Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
Griffin is 7th in the league in scoring with an average of 23.1 per game. He’s grabbing 11.1 rebounds on average per night to go along contributing 2.6 assists.
His PER of 23.10 is 17th in the league. But Griffin carries a disappointing win shares per 48 minutes of just .153.
9) Kevin Love, Minnesota
Love is 5th in the league in scoring with an average of 25.0 points per game. His 14.6 rebounds per game is good for second in the NBA. Unfortunately Love is contributing only 1.8 assists per game, which is a number that Kevin really needs to improve upon. But one can only imagine the immense difficulty of getting assists on a team where Wes Johnson has spent more games than anyone else starting at “shooting” guard.
His PER of 25.79 is good for 8th in the league. His win shares per 48 minutes of .250 is also good for 8th in the leauge.
Kevin is also the first player since 1992-93 to start the season with 13 straight double-doubles.
Looking at those stats, it would appear that Love should be higher upon this list. While I full-heartedly believe that he will eventually crack the top-7 at some point this season, I need to see more dominating performances by Love. The next eight players have had excellent seasons and have been doing it for many years.
(Note: Love recorded his third straight 30 plus point performance in a row. As I said I need to see more dominating performances by Love… Oh, wait. He is doing so.)
TIER 4: I’VE BEEN INJURED ALL YEAR RESULTING IN ME BEING A SHELL OF MY FORMER SELF
8) Dwyane Wade, Miami
Wade, who has been hampered by injuries early this season, is averaging 19.6 points per night. He adds 4.3 rebounds per game to go along with 5.4 assists.
His PER of 19.94 is lacking as that places him 43rd in the league. And his win shares per 48 minutes of .119 is above average at best.
Wade will get healthy, and when he does, look for him to jump up a few spots in this list.
TIER 3: WE FACILITATE AND COULD SCORE MORE BUT WE’D RATHER GET THE ASSIST
Paul’s 18 points per game is good for 18th in the league. His 8.4 assists per game places him 6th league wide, and he is contributing 3 rebounds per night.
His PER of 24.87 and win shares per 48 minutes of .234 are both good for 10th in the league.
6) Derrick Rose, Chicago
The 2011 league MVP is averaging 20.8 points per game, which is good for 10th in the league. His 3.5 rebounds per game helps the Bulls, but it’s his 8.7 assists per game (5th in the league) that put him near the top of the MVP discussion for 2012.
Rose’s PER of 23.68 is good for 16th in the league. While his win shares per 48 minutes of .255 ranks him 7th in the NBA.
TIER 2: WE’RE ELITE, BUT WOW THOSE TWO ARE KILLING IT THIS YEAR
5) Carmelo Anthony, New York
Carmelo’s 25.5 points per game is good for 4th in the NBA. To go along with his scoring, Anthony is averaging 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per night.
Melo’s PER of 25.06 is good for 9th in the league. And his win shares per 48 minutes of .199 places him 20th league wide.
4) Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
The two-time reigning scoring leader currently sits 3rd in the league in scoring with a 25.8 average. His 6.8 rebounds per game is good for 39th in the league, and he is also contributing 3.4 assists per game for the Thunder.
His PER of 27.2 is good for 4th, and his win shares per 48 minutes of .215 puts him 15th league wide in that category.
Durant’s most impressive stat is 0. The number of would-be-justified punches thrown at teammate Russell Westbrook this season. But I suppose Durant’s neck is sore from watching all of Westbrook’s shots clank off of the rim.
3) Dwight Howard, Orlando (now)
Dwight is putting up 20.5 points per game which is good for 11th in the league. His 15.2 rebounds per game is just ahead of Minnesota’s Kevin Love for 1st in the NBA. He’s also contributing 2.3 assists and 2.2 blocks per night for the Magic.
His 26.01 PER is good for 6th, and his win shares per 48 minutes of .207 ranks him 18th in the league.
TIER 1: MICHAEL WHO?
2) Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
Kobe, only 33, is putting up a one-for-the-ages type season. His 32 points per game is good for first in the NBA. He’s also grabbing 5.9 rebounds and contributing 5.4 assists per night for the Lakers.
His PER of 28.12 is good for 3rd. While his win shares per 48 minutes of .233 ranks him 11th in the NBA.
1) LeBron James
I really should’ve had a 1A and 1B for the top spot in my opening top-12 list. But LeBron’s non-scoring numbers are significantly better than Bryant’s, and he’s played with an injury plagued Dwyane Wade all season, which essentially levels James and Bryant’s playing field.
James is putting up 29.5 points per game which is good for second in the league. His 8.2 rebounds per night puts him 21st in the league, and his 7.4 assists per night ranks 12th.
His PER of 33.72 puts him behind the injured Manu Ginobili for 2nd in the league. His astronomical win shares per 48 minutes of .339 has him easily number one in the NBA.
Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank. He covers all things Minnesota sports. Brett is also the co-host of ‘The Backdoor Cut’ which can be found on KFAN.com. You can follow Brett on Twitter @brettcloutier.