Who has the “thinnest line” in the NBA?

What is a “thin line,” you ask? Well, I’m not 100% sure I coined it, but it’s my term for a player who scores, but brings almost nothing else — rebounds, assists, steals or blocks — to the table.

In order to determine who has the thinnest line in the NBA, I divided the player’s points by the sum of their rebounds, assists, steals and blocks to come up with the Thin Line Ratio (TLR). The bigger the number, the thinner the line.

To be eligible, a player has to average at least 20 minutes per game. And to be fair to the biggest scorers in the league, if their rebounds, assists, steals and blocks add up to 10+ per game, then they’re not eligible. So players like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Danny Granger and Kobe Bryant are in the clear. I figure any player who is posting 10+ in those four categories is bringing plenty to the table.

So here’s a look at the 10 thinnest lines in the NBA:

1. Kevin Martin (TLR: 2.89)
2. Jamal Crawford (2.79)
3. Marcus Thornton (2.69)
4. Ben Gordon (2.51)
5. Eric Gordon (2.43)
6. Ray Allen (2.43)
7. Jason Terry (2.36)
8. Richard Hamilton (2.33)
9. Corey Maggette (2.31)
10. J.J. Redick (2.28)

Surprise, surprise…that’s a list of nine or ten shooting guards, depending on how you classify Corey Maggette (and maybe Jamal Crawford). These are players whose job it is to shoot the ball and they obviously embrace that role. You won’t see these players battling for rebounds or doing a lot of penetrate and dish.

The top point guard in TLR? Aaron Brooks (2.19), winner of this year’s Most Improved Player award.

The top small forward (other than Maggette)? Josh Howard (2.12)

The top power forward? Bill Walker (2.14), but he played in just 35 games. Al Harrington (2.12) was the next highest PF on the list.

The top center? Andrea Bargnani (1.91), but is he really a center? The next highest eligible center is Channing Frye (1.33).

Who has the thickest line (i.e. the lowest TLR)?

PG – Jason Kidd (0.61)
SG – Thabo Sefolosha (0.72)
SF – Luc Mbah a Moute (0.78)
PF – Jared Jeffries (0.71)
C – Marcus Camby (0.43)

Jason Kidd plus four defensive specialists. Boy, that would be some ugly offense, but they’d be a bitch to score on.

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Butler-Howard swap in the works?

ESPN is reporting that there is new life to the Dallas/Washington trade that would be centered around Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Josh Howard.

Talks between the teams had stalled in the past week, partly because of Washington’s insistence that the Mavericks take guard DeShawn Stevenson in any Butler deal, but the potential for acquiring two front-line players — since Butler and Haywood would immediately become key rotation players for the Mavs — has renewed Dallas’ interest.

Sources told ESPN.com that the teams’ negotiations only turned more serious Friday on a deal that would send Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and some smaller cap-friendly contracts to Washington for Butler, Haywood and Stevenson.

Well, color me confused. Earlier, we discussed the possibility of the Wizards sending Butler and Antawn Jamison to the Celtics for Ray Allen and his expiring contract, and now this rumor resurfaces.

To me, if the Wizards are rebuilding, why trade Butler for Howard? He’s 29 — the same age as Butler — and hasn’t been the player this year as he has in years past. He has a team option for next season, so presumably they’d let him walk, because if you can’t build around Butler then you certainly can’t build around Howard.

The right way to start a rebuilding process is to get some good young talent or first round draft picks when trading away stars. Otherwise, it’s just a salary dump. This deal might be appealing to the Wizards because they can try to sell their season ticket holders on the fact that, talent-wise, the trade was pretty even. But really, they’re just treading water, if that.

Like I said, color me confused.

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The top 10 first round steals of the last 10 years

Everyone loves to focus on the lottery, but there are good players to be had in the late first round as well. A while back, I put together a list of the top second round picks of the modern era, so now I’m going to focus on those players that were drafted between pick #21 and pick #30 in the first round. (Note: If a player was drafted in the second round, even if they were taken with the #29 or #30 pick overall, they are ineligible to make the list. Sorry, Gilbert.) Since there are more star-quality players available in the 20’s, I’m limiting this list to the last ten drafts (i.e. 1999 through 2008).

It is sometimes tough to rank older players with newer players, but even if a younger player holds more trade value right now, I am going to take into account each player’s entire career. For the young guys, I have to project a little bit, so keep that in mind as you read and react. I feel great about the top eight guys, but there are a few players that missed the list that are pretty interchangeable with #9 and #10.

On with the list…

10. Aaron Brooks, Rockets
26th pick in 2007
I had to decide between Brooks and Nate Robinson here and went with Brooks given his fine performance in the playoffs this season (16.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 42% from 3PT) and how Robinson’s numbers are a little inflated playing for Mike D’Antoni. Brooks is not a natural point guard, but his sharpshooting is a good fit given Houston’s inside-out attack. He’s small, but he’s quick and is able to score at the rim when given some daylight. The Rockets feel good enough about Brooks to trade Rafer Alston away midseason, so you have to like his upside.

9. Kendrick Perkins, Celtics
27th pick in 2003 (drafted by the Grizzlies)
In the world of “big” guys, I also considered Boris Diaw here, but it’s tough to pass on a 6’10” 24-year-old who averaged 8.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game on a team loaded with vets. Without Kevin Garnett in the playoffs, the C’s needed Perkins to step up his game and he responded with 11.9 points, 11.6 boards and 2.6 blocks per contest. He also did a pretty good job on Dwight Howard, who had his worst numbers of the playoffs against the Celtics.

8. David Lee, Knicks
30th pick in 2005
Isiah Thomas couldn’t make a good trade to save his life, but he could spot talent in the draft. Lee has turned out to be a steal with the last pick in the 2005 draft. He’s an athletic lefty whose best traits are his hustle and smarts. In just his fourth season, Lee averaged 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, which made him one of the most consistent double-double guys in the league. His stock is so high right now that the Knicks might be able to use him as trade bait in order to land Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire. Maybe they’d be better off sticking with Lee…

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Early-season NBA awards

The NBA season is less than a month old, but that’s not going to stop me from handing out some early-season awards…

The most outstanding rookie award goes to…Rudy Fernandez.
Derrick Rose is probably the front-runner for the ROY award, but Rudy has been better thus far. His PER is an eye-popping 23.89 (Rose’s is 17.78), which is second-best amongst all shooting guards, and it seems like night after night he’s making a highlight-reel play. Fernandez is averaging 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists, while shooting 48% from the field and 46% from long range. To top it off, he’s nailing 93% of his free throws and is registering 1.3 steals per game. His fine play is allowing the Blazers to be patient with Jerryd Bayless by running Brandon Roy at he point and Fernandez at off guard. Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Jason Thompson and Kevin Love deserve honorable mention.

The league MVP goes to…LeBron James.
Cleveland is 6-2 and that projects to a 62-win season. If the Cavs can accomplish that, LeBron is going to run away with the MVP award. He’s averaging 29.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists, and is shooting 49% from the field and 78% from the free throw line (which would be a career-high). A case could be made for Kobe Bryant, but he has a much better supporting cast and LeBron’s numbers are better across the board. (Besides, I don’t think voters would want to give Kobe back-to-back MVP awards.) Paul Pierce is a possibility, but he’s only shooting 41% from the field this season. Chris Paul is having an even better year than last season’s remarkable jump, but the Hornets are just 4-3 thus far. Atlanta’s Joe Johnson might be LeBron’s biggest challenger early in the season, but King James has him beat in virtually every statistical category. LeBron it is.

The “I’m the real reason the Bucks traded away Mo Williams” award goes to…Ramon Sessions.
Even though he’s playing fewer minutes (barely) than starter Luke Ridnour, Sessions is averaging more points (15.6 to 10.6), steals (1.1 to 0.9), has a better assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7 to 1.9), a better FG% (48% to 34%) and a better 3PT% (40% to 27%). I don’t think the Bucks are going to be too heartbroken when Ridnour’s contract is up after next season because it looks like Sessions, the former second-round pick, is Milwaukee’s point guard of the future. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal, so it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of contract he gets next summer.

The “maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to come to L.A.” award goes to…Baron Davis.
First, he thinks he’s going to get to play with Elton Brand, but Brand bolts for Philly. Now the Clippers are 1-7 and are losing games by a league-worst 13.4 points per game. Their defense is bad, but their offense is worse. They have scored the second-fewest points per game (88.3) and have the second-worst field goal percentage (41%). For his part, Davis hasn’t done much to help the cause. He’s shooting 37% from the field and just 26% from long range. If this keeps up, the Clippers will be out of the playoff race by Christmas.

The “boy, Devin Harris and those two first round picks are looking really good right now” award goes to…Mark Cuban.
Last year, when the Dallas owner pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Devin Harris and two first round picks to the Nets for a 34 year-old Jason Kidd, I was very skeptical. It was a longshot that the trade would pan out, as it was debatable at the time of the trade whether or not Kidd was even better than Harris. Certainly, Harris had a lot more upside, and his stint in New Jersey has allowed him to flourish. The first of the two picks was used on Ryan Anderson, and he is playing pretty well in limited minutes this season. The second pick is an unprotected first rounder in 2010, which could be a lottery pick if the Mavs can’t get things straightened out. They are 2-5 and their top four players – Kidd (35), Dirk Nowitzki (30), Jason Terry (31) and Josh Howard (28) – are all at least 28 years-old. Barring an injury to one of these guys, the Mavs will probably be fighting for a playoff spot in April, but that’s not exactly what Cuban had in mind.

2008 NBA Preview: #11 Dallas Mavericks

Offseason Movement: The Mavs’ big move was to jettison Avery Johnson and hire Rick Carlisle as head coach. They also acquired Shawne Williams from the Pacers. Of course, last February the team traded Devin Harris and two first round picks for Jason Kidd. Kidd’s return to Dallas didn’t get off to a very good start.
Keep Your Eye On: Jason Kidd, PG
Kidd is in the final year of his contract (worth $21 million) so if things don’t go well to start the season, it’s not inconceivable that the Mavs could cut bait and trade him before the February deadline. The team is attempting to build around Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry, but all three players have topped out and it doesn’t look like they’ll be enough to get the Mavs over the hump. What’s worse – the Mavs gave up their best young prospect (Harris) to acquire Kidd, so if that experiment fails, the Mavs will not only have screwed themselves in the present, but they’ll have screwed themselves in the future, too.
The Big Question: Is this group good enough?
Nowitzki is still an All-Star caliber player and Howard and Kidd make up a more than adequate supporting cast. But there’s something missing with this group. Call it toughness, moxy, swagger, heart, whatever. I just don’t get the sense from this team that they have what it takes to make it to the Finals again. It’s sad, really, considering that, if not for the officials’ decision to send Dwyane Wade to the line for every ticky-tack foul, the Mavs would have beat the Heat in the Finals three years ago. Dirk should go down as one of the league’s all-time greatest players, but his team’s failure to close the deal in the 2006 Finals has seemingly sent the franchise into a tailspin. And no one, not Mark Cuban, not Avery Johnson, and not Jason Kidd, has been (or will be) able to pull them out of it.
Outlook: Desperate. Cuban is pulling out all the stops (i.e. mortgaging the franchise’s future) to win now. The Kidd trade was bold but ill-advised, as it undermined the long-term competitiveness of the club. Devin Harris is a good young point guard with loads of potential, and that kind of player is tough to come by. Now Cuban has hitched his wagon to a 35 year-old point guard whose best years are (far) behind him. This has the makings for a slow, steady decline.

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