LeBron James and the NBA Stat Leader in Every Category for 2013
For all the talk about the need for hustle guys, the value of intangibles and the importance of the little things, NBA discussions are still often dominated by the quoting of statistics. Players stats are dissected and analyzed so often that they are the key factor in comparing a pair of athletes.
No matter how much the game changes over the years, players will still be scoring baskets, dropping dimes, snagging boards and generally lighting up box scores for as long as the game is played.
Today's NBA features a handful of players that can dominate an individual facet of the game, from rugged rebounders to lights-out shooters. But can their individual expertise outdo the talent of some of the league's brightest stars?
I can't say for sure, but I have compiled my prediction for who will lead the league in each major stat for the 2012-2013 season, what their numbers may look like and who could prove to be their stiffest competition.
Now, if you wouldn't mind joining me for a glimpse into the future...
Fouls Per Game: DeMarcus Cousins
2011-2012: 4.0 PFPG
2012-2013 Prediction: 3.7 PFPG
To put it simply, Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins is a foul machine. The talented young center averages 6.3 personals per 48 minutes and often struggled to stay on the court because of the rate at which he accrued fouls.
Cousins lacks discipline defensively and though he averages 1.2 blocks per game and 1.5 steals, he too frequently gambles and does not show enough poise. He would often overplay trying to knock the ball loose or mistime a shot contest and end up forcing the referee to blow a whistle.
Offensively, he had a tendency to try and simply overpower his opponents, making it easy to draw offensive fouls. He has plenty of skill, but did not utilize it enough in the post in order to avoid fouls.
Despite still lacking some maturity, Cousins did show growth last season, and his number of fouls per game should see a slight decrease. However, it will take time to work out his bad habits, and as long as he is still being asked to guard top big men on the block, he will have difficulty with racking up personals.
DeMarcus Cousins has the talent to be an All-Star down the road, but he needs to work on staying on the court long enough to make the kind of impact he is capable of making on the game.
Other possibilities include Blake Griffin (3.5 PFPG last season), and Paul Millsap (3.3 PFPG).
Turnovers Per Game: John Wall
2011-2012: 3.9 TOPG
2012-2013 Prediction 3.6 TOPG
Playing on a dysfunctional Washington Wizards team filled with low-character players, John Wall showed almost no development in his second NBA season—actually regressing slightly in many categories except for field goal percentage. Wall was second in the league in turnovers per game last season, and despite an improved supporting cast, is poised to again throw the ball away an absurd number of times.
Wall is still learning the NBA game and has a troubling tendency to force the issue and make questionable decisions. He has averaged over eight assists the past two seasons, but often needs to work on knowing when to shoot or dish and when to attack or wait for a play to develop.
With more talented players on the Washington roster there should be less mistakes by his teammates, but John Wall will still dominate the ball, which means inevitably that there are a high number of opportunities for him to turn the ball over.
He can often dribble himself into trouble or react poorly to a trap, and these are things he must work on if he wants to take the leap to All-Star, franchise level point guard like he is capable of being.
Although I fully believe Wall is moving in the right direction as a player he still needs to improve his decision making, and with his tendency to push the pace or attack off the dribble, he is capable of racking up a high number of turnovers every game.
Other possibilities include Deron Williams (4.0 TOPG), and Russell Westbrook (3.6 TOPG)
Minutes Per Game: Luol Deng
2011-2012: 39.4 MPG
2012-2013 Prediction: 38.8 MPG
Last season's leader in minutes played per game, Luol Deng was the quintessential "glue guy" for the Chicago Bulls, and should resume that role this coming season. Chicago is in for an extremely trying year with Derrick Rose sidelined for the brunt of it, and coach Tom Thibodeau will likely lean on Deng even more than usual to carry the club.
Deng would frequently see extended minutes playing with and leading the team's second unit, and with a good deal of their depth gone, that role should only increase. He will see the brunt of his time at small forward, but also rotate to shooting guard at times thanks to his perimeter stroke. He will probably even play some four in a smaller, more agile lineup with Taj Gibson.
Banged up for most of last season, Deng played through various ailments because his presence was absolutely crucial to the team's success. Even though he is representing England in the Olympics, Deng will have some time to rest his injured wrist and should be fully healthy come tip-off.
Even with the emergence of Jimmy Butler—who many expect to see more playing time in his sophomore season—the losses of Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and potentially Omer Asik will force Deng to spend long stretches on the court both playing and guarding multiple positions.
He is a great slasher without the basketball, but is also a skilled passer and will be counted on as a playmaker for the team. He may see stretches of time with the ball in his hands at the top of the key.
Deng is a multi-tool of a player whose all-around game will earn him tremendous minutes over the course of this coming season, even if they may be a slight decrease from last year.
Other possibilities include Kevin Love (39.0 MPG), and Pau Gasol (37.4 MPG).
Free Throw Percentage: Anthony Morrow
2011-2012: 93.3 FT%
2012-2013 Prediction: 93.8 FT%
Admittedly one of the most difficult categories to predict, Morrow has a great shot at leading the league in free throw percentage once again because he will see a decent amount of time on the court with the Atlanta Hawks and is an absolutely deadly shooter from anywhere on the floor.
Morrow will slide into a thin backcourt rotation with Jeff Teauge and Louis Williams, while also likely seeing time at small forward, despite his 6'5" frame. Morrow is primarily counted on to knock down three-pointers—which he does quite effectively—but the Georgia Tech marksman is more than capable of hitting from anywhere on the court, including the charity stripe.
Morrow has a sweet, consistent stroke and never appears to be rattled. He made 97 of 104 attempts last season, and with a few more minutes in each game, those numbers should increase. He is a decent athlete as well and is capable of attacking the basket and drawing fouls.
This category could very well go to a veteran like Steve Nash or Dirk Nowitzki, or even possibly a young shooter like Steph Curry, but Atlanta's Anthony Morrow will be the one to seize the lead in this category.
Other possibilities include Jamal Crawford (92.7 FT%) and Steve Nash (89.4 FT%).
Field Goal Percentage: Tyson Chandler
2011-2012: 67.9 FG%
2012-2013 Prediction: 64.1 FG%
Tyson Chandler is not a great scoring center. He does not have a consistent set of post moves, has a shaky midrange jump shot and is not particularly capable of creating his own offense. However, his blistering, league-leading field goal percentage last season proved that Chandler can be a contributor on the offensive end in addition to the defensive end.
Chandler's points came on a mix of transition dunks, hustle plays and offensive rebounds as well as a surprisingly effective pick-and-roll he could run with Jeremy Lin.
Lin may be gone, but Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd are both capable of running the pick-and-roll, and with Chandler's ability to finish at the rim, he should continue to be a sneakily good offensive option.
He does not try to do things on the court beyond his abilities and sticks to his strengths. On a team loaded with scoring talent thanks to Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and even J.R. Smith, Chandler is not counted on to be a 15-plus point scorer every night, and that enables him to take only high-percentage shots.
He is capable of absorbing contact at the rim, and boasts pretty solid hands around the basket. Though his shooting percentage may go down slightly because the Linsanity era is over, Tyson Chandler will still lead the NBA in efficiency from the floor by a wide margin.
Other possibilities include Dwight Howard (57.3 FG%), and DeAndre Jordan (63.2 FG%).
Three-Point Percentage: Steve Novak
2011-2012: 47.2 3P%
2012-2013 Prediction: 45.6 3P%
To many, Steve Novak has one of the best jobs in professional basketball. After being picked up off waivers by New York last season, Novak became a sensation thanks to his phenomenal shooting touch and ability to get off a shot with just an inch of space.
Now on a four-year, $15 million deal per Howard Beck of the New York Times, Novak will again be asked to simply camp out on the perimeter, wait for a pass from a teammate or a late defensive rotation and fire away. He is a poor defender and a spotty rebounder, but as long as Novak hits his shots from distance at a high clip, he will see consistent time on the floor in Mike Woodson's rotation.
The Miami Heat forced him to put the ball on the floor in the playoffs, which led to a very poor shooting series, but few teams can create that level of defensive pressure. Most clubs will have their hands full with Anthony and Stoudemire, preferring to be beat by role players than the team's two star scoring big men.
Novak's percentage should see a slight dip as teams are more focused on game planning for the sharpshooting stretch four, but as long as he runs the floor, finds his spots and moves without the ball, he will continue to be the recipient of many quality looks during the course of a game.
Other possibilities include Ray Allen (45.3 3P%), and Ersan Ilaysova (45.5 3P%).
Double-Doubles: Kevin Love
2011-2012: 48 Double-Doubles
2012-2013 Prediction: 76 Double-Doubles
Kevin Love is far from the most athletic power forward in the league. He is not a great leaper and is not the most physical interior presence when carving out position. However, with the exception of Dwight Howard, no one in the league is capable of accruing double-doubles quite like Love.
He is extremely crafty around the basket and has a knack for knowing where the ball will end up, which allows him to pick his spots for rebounding. Love averaged 13.3 boards last season, and is capable of doing work both on the offensive and defensive glass.
Offensively, he is one of the league's most versatile scorers. He can post up and play with his back to the basket, using an improved set of post moves to overwhelm his defender, but can also hit midrange jump shots and even step outside to drain the three when necessary.
Love averaged a phenomenal 26 points per game last season, and his ability to score from anywhere on the court gave opponents fits trying to guard him. He draws opposing bigs away from the basket but is also capable of playing on the low block.
He played in 55 contests last season and notched double-doubles in all but seven. Few teams in the NBA have the size to disrupt his game and even with an improving frontcourt thanks to Nikola Pekovic and Derrick Williams, Love will still be pulling the brunt of the rebounding duties.
As long as he stays healthy, even Superman cannot best the Timberwolves' multi-talented star.
Other possibilities include Dwight Howard (43 Double-Doubles), Blake Griffin (41 Double-Doubles) and rookie Anthony Davis.
Triple-Doubles: Rajon Rondo
2011-2012: Six Triple-Doubles
2012-2013 Prediction: Eight Triple-Doubles
Last season, Rajon Rondo was the only player in the entire NBA to notch more than one triple-double in the course of the regular season. Even more staggering is the fact that multi-faceted stars like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and even LeBron James failed to record even a single one.
Rajon Rondo has become Boston's do-it-all player, capable of plugging any hole and rising to the occasion in crucial games. He averaged 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 11.7 assists last season, phenomenal numbers across the board.
Despite being a point guard, Rondo has an absurd wingspan and great athleticism that allows him to sneak in among larger players to make an impact on the glass. He is capable of grabbing a defensive rebound and creating a transition opportunity better than almost anyone in the league.
His passing ability is well-known. Rondo's vision is incredible, he can see angles that appear to not even exist and always puts the ball exactly where it needs to be for a teammate to have an easy hoop. With the Celtics reloading this offseason, he will have plenty of tools to deliver dimes to and there is no reason to think his assist-average will dip back to single digits any time soon.
During the postseason, his scoring numbers spiked and he showcased an improved offensive arsenal. The main knock on Rondo has always been his spotty shooting, but he was not only carving up defenses with his bevy of fakes and moves off the dribble, he was consistently hitting midrange jump shots and making defenses pay for leaving him open.
The NBA has a number of players that can impact multiple facets of the game, but next season's triple-double leader will be Rajon Rondo and it won't be all that close.
Other possibilities include LeBron James (0 Triple-Doubles) and Kyle Lowry (1 Triple-Double).
Steals Per Game: Chris Paul
2011-2012: 2.5 SPG
2012-2013 Prediction: 2.4 SPG
Today's NBA has plenty of premier pickpockets, but no one is quite as good at forcing turnovers and pressuring opposing point guards as Los Angeles' Chris Paul. In his first season with the Clippers, Paul again led the league in steals because of his excellent hands and ability to read passing lanes.
Paul will spend time in the backcourt with Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford, neither of whom are elite defenders. This means Paul will have to make his impact felt by having active hands and capitalizing on obvious or lazy passes.
The Clippers' offense is lethal in transition, and many of their opportunities come from Paul batting a ball loose and igniting a fast break. He could transition seamlessly from defense to offense and the result of an opponent's mistake was often a show-stopping dunk by DeAndre Jordan or Blake Griffin.
Paul can apply full court pressure as well, and there were several instances last season when he would steal an opposing inbounds pass right under the basket because of his ability to anticipate where the ball was going.
Unlike many players who gamble too often on steals, Paul is extremely disciplined and knows when to stay at home and when to overplay.
Chris Paul is not only the engine of Los Angeles' offense, but he is their best perimeter defender, and his ability to come up with steals is a huge part of that.
Other possibilities include Ricky Rubio (2.2 SPG), and Tony Allen (1.8 SPG).
Blocks Per Game: Serge Ibaka
2011-2012: 3.7 BPG
2012-2013 Prediction: 3.7 BPG
Last season, his first as Oklahoma City's full-time starting power forward, Serge Ibaka showed that he was a fearsome interior defender and led the league in blocked shots by an extremely wide margin. The second-leading shot blocker, JaVale McGee, averaged nearly 1.5 less rejections per contest than Ibaka.
What makes "Iblocka" such a threat is his athleticism and his mobility on the court. Not only can he guard big men in the post and alter shots close to the rim, but his quickness allows him to pick up smaller forwards and even guards on the perimeter. On more than one occasion last season he could be seen blocking shots 20-plus feet away from the hoop.
Ibaka is a brilliant help defender who can protect a teammate that was beat off the dribble and rotates very quickly to cover up a defensive lapse. He played just 27.2 minutes per game last year, but he was the heart of the Thunder's defense and helped to change the culture of the team.
It helps that his starting frontcourt partner, Kendrick Perkins, is not a high-flyer and is more adept at guarding the low-post, but Ibaka's combination of length, speed and timing would allow him to thrive playing alongside anyone.
Coming off of an All-Defensive First Team season, Ibaka should pick up right where he left off and again lead the NBA in stuffs handily.
Other possibilities include JaVale McGee (2.2 BPG), and Dwight Howard (2.2 BPG)
Rebounds Per Game: Dwight Howard*
2011-2012: 14.5 RPG (3.7 Offensive)
2012-2013 Prediction: 15.1 RPG (4.1 Offensive)
This comes with the caveat that Dwight Howard at least begins the season with the Orlando Magic. Now that the team has lost Ryan Anderson, they lack a strong second rebounder behind Howard and he will be asked to carry an even larger load than usual on the glass.
Howard is capable of dominating both types of boards because of his athleticism, length and leaping ability. He can make multiple efforts to come up with a loose ball and is capable of carving out great position against his defender.
His strength allows him to snatch tough boards in traffic, and his ability to move around the court means that he is not limited to only grabbing caroms in his area, but anywhere on the court.
Orlando has Glen Davis and the freshly acquired Gustavo Ayon, but neither are great on the glass, and without another true center, Howard will again be playing serious minutes. Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn can both hit the boards, but neither rookie will see major time in their first season as long as Howard is on the roster.
Both Kevin Love and Andrew Bynum are able to have massive rebounding games, but they each play with a far better player in the frontcourt than Howard is slated to have next season. Pau Gasol is still strong on the glass, and the bruising Nikola Pekovic relishes banging and physical contact while going for rebounds.
Plenty of knocks can be made about Howard's maturity and his still somewhat raw game, but his ability to control the glass simply cannot be denied. As long as his back is healthy, Dwight Howard should be leading the NBA in rebounds per game next year.
Other possibilities include Kevin Love (13.3 RPG), and DeMarcus Cousins (11.0 RPG).
Assists Per Game: Steve Nash
2011-2012: 10.7 APG
2012-2013 Prediction: 12.4 APG
For as incredible of a passer as Rajon Rondo is, Steve Nash still only averaged one less dime per game while dishing to far less talented teammates. Now that he is playing with four legitimate stars and excellent scorers in Los Angeles it is perfectly plausible that he sees a spike in assist numbers, even at age 38.
Nash is one of the league's best pick-and-roll point guards, and he will have Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at his disposal next season. Bynum and Gasol are both excellent at rolling to the basket, have good hands and score around the rim. Nash has not had big men this offensively skilled since he played with Amar'e Stoudemire, and Gasol can also thrive in the pick-and-pop game away from the basket too.
He will spend less time with the ball in his hands because of Kobe Bryant, but eventually the two veterans will figure out how to play off of each other. Kobe is excellent at cutting and Nash's phenomenal floor vision would allow him to find Bryant slashing to the hoop. He can also camp out at the three-point line and wait for Nash to pitch out the ball on a penetration play.
The Lakers have not been a run-and-gun team in the past, but Nash will be able to push the pace of the game and try to create scoring opportunities in transition. Even in the halfcourt, Nash's ability to read a defense and capitalize on even the slightest error means that L.A. will be in good scoring position every time down the floor.
Because of the talent surrounding him, Nash won't have to look for his own shot and can spend entire games feeding his teammates and maximizing their effectiveness. Even Metta World Peace can be a consistent scorer when Nash is hitting him for threes in the corner.
Rondo and Chris Paul are both outstanding passers capable of racking up assists at any pace, but a change of scenery will give Nash an excellent shot at yet another assist title this season.
Other possibilities include Rajon Rondo (11.7 APG), and Chris Paul (9.1 APG).
Points Per Game: LeBron James
2011-2012: 27.1 PPG
2012-2013 Prediction: 29.4 PPG
LeBron James may have finished third last year, but he is actually in prime position to catapult back to the top of the scoring chart. Kobe Bryant has yet another season on his legs and will see less time with the ball thanks to Steve Nash, and Kevin Durant will lose shots to Russell Westbrook and James Harden while also seeing a few less minutes on the court because of Perry Jones III.
Last year, James finally developed the killer post game fans had been hoping he would add since he came into the league. With his strength and quickness, James is capable of backing down opponents and making a quick move to create a high quality shot. He no longer has to rely solely on his athleticism for baskets.
Though he cut down on the three-point shot somewhat, LeBron still hit shots from deep at a solid 36.2 percent clip. He can get extremely hot from the perimeter and use his jump shooting as a way to create driving lanes.
Of course, James' ability to barrel past opponents and get to the rim is the best facet of his offensive game. He has a great handle and can overpower his defender and either draw a foul or finish at the rim with authority. In transition he is automatic, and he runs the floor extremely hard on every possession.
Dwyane Wade is a year older and will continue to see his stats decline, and while the team added Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen who can score, that will also open up the floor for James to work because teams have to play them close.
He thrived as a power forward in the playoffs, averaging over 30 points per game and the incumbent-MVP should pick up right where he left off.
Other possibilities include Kevin Durant (28.0 PPG), and Kobe Bryant (27.9 PPG).