Predicting the Top 3 Threats to Each NBA Statistical Leader
Because James is accomplishing so much across multiple statistical categories—some of them mutually exclusive.
For example, leading the league in points and assists is nearly impossible when one kind of play renders the other impossible. So when we analyze the leaders in these categories, it is with the knowledge that specialists win the day.
Kevin Durant: Scoring Title
Kevin Durant will almost assuredly win this category, especially now that James Harden has been shipped to Houston. But if someone overtakes him, he will hail from the frontcourt.
Point guards spend their possessions getting shots for others. Shooting guards by and large don't exist anymore (though Kobe Bryant does have a chance at this). The NBA's best scorers are small forwards who possess the versatility to play power forward.
Carmelo Anthony: The Knicks are his team and his team alone. With Jeremy Lin gone and Amare Stoudemire injured, it's on Melo to produce the points. Last year, we discovered that Anthony is best as a power forward. Perhaps he can ride that new role to new scoring heights.
Kevin Love: Provided that K-Love can return quickly and fully healthy from injury, he has a shot at this scoring title. Love possesses a rare combination of three-point shooting and offensive rebounding prowess. If he's doing both at a high level next season, the threes and tip-ins will pile up.
LeBron James: The Heat are now attacking opponents with a "small-ball" spread offense approach. This should mean more driving lanes for the reigning league and NBA Finals MVP.
Rajon Rondo: Assists Title
This category is actually up for grabs, since there is a lot of pressure on Rajon Rondo to score more next season. Rondo is still the odds-on favorite, but point guard is a deep position in the NBA.
Kyrie Irving is not listed here, though he's a threat to storm the league. It would seem that the position has trended towards scoring points like Irving, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose.
But the old guard lives on, and Rondo is its youngest member. Perhaps this is the year he becomes one of those new-age scoring points.
Steve Nash: He was second in the category last year, and, perhaps you've heard, he has some weapons this time around. The hurdles for Nash will be minutes played and usage rate, as Kobe Bryant should take the ball out of his hands on some possessions.
Chris Paul: The game's best point guard keeps his mistakes to a minimum, which lowers his assist total. Still, it's possible that the Clippers will play at a faster pace next year, giving CP3 a statistical boost.
Deron Williams: It's a new day for the Nets, as they roll out the Brooklyn experience. Williams is finally surrounded by better talent by which to complement his superb pick-and-roll skills.
Dwight Howard: Rebounding Title
Dwight Howard is the best rebounder in the league, and he's the best bet to win the boards title next season. Given that he's going to another squad, though, this is far from a given.
Kevin Love: K-Love is drifting farther and farther from the hoop, which hinders his rebounding title chances. On the plus side, all the three-pointers add to the chance that he'll lead the league in boards and scoring.
DeMarcus Cousins: I was inclined to put Andrew Bynum here, but he's already having knee issues. Boogie it is. Cousins will certainly have many misses to rebound, considering his team, but if he can foul less and stay on the court, he has an excellent chance of claiming this.
Andrew Bynum: Drew makes this list, but falls a bit on account of starting off this season with balky knees. He'll have more rebounds now that Pau Gasol isn't flanking him to the side.
Chris Paul: Steals Title
How does Chris Paul do it? The league's steals leader compiles his stats in a slow-paced offense and does so while standing shorter than six-feet in socks.
It's incredible, which might mean it's not sustainable. There are plenty of speedy rip-artists who could take the crown, here.
Mike Conley Jr: Here's another point guard whose stats could benefit from a faster pace. Conley is a savvy defender and plays in a high-pressure Memphis system.
Tony Allen: Allen also plays in this ball-pressure Memphis system and he might be the best perimeter defender in basketball. Allen's main hurdle is injuries, and he could be slowing down at this age. Still, he is a force on the ball and always a challenge to take this category.
LeBron James: LeBron will certainly get the minutes to pull this off, more so than Tony Allen. James isn't a gambler, but he is excellent at picking off passes that usually lead to dunks. Perhaps this is the Year of LeBron and he's taking the steals category too.
Serge Ibaka: Blocks Title
Serge Ibaka was unbelievable as a shot-blocker last season, but it didn't exactly add up to great defense. Should Serge become a more responsible defender, he might stand to jump for fewer blocks. This opens up the field.
Dwight Howard: The Lakers were 14th in defensive efficiency last season. They also added bad defenders in Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison. In other words, Dwight will be on cleanup duty.
DeAndre Jordan: The Clippers play a slow pace and will have to speed up so as to augment DeAndre's numbers. Jordan must do his part as well by playing more responsibly and fouling less.
JaVale McGee: JaVale's going to have to earn these minutes. He's also got to stop swatting on obvious goaltends. These are hurdles, but McGee should only get better under the stewardship of George Karl.
Tyson Chandler: Field Goal Percentage Title
This is a fun category that rewards big men who do the grunt work. As a lover of unsung, under-heralded players, I must bestow some credit on Tyson Chandler.
While Carmelo Anthony sopped up all the attention, Tyson was grinding to the tune of a 68% field goal mark. I doubt he continues at that scalding pace, and there are competitors who might take the throne of efficiency.
Dwight Howard: Oh, it's this guy again. For those who criticize Dwight's game, just know that there aren't many threats to top the list for boards, blocks, and field goal percentage. Dwight was second in FG% last season, and might improve with all the surrounding talent in L.A.
Nikola Pekovic: This guy plays with a lusty violence. Pek bowls would-be defenders out of the way by grunt and by elbow. But with Kevin Love out for awhile, Nikola might get too many shots to win this.
JaVale McGee: I love how McGee has looked in Denver. George Karl seems bent on taking the "spastic" out of JaVales' game. It could result in more responsible looks.