Numbers have long been an integral part of sports fandom, but never quite to the extent that they are today, particularly in the NBA. New measures—from advanced stats like PER and true shooting percentage, to the shot type and play-by-play data now available on Basketball Reference, to the NBA's integration of SportVU metrics—have afforded devout followers of the Association a more expansive set of tools with which to understand the game and add fuel to the fire of basketball's fiercest debates.
Still, there's something about the old-fashioned box score stats that sets them apart from all of the new-fangled ones.
Maybe it's just a matter of familiarity. After all, the league has been tracking points, assists and field-goal percentage since its inception; it added rebounds to the mix for the 1950-51 season and started recording steals and blocks in 1973-74. Even those pertaining to the three-point shot, which the NBA didn't adopt until 1979-80, easily predate consideration of the "four factors" (i.e. effective field-goal percentage, offensive rebound percentage, turnover rate and free-throw rate) outside of teams' front offices.
At this point, handing out distinctions for advanced stats, like a usage rate title or a win shares crown, would seem strange. And yet, talk of scoring and rebounding titles is not only acceptable, it's cause for excitement and intrigue.
While the newer metrics continue to matriculate into the mainstream, let's look at who should be in the running to lead the league in each of the seven most celebrated statistical categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, field-goal percentage and three-point makes.