TrueHoop: Karl Malone
Duncan (16 seasons) and Bryant (17) have about the same NBA service time, especially when you consider that Kobe was not much of an impact rookie in 1996-97 (7.6 PPG, 6 starts) while Duncan was the 1997-98 NBA Rookie of the Year, starting all 82 games and averaging 21.1 PPG and 11.9 RPG (keep in mind there were no 20-10 players in the entire NBA this season).
Bryant is without question the more prolific scorer, averaging five more points for his career than Duncan. However, Duncan won two regular season MVPs (2001-02, 02-03), while Bryant has just one (2007-08). They were in direct competition for Duncan’s MVP awards also, as Bryant finished fifth and third respectively in the MVP voting for Duncan’s two MVP seasons.
While Duncan has a better percentage from the field for his career, Bryant has bested him by one in All-Star Games, All Defensive 1st team selections, and All-NBA 1st teams. In fact, Bryant tied Karl Malone for most 1st team All-NBA selections this season when he picked up his 11th such honor.
Team success has been plentiful for both players, as both have made the playoffs 16 times. Duncan has never missed the playoffs in his entire career. Bryant, on the other hand, missed the playoffs in the 2004-05 season, ending the season under .500 at 34-48. Since Duncan joined the Spurs in 1997-98, they have never had a winning percentage lower than .610.
Additionally, Duncan’s teams have won at least 50 games in every season of his career except the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season (50 regular season games total), which was the season he won his first NBA title and NBA Finals MVP.
As far as playoff success goes, Bryant has won one more title than Duncan. However, Duncan is currently undefeated in the NBA Finals (4-0) and has one more Finals MVP trophy to his credit.
Advanced Metrics in Historical Context
Advanced metrics also slightly favor Duncan. Duncan has 184.2 career win shares (an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes to his team based on his offense and defense), over 10 more win shares than Bryant does for his career. The Spurs stalwart ranks ninth in win shares all time whereas Bryant is ranked 17th.
Defensive win shares show that Duncan really changes the game on that side of the ball. Duncan’s defensive win shares are 93.5 for his career, fifth-best all time behind Russell, Kareem, Olajuwon and Wilt.
Bryant’s 49.5 defensive win shares rank 46th all time for the sake of context. Again, Bryant is a far superior offensive talent, posting 30 more offensive win shares than Duncan for his career, but in terms of all-time ranks, Bryant is ninth and Duncan is 28th, a much closer disparity than on the defensive end.
According to AccuScore, which ran 10,000 computer simulations, the 1992 team would win 53.1 percent of the time and by an average margin of one point per game.
No one will ever know the true answer, but let's take a look at the Next Level analytical facts about the rosters at each point of their careers to help make the case either way.
REBOUNDING AND DEFENSE
Much has been made about the current team’s weak frontcourt. The 1992 team had four players who grabbed at least 15 percent of available rebounds in 1991-92 (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson). The current team has three players at that rebound rate last season (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love).
The 1992 team had two players (Ewing, Robinson) who blocked at least 5 percent of the shot attempts they faced in 1991-92. No 2012 player had a block percentage higher than 3.4 last season (Chandler).
Four current members had a true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of at least 60 last season (Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James). Chandler (70.8 in 2011-12) led the NBA each of the past two seasons. Only one of the 1992 members had a 60 true shooting percentage (Barkley), although three others fell just short of that threshold in 1991-92 (Malone, Robinson, John Stockton).
Five Dream Team members assisted on at least 25 percent of their teammates’ field goals in 1991-92 (Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stockton), plus Magic Johnson had a 49.3 assist percentage in his most recent NBA season (1990-91). LeBron, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams had a 25 assist percentage or better last season, but none were as high as Stockton (53.7), who was in the midst of leading the league in assist percentage for 10 straight seasons.
AGE, EXPERIENCE AND CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 1992 team was about 2½ years older on average (28.8-26.2). Other than Bird and Magic, every Dream Team member was 30 years old or younger. Every member of the current team is 29 or younger, other than Kobe, who is 33.
But the NBA experience level is about the same. The 1992 team had, on average, 7.3 years of experience per player. This year’s team has 7.1.
As far as NBA titles, give the edge to the 1992 team. Its players had a combined 12 championships as they entered the Olympics -- five by Magic, three by Bird and two each from Jordan and Pippen.
The 2012 version has seven championships among them, carried by Kobe’s five. LeBron and Chandler each have one. The current team has members of each of the past four NBA champions, while the 1992 team had members of the then-past two champions.
Using average win shares per 48 minutes in their previous NBA seasons, (including Magic’s 1990-91 season and not including Christian Laettner), the 1992 squad’s average is higher by 9 percent (.215-.198). Prefer player efficiency rating to win shares? The Dream Team’s PER was 3 percent higher (23.8-23.0).
IN THEIR PRIME?
Other than Laettner, all 11 Dream Team members are Hall of Famers. And only two could be considered in the twilight of their careers. Bird had just finished his last NBA season, while Magic had retired the previous year, although he made a brief comeback in 1995-96. As for this edition, one could make the case that all but the 33-year-old Kobe on the roster could appear on another Olympic team again.
The 2012 team gets under way with an exhibition game Thursday against the Dominican Republic on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Only time will tell whether this team is the modern-day Dream Team.
In the case of Dirk Nowitzki that is exactly how it felt this postseason. Particularly after Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle proclaimed him one of the 10 best players all-time despite lacking the one thing that ultimately seems to define every great player’s career: a ring.
Nowitzki is now closer than he ever has been to relieving this burden and cementing his legacy. In the process he also has the chance to remove himself from some unwanted lists among great players.
Nowitzki, with 10 all-star selections, is tied for the sixth-most by a player without an NBA title in league history. The only players with more are Karl Malone (14), Charles Barkley (11), Elgin Baylor (11), Patrick Ewing (11) and Allen Iverson (11).
Malone, Baylor and, LeBron James are the only other players in NBA history besides Nowtizki with career averages of more than 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds without an NBA championship to their credit.
His 22,792 points are 23rd-most all-time in NBA history, but 10th-most among players to never win a ring.
This postseason though, Nowitzki hasn't just pushed himself to the brink of a championship but has also established himself as one of the premier clutch postseason scorers.
Nowitzki has been at his best in crunch time, defined as those moments under five minutes left in game with the score within five points or fewer. He’s scored 26 points in those situations in the Finals while going 8-for-13 from the field. The entire 'Big Three' of the Miami Heat have combined to score just 21 points in crunch time.
Over the last 15 postseasons only O'Neal and Michael Jordan (1997 and 1998) have averaged over 10 points per game in the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals series. Each of those players led their teams to NBA Championships while also winning the Finals MVP award, something Nowitzki is well on his way to doing.
If the Mavericks win the title and Nowitzki takes home Finals MVP honors, the legacy that his coach was hyping up will be solidified. He would become the 11th player in NBA history to have at least 10 NBA All-Star appearances, a regular season MVP award and a Finals MVP.
The Jazz trailed by as many as 22 points in the second quarter and 19 at the half before coming back to rally for the win in overtime. The 19-point halftime deficit is tied for the second largest the Jazz have ever overcome to win a game.
On the individual front, Millsap led the Jazz with a career-high 46 points as he hit 19 of 28 field goal attempts. Millsap scored 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting in the final 30 seconds of regulation, including a game-tying putback to force overtime. The other three field goals Millsap hit in the final 30 seconds were 3-pointers. Prior to those, he was 2-for-20 on 3-point field goals in his career. Millsap's 46 points are the most by a Jazz player since Karl Malone dropped 56 on the Warriors on April 7, 1998. Millsap has been a revelation as Carlos Boozer’s replacement, taking a clear step forward from his reserve role last season, ramping up his offensive output without turning the ball over more frequently.
Meanwhile, Wade led the Heat with a season-high 39 points and scored all 10 of their overtime points. James added 20 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists for his 29th career triple-double and first with the Heat. His 29 career triple-doubles are tied for second most among active players with Grant Hill (trailing Jason Kidd). The triple-double was the first against the Jazz since James had 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists Nov. 7, 2007. James has failed to register 25 points in seven straight games, which is the second-longest such streak of his career. The 11 rebounds and 14 assists both represented season highs for him, and he has scored exactly 20 points in four of his past five games.
The game's two leading scorers, Wade and Millsap, worked effectively around the basket, as they've done all season. Wade scored seven of his 12 field goals within 5 feet of the hoop while Millsap added 10 such field goals. Entering the night, Wade and Millsap ranked first and fifth in the NBA in field goals made within 5 feet of the hoop with 30 and 26, respectively.
- More Fast Draw goodness, this time from Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell. We generally regard the Spurs' Richard Jefferson as a spot-up shooter best positioned in the corner, but through video analysis and diagrams, McNeill demonstrates that Jefferson does his best work moving off the ball and diving to the hole.
- J.J. Redick: Efficiency Machine. Eddy Rivera discusses Redick's breakout 2009-10 campaign at Magic Basketball: "Redick scored 1.23 points per possession (league average was 1.08 points per possession). Not bad at all. This had a lot to do with the fact that Redick shot very well from the three-point line and free-throw line, while taking great care of the ball. Because threes and free-throws are two of the most efficient shots in basketball, Redick is optimizing his output on offense and not wasting many possessions in the process. That is efficiency, folks."
- Smart primer on true shooting percentage from Ben Q. Rock at Orlando Pinstriped Post.
- Tom Ziller on the virtues of summer international play, as illustrated by Omri Casspi: "International basketball is the window to the essence of a player's potential. Look at Omri Casspi, star of an Israeli team competing in EuroBasket qualifiers. Casspi had a mixed-bag rookie season ... But in Europe this summer, Casspi has revealed so much more. Casspi has been a simply explosive scorer at the unfamiliar power forward position. In Saturday's win over the very good Montenegro, Casspi scored 30 points in 33 minutes on an array of deep shots and drives. The Kings thought they were drafting a potential poor man's Hedo Turkoglu. During Casspi's rookie season, he looked like he'd instead be a bigger Bobby Jackson. Playing for Israel? He looks like the second coming of Peja Stojakovic. If the Kings are paying attention, they will say new and exciting ways to feature the Israeli in the Evans-led offense next season."
- Tim Duncan vs. Karl Malone: Discuss.
- For all of the young speedsters who fill the league's point guard ranks, guys who can post up at the 1 bring something else to the table.
- Mike Schmitz of Valley of the Suns puts together a reel of Josh Childress' defensive highlights from Europe. Schmitz goes the extra mile for his readers: "In case you have trouble identifying him, he’s No. 6 with the afro."
- If nothing else, Trevor Ariza is a fascinating player to evaluate. Ariza is somewhat of a moving target. There's a constant set of properties most players carry with them, but not Ariza. The Ariza playing the 3 in the Lakers' triangle bore little resemblance to the Ariza in Orlando. And the Ariza in Houston prior to the Kevin Martin deal played nothing like the Ariza who flourished after Martin's arrival. What will Ariza look like playing alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans?
- Andre Iguodala continues to play well for Team USA, and his top-shelf defense has been his most valuable asset. Andrew of The 700 Level was at Madison Square Garden for the U.S. vs. France game: "Perhaps most tellingly, 'Dre was also the court for almost the entire first half, leading the team in minutes by far before checking out for good during the third-quarter line change. It's emblematic of the trust that Coach K, who has done nothing but rave about Iguodala since camp started, has in our guy to play defense, make the extra pass and just be a leader that he continues to lead the team in minutes."
- In JaVale McGee's world, most of the people who populate press row would be looking for work.
- WarriorsWorld TV catches up with Matt Barnes.
- Aussies have more fun.
- Reggie Evans tweets, "U can only imagine how my workout was this morning. They was playing Shaq Fu Da Return album. WOW."
- Hornets rookie Craig Brackins would prefer that you take your child off that leash.
- There will be no green and the zeroes will be less pointy on the Minnesota Timberwolves' new jerseys.
- ESPN's panel of prognosticators picked the Celtics to finish with 51 wins and the No. 3 seed, following a season in which they finished 50-32 and entered the postseason with the No. 4 seed. Given the Celtics' flourish in the 2010 playoffs, that prediction has some Celtics fans riled. Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub (who was on the panel) tells his brethren in green to simmer down: "[I]t is perfectly reasonable to predict the C’s will again proceed through the regular season prioritizing health and rest over win total. Why wouldn’t they? They did it last year and got to the Finals, and all they’ve done since is make an old team even older while the Eastern Conference has improved at the top and in the middle."
- Don't like ESPN's predictions? Check out economist Ian Ayres' prediction tools that allow you to forecast everything from the price of Bordeaux to how long your marriage will last.
- Kevin Love tells NBA.com's John Schumann that he feels more appreciated by Team USA than the Minnesota Timberwolves.
- Drew Cannon's new positional system, which he unveiled at Basketball Prospectus last week, continues to generate interesting conversation. Cannon seeks to address the problem of designating specific positions to players who, increasingly, defy that kind of classification (think Stephen Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu or point guards whose defensive assignments are the 2-guard or even the small forward). Both Tom Ziller of Fanhouse, and Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game delve deeper into the discussion and expose some of the problems with developing a new model and throwing out the old designations like "point guard" and "center." Spend some time looking at Mahoney's revised model.
- For a league that's reportedly struggling financially, we're seeing a host of suitors line up every time a franchise goes on the block. The Pistons are no exception.
- Speaking in his native Lettish, Andris Biedrins tells Warriors World's Rasheed Malek that Don Nelson's comments about the young center's free-throw shooting bothered him: "When he said I should practice underhanded, I felt very disrespected. At one point I spoke to a psychiatrist who reminded me of some things, but it’s not so bad that they send you and try to brainwash you. It’s mostly about believing in yourself, because, before this season it was more or less OK."
- Here's an impressive video compilation of Scottie Pippen's defense. When we talk about a player's versatility, we're usually referring to his offensive repertoire. We all know that Pippen displayed an uncommon range of skills on the offensive end of the floor, but this reel captures how incredibly talented Pippen was on the other side of the ball. He was both a pest to point guards, but capable of pushing guys like Charles Barkley off the block. With Pippen in close proximity, there was no such thing as an easy entry pass.
- Steve Perrin of Clips Nation has a comprehensive and smart breakdown of the current 15-man Team USA roster.
- Remember Ali Farokhmanesh, who hit the ballsiest shot of the 2010 NCAA Championships when Northern Iowa upset Kansas? He's headed to Switzerland to play for Massagno in the Swiss league (LNA).
- Daily Thunder has your Serge Ibaka "Air Congo" t-shirt modeled by ... Serge Ibaka.
- Slide over, Lamar Odom. Michael Beasley confesses that, among his other nicknames, "Skittles" took hold at a fairly young age: "You know growing up I ate a lot of candy, if you were at my dinners you would know that, you know but I eat a lot of candy so from eight to probably like 15, you wouldn't see me without a pack of Skittles." On the tart vs. chocolate debate, Beasley is very decisive: "I'm not a chocolate man. I'm skittles, anything made by Wonka, you know I like candy not chocolate."
- Jefferson Boswell of Salt City Hoops recounts a nice story about his grandma and Karl Malone during a physical therapy session. What did Malone mutter when he stepped up to the free throw line? Only Grandma Alene knew.
- DeJuan Blair: Menace under the glass; menace with CAP LOCKS!
Unlike the twins Daryl and Cheryl Ford (she plays for the WNBA's Detroit Shock), Malone has had no reconciliation, as of yet, with Bell. The football player does not express bitterness.
"I grew up around good people," Bell said. "I never turned to a father figure. I was lucky. I didn't need one. I'm happy. I don't need anything else."
If Al Sharpton is itching to picket something, he should organize a protest outside Malone's house, since the National Fatherhood Initiative says two out of three African-American children grow up without their father in the home.
Roger Clemens' alleged seedy indiscretions -- including a possible sexual relationship with a 15-year-old -- are nothing compared to what Malone has done. Malone reportedly impregnated Bell's mother when she was 13 and he was a sophomore at Louisiana Tech. Malone is lucky Chris Hansen wasn't around and he didn't have to answer to the authorities.
It would be one thing if Malone was unable to financially provide for his son, but he made more than $100 million during his NBA career. The Salt Lake (Utah) Tribune reported that when Bell's grandparents initially took Malone to court for paternity in 1986, his second year with the Jazz, they requested Malone pay $200 a week. Malone didn't respond to the suit, but a Louisiana judge ruled he was Bell's father -- after a paternity test showed that was indeed accurate -- and ordered Malone to pay $125 a week, plus past and future medical expenses. Malone claimed that was too much and later reached a confidential out-of-court settlement with Bell's family between 1988 and 1989.
I don't even know what to say about Malone's role in all this. Obviously, assuming everything is as reported, it's absolutely terrible.
There is, I suppose, some redemption in the reality that Bell, at least, seems to have not let his lack of a father make him a victim. Read Hill's whole story for some remarkable tales of Bell's lightning fast development as a football player. And hats off and a heartfelt happy Mother's Day to Bell's mother, for apparently raising a successful and well-adjusted child without a father around.