The NBA community has been abuzz following Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement. The future Hall of Famer returned to his hometown of Philadelphia to face the winless 76ers on Tuesday night, scoring nine points in the opening 77 seconds en route to a 13-point first quarter.
Ultimately, however, “The Black Mamba” finished with 20 points on 7-of-26 shooting (26.9%) in a 12-point Lakers loss. It’s abundantly clear Bryant’s best days are behind him, but as they say, life goes on. As Bryant continues his farewell tour around the NBA—which featured a throwback 31-point performance in a win over the Wizards on Wednesday—NBA stars have been posting impressive numbers.
So for this week’s Data Dimes, the PointAfter team decided to focus on league leaders and the numbers backing them more than a month into the campaign.
Note: All stats referenced are accurate as of Dec. 2, prior to games played.
Last season, Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat established himself as one of the league’s feel-good stories. The seven-footer hadn’t played in the NBA for two full seasons—last competing for the Sacramento Kings in 2011–12 before getting waived. But after stints in the D-League, China and Lebanon, the young big man latched on with Miami and got an opportunity to shine when injuries bumped him up the depth chart.
Whiteside finished his first season with the Heat second in the league in blocks per game and sixth in PER. This season, not only does his 4.69 blocks per game rank him No. 1 in the league—well ahead of second-place Anthony Davis (2.8)—it also slots Whiteside above 12 teams.
The 26-year-old has developed his shot-blocking prowess to become one of the best help defenders in the game. His ability to aid teammates after they get beat off the dribble by timing his jumps to swat all kinds of attempts is a joy to watch.
No surprise, Miami leads the NBA in blocks at 7.9 per contest thanks to its starting center.
94 and 48%
Stephen Curry entered Dec. 2 as the NBA’s leading scorer at 31.6 per game despite playing fewer than 35 minutes on average. He’d become the only player ever to average at least 30 points per game with that allotment of court time if sustained throughout the season. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the reigning MVP leads the league in three-pointers made with 94—a whopping 40 makes ahead of second-place Damian Lillard. But what might raise eyebrows is the fact Curry’s teammate, Andre Iguodala, leads all others in three-point percentage. Through Dec. 1, he converted 48% of his tries from beyond the arc.
Iguodala hasn’t necessarily been a poor three-point marksmen throughout his career, but he’s rarely been great (career 33.6%). That’s flipped on its ear in Golden State’s ridiculously efficient offense this season.
Iguodala’s making his attempts from the corners count, but he’s also been scorching hot above the break (48.5%). As a point of comparison, he converted 34.7% of his long-range attempts from that area a season ago.
Following a disastrous tenure with the Dallas Mavericks, Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists with the Sacramento Kings by dishing out 10.7 per game (the only qualified guy averaging double-digit dimes).
That unselfish play hasn’t translated into a winning record for Sacramento, but Rondo is back to playing at a high level. In addition to leading the league in assists, his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.94 ranks seventh among players averaging at least five assists per contest.
Interestingly, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova leads all qualified players with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.32. He continues to provide a spark for the Cavs with Kyrie Irving is sidelined with injury.
Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond appeared in the first iteration of Data Dimes focused on crazy numbers in small sample size because he was hauling in an absurd 19.5 rebounds per game. While he’s come back down to earth a tad, Drummond still leads the NBA’s other elite rebounders by a comfortable margin.
Drummond is on pace to become the first qualified player since Dennis Rodman in ’96–97 to average at least 16 rebounds per game. Additionally, he’s snatching 35% of his boards on the offensive end of the court. That’s the highest percentage among other players within the top ten—a big added bonus when it turns into second-chance points.
Six represents the number of technical fouls Blake Griffin has been assessed through 18 games. He sits all by his lonesome at the top of the leaderboard.
If that seems like a lot of technical fouls, perhaps it should. Griffin got hit with 12 technicals all of last season, so he’s already halfway to that well before Christmas.
The Clippers are tied with the Bucks for the most technical fouls in the league and are virtually synonymous with chewing out referees. Doc Rivers and Co. simply must rein that in moving forward if they’re going to have a hope of winning close playoff games.
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