Quick Thoughts

1.    Leaders of the 00s: What do we call the decade from 2000 to 2009?  Calling it “the 2000s” makes it sounds like we’re referring to the whole century and the aughts, the technical name for the decade sounds a little silly.  Perhaps the 00s makes the most sense?  Not really sure but we’ll stick with the 00s today.  In any case, this decade is coming to a close and I was debating with a friend who exactly is the team of the 00s?  The first thing to determine is when this decade actually started.  Because each NBA season encompasses parts of two calendar years it isn’t totally clear.  Did the 00s being in 1999-00 or 2000-01?  Arguably 1999-00 is the first year of the 00s, as the title technically was won in the year 2000 and slightly more than half of the regular season was played after January 1, 2000.  In my mind, however, there is something cleaner about the decade starting in with the first year of the decade (i.e. 2000-01 rather than 1999-00).

Of course, this whole theoretical debate only reveals how silly it is ascribe a particular value to any random 10-year period.  There is no “right” answer to the question of when an NBA seasonal decade starts.  Still, there is something about decades that piques all our interests and that interest compels us to forward.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at the theoretical team of the 00s and assume that the decade starts in 1999-00 if only because that starting point means the decade finished and we can actually review it in its entirety.

Starting in 1999-00, the decade has been run by two teams, the Spurs and the Lakers.  The Spurs went to three finals and have gone 3-0, while the Lakers have been to six finals and gone 4-2.  On the Spurs’ side of the ledger they’ve been a contender for virtually the entire decade (except 1999-00 when and 2008-09 and they had significant injuries and lost in the first round).  The Lakers were a bit more boom bust, with a three-year lull from 2004-05 through 2006-07 where they were a fringe playoff team.

The Lakers averaged 53 wins a year in this ten-year period while the Spurs were at 58 wins per season.  Even in the Spurs’ two seasons with first round exits, they won at least 53 games while the Lakers had two 40-something win seasons and bottomed out at 34 wins in 2004-05.  Head-to-head, however, the Lakers dominated the Spurs, winning four of five series where they met (including the series where Derek Fisher hit that crazy  fade away buzzer beater in 2003-04).  This match up dominance is mitigated by the fact that the Lakers weren’t even good enough to face the Spurs when San Antonio hit its stride in the middle of the decade.  So, how do we choose?  Again, there really is no wrong answer.  The Spurs were the better team on a year-to-year basis but, to me, the Lakers’ six Finals appearance and wins over very good Spurs teams have to give the Lakers the nod.  Indeed, you did get the feeling the Spurs only one the title in years when the Lakers weren’t hitting stride.  Again, it’s close but the Lakers are the team of the 00s, assuming that the 00s begin in 1999-00 and end in 2008-09.  The result could be different if you think the 00s begin in 2000-01.  In this case, it’s even tighter and whomever does better in 2009-10 would probably take the decade title.

2.    More on the 00s: Speaking of the 00s, what about our all-decade team?  This is a fun exercise and shouldn’t yield too many surprises.  As a prefatory note, we are deferring to players who played most of the decade.  LeBron James has been the best player from 2006-07 to the present but he he missed half the decade, so if a player wasn’t quite as good but played ten years, that player will probably could trump him.  So, let’s take a look:

PG, Jason Kidd: One of the tougher match ups is Kidd versus Nash.  They’ve played nearly as many games as each other and Nash is offensively efficient (16.2 ppg, .494 FG%, 9.1 apg) but we still go with Kidd.  He actually has fewer turnovers per minute than Nash by a good amount and was a great defender and rebounder, while Nash hasn’t been a great defender.  This defensive/rebounding edge slightly tips the scales in Kidd’s favor.

-SG, Kobe Bryant: In 2004-05, the Kobe/McGrady debate was a near dead heat and T-Mac was probably actually ahead.  Since then, Kobe has lapped the field and is the clear best two-guard of this decade.

-SF, LeBron James: LeBron didn’t play the whole decade (only 472 game while competition played about 200 more), but he’s been so good it’s impossible not to take James as the small forward.  If we didn’t choose LBJ, we would be faced with a bit of a quandary.  Kevin Garnett is a plausible pick if the team went with a big front line (KG, Tim Duncan, and Shaq).  If you wanted to be truer to the 00s and the trend of going smaller, the only “small” small forward candidates are McGrady, Vince Carter, and Paul Pierce, all of whom have remarkably similar stats for the whole decade but plenty of black marks on their record:

-T-Mac’s recent decline and unilateral decision to have surgery to submarine a trade last year.  Also in the background was war with Orlando in 2003-04 were he seemingly quit on the team.

-VC has the famous feud in Toronto with Sam Mitchell where he sulked his way out of town.

-Pierce had moments of stupid trash talking and his famous press conference where he sarcastically wrapped his face in bandages like a mummy to emphasize that the refs had missed that he had been fouled in order to contest his ejection in a playoff game against the Pacers in 2004-05.

Despite these incidents, all three players have been, for the most part, gamers and I don’t think we can really say any of the three have had such big problems to exclude them from the comparison.  For the hell of it, here are the stats of the three for the last ten years:

McGrady 671 37.5 24.4 8.9 20.3 0.435 5.2 6.9 0.750 1.5 4.4 0.340 6.3 5.2 1.4 0.9 2.5
Carter 727 37.8 23.9 8.7 19.5 0.446 4.8 6.1 0.799 1.6 4.3 0.378 5.4 4.4 1.3 0.7 2.4
Pierce 765 37.8 23.3 7.6 17.1 0.443 6.4 8.0 0.801 1.7 4.6 0.363 6.3 4.0 1.5 0.6 3.1

McGrady does the most (scoring, boarding, and passing) but has missed the most games.  Pierce has durability and rebounding but turns over the ball a lot more.  VC is the middle ground candidate between T-Mac and Pierce in most respects.  If forced to choose, we’d take McGrady because he was just so good when he was at the top of his game but there really is not much difference at all here between the players.

-PF, Tim Duncan: Duncan’s not really a power forward and Kevin Garnett actually has better raw numbers but sometimes you just have to go with the gut.  Duncan’s ability to defend was great as was KG’s, though their defensives strengths were and are quite different.  Significantly, Duncan was a serious low post presence on both ends.  He blocked more shots per game than Garnett (2.3 bpg to 1.6 bpg in fewer mpg) and, most critically, could score a basket in the crunch time in the low post (TD also averaged over two free throws per game more than KG in fewer mpg).  If we slot Duncan’s as a center, KG is the clear power forward pick, with Dirk Nowitzki close behind.

-C, Shaquille O’Neal: As with LeBron, Shaq’s weaknesses is his lack of games played.  O’Neal was around for the whole decade but he’s missed a lot of time and has declined quite a bit the last five years.  I would probably take Duncan over Shaq for the decade at center (if forced to choose) but I would prefer to take Shaq over Garnett (and slot Duncan at power forward) based upon O’Neal’s dominance from 1999-00 through 2002-03 when he was the best player on the planet by far and was probably as good as anyone ever in the NBA in the non-Michael Jordan Division.

3.    Leaders of the 00s: Finally, in case, you are curious, here are the statistical leaders of the last decade:

Decade Per Game Leaders (minimum 400 games)

Points Per Game

1.  Kobe Bryant, 28.2 ppg

2.  Allen Iverson, 28.1 ppg

3.  LeBron James, 27.5 ppg

4.  Tracy McGrady, 24.4 ppg

5.  Carmelo Anthony, 24.2 ppg

Rebounds Per Game

1.  Dwight Howard, 12.5 rpg

2.  Kevin Garnett, 12.1 rpg

3.  Tim Duncan, 11.7 rpg

4.  Ben Wallace, 11.2 rpg

5.  Marcus Camby, 10.8 rpg

Assists Per Game

1.  Jason Kidd, 9.2 apg

2.  Steve Nash, 9.1 apg

3.  Stephon Marbury, 7.4 apg

4.  Andre Miller, 7.4 apg

5.  Baron Davis, 7.3 apg

Steals Per Game

1.  Allen Iverson, 2.2 spg

2.  Ron Artest, 2.1 spg

3.  Jason Kidd, 1.9 spg

4.  Baron Davis, 1.9 spg

Doug Christie, 1.9 spg

Shawn Marion, 1.9 spg

Block Per Game

1.  Theo Ratliff, 2.7 bpg

Marcus Camby, 2.7 bpg

3.  Ben Wallace, 2.3 bpg

Tim Duncan, 2.3 bpg

5.  Andrei Kirilenko, 2.2 bpg

Jermaine O’Neal, 2.2 bpg

Shaquille O’Neal, 2.2 bpg

Turnovers Per Game

1.  Allen Iverson, 3.6 topg

2.  Steve Francis, 3.5 topg

3.  Gilbert Arenas, 3.3 topg

LeBron James, 3.3 topg

5.   Kobe Bryant, 3.1 topg

Paul Pierce, 3.1 topg

Carmelo Anthony, 3.1 topg

Jason Kidd, 3.1 topg

Not too many surprises on the per/game leaders,  I was a bit surprised to see Marbury still up the list on assists and that Ratliff’s blocks hadn’t fallen since he became a deep bench player the last few years.  Otherwise, everything is as expected.  Let’s now look at the totals for the decade…

Decade Totals Leaders


1.  Kobe Bryant, 21,065

2.  Allen Iverson, 19,154

3.  Dirk Nowitzki, 18,699

4.  Paul Pierce, 17,812

5.  Vince Carter, 17, 341


1.  Kevin Garnett, 9,288

2.  Tim Duncan, 8,998

3.  Ben Wallace, 8,477

4.  Shawn Marion, 7,384

5.  Shaquille O’Neal, 7,029


1.  Jason Kidd, 7,029

2.  Steve Nash, 6,885

3.  Andre Miller, 6,020

4.  Baron Davis, 4,902

5.  Stephon Marbury, 4,808


1.  Allen Iverson, 1,521

2.  Jason Kidd, 1,472

3.  Shawn Marion, 1,362

4.  Baron Davis, 1,292

5.  Kobe Bryant, 1,246


1.  Tim Duncan, 1,785

2.  Ben Wallace, 1,772

3.  Marcus Camby, 1,562

4.  Jermaine O’Neal, 1,436

5.  Shaquille O’Neal, 1,431


1.  Allen Iverson, 2,451

2.  Paul Pierce, 2,375

3.  Jason Kidd, 2,330

4.  Kobe Bryant, 2,326

5.  Steve Nash, 2,288

This list essentially corresponds with the per/game list as few of the players accumulated lots of stats in only a few games.  LeBron, Dwight Howard, and a couple of the players that missed a few games fell off the list.  Now, the most interesting list is the per/48 minute list, which probably best reflects the players abilities.  Here we go…

Decade Per-48 Minutes Leaders (minimum 400 games)

Points Per 48

1.  Kobe Bryant, 34.3 p/48

2.  LeBron James, 32.6 p/48

3.  Allen Iverson, 32.2 p/48

4.  Carmelo Anthony, 32.1 p/48

5.  Shaquille O’Neal, 32.0 p/48

Rebounds Per 48

1.  Reggie Evans, 16.8 r/48

Dwight Howard, 16.8 r/48

3.  Dikembe Mutombo, 16.6 r/48

4.  Marcus Camby, 16.5 r/48

5.  Ben Wallace, 16.1 r/48

Assists Per 48

1.  Steve Nash, 13.0 a/48

2.  Jason Kidd, 11.9 a/48

3.  Brevin Knight, 11.7 a/48

4.  Andre Miller, 10.2 a/48

5.  Baron Davis, 9.9 a/48

Steals Per 48

1.  Brevin Knight, 3.2 s/48

2.  Ron Artest, 2.8 s/48

3.  Doug Christie, 2.7 s/48

Darrell Armstrong, 2.7 s/48

Emmanuel Ginobili, 2.7 s/48

Blocks Per 48

1.  Shawn Bradley, 4.7 b/48

Theo Ratliff, 4.7 b/48

3.  Adonal Foyle, 4.5 b/48

4.  Marcus Camby, 4.1 b/48

Greg Ostertag, 4.1 b/48

Turnovers Per 48

1.  Steve Francis, 4.5 to/48

2.  Steve Nash, 4.3 to/48

Gilbert Arenas, 4.3 to/48

Eddy Curry, 4.3 to/48

5.  Allen Iverson, 4.1 to/48

Jerry Stackhouse, 4.1 to/48

Carmelo Anthony, 4.1 to/48

All of a sudden things look a little different.  The list confirms Kobe’s scoring dominance and reminds just how good Shaq was.  We also get a few funny names like Reggie Evans (the rebounding machine) and Brevin Knight, Doug Christie, and Darrell Armstrong for steals.   Shawn Bradley, for all his weaknesses, was a great shot blocker too.  Finally, we are reminded just how much of a gunner Steve Francis was, amassing tons of turnovers and still not really getting much in the way of assists.  Even worse, however, is Eddy Curry.  How the hell is it for a low post player who does not take anyone off the dribble to be turning the ball as often as the most ball dominant point guards in the NBA?  No stat exemplifies just how ugly Isiah’s rule in New York was.

7 comments for “Quick Thoughts

Leave a Reply