Only three more sleeps until Most Valuable Player top seeds (and former teammates) Russell Westbrook and James Harden hook up for their third duel of the season Thursday night.
Harden’s Houston Rockets have moved up to No.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, retained the top spot over the Golden State Warriors, thanks to a pass from the Committee (of One) on the Cavs’ loss at Detroit last Monday because LeBron James was allowed to stay home for rest reasons. Clippers, by contrast, have been shoved down to No. 15 because they can’t seem to win a game when both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are out of the lineup.
Read on for the rest of our first 1 to 30 ladder of the new year. Many thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats Information and the Elias Sports Bureau with ESPN research ace running the point for all the helpful background data they provide to assist the Committee as we arrange things.
Previous ranking: 1
LeBron James awoke Friday on his 32nd birthday with 27,544 points, 7,289 rebounds and 7,057 assists in 1,015 regular season games. Michael Jordan had amassed 21,541 points, 4,219 rebounds and 3,935 assists in 667 regular season games as of his 32nd birthday. The better comparison, in terms of points scored, is where Kobe Bryant was at 32, since both he and LeBron turned pro straight out of high school, but Bron has the edge there as well (27,544 to 25,790). Wednesday’s home win over Boston, meanwhile, hiked the Cavs to 24 2 overall (regular season and playoffs) when James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all score at least 20 points. And a historic 73rd victory. And a 72 12 record for the calendar year, which has been topped in league annals only once, when Chicago went 74 11 in 1996. So, yes, 2016 contained so much good for the Warriors beyond all the 3 1 memes . on both sides of the historic acquisition of Kevin Durant in the summertime. The NBA’s regular season record, established by last season’s Rockets, is 32.7 3s per game. That’s good for a 21 percent increase that, if applied to the top scoring team in NBA history, would require somebody out there to average 153.6 PPG compared to the 1981 82 Denver Nuggets’ 126.5 PPG. In the bigger picture with James Harden doing too many crazy things to stuff into this section Houston just went 15 2 in December to solidify its status as a top five team no one saw coming. Amid all the triple double focus on Russell Westbrook, Harden had five of his own in December. The Spurs’ 12 2 record in December wasn’t bad, either. Along the way on the Raps’ travels, DeMar DeRozan passed Chris Bosh (10,275 points) as the leading scorer in franchise history, putting DeRozan on a short list with Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James and Memphis’ Mike Conley in terms of active NBA players who hold that distinction. Isaiah Thomas responded by rumbling for 52 points in a win wholesale jerseys
over Miami, including a 29 point fourth quarter, to join Paul Pierce, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Sam Jones as the only 50 point scorers in the Celtics’ storied history. Those 29 points in the fourth, incidentally, add up to the most prolific quarter Boston has ever seen from one player. As long as Marc Gasol’s freshly sprained left ankle isn’t serious, Memphis will gladly let Chandler Parsons ease his way back into rhythm, especially since Mike Conley is quickly starting to resemble Mike Conley again. The Grizz set a franchise record with 17 3 pointers in the Sacramento win and appear to have found a real bargain in summer signee Troy Daniels (13.5 PPG and 44.2 percent shooting from deep in December).