CourtVision All-Stars Part 2: The Western Conference
Yesterday, we revealed the 2013 CourtVision all-stars of the Eastern Conference. Today we look to the west, where there are many great players, but only five slots to fill. Remember, the selection criterion is simple: These are the players who are scoring much higher than league averages at their most common shooting locations.
Tony Parker is having a great season once again, and once again it’s kind of being overlooked. As a shooter, Parker has developed into one of the best midrange scoring guards in the league, but his Hall of Fame application will definitely include lots of footage of his patented floater — it’s one of the league’s prettiest scoring plays. Parker is incredibly fast and always seems to make the right decisions — like when he found Kawhi Leonard in the corner in Cleveland on Wednesday night. Passes like these are often available because defenses must honor Parker’s highly efficient scoring ability from virtually every spot inside the 3-point line (and also because the league is full of guys who play defense like Dion Waiters on that play).
Compared to James Harden, Kevin Martin is a much more traditional spot-up shooter. The Thunder rely on Martin to make 3-point shots, and that’s what he does. He’s been particularly potent from the left corner and along the left wing, while his production on his right is less impressive. Overall he’s a 44 percent 3-point shooter this season, which is good enough for ninth-best in the league. Martin is an average scorer near the basket, but again, he’s not getting paid to score there. His job is to knock down those 3s from the left wing and left corner.
Ho-hum. It’s no surprise that Durant is on this team. We looked at him in detail last week. In my opinion, Durant is the best scorer in the league for two simple reasons: (1) He’s an above-average shooter from every spot on the floor, and (2) he can create shots at will, a typically overlooked component of shooting prowess. The ability to simply get a shot off in the NBA is perhaps the most fundamental shooting skill. Not many players can regularly “create” their own shots, and of the ones who can, none are nearly as effective as Durant.
The graybeard among the Western Conference CourtVision all-stars is Tim Duncan. He turns 37 in April, but his shooting activity has increased in the past two years. He’s taking 14 shots per game and he’s making more than 50 percent of them. This is particularly impressive considering he’s most active in the midrange, where the league as a whole shoots below 40 percent. Duncan is the best power forward of all time in part because he can hit his two trademark left-side shots with such consistency. The first is that left elbow shot; the second is a classic bank shot near the left block. These are the moves that make Duncan a national treasure; I hope he never retires.
Everybody knows that Blake Griffin is a beast near the rim, but he’s actually developing a bit of a Duncan shot near the left block as well. He still looks to attack from the post, but the ability to hit midrange shots is the key to sustaining dominance in the league. He won’t be able to jump out of out the gym forever.
Coming off the bench for the CourtVision Western Conference all-stars: Steph Curry, O.J. Mayo, Ryan Anderson, Matt Bonner, and the mayor of the midrange, LaMarcus Aldridge. Curry is arguably the best shooting backcourt player in the league, but his efficiency has dropped significantly, partially due to the fact that he’s shooting five more shots per game this season. Though I’m still pretty confident he’d win a hypothetical league-wide H-O-R-S-E tournament.