Five Who Could Crash Scoring Race Party

 

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – First-time scoring champ Carmelo Anthony lit up April, averaging 36.9 ppg to deny Kevin Durant a fourth consecutive scoring title.

It won’t be terribly surprising if Melo collects a second trophy this season. Prior to Durant’s three-peat, Kobe Bryant (2005, ’06), Tracy McGrady (’03, ’04) and Allen Iverson (’01, ’02) all repeated, so that’s a pretty decent track record for staking back-to-back scoring titles.

Starting with last season’s top five scorers — Anthony (28.7 ppg), Durant (28.1), Bryant (27.3), LeBron James (26.8) and James Harden (25.9) — plus a strong candidate pool coming, the scoring race should be a fun one, and the top five scorers in the league come April 2014 might look different than it did in 2013.

Of course, for a player to move into the top five, one most fall out.

So which player or players are vulnerable to vacating the top five? Start with the three players I think are as close to top-five locks as possible: Melo (he’s still just 29 and by far the Knicks’ No. 1 option); Durant (he has so many ways to score that he can drop 30 hopping on one leg); and James (he can score whenever and however he wants, and he’s finished in the top four in scoring in nine consecutive seasons).

That leaves two that could slip and open a spot: Harden (the addition of Dwight Howard will alter Houston’s offense and spread the scoring wealth); and Kobe (it’s dangerous to doubt him considering he’s finished in the top five since finishing sixth in 2001-02, but, at 35 years old and coming off Achilles surgery, there has to be some dropoff, right?).

Which players will make a run at cracking the top five? Here’s my top five:

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls: The offense-starved Bulls will welcome their point guard back after he missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery. He’s had plenty of time to hone his game and Rose will return with a vengeance, perhaps reaching his 2010-11 level when he averaged 25.0 ppg and won the league MVP. That season put him on the cusp of the top five, just 0.3 ppg behind Bryant and Amare Stoudemire.

2. Kevin Love, Timberwolves: Another injury returnee, Love played just 18 games last season due to a right hand he broke twice. He’s got Ricky Rubio to set him up, an offensively gifted center in Nikola Pekovic to draw attention down low and shooters around him such as Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger. Love is set up to return to the 26.0 ppg he averaged  in 2011-12 when he shot 37.2 percent from beyond the arc and finished fourth in the scoring race.

3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Yeah, yeah, maybe he shoots too much considering he plays alongside that Durant guy. But Westbrook’s a stone-cold scorer and Thunder coach Scott Brooks knows it. After his knee injury in the first round, Westbrook (he finished sixth in scoring last season at 23.2 ppg) declared that he will return a smarter player. Maybe it means he’ll take fewer bad shots, but don’t expect him to necessarily take fewer shots since the Thunder lost 3-point ace Martin to the Wolves in free agency.

4. Blake Griffin, Clippers: This guy takes a lot of flak for a perceived lack of development in his low-post and mid-range game, and I have said that he must find less violent ways to score to truly become great. I think the powerful Griffin delivers this season on a team loaded with options and one that will be smartly coached by Doc Rivers. Despite a lack of finesse, Griffin still managed to average 22.5 ppg in 2010-11 and is a career 52.9 percent shooter. Only 24, Griffin’s career is just getting started, and he’s got Chris Paul to make his ascension all the easier.

5.  Stephen Curry, Warriors: The best pure shooter in the game today averaged a career-best 22.9 ppg last season and then increased it to 23.4 ppg with an electric postseason. His scoring potential is off the charts. But he’s also got a team to run and that includes some pretty nice targets in Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. Still, like Westbrook, this kid is a born scorer and as long as his ankles hold up, Curry is going to put up some huge games for a team attempting to move up into the Western Conference elite.

16 Comments

  1. I think this will be Lebron’s year. With Kobe not being at full strength, and Carmelo sharing the ball with Amare and JR Smith, Lebron will win it. KD has also lost a bit of touch this season and Westbrook won’t share the ball as much anymore.

    Part of the reason this will happen is because Dwyane needs to let Lebron take over the team and don’t forget that Lebron was a perennial 29 – 31 ppg scorer with the Cavs: http://www.hostnumber.com/lebron-james-career-stats.html

  2. Markus71 says:

    Kyrie Irving

  3. Jay says:

    Yeah like Gary said.. Blake is pretty far out of the talks in my opinion.. he going to peak at 23-24 a game, he’s just not that great of a scorer. I think Monta is going to have a pretty monster season in Dallas… he’s a proven scorer and with Calderon running the floor and Dirk still an elite offensive threat… he’s going to get plenty of open looks. I’m actually really excited to see him play this year. I think playing for a proven playoff team, and next to hard working veterans like Dirk, Devin Harris, Jose Calderon… is really going to bring out a different player than what we’ve seen in GS and Mil… he’s always had that “Kobe ish” type game and he is just now coming into his prime… with a new team and a great supporting cast. Anyways this is how I think the top 5 scorers will turn out next season:

    Durant: 31 PPG
    Melo: 30 PPG
    Curry: 28 PPG
    Love: 28 PPG
    Harden: 27 PPG

    With Ellis, Kobe, Lebron, Paul George and Rose rounding out the top 10 respectively.

  4. Blake? What the highlight reels aren’t enough?! OVERRATED!!!!

  5. Gary says:

    I like Blake, but there’s no way he gets into the top five. I think a better suggestion would have been Monta. I think on Dallas he will be more inspired and will step his game up a bit. As for Blake, I’d bank on Wade breaking top five before him. After all he did finish the season in the 8th spot.

  6. powerman4533 says:

    The Same goes for Curry. He doesn’t need to shoot that much. Neither he nor Rose should be among the league leaders in scoring… not unless they’re going to switch positions. And in that case, they need to come off the bench. As POINT GUARDS they need to integrated their abilities with their VERY CAPABLE TEAMMATES, not look to GUNNN as their TEAMMATES watch them dribble dribble dribble the air out of the rock then GUNNNNN profusely… That would be a step backward, not forward. The modern perception of point guard play is totally ridiculous.

    • astar23 says:

      You mention DRose and Curry but not westbrook?lol

      If any point guard in the league wants to run and gun and shoot all day its westbrook.

      • #0 says:

        @ astar23. Westbrook is a scoring pointguard genius. Thats his role on the team. Did you not learn anything after beverlly’s cheap shot? Without Russell Westbrook “running and gunning” the thunder have NO CHANCE of a ring. He is so underrated its crazy. Nothing wrong with a scoring pointguard. Magic is retired and the old days are over. There is a new breed of Point guards now. When you are bashing Westbrook at least mention that he is ungaurdable by any current NBA player. And is the fastest Point guard to ever play the game.

      • Me says:

        WIth comments like those, you are either Westbrook himself or his mother.

  7. powerman4533 says:

    D Rose averaging anything more than 25ppg is to the detriment of the Bulls. He needs to facilitate to his VERY CAPABLE TEAMMATES WHO DIDN’T SKIP A BEAT AFTER HIS INJURY 2YRS AGO… and who also made it to the 2nd round last season and gave the Pacers a run for their money WITHOUT HIS GUNNNING IN CLUTCH SITUATIONS. If he integrates his abilities (AS A POINT GUARD) with his VERY CAPABLE TEAMMATES, the Bulls will be a contender. If he comes back looking to do Gilbert Arenas/ Allen Iverson impressions, the Bulls will suffer.

  8. i find this scoring title irrelevant, there’s no trophy (mvp, dpoy, roy, coy) given. come playoff time, the burden of scoring is carried by that person alone with maybe a help from one or two teammate. T-Mac, A.I, Melo (no disrespect to them) can scores bunches in the regular season and comes up short in the playoffs.

  9. Derrick Rose ? lol he’ll be lucky to average 18ppg 6 apg coming off his injury