NBA Milestones We May Not See
Every season NBA players reach career milestones, marking their place in the annals of the league’s history books. Not only does a player’s name on a list of career rank for a certain statistic denote a career of talent and success, but it also marks a career of longevity, one making an indelible mark on the game of basketball.
It now seems very (very, very) likely there will be games missed in the 2011-12 NBA season – it’s just a question of how many. The following statistics and all-time ranking benchmarks are what would have been reached assuming an 82-game season and full health for the given player. Depending on the number of games played now, the milestones may or may not be reached. Who knows – in some cases, if an entire season is lost, maybe the mark will never be made. (Note: For the benchmarks below, Basketball Reference rankings for NBA/ABA combined stats were used.)
Kobe Bryant: Bryant has averaged 25.3 points per game over his 15-year NBA career (yep, it’s been 15 years – hard to believe) for a total of 27,868 points. Last season he averaged exactly that, his lowest average since 2003-04. Assuming a conservative 22.0 points per game for Bryant, over 82 games (something he has done in three of the past four seasons), that’s 1,804 points, which would push him to 29,672 for his career. That would push him past Shaquille O’Neal and Moses Malone on the all-time NBA/ABA career scoring charts to sixth all-time. Another season after that and Bryant will become the sixth player in history to score 30,000 points.
15,000 Point Club: Rip Hamilton (108 points away), Rashard Lewis (191), Carmelo Anthony (319), Mike Bibby (405), Andre Miller (929), Dwyane Wade (1,092), Pau Gasol (1,267) and Joe Johnson (1,372) all figured to be shoo-ins to reach the mark, becoming the 127th-134th players to reach the mark. Jason Richardson (1,504) has an outside shot at it, but would have to average better than 18.3 points a game, something he hasn’t done since 2007-08.
Kevin Garnett: With just 181 rebounds Garnett will reach 13,000 for his career, becoming just the 15th player in history to do that. For his 16-year NBA career Garnett has averaged 10.7 rebounds a game. He hasn’t hit that number since 2006-07, his last year in Minnesota, and in the four years in Boston has not played more than 71 games in a season. Conservatively, if Garnett were to average 8.0 rebounds a game for 70 games that would put him at 13,379 for his career, pushing him past Shaquille O’Neal and into 13th on the all-time list.
10,000 Rebound Club: Just 38 players have reached this milestone, the last being Ben Wallace. The closest player to the mark now is Marcus Camby, but being 1,097 short he would have to average 13.4 rebounds per game and play a full 82-game season to reach it. The closest Camby has ever come in his 15-year career is playing 74 games in 2009-10.
5,000 Rebound Club: 230 players have previously reached this mark. Al Harrington (just 15 away), Emeka Okafor (58), Vince Carter (189), and Drew Gooden (198) seem like locks to join the club. Ray Allen (292) has an outside shot at it. Kenyon Martin (270) would also seem like a lock, but he signed a one-year deal in China.
Steve Nash: Nash is 748 assists away from the 10,000 club, where he would become the fifth member. He would need to average just over 9.1 assists per game over an 82-game season to do that. Since a full 82 games seems unlikely because of his track record (back issues, for example), he would have to average almost 10 assists per over 75 games. Last season he played 75 games and posted 11.4 per, the fifth time in the last seven years he has topped 11 per night.
5,000 Assist Club: Just 52 players have ever reached this mark in their career. Kevin Garnett (110) seems like a lock to join the next year. Jason Terry (472) would probably have to take two years to get there. LeBron James (636) has an outside shot, needing to average 7.8 assists per game over 82. Tony Parker (715), Chris Paul (772) and Deron Williams (842) could also join the club with outstanding seasons.
Jason Kidd: Kidd is just 37 steals away from passing Michael Jordan and moving into second place all-time. He will never catch leader John Stockton, who recorded 751 more than Jordan.
1,500 Steal Club: This is still a pretty exclusive club, featuring just 37 members (including Shawn Marion, who sits at 1,500 exactly). Of course, it’s also not a stat that’s been recorded for very long, so take that with a grain of salt. Baron Davis (4), Ron Artest (26) and Paul Pierce (71) figure to join the club given a full season.
Theo Ratliff: Ratliff is just 32 blocks away from becoming the 20th player in history (see the same historical caveat as steals) to record 2,000 for his career. Will he get that shot? Last season Ratliff played in just 10 games and recorded five blocked shots. At 38 years of age he may end up just short of the mark.
1,000 Blocks Club: Just 81 players have reached this mark. In the next season Brendan Haywood (4), Dirk Nowitzki (17), Tyson Chandler (109), Emeka Okafor (125) and Amar’e Stoudemire (128) all have an excellent shot of joining them.
Derek Fisher: Should Fisher play all 82 games and lead the league again, he would become the second player in history (joining A.C. Green) to accomplish the feat eight times.
Dwight Howard: If Howard leads the league in defensive rebounds for the fifth time, he would join Kevin Garnett as the only other player (historical caveat here) to do that. If he leads the league in total rebounds, as he has five times in his seven-year career, he would have second place in that category all to himself, breaking a tie with Moses Malone (Wilt Chamberlain leads with 11 times).
Chris Paul: If Paul leads the league in total steals for the fifth time in his short career, he would become the first player ever (historical caveat) to accomplish that, breaking a tie with Michael Ray Richardson. If he leads the league in steals per game for the fourth time, he would be the first to do that, breaking a tie with Richardson, Alvin Robertson, Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan.
Turnovers: If Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook or Jason Kidd leads the league in turnovers, they will become the first player to do that three times.
Joe Smith: If Smith plays another game for a team other than Golden State, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Detroit, Milwaukee, Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, New Jersey, Atlanta, or the L.A. Lakers, it will be the 13th franchise he played for, which would break a four-way tie with Chucky Brown, Tony Massenburg and Jim Jackson.
Dallas Mavericks: If the Mavericks successfully defend their NBA title, they would become the seventh franchise (Houston, Chicago, Boston, L.A. Lakers, Indiana (ABA) and Detroit) to accomplish the feat.
Looking over that, it’s quite a list of things we may not get to see if a season is lost or shortened. For some of these points, it’s really just a matter of time, but for others they are benchmarks a lost season could take away from the individuals forever. Basketball, like with labor negotiations, is a team sport, but everyone likes to have a benchmark accomplishment on their resume. Hopefully these players get the opportunity to help their teams win some games and make more of an impression on NBA history.