NBA PM: Who’s Next to 30,000 Points?
There’s a reason why only five players in the history of the NBA have managed to score at least 30,000 career points. Namely, it’s a ridiculously difficult milestone to achieve.
First and foremost, you have to be good enough to score that many points, and while there are a number of players who sustain an All-Star level for a few years, maintaining it long enough to amass 30,000 career points is a daunting challenge. A player who is capable of such a feat is usually the focus of every opposing team’s defense, meaning they are roughed up more often and their scoring opportunities are more difficult. A player has to stay healthy for the most part, as missing a bunch of games or suffering through significant injuries often prevents players from staying in the game long enough to even sniff 30,000. There is also a reality that only a player who competes on a championship-caliber team for most of his career will log enough games to accumulate 30,000 career points.
Let’s take a look at the latest player to do it, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Bryant came to the NBA directly out of high school, and while he didn’t play much as a rookie, he did have 539 points to his credit while his peers were freshmen in college. It also helps that Kobe has been able to play in the vast majority of the Lakers’ games during his career, including all 50 of the 1998-99 lockout season, 80 or more games in six seasons, and all 82 games of a season four times. In an age where every little bruise seems to cost players games, Bryant has been quite durable for most of his career.
Then there’s postseason play, where Bryant has appeared in 220 playoff games, winning five championships in the process. That’s a lot of extra games, and fully 19 percent of his points have come in the postseason, where he has recorded 5,640 points to date.
Given these parameters, can we look at the current crop of young NBA players and find one or two who might possibly find themselves in the 30,000 point club before all is said and done?
First of all, there are two current players who are at least in the same neighborhood. The Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett and Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki are both very likely to hit 25,000 this season, with Garnett at 24,554 and the injured Nowitzki sitting on 24,134. Nowitzki scored 1,342 points last season, when he appeared in 62 of the league’s 66 games, so even if he’s out until January he’ll likely be over 25K before the end of the season. Even so, he would have to play probably four more years performing at an MVP level to reach 30K. It’s not impossible, but it seems unlikely. It’s even less likely for Garnett, whose per game scoring average has dropped into the mid-teens and whose overall game has deteriorated noticeably. A healthy Nowitzki has an outside shot at getting it done, but even a healthy Garnett probably finishes his career in the 27-28K range.
One young star who is currently on track to get to 30K is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. Durant has eclipsed Bryant’s scoring clip for the comparable period of time, leading the league in scoring in three of his first five years in the NBA. Bryant has led the league in scoring four times, but he did it for the first time in his seventh season. Durant scored 9,978 points in his first five years in the league, while Kobe was still at 6,151 after his first five years. Like Bryant, Durant is on a team that will see plenty of postseason action for the foreseeable future, and also like Bryant, Durant is a player who rarely misses games. Barring a significant injury, Kevin Durant should reach 30K before the end of his career.
Early in his career, when he was the Denver Nuggets’ leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony also looked like a player who could push for 30K before he hung up his kicks. Now in his tenth season, Anthony is nearly halfway there, currently sitting at 16,374 points. Now that he’s a part of a more diversified offense in New York, it’s questionable whether or not he will be able to maintain a scoring clip that will get him to 30K before he retires. Nine seasons into his career, Anthony had 15,926 points to his credit, where as Bryant had just 14,034 after his ninth season. That also marked the end of Bryant’s pairing with Shaquille O’Neal, and the beginning of his own MVP rise. Anthony has gone in the opposite direction, from scoring leader to part of a more balanced team. Anthony also has a tendency to miss a lot of games each season, making it even less likely that he gets to 30K.
The only other modern NBA player who currently seems likely to be in hot pursuit of 30K before his career is over is Miami HEAT star LeBron James. Now ten years into his career, James has already amassed nearly 20,000 points, a milestone he will almost certainly surpass before the end of the 2012-13 regular season, as he needs just 527 points to get there. He scored 428 points over the first five weeks of the season. James is as dependable as it comes in terms of staying away from injuries, and his dominant scoring, which is second in the league only to Durant, makes him a prime candidate to reach 30K. Not counting last year’s lockout-shortened season, James has scored more than two thousand points in eight of his nine complete seasons, meaning he would only need to play five more at that pace to get to 30K. At just 27 years of age and in impeccable shape, it’s hard to imagine him not getting there.
It’s no surprise that only five players in the history of the NBA have achieved the 30,000-point milestone. It takes a great deal of work, amazing amount of determination, and even a little bit of luck to get there. It’s impossible to emphasize what a significant achievement it is for Kobe Bryant to reach it, yet as we have seen, there are several young players in the modern NBA who could very well join that elite club before all is said and done.
Drummond Finding His Way
There was a time when Andre Drummond was projected to be the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. A dominant front court presence, Drummond averaged 20.2 points, 16.6 rebounds, 7.2 blocks, and 4.5 steals per game as a high school sophomore, making him the focus of a great deal of national attention early on. Questions about his motor and his willingness to work hard enough to become an elite pro player caused his stock to drop, which is the only reason the Detroit Pistons were able to grab him with the ninth pick in last summer’s draft.
Drummond didn’t exactly dominate coming out of the gates in his rookie NBA season, but Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank tells HOOPSWORLD he expects it to be a process.
“I think it’s always a learning process for big guys and I think that’s why each guy has to help each other and be willing to listen to each other. Greg [Monroe] has Jason Maxiell in front of him and Charlie Villanueva. Guys with veteran experience and then Andre has those guys and then it’s the constant pushing and prodding of each other to do more and do better.”
First and foremost, Drummond realized what a challenge the NBA represents from the moment he stepped onto the court in preseason.
“Definitely, after the first preseason game it kind hit me, ‘This is for real,’” Drummond tells HOOPSWORLD. “I’m here now, so I’ve got to work hard every single day to get better and try to be a great teammate.”
Despite talk over the summer that Drummond and Monroe might start together on the front line this season, Drummond has struggled to earn minutes, averaging just 17 per game over the first month of the season. As much as he would like a bigger role, Drummond knows what he has to do to earn it.
“Continue to do what I’m doing every single day, which is work hard every single day,” says Drummond. “We’ve got some great guys on the floor, so when I do get out there I just try to bring energy and effort. … It’d be great to play with Greg, but right now we’re just worried about winning basketball games. When the time is right, it’s going to be great getting to play together, but as of right now, we’re just worried about winning games.”
For his part, Monroe likes that he’s seen from his rookie teammate early on.
“I think he’s played well, he’s played big for us,” says Monroe. “Obviously, controlling the paint, rebounding, altering a lot of shots, he’s been a monster on the offensive glass. He’s going to continue to get better and help us out more and more as he develops.”
Frank admits Drummond has a lot of room to improve, but emphasizes that the team is not the least bit disappointed in his play to date.
“He’s really done a nice job to start the season,” says Frank. “But there’s a lot that probably the naked eye doesn’t see that we see and for us we are not disappointed. It’s part of the learning curve of being a 19-year-old rookie in this league. He makes some ‘wow’ plays that are important and then there are other plays that he will continue to learn and get better and the other variable is that the other guys in front of you are playing well. You are not going sit a guy down that’s playing well just to put a guy in the game just because he is a rookie.”
Still, with each passing game we’re seeing improvement from Drummond. He had 12 rebounds and three blocks in Detroit’s win over Cleveland earlier this week, and then posted 15 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in a season-high 31 minutes against Golden State on Wednesday night. It’s a sign that his mental approach to the game is paying off.
“Just move on from bad plays and don’t let mistakes on the floor get me down,” says Drummond of that approach. “Get back, do what I have to do to get the next possession on our side.”
The way things are progressing, it looks like the good plays will soon outnumber the bad, and Drummond will earn that starting spot next to Monroe after all.
Derrick Williams Growing Impatient?
It seems a situation in Minnesota is going to come to a head sooner rather than later, with Rob Pelinka, the agent for forward Derrick Williams, apparently pressing the Timberwolves to move his client to a situation where he will get more of an opportunity to play. ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis reports that Pelinka has not yet officially asked for a trade, but has voiced his growing concern about Williams’ playing time.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the Timberwolves are loaded with talent at both forward positions, making playing time hard to come by. When injuries have created opportunities for Williams, he has failed to perform at a level that would inspire head coach Rick Adelman to give him more playing time when injured players returned. On the season, Williams is averaging 9.0 points, but shooting just 39 percent from the field and 69 percent from the free throw line.
The question is whether or not increased minutes on a more consistent basis would help Williams put a more consistent game on the court. He has shown flashes, including 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 37 minutes against Golden State, but there are also games like his 0-for-10 performance in 21 minutes against the Chicago Bulls last month.
The reality is that Williams would probably flourish in a situation where he could play 30-plus minutes a night and where his minutes were not impacted by an off night here and there, but that’s not going to happen on a team with playoff aspirations like the Timberwolves, or on a team with more consistent options in the front court, as the Timberwolves also have.
It appears likely that the Timberwolves will opt to shop Williams, as they did last season in talks with the Los Angeles Lakers regarding All-Star big man Pau Gasol. There is even a possibility that the same scenario gets revisited if the Lakers decide to put Gasol back on the trade market. The Lakers want to see how well Gasol plays with injured point guard Steve Nash before they give up on him, and it seems the Timberwolves have a similar sentiment about seeing how well Williams might play with a healthy Ricky Rubio.
For now, however, Williams is going to have to maximize every chance he gets to play and show Adelman that he deserves more minutes. If he can’t do that, he’s going to continue to spend the bulk of his time on the bench looking on.
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