Lebron's already excited.

The NBA season is slowly creeping up on us. Training camp starts in October and the season starts at the end of the month. So it’s kind of almost time to get hyped for basketball again. Yeah! John Hollinger of ESPN’s player profiles are being rolled out this week. Hollinger rates player based off advanced metrics like PER (which he invented) win shares, and plus/minus stats. So far he’s touched up The Miami Heat, The OKC Thunder, The Celtics, The Pacers, The Spurs and The Lakers. Unfortunately you have to be an ESPN insider to read them but thankfully I am and I’ll break down some findings from his profiles:

 Lebron James is the best player in the NBA by far. Obviously you should know this by now but if you’re not into advanced metrics it may surprise you how much better Lebron is compared to every one else in the league (I’m not saying that these metrics are 100% accurate but they are very useful). Lebron’s PER projects to be 29.7, which is way better than any one else’s. His closest competition is Kevin Durant who’s PER projects to be 26.1. Lebron is the best or one of the best at nearly every aspect of the game. He's one of the best scorers, finishers, passers, rebounders and defenders. Add in the fact that he can guard every position and its clear that Lebron isn’t gonna give up his title as the best in the game anytime soon.

D Wade might be the second best player in the game. Yupp. If you had been this type of NBA fan (a hoop head) you probably already know that D Wade is right there with Kevin Durant, or Kobe Bryant, or whoever else may be the second best in the league. D wade scores very efficiently, he passes well, and is a very good rebounder. He also like Lebron is one of the best defenders in the league and blocks shots at a ridiculous rate for a player of his size. Kobe is projected to fall off a little bit with a PER of 20.5 but I suspect that mostly has to due with Hollinger’s system taking Kobe’s age into account. Kobe is borderline superhuman and doesn’t age like the rest of us.

Kobe is no longer the Laker’s best player. Dwight Howard when he returns will be. Howard is projected to have a PER of 23.1 but I think it’ll be higher. A few years ago Dwight was way up near 26 and I think he can get there again. Dwight also happens to be the best defensive player in the league and his synergy stats + and – minus stats prove it. The Magic gave up 6.8 less points per 100 possessions with Dwight on the floor and the Lakers are damn lucky to have Dwight because they have a few holes in their defense. Kobe is still good defensively as is Pau and Metta World Peace but Steve Nash is old and was never even an average defender. Antwan Jamison is singled out as bad defender in Hollinger’s profile as is Jordan Hill who Hollinger and I like offensively and as a rebounder. Howard and Gasol together will be able to plug up any holes the Lakers have while on the court together and putting Howard with good defensive back-ups Jodie Meeks and Devin Ebanks may be an option for Mike Brown.

 

The Spurs are still contenders. The Spurs get written off every year after they lose and every year they manage to win 50 games. But Hollinger’s profiles projected the Spur’s three stars to remain all-star caliber (Manu Ginobili projects to have a better PER than Kobe) and projected their role players to play well also. They are a deep team and if their young guns improve the Spurs can mos def surprise the people who expect a Laker-Thunder conference Finals. The Pacers are also deep but lack star power although both Roy Hibbert and Paul George have the potential. They matchup well talent-wise with the older and more established Celtics. Its no fluke that the Pacer took the Heat to seven games last year but its also clear that a healthy Miami team is head and shoulders above the rest of the East. The Celtics projections are interesting as both Kevin Garnett and Pal Pierce appear to Kobe-like in their ability to stay elite in their 30s. Rajon Rondo projects to have a lower PER than both of them. Rondo’s one weakness is his shooting and it is the only thing holding him back from greatness. In the playoffs last year Rondo raised his game considerably posting a PER of 22 compared to 17.5 in the regular season. Rondo also scored 17.5 a game compared to 11.9 on better shooting from the field. I wonder if Rondo can take his game to that level permanently. If he can than The Celtics will be a threat to the Heat.

Don’t put anybody ojavascript:mctmp(0);ver the Thunder. The Thunder aren't crazy deep but they are top-loaded with a lot of talent. They have four players projecting to have PERs over which is insane. Russell Westbrook PER is projected to have a PER of 23.7, which is top-ten in the NBA and James Harden is at 20.8, which is all-star level. Serge Ibaka is actually at 19.5 but that is still damn good. Tim Duncan, for comparison’s sake is projected to have a PER of 19.6. The Thunder’s biggest weakness is probably their bench and lack of D. Many of their players have elite athleticism and the tools to be great defenders but haven’t quite put it together. If they do then I’m not sure any one can stop them.

Hollinger’s player profile’s are great and provide a stat-based evaluation of a player’s talent. You can get a pretty idea of how talented a player and team is using Hollinger’s stats and comparing them to your own eye-test evaluations. They aren’t quite as useful for judging a team’s success or talent because sometimes teams are more than the sum of their individual parts

 Other NBA Pre-Pre-Season hype:

Aaron McGuire at the site Gothic Ginobili is doing his own player profiles here. He talks some stats but mainly breaks guys down using the eye test and from a fan or regular dude perspective. It also happens to be dope as hell. ESPN is also doing NBA rank where they rank players in order. Sounds like a decent idea but the execution has been wack.