May 26, 2013, 1:39 AM EDT
Where is the line between the NBA’s stars and the league’s merely good players?
Star is such a loaded term – full of reputation and production and marketing and talent and style – that, occasionally, it can be useful to sort through all the distractions and look at objective measures.
Let’s examine players in order of regular-season win shares. Stop me when I name a player who’s not a star. I’m going to go quickly at first.
1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Chris Paul
4. James Harden
Still with me? Good. Let’s keep going.
6. Marc Gasol
There are plenty of people who don’t appreciate defense, but even they recognize Gasol won Defensive Player of the Year and that he must be pretty good on that end.
It’s a wonder he wasn’t an All-Star, but after a spectacular and exciting postseason, he’s definitely a star.
8. Kobe Bryant
Williams was on the verge of fading from star territory, but a strong second half to the season keeps him comfortably viewed as a star.
10. Blake Griffin
Dunks often and appears in commercials even more often. Griffin is definitely a star.
11. Mike Conley
Well, on second thought…
ESPN’s cameras captured a conversation between Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and Spurs point guard Tony Parker during the Western Conference Finals.
“Mike’s learning from you,” Hollins said. “He’s learning from you.”
After the best regular season of his career and a postseason that nearly matches – pretty remarkable considering how much his competition is upgraded in the playoffs – Conley is showing he might be on his way to becoming Parker’s peer rather pupil.
Conley had 20 points, four assists, three rebounds and five steals in Memphis’ Game 3 loss 104-93 to San Antonio tonight, bringing his playoff averages to 17.6 points, 7.1 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals. But he still ran hot and cold, leaving plenty of questions in his wake.
Is he the player who made five steals in the first 8:04 of the game, or is he the the player who ceded his defense on Parker to Tony Allen?
Is he the player who turned the ball over five times in the first three quarters and was befuddled by Kawhi Leonard guarding him, or is he the the player who had no turnovers in a hotly contested fourth quarter and (a less hotly contested) overtime?
Is he the player who scored on Memphis’ final possession of the third quarter and then added a game-high 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, or is he the the player who shot 2-of-11 before that?
Is he the player Memphis trusted to take the final shot of regulation, or is he the the player who could muster only an off-angle runner while going away from the basket?
Is he a star?
Maybe the numbers overrate Conley. Maybe our perception of him hasn’t caught up to what the numbers tell us. Plenty of players would love their resume to include an up-and-down game against Parker and the Spurs in the conference finals, because few get that far, and many who do only see the downs.
Suddenly, I’m wondering why Conley received no Most Improved Player traction – he finished tied for 15th in the voting – and why I didn’t even consider him for my hypothetical ballot. Conley spent his four seasons playing about league average ball. He took major step forward last year and other one this year.
In this series, he’s showing why he deserves a discussion about whether he’s a star. But he’s also showing why he’s not one yet.
His Grizzlies trailing 3-0, the 25-year-old Conley has likely run out of time to prove his stardom this season. But to re-quote Hollins, “He’s learning.”
Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
Bobcats were scrappy, but with Al Jefferson hurting Miami just had too much LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Apr 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
Touching moment as Gregg Popovich delivers a heartfelt message.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT
Spurs close the game on a 19-4 run after trailing by double digits.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Statement confirms referees handled replay review correctly, but also admits that they missed the initial foul call on a critical possession.
Apr 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
If Jim Buss fails to deliver in quickly rebuilding the Lakers, he says he’ll resign.
Apr 20, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Roy Hibbert owned up to a poor Game 1. Will he do anything about it in Game 2 is the question.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Shot clocks stopped working midway through the third quarter, but Raptors say all will be well in time for Game 2.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Where you going, Evan?
Apr 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
“That’s what I do!”
Apr 20, 2014, 12:44 AM EDT
OKC led by as many as 25 points in the first half.
Apr 19, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Roy Hibbert wasn’t good in Game 1 against the Hawks, and this play epitomized his performance.
Apr 19, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT
The eight-seed Hawks blowout the Pacers in Game 1.
Apr 19, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
Blake Griffin totally did this on purpose.
Apr 19, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT
Warriors steal Game 1 in Los Angeles.
Apr 19, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
It looked good as soon as it left his hands.
Apr 19, 2014, 4:06 PM EDT
Playoff games are played in the halfcourt and the Nets owned that in Game 1.
Apr 19, 2014, 2:39 PM EDT
A rare and raw show of emotion from a team’s GM was caught on camera.
Nash to Nowitzki: ‘What would you do if you were me? Would you come back?’ Dirk: ‘I’m not sure, bro.’ (VIDEO)
Apr 19, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Dirk Nowizki is brutally honest.
Apr 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
“Garnett and Pierce are so old the Raptor had to ask his dad about them.”
Apr 19, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Words continue to be exchanged between two teams that clearly don’t like each other.
- Charlotte is scrappy but Heat have too much in comfortable 99-88 win 0
- Spurs use huge 4th quarter run to come back and win Game 1 vs. Mavericks 6
- NBA issues statement saying Chris Paul was fouled before late-game turnover against Warriors 13
- Jim Buss says he’ll step down if Lakers aren’t contenders again in ‘three to four years’ 29
- Thunder start fast, cruise to Game 1 win over Grizzlies 4