May 26, 2013, 1:39 AM EST
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.”
Nov 27, 2014, 11:00 PM EST
Parker gets the rookie treatment from the official.
Nov 27, 2014, 9:30 PM EST
Davis is averaging 17.7 shots per game.
Nov 27, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
Sager will receive clearance to fly in January.
Nov 27, 2014, 6:30 PM EST
Rose says he is feeling better about his health.
Nov 27, 2014, 5:00 PM EST
Michael Malone increases pressure on sometimes-combustible Cousins
Nov 27, 2014, 3:30 PM EST
Celtics forward in final year of contract
Nov 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
Clifford has benched Stephenson for consecutive fourth quarters
Nov 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
Suns guard drives for reverse slam, cuts for monstrous alley-oop
Nov 27, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Very nice gesture
Nov 27, 2014, 9:30 AM EST
He missed seven games with a hamstring injury.
Nov 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Beal’s max extension projects to pay more than $118 million over five years
Nov 27, 2014, 1:37 AM EST
LeBron James and the Cavaliers were good, Chase Budinger had the flub.
Nov 27, 2014, 12:28 AM EST
Ish Smith will stay on the roster.
Nov 27, 2014, 12:01 AM EST
If the Cavs can defend like that on a regular basis they will be far more dangerous.
Nov 26, 2014, 10:45 PM EST
Bulls, Pacers, Bucks, Pistons to Western Conference
Nov 26, 2014, 9:15 PM EST
He also talks Milwaukee, doing away with conferences.
Nov 26, 2014, 8:15 PM EST
With Popovich out, Ettore Messina takes over Spurs
Nov 26, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
Maverick shows off long arms
Nov 26, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
Harden shifts defensive-woes attention onto Knicks forward
Nov 26, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Haywoode Workman should have let it fly
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