I was thinking about writing about the awesomeness of Chris Andersen‘s tattoos, but instead I will write about something very saddening for me and for other NBA stats-junkies: The demise of the 20-10.
In the past, averaging a “20-10” was the hallmark of a good center. 20 points, 10 rebounds – this is what was expected of your average good center (or 30 and 20, if your name happens to be Wilt Chamberlain), and the great ones maintained those averages throughout their entire careers. In fact, the “20-10” club has, as of now, 14 members, all of which are retired. But until very recently, there were 15 members in the club, the 15th being the only active player. Who was it? Well, Kwame Brown is a great guess, but no. We’ll see in a minute who our mystery man is.
Do you know how hard it is to get into that club? Averaging 20-10 for your entire career? Just to put things in the correct perspective, here’s a list of several big names who missed the “20-10” club by a little: Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Bob McAdoo, Dwight Howard (true, he still has many years in the league, but he’s not in the club right now, nor will he ever be). Not a bad group at all!
And who did make the club? Well, many of the usual suspects are there: Kareem, Hakeem, Wilt of course (the only member of the “30-20” club), both Malones, Shaq, Sir Charles and several other great names. All of them are retired, So who is this mystery man? Who was the last of the Mohicans? Drum-roll…Tim Duncan! Yes, surprising as it may sound, until several months ago, Timmy was the ONLY active member of that exclusive club. And sadly, he had to relinquish that position.
No one doubts the greatness of Timmy. He is the greatest PF of all time, and by any possible standard he is a lock on the all-time top 10 list. Even though he was never the stats-chasing fellow like some of his contemporaries, his statistics can still give you a mind-fuck. Especially if you look at the adjustment for 36 minutes like they do on basketball-reference.com (http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/d/duncati01.html). Timmy simply doesn’t age! I haven’t seen such remarkable consistency from any player, and you have to remember Timmy already played his 17th season in the league. Are his stats per 36 minutes for real?
However, those are the “per 36 minutes” stats, and the “20-10” club looks only at the standard per-game stats. And here we come to the unfortunate plot twist. As his age advanced, Timmy started to play less minutes per game. And while he easily maintained the “20-10” for the first half of his career, it is much more difficult to do when you play less than 30 minutes per game. And thus, his averages dipped. Despite his remarkable 2012/13 season, Timmy started the 2013/14 season with a career average of 20.157 points per game. His 2013/14 season was not as good as 2012/13 (despite being great for a 37 year old), and the result was inevitable: Somewhere in the middle of the season, Timmy crossed the foorbidden line, entered the twilight zone, and his career average dropped below 20 points per game… He ended the season with a career average of 19.86 ppg. It was a close battle, but like the Lakers-Nets final from 2002, its outcome was known in advance.
As for the rebounds, Timmy is safe – his current career average is 11.116 rebounds per game. But alas, the points! The first few months of the 2013/14 season were the last time we’ve seen Timmy, or any other active player – as a member of the prestigious “20-10” club. Sure, he is still capable of producing big numbers. But with the limited amount of minutes he is playing (and will play), there is no chance he will ever re-enter the club. The gods of NBA statistics, have you got no mercy?
I saw this coming. Before the start of the 2013/14 season, I e-mailed the Spurs via their official website. Now, I’m not a Spurs fan, and I mentioned that in the beginning of the e-mail. I warned them of the disaster that is about to happen, and pleaded with Coach Pop to let Timmy play some big minutes. But alas, my plead fell on deaf ears. I got an e-mail back, but it was so laconic and generic… And since in it they wrote that they are “always happy to hear from our fans”, it shows that they read my e-mail thoroughly and put in some serious effort in writng an answer.
Of course, the e-mail was written just for kicks. But I really wanted to see what the Spurs have to say about it – jesus, not every day you have a player on the verge of exiting such a remarkable statistical club! Now, Timmy is most certainly not the kind of player that pays attention to stats, but it’s still interesting – did he know that he was a member of the “20-10” club until recently?
So OK, Timmy fell. But is there anyone else that can take his place in the “20-10” club? Some brave young big man to step up? A couple of years ago I thought maybe Dwight Howard is up to the task. Howard had a few good scoring seasons, and increased his scoring average up to 18.414 points per game. But then I guess he decided that this is enough, and from Dr. Howard he became Mr. Dwight, and his averages (rebounds too) dipped during the last two seasons. And although I think he found a very comfortable place in Houston, I don’t think he’ll ever make it to the “20-10” club.
So… maybe Zach Randolph? Not consistent enough, although he does have a few 20-10 seasons on his resume. LaMarcus Aldridge? Not enough rebounds, despite his remarkable last season. David Lee? Not enough points. Anthony Davis? maybe sometime in the future, although it is WAY too early to tell. DeMarcus Cousins? Give me a break… Although he may crack it someday (and I seriously doubt he will), his stay there will be very short. None of the currently active players looks like he could enter the prestigious “20-10” club, except… two players. Well, one and a half. The half is for Blake Griffin, who currently has career averages of 21.4 ppg and 10.1 rpg, but not enough games on his resume to be considered a member of the club. He has a chance of becoming a member of the club, but I gauge his chances at about 20%. The reason? His rebounds. I think that he might have the required 20 points average when he retires, but I’m really not impressed with his rebounds. Just look at what happened to him in the playoffs: in 30 playoff games he played so far, he has a WAY BELOW PAR average of 6.8 rebounds. What the fuck?! This, and the fact that he hasn’t cracked the 10 rebounds-per-game threshold for the past two seasons are the reasons why I don’t think he has a real chance of entering the “20-10” club.
So who can do it? Who is the saviour of the active players? Kevin Love of course! Of the currently active players, the (occasionally) bearded (current) Timberwolvian (this should totally be a word) and future Cavalier is my favorite to make it (like I said, it is too damn early to judge Anthony Davies’ chances). Love is a beast, and when he is at the top of his game, he delivers “20-10” as easily as Shawn Kemp produced new offsprings. Currently he has career averages of 19.201 points and 12.234 rebounds per game, but he hasn’t yet entered his prime and I expect him to enter the club the next season (hopefully). Will he maintain those averages until he retires? Who knows… But we have to believe!
To paraphrase Albus Dumbledore: “Kevin is the best hope we have, Trust him.” So I’m betting my money on Kevin Love for now and we’ll see how it turns out.