As I’m sure you’re well aware, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are currently engaged in a neck-and-neck race to determine the NBA’s scoring champion.
The Twitter hashtag “KDvsMelo” spread like wildfire on Tuesday afternoon, prompting arguments about the scoring race, which player is better, which guy you’d rather have, etc.
The debating is all in fun, but the scoring title conversation shouldn’t be necessary. The NBA has this wrong.
We’ll look at why in a minute, but first let’s glance at the numbers. Entering Wednesday, Anthony’s 28.56 points per game is slightly edging Durant’s 28.26 points per game. If the season ended today, the award goes to Carmelo because his scoring average is a fraction higher, per NBA rules. End of discussion.
It may seem straightforward, but really, it’s absurd. Awarding the scoring title to the guy with the highest points-per-game average comes from the same outdated line of thinking as giving baseball’s Cy Young Award to the pitcher with the most wins.
There are two main ways to look at pure scoring. One is average, the other is total. While the NBA awards the scoring title to the guy with the highest average, it should actually be awarding it to the player with the highest point total.
The answer to why lies in determining a player’s true value.
Let me ask you this first: what value does a player provide if he sits on the bench and doesn’t play? It’s not a trick question – the answer is zero. If you want to determine a player’s true impact on his team’s season, plug in zeros for all of his stats in the games he missed and then check his averages.
If you factor in those goose eggs, Anthony’s scoring average plummets to 23.74 ppg. While that’s still pretty darn impressive considering his 13 absences, it’s not even in Durant’s neighborhood.
Or perhaps look at it this way:
If I were to give you money and offered you a choice of $28.56 or $28.26, which would you take? Probably the first one, but with a measured level of indifference considering 30 cents can’t buy you much.
But what if I offered you a choice between $2,204 and $1,828? No indifference here; it’s a no-brainer.
How did I come up with those numbers? It’s time to take a slightly deeper look at this scoring race.
Despite Carmelo’s exceptional year, he’s only played in 64 of the Knicks’ 77 games. If you take his 28.56 points per game and multiply it by his 64 games, you get 1,828 total points.
On the other hand, Durant has played in all 78 of Oklahoma City’s contests, and if you take his 28.26 average and multiply that by 78, you get his season-total of 2,204 points.
In other words, Durant has outscored Melo by 376 points.
This same thing happened last season when Durant edged Kobe Bryant by one tenth of a point, 28.0 to 27.9. That race came down to the season’s final day even though KD played eight more games than Bryant and outscored him by 234 points.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not punishing a guy for missing time. If a player sits 15 games but still pours in enough total points to earn it, give him the title.
But shouldn’t an award called the scoring title go to the guy who did the most scoring?
Carmelo is an incredible player having a sensational season. He’s led the Knicks back to national relevance and fully deserves all the credit he receives. He just doesn’t deserve the scoring title.