Friday, October 15, 2010

What would Michael Jordan average today?

A lot of fuss has been made about Michael Jordan's recent statement about scoring 100 points. Here's the quote from the article promoting NBA 2K11

How has the game changed from your playing days?
It's less physical and the rules have changed, obviously. Based on these rules, if I had to play with my style of play, I'm pretty sure I would have fouled out or I would have been at the free throw line pretty often and I could have scored 100 points.

For one, I'm happy that MJ is speaking his mind more - he did this often behind the scenes or on the court but it wasn't until his HOF speech that we saw him at his most open. For someone who was tight-lipped yet cunning and ruthless, I'd prefer this MJ over the corporate pitchman who did nothing besides dominate basketball and let his game talk.

Unlike Yahoo's snarky take on this, let's be real. Could MJ have scored 100 points in today's game? Better yet, what would he average for a season? Let's say we're talking about MJ in his prime from 86-93 when he led the NBA in scoring with 30+ each year. Consider this.

1) There's no hand-checking. Back in the 90's, a defender could use their hands or arms to keep a player from scoring. Not so today. A big reason that LeBron, D-Wade, Kobe and Kevin Durant can score at will. MJ would do this too.

2) There aren't a lot of great defenders, especially at the shooting guard/small forward position. Outside of Kobe, Shane Battier, Bruce Bowen, Dwyane Wade, it's a bunch of average guys over the past 5-6 years. And remember, any SF that guards MJ would leave Scottie Pippen open to expose a smaller defender.

3) Kobe scored 81 in today's climate. LeBron has scored 50 eight times. Kevin Durant will score 50 at some point next season. When he was 40, MJ had a 40-point game with the Wizards in 2003 and a 51-point game the year before. You do the math.

4) Teams aren't as physical today thanks to rules. The last great defensive team was the mid-2000 Detroit Pistons that shut down Kobe in the 2004 Finals. The only way Jordan was stopped early on was because the Bad Boys had free reign to knock him down. No team could do that nowadays.

Now consider Michael Jordan's skill set. A deadly mid-range game based on head-fakes and getting to his spots with perfect shooting form. Speed to take anybody to the baseline. He could drive to the basket on anybody. Granted, a lot of players today can do that but it's still hard to defend. Plus he was well-conditioned as anybody.

Also, MJ got to the free throw line on average 10 times per game. With the way they call fouls nowadays, he'd get 5-6 more FT's easily. His only weakness was his outside shooting but in the 4 games he scored 60 or more points, he only attempted 12 3-pointers. In the 31 times he scored more than 50 points, he only took 5 or more 3's FIVE TIMES.

I can't imagine that today. That's just smart shooting and knowing where do to your damage without taking too many unnecessary shots. Which reminds me, MJ averaged over 51% shooting in his prime (87-93).

In my opinion, he'd average between 40-42 points for a season. Against weaker defenders, he'd abuse them nightly on the offensive side while hounding them on the defensive end. He'd get 8-12 points a night at the foul line which means he'd have to find ways to get 28-34 on the floor.

That's why he said in that quote he might foul out of more games. Jordan was an aggressive defender who'd probably get ticky-tack fouls called on him in this age - which is probably the only thing stopping him from scoring at will.

Would he score 100? He'd come close but I'm tired of writers tearing down this hyperbole. You'd think they know by now that MJ is prone to exaggerating to show his strengths, not his weakness. Instead of spouting off stats and attempting to deflate the MJ myth they helped to create (or younger writers doing this to show their cynicism), they'd better serve their readers by making a better argument since most of us know we'll never see anyone do it.

He'd average 40-42 points while working to shut down the top scorers at his position. And for good measure, he'd average 7-8 rebounds per game with 5-7 assists with close to two steals. Now debate that.

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