There is one thing that has caught my attention in the NBA lately that I want to talk about: the technicality of what it means to be a superstar or an All-Star. Last week when Mark Cuban said Russell Westbrook wasn’t a superstar, the OKC point guard exploded for 36 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, successfully eliminating the Cuban-owned Dallas Mavericks from the playoffs.
According to Kenny Smith, there are five ways to dominate a game: scoring, assists, rebounding, leadership and pace of the game. A superstar can do four in one night at a minimum. An All-Star does two things. One night, he might score a lot and get a lot of assists. Another night, he might rebound and assist. But an All-Star isn’t going to achieve superstar status unless he can produce at least four of those game-dominating traits consistently. Here is a list of active superstars in the NBA finals, using their stats from the 2015-2016 season.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers): 22.0 points, 5.2 assists, 1 steal, .33 blocks, 21 PER
Kyle Lowry: (Toronto Raptors) 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.3 steals, 0.6 blocks, 23.0 PER
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder): 25.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 9.5 assists, 2.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 29.8 PER
Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors): 29.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.1 blocks, 31.9 PER
Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat): 18.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks, 21.2 PER
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors): 22.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 21.1 PER
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors): 21.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.8 blocks, 18.4 PER
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder): 26.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.3 blocks, 28.3 PER
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs): 20.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.9 blocks, 26.9 PER
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers): 25.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 27.2 PER
Chris Bosh (Miami Heat): 19.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, 22.7 PER
Paul George (Indiana Pacers): 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.5 blocks, 24.3 PER
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors): 15.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.4 blocks, 20.4 PER
Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs): 9.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.8 steals, 1.3 blocks, 17.8 PER
This list is a testament to the true superstar that is Steph Curry. Not only does he claim his spot as the #1 point guard in the NBA with ease, but brought along Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to their respective #1 spots as well. The chemistry on that team is insane.
Although there may be a collection of extremely of talented players on a team, that doesn’t necessarily equate to a team that will be successful in the playoffs. Take a look at the Los Angeles Clippers. The loss of Chris Paul (broken hand) and Blake Griffin (strained quad) pretty much guaranteed the Portland Trail Blazers a first-round series victory.
One of Kenny Smith’s ways of dominating a game was leadership – an intangible trait that brings out the best of the team’s players and energy. Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry take the cake for leadership on their teams.