From this fan's view, this has been about the greatest 10 and 20 start to a season that one could imagine. I truly appreciate the job the front office is doing to actively pursue upgrades in talent, whether currently developed (Rudy Gay) or with legitimate upside (McLemore, Williams and, to a lesser extent, Acy).
But, most of all, I have been blown away by the improvement (at least on offense) of our two best players: Thomas and Cousins. Here is some perspective on just how good these two have been offensively this year.
Courtesy of basketball reference, I start w/ Thomas' comps. Criteria are as follows: (1) guards and guard/forwards only, (2) qualify for MP/G leader board, (3) 950+ total minutes played, (4) PER of 22.5 or higher, (5) TS% of .59 or higher, and (6) Assist % of 34 or higher.
52 player-seasons match this criteria. Who played out those seasons, however, may surprise you. Ray Allen (x1), Chauncey Billups (x2), Adrian Dantley (x5), Walter Davis (x1), Julius Erving (x1), George Gervin (x2), Manu Ginobli (x2), Anfernee Hardaway (x1), James Harden (x1), LeBron James (x6), Kevin Johnson (x3), Magic Johnson (x8), Michael Jordan (x5), Sidney Moncrief (x1), Chris Mullin (x1), Steve Nash (x2), Chris Paul (x2), Mark Price (x1), John Stockton (x6) and the 5 foot nine hall of fame guard imposter himself: Isaiah Thomas (x1).
Wow! I was not expecting that. Moving on to Cousins' comps becomes even more surprising.
Cousins' performance criteria: (1) qualifies for MP/G leader board, (2) 900 or more total minutes played, (3) PER of 26.5 or more, (4) defensive rebound rate of 30% or higher and (4) true shooting percentage of .55 or higher.
What does it all mean? These two players each have some clearly elite skills (mostly on the offensive side of the ball). They are also both strange players (Isaiah being short/60th pick, DeMarcus w/ the antics, penchant to gamble all over the court, the array of under the rim post moves). The lack of winning and strange makeup of these two players has clearly marred media impact. There seems to be lots of talk among fans and experts how this is a perfect example of players just getting their stats on a bad team. However, these two guys are not just putting up inefficient scoring performances, they are scoring at efficient enough rates to place them among the greats of the sport. If performance is sustained, these two are going to be considered stars sooner than later.
The truth is also that this team is still terrible at defense. A lot of people clamor for some defensive players, specifically shot blockers and, yea, that should be helpful. But, personnel issues do not force a team to be one of the bottom 3 defenses in the entire league. Through internal improvement, there is no reason this team can't field a league average defense for the remaining 50+ games. That is what I look for in the next stage of the rebuild (and development of the case that these young guys are legitimate stars). If Bibby, Peja and Vlade can play defense, then so can these guys. If some defense starts happening, the watch out...
In the meantime, I hope we appreciate the emergence of two star offensive players this year and realize what it means for our franchise going forward. You can truly pair Isaiah and Demarcus with defensive role players because they can handle high usage rates w/ good efficiency. Rudy also appears to fit this mold as a super 3rd option. Every time down the court, a quality shot can be created by these three. Remember those pure defensive players that Iverson was surrounded with in Philly to get to the Finals? Well, we can do that too, except Thomas will actually make some shots. Players like McLemore now only need to defend and knock down shots to be big helps to team success.
The front office has unique offensive talents that are putting together historic seasons and yet to enter their prime. The FO has shown a willingness to wheel and deal and, for the first time in a long long long time, just got the clear best player in multiplayer deal. To fill a void the SF void that has existed for 5+ seasons no less! I, for one, am excited to see how the FO responds to the stunning emergence of stars this year. I also expect to see a completely unexpected playoff run in the coming months. The hole may bee too large already, but I truly believe this franchise is closer than many can imagine.