Monday, May 11, 2009

Redefining PER

PER (player efficiency rating) is a rather cryptic stat for most casual NBA followers, but it has gained a lot of credibility over the last couple seasons, thanks in large part to stat geek John Hollinger of It is a rather complex formula that levels the playing field among all NBA players and provides a measurement of their overall effectiveness on the court, relative to each other. Through seven games of these current playoffs LeBron James' PER now stands at an eye-popping 44.8. To put that into proper perspective, the next highest PER in this year's playoffs is Tony Parker's 29.2 (in just 5 games). Kobe Bryant is at 24.8. The highest playoff PER in NBA history was 38.95 by the great Hakeem Olajuwon during the 1988 playoffs. So yeah, if you didn't already know, what LeBron is doing right now is pretty special.

And speaking of efficiency, I'm not sure I've ever seen a more efficient game from a single player in an NBA playoff game than the one LBJ put down on Saturday night. His totals? 47 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists on 25 shots, including 5-of-10 from deep in Philips Arena. He singlehandedly led the Cavs to their 97-82 victory (highlights) in Game 3 in a performance that we as Cleveland fans almost take for granted at times. The Cavs now stand one win away from their second Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the last three years. Winning the series is a mere formality now, and I expect the Hawks to be sent packing for their summer vacations sometime around 9:30 tonight.

The Hawks can only stand and watch in awe, like the rest of us

Again in Game 3, the Hawks stuck to their defensive philosophy of not doubling LeBron, just shading their entire defense towards him. And again, he torched that plan with an array of acrobatic jump shots and twisting mid-range shots on drives to the hoop. Just look at his shot chart here. He basically scored from every long- and mid-range spot imaginable on the court. The Hawks could have sent a double-team his way every time he touched the ball, but it may have only worked if they decided to do that before the Cavs crossed halfcourt. They simply have no answers for the King. And when LeBron is shooting like that, there's just no way the Cavs are losing.

So for the Hawks, and really the remaining opponents on this Cavs playoff march, they will have to pick their poison. Will they let LeBron continue to beat them? Or will they make the Cavs' other shooters beat them? Either way, it will be a tough proposition to find a way to slow down this Cavalier train. They are now 7-0 with a double-digit margin of victory in every game played. And if you think you can outscore them, think again. They are giving up an average of just 78.7 ppg in the postseason. This is what the team has been working towards all season. They are now peaking defensively. They will certainly be looking to end things quickly tonight and capitalize on some more rest as the Celtics and Magic slug it out, tied at 2-2 now. Go Cavs. Seven down, nine to go.