Just what could we possibly learn from re-examining the NBA players with the highest EFF totals in the 2014-15 NBA season?
For one, we can see the link between the number of times a particular player scores at least 40 points this season to his team’s regular-season record and eventual playoff chances.
The EFF totals is a system used by ESPN to measure the best games based off of player performances.
On a smaller scale, the number of times Player X scores at least 40 points in a season is indicative of his chances of snagging the scoring title and MVP plum.
Case in point: James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Those two have been going at it for months. If you tune in to ESPN or NBA TV religiously, not a single day goes by without one of those two players’ highlight reels being shown.
Needless to say, poring over the list of players with the highest point totals in 2014-15 will tell you how crazy this NBA season has been for the most part.
The good news: With the playoffs just a few days away, the fun is just getting started.
Players With the Highest Point Totals In The 2014-15 NBA Season
Here are the Best Games in the 2014-15 regular season, per ESPN:
1. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs (3/12), 57 points
2. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Portland Trail Blazers (1/28), 55 points
3. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers (4/12), 54 points
4. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors vs. Sacramento Kings (1/23), 52 points tied with Maurice Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana Pacers (1/13)
6. James Harden, Houston Rockets vs. Sacramento Kings (4/1), 51 points tied with Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors vs. Dallas Mavericks (2/4)
8. James Harden, Houston Rockets vs. Denver Nuggets (3/19), 50 points
9. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Philadelphia 76ers (3/4), 49 points
10. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New Orleans Hornets (2/6), 48 points
It comes as no surprise five All-Stars—Irving, Westbrook, Thompson, Harden and Curry—were the names which kept popping up in the list.
What was a shock was not seeing the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Paul George. James is still his usual explosive self, as he’s third in the league in scoring (25.3 PPG) through April 14.
It’s just that James is happy to share the scoring load with Irving and Kevin Love as they aspire to bring the Cleveland Cavaliers to the promised land.
KD, Anthony and PG-13 have all been hobbled by injuries this past season. It’s great that George is back in time for the Indiana Pacers’ playoff chase. However, not having him, Melo and Durant around for a huge majority of the season resulted in a massive paradigm shift in terms of breakout scoring games this year.
What The List Of Highest Point Totals in 2014-15 Tells Us
Take a long, hard look at the players with the highest scoring outputs this season.
With the exception of Maurice Williams (who is now with the Charlotte Hornets), all the players in the Top 10 are playing for playoff teams. In the case of Russell Westbrook, his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder is still on the outside looking in.
As of this writing, the Thunder and the New Orleans Pelicans are tied with identical 44-37 (.543) win-loss records in a heated battle for the eighth playoff spot out West.
If one takes the entire list featuring 13 different players in the Top 24 highest point totals, only four—Williams, the Denver Nuggets’ Danilo Galinari, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant—are playing for non-postseason squads.
Of the noteworthy playoff teams the Top 10 highest point scorers are playing for—the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors—any of them can win the NBA title.
Does this mean the NBA is shying away from the trend of defense winning championships?
Not exactly. We all know championships are won by defense. But this ESPN list tells us today’s title contenders have star players who can explode at a moment’s notice. These are players who are willing to carry the offensive load night in and night out if they have to.
Don’t be surprised at all if either of the Splash Brothers, Harden or Irving carve up the opposition for 50 points in a playoff game. It would take an extraordinary defensive effort to stymie these scoring machines.
The Final Say
On another note, you can see legitimate MVP candidates in the ESPN list. Among the most noteworthy are Harden, Westbrook and Curry.
Harden and Curry figure to continue their scoring streaks in the playoffs. With the way things are shaping up, Harden’s Rockets are fifth while Curry’s Warriors are first in the West. That may eventually result in a second-round shootout between those two gunslingers.
As for Westbrook’s Thunder, they’re still on the playoff bubble. Expect him to be the focal point of Oklahoma City’s offense should Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans lose to the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in their season finale.
Don’t be surprised if any of these three—Harden, Westbrook and Curry—wind up with the coveted 2014-15 NBA MVP Award.
In terms of fan appeal, watching the likes of Irving, Curry, Thompson and Harden routinely light up the scoreboard during the postseason will make networks such as ESPN and TNT very happy. Nobody wants to watch 1990s Detroit Pistons-style basketball which features scoring in the 70s and 80s.
In short, this season’s top scorers list is just a taste of what’s to come in the playoffs.
That being said, get your popcorn ready because it’s going to be one for the ages.
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all stats are current as of April 14 and are courtesy of ESPN.com.