The NBA: The Best Players and Teams of January 2014

And just like that, we are one-twelfth into 2014. The All-Star rosters have been named (look at the snubs here), and the two New York teams have finally put together some winning runs. In this post, we’ll look at the best that January had to offer, from Kevin Durant’s insane run of 30+ point games to Victor Oladipo’s rise up the rookie ladder.

This is the third in a series of “Best of the Month” citations based on the Efficiency Recap ratings on Team citations will be based on Efficiency Recap Difference (Team Efficiency – Opponents’ Efficiency), while Player citations will be based on Player Efficiency. You can check out the Stats Glossary here.

Team Citations:

Best Backcourt: Toronto Raptors - 46.2ppg, 12.8rpg, 16.8apg, 3.3spg, .420 FG%, .384 3pt%, 14.6 DEFF
How is the best point guard of the league’s best backcourt in January not an All-Star? Beats me. But here’s a more pressing query – who the hell voted for Joe Johnson as an All-Star this season anyway? Toronto’s backcourt was a huge reason they were 11-6 in the month and remain a top four team in the East.

Toronto's Kyle Lowry was one of the most interesting
All-Star snubs this season.
(image by Mark Konezny/USA Today)

Best Frontcourt: Oklahoma City Thunder - 68.1ppg, 31.4rpg, 11.3apg, 5.1spg, 5.1bpg, .537 FG%, .413 3pt%, 24.0 DEFF
Where Durant goes, the OKC frontline goes, and, well, we all know how the Durantula just tore it up in January, right?

Best Bench: Utah Jazz - 38.5ppg, 17.0rpg, 5.9apg, 2.3spg, 2.0bpg, .530 FG%, 16.5 DEFF
Behind the great play of Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Jerem Evans, the Jazz reserves helped prop its squad to a respectable .500 record in January. Make no mistake, however, this is still one of the worst teams in the entire league.

Best Starting Five: Golden State Warriors - 81.7ppg, 32.4rpg, 18.5apg, 5.9spg, 3.5bpg, .487 FG%, 20.3 DEFF
Buoyed by the torrid shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, both of whom combined for around 7 triples per game, and the solid rebounding of Andrew Bogut and David Lee (about 21 boards per outing combined), coach Mark Jackson’s crew won 10 of 16 January games to remain a top eight team out West.

East: Indiana Pacers (10-5 in January) - 98.7ppg, 48.1rpg, 19.8apg, 6.1spg, 5.1bpg, 15.7 DEFF
The Pacers are far from invincible, but they are still the best in the East and in the Association. Should’ve had three All-Stars, though. I feel for Lance Stepehenson.

West: Oklahoma City Thunder (13-4 in January) - 106.2ppg, 42.5rpg, 21.1apg, 9.1spg, 6.1bpg, 18.9 DEFF
The Thunder rode their star player to the month’s third-best record. And that’s WITHOUT Russell Westbrook!

Player Citations:

Best Point Guard: Steph Curry (GSW) - 27.2ppg, 4.0rpg, 8.0apg, 1.9spg, .482 FG%, 3.8 triples per game, .421 3pt%, .857 FT%, 26.5 EFF
Curry is now, officially, the best PG on planet Earth. Did we ever say that about his dad?

Best Shooting Guard: James Harden (HOU) - 23.1ppg, 5.0rpg, 6.2apg, 1.4spg, .450 FG%, 2.0 triples per game, .856 FT%, 22.9 EFF
The Beard opened 2014 with 37 against NYK and then 38 against the Lakers. He led the Rockers to an 8-4 record in January. He returns atop the SG ladder.

Best Small Forward: Kevin Durant (OKC) - 35.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 6.1apg, 1.6spg, .549 FG%, 2.8 triples per game, .436 3pt%, .890 FT%, 35.9 EFF
In all but two games last month, Kevin Durant scored 30 or more points. His month-high was 54 against the Warriors, but he nearly got to the half-century in two other contests, too.

Best Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge (POR) - 26.1ppg, 13.1rpg, 2.6apg, 1.4bpg, .468 FG%, .856 FT%, 29.3 EFF
LMA breaks into our list as the top 4 of last month, and deservingly so. Portland struggled a little bit, losing six of its fourteen assignments, but, hey, Rip City is still a top three team in the West. They wouldn’t be there without Aldridge.

Best Center: Al Jefferson (CHA) - 23.9ppg, 11.3rpg, 2.6apg, 1.0bpg, .537 FG%, 27.6 EFF
Amidst all the Dwight Howards and DeMarcus Cousins of the world, Al Jefferson has been quietly beasting as the best big man on an awful team. The Cats were far from impressive in January, posting 7 wins against 9 losses, but nobody can lay the blame on Al-Jeff. Of course, he’s all to happy cashing in those greenbacks, too.

Best East Rookie: Victor Oladipo (ORL) - 15.6ppg, 4.9rpg, 4.3apg, 1.6spg, 1.1 triples per game, 15.8 EFF
In a year where everyone is talking about how MCW maybe should’ve been an All-Star, how Trey Burke is the new “in” thing in Salt Lake City, and how that Greek kid’s name can make for a drinking game tongue twister, Oladipo has quietly improved. Sure, th Magic are atrocious as a team, but at least there’s another bright spot outside of Arron Afflalo.

Best West Rookie: Trey Burke (UTA) - 11.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 6.8apg, 1.5 triples per game, .850 FT%, 11.6 EFF
Like I said, Burke’s the “in” thing (maybe the only thing) in Utah.

Best East Player: LeBron James (MIA) - 27.8ppg, 6.5rpg, 5.9apg, 1.1spg, .561 FG%, 1.0 triple per game, 27.8 EFF
Not the best SF in the league, but still the best damn player in the Eastern Conference. Can Melo (or someone else) please catch up?

Best West Player: Kevin Durant (OKC) - 35.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 6.1apg, 1.6spg, .549 FG%, 2.8 triples per game, .436 3pt%, .890 FT%, 35.9 EFF

As of this writing, and perhaps for the remainder of the season, nobody does (or will do) it better. No Jet Zero? No problem. The Thunder clearly belong to KD, and, as long as he stays true to form, so will the rest of the league.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant look headed for a down-the-wire
finish for the MVP.
(image from Getty Images)

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