The NBA: The Best Players and Teams of February 2014

Valentine’s has come and gone. Ditto with the All-Star Weekend. Now we’re in what we hoop nuts call the stretch run of the Association. This is when all the teams who WANT to make the Playoffs try to string as many wins together to actually get into the top eight of their respective conferences (being a top 16 team like Minnesota doesn’t matter if you’re not in the top 8 of the West), and this is also when all the teams who WANT to take a stab at Andrew Wiggins will clear their reserves and give their starters their token 25-30 minutes of play. This is when we’ll get a clearer picture of who’s challenging the diabolical reign of the Heat (read: Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston, and the Clippers) and who’s in it to pile up the losses (read: Milwaukee, Philly, Utah, Sac-town, and maybe even the Lakers).

In the spirit of all the craze we're bound to see in this stretch run, let’s look at the guys who actually did well this past month of hearts.

This is the fourth 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.

(Clockwise from top left) The Rockets, Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, CP3, and Victor Oladipo
are among the best February had to offer.
(composite image by Enzo Flojo/HoopNut)

Team Citations:

Best Backcourt: Toronto Raptors - 53.5ppg, 11.5rpg, 16.7apg, 2.8spg, .871 FT%, 15.2 DEFF
Once again, Kyle Lowry, the guy who deserved to be an All-Star way more than Joe Johnson (yeah, we’ll keep on beating that dead horse), leads the Association’s best backcourt. Aside from him, though, the Raptors have enjoyed great contributions from the likes of Terrence Ross and Greivis Vasquez. They should survive the stretch run and make the Playoffs, and, hey, they might even hold on to that Atlantic Division top spot.

Best Frontcourt: Charlotte Bobcats - 59.1ppg, 32.3rpg, 9.3apg, 4.1spg, 4.6bpg, .486 FG%, .433 3pt%, 15.1 DEFF
That’s not a typo, hoop nuts. The Charlotte Bobcats – yes the team that’s owned by the worst player-turned-owner/chairman in the current generation – possess the best frontline in the NBA. And, NO, it’s not because, all of a sudden, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has found his touch (he might never, take note). Instead, it’s because Al Jefferson remains a superb center, and the forward combo of Josh McRoberts and Anthony Tolliver isn’t exactly the worst PF pairing in the league (look at this – they combine for 4.2 treys a game and shoot nearly 44% from beyond the arc).

Best Bench: Dallas Mavericks - 39.3ppg, 16.7rpg, 10.0apg, 3.0spg, 2.5bpg, .398 3pt%, .822 FT%, 19.1 DEFF
Yes, the days of Vinsanity are long gone, and we will never see him have another let’s-jump-over-Fred-Weis scene except on YouTube, but, hey, he’s the main motor behind the league-best Dallas bench this past month. He registered around 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal this past month while also making about 2 triples per game while shooting better than 42% from downtown. He leads a bench mob that includes the surprising Brandan Wright and solid Devin Harris.

Best Starting Five: LA Clippers - 87.9ppg, 34.7rpg, 20.0apg, 6.5spg, 3.7bpg, .504 FG%, 30.6 DEFF
Here’s why the Clips’ bench isn’t one of the best out there – Jamal Crawford is actually starting for Doc Rivers. Crawford, perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate, started 9 of 11 games for LA in February, averaging about 24 points, 4 dimes, a steal, and 3 triples per outing. Combine that with eye-popping stats from Blake Griffin (30ppg, 11rpg, 4apg, and .545 FG%), Chris Paul (15ppg, 11apg, 2spg), and DeAndre Jordan (13ppg, 14rpg, 3bpg, and .757 FG%), and, well, it’s not hard to picture the Clippers having the league’s best starting unit.

East: Miami Heat (9-1 in February) - 104.8ppg, 36.6rpg, 22.6apg, 10.4spg, 4.0bpg, .510 FG%, 20.7 DEFF
For the first time this season, the Indiana Pacers aren’t the best team in the East. Miami went on a tear in February, winning all of their games except that hiccup against (of all teams) the Utah Jazz. LeBron has been in supervillain mode (mask and all), so it stands to reason they will continue their winning ways. Indiana’s hold at the top spot is in peril, folks, and we all better batten down the hatches.

West: Houston Rockets (8-2 in February) - 111.9ppg, 46.5rpg, 22.8apg, 8.2spg, 5.3bpg, .491 FG%, .402 3pt%, 19.6 DEFF
My Rockets are soaring! Woohoo! They’ve won 8 of their last 10 games and are knocking on the door of the West’s top four, though they’re still about 3 games away from unseating the Spurs at the peak of the Southwest. Dwight Howard and James Harden have both been awesome, while the rest of Houston’s crew have chipped in their share, too. It also seems like the Omer Asik dramathon as, for now, abated, which makes me really excited for the Rockets’ chances moving forward.

Player Citations:

Best Point Guard: Chris Paul (LAC) - 15.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 11.0apg, 2.4spg, 23.9 EFF
CP3 retakes his throne as the world’s best playmaker, dropping a double-double on a nightly basis while also remaining atop the steals leaderboard. Sorry Steph Curry, but your reign was just way too short.

Best Shooting Guard: James Harden (HOU) - 27.9ppg, 4.1rpg, 5.3apg, 1.9spg, 3.0 triples per game, .423 3pt%, .904 FT%, 25.9 EFF
Harden’s shooting was awesome last month as he hit about three triples per outing, but it’s his defense and playmaking that have really put him at a level above everyone else. He actually leads Houston in both assists and steals, while, not surprisingly, also setting the pace in scoring.

Best Small Forward: LeBron James (MIA) - 30.8ppg, 8.1rpg, 6.7apg, 2.7spg, .575 FG%, 1.9 triples per game, 33.7 EFF
Finally someone unseats KD at the helm of all small forwards, and, SHOCKINGLY, it’s a guy named LeBron James who does it. The self-styled King simply owned February, raining threes, getting steals, making plays for his mates, and basically reaching down and ripping the throats of the opposition. He’s in beast mode, folks. Yikes.

Best Power Forward: Kevin Love (MIN) - 34.0ppg, 14.1rpg, 4.0apg, 3.0 triples per game, .415 3pt%, 38.0 EFF
Will he join the Lakers, or will he stay? That is for another day altogether, but, for now at least, T-Wolves fans can rejoice because they still have the planet’s best PF. Sadly, that alone doesn’t guarantee a Playoff berth, but at least it means there’s a reason to be optimistic about Target Center ticket sales.

Best Center: Dwight Howard (HOU) - 22.8ppg, 12.9rpg, 2.0apg, 1.0spg, 2.5bpg, .654 FG%, 29.3 EFF
Another Rocket? Why, yes! Dwight Howard really seems to have found his niche in Houston, even if it means a subversively disgruntled Omer Asik awaits his turn on the pine. Dwight is posting awesome numbers of late, including that wickedly wonderful 34-14-2 masterpiece against the Suns last February 5.

Best East Rookie: Victor Oladipo (ORL) - 14.7ppg, 4.4rpg, 4.9apg, 1.9spg, 1.0 triples per game, .400 3pt%, .919 FT%, 15.4 EFF
The ROY race might not be as much of a runaway as we think. Oladipo has put together some interesting games lately, including his near-triple-double against the Knicks last February 21. In that match, he dropped 30 points, 14 assists, and 9 rebounds, while also netting 2 thefts. Can he still catch MCW at the top? Only time will tell.

Best West Rookie: Nick Calathes (MEM) - 10.7ppg, 3.6rpg, 4.6apg, 1.8spg, .495 FG%, 13.6 EFF
The Greek-American has been struggling the past week or so, but his February production was padded by a string of great games midmonth when he scored in double-figures for six straight contests. His best was scoring 18 points, grabbing 7 boards, dishing out 6 assists, and getting 2 steals in Memphis’s win over Washington last February 11.

Best East Player: LeBron James (MIA) - 30.8ppg, 8.1rpg, 6.7apg, 2.7spg, .575 FG%, 1.9 triples per game, 33.7 EFF
No beating LeBron right now. I hate to say it, but it’s true.

Best West Player: Kevin Love (MIN) - 34.0ppg, 14.1rpg, 4.0apg, 3.0 triples per game, .415 3pt%, 38.0 EFF

Not the Kevin you expected? Well, Durant had some not-so-good games in February, so this one we’ll give to his namesake instead. Love continues to be all-around awesome, even if his team continues to be all-around inconsistent.

Should Kevin Love jump ship and switch to Purple & Gold?
(image from Bloguin)

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