The NBA: The Best Players and Teams of March 2014

It’s early April and that means most of the Playoff spots have been taken. The only ones still up in the air are what I call the crap seeds, mainly because a team’s prize for claiming the 7th or 8th seed is to take on, gulp the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, or OKC Thunder. Pick your poison. Oh well, at least your gate attendance should skyrocket, right?

Regardless, however, we’re here to celebrate the NBA’s own version of March Madness, which basically starred the San Antonio Spurs, who quietly put together a boatload of wins and have, once again, become the top title contender heading to the sunset of the regular season. Meanwhile, out East, the Indiana Pacers continue to pay for the folly of trading away Danny Granger. They no longer have the top seed and they have absolutely ZERO momentum heading to their last handful of games.

Best of March (clockwise from top): Al Jefferson, Gorgui Dieng,
the San Antonio Spurs, and Kevin Durant.

This is the fifth 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: L.A.Clippers - 45.1ppg, 8.7rpg, 15.7apg, 5.2spg, 4.8 triples per game, .851 FT%, 15.4 DEFF
When even guys like Reggie Bullock and Willie Green start contributing significantly, you know your backcourt is doing well. Chris Paul and Darren Collison were able to prove they could co-exist as the Clips’ starting guard duo for most of last month, averaging a combined 35 points, 14 assists, and 4 steals. That eased the pain of Jamal Crawford’s missing 9 games due to an Achilles tendon injury and an aggravated calf strain. Doc Rivers will need his backcourt to continue playing at a high level, though, since Crawford is likely to miss a chunk of the postseason, too.

Best Frontcourt: San Antonio Spurs - 63.5ppg, 36.5rpg, 14.7apg, 4.6spg, 5.6bpg, .505 FG%, 5.8 triples per game, .484 3pt%, 24.2 DEFF
Much can be said about the depth in the Spurs’ backcourt, what with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, and Danny Green taking names, but Pop’s tried-and-tested frontline has, arguably, been the biggest factor why San Antonio never lost in March. Yes, they won all SIXTEEN games, folks. Kawhi Leonard continues to grow as one of the most promising stretch forwards in the league, while Tim Duncan remains as solid as ever. The trio of Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Austin Daye has given significant contributions, too. Daye, in particular, is one to watch, as he normed close to 2 triples per game last month. Philly should remember Daye, since he hit six treys against the Sixers last March 24.

I want to say I'm surprised, but the truth is I'm not. These Spurs are at it again.
(image from the

Best Bench: San Antonio Spurs - 47.7ppg, 18.7rpg, 12.7apg, 3.3spg, 1.4bpg, 5.6 triples per game, 19.3 DEFF
What is not to love about the Spurs’ second and even third units? I mean, Pop has BOTH Manu and Marco coming off the pine along with the oft-overlooked Boris Diaw. Patty Mills, too, hasn’t been too shabby, averaging close to 10 points and 2 triples per outing. He’s the new George Hill, I guess. The Spurs’ starters are absolutely amazing, but nobody can sleep on such an efficient bench, too.

Best Starting Five: L.A.Clippers - 81.8ppg, 33.1rpg 22.1apg, 7.5spg, 4.5bpg, .510 FG%, 5.5 triples per game, 34.6 DEFF
Lost in the discussion of the Spurs just creaming everyone last month was this fact: the Clippers were nearly as deadly, winning 13 of their 15 games. Yes, their schedule wasn’t exactly studded with the Heats, Thunders, and Spurs of the Association, but winning 13 of 15 is still no joke. Most of the credit goes to their sublime corps of starters, since guys like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan continue to have career-defining seasons. The aforementioned pairing of CP3 and Collison has been effective, too, along with the rock-solid play of swingman Matt Barnes.

East: Brooklyn Nets (12-4 in March) - 103.4ppg, 36.6rpg, 21.2apg, 10.6spg, 3.4bpg, 10.8 triples per game, .404 3pt%, 9.6 DEFF
With both the Pacers and the Heat struggling last month, the East was Brooklyn’s for the taking. The highlights were huge victories over Miami, Chicago, Toronto, and Charlotte, all of whom will make the Playoffs. Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Paul Perce, and Marcus Thornton all hit around 2 triples per game last month, which more than made up for their depleted frontcourt, whose best player turned out to be newly-naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche. Oh, and did I mention Paul Pierce started mostly at PF? #Whut

West: San Antonio Spurs (16-0 in March) - 111.9ppg, 46.6rpg, 28.3apg, 7.9spg, 6.4bpg, .492 FG%, 10.4 triples per game, .437 3pt%, 38.3 DEF
There was no stopping Pop’s posse in March. The Spurs climbed to the top spot in the league, and it sure looks like they don’t have any plans of relinquishing it. San Antonio has just been solid from top to bottom, and they look mighty motivated to win the title that slipped through their fingers in the dying seconds of game 6 last year.

Player Citations:

Best Point Guard: Chris Paul (LAC) - 19.3ppg, 3.7rpg, 10.3apg, 2.9spg, 1.2 triples per game, .864 FT%, 25.4 EFF
I hope you’re not tired of seeing Chris Paul on this list because, well, he really is the most productive playmaker on the planet. He’s not as cat-quick as he once was, but what now lacks in speed he more than makes up for in savvy. Also, it doesn’t hurt that his teammates have done a better job of cashing in on those buckets.

Best Shooting Guard: James Harden (HOU) - 26.9ppg, 4.9rpg, 6.9apg, 1.6spg, .500 FG%, 3.4 triples per game, .431 3pt%, .850 FT%, 27.0 EFF
The Rockets lost a bit of momentum in March, but that’s not to say they did poorly. On the contrary, Houston continued to hum, winning 10 of 14 outings, with Harden continuing to be the focal point of their offense. The Beard seems to be seriously gearing himself up for what should be a punishing Playoff push as the Rockets are pegged as a dark horse title contender.

Best Small Forward: Kevin Durant (OKC) - 34.5ppg, 6.7rpg, 5.9apg, .517 FG%, 3.3 triples per game, .438 3pt%, .854 FT%, 33.8 EFF
KD unseats LBJ at the top of the league’s SFs once again. The wonderful thing about Durant is that he played better than every single swingman he faced in March. That didn’t translate to a flawless slate for OKC, which went 10-4, but it’s still a pretty impressive fact that will weigh heavily in his favor when the MVP voting begins.

Best Power Forward: Anthony Davis (NOP) - 24.4ppg, 10.8rpg, 2.1apg, 2.5bpg, .509 FG%, 29.5 EFF
Kevin Love was all but forgotten last month as this super soph took the league by storm. In terms of production, Davis was the best big man out there, and was, in fact, the second-best player overall. More importantly, he helped the Pelicans win 9 of 16 games, which basically made them the most dangerous non-Playoff squad heading to the homestretch. His best game? How about that 40-point, 21-rebound effort against the Celtics?

Best Center: Al Jefferson (CHA) - 24.7ppg, 10.6rpg, 2.2apg, 1.0spg, .555 FG%, 27.6 EFF
From seemingly out of nowhere, the former Utah slotman has almost singlehandedly towed the Bobcats into the postseason. Al-Jeff’s numbers are very impressive, especially considering he plays in a conference that has Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, and Marcin Gortat. In fact, Jefferson beat both Bosh and Gortat in their head-to-head match-ups last month.

Al Jefferson powers his way through the Orlando D.
(image by Chuck Burton/AP)

Best East Rookie: Michael Carter-Williams (PHI) - 14.9ppg, 8.4rpg, 6.5apg, 1.7spg, 16.9 EFF
MCW retakes the Eastern rookies’ top bunk, unseating rival Victor Oladipo. And, yes, that’s despite the fact his Sixers tied the record for futility by losing 26 straight games (bridging January, February and March). Statistically, no other freshman holds a candle to Carter-Williams, but with his team going south, he hasn’t exactly bottled that ROY plum just yet.

Best West Rookie: Gorgui Dieng (MIN) - 8.6ppg, 8.3rpg, .613 FG%, 15.9 EFF
The Senegalese rookie big man had a good month this past March. He put up six double-doubles in a seven-game stretch where he normed around 12.8 points and 13.3 rebounds per game. His best effort was against Houston’s Omer Asik. Against the Turk, Dieng dropped 22 points and hauled down 21 boards in nearly 40 minutes of action.

Gorgui Dieng pivots to the hole.
(image by Fernando Medina/Getty Images)

Best East Player: LeBron James (MIA) - 25.9ppg, 6.8rpg, 6.5apg, 1.8spg, .540 FG%, 1.6 triples per game, 28.2 EFF
LBJ isn’t the best small forward or best overall player out there, but he’s still the beastiest in the LEASTern conference. In spite of the fact his Heat lost 7 games last month, LBJ has reason to smile after they finally ascended to the conference’s top seed (thanks for nothing, Indiana).

Best West Player: Kevin Durant (OKC) - 34.5ppg, 6.7rpg, 5.9apg, .517 FG%, 3.3 triples per game, .438 3pt%, .854 FT%, 33.8 EFF
Durant for MVP? He’s got my vote, for sure.

The best in the NBA right now = Kevin Durant.
(image by Bill Baptist/Getty Images)

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