Kiki's NBA cuts: CP3 makes the most of it
FEB 06, 2013 6:27a ET
Thomas Edison was considered to have the highest IQ of anybody. He invented the light bulb and many other things that we take as commonplace today. At an early age he was able to read books way beyond his years that most adults would consider very difficult. But he worked at it every day.
Who are the Thomas Edisons of the NBA? The players who get the most out of their natural talent.
I can think of many players who aren't quite as talented as most and yet continue to star in the NBA. Some of them are Phoenix Suns' Luis Scola, Utah's Al Jefferson, New Orleans' Ryan Anderson and Miami Heat's Shane Battier.
But my favorite overachiever is not tall or physically imposing, but when he plays, he is most often the best player on the court.
To me the winner of the Thomas Edison award for most brilliant overachiever in the NBA is Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Although standing barely 6-foot-1, he is neither the fastest or purest shooting guard in the game. Yet he is consistently among the league leaders in assists and steals. Paul consistently dominates in crunch time and always makes his teammates better.
He was voted the best leader in the NBA in the most recent general managers’ poll. This year, he has made the Clippers one of the best in the NBA and because of that, he is one of the leading contenders for NBA MVP.
When it comes to maximizing talent, you first think of players like Minnesota's Kevin Love or Golden State's David Lee. These guys are clearly not as talented as the people they play against but seem to come out on top on a nightly basis. They are both double-double machines and survive on grit, hustle and brains.
I saw both of these players when they were younger. Kevin Love was a phenomenon out of Oregon, the son of NBA player Stan Love. He dominated his competition and was an excellent player at UCLA. But there was no indication he would be this dominant as a pro.
David Lee's path to greatness started in a much different way. When I was a general manager of the Denver Nuggets we had a workout with him. He couldn’t pass, dribble or shoot but somehow he stood out because of his unbelievable hustle. He was drafted at the end of the first round by the New York Knicks and quickly became a fan favorite, outworking opponents on a nightly basis. By consistent work and effort, he has made himself an all-star and one of the best power forwards in the game.
Let's look at some other less obvious players.
New York Knicks' Jason Kidd: Once a triple-double machine, neither has the size, speed or shooting ability to dominate and yet he makes every team he plays on a championship-level contender.
Memphis' Zach Randolph: A devastating post player who neither has the jumping ability or quickness of the people he consistently beats. He plays below the rim in a game of high flyers. He is one of the best scoring and rebounding big men in the game.
Cleveland's Anderson Varejao: Before he got hurt, he was leading the league in rebounding and just about every other hustle statistic there was. He is another player that started out with very little basketball skill and limited talent, yet worked himself into one of the most valuable non-scoring power forwards in the game.
Houston's James Harden: When he played at Arizona, most people thought he was slow and would be perhaps a very good role player. But he maximizes every ounce of his sneaky quickness and uncanny scoring ability. He went from a role player on the Oklahoma City Thunder to a top-five scorer and legitimate star for the Houston Rockets.
It is difficult to know what separates great players and good players. But let’s start off by saying that all NBA players are good.
The All-Star game is coming up and is full of the best players the NBA has.
Great stars are determined by their influence on other players. Stars always put up great statistics. Perennial All-Stars or superstars not only put up great statistics but also make all those around them better.
Generally, the superstar has something inside him, other than talent that separates him from the rest. It is more than intelligence and knowledge of the game. It is more than great instincts. It is the ability to become more than himself and become the leader of a team. That takes great character and the ability to look at a bigger picture.
The NBA is full of characters with a lot of talent and the All-Star game is full of talented players with a lot of character.