Atlantic Trios: Nets, Knicks, Celtics

A three-way comparison of the RJ, Carter, Kidd vs. Marbury, Houston, Crawford vs. Pierce, Davis, Payton using both the latest statistics and their best years. Who has the edge in the backcourt-heavy Atlantic division?

Focusing just on points, rebounds, and assists, let's look at how these three trios stack up against each other. Obviously Carter's statistics are as a Raptor not a Net.

**Current Season To Date
**Let's start by comparing the combined
statistics of each triumvirate for the current season. We can then scale for a
total of 48 minutes to get numbers that resemble those of a single player for
more intuitive comparisons.

**Nets**

Nets 2004-2005 Season | Minutes | Points | Rebounds | Assists | P+R+A |

Jason Kidd | 23.2 | 11.5 | 4.2 | 3.8 | 19.5 |

Richard Jefferson | 41.3 | 21.7 | 8.1 | 4.2 | 34.0 |

Vince Carter | 30.4 | 15.9 | 3.3 | 3.1 | 22.3 |

TOTAL | 94.9 | 49.1 | 15.6 | 11.1 | 75.8 |

TOTAL PER 48 MINUTES | 48 | 24.8 | 7.9 | 5.6 | 38.3 |

**Knicks**

Knicks 2004-2005 Season | Minutes | Points | Rebounds | Assists | P+R+A |

Stephon Marbury | 38.6 | 19.8 | 3.0 | 8.6 | 31.4 |

Jamal Crawford | 37.3 | 19.6 | 2.7 | 3.9 | 26.2 |

Allan Houston | 17.0 | 9.3 | 1.8 | 1.3 | 12.4 |

TOTAL | 92.9 | 48.7 | 7.5 | 13.8 | 70 |

TOTAL PER 48 MINUTES | 48 | 25.2 | 3.9 | 7.1 | 36.2 |

**Celtics**

Celtics 2004-2005 Season | Minutes | Points | Rebounds | Assists | P+R+A |

Gary Payton | 33.7 | 12.7 | 2.7 | 6.8 | 22.2 |

Paul Pierce | 36.3 | 22.0 | 6.5 | 4.2 | 32.7 |

Ricky Davis | 33.4 | 15.1 | 3.1 | 2.7 | 20.9 |

TOTAL | 103.4 | 49.8 | 12.3 | 13.7 | 75.8 |

TOTAL PER 48 MINUTES | 48 | 23.1 | 5.7 | 6.4 | 35.2 |

Now let's start compare the combined statistics of each triumvirate by summing up the statistics from each player's best season. We can then scale for a total of 48 minutes to get numbers that resemble those of a single player for more intuitive comparisons. For best season, I use the one where the sum of points + rebounds + assists per game is highest.

**Nets**

Nets Career Bests | Minutes | Points | Rebounds | Assists | P+R+A |

Jason Kidd 1998-1999 | 41.2 | 16.9 | 6.8 | 10.8 | 34.5 |

Richard Jefferson 2004-2005 | 41.3 | 21.7 | 8.1 | 4.2 | 34.0 |

Vince Carter 2000-2001 | 39.7 | 27.6 | 5.5 | 3.9 | 37.0 |

TOTAL | 122.2 | 66.2 | 20.4 | 18.9 | 105.5 |

TOTAL PER 48 MINUTES | 48 | 26.0 | 8.0 | 2.2 | 41.4 |

**Knicks**

Knicks Career Bests | Minutes | Points | Rebounds | Assists | P+R+A |

Stephon Marbury 2000-2001 | 38.2 | 23.9 | 3.1 | 7.6 | 34.6 |

Jamal Crawford 2003-2004 | 35.1 | 17.3 | 3.5 | 5.1 | 25.9 |

Allan Houston 2002-2003 | 37.9 | 22.5 | 2.8 | 2.7 | 28.0 |

TOTAL | 111.2 | 63.7 | 9.4 | 15.4 | 88.5 |

TOTAL PER 48 MINUTES | 48 | 27.5 | 4.1 | 6.6 | 38.2 |

**Celtics**

Celtics 2004-2005 Season | Minutes | Points | Rebounds | Assists | P+R+A |

Gary Payton 1999-2000 | 41.8 | 24.2 | 6.5 | 8.9 | 39.6 |

Paul Pierce 2002-2003 | 39.2 | 25.9 | 7.3 | 4.4 | 37.6 |

Ricky Davis 2002-2003 | 39.6 | 20.6 | 4.9 | 5.5 | 31.0 |

TOTAL | 120.6 | 70.7 | 18.7 | 18.8 | 108.2 |

TOTAL PER 48 MINUTES | 48 | 28.1 | 7.4 | 7.5 | 43.1 |

First of all, it is important to note that the maximum potential of each triumvirate is best estimated using the totals of their best season. That enhances the number of minutes per game each plays to a point beyond where they are likely to see action in coming months, but that issue is alleviated by scaling to a constant number of minutes, while maintaining the higher performance level. Plus, there can be no argument that one trio seems superior to another because they played on different teams and hence were able to rack up more statistics not in competition with another: each trio listed above is new in the sense that each member of each trio had his career best year on a different team from his current teammates.

**By the metric of potential, the Boston
Celtics trio of Paul Pierce, Gary Payton, and Ricky Davis is the best.**
Replacing them with three players playing the whole game would have each player
averaging 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists. Those are Kevin Garnett-like
numbers: in other words, replacing all three players, playing at their peak,
would require a full 48 minutes of three separate reigning MVPs.

Now, one might argue that a lot of the Celtics gain comes from the fact that Payton's best years are behind him. Yet that is not quite a fair criticism. Payton's best year in terms of total points, rebounds, and assists was the 1999-2000 season, just four short years ago. New Jersey's Jason Kidd, on the other hand, had his best season in Phoenix in 1998-1999, five years ago. Furthermore, New York's Stephon Marbury had his career year in 2000-2001, three years ago, while he was still a Net. So there is no Payton-age-bias here.

But that is just potential. What about how they are doing so far? Though there is a small issue in that Vince Carter had his minutes in Toronto rather than New Jersey, there is the countervailing argument that Jason Kidd is playing far too few minutes relative to how he will soon be playing, so we can safely ignore both issues as an approximation.

**By the metric of current performance, the New
Jersey Nets trio of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter is the best.
**Replacing them with three players playing the whole game would have each
player averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds, and nearly 6 assists. Those are Larry
Bird-like numbers: in other words, replacing all three players, playing at the
way they are playing now, would require a full 48 minutes of three separate
Larry Birds.

The Knicks seem to be getting no shine here. Perhaps it is because they are a little younger than the rest. Jamal Crawford could still explode into an even greater player than he's been. On the other hand, perhaps Isiah Thomas has overvalued him. It is clearly too early to tell. In any case, they are the second-best performing trio currently and only a little behind both Boston and New Jersey in terms of career bests.

The Atlantic Division will soon lose its moniker as the whipping boy of the NBA. With three such strong triumvirates, opposing teams will soon learn to fear the Atlantic backcourt.