Few players have ever been as integral to a team’s offensive success as Kobe Bryant was in 2005-06 to the Los Angeles Lakers. When on the court that season, Bryant scored a staggering 40.5% of his team’s points. He averaged a league-leading and career-high 35.4 PPG – the eighth best scoring average ever, and the highest since Michael Jordan scored 37.1 PPG in 1986-87. This was for a Lakers team that didn’t crack the century mark in scoring (99.4 ppg). Bryant’s 2,832 total points in 05-06 represents the seventh highest total in league annals.
He led the team in scoring a Wilt Chamberlainesque 75 times, producing a franchise-record twenty-seven 40-plus-point games, which included six 50-plus-point eruptions. On Dec. 20, versus the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant scored 62 points in 33 minutes — the franchise-record 30 points in the third quarter helped some. In a Jan. 7 game against the L.A. Clippers, Bryant was held to 10 points in the first half … then netted 40 in the second half. During another stretch of the season he had four straight games of at least 45 points, the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in November 1964 to do so.
Then, on Jan. 22, against the Toronto Raptors, Bryant just got silly.
He scored 55 points in the second half on his way to a career-high 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting. It stands as the second highest game (81) and half (55) point totals in NBA history, bested only by Chamberlain’s iconic 100-point game in 1962.
Alas, Bryant’s been injured for much of the 2013-14 season, interrupting his climb up the NBA’s all-time scoring list. The NBA though – perhaps as deep in talent as ever – has not lacked for dominant scorers. Following is a look at the 10 players who, when they are on the floor, score the highest percentage of their team’s points.
10. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers, 29.9%
When on the floor for the Cavaliers, the 2014 NBA All-Star Game MVP produces 29.9% of his team’s points. He has scored at least 20 points in 13 of his last 17 games, and continues to own the highest scoring average among Eastern Conference point guards at 21.3 PPG, and is one of only three players in the NBA with averages of at least 21 points and six assists, joining fellow All-Stars Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors and LeBron James of the Miami Heat. Irving has also scored at least 20 points in 30 contests this season, including 30 points or more seven times and 40 points or more twice. He’s also one of the league’s top clutch players, having scored a league-high 44 points in overtime this season, while averaging 8.0 in OT. Irving is earning $5,607,240 this year.
9. Paul George, Indiana Pacers, 30%
Last season’s Most Improved Player, Paul George has established himself as one of the NBA’s premier players and a candidate for the 2013-14 MVP Award. A defensive stalwart, George’s offensive game is developing quickly, which is a good thing for a team that excels on the defensive end but is limited offensively (98.6 PPG). George scores 30.0% of his team’s points and he ranks 10th in the NBA in scoring at 22.5 PPG. On the season, he has scored at least 30 points eight times and 20-plus points 35 times. An All-Star each of the past seasons, George has led the team in scoring 34 times this season. George is earning $3,282,003 this year.
T 7. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats, 30.1%
Al Jefferson is the biggest reason why the Bobcats are contending for a playoff spot in the East, producing 30.1% of his team’s offense. Arguably the biggest All-Star snub, the ninth-year pro is playing some of the best ball of his career. Since the calendar turned, he posted a franchise-record and career-long streak of three straight 30-point games (Jan. 25-31), and scored at least 20 points in 11 straight games (Jan. 11-31). In the final game of his 30-plus-point streak, Jefferson netted a career-high-tying 40 points. A beast on the boards as well, Jefferson has recorded at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in nine of his last 14 games, and has netted at 30 points in six of the last 10 games. Jefferson is currently earning $13,500,000 this season.
T 7. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers, 30.1%
A freakish athletic talent, Blake Griffin has been one of the most popular players in the NBA since entering the league. This season, however, he has developed into a bonafide superstar. Griffin’s been a focal point on offense, scoring 30.1% of his team’s points. He has scored at least 25 points in 17 of the last 19 games. Earlier this season, Griffin became the eighth active player to top 6,000 career points before the conclusion of his fourth season, and he has a chance to become only the fifth active player to reach 6,500 points in four seasons. Ten times this season, he has recorded games with at least 30 points and 10 boards. Griffin is currently earning $16,441,500 this year.
6. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks, 30.5%
Last season was a wash of sorts for Nowitzki, who battled through injuries and looked a shell of his former All-Star self. This season, he’s back to attacking the basket and the record books. One of the league’s all-time greatest offensive threats is producing 30.5% of the Mavericks’ points. Earlier this season, Nowitzki became one of six players in NBA history to score 26,000 points with the same team, joining Karl Malone (Jazz), Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Michael Jordan (Bulls), Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets) and John Havlicek (Celtics). He currently ranks 13th all-time in scoring with 25,192 points and, barring injury, is going to leapfrog John Havlicek for 12th (26,201). Nowitzki is earning $22,721,381 for the 2013/2014 season.
5. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves, 31%
If the team was performing better, Kevin Love likely would be short-listed for MVP consideration. That’s how dominant and well-rounded his season has been and he served notice right from the season’s opening tip. He earned his first Player of Week honors after the first week of play, leading Minnesota to a 3-0 record for the week by averaging a league-best 29.7 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Scoring 31% of his team’s points, Love has registered eight of the league’s fourteen 25/15/5 performances this season. Recently, Love has scored at least 30 points in seven of nine games, running his season total to sixteen. Kevin Love is currently earning $14,693,906 for the season.
4. LeBron James, Miami Heat, 32.7%
Sorry for the pun, but Miami’s LeBron James is heating up. In Oklahoma City on Thursday, King James’ streak of 35-plus-point games was snapped at three, as he was limited to 33 in the Heat’s romp over the NBA’s best team. With Miami attempting to become the first team since the Chicago Bulls in 1998 to win three straight titles, the four-time MVP has been scoring 32.7% of his team’s points (you know, the one with two other All-Stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh). James has scored in double figures in 547 consecutive games, ranking fourth all-time. Additionally, he owns fifty 40-point games over his career, only the fourth player since the NBA-ABA merger with that many before the age of 30, joining Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson. The King is taking home a cool $19,067,500 for the season.
3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings, 32.8%
The NBA leader in technical fouls this season, DeMarcus Cousins’ reputation is suspect. His game most assuredly is not. Perhaps the leading candidate for the league’s biggest All-Star snub, Cousins is responsible for 32.8% of Sacramento’s offense and leads the Kings in scoring (22.5 PPG) and rebounding (11.7 RPG). On the year, he has nine 30-point games and 34 double-doubles, and is one of only three players averaging at least 22 points and 11 rebounds. How integral has Cousins been to team success? When he missed six games with a sprained left ankle, the Kings went 0-6 in those contests and they are 0-8 this season without Cousins in the lineup. Cousins is taking home $4,916,974 for his troubles this season.
2. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks, 34.7%
Last season’s leading scoring, Carmelo Anthony, who is scoring 34.7% of his team’s points, has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise drab season for the Knicks. He led the Knicks in scoring in the first 27 games this season — the longest such streak since the 1972-73 season. Then he etched his name into the Knickerbockers history books. In the greatest single-game scoring performance in the franchise’s 68-year existence, Melo exploded for 62 points in a win over Charlotte, breaking the previous franchise mark held by Bernard King (60 points on Dec. 25, 1984 vs. New Jersey Nets). In that game, Anthony poured in 37 points in the first half, the final three coming on a 41-foot half-court shot at the buzzer. Melo is taking home $21,388,953 for 2013/2014.
1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, 37.1%
Perhaps it’s premature to anoint Kevin Durant this season’s MVP. But, maybe it’s not. In his seventh NBA season, Durant is scoring 37.1% of the league-leading Thunder’s points. He is on pace to average career highs in points (31.5 PPG) and assists (5.5 APG). He has posted 13 games of 30+ points and 10+ rebounds. During January, Durant averaged 35.9 PPG while shooting .549 from the field. On the month, he became just the third player in the last 30 years to score at least 30 points in twelve consecutive games. If Durant were to maintain his current 31.5 PPG, it would represent the highest scoring average in the NBA since Kobe Bryant averaged 31.6 PPG during the 2006-07 season. The young star is earning $17,832,627 for his MVP play this season.