Milestone Watch: Key Marks To Follow During The 2019-20 Season
By Brian Martin
The 2019-2020 NBA season tips off on Tuesday, Oct. 22 and over the ensuing 177 days until the regular season ends on April 15, there will be plenty of stats to keep track of.
Here are a few numbers from last season:
- 273,573 points scored
- 101,062 field goals made
- 27,955 3-pointers made
- 43,494 free throws made
- 111,107 rebounds grabbed
- 60,483 assists delivered
- 18,779 steals accumulated
- 12,185 blocked shots
Before the defending champion Toronto Raptors host the New Orleans Pelicans at 8:00 ET on TNT in the first of the 1,230 games this season, here are some key milestones and benchmarks to watch for this season.
LeBron James (32,543 career points entering the 2019-20 season) needs 1,101 points to pass Kobe Bryant (33,643) for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Based on either his career average or last year’s scoring average, James will need 41 games to pass Bryant.
Note: When determining the potential number of games needed to reach a milestone, either career average or most recent season average will be used and will be noted. For players such as LeBron, whose career scoring average (27.2) and most recent season (27.4) are so similar, there is no discernible difference. However, with other players near the end of their careers, most recent seasons will often be a better estimate of this season’s performance.
Vince Carter (25,430 career points) ranks 20th in scoring in NBA history entering the 2019-20 season. He could climb as high as 17th depending on how the season plays out.
- Needs 122 points to pass Carmelo Anthony for 19th place (target game No. 17, based on last season’s scoring average of 7.4 points per game as Carter scored 562 points over 76 games)
- Needs 184 points to pass Alex English for 18th place (target game No. 25)
- Needs 642 points to pass Kevin Garnett for 17th place (target game No. 87, so Carter would need to exceed last year’s scoring average to catch Garnett. Carter has averaged 8.4 points per game this preseason; if he could carry that average over to the regular season, he would catch Garnett in 77 games).
Three players should reach the 20,000 career points benchmark during the 2019-20 season.
Russell Westbrook (18,859 career points entering the 2019-20 season)
James Harden (18,627 career points entering the 2019-20 season)
Westbrook and Harden are difficult to estimate due to the fact that they are now teammates with the Houston Rockets. Last season, Harden led the NBA in usage rate (39.6%) while Westbrook ranked 10th (30.1%) as they were the primary playmakers for their respective teams (Houston and OKC). One of the biggest questions entering this season is how the two will play off one another and share the responsibility of offensive creation and production in Houston.
All of that is to say that its unlikely that Harden averages over 36 points per game this season like he did a year ago when he posted the seventh-highest scoring average in league history. So rather than using last season’s average of 36.1, we could use his career average of 24.3, but that would likely also be inaccurate since it includes his time in OKC, when he first teamed with Westbrook, and was used as a sixth man rather than an MVP.
In six preseason games, Harden has averaged 31.2 points per game, which appears to be a more realistic average for the season ahead while playing with Westbrook. If we use that, he would need 44 games to accumulate the 1,373 points needed to reach 20,000.
Westbrook needs 1,141 points to join the 20K club (there are currently 44 members of that club). In four preseason games, Westbrook averaged 16.3 points per game, which is lower than expected for the upcoming season as it just edges out the second-lowest scoring average of his career, which came during his sophomore season in the NBA. Westbrook’s career average (23.0) and last season’s average (22.9) are nearly identical as he has played alongside a strong secondary scorer for all but one season in his career (in which he averaged a career-best 31.6 points per game). Using his career average, Westbrook would need 50 games to reach the 20K club.
LaMarcus Aldridge (18,598 career points entering the 2019-20 season)
Aldridge enters the 2019-20 season needing 1,402 points to reach 20,000 for his career. He holds a career average of 19.6 points per game, but has reached at least 21 points per game in each of his last two seasons in San Antonio. If he can match last season’s average of 21.3 points per game, he would need 66 games to reach 20K.
Dwight Howard (13,184 career rebounds) enters the 2019-20 season as the No. 14 rebounder in NBA history. Depending on his playing time and production, he could pass Hakeem Olajuwon (13,748) for 13th place and Wes Unseld (13,769) for 12th place this season.
Howard is set to begin his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers after playing in just nine games with the Washington Wizards last season due to injury. In those games, Howard averaged 9.2 rebounds per game, which is not far off from his 2019 preseason average of 8.6 in five preseason games with L.A.
For his career, Howard has averaged 12.6 rebounds per game and hit those marks as recently as the 2017-18 (12.5 per game with Charlotte) and 2016-17 (12.7 with Atlanta). In those seasons with the Hornets and Hawks, Howard averaged 30 minutes per game and missed a total of just nine games over two seasons. Those numbers may be tough to replicate in L.A. this season – he’s averaged just 18 minutes during the preseason. So for the purposes of these projections, we will use last season’s average rather than Howard’s career average.
- Needs 565 rebounds to pass Hakeem Olajuwon (target game No. 62)
- Needs 586 rebounds to pass Wes Unseld (target game No. 64)
Pau Gasol enters the 2019-20 season ranked 28th all-time in rebounding with 11,305 career rebounds. He needs 303 rebounds to pass Patrick Ewing for 25th all time (11,607) while also leapfrogging Elgin Baylor (27th, 11,463) and Dirk Nowitzki (26th, 11,489) along the way.
Gasol grabbed just 137 rebounds last season as he was limited to 30 games between San Antonio and Milwaukee. He signed with Portland during the offseason but has yet suit up for the Blazers as he recovers from offseason foot surgery. How quickly he can return to the court and how extensive his role is in Portland will go a long way to seeing how high Gasol can climb up the ranks. He averaged 4.6 rebounds per game last year. If he is able to repeat that production he we need 66 games to pass Ewing.
- Needs 159 rebounds to pass Elgin Baylor for 27th place (target game No. 35)
- Needs 185 rebounds to pass Dirk Nowitzki for 26th place (target game No. 41)
- Needs 303 rebounds to pass Patrick Ewing for 25th place (target game No. 66)
DeAndre Jordan needs 1,110 rebounds to become the 41st player in NBA history to grab 10,000 career rebounds. Jordan currently ranks 53rd on the all-time list with 8,890 rebounds and has surpassed 1,110 rebounds in four of his previous six seasons.
Last season, which he split between Dallas and New York, Jordan finished third in the NBA in rebound average at 13.1 per game, but appeared in just 69 games, so he finished with fewer than 1,000 total rebounds for the first time since 2012-13.
Jordan missed 13 games last season, which matches the total he missed in his previous eight seasons combined dating back to the 2010-11 season. If Jordan stays healthy and continues his elite level of rebounding from seasons past, he has a real shot at reaching 10K and would pass a dozen players in the process. He would need to increase his average from last season (13.1) and get closer to the 14-to-15 rebounds per game rate he posted during his time with the Clippers.
He would need to average 13.6 rebounds and play all 82 game to reach 10,000 rebounds this season.
LeBron James (8,662 career assists entering the 2019-20 season) is the only player that ranks in the top 10 all-time in both points and assists. He enters the 2019-20 season ranked 10th in assists and has a chance to climb to eighth during his 17th NBA season.
James owns a career average of 7.2 assists per game, but his marks jumped up over the past three seasons. During his first 13 seasons in the NBA, James averaged more than eight assists per game once (8.6 in 2009-10). However, over the past three seasons he has averaged 8.7, 9.1 and 8.3 assists per game – for a cumulative average of 8.75 per game (1,847 assists in 211 games played).
If we use that three-year average as the basis of our projections, LeBron would pass both Gary Payton and Isiah Thomas in fewer games than he played last season (a career-low 55).
- Needs 305 assists to pass Gary Payton (8,966) for ninth place (target game No. 35)
- Needs 400 assists to pass Isiah Thomas (9,061) for eighth place (target game No. 46)
Chris Paul will keep LeBron in eighth place as he enters the season with a 519-assist lead and should continue to build up his numbers in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
- Needs 707 assists to pass Oscar Robertson (9,887) for sixth all-time
Paul would likely need to play at least 70 games to have a chance at reaching this mark; the last time he did that was in 2015-16 with the LA Clippers when he dished out 738 assists in 74 games (a 10 assist average). In fact, Paul has missed at least 20 games in each of the past three seasons.
Last season in Houston, Paul finished third in the NBA with an average of 8.2 assists per game. That average would not be high enough to pass the Big O, even if Paul played in all 82 games. He would need to average at least 8.7 assists over 82 games to pass Robertson, but playing in every game this season in highly unlikely. If Paul could play 75 games, he would need to average 9.43 assists to climb to No. 7 all time.
Russell Westbrook (6,897 career assists entering the 2019-20 season) ranks 21st on the all-time list and could climb to as high as 13th this season. Westbrook has averaged at least 10 assists per game in four straight seasons (with the last three being part of triple-double averages), and he is coming off a career-best average of 10.7 assists per game last season in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook has led the NBA in assists the past two seasons and has ranked in the top four in each of the past five seasons. However, similar to the earlier discussion about scoring, Westbrook’s production will likely change now that he has joined the Rockets and teamed with James Harden – another player that has ranked in the top 10 in assists in each of the past five seasons.
In four preseason games, Westbrook averaged 4.5 assists in 25.1 minutes per game – both of those numbers should increase dramatically now that the games count in the regular season. But how much will they rise? Can Westbrook put together another triple-double season and average 10 assists per game, while playing next to one of the most isolation heavy players in recent memory? Harden led the NBA in scoring (36.1 PPG) last season with only 13 percent of his field goals being assisted. For our projections, we will use Westbrook’s career average of 8.4 assists per game.
- Needs 21 assists to pass Guy Rodgers for 20th place (target game No. 3)
- Needs 59 assists to pass Bob Cousy for 19th place (target game No. 8)
- Needs 140 assists to pass Tony Parker for 17th place (target game No. 17)
- Needs 199 assists to pass Tim Hardaway for 16th place (target game No. 24)
- Needs 264 assists to pass Terry Porter for 15th place (target game No. 32)
- Needs 315 assists to pass Lenny Wilkens for 14th place (target game No. 38)
- Needs 496 assists to pass Maurice Cheeks for 14th place (target game No. 60)
The list above jump from 19th place to 17th place for Westbrook because the current holder of the No. 18 slot – Rajon Rondo – will also climb the assist ranks throughout this season. Westbrook currently trails Rondo by 79 assists and would need 10 games to pass him if Rondo were retired like the rest of the players on this list.
While Rondo is listed as questionable for the Lakers’ season opener on Tuesday with a calf injury, he is expected to start at the point this season in L.A. and be surrounded by the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis that will likely help him rack up assists.
Last season, Rondo averaged 8.0 assists per game, just slightly below is career average of 8.5 per game. Should he maintain last season’s average, Rondo could also climb into the top 13 this season.
- Needs 62 assists to pass Tony Parker for 17th place (target game No. 8)
- Needs 121 assists to pass Tim Hardaway for 16th place (target game No. 16)
- Needs 186 assists to pass Terry Porter for 15th place (target game No. 24)
- Needs 237 assists to pass Lenny Wilkens for 14th place (target game No. 30)
- Needs 418 assists to pass Maurice Cheeks for 14th place (target game No. 53)
Chris Paul is already in some great company as one of four players to rank in the top 10 all-time in both assists (7th) and steals (9th) as he joins John Stockton (1st in both categories), Jason Kidd (2nd in both categories) and Gary Payton (9th in assists, 4th in steals).
Paul (2,122 career steals entering the 2019-20 season) has a chance to move up a couple of spots on the all-time steals lists as both Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler are in his sights, while Scottie Pippen may have too large a lead to catch this season.
Paul averaged 2.0 steals per game last season in Houston and has a career average of 2.2 in the category. If we use last season’s mark as the basis for his projections in his first season with the Thunder, he would pass both legends this season.
- Needs 41 steals to pass Hakeem Olajuwon (2,162) for eighth place (target game No. 21)
- Needs 86 steals to pass Clyde Drexler (2,207) for seventh place (target game No. 43).
LeBron James (1,937 career steals) enters the 2019-20 season ranked 16th all-tie in steals and can climb as high as 13th place this season as part of his all-out assault on the NBA record books. LeBron owns a career average of 1.6 steals per game, but has not reached that mark since the 2014-15 season. Last season, he averaged 1.3 steals in his first season in Los Angeles and we’ll use that as the basis for this season’s projections.
- Needs eight steals to pass Kobe Bryant (1,944) for 15th place (target game No. 7)
- Needs 21 steals to pass Derek Harper (1,957) for 14th place (target game No. 17)
- Needs 47 steals to pass Allen Iverson (1,983) for 13th place (target game No. 37)
- Needs 63 steals to become 13th player to reach 2,000 career steals (target game No. 49)
Dwight Howard (2,051 career blocks) enters the 2019-20 season ranked 17th all time in blocked shots and can climb as high as 13th place this season. Howard owns a career average of 2.0 blocks per game, but has not reached that mark since the 2012-13 season (his previous season with the Lakers, when he averaged 2.4 blocks in 76 games).
Since then his average has varied between 1.2 and 1.8 blocks per game prior to last season, when he posted a career-low 0.4 blocks per game in just nine games with the Washington Wizards. If he can return to his 2017-18 form when he blocked 131 shots in 81 games (1.3 per game) with the Charlotte Hornets, he would pass the following players this season:
- Needs 32 blocks to pass George Johnson (2082) for 16th place (target game o. 25)
- Needs 36 blocks to pass Manute Bol (2086) for 15th place (target game No. 28)
- Needs 68 blocks to pass Shawn Bradley (2119) for 14th place (target game No. 53)
- Needs 86 blocks to pass Ben Wallace (2137) for 13th place (target game No. 67)
Pau Gasol (1,941 career blocks) enters the 2019-20 season needing 28 blocks to pass Theo Ratliff and enter the top 20 on the all-time list. Gasol averaged a career-low 0.5 blocks per game in 30 games between the Spurs and Bucks last season; it is the only time in his career he did not average at least one block per game and well below his career average of 1.6.
If he replicates last year’s production, Gasol would need 14 games to pass Ratcliff for 20th place all-time. He needs 59 blocks to reach 2,000 career blocks. In order to reach that benchmark, Gasol would have to get back to 2017-18 block rate of one per game and play at least 59 games. Gasol will miss the Blazers’ season opener as he continues to recover from offseason foot surgery.
Stephen Curry (2,483 3-pointers made) enters the 2019-20 season ranked third on the all-time list behind Reggie Miller (2.560) and Ray Allen (2,973). While Curry already owns the record for most 3-pointers in a season (402 in 2015-16), he would need to shatter that mark in order to pass Allen as the all-time leader in long-distance shooting. While making 491 treys in a season isn’t likely going to happen, Curry should make enough to pass Miller for the No. 2 spot on the all-time list.
Curry has a career average of 3.6 3-pointers made per game, but has exceeded that mark in each of the past four seasons. Last season he matched his career high with 5.1 3-pointers per game. With Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson recovering from a torn ACL, there should be plenty of shots for Curry and newcomer D’Angelo Russell to hoist this season. Using five 3-pointers per game as the basis of our projections, Curry should pass Miller before the end of 2019.
- Needs 78 3-pointers to pass Reggie Miller (2,560) for second all-time (target game No. 16)
Vince Carter (2,229 3-pointers made) enters the 2019-20 season sixth on the all-time list. Last season, he made 123 3-pointers (1.6 per game, just slightly above his 1.5 career average) in his first season in Atlanta. He is back with the Hawks for his final NBA season and should pass Jason Terry, who currently sits in fifth place.
- Needs 54 3-pointers to pass Jason Terry (2,282) for fifth all time (target game No. 36)
If Carter does pass Terry for fifth place, he likely won’t finish his career in that spot as James Harden is on pace to climb from ninth place (2,025 3-pointers made) entering the season all the to the top five by season’s end.
Last season, Harden led all players in 3-pointers made (378, the second most all-time behind Curry’s 402 in 2015-16) and 3-pointers attempted (1,028, shattering the previous all-time mark of 886, also by Curry in 2015-16). Harden averaged 4.8 3-pointers made per game last season and will likely be in that same range again this season. Perhaps the addition of Russell Westbrook will reduce Harden’s 3-point attempts and makes slightly, so let’s use 4.5 per game for the basis of these projections.
- Needs 119 to pass Paul Pierce (2,143) for eighth all time (target game No. 27)
- Needs 196 to pass Jamal Crawford (2,220) for seventh all time (target game No. 44)
- Needs 258 to pass Jason Terry (2,282) for fifth all time (target game No. 58)
Crawford is currently not signed, but could join a team during the season and add to his total, which will affect Harden’s target to bypass him on this list. There are two other active players that Harden can challenge depending on how the season play out.
- Harden trails Vince Carter by 204 3-pointers made entering the season. Even if Carter matches last season’s mark of 123 3-pointers made to add to his lead over Harden, that 327 3-pointers made lead would likely not be enough to hold off the Beard. Per our projections, Harden would need 73 games to pass Carter should Carter be able to replicate last season’s total, which were the most 3-pointers he made since the 2013-14 season.
- Kyle Korver enters the season with that same 327 3-pointers made lead over Harden and should also increase that lead throughout the year. Korver has made at least 130 3-pointers in each of his past two seasons, so he would likely build an insurmountable lead over Harden for fourth place all-time.
Russell Westbrook enters the season tied with Magic Johnson for second place on the all-time triple-doubles list with 138 apiece.
- Needs one triple-double to pass Magic Johnson for sole possession of second place all-time.
Westbrook has accumulated 101 of his 138 triple-doubles in the past three seasons as he has averaged a triple-double in each season, a feat that had only been done one other time in NBA history – Oscar Robertson during the 1961-62 season. Robertson is still the all-time leader in triple-doubles with 181 for his career.
- Needs 44 triple-doubles to pass Oscar Robertson for first place all-time.
Westbrook already broke Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a single season when he posted 42 in 2016-17. He would have to best his own record in order to pass Robertson’s career total in triple-doubles this season. Here is another case of the Westbrook-Harden combo changing the outlook for both players in a particular statistic. Over the past three seasons, Harden has recorded 33 triple-doubles of his own as he now stands ninth on the all-time list with 42 for his career.
- James Harden needs two triple-doubles to pass Fat Lever (43) for eight all-time
Over the past three seasons, Harden (five) and Westbrook (three) have combined to record eight 50-point triple-doubles. The only other players in NBA history to ever record a 50-point triple-double are Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson with two apiece. While both Harden and Westbrook will both easily get to double-digit points, getting to double-digit rebounds and assists may be more difficult than in years past now that they are playing alongside another high usage player with a knack for racking up triple-doubles.
All of that is to say it is highly unlikely that Westbrook can pass Robertson in his first season in Houston. But both he and Harden should both make a move on the list this season – Westbrook to sole possession of second place and Harden into eighth place.
Vince Carter (1,481 games played) enters his final NBA season just 19 games shy of becoming the fifth player ever to reach 1,500 games played. He should also climb to third place on the all-time list with an outside shot of taking over the No. 2 spot.
- Needs 24 games to pass John Stockton for fourth place
- Needs 42 games to pass Dirk Nowitzki for third place
- Needs 80 games to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second place
Carter last played 80 games during the 2013-14 season with the Dallas Mavericks. He appeared in 76 games last season with the Atlanta Hawks.
FIELD GOALS MADE
LeBron James (11,838 career field goals made) enters the 2019-20 season ranked fifth on the all-time list and has another legend in his sights. LeBron averaged 10.1 field goals made last season and has a career average of 9.9 per game. Using either average as the basis for this season's projection provides the same result.
- Needs 355 made field goals to pass Michael Jordan (12,192) for fourth place (target game No. 36)
FREE THROWS MADE
LeBron James (7,140 career free throws made) enters the 2019-20 season ranked eighth all-time in free throws made and should climb into the top five this season. He holds a career average of six free throws made per game, but has not reached that mark in eight seasons (6.2 in 2011-12 in Miami). Last season he averaged 5.1 free throws made in his first season with the Lakers, which is the mark we’ll used for these projections.
- Needs 21 to pass Jerry West (7160) for seventh place (target game No. 5)
- Needs 101 to pass Dirk Nowitzki (7240) for sixth place (target game No. 20)
- Needs 188 to pass Michael Jordan (7327) for fifth place (target game No. 37)
James Harden (5,604 career free throws made) enters the 2019-20 season ranked 26th all time and can climb as high as 13th this season. Harden made a career-high 754 free throws in 2018-19 (leading all NBA players by 232 free throw) and has made at least 700 in four of the past five seasons.
While he averaged a career-high 9.7 free throws per game last season, we’ll use his three-season average of 9.2 per game for these projections.
- Needs 105 FTM to pass Dwyane Wade for 25th place (target game No. 12)
- Needs 139 FTM to pass Kevin Durant for 24th place (target game No. 16)
- Needs 160 FTM to pass Elgin Baylor for 23rd place (target game No. 18)
- Needs 293 FTM to pass Tim Duncan for 23rd place (target game No. 32)
- Needs 312 FTM to pass Carmelo Anthony for 22nd place (target game No. 34)
- Needs 332 FTM to pass Shaquille O’Neal for 22nd place (target game No. 37)
- Needs 428 FTM to pass Dominique Wilkins for 22nd place (target game No. 47)
- Needs 432 FTM to pass David Robinson for 22nd place (target game No. 47)
- Needs 454 FTM to pass Wilt Chamberlain for 22nd place (target game No. 50)
- Needs 579 FTM to pass Bob Pettit for 22nd place (target game No. 63)
- Needs 634 FTM to pass Reggie Miller for 22nd place (target game No. 69)
- Needs 746 FTM to pass Charles Barkley for 22nd place (target game No. 82)
- Needs 772 FTM to pass Allen Iverson for 22nd place (target game No. 84)
If Harden averages 9.2 free throws made, he will fall short of passing Iverson this season even if he played all 82 games. However, should he match last season’s incredible 9.7 free throws made per game average, he would pass Iverson in 80 games.
LeBron James (46,234 career minutes played) ranks 15th in NBA history entering the 2019-20 season and could climb as high as seventh all-time this season as he trails Kobe Bryant by 2,410 minutes.
LeBron played just 1,937 minutes last season as he missed 27 games due to injury; he has played at least 2,410 minutes in every other season of his career with the exception of 2011-12 when the NBA played only 66 games (LeBron played 2,326 minutes in 62 games that season).
LeBron has a career average of 38.6 minutes per game, but is coming off a season in which he averaged a career low 35.2 during his 16th NBA season. Using his most recent season as the benchmark, here is how long it would take him to climb the ranks:
- Needs 117 minutes to pass Ray Allen (target game No. 4)
- Needs 238 minutes to pass John Havlicek (target game No. 7)
- Needs 884 minutes to pass Gary Payton (target game No. 26)
- Needs 1,134 minutes to pass Tim Duncan (target game No. 33)
- Needs 1,387 minutes to pass Reggie Miller (target game No. 40)
- Needs 1,533 minutes to pass John Stockton (target game No. 44)
- Needs 1,626 minutes to pass Wilt Chamberlain (target game No. 47)
- Needs 2,410 minutes to pass Kobe Bryant (target game No. 69)
Vince Carter is set to begin his 22nd NBA season, setting the NBA record for most seasons played. This breaks a tie with Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis, who each played 21 NBA seasons.
If Vince Carter appears in a game in 2020, he will become the first NBA player to play in four separate decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s)
Gregg Popovich is set to begin his 24th consecutive season as Spurs head coach in 2019-20, setting the NBA record for the longest head coaching tenure with a team. This breaks a tie with Jerry Sloan, who coached the Utah Jazz for 23 straight seasons.
Gregg Popovich (1,245 career regular season wins) needs 55 wins to become the third coach in NBA history to reach 1,300 career wins. Only Lenny Wilkens (1,332) and Don Nelson (1,335) have more regular season wins than Popovich.
Doc Rivers (894 career regular season wins) needs six wins to become the 13th coach in NBA history reach 900 career wins. If the LA Clippers win 50 or more games this season, Rivers will crack the top 10 for most coaching wins.
- Needs 42 wins to pass Dick Motta for 12th place
- Needs 45 wins to pass Red Auerbach for 11th place
- Needs 51 wins to pass Bill Fitch for 10th place
Rick Carlisle (751 wins) needs 49 wins to become the 16th coach in NBA history to reach 800 career wins.
The San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons, tied for the longest streak in NBA history. A playoff berth in 2019-20 would give San Antonio the record outright.