|Posted on February 21, 2014 at 7:10 PM||comments (1)|Shooting Heaving Stars (No, not the Shooting Stars, because Team Hardaway made all of their shots from inside half-court but didn’t even advance to the finals because they couldn’t knock down the half-court heave):
I was expecting a full-fledged jumper from half-court from Kevin Durant, as opposed to his fling from the shoulder. But we’ll let Durant off the hook because of the season he’s having. In the last month, he’s averaging a ho-hum 36-7-7, shooting 55% from the field and 43% on threes. In one game, Durant scored 26 points on 12 shots, meaning that any shot on the court from him was more efficient than a wide-open dunk from Kendrick Perkins.
And he gets his points so easily. While he does ocassionally hold the ball too long, not move without the ball, or take low-percentage fall-away threes, he doesn’t look like he’s actively trying to put up points. He just scores in so many different ways, that it starts adding up really quickly. His scoring ability also makes his entire team better, as defenders watch Durant instead of focusing on guarding their men, and Durant has become a prolific passer off the pick-and-roll to take advantage of that phenomenon.
Though LeBron has essentially zero chance of winning the MVP because voters are tired of seeing him hoist the trophy, Durant really does deserve it. The Thunder roster with Russell Westbrook injured is really, really shakey and inexperienced, and for them to have the #1 record in the league is unbelievable.
Side-note: OKC is paying Kendrick Perkins an abomidable $18.1 million over the next two seasons... probably $18.1 million too much. There is no reason why Perkins should be getting minutes for an NBA team, much less starting for a championship contender. He had three decent seasons with Boston from 2008 to 2010 (59.6%shooting, 1.7 blocks per game), so the Thunder traded Jeff Green straight upfor him (cut to Thunder fans sobbing), and his career has been a train wreck ever since. He’s the most offensively challenged starter in the league (he recently broke a streak of 67 straight single-digit scoring games… oh, and he didn’t score in 12 of those outings… 12!), but he doesn’t even defend at a particularly high level (only 1.1 blocks per game since being traded, and was manhandled by Marc Gasol in the playoffs last year), so his team essentially plays 4-on-5 with him on the court. He’s only 29, but he plays like he’s 49. So, to sum up, Durant deserves the MVP.
Getting back to the Shooting Stars, any competition in which you can wear sweapants and win (yes, you, Dominique Wilkins) cannot be taken seriously, so it’s long overdue that we eliminate this event. Hey Adam Silver, if All-Star Saturday Night always ends with everyone saying, “This was the worst All-Star Saturday Night ever,” then something probably needs to change (and by change, I don’t mean adding a freestyle round to the dunk contest). We need a 1-on-1 tournament, and we need it now. During the second half of the All-Star Game, Marv Albert announced that LeBron and Durant planned to go one-on-one towards the end of the game, and I was immediately done flipping the channel to Men’s Figure Skating. Why not just institute a simple three- round one-on-one tournament with eight players, running from 7:30 to 9 PM, replacing the Shooting Stars? Mano a mano between LeBron, Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, James Harden, DeMar Derozan, Kyrie Irving, and Jamal Crawford. You can’t tell me with a straight face that you wouldn’t cancel dinner with your girlfriend to tune in to that.
Five other theoretical All-Star Weekend improvements:
1) A two-on-two tournament for the best guard-forward combos in the league (Steph Curry and David Lee, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, etc). Give me one reason you wouldn’t watch this either.
2) Add a $25,000 reward for winning the Rookie-Sophomore game. This ploy to induce a greater effort wouldn’t work in the All-Star Game simply because the players make too much money, but some of these young guys make as little as $1 million a year.
3) Make the All-Star Game more competitive as well. Any cash prize would be too insignificant, but giving the winning conference home court in the Finals like in baseball would be too extreme. If you have an idea, shoot me an email.
4) A pick-up game with Nick “Swaggy P” Young, J.R. Smith, Jordan Crawford, and Jamal Crawford on the same team, and we bet on who takes the most shots (I’d put my money on Swaggy P at 3/2 odds). Even better if we give The Chuckers a smart coach like Gregg Popovich and bet on how long it takes him to lose his mind.
5) Throw Lance Stephenson, Big Baby Davis, and Metta World Peace into a boxing ring and see what happens.
I was amused that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Demar Derozan participated, because both of their games are based primarily on athleticism, rather than skills. But with several passing stations removed from the original obstacle course, the emphasis was on speed this year. All in all, the new format was a little worse (the relay idea was cool, but would have beenc ooler if the first player had to alley-oop it to his teammate instead of simply passing him the ball), but this event also needs to be removed to make time for the one-on-one tournament.
Some random facts about Giannis Antetokounmpo (The Greak Freak):
Earlier this season I tried searching for Giannis Antetokounmpo’s stats on Bing and misspelled his name so badly that I got no search results… I searched the same spelling into Google and got 21,500 results… there are people in the world who use Bing over Google… The Greak Freak is 6’8’’ with a 7’3’’ wingspan… he’s only 19 years old and HE’S STILL GROWING… The Greek Freak can take one dribble and a euro-step and cover 25 feet… if there’s one player in the NBA who could do Michael Jordan’s game-winning half-court dunk from Space Jam it would be The Greek Freak
Three Point Shootout
Marco Belinelli became the first winner to miss the rim on four shots. His math skills also need a little work (In the final round, Bradley Beal was mathematically eliminated with eight shots left to go, but Marco didn’t realize for another ten seconds).
Slam Dunk Contest
BAD SIGN #1: Whenever the rules for a dunk contest are too complicated to show on the TV screen at once, and have to be explained verbatim instead, they are probably too complicated.
[Watch these videos as you read through my commentary]
25s: Reggie Miller described the freestyle round as “a warmup.” BAD SIGN #2: Something described as a warmup is part of the actual contest.
33s: Really nice Paul George reverse-windmill that got completely ignored because the announcers were busy talking about their picks, even though they had the entire half-hour Kendrick Lamar performance to discuss them. Paul George has already clinched the 2013-14 award for “Player who everyone expects to make the leap but then we’re still surprised when he actually does” (James Harden won last year and is taking this season off to celebrate), but I don’t think anyone expected him to be this good. He’s a little overrated defensively because he’s athletic and has ranked top 10 in steals each of the last three seasons, but he still guards the opposing team's best player every night, and offensively, he’s taken his scoring to another level. He already seems to grasp the “We’re down in the second half on the road, so I need to put my team on my back right now” concept (did LeBron understand that at age 23? I'm not sure).
1m12s: Nice mascot-esque dunk by the East team, culminating with a Terrence Ross one-handed cuff windmill that looked really impressive on the replay.
1m25s: BAD SIGN #3: NBA All-Stars are trying as hard as they can to emulate NBA mascots.
1m32s: Another nice mascot-esque dunk by the East (after which Kenny Smith astutely commented, “Oh, this is nice. That’s nice. That’s nice. That’s nice. That’s nice. That’s nice. That was nice. That was nice. That was nice. That last one was nice.” I’m not joking, watch the video!), but the off-the-shot clock component was really the only move in the whole round that we’d never seen before. The freestyle round is simply too hectic and rushed to actually complete organized dunks (the NBA instituted an individual freestyle round from 1994-1996 and it was a complete disaster for the same reason). But at least the East was relatively organized and looked like they may have at least met with their teammates before the clock started ticking. On the other hand…
20s: Harrison Barnes took a layup… in the dunk contest. I can’t believe the announcers didn’t jump all over this. This wasn’t no, “I tried to throw it down with power, but it slipped out of my hand and rolled in,” this was a, “I forgot that I’m in a dunk contest.”
33s: Barnes completed the West’s first successful dunk, 32 seconds into the round. He threw down a two-handed windmill as mundanely as humanly possible, sparking the insightful Kenny Smith comment, “Okay, two hands.”
35-42s: Why is everyone just standing around doing nothing? Are the dunkers being nice and giving Kenny Smith a few seconds to repeat himself ten times?
43s: Our first legit dunk of the night, as Ben McLemore loses the ball in mid-air and still manages to throw it down lefty.
58s: Barnes goes in for a plain, old windmill, and nobody (not the crowd, not the cameraman, not even the announcers) notices, then takes five seconds to retrieve his ball that’s blocking his teammates’ path. He was just a step slow all night. It took him about 30 seconds to realize that he was in a dunk contest and not a layup contest, and it only took him 60 seconds to realize that this was a get-your-own-rebound kind of thing.
1m6s: Lillard put down what was probably the most difficult dunk of the night, just ten seconds after Reggie Miller insisted that he couldn’t do it. A between-the-legs off two feet is much, much harder than off one foot (like Terrence Ross did in the battle round). Trust me, I’ve tried both several times on my NERF hoop.
1m18s: Barnes did the exact same dunk that nobody noticed 20 seconds earlier, and still hasn’t realized that his teammates have moved on to bigger, better things.
1m25s: In the warmup, McLemore was shown shooting outside jump-shots. I wasn’t expecting him to actually use it in the dunk contest though. A fitting conclusion to a round of utter chaos.
42s: A nice lefty 360-pump by Lillard (probably should have won this battle) which was marred by the fact that the crowd and Lillard himself barely reacted. There was really no energy whatsoever in the building. Watch any dunk contest pre-2009 and the crowd is going nuts the entire time.
0-13s: Would it kill Nick Cannon at least pretend that he’s excited to be there? He looks like he just wants to go home after a long night, kind of how Harrison Barnes is about to feel.
1m43s: Barnes repeated his first dunk from the freestyle round, concluding one of the worst dunk contest performances in recent memory, one that included a layup, a windmill from the right, a windmill from the left, a two-handed windmill from the right, and a two-handed windmill from the left. After the event, Barnes tweeted, “Not bad for a first time... Ok not my finest hour but it's my best dunk contest EVER. Thanks for supporting.”
In his honor, the five worst dunk contest performances of all-time (we’ll give Barnes a pass and say that he got confused and disoriented by the new format):
Honorable Mention) Tim Perry - used the vast majority of his 90 seconds dribbling around the court aimlessly and unenthusiastically.
5) Antonio Davis - an otherwise mediocre performance made laughable by the fact that he bounced the ball into the crowd for no apparent reason with 1:06 on the clock, and bailed on his freestyle round with 40 seconds remaining.
4) Darrell Armstrong - got the crowd on its feet with an impressive opening jam for a little guy, then proceeded to miss dunk after dunk before finally going Harrison Barnes on everyone and just laying it in.
2) Tony Dumas - only contestant in dunk contest history to not make a single dunk.
1) Larry Hughes – missed his first six attempts, and then, in Harrison Barnes style, the camera didn’t even catch his only made dunk of the night.
1m44s: Kenny Smith said that Barnes is better suited as an in-game dunker. Got me thinking... what if we had a Posterization Contest in which the league’s most ferocious dunkers, such as Blake Griffin (of course), Taj Gibson, Paul Millsap, Deandre Jordan, and Quincy Acy (check out this dunk, this dunk, and this dunk), go in and try to dunk over each other? It’s just taking the most exciting moment of an NBA game and making an event centered around it.
2m34s: Now that someone told Dr. J how to use his tablet during the commercial break, Charles Barkley remains the only entertaining aspect of this dunk contest. “You think animation’s gonna make that a winner?” is what he said regarding the fact that NBA 2K14 was downloading Barnes’s most recent dunk into the video game.
3m7s: Don’t forget that Paul George got robbed in the 2012 dunk contest. He jumped over 7’2’’ Roy Hibbert for goodness sakes!
3m59: George completed one of many impressive dunks on the night that were underappreciated due to lack of energy from everyone involved. When Nick Cannon introduced the judges when it was time to vote on the winner of the battle, he said, “These decisions aren’t getting any easier!” Two-handed windmill vs. 360 between-the-legs? I would beg to differ.
11s: Kevin Harlan commented that “Ben McLemore is off the course.” Yes, this event is as boring as watching golf, but basketball is still played on a court, not a course.
40s: This year was supposed to “bring back” the dunk contest, not permenantly destroy it, correct? Okay, just checking.
1m10s: At this point, McLemore probably was probably wishing he had gone with the 720 he hinted at earlier in the week.
2m45s: What on earth is James Harden wearing? Time to crank out another top five list, this one for worst dunk contes toutfits of all-time:
5) James Harden (2014)
4) Jermaine O’Neal (2004) - Not buying the tan on tan combination, nor the jacket that’s at least five sizes too big.
3) Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook (2013) – Why did Westbrook’s mom buy little Russell a shirt for kindergarteners?
2) Patrick Ewing (1996) - only for the missed opportunity… he could have worn just the vest with no undershirt a la Aladdin. What a shame.
1) Carmelo Anthony (2013) - Just… no.
3m59s: Incredible dunk by wall, and easily the best of the night, because he pumped it down after grabbing the ball, and then brought it back up with such speed. But the dance was equally impressive, and a perfect segue into the top four post-dunk reactions of all-time:
4) John Wall (2014)
3) Kenny Smith (2006) – I don’t care, what you say. Kenny Smith came in there, and put on a show!
1) Kevin Garnett (2000, 2013) - First the lean-back and scowl while holding an antique video camera, then the sour-lemonface while wearing a patriotic scarf and holding a baby? Both equally tremendousperformances.
4m: Back to this year. Magic Johnson proclaimed that John Wall “brought back the dunk contest.” One good dunk does not a dunk contest bring back. And I honestly don’t think the dunk contest needed bringing back, because the 2013 event wasn’t that bad! Terrence Ross had four really solid dunks to get the win, and, by my count, we saw eight dunks we’d never seen before (compared to three this year). The default format worked with Jordan vs. Dominique, it worked with Vince Carter, and it worked with Nate Robinson. Even the Blake Griffin vs. Javale McGee dunk contest three years ago was wildly entertaining. That format works. There will be some bad years, for whatever reasons, but whenever the NBA has tried to change it up, it has always been a mess. The 6-10 scoring system sparks debates and arguments, while also providing something concrete with which to determine a winner, and having a showdown in the finals between the two top guys is dramatic. It’s just about getting good contestants and hanging tight through the bad years.
But the best idea I've heard on how to fix the dunk contest came from Pardon the Interruption's Mike Wilbon, who suggested simply taking away the dunk contest for a few years to make people yearn it and get excited about it. This has worked before, when the NBA cancelled the dunk contest in 1998 and 1999, and the 2000 contest was easily the greatest ever. The dunk contest is tired right now, and it needs a rest. Give the players time to think up some creative dunks, and then bring it back once everyone misses it.
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|Posted on August 1, 2013 at 10:15 PM||comments (0)|
New York Knicks: C
The Knicks traded Steve Novak and a 2016 first-round draft pick for the Raptors’ Andrea Bargnani, winner of the 2013 Ugliest Shot Chart Award (although Michael Kidd-Gilchirst gave him a run for his money). (1) Toronto should pay New York to do them the favor of taking on Bargnani’s $10.75 million salary, (2) Bargnani doesn’t fit with the Knicks’ roster in the slightest, as described a few paragraphs below, (3) Bargnani, brought in to hit threes, has shot 32% from beyond the arc over the last three years… and if he can’t hit threes, then what is he good for? He couldn’t defend a penguin, he can’t comb hair, and, last season, he was 58th in rebounding rate among the 58 NBA players 6’11’’ or taller, (4) That first-round draft pick is unprotected, and a pick three years from now could be a very good one, considering the Knicks’ age as well as the free-agents they could lose.
Besides drafting Jordan Hill with the eighth pick, Mike Bibby backing down people from half court, signing Jared Jeffries the first time, signing Jared Jeffries the second time, swapping Trevor Ariza for a washed-up Steve Francis, the year Eddy Curry was their best player, trading for Cuttino Mobley after he just had heart surgery, Isaiah Thomas, Tim Thomas, Kurt Thomas, trading David Lee for Anthony Randolph, Jeff Van Gundy hanging onto Alonzo Mourning’s leg, and Anthony Carter dribbling up the court like a gazelle as their first option off the bench, this Bargnani trade is easily the stupidest thing the New York Knicks have done in the last ten years.
But the Knicks did re-sign J.R. Smith (who led the team in minutes last season) to a relatively cheap contract of $25 million over four years. Love or hate him, the Knicks need Smith to create offense after they lost one of my favorites, Chris Copeland (an obscenely rich man’s Bargnani). By picking up free-agent Metta World Peace and re-signing veterans Pablo Prigioni and Kenyon Martin, the Knicks should have no problem with depth, as long as they stay healthy.
But what worries me is their roster’s flexibility, especially up front. Neither of their centers (Tyson Chandler and Martin) shoot outside of five feet, and neither of their power forwards (Amare Stoudemire and Bargnani) can guard anyone. Also, none of their five big men (those four along with Carmelo Anthony) played more than 67 games last season, and all have experienced ongoing injury problems, so, once again, health will play a factor (yet another reason why I hated the Bargnani trade… at least you know Novak is staying healthy).
Where does Bargnani fit in? If he starts, Anthony would no longer be able to play power forward, where he excelled last season. If Bargnani comes off the bench, World Peace (still having trouble deciding between Metta, World Peace, Peace, MWP, Metta Peace, Artest, or just avoiding the name entirely) would be forced to into starting lineup that would have very little scoring besides Carmelo, and the second unit would allow 150 points a game.
As long as Melo is among the leaders in scoring next season and their big men stay healthy, the Knicks will be a fringe contender this season. The real problem will arise when Anthony becomes a free-agent next summer and asks for big money, while, at the same time, cap-space will be limited if Amare opts into the final year of his contract and becomes the highest-paid player in the league.
I’m sorry, I need a minute to violently bang my head against the wall until I forget that, three years ago, the Knicks chose to pay Stoudemire $100 million over five years rather than David Lee $80 million over six years…
A little more…
Okay, I think I’m good.
Indiana Pacers: A
They snatched the Knicks’ Copeland and former-Net C.J. Watson (both shot above 41% from beyond the arc last year), adding much needed three point shooting to what was a horrible outside-shooting bench (Sam Young and Gerald Green hit threes at a 31% clip, and Ian Mahinmi and Tyler Hansbrough couldn’t stretch the floor at all).
Miami Heat: B+
Re-signing Chris Andersen was of the utmost importance for them, after going 54-8 with Birdman in the lineup, and 28-15 without him last year. He is the only shot-blocker on the team whatsoever, besides Joel Anthony, who scored less frequently last season than any player who played in at least 50 games not named Andris Biedrins. Here’s how a conversation probably went down between LeBron James and Andersen:
Birdman: Hey LeBron, what are you doing with all your free time?
LeBron: Washing my headbands
Birdman: Me too!
LeBron: You up to anything else in the offseason?
Birdman: I don’t know, maybe I should I get a new tattoo. It’s been three weeks since I got my last one, and I’m close to breaking 100.
LeBron: Do you have any space left?
Birdman: To make room, I would have to get a tattoo removed
LeBron: Which one?
Birdman: The one on the arm
LeBron: Which one on the arm?
Birdman: Never mind… Who has the championship trophy right now?
LeBron: I have it!
Birdman: Wait – the Google Calendar that Dwyane set up says Chris [Bosh] has it this week
LeBron: Yea, but he scored 0 points in Game 7, and I need somewhere to put my guacamole dip.
Birdman: Can I have the trophy?
Birdman: How about if I re-sign with Miami for $1.7 million?
LeBron: But that’s a good deal for you!
Birdman: Zaza Pachulia just got a $15 million contract from Milwaukee, you really think I can’t get more money somewhere else?
LeBron: Fine, come pick up the trophy tomorrow
Re-signing Andersen for peanuts, as well as Ray Allen, will help keep the core of the champions’ second unit intact. With LeBron and the slowly-but-surely-decomposing Dwyane Wade having played 184 and 163 games, respectively, over the past 20 months (plus Olympics and preseason), the Heat will rely on their bench more than last year, which is why amnestying Mike “I get hot for five games a season” Miller may hurt them.
Additionally, they needed to pick up a good post-defender after their starting
center dinosaur, Chris Bosh, received an ass-kicking from Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan in back-to-back series. The situation could still be remedied if they win the Greg Oden sweepstakes (likely), and Oden doesn’t injure himself on the plane to Miami (unlikely).
By the way, I’m not resting until ESPN does a “The Decision” show for Greg Oden, with an interview and everything.
Detroit Pistons: B
The knock on Detroit was that they had a weak backcourt, so they acquired Brandon Jennings via trade, giving up only one rotation player, Brandon Knight, in the process. Jennings joins Rodney Stuckey, Chauncey Billups, Will Bynum, and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in a solid group of guards.
After signing Josh Smith to a reasonable four-year, $54 million deal, the Pistons can team him with Andre Drummond, both of whom averaged more than three blocks plus steals per 36 minutes last season. Neither excels outside the paint by any standards, which could create floor-spacing issues, but second-year forward Kyle Singler can play alongside them and provide above-average shooting. Additionally, underrated, 23-year-old big man Greg Monroe (averaged 16 points, nearly 10 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in his 2013 campaign) will complement the athleticism of Smith and Drummond with his inability to get off the ground.
This team is like one of those annoying jigsaw puzzles where you can get the edges, but you eventually just try jam some pieces together that don’t actually fit. Regardless of whether or not the Pistons’ players will mesh perfectly, there’s too much talent there for Detroit to not be a playoff team.
Cleveland Cavaliers: B+
Snagging backup point guard Jarrett Jack for $25 million over four years was critical due to Kyrie Irving’s injury issues. Signing Andrew Bynum was curious, considering that starting center Anderson Varejao is injury prone as well. There’s no evidence suggesting that Bynum can stay on the court (or the bowling alley), and he wasn’t even able to work out for teams this offseason after sitting out all of last year. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sustained an injury playing croquet.
The Cavs’ selection of power forward Anthony Bennett with the first overall draft pick was odd because they’re already developing Tristan Thompson at the same position. In fact, they now have two quality point guards, two quality power forwards, and two quality centers, yet only one competent shooting guard (Dion Waiters), and zero competent small forwards. Nonetheless, Jack and Irving could both play the 2 if needed, and the vacancy at small forward may attract LeBron James when he becomes a free-agent next summer, if playing with the Irving-Waiters-Bennett-Bynum young nucleus isn’t attractive enough.
Atlanta Hawks: C-
The Hawks unsuccessfully pursued Dwight Howard, despite the fact that they have Al Horford, who is 85% as good and getting paid 60% as much.
After striking-out looking on the big free-agents, the Hawks are doing literally everything short of having their owner walk around the arena holding up a huge poster with the word “MEDIOCRITY” written on it in all-caps. Yes, they signed Paul Millsap for $19 million over two years, but for a guy who makes little impact defensively and whose offensive numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as everyone thinks (seriously, look them up), that’s pretty much what Millsap ought to be paid, right? Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett, Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, David Lee, David West, and Tim Duncan all make between $12-15 million a year, so Millsap deserves a couple million fewer per year than those guys.
Atlanta resigned Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to fairly cheap deals, maintaining cap room to go after a marquee free-agent next summer, but if they don’t hit it out of the park, the Hawks will be looking at several more years of first-round exits as a #6 or #7 seed.
Brooklyn Nets: A-
They brainwashed the Celtics into giving them Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry for several bench players and three future first-round draft picks, while at the same time taking on the enormous contracts of Gerald “I’m open for a reason” Wallace and Kris Humphries. Kudos to the Nets for maintaining a strong, deep bench. They re-signed Andray Blatche to an unbelievably cheap contract, didn’t give up Reggie Evans in the trade, and
owner Mikhail Prokorov, using an under-the-table, Russian deal, convinced Andrei Kirilenko to come to Brooklyn for nearly nothing.
Quick sidenote: Blatche's contract with the Nets is not as unbelievable as the fact that the Washington Wizards still owe Blatche more than $16 million over the next two years on a contract extension that the Wizards amnestied before it even started!
The Nets’ caveat is that they have a two-year window to win a title, and that’s it, due to the draft picks they gave away. Furthermore, they’ll have to compete with the Heat for at least the first year, and may lose Paul Pierce to free-agency for the second. I have trouble seeing their older players, or Brook Lopez, running up and down with Miami for a seven-game series, but they could have as many as five All-Stars, and will be difficult to stop offensively. After all, a two-year window is bigger than no window.
Boston Celtics: INCOMPLETE
I feel that Boston could have struck a better deal for Garnett and Pierce. Cleveland might have given them the 1st, and 19th draft picks this year, a first round pick in 2015, and Dion Waiters. That way, the Celtics could have avoided taking on two staggeringly large contracts.
But the main problem with Boston’s situation is that they’re bad, but not bottoming out to the point of Philadelphia, Utah, Orlando, or Phoenix, so they have little chance at a top draft pick. In the weaker of the two conferences, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, Gerald Wallace, half a season of Rajon Rondo, and rookie Kelly Olynyk (who, when it’s all said and done, could break Chris Kaman’s record for most appearances on the All-NBA “I Need to Go to the Barber Shop” Team), won’t be quite as bad as they want to be.
I’d try to shop Rondo and Wallace to a playoff team for multiple draft picks. The Celtics already possess nine first round picks through 2018, but getting two more and the outside chance at winning the draft lottery this season would be superior.
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|Posted on June 21, 2013 at 5:10 PM||comments (14)|
The buzzer sounded. Perhaps the greatest pair of back-to-back games in NBA history was over. We had seen the last horrid Manu Ginobili pass of the series (although I still wouldn’t trust him to toss me a Gatorade bottle in the locker room, even if our lockers were right next to each other), Chris Boshasaurus became the closest player to getting traded without actually getting traded, despite going for the bagel in the biggest game of his career after getting a full-fledged ass-kicking from 37-year-old Tim Duncan the game before.
And the San Antonio Spurs became the closest team to winning a championship without actually winning it (except the ’86 Red Sox, and maybe the ’88 Pistons). I was absolutely devastated. The Spurs play better fundamental and team basketball than any other organization in the league. They were complete bad-asses going toe-to-toe with the best team in the league for seven games despite injuries, age, and no home court advantage, always fighting back, never folding, even when one of those big Miami runs seemed inevitable.
This was San Antonio’s series. In Game 6, they were one more made free-throw, one defensive rebound, one questionable no-call, and 28 seconds away from joining Jordan’s Bulls, Magic’s Lakers, and Russell’s Celtics, as the only teams to win five championships with a core group of players. The Heat were 28 seconds away from having to blow up their team. LeBron James was 28 seconds away from being considered not clutch again. We were 28 seconds away from three months’ worth of dumb “Where will LeBron go in 2014?” SportsCenter segments starring Kurt Rambis. And we were 28 seconds away from the Miami Heat Welcome Party being hilarious again.
For the first 23 quarters of the series, the Spurs slowed down LeBron. They got two potential vintage closeout games from Tim Duncan (30-17 and 24-12-4). They got Greensanity for five full games. The Spurs did 99.9% of what they needed to do to win this series. It seemed almost unfair that they had to lose the championship.
David Stern got up on the podium to give robotic congratulations to everyone involved. It couldn’t have worked out better for Stern; he gets to retire after an awesome NBA Finals… oh wait, he has eight more months to go in the most awkward retirement in sports history. As Miami received the trophy, I was just getting over the Spurs’ losing; the Heat made plays when it counted most and they were undeniably the most dominant team for the vast majority of the past eight months.
Then Bill Russell came out to present the Finals MVP trophy. To everyone’s surprise, the trophy was not awarded to San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, but rather to LeBron James. As his name was announced, LeBron tried to grab the trophy out of Bill Russell’s hand, stood pompously for a few seconds, then spent the an entire interview ranting about nobody but himself, and I was reminded, once again, why I had rooted for the Spurs in this series, and why I will never root for LeBron James.
Check out a video I made comparing LeBron’s interview with that of Bill Russell following Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals, in which Russell won the last of his 11 NBA championships. Click here to watch it.
Good lord! Bill Russell’s unselfishness warranted the Allen Iverson “Practice” style counter to track how many times he references his teammates. I love this comparison because both James and Russell are asked about the public’s perception of them; Russell refuses to talk about himself, but LeBron states, “I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio…”
If it weren’t for Ray Allen’s game-tying three Tuesday night, Chris Bosh’s offensive rebound and block in Game 6, or Shane Battier’s six threes last night, LeBron would have a repeat of the 2011 Finals on his hands, but no mention of them.
It was the same story in the postgame press conference, when a reporter commented, “When you’re making shots like that, you’re totally unstoppable,” and LeBron replied, “Yea, I am! I was one of the best mid-range shooters in the game, and I shot a career high from the three-point line.”
My friend, Chris Kim, a huge LeBron fan, expressed his concern with my scrutiny of LeBron’s attitude. He wrote, “[LeBron’s] had one of the heaviest burdens on his back last year, and being down 2-3 in the Finals, the accomplishments and hard work that LeBron put into this thing consumed him. This society has targeted and molded LeBron's mindset so much that LeBron can't be just fluid and happy about his wins and be genuine.”
But here’s the thing: LeBron brought the target upon himself. Checking out against Boston in 2010, The Decision, the Welcome Party, flopping, his arrogant post-game press conference after the 2011 Finals, etc.
LeBron can no longer be justifiably criticized for his performance on the court. I can’t even criticize him for not being clutch, now that he holds the highest career Game 7 scoring average with 34.4. After playing 184 games in the last 18 months (plus Olympics), he put up 22 points and 9 rebounds in the second half alone last night. He just shut down David West (6’9’’, 240 lbs) and Tony Parker (6’2’’, 185 lbs) in back-to-back playoff series. The man has two championships to show for it, and, at only 28 years of age, his six combined MVP and Finals MVP awards rank behind only Michael Jordan's 11, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 8.
But it’s also about little things. He’s the only superstar that sets picks, cuts, and boxes out. And when he talks about how he gets greater joy out of an assist than a made shot, he really means it.
That being said, LeBron won’t become the greatest basketball player of all time. Michael Jordan led the league in scoring every single full season he played from 1986 to 1998 and won six out of six NBA Finals, never needing a Game 7 to finish off an opponent. There was never a doubt that Jordan would come through. On the flip side, LeBron’s first two embarrassing Finals losses won’t disappear, the near-loss in this series won’t disappear, and his several no-shows in crucial playoff games won’t disappear.
But, most importantly, what he does off the court won’t disappear. We’ll talk about LeBron’s legacy, dissect his every move, and judge him until the minute he retires, because LeBron’s declaration of the number of championships he’ll win - “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” – won’t disappear. LeBron’s attitude has put an enormous burden on his back for the rest of his career, and although last night was a huge step towards legendary status for LeBron, the scrutiny will remain. After all, he’s still got like six more championships to go.
A few other notes from Game 7:
Manu Ginobili in the postgame press conference: "It's a big disappointment. Me, I still have Game 6 in my head." Ladies and Gentlemen, you're 2013 NBA Finals LVP! You know how Gregg Popovich probably feels about Manu’s series?
That got me thinking… you know how Charles Barkley probably feels about Manu’s series?
Danny Green did give Ginobili a run for his money in the LVP race with an unfathomable 1/12 shooting, 0 assists, and an official NBA Finals record fifty times making me jump off my couch screaming, “Why the hell is Danny Green dribbling into a trap and then picking up his dribble?” or “Holy s***! I think someone actually might be more useless inside the three-point line than Steve Novak!”
As of today, Boris Diaw’s resume includes the following things: (1) He is the only NBA player who can consistently make successful entry passes from the top of the key (2) He is officially the fattest player to ever make a three in a Game 7 (3) He was 12th in the league in assists in 2005-2006, ahead of Tony Parker (this is by far my favorite little known fact in NBA history)
I can’t stress enough how dreadful Chris Boshasaurus’s 0/5 shooting, 5 fouls performance was. Two out of every three tweets I read last night were something along the lines of “Too bad Chris Bosh missed Game 7,” and the Heat didn’t even lose the game! He’s lucky Miami pulled it out, because I was getting ready to tweet, “At least the Boshasaurus species held out for 65 million years before going extinct.” Sometime during the fourth quarter I tried to figure out how Chris Bosh, a rich-man’s Brandon Bass at best, is making the same amount of money as LeBron this year, but my head started to hurt so I started thinking about things that actually make sense, like why Gregg Popovich took Tim Duncan out at the end of Game 6… oh wait, that doesn’t make any sense either.
Reporter: "How are you going to get your team ready to go into Game 7?"
Gregg Popovich: "We're going to get on the bus - it arrives at the ramp over there.” [He actually pointed toward the parking area] “We get off the bus, we get on the court, and we play.”
I still think Pop is the greatest coach of all time, but have mixed feelings about his performance in this series. On one hand, he nearly won a championship with Danny Green and Tiago Splitter started for him, his team defended LeBron excellently for the majority of the series, and his complex offense befuddled the Heat for extended periods of time. However, (1) He never found an answer to the LeBron + Birdman + shooters lineup whatsoever, (2) He mysteriously benched Tim Duncan, allowing the Heat to grab two offensive rebounds, both leading to threes that kept Miami in the series, (3) His putting Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter on Dwyane Wade in Game 4 backfired miserably, (4) It took him until the second half of Game 7 to figure out that Kawhi Leonard could abuse Mike Miller in the post.
Kawhi gives me hope for the Spurs next year. After a near Finals MVP performance (15 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals per game, A+ defense, A+ corn-rows, A+ facial on Mike Miller, A+ young Manu Ginobili Impersonation) at age 21, he should be ready to replace Ginobili as part of the Big 3 as early as next season. I expect him to give Kevin Durant everything he can handle in the playoffs next year. We’ve counted out the Spurs too many times in the Popovich-Duncan era; let’s not do it again.
Please share this article with your friends, and comment to share your opinion!
|Posted on June 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM||comments (3)|
We’ve been here before. Game 6 of these NBA Finals feels like the hundredth game that will “determine LeBron James’s legacy.” But because Lebron has already won a championship, this time feels different; there’s less pressure because he's already won, and yet, in a way, there’s more pressure on him to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke.
We all know that in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, LeBron submitted perhaps the greatest elimination game performance in NBA history, pouring in 30 first-half points en route to a mind-blowing 45-15-5 statline. Since then, he has faced one such “do or die” game – in Game 7 of the ECF this year against the Indiana Pacers, in which he turned in a ho-hum 32 points and 8 rebounds. Besides those two games, however, LeBron has lost every high pressure game of his career, often putting up impressive individual numbers, but never coming out with victories.
In 2007, his first trip to the NBA Finals, he shot an abysmal 32/90 from the field in the series, missing 16 of 20 threes, and was stifled by the Spurs’ defense. In 2008, he battled Paul Pierce in Game 7 of an early round series, put up 45 points, and lost, spurring this comment from PTI’s Tony Kornheiser: “I think to be a great player, these are exactly the games you have to win. If you have 45 and you need 49, you have to get 49.” In the 2009 ECF, he recorded 25-7-7 against an unintimidating Orlando Magic team, and lost. In 2010, after mailing in Game 5 of the ECF with 3/14 shooting on the night, he bounced back with 27-10-19 in Game 6, but lost again. Then, he infamously checked out of the 2011 Finals, scoring 18 total points in six 4th quarters, and Miami was upset by the Dallas Mavericks.
Looks like a career path we’ve seen before (Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Doctor Julius Erving, and Moses Malone, to name a few): A superstar player struggles to supplement individual success with team success at the beginning of his career, partly due to poor supporting casts, but then figures out how to truly embrace big moments, with the help of improved teammates and/or coaching. But losing tonight would remove LeBron James from that group, because once great players “figure it out,” they're not supposed to revert back – after Michael Jordan broke through to win his first NBA Championship in his seventh year, he won the title in his next five full seasons, only twice being pushed to a Game 7, never fading one iota, averaging over 30 points per game in every postseason.
LeBron is not Michael. Jordan had an on-off switch that always stayed on. LeBron’s on-off swtich flips back and forth, and people assume that he can control his switch, but do we really know that for sure?
In the 2012 Finals, LeBron found the perfect balance between getting his teammates involved like Magic Johnson and taking over the scoring like Michael Jordan – kind of like Larry Bird in 1986. Now, that balance is gone. After being criticized for being too passive in the first two games of these Finals in which he scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, LeBron began ball-stopping. Outside of a few fastbreak dunks, his baskets have been unassisted, which was not the case during Miami’s 27 game winning streak just a few months ago. This habit of not moving the ball quickly has rubbed off on the Heat as a whole. They averaged 23.8 assists per game during the streak (assisting on 61% of their field goals), and 23.2 through the first 10 games of the playoffs, but only 17.9 in their last 10 games (assisting on just 51% of their field goals).
LeBron was lauded for his 33-point, 15/25 shooting performance in Game 4, but the fact of the matter is that he still wasn’t moving the ball like he was last year and earlier this year, and still attempted 12 shots outside the paint. Yes, he made 70% of his perimeter shots in that game, but when those same shots aren’t going down (like when he went 2/13 outside the paint in Game 3, and 2/7 in Game 5), just like they weren’t in the 2007 and 2011 Finals, the Heat have been largely unsuccessful. Check out two of his more egregious cases of holding the ball and settling for jump-shots, here and here.
In contrast, when he gets shots off of a legitimate offense, like this one in Game 4, they are much more likely to fall.
The Heat need to get back to the screening and cutting that made them one of the best half-court offenses in the league. Their most successful stretch of the first five games came in the second half of Game 2, in which LeBron set pick after pick for Mario Chalmers, which, with proper spacing, gave LeBron enough space to survey the floor and find open shooters. Curiously, they have rarely used this offense since. However, in Game 4, they found success with Dwyane Wade – Chris Bosh pick-and-rolls:
Tonight, the Heat must continue to run these two-man plays to get switches and keep the Spurs’ defense on its feet. They’ve been doing too much standing around on the offensive end.
It hasn’t help Miami’s cause that point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were borderline unwatchable in Game 5. On five straight possessions in the second quarter, Parker took one of them off the dribble, scoring or drawing a foul on four out five (Parker was 7/7 within 10 feet of the basket on isolation plays for the game). On offense, they combined to shoot 2/11 from the field and both had laughably horrific three-point attempts in the second half. Furthermore, they've been so inconsistent shooting from the outside, that their defenders are focusing their attention on Lebron James rather thanthem:
Sticking with the role players, Mike Miller, recently inserted into the starting lineup, shot 0/2 in 46 minutes over the last two games, and has been a total liability on defense. Take into account that Udonis Haslem was 1/2 from the field in the last two games, Chris Andersen was bizarrely benched for both contests after firing up the Heat defense in Game 2, and Shane Battier has been awfully cold from three-point range, and Miami is now very limited with its lineups. Furthermore, with Manu Ginobili now starting for San Antonio, the Spurs’ small-ball lineup may have figured out how to beat a Heat with a taste of their own medicine.
Lastly, Miami has had Bobcats-like defensive lapses in this series, many of which resulting in threes for Danny Green. Check out this stupefying play in which all five defenders converge on Tiago Splitter, of all people, leading to an open three-pointer:
In fact, nearly every Miami defender has been guilty of ball-watching to some extent: Haslem, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade, Chalmers, Miller, and even LeBron have inexcusably left Danny Green open for threes.
Ultimately, regardless of how these other factors play out, this game will be about LeBron James. We’ve seen him explode for 45 points in do-or-die games, we’ve seen him go cold from the field, we’ve seen him flirt with triple-doubles, we’ve seen him look motivated at times, we’ve seen him look unmotivated at others, we’ve seen him struggle to get teammates involved, and we’ve seen him defer to teammates. That’s why he’s the most riveting athlete in professional sports – he’s just so unpredictable.
Win or lose, LeBron will show up to win tonight. The man averages 31 points and 10 rebounds in career elimination games; he’s not going down without a fight.
Yet, if he didn’t get hot in the ECF last season, we’d be looking at a guy with four MVPs across ten seasons, and no rings to show for it. He has a tendency to shoot more, and miss more, from the perimeter in big games. Considering the fact that he’s starting to look more and more like young LeBron in these Finals, can we really trust that he’ll be able to replicate last year’s prowess under pressure? I wouldn’t be so sure. And have you noticed that the Heat are 5-6 in their last 11 games, not winning back-to-back games once?
Prediction: Spurs win Game 6 103-100
* If we see this look from LeBron during pre-game warmups, please discount this pick
|Posted on June 13, 2013 at 6:50 PM||comments (2)|
What I don't like from the 2013 NBA Finals Thus Far:
Lebron James – You had to know this was coming, so let’s just get it out of the way. James attempted 0 free throws in Game 3, the first time he’s done that since 2009, and at the same time is getting the Rajon Rondo treatment with his defender playing three feet off of him.
First let’s deal with the outside shooting difficulties, which we have seen many times before from James. In 2011 he shot 40% outside the paint in the regular season, 37% in the first three rounds of the playoffs, and just 35% in the Finals. This year, those numbers experienced a similar drop from 42%, to 38%, to a horrid 23% in the Finals. Even last season, Lebron shot only 18% outside the paint during the Finals, and in the 2007 Finals, shot 17%. This is a recurring theme. More interestingly, every round of this year’s playoffs, his average shot distance, in feet from the rim, has increased from 8.5 to 10.7 to 12.3 to 13.3. The Spurs are letting him shoot all he wants, and are letting him pass to Dwyane Wade (shooting 6/21 on post-ups and 9/29 on isolations thus far in the postseason) all he wants, but they are not going to let him take over the game, and that’s messing up his rhythm, just like it did when he played San Antonio in the 2007 Finals, and just like it did in Lebron’s LeDisappearance in the 2011 Finals.
The inside struggles are a little more puzzling, but it’s fairly simple as well: Tiago Splitter is helping out on him close to the rim, and Lebron really can’t score from between 2 and 10 feet. That’s right, Lebron James cannot score from between 2 and 10 feet. He doesn’t have a floater, a teardrop, a turn-around jumper in the paint, or an up-and-under move. It’s the single major flaw of Lebron’s game and it’s being exposed by the Spurs’ wily defense, and, to an extent, was exposed by Roy Hibbert against the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Finals.
James has received much criticism for being too passive in the first three games of this series, but I think, conversely, he has been stopping the ball on offense way too often, as seen in this play:
The Miami Heat have gotten away from the screening and cutting from its 27-game winning streak and are playing like a rich man’s New York Knicks on offense, with everyone standing around watching Lebron. What I would like to see more from the Heat tonight is using James as a screener, which allows him to catch the ball on the move, at the foul line, so he can make a quick decision instead of holding the ball. Miami didn’t use Lebron as a pick-setter very much until the 33-5 run in Game 2, and then didn’t stick to it enough in Game 3. Just notice how many of these plays from the Heat’s amazing second half in Game 2 involve James setting screens.
Miami’s Boxing Out – The big question for Miami going into the season was whether or not they could survive on the boards against the bigger teams, and it’s not helping matters that Chris Boshasaurus, the only player on the roster above 6’10’’, is now hallucinating an electric fence around the painted area like the ones in Jurassic Park (seriously, look at that picture and tell me with a straight face that Chris Bosh doesn’t look like a dinosaur), and refuses to set foot within 15 feet of the rim.
The Heat barely survived on the glass against Indiana, and their issues have only worsened in the Finals. The Spurs, second to last in the league in offensive rebounds during the regular season, have rebounded 31% of their misses in this series, an extraordinarily high number. Check out Dwyane Wade’s most embarrassing attempt at a box-out through three games.
The PJ Carlesimo, Kurt Rambis, Stuart Scott trio on SportsCenter – The perfect demonstration of the quote, “Everything has been said, but not everybody has said it”
Metta World Peace’s Tweets – Before Game 2, he tweeted, “Miami is bringing the lettuce!!!!!!!! No matter good the spurs burger is, if Miami brings the lettuce, they win!!” Then, after the game, he tweeted once again, “The bench players are the lettuce but they are important!! Cheese is for looks. Mike miller, ray, cole all brought it. 1st team all lettuce.”
(a) I don’t know what he’s talking about because cheese is really, really, good, (b) I don’t understand the analogy whatsoever, (c) He tweeted the same thing out twice in a three-hour span, (d) I’m confused as to whether the Spurs are the burger, the cheese, or both, and (e) He’s implying that this NBA Finals isn’t Kosher, which is upsetting. These tweets get a 0/100 on the “Amnesty That! Tweeting Scale” that I just made up five seconds ago.
What I like from the 2013 NBA Finals Thus Far:
The Spurs’ Defense on Lebron James – Since the 2011 Finals, Lebron had scored at least 19 points in 39 consecutive playoff games coming into this series. The last three games he has turned in 18, 17, and 15 points, respectively, because the Spurs have done an excellent job sending help defense his way while still preventing Miami’s best shooters from getting open outside shots. In this play, watch how Tim Duncan meets Lebron directly as he comes off the pick and Tony Parker slides over from Norris Cole to make Lebron see a third body in front of him, yet Gary Neal stays locked in on Dwyane Wade and Manu Ginobili never leaves the NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter, Ray Allen:
Also notice in the above play how Kawhi Leonard chases Lebron off a pick-and-roll, doubles Dwyane Wade, quickly closes out on Lebron again, and then deflects a pass to come up with the steal, all in one play. Leonard has been the key to San Antonio’s successful defense on Lebron, using his 7’4’’ wingspan (longer than Andrew Bynum’s) and 11.5-inch hands to his advantage. If you told a scientist to go into a lab and create a basketball player to guard Lebron James, he’d create Kawhi Leonard. Speaking of Kawhi…
Kawhi Leonard’s Corn Rows - He’s definitely on the 2013 All-NBA-Hairstylist Team (Allen Iverson and Ben Wallace each made 10 All Hairstylist Teams… Scott Pollard, Drew Gooden, Chris Kaman, and Ronny Turiaf battled it out year after year in the 2000s for the center position on the “I should probably go to the barber shop before the next time I appear on national television” Team). Leonard joins Norris Cole, James Harden, Iman Shumpert, and Kenneth Faried on this year’s team.
The Kawhi Leonard for George Hill Trade – On the day of the 2011 Draft, the Spurs and the Pacers swapped these two players, and both have taken off since. Leonard, only 21 years old, has emerged as one of the three or four most important players on a potential championship team, and Hill was the starter on a team that came within one win of the Finals. Do the Spurs guard Lebron effectively, or even make the Finals at all, without a true small forward on their roster? Do the Pacers even get past the Knicks with DJ Augustin as their starting point guard? I don’t think so. Take into account that Leonard’s being on the Pacers may have prevented the blossoming of Lance Stephenson and Paul George, and you could argue (I just did, actually) that this trade is the most impactful non-blockbuster trade of the millennium.
The Spurs’ Ball Movement – It’s so beautiful to watch when these guy start playing hot potato with the basketball, and it starts with spacing, which they accomplish by simply placing Leonard (52/131 on corner threes) in one corner and Green (73/169) in the other, allowing Parker and Duncan, two exceptional passers to the corners, to operate a pick-and-roll without having to worry about help defenders.
I also love when San Antonio makes it look like all the action is happening on one side of the court, when really, a critical back-screen or cut is about to occur on the other side of the court, creating a misdirection that fools everyone:
The Spurs beating the Heat’s traps – When opponents set high pick-and-rolls, the Heat love to send their big men out to trap ballhandlers. In Game 2, San Antonio struggled immensely to beat this aggressive defense, as Tony Parker repeatedly tried to bounce it between the two defenders, which led to stolen passes, deflections, or balls bouncing off the defenders’ feet. Chris Andersen, who played more in Game 2 than the two other contests, made the trap effective because his long arms and quickness closed off passing angles. However, in Game 3, the Spurs’ guards got back to the two ways they beat the trap in Game 1 (in which they had only four turnovers): Passing over the defense, or, passing to another wing player who can then get the ball to the roller from a nicer angle:
Lebron James’s crosscourt passing – I’ve never seen any player throw faster crosscourt passes from a wider variety of angles. According to ESPN’s Sport Science, he can hit a target in the corner from the opposite elbow faster than NFL quarterback Tom Brady could. This play is a great example of Lebron’s bullet passing, and also of what he can do as a screener in a pick-and-roll situation.
Shane Battier on his Decreased Playing Time – “Lebron’s got a slight basketball advantage over me. If this were Jenga, I’d be kicking his ass.”
Danny Green - If Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans thought these past three years since “The Decision” couldn’t get any worse, Danny Green, once cut by the Cavs, could legitimately win Finals MVP this year (leading all scorers in the series so far). Just look at this shooting video!
Tim Duncan - It’s easy to forget that he’s older than guys like Antoine Walker, Chauncey Billups, and even three years older than the one and only Tracy McGrady, who can now add outrebounding Dwyane Wade in a Finals game to his résumé, but he could also legitimately win Finals MVP (averaging a not-too-shabby 13 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks per game so far) 14 seasons after he won the award for the first time.
My Favorite Plays From the Finals So Far
3. Tim Duncan's halftime buzzer-beater in Game 1
2. Tony Parker's spin move in Game 1
1. Lebron's block on Tiago Splitter, which defied everything I learned about conservation of momentum in AP Physics this year. However, it's still not the greatest block in NBA history... that belongs to LaPhonso Ellis!
Enjoy Game 4 and check back for more analysis after the Finals are over!
|Posted on May 5, 2013 at 8:25 PM||comments (4)|
New York Knicks over Boston Celtics 4-2
It was a close race throughout the last two weeks between Knicks’ Coach Mike “We’ll run plays when I feel like it” Woodson, the Thunder’s Scott Brooks, the Clippers’ Vinny “When a lineup doesn’t work, the only thing to do is to put in a weirder lineup that doesn’t work” Del Negro, and the Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni for the elusive “Worst Coach of the First Round” Award. But Woodson ran away with the trophy, his fifth time winning the award in the last six years, due to a tremendous performance in the fourth quarter of Game 6, as the Celtics closed a 26-point lead to four points in a matter of minutes because the Knicks stopped running plays entirely and cleared out for either Carmelo Anthony or JR Smith on every possession. The more bad shots they took on isolations, the more they went one-on-one. What’s most frustrating is just how obvious it is that the Knicks’ best offensive set is a Raymond Felton – Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll, with Anthony out at the three-point line. Because Carmelo is such a great spot-up shooter, his man cannot help in the middle, creating all the space needed for the simplest play in basketball, in which Felton can either kick it out to Carmelo if his man helps, alley oop it to Chanlder, or take it himself, as seen by these three plays:
But even beyond the simple pick-and-roll, New York has shown some creative offensive plays this season that they only use in what seems like one out of every ten games, such as a fade screen for the player making the entry pass to Carmelo in the post:
And this Harlem Globetrotters-esque three-man weave from December.
The Knicks will need to use some variety on offense if they want to beat an Indiana team that has the long-armed, athletic Paul George to defend Carmelo one-on-one.
Indiana Pacers over Atlanta Hawks 4-2
Let’s have a quick show of hands. Raise your hand if you didn’t watch a single second of this series.
It’s okay, you can be honest
Come on, stop lying already and just raise your hand!
Memphis Grizzlies over Los Angeles Clippers 4-2
Memphis took advantage of a bad defensive habit of the Clippers’ big men to randomly double team outside the paint and leave opposing big guys wide open. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins of Oklahoma City, who the Grizzlies face in the second round, are much better defenders than Deandre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf, and Blake Griffin, but the matchup of Grizzlies’ center Marc Gasol and Perkins greatly favors the Grizzlies. On defense, the husky Perkins will have trouble with Gasol’s ball-handling and shooting from the high post, and on offense, his futility will allow Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year, to help out on drives by Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson. After the Thunder were outscored by 39 points in the 28 minutes that Perkins was on the floor in the last three games of their first round series, Scott Brooks would be foolish not to play the more offensively-talented, more athletic Collison in favor of Perkins. If he doesn’t, it may not be long before we see a GEICO commercial saying “How happy are folks who save hundreds of dollars switching to GEICO? Happier than Marc Gasol guarding Kendrick Perkins.”
Oklahoma City Thunder over Houston Rockets 4-2
On the defensive end, the Thunder regularly had miscommunications on screens, as seen in these four very simple Houston pick plays:
This will not bode well for them in their matchup with the Grizzlies in the second round considering that Memphis runs a lot of effective high screen and rolls.
On the offensive end, Kevin Durant scored efficiently (38 points on 16 shots in Game 4!), but often became impatient when he couldn’t get the ball, which either resulted in him coming all the way out to half-court to receive a pass, or, more commonly, one of his teammates becoming impatient and either taking a bad shot or making a bad pass:
For some reason, Brooks still doesn’t realize that the way to avoid these mishaps is to have Durant come off down-screens, which worked effectively in these two plays (by the way, Brooks’s decision to intentionally foul Omer Asik down the stretch of Game 5 was embarrassing for a #1 seed at home with more than six minutes left in the game):
Still, the combination of the Grizzlies’ size, the Thunder’s porous defense, and their predictable, unsophisticated offense will lead to Oklahoma City’s demise in the second round.
Golden State Warriors over Denver Nuggets 4-2
In the three home games, Stephen Curry shot 24/47 from the field, 14/26 on threes, and 20/20 from the free throw line (just look at these this third quarter… and this one!) Everyone knows that Stephen Curry can shoot (he edged out Carmelo for my 2013 “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” Award), but he is also a terrific passer, especially out of traps, allowing him to average nearly ten assists per game against Denver, which got Golden State a lot open outside shots:
Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is that the Nuggets’ rotations were really, really slow. I mean slower than Brook Lopez defending a Nate Robinson – Joakim Noah pick and roll. Click on the links to see some of these wide open threes they gave up due to poor rotations.
San Antonio Spurs over Los Angeles Lakers 4-0
Mike D’Antoni could only do so much to combat the fact that he was forced to start Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, one of whom can't play basketball except hitting threes, the other of whom can't play basketball. However, there was no excuse to have one of the best post players in the game, Pau Gasol, doing things that Ersan Ilyasova, not Pau Gasol, should ever be doing, such as…
Standing stationary on the three point line
Catching passes well outside the paint on the move in a crowded area
And for any Lakers’ fan reading this, here’s one last wave-at-the-offensive-player-as-he-goes-by-and-then-forget-to-box-out sequence to remember Dwight Howard by:
Miami Heat over Milwaukee Bucks 4-0
When Bucks’ guard Brandon Jennings said before the series, “I see us winning the series in six,” he meant that they would outscore the Heat in the first six minutes of every game and then careen off a cliff after that.
Chicago Bulls over Brooklyn Nets 4-3
UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: Derrick Rose needs to come back for the second round. I don’t want to hear any more of, “only Rose knows his body,” because this isn’t a physical issue – doctors cleared him to play over two months ago, he’s been taking part in full-contact scrimmages and dunking off his left leg for nearly two months, and it’s been a year and two weeks since he suffered an ACL injury that typically takes slightly under a year from which to recover. My dad put it perfectly when he said, “If Rose can dunk off his left leg, then he’s ready to play, and if he’s not ready to play, then he shouldn’t be trying to dunk off of his injured leg.” Additionally, the reason that the Bulls leave him as day-to-day instead of ruling him out is because they know that he’s physically ready. But if he’s physically ready, and Chicago has a chance to win a playoff series, and the Bulls’ starting point guard, Kirk Hinrich, is out, then he needs to play. His team needs him - not only because they need another scorer, but because of the emotional boost his return would provide. If playing the best team in the league in the playoffs isn’t high enough stakes for him to try to give his team a boost, than what will be? If he’s not mentally ready more than 12 months after his injury, then when will he ever be?
|Posted on April 13, 2013 at 1:35 PM||comments (2)|
I notice that age is increasingly mentioned in relation to the accomplishments and expectations about various athletes. Which is the youngest and which is the oldest team? What would you predict about each?
- Shelly A.
The eleven teams whose average age is over 27 are (from oldest to youngest) the NY Knicks, Miami Heat, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Atlanta Hawks (10/11 are playoff teams). The nine teams whose average age is below 26 are (from youngest to oldest) the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, Cleveland Cavs, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings (3/9 are playoff teams).
It's evident that the vast majority of the league’s top teams are among the league’s oldest. But even historically, there is, statistically speaking, a moderately strong correlation between age and winning percentage, as seen in this graph below, which plotting points for all NBA teams since 1980 (when taking the average age, effective age disregards the ages of players who rarely see the floor):
Of the 18 oldest rosters since 1980, none finished below .500, and of the 41 youngest rosters, only one finished above .500. According the trend line (calculated by basketballprospectus.com), an average team’s record improves by four wins for every year of average age. This is partially because younger teams are usually in the rebuilding stage and have recently drafted a lot of college players, but also because more experienced players play smarter.
For example, the Knicks, the NBA’s oldest team, turn the ball over 0.9 times fewer per game than any other team, while the Rockets, the NBA’s youngest team, turn the ball over 0.9 times more per game than any other team. That’s no coincidence. The difference between New York’s crafty, veteran point guard Jason Kidd, who commits one turnover every 27 minutes, and Houston’s young Jeremy Lin, who commits one turnover every 11 minutes, is enormous. However, despite the Rockets’ league leading 15.8 turnovers per game, their up-tempo style could definitely give a team like the Spurs trouble in the playoffs, but would probably not be successful against the Thunder, which is basically a rich man’s Rockets. As for the Knicks, when they play smart and move the ball for threes, they can beat anyone in the league. They are much less successful, however, when JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony do a dueling banjos performance on offense while sharpshooters Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert, and Kidd stand around and watch them.
News that Phil Jackson has joined Twitter (@PhilJackson11) got me thinking: how should we judge NBA coaches and rank them across eras? Jackson is often referred to as the greatest coach in league history. 11 championships certainly lends a good deal of proof to that claim. Yet he was blessed with the best player ever in Jordan, in addition to two others in the top 10 (Shaq and Bryant). That's not to mention the terrific role players who filled out his rosters: Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, Fisher, Gasol, Odom, etc.). How much of his success can be attributed to his style of coaching? How much of it is based on pure talent? Would this year's Lakers team have a better record if Jackson was their coach?
- Michael S.
Coaches should be judged on a combination of success as well as how hard it was to achieve that success. The latter , which is often overlooked by the media, is why current Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni is the worst in the league; he has such a talented team that simply staying out of the way would be more effective than trying to implement his style. Not only is he coaching four hall-of-famers, but they would also complement each other perfectly under any sane system that didn’t involve Pau Gasol coming off the bench and playing 25 feet from the basket like Ersan Ilyasova, Steve Nash not bringing the ball up, and the slowest team in the league trying to “pick up the tempo.”
Although Derek Fisher is not a “terrific role player” as you say he is, Phil’s jobs were easier than most because he always had a reliable player, whether it was Jordan, Shaq, or Kobe. Once, when a game was getting out of hand and the Lakers got into the huddle, Jackson turned to Bryant and said, “Kobe, activate the ball. Score.” Is that great coaching? Of course not; you can only do that with a handful of players in the history of the NBA, and he happened to coach three of them. There’s no denying that Jackson got the best out of his superstars, made them buy into his triangle offense, and tweaked his system when necessary to allow for those superstars to excel. However, he was rarely forced to coach a bad team out of a hole, and therefore, his teams didn’t really over-perform or go any farther in the playoffs than expected.
Now that isn’t entirely true, seeing as Los Angeles’ 2006 and 2007 seasons featured the two least talented supporting casts to make the playoffs since the 1987 Chicago Bulls (if you don’t believe me, please try to find one that’s worse) – we’re talking about a team giving 40+ playoff minutes to Lamar Odom in back to back seasons, 33 minutes to Luke Walton, 30+ minutes to Smush Parker in back to back years, 25+ minutes to Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown in the same season (yikes!), and 11 minutes to somebody named Laron Profit. Both of those teams played competitive first round series, so while it’s a small sample size, Phil has shown the ability to get good years out of fairly terrible teams through his offensive system.
Additionally, the talent that Jackson coached regularly did not perform as well without him. Jordan didn’t once make the Finals in his first six seasons without Jackson, and then went on to win six out of eight championships with Jackson (Jordan obviously didn’t peak until the 90s, but it still means something). Similarly, the Kobe-Shaq duo failed to reach the Finals in the two seasons before Phil arrived, after which they immediately ripped off a three-peat. Also, in 2005, Jackson’s one-year hiatus from coaching, the Lakers went 34-48, then made the playoffs the next two seasons with nearly identical rosters. So, in response to your final questions, I think without a doubt that if Phil were coaching the Lakers this season, they would be one of the better teams in the league, because one thing you can say for sure about Jackson is that he never underperformed with a lot of talent.
However, I was surprised that when I googled “Top 10 NBA Coaches of All Time,” I could not find a single list that did not rank Jackson #1, because I think Gregg Popovich is the greatest coach of all time, simply because of what he has done with mediocre talent. He has the third highest winning percentage of all-time and four NBA championships (although he coached Tim Duncan for his entire career, his other players have only had a combined 10 All-Star appearances in his 17 years of coaching the team, and never once did he coach more than two All-Stars in the same season). Additionally, he has been successful with four very different starting lineups surrounding Duncan – 1999 Champions (David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Sean Elliot, Mario Ellie), 2003 Champions (Tony Parker, 37-year-old Robinson, Stephen Jackson, Bruce Bowen), 2005 and 2007 Champions (Parker, Bowen, Manu Ginobili, Rasho Nesterovic / Francisco Elson), 2013 going for his third consecutive #1 seed in the West (Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter).
"Who is the greatest NBA bench player of all time, and why was he never a starter?"
- Brett G.
There are really five categories of bench players (I would consider players in categories 1 and 2 “true bench players” and those in categories 3, 4, and 5 “situational bench players") so I’ll give you an answer for each:
(1) Actually the sixth best player on his team, natural bench player
- Bobby Jones – Terrific defensive player for the stacked 1983 champion 76ers and the co-captain of the All-Time “The Stats Don’t Show the Full Picture with Him” Team (Bill Russell being the other co-captain). Check out this video for more on Jones:
(2) Cannot start because the player starting at his position is clearly better
- Vinnie Johnson – Streaky scorer with Joe Dumars and Isaiah Thomas starting ahead of him
(3) Is brought off the bench for chemistry reasons, often to provide instant offense off the bench, even though he is better than the player starting at his position
- Manu Ginobili
(4) A player who was only a bench player for part of his career due to any of the first three reasons, but was a high quality starter for another team
- Detlef Schremf – Obscenely rich man’s Danilo Gallinari who won back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year awards in ‘91 and ‘92, and then was an All-Star the following year (James Harden is a modern example for this category)
(5) Came off the bench upon first coming into the league, but later proved himself as a star player. Or, conversely, a star who later adapted to coming off the bench as he got older
- Kevin Mchale – Fits both of the possible requirements above, coming off the bench as a young player during the Celtics’ ’81 and ’84 championship seasons, and then again at age 32 in ’90 (averaging 21pts, 8reb, 2ast, 2blk, 55% field goal shooting in just 33 minutes per game)
Who are the top 5 low post guys in the NBA right now?
- Tal A.
5) Carmelo Anthony
4) Pre-D’Antoni Pau Gasol
4) Lebron James
3) Marc Gasol – Best passer in the league out of the post
2) Dirk Nowitzki – He makes his one-legged turn-around look so easy that even a caveman could do it (speaking of GEICO commercials, the latest one featuring Dikembe Mutombo is an A+).
1) Tim Duncan – His career per-36-minutes averages: 20.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 blocks. His per-36-minutes averages at age 36 (his 16th season): 21.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.2 blocks. That’s incredible. They don't call him The Big Fundamental for nothing.
Matching-up playoff teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences based on the current standings (i.e. Miami vs. San Antonio, OKC vs. New York, etc), would any Eastern Conference team besides Miami have a chance to beat their Western Conference opponents?
- Mike H.
Maybe the Atlanta Hawks over the Golden State Warriors, but that’s just about it. I even think the Sacramento Kings - whose rotation consists of four point guards, four power forwards, and Marcus Thornton - would beat the Detroit Pistons. Interesting observation here by Mike.
However, this email was sent before the New York Knicks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder last Sunday, and I think one could make a real argument for the Knicks in that matchup. I’m even going to make the argument that the Knicks could beat the Miami Heat in a seven game series, and here’s why: This 2013 New York Knicks team is so similar across the board to the 2011 Dallas Mavericks team that beat Miami. The formula for beating the Heat (besides being coached by Tom Thibodeau) is to have an confident scorer who irrationally believes that they’re the best player on the court (Dirk Nowitzki / Carmelo Anthony), a bench player who can build leads (Jason Terry / JR Smith), a help defender (Tyson Chandler / Tyson Chandler), random guys that enter the game solely to hit threes (Peja Stojakovic / Steve Novak), an elite perimeter defender (Shawn Marion, Iman Shumpert), and Jason Kidd. I’m not saying the Knicks will win, I’m just saying that the similarities are there, not to mention that they’ve already had success against Miami this year and are not scared to play them whatsoever.
Any still unanswered questions will have to wait until part 3 of this All-NBA mailbag after the playoffs, and I have recived a few very juicy ones for then. But for now, make sure you vote on the right sidebar for who you think has the best shot to beat Miami.
|Posted on April 3, 2013 at 12:25 AM||comments (1)|
John Wall had a 47 point game earlier this week. Do you view him as a "max contract" type of player when his rookie contract expires? Former #1 overall pick, but with an injury history and an inconsistent jump shot?
- Evan S.
Check out this list of selected players who were recently offered max contracts:
Roy “I’m A slower version of Brook Lopez, if that’s even possible” Hibbert
Amare “I can’t even start over Kurt Thomas” Stoudemire
Deron “Wait… age 28 is usually the peak of a player’s career and not the lowpoint?” Williams
Eric “I’m still an above average shooting guard when I’m healthy” Gordon
Rudy “I’m in the middle of a 24-month shooting slump” Gay
Carlos “I spray paint my own hairline” Boozer
And this list of selected players who recently received contracts smaller than the max:
Depending on which list you look at, you may automatically conclude that John Wall is or isn’t worthy of a max contract.
Here are the arguments for Wall being a max contract player:
- His inconsistent jump shot is improving. In 2011, he shot 28% from 10-15 feet out and 34% from 15-20 feet out. In 2012, those numbers jumped to 31% and 35%, and this year they increased again to 35% and 36% (also an above average 45% on shots from 20-25 feet).
- The Wizards this year are a surprising 23-17 with him in the lineup this year (a winning percentage good enough for the #4 seed) and a putrid 4-29 without him.
- He’s a fun player to watch, and if the Wizards let him go this summer, they’re going to have to try their luck getting fans to come see the killer Kevin Seraphin – Jan Vesely combo.
- Forbes estimates that the value of the Washington Wizards has increased $75 million dollars since they drafted John Wall in 2010.
Nonetheless, I still don’t think he is a max player. Behind Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Rajon Rondo, Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Damian Lillard, and Derrick Rose (maybe Deron Williams too), Wall is only the 11th best point guard in the NBA. To put that in perspective, if the 11th best player at other positions had max contracts, then JJ Reddick, Chandler Parsons, and Greg Monroe would have max contracts.
There is currently a large divide in the Western conference between the top 5 teams (all at least 24 games over .500) and the teams competing for the remaining 3 playoff spots (none more than 10 games over .500). Which team outside of the top 5 has the best chance of advancing far into the playoffs?
- Mike G.
The Utah “Why we didn’t trade one of our five quality big guys for Eric Bledsoe is a mystery” Jazz are a horrendous 11-27 on the road and we saw them get swept by San Antonio in the first round last year. Take a look at the remaining teams’ records against those top 5 teams:
Golden State Warriors 7-12
Houston Rockets 4-12
Los Angeles Lakers 2-13
Dallas Mavericks 2-11
There are two additional reasons that I like the Warriors’ chances the best (although I don’t think any of these teams are going to do damage). Stephen Curry’s 54-point barrage against the Knicks, along with the 2008 NCAA tournament in which Curry scored 30 points in three consecutive games to lead 10th-seeded Davidson to the Elite Eight, convinced me that Curry is capable of single-handedly winning playoff games for Golden State. Second, the Warriors hit threes at a ridiculous 40.0%, which has helped them win some games this season that they didn’t have any business winning.
How big of an addition is Derek Fisher to the Thunder? Does he bring championship caliber experience?
- Kyle C.
Derek Fisher, after his contract with the Thunder expired last summer, signed with the below-.500 Dallas Mavericks, played nine games, and then asked the team to cut him so that he could spend time with his family. Just weeks later, in late February, he hopped on board with the championship-ready Thunder without contacting Dallas in what was a more sudden, more poorly explained, and less justified backstab then Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars III.
I don’t think signing a 25-year-old Derek Fisher would have been significant, but now he’s the seventh oldest player in the league, behind Marcus “Not even the second oldest player on my own team” Camby – Age 39, Steve “I could probably shoot 40% from threes until 2023” Nash – Age 39, Juwan “How the hell am I still playing?” Howard – Age 40, Jason “I still have the best hands in the league” Kidd – Age 40, Grant Hill – Age 40, and Kurt Thomas - Age 102. Every couple of weeks I stare at Derek Fisher’s career stats and am forced to regularly check the top of the page to make sure I’m not looking at James White’s stats. Astonishingly, in 17 seasons averaging 26 minutes per game as a point guard, he has not once shot above 44% from the field, not once shot above 41% on threes, not once averaged at least 4.5 assists per game, and not once averaged 4.5 field goals per game. It’s truly one of the greatest feats of the post-shot clock era of NBA history, and I don’t think we’ll ever see anything quite like it again.
I will give Fisher credit for one thing. As good as Kirk Hinrich’s takedown of Lebron James in last week’s game was, it still pales in comparison to Fisher bringing a bulldozing Lebron to a complete stop in last year’s Finals. I’m afraid, however, that’s the only positive experience he’s bringing to the table.
Who would you give Most Improved Player of the Year to?
- Shai A.
It comes down to two players who made the leap from average starter to all-star over the past year: Paul George and Jrue Holiday. They did so by improving their rebounding and passing, respectively, in addition to taking more shots because of their teams’ increased reliance on them. Luckily, I got to see both of these players in person in Philadelphia last month (Why was I at a meaningless Sixers-Pacers game in early March? It’s a long story, and I still don’t really know), and both displayed why they could be superstars in the near future (George had 18 points, 8 assists, and 14 rebounds; Holiday had 27 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds). George was his athleticism and wingspan stood out; he was simply getting up higher than everyone else on the court for rebounds at the shooting guard position (like Vince Carter, but without the attitude). Holiday scored on two clutch drives to seal the win; he is a gifted offensive player.
Quick tangent: Two other observations from that Sixers-Pacers game:
1) In the second half alone, Sixers’ center Spencer Hawes, who wears jersey number 00, (1) was not called for a travel when he jump-stopped, pivoted, and then jump-stopped again before hitting a baby hook, (2) swished a three-pointer, (3) attempted a driving left-handed hook shot on the right side of the basket (not a typo), which ricocheted off the backboard out to the three-point line, (4) flirted with a quadruple double (18 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 7 blocks), (5) and set no fewer than 250 picks.
2) It’s amazing how one Nikola Vuvevic and Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson trade can make an Eastern Conference Semi-Finals team a lottery team. Additionally, (1) To wake up the slumbering fans half-way through the fourth quarter, they unveiled “The World’s Largest T-Shirt Launcher.” The PA announcer kept clarifying that it was indeed the largest, as if this is something a basketball team should take pride in. (2) This is how they pumped up their fans.
What do you think of the Heat's chances to be the first team ever to go 16-0 and sweep through the playoffs?
- Emani F.
I don’t like them, because as bad as the Eastern Conference might be, the Heat are only 1-2 this year against the Knicks, and I think New York can take two games from them in a series (Carmelo Anthony and hot three-point shooting can win one game each). Miami is also only 1-2 against the Chicago Bulls,
and I don’t want to jinx it, but the Bulls were considered the favorites last year with Derrick Rose healthy and Joakim Noah will be back for the playoffs.
Check back next week for part 2 of the mailbag, in which I will answer questions about the Bill Russell - Wilt Chamberlain rivalry, the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time, how age affects team performance, who is the best bench player in NBA history, and more.
|Posted on March 23, 2013 at 11:35 PM||comments (1)|
In the wake of thunderous alley oop slams from Deandre Jordan and Lebron James over the last two weeks, there's no better time to rank the greatest alley oops in league history.
In the coming week I will be writing my second annual mailbag article in which I will answer readers' questions about the final month of the NBA season. Please sumbit questions by either emailing me or commenting on this post. Your questions can be funny or serious, or even just your thoughts anything NBA-related.
|Posted on March 6, 2013 at 8:30 PM||comments (5)|
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Best Player in a Leading Role)
Nominees: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Tony Parker
You all know about Lebron James’s absurd level of play over the past month, and anyone who is still unsure about the MVP for this year should be electrocuted: With Lebron on the court, the Miami Heat outscore opponents by 10.1 points per 48 minutes, better than every team in the league; but with Lebron on the bench, the Heat are outscored by 4.6 points per 48 minutes (worse than the Washington “We could (A) trade Jordan Crawford for significant value or (B) trade Jordan Crawford for a late second round pick… let’s go with option B” Wizards).
Lebron is not the greatest basketball player of all time, but he is the most versatile. No player in the 3-point era has ever…
(1) Shot 55% from the field for a season while averaging at least 15 points, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game
(2) Scored 15 points per game on 55% field goal shooting and 40% three point shooting for a season
(3) Made 1.3 threes per game while shooting at least 55% from the field for a season
Lebron James is on pace to easily accomplish all of these feats of versatility. Not to mention, he has effectively guarded opponents of every shape and size this season, from Chris Paul, to Kobe Bryant, to Carmelo Anthony, to Paul Millsap.
Just like Daniel Day-Lewis now holds the record for most Best Actor awards with three, by the time it’s all said and done, it’s quite likely that Lebron James will hold the all-time record for most MVP awards (unless the voters vote for inferior players as they did when Michael Jordan played).
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Best Player in a Supporting Role)
Nominees: Dwyane Wade, Tyson Chandler, Tim Duncan, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, David West
Westbrook is currently the most athletic and talented player of this bunch, averaging 23 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds per game, but he takes more shots than Durant even though he makes more than 7.8% fewer of his attempts. Also, you probably couldn’t count the number of times that a Thunder fan has rolled his eyes in response to a Westbrook pull-up jumper with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.
Wade, on the other hand, is shooting a career-high 51.7% from the field, and has adjusted his game over time to complement Lebron James in every way. He is one of the best cutters in the league, always creating ideal passing lanes through which Lebron can get him the ball, and he is developing great chemistry with Lebron on alley-oops.
Just because Daniel-Day Lewis’s performance as Lincoln was phenomenal doesn’t mean we should ignore Tommy Lee Jones’s Oscar-worthy performance as Thaddeus Stevens.
Best Director (Best Coach)
Nominees: Mike D'Antoni (just kidding), Gregg Popovich, Mike Woodson, Tom Thibbodeau, Frank Vogel, Kevin McHale
Three months ago, I would have picked Mike Woodson of the New York Knicks, when his team had the best record in the NBA, was playing textbook help defense, and was hitting the open man like the Knicks of the 1970s. But then he came back down to earth and we remembered that he’s the same coach that never led Atlanta past the second round with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford: the same coach that sometimes looks like he wants his team to score fewer than 70 points.
The coach of the year has to be Popovich, who has coached the San Antonio Spurs to the NBA’s best record. The Spurs’ most commonly used 5-man unit, which has outscored opponents by 23 points per 48 minutes, consists of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and Tim Duncan: not the most talented lineup in the league by any means. Other San Antonio lineups that have outscored opponents by more than 20 points per 48 minutes include:
Parker, Gary Neal, Green, Boris Diaw, Duncan
Parker, Green, Leonard, Matt Bonner, Splitter
Nando DeColo, Green, Leonard, Diaw, Splitter
Neal, Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson, Diaw, Splitter
It doesn’t matter who Popovich coaches; he has never had a winning percentage under 61% in any of his 16 full seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
Best Visual Effects (Best Highlights)
Click on the players’ first and last names to view some of their highlights, and vote for the winner on the sidebar.
Best Costume Design (Best Jerseys)
There’s no denying that the Nuggets jerseys are just awesome: A killer color-combo (take notes, Phoenix Suns) and a beatiful the mountain/city design.
Best Short Film (Best Streak)
Nominees: Lebron James’s six consecutive games of at least 30 points on at least 60% shooting, Lebron James’s 54 consecutive games of at least 20 points on at least 40% shooting (dating back to the playoffs), Los Angeles Clippers’ 17-game winning streak, Kobe Bryant’s ten consecutive 30-point games (oldest in NBA history to do so), Jamal Crawford’s 58 consecutive made free-throws, Anderson Varejao’s ten consecutive 15-rebound games
In case you were wondering, Rajon Rondo’s 37 straight double-digit-assist games didn’t get nominated because he actively tried to keep his streak alive by passing up wide open shots to try to rack up additional assists. As for Lebron, let’s not go crazy and say things like, “It’s the greatest stretch of basketball that any NBA player has ever played in the regular season.” Michael Jordan once had 10 triple-doubles in 11 games.
Best Foreign Film (Best International Player)
Nominees: Tony Parker, Al Horford, Marc Gasol, Luol Deng, Nicolas Batum
Here is a list of all NBA guards since the introduction of the three-point line who have averaged at least 20 points and 6 assists on 52% shooting in a season: Michael Jordan (1989), Michael Jordan (1990), Magic Johnson (1987), Tony Parker (2013).
Best Picture (Best Team)
Nominees: Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs
Would you EVER bet money against the Heat in a seven-game playoff series right now? I sure wouldn’t. The same can’t be said for those other teams.
Please comment and let me know what you think. Also, please like my facebook page!