Kobe from Ian Levy on Vimeo.
The Mix in my Mind is a silly combination of players and songs that have become psychically glued on my daily commute. People actually started making the mixes and so we’re sharing them out. Enjoy!
This Kobe Bryant mashup is my own work, my first attempt at a basketball highlight mix (presented on Vimeo because of copyright issues, damn you Don Henley).
Here’s the rest of my ridiculous list:
- Ricky Rubio – “Supertrooper” by ABBA
- Kobe Bryant – “Desperado” by The Eagles
- Derrick Rose – “Running with the Devil” by Van Halen
- Carmelo Anthony – “Can’t You See” by The Marshall Tucker Band
- Russell Westbrook – “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins
- Andrea Bargnani – “Lorelei” by Styx
- Andre Drummond – “Detroit Rock City” by KISS
- Steve Nash – “Love Shack” by The B-52s
- Jordan Crawford – “Picture Me Rollin’” by Tupac
- Kawhi Leonard – “Use Me” by Bill Withers
- Roy Hibbert – “Let it Whip” by Dazz Band
- Paul George – “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” by James Brown
- James Harden – “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder
- Dirk Nowitzki – “All Night Long” by Lionel Ritchie
- Evan Turner – “War” by Edwin Starr
- J.R. Smith – “The Entertainer” by William Joel
- Eric Bledsoe – “Son’s Gonna Rise” by Citizen Cope
- Lance Stephenson – “Safety Dance” by Men With Hats
- Stephen Curry – “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
- DeMarcus Cousins – “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash
- Mario Chalmers – “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy
- Kevin Durant – “Jukebox Hero” by Foreigner
- Chris Paul - ”Superbad” by James Brown
- Mike Miller – “Moonshine” by Moonshine Bandits
- J.J. Redick – “Crunchy Granola Suite” by Neil Diamond
- Kyrie Irving – “Fel Del Av Garden” by Movits!
- Klay Thompson – “I’ll Take You There” by The Staples
- Kevin Love – “Lady 95″ by Styx
If you’re feeling inspired go to town and send me the results, we’ll give it a place of honor here at Hickory-High.
Recently I shared project that had been percolating for awhile, looking at team offensive and defensive not just by efficiency, but also by the variance in that efficiency. The idea is that most of the stats we look at are averages and while those can be great descriptors of what’s happening on the floor they do a poor job of demonstrating the highs and lows of performance. My last post was focused on the team level, but I also wanted to see what variance looked like at an individual level as well.
Hickory-High’s own Andrew Koo helped me sift through an enormous data set and collect a comprehensive digital pile of player game logs, from which we calculated individual scoring variance. The visualization below shows every player who scored at least 15.0 points per game since the 2004 season. Each player’s season is marked by their per game scoring average and their scoring variance, measured by the standard deviation in their per game scoring average.
There’s a lot to play around with here and a few really interesting things popped out to me:
- Kobe Bryant had the season with the highest scoring variance in our sample, 2007. This also happened to be the season of his 81-point game.
- Kobe appears in this group ten times, and all but two of his seasons had a scoring variance above the average mark.
- Carmelo Anthony also appears in this group ten times. All but three of his season had a scoring variance below the average mark. His three seasons with an above average variance were his last three seasons with the Knicks.
- Kevin Durant appears in this group seven times and in every one of those seasons his scoring variance was below the average mark.
- There were only two seasons in our sample where a player averaged more than 30.0 points per game with a scoring variance below the average mark – LeBron James in 2008 and Kevin Durant in 2010.
- LeBron’s 2013 campaign had the lowest scoring variance by any player in our sample who scored at least 25.0 points per game, and by a fairly significant margin.
- The lowest scoring variance by any player in our sample was Rashard Lewis‘ 2008 season in Orlando.
- Andrew also helped me out by running by running correlations between player variance and a few different factors in their game logs. I assumed that the two biggest stylistic indicators of variance would be three-point attempts (increasing variance) and free throw rate (decreasing variance). In actuality neither relationship proved to be very large. The r^2 for scoring variance and 3PTA was 0.103, for FTR it was 0.016.
As I halfway watched the Lakers on opening night while tweeting sophomoric observations and consulting with my wife about the cost of dog sitters (oh, who have I become?), I started wondering if this is what a post-Kobe world would feel like. Even the most ardent Kobe supporter, the one who reverts to rings as the obvious reason why Kobe is better than LeBron and proceeds to quote Herm Edwards (“You play to Win the Game!”), but will double back and say Kobe’s a better player than Mike (rings be damned) because he’s a better three-point shooter and has a better handle, even this inconsistent debater will, in his private moments alone in the dark with his head on the pillow waiting for sleep to deliver him to an imagined meeting with his hero, in his heart of hearts this man, woman or child (because let’s be honest, Kobe defenders know no age or gender) will admit to Kobe Fatigue. Because for all those moments of pure elation, those moments where Kobe has singlehandedly put his team on his back and defied all odds with mid-air acrobatic game-saving, leg-pumping, triple-clutching impossible gravity-defying jump shots that find nothing but the bottom of the net … for all of those there are literally thousands of ill-advised, nausea-inducing, agonizingly senseless, “What the fuck are you doing?!?” misses.
Opening night 2013 the Lakers are a band of pickup warriors without the oversized ego of Kobe or the insecurity of Dwight or the attention-whorish antics of Shaq. It’s just a likable group of overmatched and mildly athletic (relatively speaking) pro basketball players. The two showcase names, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, are at varying points on the downsides of their careers. They’re surrounded by a group that’s been rejected or ignored for not being able to fit in or meet expectations. Specialists and career fringe starters. It’s a group no one expects much from and for good reason. And as a Lakers fan, there’s a refreshing, guilt-free element to it.
It’s not like this is a group that’s playing this organic style where egalitarian ball movement comes naturally and trumps all else. Natural-born chucker, Nick Young seems to be locked into a mano-a-mano battle with whoever happens to be guarding him. He insists on a series of dribble moves, head jerks, strange pivots, and spin moves that do little except give him the little sliver, the millimeter he needs to fire up another contested jumper. It’s no consequence if it goes in or not, because this skinny mini-Kobe is going to come back and do it again the first time he has the chance. Meanwhile, Xavier Henry’s coming off the bench, in a desperate rush to prove wrong anyone who’s ever doubted or rejected him. He’s dribble driving to the rim with blinders on, his muscular upper-body parting the Clippers defense while his mind, his eyes are oblivious to the four Laker jerseys surrounding him.
This isn’t sustainable though. Kobe will come back and where Young’s style is just a poor man’s mimicry of Bryant, Kobe brings it all: The complex selfishness wrapped up in an unmatched work ethic and homicidal competitiveness; an ego that casts shadows over the entire Western Conference; an 81-point game, the rings, books, nicknames, endorsements, myths. Kobe is too big and he’ll come back and smother everything these Laker wings are attempting to accomplish (which is very unclear at the moment).
And if you try to put on your time travel goggles and look into the Lakers future, you won’t see what you’re seeing tonight. As long as the Kupchak/Buss tandem is building Laker foundations on the mountains and stacks of Dr. Jerry’s greenbacks, as long as the Lakers call L.A. home, and as long as L.A. is still an entertainment and marketing Mecca … it’s still going to be a natural fit for the megastars who want the mega-market, the prime time games, the Showtime. So enjoy this group while you have the chance, because they’re clearly too weird to live.
As we prepare for the return of actual, meaningful basketball games it’s time to preview The NBA Anti-Awards! These awards (playfully) recognize some of the most miserable and discouraging statistical achievements in basketball. We’ve had plenty of surprise winners in the past and these awards can be incredibly difficult to predict, but we’d be missing out on a ton of fun if we didn’t at least make an attempt at handicapping each race.
We’re heading into the 4th season in which I’ve handed out these awards, and there is now an archive page where you can find all the past winners. Continue the conversation (yell at me about not appreciating Kobe) on Twitter with the hashtag, #AntiAwards.
The Shawn Bradley Award – This award goes to the player 6’10″ or taller who has had the highest percentage of his own shot attempts blocked (minimum 300 minutes played).
The recipe for winning most of these awards involves inexperience with a heaping helping of increased opportunities. For that reason I think we really need to focus our attention on three players – John Henson, Kelly Olynyk and Enes Kanter. Henson and Kanter are both in line to see a big increase in both minutes and offensive responsibilities. While Henson has the athleticism to be a great finisher around the rim, he also lacks strength and polish, setting the stage for plenty of rejections. Kanter is the polar opposite featuring a post game with both strength and polish but not a wealth of athletic verticality. Olynyk is an interesting candidate for some of the same reasons. Despite being a rookie he’ll likely be a featured part of the Celtics’ interior offense and will be playing against a level of competition he’s never tried to score against before.
The Shawn Kemp Award – This award goes to the player who has fouled out of the most games. From 1986 up through the present, Shawn Kemp is the NBA’s leader in foul outs with 115, 35 more than his next closest competitor.
The runaway favorite here has to be Jared Sullinger. Last year he fouled out eight times in just 45 games before being shut down for the rest of the season with an injury. Sullinger will no longer have the luxury of Kevin Garnett as a defensive back-stop, putting even more pressure on him to execute crisp defensive rotations. There will certainly be some growth carrying over from his rookie season but he fouled at such a prodigious rate last year that it’s hard to imagine anyone else keeping up with him.
The Jahidi White Award – This award goes to the player with the lowest ratio of Ast/FGA (minimum 300 minutes played). The award is named for White who assisted on just 1.7% of his teammates’ baskets over a 334 game career.
JaVale McGee has won this award the last two seasons and there’s no reason to think he won’t be leading the pack again this year. Setting aside his inadequacies as a passer and ball-handler, he plays in an offense where his only responsibility is to catch and finish. But if you’re looking for a dark horse candidate besides McGee, look no further than Bismack Biyombo. He assisted on just 2.5% of the Bobcats’ baskets when he was on the floor last season and has enough problems just catching the ball that getting it back out to an open shooter is usually a bridge to far.
The Darrick Martin Award - This award goes to the player with the lowest FG% and a minimum of 150 attempts. The award is named for Darrick Martin, a career 38.2% shooter who played 514 games over 13 NBA seasons.
This is an award that rarely has repeat winners, because those who win often aren’t given the opportunity to meet the minimum number of field goal attempts the following season. However Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley are two strong possibilities. Both hovered around 40.0% all last season, but will have the opportunity for big minutes and plenty of shots on a rebuilding Celtics’ squad with Rajon Rondo out to begin the year. The same thinking would lead you to the Lakers’ wing rotation where players like Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Wes Johnson and Xavier Henry will all be trying to carry the perimeter offense until Kobe Bryant returns. One other possibility is Marquis Teague, who shot just 38.1% last season and could see more minutes this year as the Bulls try to assess his potential or showcase him for a trade.
The Jason Kidd Award – This award goes to the player with the most turnovers in a single game. Jason Kidd has had a Hall of Fame career with many terrific positive statistical contributions. He’s also had 3 career games with more than 12 turnovers.
If you were going to design an ideal candidate for this award it would have to be someone who carries a huge offensive load for their team. It would have to be someone who’s team is right on the edge of competitiveness, where just making the playoffs turns every game into a must-win and necessitates forceful overreaching. It would have to be someone who appears to believe that their own offensive talents are nearly infallible and they’re their team’s best option on every possession. If that someone also happened to have a catastrophic injury to recover from, forcing themselves to confront their own NBA mortality, well that would be hard a hard combination to beat.
But I suppose it doesn’t have to be Kobe Bryant. Carmelo Anthony could probably pull it off as well.
The Matt Bullard Award – This award goes to the player 6’10″ or taller with the lowest Total Rebound Percentage. (Minimum 300 minutes)
Steve Novak. Andrea Bargnani. Danilo Gallinari. Hedo Turkoglu. Matt Bonner. This award is always one of the most hotly contested and this year should be no different. All your old favorites are licking their chops but don’t take your eye off of Donatas Motiejunas. The second-year power forward should be playing big minutes for the Rockets and has the right mix of perimeter focus, slight build, and fantastic rebounders as teammates. If he ends up winning this award he’ll definitely have Dwight Howard and Omer Asik to thank for it.
The Kobe Bryant Award – This award goes to the player who has missed the most shot attempts in a single game. The award is inspired by Kobe’s performance in Game 7 of the 09-10 Finals.
Kobe Bryant. If you’re curious about my reasoning, go back and reread The Jason Kidd Award.
The Nick Anderson Award - This award goes to the player who missed the most free throws in a single game. Anderson was actually a decent free throw shooter. But his four missed free throw attempts in the 1995 Finals against Houston kind of stand out in my memory.
This has been Dwight Howard’s award every year since it’s inception, but for the first time there is a real challenger in the field. Andre Drummond shot a jaw-dropping 37.1% on free throws last year. He only attempted 2.7 per game, but with a big increase in minutes and offensive responsibility this season there will be plenty of opportunities for him to rack up the double-digit misses it will take to challenge Howard. It will be exciting to finally have some competition here for once.
The Chris Childs Award – This award goes to the player who has posted the highest Turnover Percentage so far this season. It’s named after former New York Knick Chris Childs, who retired with a career Turnover Percentage of 22.8%. (Minimum 300 minutes)
Call me crazy, but this year I feel really strongly about Pablo Prigioni. He finished third las season, turning it over on 27.1% of his possessions. To me it feels like the Knicks moved backwards a little this offseason and I smell chaos in the air. Organizational chaos breeds on the court chaos and Prigioni is chaos incarnate. Sometimes that chaos manifests in something beautiful and unanticipated. But I’m guessing that about a third of the time this season that chaos will manifest in a pass whizzing out of bounds, past the outstretched arms of Andrea Bargnani.
The Andrea Bargnani Award (Formerly the Darius Songaila Award)– This award goes to the player who has provided his team with the least overall production. I use Wins Produced to determine the winner here. (Minimum 300 minutes)
This award is always difficult to project because team circumstance always plays such a significant role in keeping a horrifically unproductive player on the court. If circumstance is the deciding factor than I think it’s safe to assume that the winner of this award will likely come from the Sixers. Scrolling through the roster there are plenty of interesting candidates – Spencer Hawes, the center with a penchant for mid-range jumpers, Kwame Brown, the center with an aversion to positive basketball plays, Royce White, the . . . I’m not sure how to finish this sentence.
But I’ve got my money on Michael Carter-Williams. He’s likely the team’s starting point guard and one with a future legitimately bright enough that he’ll play no matter how bad the immediate results. He’s also a shaky shooter with a turnover problem who will find himself handed the brand new responsibility of running an NBA offense.
This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!
When I was a kid, Kobe Bryant was my favorite basketball player. I loved his baby fro, his behind-the-back dribble, his windmills, his tomahawks and his fadeaways.
Things are different now. Kobe is different now, several times over.
Remember 2002? That’s when the Kobe-Shaq Lakers won the last of their three championships. There was no need to anoint the next Jordan. Kobe had anointed himself with each fadeaway and fist pump.
But the narrative fell apart just two years later. The Lakers, coming off a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, assembled a super team of sorts, adding aged versions of future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Stunningly, the Lakers lost to the no-name Detroit Pistons in the 2004 Finals, Kobe’s bursts to the basket stifled by a mess of limbs called Tayshaun Prince, backed by a pair of scowling Wallaces.
After that, Kobe and Shaq divorced. Shaq got custody of me (He has since lost me by ruining ‘Inside the NBA’). Kobe had changed. He would not be a sidewalk any longer. He was still changing. Soon, the fro was gone. This was a New Kobe. He went from No. 8 to No. 24. He got a bunch of tattoos. He got rid of Phil Jackson. He scored 81 points. He got rid of Rudy Tomjanovich. He stopped passing to teammates in the playoffs. This new Kobe wasn’t pretty.
But the Lakers always come back. Phil Jackson came back. The Lakers seemingly swindled their way into Pau Gasol (though Marc turned out to be pretty good himself). New Kobe became New New Kobe. He started trusting his teammates. It helped that they were better. Aside from Pau, there was Lamar Odom, at the peak of his do-it-all powers; Metta World Peace, still ferocious on defense and a neverending element of surprise; and Andrew Bynum, in a spring thaw between catastrophic knee injuries. New New Kobe won two rings and banished most of the demons of the divorce.
Things got weird after that. The Lakers got swept aside in Dallas’ magical 2011 championship run. Andrew Bynum took his shirt off for some reason and Phil Jackson retired. And after a decade of the Lakers being the most arresting storyline in the NBA, suddenly people couldn’t stop talking about the Miami Heat.
They still won’t stop, at least not because of the Lakers. Last year may go down as one of the most dysfunctional in Lakers history. Everyone suddenly looked old: Pau, Metta, Antawn Jamison and Steve Nash all had down years. Even Dwight Howard, the young star the Lakers hoped would replace Bynum, and eventually, Bryant, looked sluggish, still bothered by a lingering back injury. Everyone except Kobe. The 34-year-old had one of his most efficient shooting seasons in years and with Nash missing almost half the season, ran Mike D’Antoni‘s offense for long stretches of the year.
But the weight was apparently too much to bear. Kobe tore his Achilles tendon in April. The Spurs crushed the Lakers in four games in the playoffs. Dwight left. Metta was cut lose.
When the Lakers start the 2013-14 season, Jach Nicholson will still be sitting courtside. But he’ll look out on opening night and see one of the worst Laker lineups in years. Yes, he’ll see Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, but also Chris Kaman, Nick Young and Jodie Meeks. It’s been almost a decade since Kaman played all 82 games. His 48% career FG% is not impressive for a center, and he’s slower than Dwight Howard, even with a bad back. He’s no savior. Nick Young is an unrepentant chucker. I can’t see Mike D’Antoni getting him to repent. Jodie Meeks is a solid young role player. He would look great playing alongside Kobe. He will look less great in Kobe’s starting spot.
It’s unclear when Kobe will return to fill the void. Last year he was the best Laker. This year, he will have to be again. An Achilles tendon tear is a catastrophic injury, even for a professional athlete. Kobe is reportedly ahead of his recovery schedule and he has a magic doctor in Germany to rejuvenate his knee, but when he returns, don’t expect him to be New New New Kobe. Each generation of Kobe Bryant has added something new: that Jordan fadeaway, that Hakeem post game, that Phil Jackson Zen. Now, he’s just trying to get back on the court. Now, he might just be old Kobe. And that Kobe, and this edition of the Lakers, might struggle again just to make the playoffs, even assuming Pau and Nash stay healthy.
These weekly roundtables have quickly become a part of our weekly routines and we have every intention of extending through the rest of this barren offseason and right into the season proper. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are. Don’t forget to check out question 6, which asks for answers from you, the readers.
Editor’s Note: Daniel Lewis wrote this week’s questions so I would have a chance to participate.
1. Which currently injured player will have the biggest absence this season?
Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): I see this from the angle of which player’s absence now will have the biggest impact when we look back on the entire season. For that reason Kobe and Westbrook are out because I think the Thunder and Lakers will ultimately find themselves in about the same places as if Kobe and Westbrook had been available for these first few weeks. But Rondo’s absence could shape the Celtics present and future. If he was here and healthy there’s a chance this team becomes competitive. At the very least development would be sped up for some of the young pieces and nearly everyone would look a lot better with Rondo steering the ship. But since he’s gone they’ll struggle more profoundly, development will be slowed and his absence will probably make him less important to the Celtics’ plan moving forward because they’ll have been given a big shove towards the top of the lottery. If he was here this rebuild might move faster and actually be built around him. Instead it seems more likely that things will be taken slowly and Rondo could finish the year with a new team.
Cole Patty (@ColePatty): Strange answer, but Emeka Okafor. Kobe and Rondo are on teams that I don’t think are playoff bound even with them, so it’s better that their respective teams can lose more without the them. The Thunder can float without Westbrook for the short span — comparatively speaking – he should be out. The Wizards were fifth in Defensive Rating last season, and Okafor was a huge part of that. Without Emeka, the identity of Washington is skewed, and a playoff hopeful team now has many more questions in the front court.
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): Russell Westbrook. We saw what happened to Oklahoma City’s offense when Westbrook is out of the lineup last year in the playoffs, and those problems should be compounded by Kevin Martin’s departure. Kevin Durant is an amazing scorer, but his efficiency saw a major drop-off in the Memphis series last spring. If Durant is the team’s only reliable scoring option, we could see the Thunder dropping games early in the season that they probably wouldn’t otherwise, and with the top of the conference expected to be so competitive, every win counts.
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): Kobe Bryant. Did you see Zach Lowe has them in his ‘shitty teams’ tier? If Bryant was healthy, nuh uh no way now how. The gap between Kobe and Jodie Meeks isn’t so much as a gap but rather a chasm populated by nations of people who haven’t made contact with each other because the chasm is so large and full of natural barriers like mountains and oceans.
Kevin Ferrigan (@NBACouchside): I’m going with Rondo, if only because the Celtics have such an incredibly bad roster without him. Rondo’s a competitive dude, but I think he’s different from Kobe in that he sees the writing on the wall and isn’t going to rush to come back. Kobe still thinks he can come back and drag this terrible Lakers roster to the playoffs. So I’m guessing Rondo stays out longer than Kobe and as a result, he’s got a longer and thus bigger absence. Cole’s answer has some merit, though, as the C’s and Lakers both have almost no chance of making the playoffs even with their star players returning. The Wizards are right on that playoff bubble, but with Okafor missing any significant amount of time, it gets harder to see them beating out the Atlanta, Detroit, Toronto, or Cleveland for one of those final 3 playoff spots.
Andy Liu (AndyKHLiu): Biggest means amount that we care? That has to be Russell Westbrook, right? The amount of reactions and reactions to those overreactions will be enough to blow our brains out a month into the season. But the biggest loss? Kobe Bryant. I get the fun stuff with Nick Young and the new guys, but yeah, they’re going to suck more than The Walking Dead this season.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): Russell Westbrook. I think Westbrook is one of the best eight or so players in the league so this one was pretty easy. We saw how important Westbrook was when he missed the end of the Thunder postseason last year and now OKC is without Kevin Martin. Kevin Durant will keep the Thunder offense passable but when Westbrook returns it will be elite. That difference will probably cost the Thunder a game or two early and with how tough the top of the West is this season that may cost them home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
We still have nearly two months until the return of actual NBA basketball games. If you’re like me that feels like an interminable stretch, a monumental journey across a nightmarish, post-apocalyptic landscape. The staff of Hickory-High has been languishing as well, struggling to preserve an oasis of creativity in this arid hellscape. I decided to share some of the meager reserves I’ve been rationing and tossed out a few questions to be discussed, roundtable-style. Here’s what we’ve got.
1. Last week Michael Beasley was bought out by the Phoenix Suns. I won’t ask you to rehash the circumstances of his departure from Phoenix, or wade into the incredibly complicated and ultimately unknowable question of whether his career is salvageable. But at this point, would you be interested in having your team take a flyer on him?
Kris Fenrich (@dancingwithnoah): Yes, I’d be interested in having him on my squad as long as there’s some level of veteran influence. If I’m the Bobcats or Sixers or Kings, no thanks. If I’m Memphis or Brooklyn , let’s roll them dice.
David Vertsberger (@_Verts): I’ll have to take a pass. If by ‘your team’ you mean my favorite team, well let’s just say the last thing the Knicks need is a patch-up job for a troubled young player.
Jacob Frankel (@jacob_frankel): There’s never really any harm in a one year deal. I wouldn’t want a young team to pick him up but I see no ways in which it hurts an established team.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): My team? No. The Raptors are not exactly a stable franchise that can take on a player with this sort of baggage. That being said, if you gave me an elite level franchise/ownership, I’d at least bring him in for a look. He’s 6’19” and athletic, something that has the ability to speak louder than any past transgression. Still only 24 years of age, Beasley is a 14-and-5 guy who has (in theory) untapped potential. I get that the off the floor stuff is troubling to say the least, but in a vacuum, is he more of a risk that Greg Oden?
Cole Patty (@ColePatty): Most teams, I say yes. People are worried about the kind of pull Beasley would have in a locker room, but I feel like someone like Anthony Bennett would listen to Kyrie Irving 99 times before he takes any Beasley advice. NBA players – like any profession ever – have had some sticky situations, but I’m sure young players are fully aware, or could be made aware, of what kind of trouble Beasley has gotten himself into. There are many risks that can be worse than fielding him on your team as a 13th man at a minimum salary for the year to see if he gets it.
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): Totally. Perhaps this is a product of cheering for terrible teams for years, you find things that distract you from how poorly you’re doing in the win-loss column. Beasley has a real bummer of a narrative, but none of us really know a whole lot about what makes the dude tick (EXHIBIT A). He won’t cost much, and at worst he is a more colorful, talented, fun version of the flotsam available still.
Andrew Koo (@akoo): On a good team, give him a strict rotation role. If he doesn’t cost much, there’s minimal harm in a tryout. Easy enough to cut him.
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): Sure, if you’re a team that enjoys terrible shot selection and lack of defense. Luckily, my team isn’t the New York Knicks. In all seriousness, the Warriors could use someone of Beas’ potential and ability to create for himself. There aren’t many, or any, iso players from the perimeter on the team. And given the strong leadership and core (MJax, Curry, Lee), there’s a chance he could pan out. I just don’t want to find out, no matter the cost.
Kevin Ferrigan (@nbacouchside): Yes. The talent is there, and with the risk being so low- a roster spot and likely minimum salary money- it’s basically a no lose proposition. I’m almost always in favor of betting on talent, unless the talented person is some sort of terrible monster, which Beasley is certainly not. He’s more of a misguided soul, in my view, than a bad guy.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): I can’t think of an environment in which Beasley could perform well today. He appears to be uninterested in playing for a losing team, but why should a winning team waste a roster spot on a guy who’s two years removed from being merely a league-average player? At this point it’s too difficult to forecast his physical upside (there once was plenty) and mental upside (if there is any) to even consider signing him to a minimum deal. I’d let another team take a flyer on him.
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): No.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): Definitely not on the Bucks. They just purged the locker room of some obviously bad chemistry and are clearly trying to bring in good, stable people to influence guys like Larry Sanders and John Henson. Beas is clearly the farthest thing from stable. Also the guy pulled the Mookie Blaylock (hat tip to Andrew Lynch for the term) and had more shot attempts then points scored last year so I wonder if the talent is actually still there.
2. Which connective tissue has more pressure on it going into the 2013-2014 season – Russell Westbrook’s ACL or Kobe Bryant’s achilles?
Fenrich: I’m not really sure what this means. The Lakers have the look and feel of a lame duck season while OKC’s going to be in the competitive mix out west. OKC needs Russell’s ACL more than LA needs Kobe’s achilles.
Frankel: Westbrook’s and it isn’t close. Count me shocked if the Lakers win more than 35 games.
Soppe: Kobe and the Lakers will put more pressure on him to return, but the answer here is Westbrook. Westbrook and the Thunder can be title contenders when he is right, and that’s a lot of pressure. That being said, they are a playoff team without him, so the pressure is more long term than anything. Pressure is felt when one has something to lose. The Thunder could lose a shot at taking down the potentially dynastic Heat. Kobe has nothing to lose, as we expect the Lakers to struggle and for him to try to carry them. If he fails, it’s the rosters fault. If he succeeds, we all hail Kobe. That’s not pressure.
Patty: Westbrook, but I also really don’t think the Lakers will be relevant in May unless they are next to the name Andrew Wiggins.
Koo: Westbrook. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kobe plays less games though.
Liu: Pressure to succeed? Westbrook. He’s on a playoff team. Pressure to push himself to play a certain amount of games or to score a certain amount of points? Kobe.
Ferrigan: This one seems pretty simple. It’s Westbrook’s knee. The Thunder are legitimate contenders to win the title, whereas the Lakers almost certainly won’t make the playoffs.
Karalla: Westbrook’s ACL. Westbrook’s entire game is predicated on his unbelievable athleticism. If his knee problem limits his explosiveness, OKC will have a hard time competing in a stacked West. Even if Kobe comes back at full strength on opening night, the Lakers still probably won’t make the playoffs. There’s no pressure there.
Cianfrone: Westbrook. With THE Westbrook we have grown accustomed to seeing the Thunder are title contenders. Without that version of him or better, they are still really good but I don’t think they could realistically be considered title contenders.
Redford: Westbrook. There’s been a lot of guff about how the Thunder are slipping and could fall victim to their now highly-motivated ex-compatriot in Houston. Narrative-wise, Westbrook’s knee is essential to any chance the Thunder have of reasserting superiority, whereas there are almost no real expectations of greatness or even goodness for L.A.
3. O.J. Mayo and Monta Ellis essentially swapped places. Who landed in a better situation? Which team is better off?
Fenrich: This is an apples and oranges thing. Not to turn this into a civic issue, but Ellis landed in a better city. The brief time I spent in Milwaukee was unilluminating. A traffic cop hassled me for jaywalking across a trafficless street at midnight on a weeknight. But Mayo didn’t go there because Milwaukee’s tough on crime. He went there for the money whereas Ellis took a paycut to go to Dallas. I think what we have here is a case of young men with divergent motives. “Better” means different things for each man. And the same can be applied to the teams.
Frankel: I’ve actually grown a fair bit on the Ellis signing in Dallas. He should play off Dirk well, won’t be the primary option in the offense, and I think Rick Carlisle will reign in his shot selection a bit. Mayo may be the top option on the Bucks offense, which makes me shudder.
Soppe: Ellis is probably in the better situation, but is either team any better off? Mayo is two years younger, so I guess I like what Dallas did better? I’ve got very little faith in either one of these “professional bucket getters”, so if you assume both volume shooters play to the same age, the Mavs sped up the cleansing process by two years. In all seriousness, I would prefer Mayo as a player, I just don’t think this swap moves the needle much for either squad.
Patty: I’ll take Mayo, if only because he’s younger and statistically had a decent year for the Mavericks last season. I don’t know if either player will actually get it, but I really don’t see teaching an old Monta new tricks anytime soon. Even if Mayo is just as apathetic on defense as he has been in the past, Larry Sanders playing behind him should help. Plus, I’ll take a guy who shot 40% from three over any long-two aficionado.
Koo: Dallas is the better situation as long as Dirk plays. I’m not sure Milwaukee wins 30 games. Ellis in Dallas with Rick Carlisle is an interesting season storyline. Maybe this is trusting Cuban and co. too much, but they wouldn’t have signed him to be that same player, right?
Ferrigan: Monta went to a team with an established, if aging, superstar and a good shot at the Western playoffs. O.J. went to a hot mess of a team in the Bucks, who I’d be surprised to see win 35 games this year. I’d say Monta wins because, though the longer term picture for both teams is pretty mediocre, Dallas will more than likely be better.
Karalla: From a lifestyle standpoint, the only places I’d rather live in America if I made $8 million per year than Dallas, are New York and L.A. Maybe Miami. On the floor, Dallas is the better situation and quite honestly it’s not close. It’s unclear if Dirk’s game will mesh immediately with Monta’s, but Dirk has never had a problem making adjustments to play with a small guard. Dirk, when healthy, had Dallas playing 50-win ball during the second half of last season with a roster that by comparison to this year’s was pitiful. Sanders and Knight are nice pieces, but I’d rather play for three years in Dallas with Carlisle and Old Dirk than four years in Milwaukee.
Cianfrone: Honestly I am not sure either situation is all that good but I guess since Dirk is the best player on either team Monta is in the better one. But by virtue of no longer having Monta the Bucks are better off. But the real winners and losers in this swap are Ian and I. He now has to watch plenty of Monta in Dallas which is pretty terrible and I get Monta off my favorite team and can probably not worry about hating basketball when the Bucks play. I can’t wait.
Liu: Monta Ellis. He doesn’t have to do more than he has to, though I’m sure he’ll want to. The Mavericks will be sneaky good while the Bucks will be blatantly bad.
Redford: Monta. There are a lot of guard-bros on the Mavs, but they likely won’t push Monta too hard for minutes. Plus playing with Dirk and Carlisle always helps. Meanwhile, Mayo is guaranteed slightly more touches, but there’s something too nonsensical about Milwaukee to convince that this is more than a pile of tires about to be set on fire.
4. Brandon Knight and Brandon Jennings. Same question.
Fenrich: These older, upper-midwestern cities just depress me. I already referenced my Milwaukee experience. I also got lost in a parking lot after a Brewers game once and needed a stadium employee to give me a lift in a golf cart to help me find my car. Detroit is depressing for obvious reasons. When I think about Detroit and Milwaukee, I picture post-industrial wastelands where the sun’s been blotted out by lingering smog from long dead and rusted out factories. I don’t think hope is riding into town on the backs of Brandon Jennings or Brandon Knight. Hoop-wise, I’m more interested in the cozy relationship between Joe Dumars and his former assistant GM, John Hammond who’s now running the Bucks. I wonder how the politics of their personal relationship could bleed into their professional relationship.
Soppe: I prefer adding Knight as a piece to the future to Jennings, but Detroit is in better shape here.The Pistons are building an odd roster, but I trust Big Shot Billups and believe he’s got as good a chance to help develop a still raw Jennings as anybody.
Patty: I’ll take Jennings, which sucks to feel like I’m writing a 21 year-old Knight off so soon. This is more about Jennings however, and how I feel he has become slightly underrated. He’s a much better passer than Knight and his efficiency was killed by playing such a huge offensive role in Milwaukee. On a team that has more offensive options – even if most come close to the basket – I like his potential improvements with less usage.
Ferrigan: Jennings is more talented than Knight, and the Pistons’ roster is now more talented than the Bucks by a pretty clear margin. Jennings running pick and rolls with Andre Drummond should be pretty fun. Fit-wise, there are some worrying things with Jennings and Josh Smith’s potential for chucking and bricklaying, but hopefully having more talent around him will make Jennings more judicious with his shot selection, even if already we know it won’t stop Josh from continuing to lob up ill-advised J’s.
Karalla: Detroit is in better shape in the short-term. Now that Jennings finally has a couple bigs to feed, he might not feel the need to jack up six 3s a night… OK, OK, who am I kidding? He’ll still let ‘em fly, but Drummond and Monroe will be there to eat up the leftovers. Milwaukee, meanwhile, might be able to find a decent offensive rhythm now that every possession won’t end in a forced 20-footer, but if I’m Knight, I’d wish I was still in Detroit.
Cianfrone: Jennings is in the much better situation. Remember as a rookie with a healthy Andrew Bogut behind him Brandon was actually at least an average defender if not better. The past few years he was miscast as a number one option and the frustration was evident. Now as the third guy things may go back to that rookie year. Honestly I hope so because I really like the guy. Detroit clearly is the better situation too. The team is more talented and should have a clear offensive hierarchy which will put Jennings behind Josh Smith and Greg Monroe and should curb some of his bad shots. If he at least makes efforts again on defense the Pistons should be a playoff team.
Liu: Brandon Jennings will now have the ability to brick not one jump shot, but two in a single possession, thanks to Smith, Drummond and Monroe manning the boards. Also, the pick-and-rolls and defensive prowess will cover many of Jennings’ flaws. Ultimately, talent wins out. It usually does.
Redford: Definitely Jennings. Unlike the Bucks, Detroit makes sense and has a heap of talented contributors in the fold now, rather than a set of skinny dudes with potential. Jennings is the perfect dose of pyrotechnics on a team that’s been too earthbound for a while.
5. Challenge: Convince me that DeMarcus Cousins is anything but a heaping pile of inefficiency, in ten words or less.
Vertsberger: If you say he is he will dunk on you.
Fenrich: Inefficient production is still production … you just need more.
Frankel: 20 points per 36 minutes on 47% shooting. Lots of offensive rebounds.
Soppe: 20-10-5 upside in the right situation/city.
Patty: Efficiency is hard in Sacramento.
Redford: Numbers are boring. Celebrate subversives. Fun matters.
Ferrigan: Rightly or wrongly, teams double him. Opens opportunities for teammates.
Karalla: Almost unfair to judge him when playing for that franchise.
Conlin: “Inefficient” and “not valuable” should not be synonymous.
Cianfrone: What Cole said.
Liu: Trade him to the Spurs.
6. Which problem would you rather have – trying to create offensive spacing in Detroit with Jennings, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe? Or trying to defend the rim in Los Angeles (Clippers) with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Byron Mullens and Ryan Hollins?
Fenrich: Oh, if I could pick and choose all my problems in life. In this wonderful world you’ve dreamt up, I’d take the Pistons problem. Offensive spacing is something that can be taught, drilled, repeated, learned. Defensive protection is more dependent on the opposition and with the Clippers, the opposition is led by the great deceiver, Chris Paul.
Soppe: I’d rather work with the Pistons offense. With this option, you have a fallback plan: just roll the ball out there. Spacing would be tough, but maybe the lack of space will finally give J-Smoove some sort of limited area to work, increasing his efficiency in the process. On the flip side, if you don’t have the bodies to matchup with Lob City, what in the world are you supposed to do? I guess you go with one of two plans: foul them every time or hope they foul you every time on the other end. Either way, that mixture of size and athleticism is something I want no part of defending. In this day and age of social media, the odds of a poorly run pick and roll is a lot less likely to define your legacy than an … uhhh … Brandon Knight moment.
Patty: One of these teams has CP3, but this is a vacuum question. I’ll take the spacing issues in a vacuum because the Pacers and Grizzlies just had playoff success with this set of problems. Spacing makes the game beautiful and for that we love it, but not being able to protect your own rim can get any team in a heap of trouble in a hurry. I’m also really interested in what any coach not named Vinny Del Negro can do with DeAndre Jordan.
Ferrigan: I’d rather have that Pistons problem. Although, I will say that Blake Griffin and DeAndre are rather underrated defensive players. Not perfect or anything, but they are not nearly as bad as their reps suggest. It’s more holdover from being awful when they were younger, I think. Plus, most people look worse when Vinny Del Negro is their head coach. Just look at how much Derrick Rose improved defensively once VDN was sent packing.
Karalla: I’d rather have the Pistons’ problem. Even if those four guys don’t run a single set all game, they’d each still score at least 12-14 points every night. The Clippers play in a conference with a dominant interior team (Memphis), a phenomenal pick-and-roll team (San Antonio) and a team with perhaps the best isolation center in the game (Houston), all of which demand excellent post defense. It’s difficult to envision the Clippers beating any of those teams in a seven-game series without someone to protect the rim, let alone worrying about LeBron in a potential Finals matchup.
Conlin: In previous years, teams like Miami and Washington (2013 version) and Philadelphia (2012 version) have shown that well-coached defenses can find ways to close off the paint and the front of the rim through non-traditional means. For that reason, I’d rather have the Clippers problem. It seems like it’s easier to construct a cohesive defensive unit than it is to manufacture space on offense.
Cianfrone: Give me the Clippers front line but just barely. This time last year it seemed like Larry Sanders may be on his way out of the league. Then the games started and he suddenly became one of the best rim protectors in the game. Sometimes bigs just take time and maybe this year with Doc Rivers at the helm DAJ finally gets it.
Liu: Would I rather coach a playoff team with championship aspirations and talent or a middling fringe contender in the crapshoot portion of the Eastern Conference? I’ll take the team with Chris Paul, even if he doesn’t tangibly help defend the rim. As for the question itself, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin have the talent to protect the rim, in theory. Detroit can’t shoot and that’s hard to fix, given that their big men aren’t high-IQ guys anyway. That Memphis solution isn’t happening. Give me the team that actually has the talent to fix their problems.
Redford: The one that involves Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Spacing and rim-protecting are essential tasks, but both can be softened with strengths in other areas. I would feel much more confident if I could soften my team’s problem with Chris Paul.
7. Brad Stevens, first ballot Hall-of-Famer?
Fenrich: Assuming he’s getting in for contributions as a pro coach, the odds have to be significantly stacked against Stevens. To be a first ballot guy, he’s got to win a title — or multiple titles — or die at a young age, promise unfulfilled. Without researching, I don’t think there have been many college coaches who won pro championships. Larry Brown is the only guy who comes to mind. So here’s to hoping for a long, healthy, non-first ballot life for Brad Stevens.
Soppe: To my knowledge, no member of the Hall-of-Fame has lacked the ability to grow facial hair. If he accomplishes that feat, I don’t see why not. At the very least, he has a long leash given the Celtics offseason moves, so he won’t flame out. That being said, he needs to succeed sooner rather than later, it doesn’t take long for people to forget about success at the college level.
Patty: Likely not, because we get many washout coaches before any Hall-of-Famers. I’m just going to say yes, but just because he’s a stats guy that I’ve always liked.
Redford: Who is Brad Stevens?
Ferrigan: Can we let him coach one pro game before we ask insane questions like this? Okay, like probably more than one. Many. I’d like to see many, many games before I even begin to contemplate such a question. I’m on his side, though, just because he listens to and incorporates quantitative analysis of the game into his coaching approach.
Karalla: I wonder what he’d have to accomplish to get in on the first ballot. Two consecutive Final Fours in college is a heck of a feat. He’d have to win at least one or two titles, but unfortunately because of Boston’s dreadful roster he might get canned before he gets the chance to build a consistent contender.
Cianfrone: Predicting coaches is really hard so I will say no. But he seems to be the kind of guy who has a chance to be really good. The fact that he buys into analytics in this day and age is huge and he has proven he can win with inferior talent, even if it was at the college level. It may take a bit of time but I am actually kind of excited to see what he can do with a talented roster.
Liu: I’m all-in on Stevens. College success doesn’t portend pro success. A roster filled to the brim with no-namers means a tanking season for the Celtics. And yet, a guy that is only 36 years old (just 5 years older than Gerald Wallace), was one of the best leaders in college hoops. Take a look at this. So no matter how hard it is to project not just his coaching, but the players that come through Boston in his career, I expect him to lead, and win. If it isn’t Boston, it’ll be somewhere else.
With the major free agency moves behind us and teams starting to take shape for the upcoming season, some oddities are beginning to stick out roster-wise. Whether it be a cluster of players at the same position, the wrong type of player in a certain role or just plain quizzical moves, this free agency period like the rest have spawned a number of questions surrounding most teams in the league. Let’s break it down, shall we?
The Hawks’ Starting Wing
Who are the Hawks going to start alongside Kyle Korver on the wing? Jeff Teague, newly-signed Paul Millsap the improving Al Horford and Korver have cemented their spots in the starting five, but who’s the missing piece? Young pieces Jared Cunningham and John Jenkins are both far too inexperienced and well, bad. Meanwhile DeShawn Stevenson has long outgrown his prime. An option is starting rookie Dennis Schroeder in a dual-point guard lineup, such as the Hawk so often did with Teague and Devin Harris. Another is starting Elton Brand and going big with Millsap at the small forward position, which I discussed at HawksHoop.com.
The Boston Celtics
The whole team. All of them. Just… what? The team’s obviously rebuilding, with maybe a handful of players on this roster being ones they are looking to keep for the future. Where Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries – the two former Nets – fit into this rotation wise is beyond me. It’s just a mess.
The Kirilenko-Pierce Dilemma
Who do the Nets start, Andrei Kirilenko or Paul Pierce? Well, who starts isn’t actually the biggest problem. Who’s going to play the most minutes at the 3? Who’s going to be on the floor in tight games? Each have their pros and cons, there’s no silver lining here. Start Kirilenko and you actually might not have a horrible defensive team, start Pierce and your spacing will be much improved. It would have been ideal for both to be able to play together, but with their playing the same position and All-Stars blanketing the rest of Brooklyn’s brand spanking new starting five, this doesn’t seem to be possible.
The Charlotte Bobcats
The Cavaliers’ Frontcourt
Roll call! Talented young big men, listen for your name! Number one draft pick Anthony Bennett? Here! Improving fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson? Present! Injury-prone rebounding machine Anderson Varejao? Aqui! The second-best center in the league a couple of years ago, Andrew Bynum? Strike! An underdeveloped center who was tossed into the meat-grinder last year yet somehow played well, Tyler Zeller? Here! That Los Angeles Laker that quietly looked good, Earl Clark? Here! Okay now form a single file line, where Mike Brown will try to figure how who the hell will start, play, or ride the bench.
The Denver Nuggets
7/23/13 – Police continue to search for two missing Denver Nugget front office personnel. The first is one George Karl, last seen hoisting a Coach of the Year trophy and getting knocked out of the first round of the Playoffs. The other is upstart GM Masai Ujiri, last seen in Toronto being awesome. If you have seen any of these two men, please report your findings to the police. There is a cash reward waiting.
Smoove at the 3
The Pistons made their splash this offseason with the signing of one Josh Smith, mid-range shawty with a knack for playing terrific all-around defense. He, sophomore Andre Drummond and potential All-Star Greg Monroe all are potent starters, meaning J-Smoove will have to play the small forward spot. Thing is, it’s not his ideal position and will effectively kill offensive spacing. Smith is a 28% career three-point shooter and is best when taking on larger and slower players at the four. He can defend all five positions on the floor though, so at the very least Detroit will have quite the defense and a whole lot of dunks.
A minor quip, but Douglas is replacing Jarrett Jack as the Warriors’ back-up point guard. Although Douglas will bring the defense that starter Stephen Curry doesn’t, Jack oftentimes found himself playing alongside the sharp-shooting Curry and feeding him the ball as he would a wing. Douglas doesn’t have the distribution skills of a Jarrett Jack, hell he nearly ended his possessions in a turnover as much as he did in an assist. The Dubs often went to this look in tight games, and it opened up easy looks for Curry and was overall quite effective for the team so long as Jack wasn’t hoisting mid-range jumpers left and right. In all likelihood we’ll see Andre Iguodala take on this role, but it would have been much easier for the Warriors to have seeked out a better playmaker.
What the heck do the Pacers do with Danny Granger? 4 years ago he put up 26 a night on a 58% true-shooting clip, but then regressed and was strapped to the bench last season due to a tough knee injury. Now young Paul George has stolen the franchise face of Indiana basketball, and Granger could very well be effective next year, but the two play the same position. This is the last year of Granger’s deal, does he get traded? Does he start alongside George? Does he come off the bench, where the Pacers desperately needed help from last year? We shall see.
Kobe Bryant and Nick Young on the Floor Together
SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS EVERYBODY!
Despite this issue, the Grizzlies made it to the Western Conference Finals. Problem being, it’s hard to see them go further if this problem goes untouched. The Spurs were able to leave Memphis’s Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to go help out down low because the two couldn’t find the bottom of the net if they had their game sliders up in 2K. This will make it all but impossible for the Grizzlies to see the NBA Finals or a championship, and there aren’t many answers. Allen may be a trade asset but he is also Memphis’s best perimeter defender. Prince isn’t someone teams are trying to nab via trade and the young Quincy Pondexter has yet to develop the viable defensive prowess to make him a 3-and-D starter candidate.
All of Milwaukee’s Bigs
What were they thinking? You sign a boatload of bigs then trade the one who has a ton of defensive upside and the best name in basketball? I’m eager to hear how a frontcourt rotation of LARRY SANDERS!, Gustavo Ayon, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh will be divided.
The Gordon-Evans Dilemma
The Pelicans signe Tyreke Evans to an $11 million deal this summer, and their intentions with him are unclear. Current starting two (Evans’ primary position) Eric Gordon has injury question marks, but until he’s out, Evans has no true role. He refuses to play small forward, so starting him beside Gordon would be a mistake. Having him come off the bench would be paying a player $11 million a year just to be a sixth man, which is unprecedented especially when you consider just how good of a player Evans is.
The Bargnani-Stoudemire Comedy Show
As of the Knicks’ rotation at the moment, New York has two off-the-bench big men. Andrea Bargnani, a shooting 7-footer who can neither defend or rebound and Amar’e Stoudemire, a non-defending 6’11” big man with the knees of a 70-year old. With no other options to turn to – unless Jeremy Tyler somehow makes the team and jumps ahead of either player on the depth chart – these two will be manning the bench frontcourt for the Knicks. There is the possibility of the Knicks starting one of the two, which would be catastrophic any way you look at it. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the future. Listen closely. You will hear players dribbling by the Knicks’ bigs and finishing with easy slams. There it is again. And again. And again…
It’s time again for The NBA Anti-Awards! These awards (playfully) recognize some of the most miserable and discouraging statistical achievements in basketball. The basketball analytics movement has been evolving and using visual and graphic representations to communicate data has become more and more important. I tried to add some of those visual components to the final awards this season, really emphasizing the ugliness of the numbers.
This is also the 3rd season in which I’ve handed out these awards, and so I’ve created an archive page where you can find past winners. Continue the conversation (yell at me about not appreciating Kobe) on Twitter with the hashtag, #AntiAwards.
Without further ado, here are your 2013 winners:
Every year as the playoffs approach one thing is guaranteed.
A team or two always gets marked as “the team no one should want to face.” The teams normally fall into one of two categories.
First the young up and coming team that does something better than anyone else in the league. Think the Grizzlies of a few years ago, who excelled at the slowdown grind it out game because of an elite defense. Or this year’s Rockets who possess one of the most efficient and explosive offenses in the league.
The other category is the one the two teams being anointed as this years “don’t want to face” teams fall into. Veteran teams that fell below the seeds that many people expected them to before the season.
This year those teams are the Lakers and Celtics.
There is a problem with the labels this year though.
They just simply aren’t true.
These aren’t teams that were missing their best player for large chunks of the year but now have them back. These aren’t teams that are all of a sudden playing great basketball. In all reality, these aren’t even good teams.
What they are, are teams with names.
Celtics, Lakers, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard. The names should mean something and because of that people think the Celtics and Lakers should be feared this year.
But look deeper. Deeper at other names that matter. Jordan Crawford, Shavlik Randolph, Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake, Earl Clark. Do any of those players bring anything but chuckles when you realize that to win in the playoffs they will need to make big contributions to their teams?
Because that is the underlying point that makes these labels nothing more than a myth. Sure superstars matter in the playoffs and the Lakers and Celtics both have them. But so do role players.
Would the Heat have won the title last season without LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh? No. But do they win it without Shane Battier, Mike Miller or Mario Chalmers? Probably not.
The importance of the role player is all over every title team but for more examples look at both the Celtics and Lakers last title. Sure Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Pierce, and Garnett were important.
But so were PJ Brown, James Posey and Tony Allen in Boston and Trevor Ariza, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom in Los Angeles.
Now I know the people who are adding these labels just mean that each team can maybe pull a first round upset at the most, but outside of the names where is the reasoning?
Will the Lakers finally learn how to play defense in time to stop Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker or Tim Duncan?
Will Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley and Jason Terry be able to provide enough offense to beat the Knicks?
In the end the Celtics and Lakers are who they are. They are bad teams, one who hung onto the seventh seed in the East because the Bucks forgot how to play basketball and lost to the Magic and Bobcats, and the other who plays tonight to determine their playoff fate.
Kobe Bryant is not about to come back from some midseason injury to save the Lakers. Ditto for Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.
If you want a team that “no one should want to face” check out the Rockets where great role players like Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik surround a superstar in James Harden and form an elite offense. Or to Chicago where for all we know Derrick Rose will reappear for the playoffs to join Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and an elite defense. Those are the dangerous teams.
Not the Lakers or Celtics.
All they are is old and not very good.