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The Minority Report: Another Weekly Roundtable

USA Today Sports

USA Today Sports

These weekly roundtables have quickly become a part of our regular routine and we have every intention of extending them through the rest of the regular season. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are.
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1. What, specifically, did R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs have give up in their deal with the Devil?

Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): If you told me Gregg Popovich does not currently have a soul, I might believe you. Pop and the Spurs front office are the two closest things to Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo. that we’ve had since Jerry Lee Lewis was singing and dancing around the stage in “Damn Yankees.” Devil, if you’re out there somewhere reading this, I’ll trade you whatever you want for four Pulitzers and a never-ending shot at a fifth.

Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): A top-55 protected 2nd-Rounder in 2084. Even Lucifer is afraid to negotiate with Pop.

Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): Media attention and casual fan intrigue. Devil got fleeced.

Andrew Johnson (@Countingbaskets) A couple of offensive rebounds and a Ray Allen three.

Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): The willingness to not give Craig Sager (or his suit) the time of day. David Stern learned of the trade the same day as the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade … and everyone agreed he vetoed the right deal.

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2. How many more years does it take the Charlotte Bobcats to get their first 50-win season in franchise history?

Karalla: The Bobcats will never win 50 games.* I guarantee you that.

*But the Hornets might win 50. It all depends on who they can surround Al Jefferson with and how long Big Al plans on staying in Charlotte once his brief contract expires. The 13 other teams in the East this season have made winning 50 look really freaking hard, so it might take a while before Charlotte can reach that milestone.

Conlin: I’ll go out on a limb and say they won’t win 50 games so long as Anthony Tolliver is playing 1200+ minutes for them. Kemba Walker has made a few strides since his rookie season, but it seems like his ceiling is “pretty good point guard.” I think they’ll need to bring in another reliable scorer before they hit 50 wins.

Liu: When Kevin Garnett said anything is possible, he really meant that “With a couple draft pick hits in the next few years, because when are we going to regress?, and continued growth from Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a strong defensive system, we can reach 50!!!” If they can win 40 games this season with roster in this conference, how hard is 50?

Johnson: I think they’ve got a really good coach there in Steve Clifford, so there’s an outside shot in the next couple of years if they figure out their wing position and add some shooting and depth.

Soppe: Coming into April, Charlotte had lost 13 games by five or less (including games against the Heat, Pacers, Spurs, Thunder and Bulls twice). They also lost eight out of nine at one point in time. They are also getting at least 16.9 minutes a night from seven players that are 27 years old or younger.They are currently tied for the sixth most efficient defense in all of basketball (ahead of the Grizzlies and Heat among others). They also have Al Jefferson, who is surprisingly yet to turn 30. In case you haven’t noticed, the Eastern Conference isn’t very good, but a ten-ish jump in the column is a lot to ask in one season. 2016: Year of the Bobcat

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3. How do you feel about Mitch Richmond being the Hall of Fame?

Karalla: Excellent college player, awesome pro. I have no problem with it. I’m too young to remember seeing Richmond toward the beginning of his career, but the “Run TMC” Warriors were a fun team in NBA history and I’m all for including key members of any notable team during any period throughout the league’s existence. But in the traditional sense of judging players based on statistics and not on their meaningfulness to the game, he was never a big win shares guy and once he left Golden State he was only a significant player on one playoff team. In that sense, Richmond is sort of a forgettable player in NBA lore. Again, though: I prefer quantity in the Hall of Fame.

Conlin: Frankly, I’m insulted that they haven’t re-named the Hall of Fame after him already. He’s the best shooting guard of the 90s. (YEAH, I SAID IT.)

Liu: Too young to understand what’s going on.

Johnson: I feel exactly “fine.”

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4. How do you feel about Kevin Johnson not being in the Hall of Fame?

Karalla: He’s another Richmond-like case. Johnson was a star member of the ‘90s Suns who made 11 playoffs in 12 seasons. Unfortunately injuries played a role in preventing extreme longevity, but during his physical prime he was one of the NBA’s better players on one of the NBA’s better teams. I’m not one to raise a commotion about the Hall of Fame, but just let him in. There shouldn’t be some crazy standard. After all, who really cares?

Conlin: He should be in for the dunk on Olajuwon alone.

Liu: See Answer to Question 3.

Johnson: Too early, though I will say his latest proposed budget was solid, he’s done some good things on community policing and the debt stabilization fund.  This is for the Municipal Executive Officer’s Hall of Fame in Kearney, right?

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5. Who gets a better haul in this year’s draft? Whoever gets the top pick, or the Suns (currently with the 14th, 17th and 28th picks)?

Karalla: It depends on who the teams draft and how they pan out, of course, but I’d still rather be the team who picks No. 1. Worst-case scenario is your player gets injured and misses the whole season (a la Nerlens Noel) and you get a top pick again next season. Phoenix could draft three good rookies and miss the playoffs next season, resulting in a pick toward the end of the lottery. This is the NBA. You want as many superstars as you can get. And in this current system, like it or not, the way to do that is to get as many top-5 picks as possible. Philly’s already landed Noel, and they’re going to land Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins or whoever else, and they’re going to get another top-5 guy next season. I’ll gleefully take that.

Conlin: I mean, having three picks is nice, and I think this draft has some underrated depth to it (Montrezl Harrell, Adreian Payne, Kyle Anderson are all mocked 18th or later, and I think they’ll be good pros), but it seems like the No. 1 pick gives you a guaranteed All-Star. I’d take that every time.

Liu: What does draft history say? What do current projections say? (looks at Jacob Frankel). I guess it depends on which team. Ironically, it feels like a team like the Philadelphia 76ers, bare cupboard and all, would consider 3 mid first round draft picks as opposed to one pick where a single bust would ruin everything. By everything we’ve seen, and that’s very little, it doesn’t appear as if Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid will become LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Perhaps the Chris Boshes and Carmelo Anthonys of the world are there as well but it depends how each team views the crop. The 28th seems a tad too late so if it were myself, wholly under qualified to make these decisions, I’d go with the one pick and trust my scouting.

Johnson: Generally speaking you would rather have a number one than anything.  But the numbers I have run indicate that this is a pretty flat draft talent wise. My numbers indicate that there are an unusual number of very good players (guys in the top eightieth percentile compared to player drafted in the last twelve years) but no real can’t miss stars like Anthony Davis or Kevin Durant.

Soppe: Short-term it might be the team with the top overall pick, but if I’m building a franchise, give me the Suns 2014 draft. I love me some Kyle Anderson (might be able to steal him at 28, and if not, they can get him at 17), but he’s not the only viable option in the middle section of this draft. In my eyes, Jerami Grant (Syracuse), Adreian Payne (Michigan State), Aaron Gordon/Nick Johnson (Arizona), and both Harrison Twins from Kentucky appear to be nice NBA pieces. Maybe I’m old school, but I’d prefer to spread out my risk across three upside players than put the mortgage on a single teenager.

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  • Joe Kidd

    K.J. was one of the NBA’s best players on one of the league’s best teams. In most eras, he would have often been the best guard in the league; he was the only guard to make the All-NBA Second Team each season from 1989-1991, when Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson owned a joint stranglehold on the First Team guard spots. And statistically, K.J. was rivaling and in some cases surpassing Magic, while also leading the Suns past Magic’s 63-win Lakers in the 1990 playoffs. Then, late in his career (the second half of the ’95-’96 season and the ’96-’97 season), K.J. was the second-best guard in the game, behind only Magic (although by then, he no longer was receiving much attention from the media).

    And in K.J.’s first seven full seasons in Phoenix (1989-1995), the Suns won the most regular season games in the NBA (394) and the second-most playoff games (46, trailing only Chicago). K.J. posted the most assists in the playoffs in 1990 and 1993, and in 1994 and 1995, he was probably the best guard in the playoffs, averaging a combined 25.7 points, 9.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds, a .506 field goal percentage, a .400 three-point field goal percentage, and an .848 free throw percentage in 8.3 FTA per contest, for a .591 True Shooting Percentage. Five different times (out of 20 games) in the 1994 and 1995 playoffs, K.J. scored at least 38 points, averaging a combined 40.6 points and 10.4 assists in those games, while shooting a combined .526 from the field (72-137, 27.4 FGA), .667 on threes (6-9, 1.8 FGA), and .898 from the free throw line (53-59, 11.8 FTA). And even with all that penetration, scoring, and passing, K.J. only averaged 2.4 turnovers in those games, for an assists-to-turnover ratio of 4.33:1.00.

    Realistically, K.J. was a much better guard than Mitch Richmond. Both players could take over a game with scoring and both were tough defensively, and Richmond has longevity and durability on his side (unfortunately, K.J. played four seasons, from ’92-’93 through ’95-’96, with an undiagnosed sports hernia, including two undiagnosed sports hernias by the end of that time). But K.J was a much more efficient scorer than Richmond (a career .493 field goal percentage and .585 True Shooting Percentage, compared to Richmond’s .455 field goal percentage and .557 True Shooting Percentage). More importantly, K.J. was a great playmaker who elevated the efficiency of those around him, which was not the case with Richmond.

    In short, you built great offenses and championship contenders around Kevin Johnson, who combined explosiveness with efficiency better than any small guard in NBA history. You did not, however, build great (or even good, or even average) offenses, or championship contenders (or even playoff teams, usually) around Mitch Richmond.

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