Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts on the NBA Draft

Another year, another NBA Draft choke full of hilarity.

I'm not crazy about the Thabeet pick, but the Grizzlies have a young and interesting starting five. Thabeet, younger Gasol, Gay, Mayo and Conley. The Thunder also did a nice job of filling out its roster. It'll throw out a lineup of Krstic, Green, Durant, Harden and Westbrook. Lots of upside in Memphis and Oklahoma City.

Why did Sacramento draft Tyreke Evans? He's not a point guard and Kevin Martin is already entrenched at the two guard. The Kings stole Sergio Rodriguez from the Trailblazers and he's much more adept at ball-handling duties. Because, you know, he actually has played the position before.

Every time I step into a room I want Brandon Jenning's introduction. That was like something you'd see before the start of a ladder match at Wrestlemania.

Knicks fans raining boos on Jordan Hill... almost like it was destined. I watch a lot of PAC-10 basketball and he did not impress me at all. Conversely, I really like where DeRozan (Raptors), Holliday (76ers) and Collison (Hornets) went and think they'll thrive. Those guys played in slowdown offenses in college, which hurt their stats. But they definitely have the talent to play.

So Minnesota better deal either Rubio or Flynn. I'm assuming it will... but really after a day when the King of Pop died I'm not sure what to expect.

Amare Stoudemire is off to Golden State. It's happening in July. The Warriors will presumably be left with a starting five of Ellis, Curry, Jackson, Stoudemire and Randolph. Yea, they're no longer an ABA team. They're an ABA team on steroids.

Really like the Gerald Henderson pick by Charlotte. It needed a good shooting guard and one fell right into its lap. And of course the Bobcats picked a local kid. They're like post-graduate basketball for UNC and Duke players.

Next season the Pacers will have the potential to unleash Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansorough, Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Travis Diener. Get your sunglasses because that's gonna be hot. White hot. Caucasian hot. (And I promise I wrote that joke before reading Bill Simmons' diary)

Also, Utah drafted a tall white guy. *gasp*

The Lakers must be taking financial advice from the Suns. The champions are scrimping and saving while contenders like the Magic (Vince Carter), Houston (awesome draft) and Spurs (Richard Jefferson, great draft) are loading up for title runs.

What the hell are the Cavs doing? They need help right now to give LeBron help. Shaq was a nice acquisition but they still have Delonte West and Sasha Varejao as starters. Instead they waste a first-round on Christian Eyenga, who I think will be ready to contribute in 2012 when the King is playing in Gotham.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Robert Sarver's Stinginess Has Cost the Phoenix Suns

It appears Phoenix is sending the Big Shaq Fu to Cleveland in exchange for... Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. Yikes. Even though O'Neal is past his prime he's still a productive player, while the same can't be said for either of the players the Suns get back.

Can you say salary dump Phoenix? Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise. After Robert Sarver bought the team back in 2004 he's been adamant about keeping the team payroll below the luxury tax. Since signing Steve Nash in July 2004 the Phoenix Suns have often pulled moves to pinch pennies, usually involving draft picks.

Look at the following trades made over the past five years:

* traded rights to Luol Deng for a 2005 first-round pick (Nate Robinson) and cash
* traded rights to Marcin Gortat for cash
* traded rights to Sergio Rodriguez for cash
* traded rights to Rajon Rondo, cash and Brian Grant for a 2007 first-round pick (Rudy Fernandez)
* traded rights to Rudy Fernandez for cash
* traded two first-round picks (2008, 2010) to Seattle for a 2008 second-pick

Basically the Suns got somewhere around $10 million to give up those talents. I'm pretty sure the team could use those players right now. Instead it looks like Nash & Co. are on their way to gaining ping pong balls for next year's draft. But oh wait, they traded the 2010 pick too!

Safe to say it's been a disastrous strategy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts on the NBA

Congratulations to the Lakers. With a fourth title Kobe firmly thrusts himself into the pantheon as the third-greatest guard in NBA history. He has no chance of climbing higher. Or dropping lower really. He'll finish as a Top 15 (maybe 10) all-time player, the fourth-best Laker and nothing short of a legend. I wonder if LA will retire #8 or #24.

And seriously... enough with the bullshit that Kobe matches, will match or even surpass His Airness. It's not happening. Ever. I wrote about this a couple years ago and most of it still stands. But to compare the two just check out their shooting numbers:

Jordan's career FG% .497
Kobe's career FG% .455

Kobe misses around 10% more shots than MJ did. And while .042 may not seem like a huge discrepancy, the difference between MJ and Kobe is the same as the separation between Kobe and Pavlovic. And Bryant plays in an era where defensive contact is minimal (i.e. the refs are extremely whistle happy). Jordan was brutalized by the Bad Boy Pistons along with Riley's Heat and Knick squads.

So Jordan > Kobe. And for the record Kobe > Sasha Pavlovic. Glad we're clear on that. Moving on.

Phil Jackson winds up with the most rings and will probably retire back to his Branch Davidian-esque compound in the wilderness. It's the perfect time for him to leave: he finally passes Red, his hip continues to deteriorate and it appears very, very, very sadly that Tex Winter won't be around the game anytime soon. Never a strong in-game coach but a master of motivational methods and hilarious interviews, Phil will be missed. Hopefully he'll put a engagement ring on Jeanie's finger someday.

As for the future Lakers coach (whether this offseason or in 2010)... one of the favorites is Kurt Rambis, who turned down the Kings job to hold out for this chance. It would be an incredibly risky move since Rambis has extremely limited head coaching experience and the Lakers tend to favor guys with experience. Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw are also possibilities. As for coaches with experience the name that jumps out is Avery Johnson, who I think would be a great pick if only because I could listen to his voice on a regular basis. A dark horse candidate is Coach K (again), who would receive Kobe's full approval. He came close to playing for Duke after high school and embraced Coach K's during the 2008 Olympics.

Funny enough, a championship could be a really bad thing for the Lakers long term. In order to keep the team together would mean overpaying for Odom and Ariza, neither of whom deserve more than the MLE. It will be interesting to see how much the Lakers will be willing to overpaying. Because Kupchak is such a horrible GM the Lakers are already over the salary cap (hello Bynum!), so spending $20 million a year on those two would really be $40 million. Even Dr. Buss probably doesn't want to spend so recklessly. If Kupchak is smart he'll cut ties with both (Odom because he sucks, Ariza because he'll be overpaid) and pay a high price for Ron Artest, giving the Lakers a tremendous trio of legitimate All-Stars, two of whom are excellent defenders. Yes, Kobe would keep Artest in line. And possibly vice-versa. But that trio would trump any trio in the lead. That's how you create a dynasty. Elite talent.

Most likely though, the Lakers will probably sign Odom and Ariza at a slight discount and look to trade away one or two of their bad contracts -- probably Vujacic. Fisher comes off the books after next year, which gives the Lakers one more season of a mediocre PG duo.

Assuming the Lakers will continue to run the Triple Post Offense next season there are two attributes to look for in a point guard:
- high basketball IQ (which explains why the Smush Parker Experiment failed)
- long-range shooter

Everything else is secondary. Fish excels in the system because it plays to his strengths. And since Farmar really isn't the answer LA should look really hard at drafting a future PG. Luckily for them there's one with those exact qualities... and he's about 10 miles away from Staples. Darren Collison should be the pick. The Lakers should trade up if they have to (and they probably will have to since PGs will go fast). I love watching Collison at UCLA. His stock was really high following his junior year but last season slipped following the arrival of Jrue Holliday and the Bruins' uneven play. Ben Howland runs a very slow and uninteresting offense, so Collison's strengths weren't on display much in 2008-2009. To me he's a real gem and worth a low first-round pick. Bottom line, the Lakers team isn't great and could use multiple improvements. They don't have to settle for one championship and there's too much volatility and not enough talent to simply do nothing.

Speaking of championships... the Clippers. David Stern rewarded Donald Sterling's perchance for Asian women by giving the Clippers the top pick in this month's draft. Blake Griffin should be and will be the selection. His downside is a Carlos Boozer who won't betray blind people and have his mansion remodeled with purple shag carpets by Prince. Yes, Carlos did both those things. Griffin possesses tremendous inside game and an outstanding work ethic. He's like a Bizarro Olowokandi and should develop into a perennial All-Star.

As for the rest of the Clippers... sigh. Unless LA can pull off some miracle trade it's better off throwing away this year to look toward 2010-2011. Hopefully Baron Davis will stay away from Ruby Tuesdays and Zach Randolph will accumulate several more DUIs. At least Gordon and Griffin will form a fun tandem.

And around the league we go:

* Danny Ferry and Mike Brown should both be fired. The Cavaliers had the third-highest payroll in the league this season with LeBron, Mo Williams and piles of crap. That team is so horrifically bungled. Hopefully James will go to the Knicks in 2010 because Gotham is doing some very interesting things...

* My crystal ball says Chris Paul will not stay in New Orleans through his contract. Probably stays through next season but eventually something will happen. It's like the Amare thing but slower. It's building... and when it happens every team should give up the farm for him. He's well on his way as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I saw him in person last year... astounding is probably the best description. I'd have to think about this but if there was a league-wide draft I might take him with the first overall pick. Over LeBron, Kobe, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, all of them. Okay I probably wouldn't but on an average team he averaged 22/5/11/3 while shooting 50%. He might join Kobe in the pantheon one day too.

* Speaking of LeBron, I worry about the mileage he's putting on. 80+ games, 40+ minutes and all the work for Team USA. He's a freak and all but even freaks have limits. Physically there's no question he has the skills to surpass MJ and Magic but will he ever develop a post game and refine his jump shot? Personally I think he'll eventually surpass Kobe but remain behind His Airness and Earvin. Those guys won a combined 11 championships and 9 Finals MVPs. And of course, Michael never lost in the Finals. LeBron already has two losses in the Finals (same as Kobe), so his margin for error is slim to reach the top.

* I hope Larry Brown gets fired by the Bobcats so he can stop wasting his genius on a bad team. Actually he should coach a really bad team and come back to college to lead USC.

* Golden State is an ABA team. Moped Ellis, Biedrins, Maggette, Stephen Jackson, Turiaf, Brandon Wright, Anthony Randolph and possibly an elite PG from the draft. 150 points will be scored multiple times by that reckless Don Nelson crew. ESPN should show this team 50 times next season.

* The Bulls are building one hell of a baseball team with a bunch of guys who can do a lot of things. Too bad that doesn't lead anywhere in the NBA. Trade for better parts Paxson.

* The fact Marko Jaric married and knocked up Adriana Lima is more proof that life isn't fair. Not that I deserve her or anything but neither does Marko.

* Looks like the Spurs era is over, which is a shame. They played phenomenal team basketball and were a pleasure to watch for anyone who appreciates the game. Duncan still has some time left but regardless he's obviously already in the pantheon. 2 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 4-0 in the championship round and one hideous tattoo. Who represented the NBA better?

* I love Barkley but he's been a real dumbass lately. Memo to Chuck: calling your producer a pussy on live TV is idiotic. Also, driving drunk to get a blowjob from a lady that isn't your wife is also idiotic.

* Amare Stoudemire is going to get traded. It's not Jon and Kate bad between him and the Suns, but yea it's not going to work. He's probably gone to the Wizards. I can't believe how badly Sarver screwed up the Suns over the years. It's actually worse than the Clippers in a lot of ways...

Looking back, all in all it was an okay season. Refs were as horrible as ever. ABC coverage has improved immensely in the past few years. Shaq dancing at the All-Star Game was funny. The playoffs extend themselves way too long.

Anyway, time to gear up for the draft. Looking forward to ridiculing whoever picks Jordan Hill.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Seriously, Slugging First Basemen Aren't That Hard to Find

Harping back to my post about how Ryan Howard is overrated compared Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins:

BA HR OPS *wOBA WAR salary
Ryan Howard 0.258 18 0.910 0.375 1.9 15M
Player X 0.314 13 1.013 0.427 2.2 1.4M

It's not that find to find big dudes who can catch a baseball, hit home runs and strike out a ton. Granted very few do those things as well as Howard. Then again, very few are paid $54 million over three years.