As advanced stats become ubiquitous they become an equalizer not an advantage. Previously advanced stats were like trade secrets of individual teams, but in the last decade they have been adopted so wide spread and the demand for analytic GMs has become so quintessential that it's almost as useful as traditional stats.
I hate to keep rehashing this topic because it is excruciatingly painful, but here is the definitive last word on the god-forsaken Oden or Durant debate. The debate boils down to 2 facts.
Fact #1: Durant is destined to be Dirk Nowitski X 1.5. All the hype about Durant as a revolutionary wing player at 6’10” will be over by his 25th birthday. Granted that still gives him 4 years, but when his hall of fame career is over he will have played 2/3rds of his career as a power forward. History proves it over and over. Players try to resist the move but team needs and the demands of a player’s body as they age make it inevitable. Players start to fill out at 25 years of age and big men are always at a premium. Swing men are a dime a dozen in the NBA (look at the T-Wolves this year).
Kevin Garnett tried to be a 6’ 13” small forward. It didn’t last. By all accounts he’s been playing center for 10 years. Dirk was drafted to be the revolution only a European big man could become; a 6’10” small forward who could handle the ball like a pg and shoot from the hash mark. All the same things they say about Durant now, they said about Dirk in 99. He’s played power forward for the last 8 years and rarely handles the ball above the foul line extended. By the time it’s all said and done he will average between 25 and 30ppg for over a decade. Durant could put up between 30 and 35 for a decade. That’s Jordan and Chamberlain territory alone, but hardly revolutionary. But how many rings do Dirk and KG have between them? Only one. The fact is swing men and stretch 4s do not a championship ring bring.
The single exception to this fact thus far is Lebron James who, to his credit, has recognized this fact and purposely refused to develop a post game to delay his eventual move to power forward that Pat Riley is planning as we speak (Riley did the exact same thing to Lamar Odom, another 6’10” multi skill perimeter player converted to a 4 out of need and convention).
Which brings me to fact #2 which I’ve actually already stated indirectly:
Quality Big men are now and forever shall be the closest thing to a shortcut to winning NBA Championships. Now granted a big man always needs great little men to get him the ball and shooters to stretch the D, but no amount of outside shooting and perimeter all stars can make up for a mediocre low post presence. Look at the league now. Dwight Howard comes of age and Orlando is a perennial contender out of nowhere. The 2006 Miami Heat won a title with the 2006 Shaq. The 2007 Heat with no Shaq was one of the worst teams in history with Dwyane Wade. Name a team with a quality center who isn’t considered at least a fringe contender? The Nets with Brooke Lopez are the only example currently. How many playoffs did Olajuwon miss? The David Robinson lead Spurs were always in the hunt. Look what a difference Gasoil’s presence makes in LA, or Garnett’s in Boston. Those are the facts proven time and time again by history repeating it’s self.
If you think about it, the team that drafted Durant will try to convert him into Oden if he doesn’t win them a title soon. The Thunder are lacking a game changing big man. Do you see them winning a title in the next 2 years with Serge Ibaka at center? The conversion will come and everything special about Durant right now; the size on the perimeter creating match up nightmares, the coast to coast one man fast break, seeing over the screener on the high pick and roll, and the turnaround fade way jumpers over the swarming triple team from dam near half court all will be sacrificed to try and manufacture what could not simply be acquired on draft day: an elite big man. Only Magic Johnson has escaped this fate because he won a title for the Lakers as a rookie. Ironically he did so by scoring 42 points and grabbing 20 rebounds while playing Center for the injured Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the series clinching victory of the NBA finals. And so Lebron is still the only exception as even Magic became a big man when it mattered most.
Ok, so now you are an NBA GM with the first pick in the Draft and you can draft Dirk Nowitski 1.5 or a 50/50 Raffle ticket for an NBA Finals short cut. If you want to sell tickets you take Dirk 1.5, if you want to win titles you roll the dice with the 50/50 short cut. The Blazers took the 50/50 shortcut, knowing it would be either a Bowie (bust), or a Walton (Championship in his 3rd year). If the Blazers don’t win a title this year with Greg Oden, it just means when they draft 1 overall again in 15 years, they should draft the big man again because the odds say they are due for the title shortcut.
The NBA season tips off today. Seeing as the majority of members currently sitting on the ThinkTank Panel (Of One) have some kind of tie to the Portland metro area, the ThinkTank Panel (Of One) would like to commemorate the 2010 Tip-off by correcting a common misconception that has plagued the Trailblazers of late.
There is this perception that Brandon Roy, the Blazers 3 time all star guard, is incapable of running a fast break. Phrases like “pace” and “initiate the offense through Roy” have been used to paint Brandon as a prison shackle and speed bump to the Blazers offensive output. Numerous articles, editorials and fan comments on the subject over the past 4 seasons have made this view nearly ubiquitous. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Everyone seems to have forgotten Roy played in an ultra up-tempo college system at Washington. In 2004 the Huskies averaged 86.5 points per game (2nd in the Nation) and earned the #1 seed in the west region before losing to Louisville in the sweet sixteen. That team featured the uber fast Nate Robinson and Roy had no problem keeping up with Krypto Nate. In his senior season Roy took over the main ball handling duties and went on to win Pac 10 player of the year honors. Despite loosing Robinson, leading scorer Tre Simmons, and 3 year starter Will Conroy to graduation, the Roy led Huskies’ averaged 82 points per game (4th in the nation , less than 1 point per game behind leader Long Beach State), and advanced once again to the sweet 16 before losing in an epic double OT game with Connecticut.
What’s more is Roy has thrived in his All Star appearances, which are not exhibitions of half court execution. Roy has proven in his time with the Blazers to be quite comfortable filling the wing, running out ahead, or handling the ball in the middle of the break. So where does this blatantly erroneous perception come from?
The misperception comes from the fact that Roy’s game is built upon a foundation different from the other All Star caliber guards in the game. The elite players at the 2 guard position traditionally are freak of nature athletes, guys that win dunk contests and spend their early careers trying to dunk on everyone. Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, a young Vince Carter, young MJ, Ginobilli, and even lesser caliber players such as Andre Igoudola, and Gerald Wallace, all violently attack the rim, jumping over and bowling through any defender who dares to enter their path. These guys could earn their pay checks almost exclusively off the open court jam. That does not describe Roy’s game. Nor does the other end of the 2 guard continuum in which players such as Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Reggie Miller, Ben Gordon, Steph Curry, and a host of other long range shooters base their game on occupying and stretching defenses with their catch and shoot mentality. Roy’s game is different. Frankly, it is not even in the middle of the continuum. It is unique in that Roy is the rare young player who dominates with craftiness, on having more game than his opponent, not relying on pure athleticism or a single go to skill. This is evident as everyone agrees Roy’s greatest attribute is his ability to finish at the rim, a skill eschewed by both the athletic dunkers and the long range bombers. Craftiness takes patience and awareness, not the single-minded self assuredness in ones athletic dominance or outside touch. Roy is patient and takes what the defense give him rather than trying to force the ball down the other teams throat, or jacking up catch and shoot threes. Therefore Roy appears to “pace” himself and “thrive in half court setting.”
However, Roy does have an NBA body, at 6’6” and 216.
He has NBA Range as exhibited here:
He also can attack the rim with authority when needed.
It’s no joke when Kobe Bryant talks up what a highly skilled and complete player Roy is. Roy provides the Blazer’s with a closer, a guy who can create a shot when it is most crucial. This is a necessary component for any team hoping to win a playoff series.
Now remember that Roy’s best basketball skill is finishing at the rim, but that does not mean he has to be the one to get the ball there. Granted he is pretty darn good at driving the ball, but there are any number of ways team basketball can get a player as good as Roy the basketball in position to score; curl screens back door cuts, pick and rolls, out in transition, short corner baseline against the zone, etc.
One supposed evidence that Roy slows the Blazers down was his difficulty playing with Andre Miller early last season. Miller was expected to come in and push the ball up and down the court. That didn’t happen because miller was trying to prove his worth to the team; to earn his starting spot, justify his signing with team, etc, and he and Roy didn’t develop any chemistry. Consequently Roy found himself waiting for Miller to create and Miller didn’t know how Roy wanted to get the ball. Add to this the Blazer’s commitment to playing proper position defense which does not lend its self to running out in transition and the Blazers were a slow half court team. Oh there was one more mitigating factor early last season that contributed to the notion of a Slow-Roy Blazers. The intentional force-feeding of the ball to Greg Oden before he broke his knee-cap.
The NBA has banned shoes made by Athletic Propolsion Labs. (A link to the ESPN article is here.) The article quotes the NBA as saying: "Under league rules, players may not wear any shoe during a game that creates an undue competitive advantage."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't "undue competive advantage" the whole point behind the performance athletic shoe industry?? Nike has created "technologies"such as Air, Shox, Foamposite and Zoom Air. Reebok has produced technologies such as The Pump, DMX, hexalite and even a CO2 cartridge custom fit mechanism. Adidas has The Adaprene system and the classic "Feet you Wear" campaign. The underlying appealof all these shoes and the ad compaigns used to hauk them was the competitive advantage the wearer of these shoes would have over their competition. However with all the research, development and rigorous testing on the feet of the worlds finest athletes testing, none of these shoes have ever been considered an "undue competitve advantage."
The fact that Athletic Propulsion Labs has managed to create a shoe that improves performance so much that it could potentially disrupt the fairplay dynamics of the entire league, means APL must have one hell of a shoe.
Of course a small faction of the ThinkTank Panel (Of One) sees a thinly veiled conspiracy. When it comes to basketball shoes, history shows the only marketing ploy more effective than the explicit endorsement of the world's greatest basketball player, is the explicit banning of the shoe by the NBA.
Remember that episode of the Simpson's when Mr Burns brings in a Bunch of All Star Baseball players to play on the Company softball team? There’s Steve Sax, Roger Clemons, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr, Daryl Strawberry and Ozzie Smith among others. One by one something happens to each of them so that in the end it’s Homer Simpson who wins the game with 2 outs in the 9th inning by getting beamed in the head with the bases loaded...........
Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re new and maybe improved 2010/2011 Miami Heat!!!!!!!!
I wonder who will end up being Homer Simpson?? My money is on Chris Quinn.
The ThinkTank Panel (of One) just love the notion that Pat Riley is Mr. Burns.
After long deliberation, the ThinkTank Panel (of One) has decided to withhold any further comment on the long anticipated NBA Free Agent class this summer. There has long been too many talking heads discussing and predicting the outcome of this free agent crop for the past 3 years. Every conceivable scenario has been proposed, debated and prayed for. For the ThinkTank Panel (of One) to comment further would be brutally redundant. The ThinkTank Panel (of One) will wait to see the end results of an exciting summer of player movement and will then extrapolate the implications of those moves and what they reveal about the NBA players and teams going forward into training camp.
However there is one note the ThinkTank Panel (of One) would like to clarify. The auspice of this summer free agent frenzy is the rare opportunity for the two best individual players in the game to join forces on one team at their physical peak, in Lebron James and Dwyane Wade (all due respect to Kobe who is arguably as good right now, but has peaked in terms of explosiveness.) Make no mistake; Wade and James together is what this summer is all about. Those two together are the big prize. Adding Chris Bosh to that duo would be a pleasant bonus, but that is merely icing on the Wade/James cake. And any other superstar combo, be it a duo, trio, or a full starting 5, will taste less sweet if James and Wade are not the main ingredients.
The Pac 10 continues to expand. It incorporates teams out west that always complain they are on the outside looking in at the BCS. Utah is already invited; BYU and Boise State should also be invited. That would make a Pac 14.
The Mountain West and the WAC can merge back together like they used to be.
The big 12 continues the deconstruction of the Mountain West inviting TCU. They also should invite a Conference USA team like Houston or Memphis to get back to 12 teams.
The SEC and ACC hog the nation’s attention anyway. The big ten has made its move with Nebraska. Everyone is in pretty good shape right now.
The BCS can still function as the 6 conferences are intact and improved.
ThinkTank Panel Note: This is sort of a Continuation of the Brandon Jennings Post. The ThinkTank Panel recommends reading the Jennings Post first. It may make more sense that way.
Being a superstar has broad implications. One implication for the player, as backwards as it may seem, is now that he owns the team he is somewhat immune to responsibility for its failings. Remember the player took ownership by everyone concluding that the team’s best chance for success is that player doing what he does best. Ergo any non-success must be the fault of something inhibiting that player from doing so. And most often it is the coach who gets the blame.
A perfect example of this is Skiles with the Bulls. As mentioned in the Brandon Jennings post Skiles took the Bulls to the 2nd round, but traded his authority to Ben Gordon when he didn’t have to (the bulls swept the 1st round series with the defending champion Heat. Gordon played well but was not pivotal to winning a sweep. They lost to the Piston in round 2.) The next season the bulls got off to a slow start. Skiles had lost his authority to the new superstar Gordon. Skiles and Gordon clashed over Gordon’s role on the team. Gordon as superstar dictated that Gordon has to be Gordon for the Bulls to win. The perception was that Skiles kept Gordon from being Gordon and that was why the Bulls were losing. Skiles was fired. Of course most people, especially in Chicago would say in hindsight they should have kept Skiles as coach and gotten rid of Gordon back then. Such is the luxury of being superstar.
This explains why NBA teams and pro teams in general go through coaches so quickly compared to college coaches who seem to have longer tenures. The reason is simple. In college if you sacrifice your authority to a player, most likely he goes pro and is gone the next year. The turnover of athletes in colleges means a coach rarely is owned, and if so it is very short lived. No school is going to choose a coach who could remain at the school for decades with a player who can only remain four years maximum. But rest assured even the hardest most notorious dictators in college basketball have been owned at one time or another come tournament time. But owning your coach in the final four usually means becoming a high draft pick so there is no aftermath in the college game.
In the pros coaches are generally about 1/3rd the cost of a superstar player. Also fan loyalty tends to be to players first before coaches. So as an owner you’ll most likely side with a player over a coach, because it’s better for the bottom line.
Now thus far I’ve given the impression that superstardom is synonymous with players who are full of themselves or uncoachable. That is not the case. In fact the vast majority of superstar players are very coachable, which is an attribute that contributes to their greatness as superstars. However the ugly truth is, they still own their coaches.
The vast majority of superstar players in all sports own their coaches but willfully submit to the coach’s authority. They do this for a number of reasons, as an example to the rest of the team, to share the burden of responsibility for winning, and because they realize that owned or not the coach is vital to a team’s success. So it’s true that great players and great coaches win championships together. But they are not equals. The coach is there because the superstar allows him to be.
Case in point is Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. Phil is undoubtedly the Greatest NBA coach of the current era, maybe of all time excluding Red Aurbach alone (but not for the reason you think, more on that in a future post). But Michael Jordan owned Phil because the best way to win any given basketball game is to put the ball in Jordan’s hands and let Mike be like Mike. But as a great player Michael Jordan recognized he needed Phil to win a championship, and it was Phil Jackson alone who convinced Michael of this. Together the Bulls won 6 rings, but if at any time a choice had to be made between the 2, not only would Jordan be the Bulls choice, it would be Jordan’s choice to make. Jordan owned Phil, the Bulls, the City of Chicago, the NBA and the world.
But just because Phil needed Michael to allow him to coach does not in any way diminish the fact that Michael needed Phil to win. This fact, along with the fact that Jordan owned Phil was proven by your defending NBA Champion LA Lakers and Kobe Bryant.
In 2004 the Lakers had to pick between keeping Shaq and Phil Jackson or Kobe Bryant. They chose Bryant. Enough said.
Perhaps the best way to explain the superstar phenomenon is to give an example where it could have happened but did not.
In 2001 Vince Carter helped engineer what may be the ultimate Superstardom opportunity of all time. Carter was already a star by promotion. He had won rookie of the year, the NBA Dunk contest in spectacular fashion and lead his Toronto Raptors to the 2nd round of the playoffs where they were deadlocked in a game 7 with the 76ers. This is the infamous “graduation day” game where Carter had attended his College graduation ceremony at Chapel Hill NC that morning and then hopped a charter flight to Philly to make tipoff. The Bottom-line is Carter’s 18ft jumper at the buzzer came up short and the Raptors lost by 1 point. Had Carter made that shot he would have ascended from his sport celebrity status to Superstardom. He would have owned not only the Raptors, basketball fans, and the sports world but educators and the stay in school movement would have made him their superstar/champion as well.
But Vince missed. Ergo, none of his teammates believed Carter alone constituted their best chance to win, his coach was not indebted to him, and he did not get the strange but ubiquitous free pass on blame for the teams short comings in the near future. In fact Carter got all of them very quickly. He wilted under the criticism and scrutiny and eventually got shipped out of Toronto labeled as a selfish, lazy, malcontent who could not be trusted. Where a superstar is created by capitalizing on the faith of his coach, team, and fans, Carter’s vilification was a collective loss of faith created by a missed shot.
Today is a big day for Brandon Jennings. His Milwaukee Bucks Play the Atlanta Hawks in a series deciding game 7 today. Game 7 provides a rare opportunity. The rookie point guard has a chance to become a superstar over night. With a big-time performance today in front of a national audience Jennings could win the hearts of millions of fans, establish his reputation among players in the league, and most importantly win control of his own locker-room.
Some would argue the real prize Jennings could win is the favor of NBA commissioner David Stern and that would be the real key to achieving superstardom. I would agree in as much as Stern determines the TV schedules and grant Jennings and the Bucks international exposure if he so chooses. But that exposure doesn’t matter if Jennings doesn’t own the Bucks first. The dirty little not-so-secret secret about superstars is that their head coaches are indebted to them. While following a coach’s instruction can make you a star, it is only by usurping the coach’s authority that a player becomes a superstar.
So how can Jennings possibly usurp the authority of a disciplinarian like Scott Skiles? By seizing the opportune moment.
That opportune moment could arise in game 7. At some point the game, and the series will ultimately have to be decided by the players, not the coach. At some point the coach may have to concede this. At that point a player has to step up and claim victory or defeat, for himself, for the team, for the coach and for the city. As the point guard, and (with Andrew Bogut injured) the best player on the team, and the only player with any kind of national following outside of Milwaukee, Jennings is the best position to seize that moment.
Now a lot has to go right for the scenario to play out where Skiles has to hand over the keys to Jennings. Most likely it has to be a tight game. Jennings performance has to be superlative to the rest of the players on the court, and most importantly, Jennings performance has to be signature Jennings, not signature Skiles. Otherwise Skiles is not putting faith in Jennings he is merely putting faith in himself and his coaching abilities as he imparted the right way to play to Jennings. But if circumstances do necessitate a player’s takeover, and Jennings does seize that moment and leads the Bucks to victory and into the 2nd round, he will own Skiles, and the rest of the Bucks organization.
Seizing the opportune moment is somewhere between an Oedipus Complex and Mutiny, in so far as a subordinate surpasses a superior in authority. It’s a “The Student has become the teacher”, kind of thing.
The Euphemistic way of putting it is to say that the coach puts faith in his player and the player rewards that faith, so the coach grows to trust the player on the court. But the truth is the coach trades his authority for a win. In this particular case a victory and a trip to the 2nd round would validate Skiles as a legitimate coach, having advanced in the playoffs with 2 separate teams. The good news for Jennings is Skiles has a history of trading his authority for a win. He traded his authority to Ben Gordon last time he advanced with the Chicago Bulls. The bad news is he didn’t have to because Gordon didn’t overtly seize the moment, he just took the trade Skile’s offered and the deal eventually ruined a promising Bulls team, and cost Skile’s his job there.
If the cards fall Jennings way and he delivers a signature Jennings performance (which most likely means an array of seemingly miraculous rainbow fall-away pull up jumpers) on the national stage when it counts most, everyone in that Bucks locker-room including Coach Skiles will have to admit that their best chance for success as a team has been proven, trial by fire on the court, to be Brandon Jennings being Brandon Jennings. At that moment it will be his team. And like I said at the beginning, being a superstar doesn’t matter unless the player has ownership of his team.
"The competition committee recommended to the 32 owners Monday that a team losing the coin toss and then surrendering a field goal on the first possession should have a series of its own in OT. Such a rules change would need 24 votes for ratification. Statistics examined by the committee showed that since 1994, teams winning the coin toss win the game 59.8 percent of the time. The team that loses the toss wins the game 38.5 percent in that 15-year span, or since kickoffs were moved back 5 yards to the 30.”
I’ve had this idea for changing overtime in football for a while now. If the coin toss is an unfair advantage, then just get rid of it. In a tie game the fourth quarter ends and the teams just keep on playing until someone scores. Treat it just like the end of the 3rd.
TV time out, switch sides, and pick up play where you left off.
Turn off the clock .
The game just continues until someone scores.
It’s sudden death!
I honestly can’t see a down side to this. The only minor change is the offenses has less of a sense of urgency to score by the end of regulation in a tie game because they will automatically keep possession in and field position in OT. But that is compensated by the new sense of urgency by the defense to force a turnover because they no longer have the luxury of “holding on till overtime” where they have a 50/50 chance to win “60/40” odds, with a consolation prize of field position even if they do lose the coin toss.
Am I missing something?? What is the down side?? This seems really really obvious to me. I can’t possibly be this smart. Someone check my ego before I start thinking I know things.