Monday, September 25, 2006

New ClipsNation Blog

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have arrived. I now have a new blog, with a color scheme and a logo and everything. Please join me at www.clipsnation.com.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bulls in '07?

Our boy Chris Mannix, whom I praised as insightful a mere 4 weeks ago, has gone WAY OUT on a limb and picked the Bulls to win the Championship this season.

As you might imagine, this has generated as much of a buzz as one can get for basketball in September over at blogabull.com (amid the speculation that Mannix could be either too far on or too far off his meds).

I always intended to post something about the Bulls signing of Ben Wallace. In fact, I kind of thought I did, but then I checked the archives and couldn't find anything. Nothing in email either. I guess all of my (brilliant) analysis was on the phone or in IM with Timmy T, a Detroit fan and Ben-lover.

I've never been very secretive about my opinion that Ben Wallace is perhaps the most over-rated player in the NBA. Not that he isn't great; he's just not 5 consecutive all NBA selections great. The best is when I explain to Timmy T how Ben is no where near the player Marcus Camby is, just for kicks. He gets particularly perturbed by that. Good times.

At the time the Bulls signed Ben, several things struck me. One was that in addition to being over-rated, Ben was now overpaid. And of course there is the massive miscalculation the Pistons made by trading Darko for nothing, assuming Ben would re-sign. But the overwhelming feeling I got at the time was how it made no sense for Chicago. The only way it made sense to sign a 32 year old for 4/$60 was if they were going to win a ring THIS YEAR, a concept I find laughable. And yet, here is a guy who apparently gets paid to write about the NBA (lucky bastard) who has predicted exactly that. Wow. I did not see that coming.

Ben's numbers have been declining for 3 seasons. While his rebounding and shot blocking are still terrific, it has been several years since he has led the league in either category, although everyone seems to think that he is the be-all end-all in each discipline. I will not disparage his intensity - he certainly has the heart of a champion. But he has the hands of a stone mason. He is the single biggest offensive liability in the league.

To think that Chicago would win an NBA championship this season, when their best low post scorer is... um... is... give me a minute... is... Kirk Hinrich? Chris Duhon? THEY DON'T HAVE A SINGLE LOW POST SCORER ON THEIR ROSTER! OK, maybe Sweetney. But C'MON! And I know that the game is changed, I know it's more of a perimeter game now, I know, I know. But when was the last time a team won a ring with an exclusively perimeter oriented offense? Even Detroit had 'Sheed to post up from time to time.

The ultimate irony (and I am undoubtedly the only one who believes this) is that I think they were probably closer to a ring BEFORE this summer's machinations. I'll admit, I never had to watch Tyson Chandler day in and day out, and I'm sure Bulls fans will inform me of how much he is the anti-Ben, but speaking as a guy who follows stats for a fantasy league, there was a time when a healthy Tyson Chandler playing solid minutes was putting up rebouding and block numbers that were positively Wallasian (Ben-esque?). Will they be better this season? Sure. But they won't win a ring during the 4 years Wallace is in town (not without another major influx of talent, which I suppose could arrive in the form of Greg Oden if the Knicks oblige). Meanwhile, although it was a long shot, if Tyson Chandler ever reached his full potential, they would have been terrific in a few years, when Chandler is 27 and Ben is 35.

Not that I'm a big Tony Mejia fan, but in his pre-season center rankings, he has Ben as the 7th best Center, and Tyson as the 13th best. Most people might not agree, but it's not absurd. Are the Bulls going to win a ring based on that relatively minor upgrade? Hard to see it. And that's this season, when Ben is 32 and Tyson is 24. Project out 4 years. You get the idea.

I guess it's nice for Paxson to get a LITTLE justification for the signing. He had to know that the only way it made since was if it produced a ring, and now here is someone else who thinks that could happen. And plenty of people have correctly pointed out that Wallace had to be overpaid in order to leave a great situation in Detroit.

You have to gamble to win a ring. But there's no way it's happening. No way.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

NBA 2010, Part 4

A pretty interesting topic on espn.com's NBA 2010 series today. I guess I find it interesting, because I asked the same question back in May, during the Clippers-Suns series. The NBA 2010 question today is "Which player will rise from mediocrity a la Boris Diaw?" I call these guys Diamonds in the Rough, and I posted a couple of times about it here and here.

On the whole, I like the picks of the espn panel today. I can kibitz plenty:

- Gerald Wallace can't have a break out year this season, since he already had a break out year last season - the only thing that can change is that people might notice;

- Carlos Arroyo is a gutsy choice (to use a kind word) given that Jameer Nelson is going to play point for Orlando, and I really don't think they'll play them together, as much as I like Arroyo;

- J.R. Smith is a stretch, but at least a plausible one, though it looks a lot like a homer pick coming from a Denver sportswriter;

- and speaking of homers, what is the deal with this guy from London? In 4 days, he's managed to reference every player in the NBA with ties to Great Britain except Michael Olowokandi. Even so, Luol Deng is not a bad pick either.

This is obviously a topic that is near and dear to the hearts of any fantasy team owner. Who can you pick up in the later rounds of the draft who might end up being a MAJOR contributor? (That's what makes the Gerald Wallace so obviously out of whack in this category. Wallace will be a VERY HIGH pick in everyone's fantasy league. He's not rising from mediocrity. On the other hand, there wasn't a fantasy owner in America who picked Diaw - the guy was on waivers to start the season in every fantasy league, but ended up being a HUGE fantasy player.)

Back in May, I proposed Shaun Livingson (so I'm a homer too) and Dan Dickau as candidates for this list. I also tried to get some feedback going, but I had pretty much ZERO readers then, so nobody responded. Let's see how many readers I have now! Send me candidates for this season's 'Diamond in the Rough.'

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NBA 2010, Part 3

Well, I wasn't going to post on the NBA 2010 series on espn.com today. I really wasn't. It's not that interesting of a series, and I didn't think I had too much more to say about it. But then they went and had not one but two Clipper references, so I figured I was obligated to say something.

Today's question is, "Which player is most likely to eventually supplant Dirk Nowitzki as the best international player in the NBA?"

Marc Spears, who provided easily the lamest answers to the first two questions in the series, continues his streak by picking Sofoklis Schortsianitis, MBFGC. Obviously, Clipper Nation hopes he is correct, especially if the Clips can buy out his Olympiakos contract any time soon. (I'm still not clear on how big a mistake they made by not getting him here this year.) But, supplanting Dirk? I mean, I know MBFGC is only 21 (Dirk is 28), so he's in the right age range. Yao is only 26. Is Sofo going to be better than Yao any time soon? We can certainly hope. (FYI, after watching him the Worlds, I do like his game... A LOT. But 'best international player in the NBA' which equates to best non US born player in the world, is a stretch.)

I will give Spears credit for making a bold choice. Picking Yao or Darko is pretty tame. Picking someone who has yet to play a minute in the NBA is definitely more gutsy. I might go with Yi from China. He's only 19, a complete FREAK of an athlete, 6'11" and still growing. He could be really special. It's not a stretch to say he could be better than Yao.

(The second Clipper reference, btw, was singling out Yao's 25 and 17 against Kaman last season. Of course Yao has always KILLED Kaman, so to imply that having a big game against the Clips proves he's truly arrived is disingenuous. Don't know why exactly, but Yao just owns Kaman.)

No one picked Andrea Bargnani, which tells you what people think of this year's draft.

Finally, does anyone else find it strange that Dirk is being presented as the pinnacle, when the TWO TIME DEFENDING MVP is also foreign born? I'd say Dirk has to supplant Nash before anyone has to supplant Dirk.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NBA 2010, Part 2

The problem with espn.com's little exercise, is that two to three years isn't really a very long time. And then Marc Spears keeps cheating and using free agency three summers from now as part of his answer.

Look, anyone can IMAGINE that Kobe could get hurt or LeBron could get hurt. Problem is, Kobe has averaged 73 games a season for 10 seasons, and has never missed more than 17 games. LeBron's never missed more than 3 games in a season. So, there's no justification for imagining that one of them might could hurt. Might Cleveland or the Lakers suffer without their respective uber-stars? Sure. And in the immortal words of Wayne Campbell, monkeys might fly out of my butt. (That's not really apropos, but I do like Wayne Campbell.)

Now, surmising that 32 year old, Steve 'gimpy back' Nash could miss a significant amount of time in a season? That's not unreasonable.

But it's not always injuries and defections that change a team's fortunes. Bear in mind that the Phoenix Suns had the 6th worst record in the league a mere 3 seasons ago (the same span that we're projecting forward) with a team that included Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson. Obviously, this says something about Starbury, but it also says something about coaching and systems. If D'Antoni were to leave Phoenix, or if the rest of the league were to figure out what he is doing, the wheels could conceivably come off for the Suns. Especially as Nash slows down.

I also look at the Lakers (who at number 10, are the team closest to the lottery already.) This is a team that won 34 games with Kobe and Lamar in 04-05. Is there any reason to think they have more talent now than they did then? They're still basically Kobe and Lamar and a bunch of other guys who probably shouldn't be starting in the NBA. They have nothing remotely resembling an NBA point guard, and let's face it, this is uncharted territory for Phil Jackson. He's never had to play guru tricks just to get a team into the first round of the playoffs. It seems possible to me that his Jedi ways won't work without the Ring as the ultimate prize. I Kwame Brown really gonna sit on the plane and read Lao Tse just so the Lakers can finish 6th in the West? I'm guessing he'd rather play PSP.

Miami will decline, but probably not to the 'low lottery'. Remember that 5 of their top 8 players are over 30, and that really big guy is 34, with a body type that has never been known to thrive into the late 30s in the NBA. Moses Malone played in his last all-star game at the age of 33. His minutes per game dropped from 34 at the age of 34 to 23 at the age of 35. Wilt averaged 27 ppg at 33, 20 at 34, 15 at 35, 13 at 36 and then retired. 34 or 35 seems to be the wall for the mega-giants. When you're carrying around 300 pounds, the legs are gonna go, no matter what kind of freakish specimen you are.

And what about Detroit? They have a coach who has experience taking teams from the Conference Finals to the lottery, and they are beginning to experience some bad luck after an uninterrupted string of colossally good luck that allowed them to get 5 of their super 6 (Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace) for a late first round pick, Zelkjo Rebraca, some money and the remains of Grant Hill. If you subscribe to the 'Joe Dumars is a genius' school of thought, then the Pistons will remain a top team. If, on the other hand, you take a more 'Joe Dumars has been lucky and his luck will run out' approach, they could slide. We'll see. I'm assuming they'll re-sign Billups, and remain a playoff team, but with a bloated payroll and not enough talent to get back to the finals as their comeuppance.

And then there are the Clippers. On paper, with young, signed stars, younger improving future stars, and a fairly obvious path toward keeping this group together (re-sign restricted free agents, re-sign Brand in 09, etc.), the Clippers should be a playoff team for awhile. BUT, do not discount the Clipper mystique. One botched negotiation (say an acrimonious departure of Chris Kaman) and the 'worst franchise in pro sports' talk could start again, and from there things could go south in a hurry.

It isn't always an injury that dooms a formerly top team to mediocrity.

Monday, September 18, 2006

NBA 2010

So, our friends over at espn.com are featuring something they call NBA 2010 this week. In their own words, "All this week, ESPN.com will be looking ahead a few years in an attempt to see what the NBA will look like in the year 2010."

What a completely pointless waste of time! It's just an excuse to espouse an opinion about the basketball universe when in fact there's simply nothing to talk about! How sad and pathetic. Sounds like fun! Can I play too?

So, today's feature was "Which one of the Bottom 10 teams (Blazers, Knicks, Hawks, Wolves, Bobcats, Warriors, Raptors, Rockets, Celtics, Sonics) can win a championship in the next couple of years?"

First things first (and I know that I can be a little anal about these things, but it's my blog), who picked the number 10? Isn't this a tad arbitrary? Seattle is a member of the cellar dweller club at 35-47, but Orlando is not at 36-48? Seems like it should be limited to the truly horrible (there's a pretty clean break at the bottom 5, 27 wins for Toronto and 33 wins for Minny and Boston), or it should be the 14 non-playoff teams, which is at least a meaningfully arbitrary cut off. (Meaningfully arbitrary... I like that.)

OK, whatever. Orlando would be a decent pick if I was allowed to pick them, but rules are rules.

Of course, what I really want to do is diss the picks of the so-called experts.

John Denton picks the Houston Rockets, who really shouldn't even be on the list. Of course they would not be a bottom 10 team if TMac and Yao had not spent significant time in street clothes. So picking them is just too easy. Doesn't count.

Marc Spears picks the Knicks. Oh my god. Where to start? His reasoning is that 'either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade will be wearing a Knicks uniform after his contract ends.' Well, first of all, the name of the feature is NBA 2010, and even if this were to happen, they would have to win the title in that player's first year in MSG, and even then, it would be the 2011 title! Plus, the question says 'next couple of years.' A couple is two, not three and definitely not four! But ignoring all of those problems, it seems next to impossible to think that LeBron (or Wade) could become a Knick when his current deal is up. They won't be under the salary cap (it would be virtually impossible even if they started trying to get there now, and it would entail a level of sophistication and focus that neither Isiah Thomas nor James Dolan have heretofor exhibited), and they would only be able to offer bloated contracts in return for King James. Why would the Cavs work a sign-and-trade with an Eastern Conference team with no decent trade assets? It ain't happening.

Only Chris Sheridan offers a decent answer. (Picking Minnesota is a little like picking Houston - it's too easy. They were in the Western Conference finals two years ago. They have KG. Of course they have a chance. What fun is that?) Now, picking Charlotte, with a not implausible Vince Carter free agent signing next summer... that's an interesting pick. Sheridan also gets extra credit for specifically eschewing the Rockets pick as unworthy. Well played sir!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Off-Season Moves

OK, this isn't MY take on off-season moves. It's my take on Mark Stein's take on off-season moves.

When all is said and done, this may be the reason I started blogging... so that I could rant about the silly, unjustified things that I see written all the time, and more importantly, so I could write my own silly, unjustified stuff.

In Stein's own words, he is making a list of "offseason assessments, not predicted order of finish for the coming season." If that is the case, how can you make Miami number one in the East? Doesn't that sound a LOT like a predicted order of finish? I mean, you're setting the bar pretty low if NOT losing your coach vaults you automatically to the top of the list.

Miami's rotation goes 8 deep. Anyone who says that Jason Kapono or Michael Doleac counts is kidding themselves. In fact, Derek Anderson and Shandon Anderson represented their 'depth' after the first 8, and they're both gone.

Of the 8 man rotation, 5 of them are over 30 years old (GP 38, 'Zo 36, Shaq 34, Williams 31 and Walker 30). Hell, Posey will be 29 in January. What I'm saying is, an off-season assessment should be about, did the team get better or worse during the off-season. What else could it be? Miami got worse - they were old and they got older.

There's nothing so egregious in Stein's Western Conference report card. Hard to argue with the Hornets in the top spot, or the Grizz in the last spot (if we're counting injuries). But San Antonio in third is totally unjustified. He tries to 'justitify' it by applying a double standard. Did the Hornets overpay for Peja? It doesn't matter, they got better so they are number 1. Did San Antonio lose both their centers? Sure, but they replaced them by splitting the mid-level, and they'll be able to reload around Timmy, Tony and Manu in 2 years. Wait a minute? Is this off-season assessment about being better than last year, or about making good business decisions? Make up your mind.

By the way, the Clippers came out fourth in the West. I would argue that there isn't much personnel upgrade from the end of season edition - Tim Thomas for VladRad is a small upgrade. But the Clippers are the anti-Heat on the age thing. Sure Sam Cassell got older - but so did Shaun Livingston and Chris Kaman.