Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NBA WHO SAYS NO Rankings - Part 4 of 5


Before we get started, let me just remind you that ESPN and its incessant NFL draft coverage can go piss up a rope and die of AIDS.  And also OMYGOD as I type this, the NFL schedule is being released.  I know everyone is on pins and needles like I am: is my team going to play six divisional games, four games against the NFC division we last played in 2011, four games against the AFC division we last played in 2012, and finally two additional games against the two teams in the other two AFC divisions that finished in the same place in the division that we did last year?  There's really no way to tell--I should probably tune into ESPN to watch this big reveal.  God, fuck the NFL.  Moving on.

GROUP A: “Completely and Utterly Untouchable”

5. Russell Westbrook
4. James Harden
3. Stephen Curry

For the first time in the history of my Sports Guy column, 

You're going to provide analysis that isn't self-important, isn't full of idiotic pop culture references, and most of all isn't terrible?

we’re dusting off the old Dr. Jack Breakdown gimmick and turning it into a threesome. 

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

I’m gonna throw my Eyes Wide Shut mask on, take a half-Viagra, throw down two glasses of wine and really get into this. 

Hey, that's kind of a funny "pop" (term used loosely here) culture reference with the Eyes Wide Shut thing.  It's also very self-important and I'm sure it will be terrible, but one out of three isn't bad.

Please, I implore you, for your own safety, don’t try this at home. I’m a professional. 

Go fuck an elephant.

Anyway …

SALARIES: Harden (signed through 2017-18) and Westbrook (signed through 2016-17) are max guys earning $16 million to $17 million per season … a paltry number in two summers when the NBA salary cap starts taking steroids and HGH, 

LIKE KOBE AMIRITE????????????????

but still. Meanwhile, Golden State has Curry locked down for $10.63 million (this season), $11.37 million (2015-16), and $12.1 million (2016-17). He won’t make as much money over those three years as Marcin Gortat. Anytime someone can make $11 million per year and you feel bad for them, you know they’re a bargain. ADVANTAGE: CURRY.

Curry signed that deal just before the start of the 2012-2013 season.  He had been injured for much of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, playing in just 26 games and averaging a paltry 14 and 5.  Looks like one of those "it makes sense for both sides" contracts, really, since Curry would have been wise to take some guaranteed money, and the Warriors were paying him, at the very worst, to be a three point specialist.  Whelp, guess it worked out for the Warriors.  As a Nuggets fan I hate them, but I do love parity and fresh blood in the winner's circle so I wouldn't mind seeing them win a title this year.  JUST this year.  After that, fuck them.  Every important player on that team besides Curry and Bogut is a flaming cuntrag.  Also, if they pull it off, it'll be just the fifth title since 1991 (exceptions: that goofy 2004 Pistons team, the 2006 Heat team that had Shaq and Wade and every call in the Finals, THE FAWKIN' 2008 UBUNTUS, and the magical LeBron-defeating 2011 Mavericks) won by a team that didn't have Jordan, Olajuwon, Kobe, LeBron or Duncan.  And if Jordan hadn't gone to play baseball (IT WAS A SECRET GAMBLING SUSPENSION WHO SAYS NO????) we might be able to take Olajuwon off that list.  The more you know.

BEST GIMMICK: 

Oh yeah, this is crucial.  So glad we made it here after hitting all the important categories like "Salaries" and "nothing else."  BUT WHICH ONE OF THEM WOULD YOU WANT TO WATCH CASTAWAY WITH?

Sorry, fellas, you’re not topping Harden’s beard. Greatest NBA facial hair of all time in no particular order: 

Oh no you don't, buddy.  No cutting corners here.  I expect these lists to have a set order upon which any basketball worth a damn would definitely agree.

Wilt’s goatee; Bird’s wispy almost-mustache; [rest of list deleted]

I'm just going to stop you right there.  Thanks so much for your time.

SHEER AWESOMENESS OF THEIR CONVENTIONAL 2014-15 NUMBERS:Spectacular all the way around. Through Sunday’s games …

Westbrook 27.5 ppg 8.3 apg 7.2 rpg 2.1 spg 43-30-84% 9.4 FTA 3.7 3FGA
Harden 26.9 ppg 7.1 apg 5.8 rpg 1.9 spg 44-38-87% 9.8 FTA 6.7 3FGA
Curry 23.6 ppg 7.8 apg 4.4 rpg 2.2 spg 48-42-90% 4.3 FTA 8.0 3FGA

And Westbrook finished even hotter than that.  I hate him, he's a dick, I've definitely written here before that he is overrated, but damn.  Not sure I am going to ever write that again.

Some highlights: Westbrook working on the third 27-8-7 with a 30-plus PER in NBA history (the other two: 1989 MJ and 2013 LeBron) … 

He ended up just missing, with a 29.1 PER.

Steph knocking on the door of the 50-40-90 Club while jacking up a staggering EIGHT 3s per game (good luck ever seeing that again) … 

Just missed, shooting 48.7% from the floor.  But Steve Nash pulled off 50-40-90 twice while shooting between 4 and 5 threes per game.  I don't think it's some kind of Cy Young's win total unbreakable record.

Harden trying to become the first lefty 

OK, for fuck's sake, I appreciate that this breakdown category isn't dedicated to something as inane as facial hair, but this isn't baseball.  Who gives a flying sloppy fuck about basketball player handedness when it comes to statistical achievements?

to average 27, 7 and 6 

Just missed--only 5.7 boards.

while also trying to become the third player (after Kobe Bryant and Gilbert Arenas) to attempt 500 3s AND 750 free throws (the 500/750 Club!) … 

He got there easily.  Man, that guy gets to the line.  I thought there was a chance Curry was close to this as well, but not even.  He only attempted 337 FTs.

did I mention that Westbrook is a guard and he’s averaging eight freaking rebounds per 36 minutes? … my God, look at that Westbrook season!!!!!! Are those numbers real? Can we check the math again? ADVANTAGE: WESTBROOK.

I'm going with Curry, given that he did what he did on a team that had plenty of other good players, while Westbrook, minus Durant and Ibaka for chunks of time, was really the only guy on the Thunder capable of scoring or assisting.  But there's probably no wrong answer here.  WHAT IF WESTBROOK WAS LEFT HANDED THOUGH, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGE?!?!?!?!!

SHEER AWESOMENESS OF THEIR ADVANCED 2014-15 NUMBERS: Some of this stuff is bat-shit crazy. Through Sunday’s games


Westbrook 29.7 PER 38.4 usage 53.9% TS 6.6 RPM 8.4 WS; .234 WS/48
Harden 26.6 PER 30.9 usage 60.8% TS 8.51 RPM 13.2 WS .265 WS/48
Curry 27.8 PER 28.7 usage 62.9% TS 8.55 RPM 12.4 WS .286 WS/48

Some highlights: Steph’s WS/48 will be top 20 all time … 

He ended at .2881, 19th all time.

we’ve had only 17 30-plus PER seasons and 86 27-plus PER seasons (and Westbrook is knocking on the door), as well as just three guards who have cracked 30 PER (MJ, Wade and T-Mac) … 

Westbrook didn't make it, but Anthony Davis (who finishes at #1 in these rankings, deservedly so) did.  Make that eighteen 30+ PER seasons.

only Kevin Johnson (in 1997) ever averaged 20 points and eight assists with a 63 percent true shooting percentage … 

OK, you're starting to really reach now.  Also, as the three ball becomes more and more popular and players shoot it better and better, TS% league wide among guards should continue to increase.

West, Magic, Jordan, Oscar and CP3 are the only guards to ever finish a season with 16 win shares … 

Ah, the coveted 16 win share cutoff point.  Both Harden and Chris Paul made it this year.

and if we want to get super-fancy, Harden leads the NBA in points per game on drives and has assisted on more made 3s than anyone … 

I think I also wrote on this blog several times back in 2012 that contrary to what Simmons said, the Thunder didn't commit some kind of sin against humanity when they traded Harden.  I'm not going to take that back, because in-the-moment analysis is in-the-moment analysis and I stand by the idea that the trade was justifiable at the time, but wow.  Harden is really, really good, and the Thunder traded him for really, really nothing.

and Westbrook’s usage rate is threatening to break 2006 Kobe’s all-time NBA record (not necessarily a positive). 

He came up juuuuuuuuuust short, 38.7 to 38.4.  That Kobe team made the playoffs, though, which proves something, but I'm really not sure what.  So I'll just go ahead and remind you that Simmons is a fucktard.

I give Curry’s season a slight edge for its unselfish efficiency and efficient unselfishness. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: CURRY.

Really awesome wordplay there, Kerouac.  Knocked that one out of the park.

MOST MANAGEABLE GLARING WEAKNESS: Golden State hides Curry on D as much as possible, but he’s a better and smarter defender than people realize. (Maybe he’s not Chris Paul on that end, but he’s not Damian Lillard either.) 

Ooooooooh. Cold blooded.  Lillard had basically the same defensive advanced metrics (defensive rating per 100 possessions and defensive win shares) as Westbrook this year, and was only slightly worse than Curry and Harden.

Westbrook plays with so much confidence/swagger/ferocity that he can’t stop going into 2006 Kobe mode, especially late in games, which is the best and the worst thing about him. 

More top-notch writing from this guy who gets paid to use words to express ideas.  Klosterman probably thinks that sentence is nectar from the Gods.

(I mean, are YOU gonna tell Westbrook not to shoot every time? I didn’t think so.) 

Aw snap!  In your face, readers!

And Harden’s night-to-night defense used to be somewhere between “reprehensible” and “he’s trolling us,” but he took enough guff that he actually started trying on both ends this season. Great for the Rockets; terrible for everyone who loved reading 1,200-post NBA Reddit threads centered on GIFs of Harden standing in cement as his man darted by him for a layup. He’s the most well rounded of the three. ADVANTAGE: HARDEN.

Indeed, the metrics bear it out.  Harden had more defensive win shares than the other two guys.

BEST NICKNAME: I enjoy “The Beard” and like “The Splash Brothers” a tiny bit more. 

Both of those are terrible, especially since one is a reference to a video game that was most popular ten years ago.

But you know how you’d never call Liam Neeson “Liam” or “Neeson,” or nickname him, like, “Li” or “The Angry Irishman”? He’s just “Liam Neeson,” right? Same for Russell Westbrook. He’s too cool for a nickname. He’s transcended nicknames.

That's simply untrue.  I have heard many commentators and dozens of NBA fans call him "Russ" this season.  You're making stuff up again, Bill.

Damn, I’m at capacity for Liam Neeson references in this column already. ADVANTAGE: WESTBROOK.

You've been at capacity for references to anything other than sports since 2002.

ONE-MAN-WRECKING-CREWNESS: 

Pretty dumb category (not that most of the rest of these aren't).

Um, Westbrook threw up 40-13-11, 39-14-11, 49-15-10, 30-11-17, 36-11-6 and 48-9-11 just in the past five weeks. Curry and Harden can eviscerate opposing defenses — and have — but only Westbrook makes you feel like you’re watching Lia— whoops, 

HIGH FIVE!

like you’re watching a WWE star sprint into a crowded Royal Rumble ring 

Yes, basketball is wrestling is basketball is Taken.  Couldn't agree more.

and immediately start clearing it out. He doesn’t need a nickname, but he might need his own entrance music. ADVANTAGE: WESTBROOK.

Topping off the wrestling motif there, with another wrestling reference.  Great stuff.

BEST QUALITY AS A TEAMMATE: Harden is a famously fun off-the-court guy — the kind of star who seems like he’d stay out with a new teammate until 6 a.m. and, um, show him around. 

He's not going to be your friend, Bill.  Let it go.

Westbrook would fight for any teammate or coach on and off the court; he even holds grudges on the level of, Even though Grantland has thrown more love my way than toward Kanye and Drake combined, I’m not appearing on the All-Star Break B.S. Report because Simmons is the asshole who keeps bringing up the Harden trade and saying that Scott Brooks isn’t good enough. (By the way — guilty!)

YOU'RE NOT THE CENTER OF THE FUCKING UNIVERSE YOU NAVEL-GAZING DIPSHIT!  JESUS CHRIST ON A FUCKING TRICYCLE

But Curry is turning into this generation’s Tim Duncan — an unselfish superstar who doesn’t want to be an alpha dog, 

I like Curry just fine, and I don't think this is a bad thing to say about him, but he most definitely wants to be an alpha dog.

pulls for everyone else at all times, 

That's what 99% of all pro athletes do.

has an infectious personality 

Duncan has an infectious personality?

and lacks any semblance of an ego. 

Yeah, those walk-away-before-the-ball-reaches-the-rim threes really scream "quiet guy who just wants to get the job done."  Again, not that that's a bad thing.  If I shot 48% from three, I'd do it too.  But what in the holy hell is Bill talking about?

I loved that he loved Klay Thompson’s 37-point Über–Heat Check quarter more than anyone. 

Who, among every player in the NBA, wouldn't have loved that if Thompson was their teammate?  What is this garbage?

He’s the best player on a team with phenomenal chemistry. That matters. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: CURRY.

Excellent paragraph.  Full of sound, fury, and nothingness.

NIGHT-TO-NIGHT YOUTUBE/GIF/MEME/VINE POTENTIAL:

All of them.  Who gives a flying fuck?  It's 2015.  We all can watch all of their highlights every night.  It's not like there's limited space on the internet for them.

DEFENSE/REBOUNDING/STEALS: Good place to save some words. ADVANTAGE: WESTBROOK.

"Good place to admit that I actually don't know that much about basketball."

DURABILITY: Here, too. ADVANTAGE: HARDEN.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THEIR GIRLFRIENDS?  WHOSE IS HOTTEST?  WHY AM I READING THIS IF I DON'T GET TO SEE THEIR PICTURES?

POPULARITY: 

Yahtzee!

Big year for Curry — not only did he fetch the most All-Star votes, but LeBron’s departure from Miami allowed Golden State to become the NBA’s biggest bandwagon team. If your child is under 10 and searching for a hoops team that not-so-coincidentally might have a chance to win multiple titles, or you’re one of those secretly shady NBA fans-for-hire who drifts around from contender to contender because “I just root for players I like,” or you’re a casual fan who just likes watching dunks and 3s and that’s it, or you grew up in the Bay Area and wore a Warriors hat for 10 minutes when you were 8 years old back in the 1990s, then we have the bandwagon contender just for you! 

And there's your one place in the whole column where Bill actually says something funny.  Drink it up, people.

And yes, my daughter jumped on the Warriors bandwagon a few months ago. They’re irresistable. They’re bandwagon catnip. ADVANTAGE: CURRY.

Fuck those GSW fans.  They're horrible.  Even the long-suffering mainstays.  Fuck 'em all.

MEDIA SAVVY: You’d think Curry would win this in a landslide. 

You'd think, wouldn't you?  Finally, something fans really need to read more about.

But what about Westbrook’s tough-love strategy? 

YES, WHAT OF IT?  THIS IS FASCINATING.

I kind of dig it. Total dick for a week, goes generic for a week, becomes nice and thoughtful the next week. He’s like the arrogant, hard-to-get ladies’ man in a rom-com who keeps playing the frazzled-but-successful woman in his office who’s way too cute not to have a boyfriend (only she’s all about her work and her home life is a mess). 

That's how you think of yourself, isn't it?

Russell thanked us today! What does this mean? Does he like me? I love Russell Westbrook. 

Barf

If he punched me in the face the next time I saw him, I’d probably justify it by saying, “I probably deserved that.” Wait … don’t actually do that, Russell. SLIGHT ADVANTAGE: WESTBROOK.

No one cares.

MOST ANNOYING QUALITY:

Tie among all three of them, for being discussed extensively in this article.  Done and done.

BEST “WHAT IF?” BACKSTORY: 

WHAT WILL WE THINK ABOUT THESE POTENTIAL BACKSTORIES IN TEN YEARS WHEN THEY HAVE BECOME NON-STORIES?

Curry almost got traded to the Suns during the 2010 draft; nearly got dealt to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut; and could have ended up in Minnesota had David Kahn not taken Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn over him. Westbrook trumps Curry with the whole “What if OKC never traded James Harden?” question lingering over his entire OKC tenure like a pungent fart on an airplane. 

I agree with the very mild intrigue of the Curry stuff.  The Westbrook stuff: sorry Bill, but the Harden trade isn't about Westbrook.  It's about Harden.  Let's see if he can get there...

And James Harden IS the James Harden from the previous sentence. ADVANTAGE: HARDEN.

He made it!  Go Bill go!

SWAGGER WHILE WALKING DOWN A RUNWAY BEFORE AN ESPN GAME DURING THOSE LUDICROUSLY LONG CAMERA SHOTS THAT

Don't care, we're skipping this category, you're not funny.

UNIQUENESS FACTOR: Brutal category. 

Totally brutal.  Oh wait, who gives a fucking runny shit?

Westbrook is basically Jim Brown 50 years later with basketball shorts on. 

Basically like literally OMG that's so what he is I can't even

And I just compared him to Teen Wolf 

Check that spot on your bingo cards, people.

and a poisoned movie character who uses so much of her brain that she becomes a robot, then turns invisible. 

I lost whatever reference he was making in copying and pasting this over to Blogger and removing the formatting--I can't guess it, and don't even want to know.

Somehow, I have him ranked third. 

He's a great athlete, who plays like another great athlete from a while ago, and a fictional great athlete from a bad movie.  So unique.

Curry is the greatest shooter I have ever seen in my life; he’s like Maravich reincarnated crossed with Steve Nash crossed with some sports movie character that hasn’t been invented yet. Somehow, I have him ranked second. 

He's a basketball player who is good at shooting basketballs into basketball hoops.  So unique.

And Harden is a true original – I’m half-convinced that Dork Elvis, Goldsberry and Hollinger wanted to see if there could be a superior and much more durable American version of Manu Ginobili, so they created Harden in an MIT lab in 2007 during the first-ever Sloan Conference. A left-handed scorer/creator who cares only about getting to the rim, getting fouled or shooting 3s?

He's just like this other guy who is about ten years older and also plays in the NBA.  So unique.

Important note:

No.  Moving on.

“SEEING THEM IN PERSON” FACTOR: Christ. This one isn’t fair, especially with Westbrook in Jim Brown/Bo Jackson/Young LeBron/Lucymode right now. But I saw Curry in Brooklyn earlier this month, and lemme tell you something: 

Hey, let us tell you something: most of us don't just travel around watching basketball as part of our jobs.  If we can make it to the arena nearest where we live when the Rockets, Thunder or Warriors are in town: great.  If not: we'll watch them on TV like everyone else.  You out of touch stereotype of an asshole journalist.

There is nothing — repeat, nothing — more exciting as an NBA fan right now than being in the house when Steph Curry is feeling it. Bird had the same quality, by the way. 

IT AWWWWWWL COMES BACK TO THE FACKIN' C'S!  I BET YOU THOUGHT IT WOULDN'T!  FACK YOU!

And these Curry shots are SWISHING. That’s the other thing. 

Not as SWISHINGLY as LEGEND'S, but they're still SWISHING.

When it starts happening, the energy in the building actually shifts and becomes something else. 

More exemplary use of the English language.  This guy knows how to paint a beautiful piece of shit with words.

It’s tangible. His teammates rise from their bench. 

Something unseen anywhere else in pro sports!

The fans start buzzing like they’re waiting for a band to make a Coachella entrance or something. 

MAYBE YOU HAVEN'T HEARD BUT BILL LIVES IN SOCAL NOW

Everyone stands because you simply have to stand. 

No, everyone stands because it's exciting, which happens all the time in every sport.

And all the limits of the sport we thought we understood get briefly removed. 

Barf

It’s amazing. Utterly, completely amazing. 

Barf barf

If you have the money and the Warriors are passing through your city, go see Steph Curry. 

Oh, you can't see them in person whenever you want?  Pity.  Perhaps you need a more connected family to get your media career off the ground.

You want to be there if he starts feeling it. Trust me. 

"You wouldn't know from watching on TV, peasant."

ADVANTAGE: CURRY.

I'm not even finishing this fucking segment of this shitstain of an article.  Here are the categories you missed, and the correct picks each:

NIGHT-TO-NIGHT COMPETITIVENESS: 

All of them, regardless of the fact that Westbrook looks meaner than the other two.

GUY YOU’D MOST WANT FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS: 

All of them.

MOST VALUABLE RIGHT NOW:

Curry, I'd guess, but you can't pick wrong.

MEANING TO THEIR CITY:

NONE OF THEM, BECAUSE NONE OF THEM PLAY IN BEANTOWN AND THEY-AHFO-AH, NONE OF THEM AHHHH PROPAHLY APPRECIATED!

I'll wrap it up with LeBron and Anthony Davis in the next post.  Seriously, fuck Bill Simmons and fuck anyone who reads him for any reason other than to complain about him.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

NBA WHO SAYS NO Rankings - Part 3


Are you finished feeling guilty for what YOU'VE done to DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins, America?  Have you thought about what you did?  Good, now we can move on to two players who I genuinely dislike (one of whom does not belong this high on the list) and one who Bill is GENUINELY WORRIED ABOUT, GUYS.

8. Blake Griffin

Things that concern me in no particular order …

Oh wait, Bill is GENUINELY WORRIED about lots of things.  He's fretting.  His palms are sweaty.  WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?  Will NBA fans everywhere finally agree that Griffin is a manbaby hothead who is responsible for about 99% of every on-court scrape/half-fight/actual fight he gets into?  WILL PEOPLE STOP BUYING KIAS?  OH THE HUMANITY

A. Why didn’t Blake’s elbow injury submarine the Clippers’ season? 

Well, he only missed 15 games.  His shooting and rebounding are at career worsts, but his assists are at career highs and his PER is pretty much holding steady.  He's a good player.  He's not an irreplaceable player.  His absence probably cost them a win or two.

This is a team that gives real, actual, tangible minutes to Hedo Turkoglu, Big Baby Davis and Occasionally Fredo Rivers. They just signed The Artist Formerly Known As Nate Robinson and made him a rotation guy. They were upset when they couldn’t get Tayshaun Prince or Kendrick Perkins. They could sign literally any washed-up former star (Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Gilbert Arenas, Shawn Kemp, etc.), play him 12 minutes tomorrow night and you wouldn’t be shocked. And they went 9-6 without one of the league’s best 12 players? Where was the 15-game swoon?

I don't like Griffin's game at all, I think he's overrated, but Jesus's hairy balls, dude.  It's not that weird.  They have one of the three best PGs in the league, a good coach (even if he can be a total shithead) and an elite rebounder/rim protector.  What were they supposed to do, go 0-15 without him?

B. He’s headed for his third straight Antoine Walker Award, given annually to the NBA star who provokes the highest ongoing level of disdain from opponents and referees. 

Herrrrrre we go.

Look, it’s hard to stand out on the 2014-15 Los Angeles Bitchers — 

Horrible, unfunny, corny nickname.  (I don't think he's got another "Jackass Central" in him.)  But it is most definitely accurate.

an irascible bunch that spends an unfathomable amount of time griping about calls, stink-eyeing officials, taking hard fouls way too personally and reacting to unexpected whistles by sprinting in short bursts with outstretched arms and their faces contorted in disbelief (or as it’s better known, “The Doc”). 

Wow--shocked that he would admit to as much.  I guess he's still sour about that time Rivers (rightfully) called him a know-nothing dumbass live during the NBA draft, as well as the fact that Rivers is no longer coaching his beloved C's.

But Blake has managed to do it. Opponents believe they can get in his head. And they usually do.

Go buy a lottery ticket, everyone.  I agree with Bill Simmons about something.  (Although I disagree that it's cause for concern about his status/value as a player.  I mean, he's a good player who has a short fuse.  Plenty of those guys have had successful and productive careers.)

C. A 6-foot-10 power forward who’s built like a Greek god, plays waaaaay above the rim and once averaged 12 boards a game as a rookie can’t grab eight rebounds a night in his fifth NBA season? That’s an astonishing drop-off, no?

Excuse No. 1: His offensive rebounding fell off (3.3 as a rookie, 2.0 in Year 5) because he shoots more jumpers now.

Love Bill's thinking here: he's grabbing 4.5 fewer rebounds per game than at his rebounding apex.  First possible reason: he's grabbing 1.3 fewer offensive rebounds per game.  Mystery: solved.

Excuse No. 2: There aren’t enough available rebounds now that Contract Year DeAndre has become possessed by Wilt Chamberlain’s ghost.

This one is actually pretty legitimate--Jordan is grabbing 15 boards a game.  That's nuts.  When Griffin was a 12 RPG rookie, Jordan averaged 26 MPG but only grabbed 7.5 boards.  It's like they've switched roles, and then some.

Excuse No. 3: Blake has bigger ambitions; he wants to be more of a playmaker now. That brings us to …

Probably fair, given that he's handing out more than five APG.  I don't like the guy, I think he's overrated, I think he's too high on this list (I'd take Cousins over him ten times out of ten), but that's pretty impressive for a guy who also scores 22 a game and plays most of his minutes with Chris Paul.

D. I voted Blake third for MVP last season and believed he was heading for a decade-long run of 24-and-10 seasons. 

Bill's obsession with HOW WILL WE LOOK BACK ON THIS IN X YEARS continues, only now he gets to unsubtly drop in the fact that he has an MVP vote.  Go fuck yourself, Bill.

This generation’s best power forward, basically. Well …

Mailman (Years 4-10): 28-11-3, 53% FG, 10.2 FTA, 2.5 stocks, 25.1 PER
Duncan (Years 4-10): 22-12-3, 51% FG, 7.7 FTA, 3.3 stocks, 25.8 PER
Barkley (Years 4-10): 25-12-4, 56% FG, 9.3 FTA, 2.4 stocks, 26.3 PER
Dirk (Years 4-10): 25-9-3, 47% FG, 7.1 FTA, 2.1 stocks, 25.5 PER
Blake (Year 5): 22-8-5, 50% FG, 6.6 FTA, 1.3 stocks, 22.9 PER

Why are FTAs in there?  I'm not saying it's a useless statistic, but the way games are reffed has changed so much over time that I really don't see the point of comparing Malone's and Barkley's numbers with Griffin's.  Look, the facts that his PER is materially lower than any of those guys, and his rebounding is disappearing (whether in deference to a teammate or not) are enough to convince me.

And I had to round up from 7.6 to get to eight rebounds. Shouldn’t he be trending up? Last season, after Blake carried the CP3-less Clips for a month and showed off a better all-around game than we ever imagined, Kirk Goldsberry called him “the most prolific interior scorer in the NBA” and backed up that progress with year-by-year shot charts. 

Difficult title to bestow on someone who plays with CP3 (who I also hate, but do not think is overrated).  With his post game, his insane vision on the pick and roll, and his ability to space the floor (not to mention frequent punches to opponents' dicks), Paul makes life easier for any big man.  With the Hornets he made Tyson Chandler and Emeka Okafor look like legitimate inside scorers.  He could probably get 2015 Charles Barkley 15 points a game if Barkley suited up and went back out there.

This season, Blake wanted to show off his improved jump shot and admitted as much in a piece in The Players’ Tribune 

Side note: the Players' Tribune is a great idea.  It's also a tire fire in terms of execution.  Much like Grantland.

that contributing editor Blake Griffin headlined, “Why Ain’t He Dunkin?” Kudos to him for spending thousands of hours fixing a once-broken jump shot, but man … we have 100 guys who can make 20-footers. As Goldsberry joked last week, nobody ever watched Blake and said, “Someday, maybe he can become the next David West.”

Well, in theory, a professional athlete should have so much time available for practice that they can work on one skill without having others deteriorate.  Maybe the reason Griffin's improved jump shooting has come at the expense of his interior efficiency (and possibly his offensive rebounding) is that he's just not as good as everyone thinks he is.

Like everyone else, I loved watching Year 4 Blake — the reckless super-athlete with a blossoming inside-outside game who searched for GIFtims (GIF victims) 

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

every time he careered toward the hoop. But Year 5 Blake? Let’s play America’s hottest game show, “When The Eye Test Meets Advanced Metrics!”


KIRK GOLDSBERRY/GRANTLAND

Hate to show too much love to Grantland, but those shot charts are fucking cool.

Goldsberry’s translation: “The good news: He’s finally converting all of those elbow shots at above-average rates. That will help him extend his career. The bad news: He’s gone from ‘great’ to ‘good’ in the paint. Not only is his efficiency down close to the basket, but his usage is way down, too; for the first time in his career, the majority of his shots are jumpers. So he deserves credit for improving as a jump shooter, but he may have already peaked as an interior force.”

Is he afraid of contact?  Do hard fouls get to him?  Is he getting lazier as he ages?  I don't really give a shit, but he's not the #8 trade asset in the league.  Especially not when he's getting ~$20 million a year through 2018, and his contract includes a 15% raise if he gets traded.

Ideally, you would want to combine Great-In-The-Paint Blake with Above-The-Rim Blake, Crash-The-Boards Blake, Sneaky-Good-Passer Blake and Above-Average Elbow Shooter Blake and create Super-Blake. 

America's most popular basketball analyst, and bestselling author of "The Book of Basketball" shares his really interesting thoughts about Blake Griffin.

(Right now, only Anthony Davis trumps Super-Blake as an all-around “JESUS! HOW DO YOU STOP HIM???” forward.) Will it ever happen? 

I mean, it sort of already has happened; he's a really good player who's good for 22 and 8 or so.  If he wasn't playing with Jordan it would probably be 24 and 10.  Please stop concern trolling about him.

Should we be concerned that, 

Please stop concern trolling.

during his age-25 season, Griffin’s rebounding, free throw attempts, blocks, steals, in-the-paint numbers and everything else that signifies “I am zipping around like a force of nature!” are drifting the wrong way?

Please stop concern trolling.

Super-Blake was and is untradable. But Not-As-Reckless-Above-Average-Elbow-Shooter-Who-Can’t-Get-Two-Rebounds-A-Quarter Blake? You tell me.

He's not untradable, other than perhaps from the perspective of the other 29 teams in the league with that 15% escalator.  He's still really good.  We have learned nothing from Bill's 500 words on Blake Griffin.  We're done here.

7. Chris Paul

Fucking complainy-pants asshole extraordinaire.  Unlike Griffin, though, I think he is properly ranked on this list.

“Teammates lived in perpetual fear of letting him down. Coaches struggled to reach him and ultimately left him alone. 

And just like that, Adam Morrison was out of the NBA."

Referees dreaded calling his games, knowing they couldn’t toss the league’s best player even as he was serenading them with F-bombs. 

I wish he were talking about Tim Duncan.

Fans struggled to connect with a prodigy who had little interest in connecting with them.”

Now he's talking about himself, maybe?

Did I write that in my NBA book about Chris Paul … or Oscar Robertson? (Checking.) 

OK, I'm out of bad "lol he was talking about someone else" jokes.

Whoops, Oscar. But Chris is really three people: Cliff Paul 

Darren Rovell just got half a boner upon reading that Simmons has internalized State Farm's marketing.

(the bespectacled guy from the State Farm commercials), 

Cliff Paul stinks.

Chris Paul (the media-savvy brand who gives thoughtful interviews, runs the NBPA and always does the right thing) 

Again, except when he's taking cheap shots, flopping, or bitching about the correct call.

and CP3 (the player himself). And you know what CP3 is? An impossible crank, an unforgiving perfectionist, a drill sergeant, a weirdly joyless player who struggles to resonate with teammates and home fans … and someone who plays point guard about as well as that position can be played.

And who has never been past the second round of the playoffs.  I hate that kind of criticism in most sports, but in basketball, great players have the ability to carry teams.  Paul is exiting his prime.  Within a couple of years it'll be pretty much impossible for him to be the best player on a championship contender.  But still, fuck, he's pretty good.

CP3 spent the first half of this season getting into shape (it’s true) while remaining supernaturally efficient; he’d routinely take quarters off and halves off and seemed even grouchier than usual. 

For fuck's sake, Bill.  You don't know the guy personally.  Who the hell knows how he was really feeling?

When Blake went down, CP3 unleashed holy hell; he has vaulted to that Westbrook/Harden/LeBron/Davis/Curry level for a solid month (and counting) while carrying a limited team. 

HE IS A TOP SIX PLAYER, MOST LIKELY EXACTLY SIXTH BEST.  NOBODY SAYS ANYTHING BUT YES

As Doc loves to point out, CP3 actually plays both ends and loves disrupting other point guards; new advanced metrics even back up CP3’s defensive brilliance. 

I'm not sure which ones he's referring to, but given his "the sun shines on things because I cast my eyes upon them" attitude, they're probably metrics that have been around for like five years that Bill just discovered.  Thus they are brand spanking new.

(I went to a Grizzlies game a few weeks ago in which he absolutely destroyed Mike Conley, who’s only one of the league’s best 25 players.) 

I like Mike Conley, but no he's not.

And CP3’s pull-up elbow jumper remains the NBA’s best crunch-time weapon. It’s about as sure of a thing as you can get these days.

"These days."  What the fuck is he talking about?  Is it way harder to get crunch time points now than it was ten or twenty years ago?  What?

And yet … CP3 is also a basketball curmudgeon, someone who dominates the ball in close games to an almost harmful degree. He doesn’t trust anyone else late; he’s like one of those moms who won’t let anyone babysit her kids. 

He also plays on a team with little scoring depth and no shooters other than "35 and not aging well" Jamal Crawford and "can't be on the floor continuously during crunch time because he can't guard anyone" JJ Redick.

His teammates know it, and even worse, his opponents know it. Can you win in the playoffs that way? 

Well, he hasn't yet.

Doesn’t it open the door for what happened in Game 5 of last spring’s OKC series? Can you point to another example of a ball-dominating little guy who also won four straight playoff rounds? 

We got it--enough with the fucking non-rhetorical rhetorical questions.  Also, how about Isiah Thomas?

He’s certainly the best pure point guard since Isiah Thomas — another fiery competitor who demanded perfection from everyone around him. But Isiah trusted his teammates way more than CP3 does. 

WHO SAYS NO?????  Thomas averaged 16 FGA per game for his career.  Paul, playing in a higher-scoring era on a very fast team, is averaging 14 this year and for his career.

If CP3 is more dictatorial, then Isiah was more democratic. 

You didn't use either of those words correctly.

He allowed Dumars and Vinnie to freelance in big spots and never needed the ball late like CP3 often does. 

I very much doubt that he "never" needed the ball late.

You would have loved playing with Isiah. You wouldn’t have loved playing with Oscar. And CP3 is floating somewhere in between those two extremes. It’s crazy that he hasn’t played in a conference finals game yet … but it’s also not that crazy.

Excellent writing.  Top notch.  When is this guy going to give up on the whole TV/podcast thing and just start cranking out some novels?

6. Kevin Durant

I’ll be honest, the broken foot debacle freaks me out.

Crank up the BILL IS WORRIED, GUYS tornado siren.

A quick recap: KD suffers a Jones fracture in mid-October … everyone spends the next few days writing that it’s a secretly dangerous foot injury and that you CANNOT rush back from it … Durant promises not to rush back, then comes back in six and a half weeks … 

Great job providing context to readers as to what would constitute rushing back.  Hey look, a Google result that says that for certain types of Jones fractures (of course Bill doesn't tell us which one Durant had, why would he) six to eight weeks is normal recovery time.

he doesn’t look quite right heading into the All-Star break and plays only 10 minutes in the All-Star Game (uh-oh) … 

THAT'S your barometer for "something might be wrong?"  Fuck the All-Star Game.  Fuck all all star games in all sports.

right after the All-Star break (February 23), OKC shelves him with a “minor procedure to help him reduce pain and discomfort in his surgically repaired right foot” because of a faulty screw, saying he’ll be reevaluated in a week … and three weeks later, the team announces that he’ll return within “a week or two weeks.” (Sorry, I can’t fight off these 2009 KG flashbacks.) 

IT AWWWWL COMES BACK TO THE C'S.  IT AWLWAYS DOES!!!!!  Too bad those 2009 Celtics couldn't even deal with a Magic team that was Dwight Howard and a bunch of mid-rotation guys, let alone the Cavs or any team that could have come out of the West that year.

If KD weren’t an incumbent MVP coming off of one of the best offensive seasons in 40 years, I would have panic-dropped him to sixth. 

Well, I'm certainly glad you didn't resort to such--

Oh wait, I just did.

OH SNAP, AMERICA!  Truth bombs, falling all over your head!  Protect your neck!

Confession time: 

Please no.  You self-important twat.

The thought of a “recovered” KD getting thrown into this late-season playoff push scares the bejesus out of me. 

Well, fortunately that's no longer an issue.

They’re supposed to protect his minutes and his twice-repaired foot when the alternative is “If we miss the playoffs, we’ll take one more giant leap toward becoming one of the most snakebitten almost-dynasties in NBA history”? 

They're no snakebitten.  They're just dumb.  Here's your annual "Bill was right" admission from Larry B: the Harden trade is such a gigantic disaster I don't even know what to compare it to.  It's like all the classics--Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen, an entire draft for Ricky Williams, Wayne Gretzky for not Wayne Gretzky, etc.  But it's worse.  Man, Harden is good.

They’re going to protect his minutes with Serge Ibaka out indefinitely? They’re going to protect his minutes in an up-and-down, testosterone-fueled, run-and-gun Round 1 bloodbath against the Warriors?

They'll be golfing in about a week.  Rest easy, Bill.  KD will have all summer to recuperate.

The storied history of the National Basketball Association 

THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION OF BASKETBALL TEAMS ON BASKETBALL COURTS

has taught us a variety of valuable life lessons, ranging from “If you make $100 million, that doesn’t mean you can actually spend $100 million” to “Always use the condoms that YOU brought” to “Don’t ever ask your casino host for a second marker”

Some good mealy-mouthed New England racism in all of those.

to “Don’t ever marry anyone with the last name Kardashian.” 

Are you kidding?  Humphries and Odom are doing just fine.

But this lesson ranks way up there: “If you break anything in your foot, don’t come back until you’re 100 percent healthy, and then wait ANOTHER two to three weeks just to be safe.” Can’t mess around with feet. Can’t. Can’t. Can’t. Not in basketball. 

Not in any fucking sport, you moron.  Human feet (and knees) are not at all designed for what athletes do to them.  We all know this.

I’m worried.

I don't care.

More later.

Friday, April 3, 2015

NBA WHO SAYS NO Rankings - Part 2

Deeper down the rabbit hole we go.

GROUP H: “Stop It, He’s a Young Stud, No Way!”

There's got to be a less sexual way to word that.

30. Bradley Beal
29. Jimmy Butler
28. Andre Drummond

Beal is under contract for next season while Butler is not, but boy, there is a very wide gulf between those two guys in terms of ability.  Very wide.  Granted, Beal is still young after spending just a year in college before being drafted, but he has not improved at all since his good-not-great rookie year.  He's still a deadly three point shooter and not much else.  The Wizards will have a difficult decision to make with him in two offseasons if he's still just a 15/3/3 guy next season.  Meanwhile, Butler has turned into an all star, and does everything better than Beal does besides shoot 3s.  I don't think the fact that Beal has another cheap year on his rookie deal really accounts for that.

UPDATE: We need to find the right teammates for Drummond soon. I’m convinced that SVG traded D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler for Reggie Jackson as a stealth tanking move. And if he did, congratulations. It worked.

Huh?  Jackson is going for 17 and 9 (plus 5 boards) since joining the Pistons.  Augustin is somewhere between has-been and never-was.  Singler is terrible.  I'm getting to this article quite a while after Bill published it--maybe Jackson wasn't meshing with Drummond in his first few games in Detroit.  For what it's worth, Drummond is averaging 16 points a game since the trade, compared to 13 before.  So as usual it sure as hell sounds like Bill has no fucking idea what he's talking about.

GROUP G: “Sorry, Too Many Karmic Implications”

Bill's constant references to karma: more or less obnoxious than Gregggggg's incessant references to the Football Gods?

27. Tony Parker
26. Tim Duncan
25. Dwyane Wade
24. Dirk Nowitzki

Well hey, lookie there, it just so happens that four veteran superstars with titles who have never changed teams all have EXACTLY the same trade value!  Go figure!  Actually, I kind of sound dumb making that point since they really DO have the same trade value--their current teams are never going to trade them unless it's at the player's explicit demand.  Still though, come on.  

23. Paul George

What's he doing in this group?  I guess Bill was like "He's probably not going to play this season... fuck it, just throw him in with the aging superstar group.  WHO SAYS NO?" while talking to a houseplant.

UPDATE: Parker is starting to look like Parker again. Oh God … oh no …

Parker has always looked like Parker.  He's 32.  His points and assists have taken a dip this year, but so have his minutes.  I assume in the original rankings he was like "PARKER IS FINISHED--HE'S DONE."  And now he's acting like it's some revelation that he's not done.  Exact same thing happened with Wade (who is 33) a couple of years ago.  Bill has the cognitive capacity of a goldfish.  

GROUP F: “Hold On, I Have to Finish Guffawing”

22. Andrew Wiggins
21. Giannis Antetokounmpo

UPDATE: I blew it with Wiggins. He’s a top-12 trade asset. 

Given who you put in the next group down, sheesh, I have to say you blew it with the Greek Freak (hate that nickname but not going to type out Antetokounmpo more than once) too.  

(Stop looking at me like that.) I don’t know what else to say. (Seriously, stop shaking your head.) We’re moving on. We’re moving forward.

Wiggins, of course, is having a great season.  Greek Freak just turned 20 in December, is 6'11" (so he's probably still growing into his frame and learning how to maximize his athleticism) and is good for an efficient 13 and 7.  If he were a Celtic, Bill would have put him in the top five.  Meanwhile...

GROUP E: “Well-Priced Impact Stars”

At least there's positional, contract, and experience variety here.  Lowry, Conley, Horford and Ibaka are all signed at least through 2016 and for roughly $10-$12 million each.  That security is nice, and they're all good players, but I would be shocked if more than just a few "win now" teams value each of them over Wiggins (which Bill admits), Greek Freak, Paul George (who's on an expensive deal, but is locked up through 2018) or Jimmy Butler.  Meanwhile, Lillard is 1) awesome and 2) locked up on a cheap rookie rookie deal through 2016.  Definitely right to have him at the top of this group, but I think he'd go above the guys in the next group too.  Leonard is also awesome, but more of a question mark, and he's an RFA this summer meaning he's about to get expensive.  I don't think he belongs here at all.  But enough of this levelheaded analysis.  Let's see what Bill manages to fart out onto his keyboard about these guys.

20. Mike Conley
19. Serge Ibaka
18. Kawhi Leonard
17. Al Horford
16. Kyle Lowry
15. Damian Lillard


UPDATE: I’m not rattled by having Lowry too high after his January-February offensive swoon. He’s too good. 

OK.  Good for you.  Way to show conviction, dumb person who is often wrong (although not here, necessarily).

I’m mildly rattled by Ibaka’s mysterious knee injury, along with the fact that I wouldn’t let OKC’s medical staff help me with a head cold at this point. 

And since that was written, Kevin Durant has started falling apart.  Hardly the fault of the OKC training staff, though.  Or so I'd think. 

Kawhi’s electrifying two-way showdown with LeBron on Thursday made me wonder if I ranked him too low, 

As Bill so often says, CONTRACTS MATTER BLAH BLAH BLAH

but man, when are those 3s coming back for him? How bad is that mysterious hand injury? This isn’t a normal trend for 3-point shooters: 37.6 percent (2012-14 regular season), 41.6 percent (2012-14 playoffs) … 32.2 percent (2014-15 season). 

Actually, that's really not that weird.  The playoff number is great, but even with all the playoff games the Spurs have played while making the Finals two of the last three years, that 41.6% is on fewer than 200 attempts.  The 2012-2014 regular season vs. 2014-2015 regular season comparison is more valid, especially since Leonard is also shooting worse on his twos and worse at the line this year.  But a dip from 37.6% to 32.2% isn't catastrophic, especially for a stretch 4 type guy who, as Bill knows, might be hurt.  Anyways, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth as well as his ass.  Suffice to say that Leonard is going to get paid this summer, whether by the Spurs or someone else.  But at this year's trade deadline, I'm not sure he'd be an asset on par with a cost controlled Horford or Ibaka.

San Antonio can’t win four straight playoff rounds and realize their ’69 Celts destiny 

LIKE I SAID IT AWL COMES BACK TO THE FACKIN' C'S.  

if Kawhi’s 3s don’t come around and defenses start leaving him wide open. It’s true.

Thanks for arguing with no one ("It's true, DON'T DENY IT") about something no one fucking cares about ("AHHH THE SPURS AS GOOD AS THE '69 C'S????????").  I'm sure they'll be just fine come playoff time.  They only have the best (ageless) PF ever, an elite point guard and the best coach of his generation to back Leonard up.  I don't think the difference between Leonard shooting a sub-average but still acceptable percentage on a handful of 3s per game versus him shooting the lights out on a handful of 3s per game is going to make or break them.

GROUP D: “The Mega Free Agents”

THEY ARE EQUALLY VALUABLE!  Actually, you know what, after looking at their lines--these two really do probably belong together.  They're about the same age, are both UFAs this year (who will probably look for short term deals due to the big salary cap bump that's on the horizon), and they do post pretty similar numbers while kind of sort of playing the same position.  Aldridge has the sexier raw stat line, but he also plays for a faster-paced team and doesn't share big man responsibilities with anyone as capable as Z-Bo.  Fine.  They deserve to be in "Group D" together.  Thank you for not calling them "young studs."

14. LaMarcus Aldridge
13. Marc Gasol


UPDATE: No regrets. 

NONE!  I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF, AMERICA!

Although it’s bizarre that Aldridge (23.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 22.3 PER, playing hurt for two-plus months, carrying a possible no. 2 seed) has been left out of the MVP race. It’s almost like the national media ignores Portland or something.

Well, first of all, fuck you and your own personal biases that cause you to ignore anything in baseball that's not BOS/NYY or relevant to your fucking AL-only keeper league full of zeroes.  Second of all, sure, Aldridge is having a nice season, but that PER is only good for 11th in the league.  He's not exactly within shouting distance of Davis, Westbrook or Curry, either.  But good job kissing babies and winning hearts and minds in RIP CITY.  I'm sure you appreciate all the dumbshits from there who will write you emails praising that blurb.

GROUP C: “No Offense, But I’m Hanging Up”

12. John Wall
11. Klay Thompson

Here again we have two guys who are almost the same age, with nearly identical contract situations (both locked up for big money through 2019), with similar PERs.  But in this case, I think the value comparison falls apart pretty quickly.  Whereas Bill overrates Bradley Beal pretty heavily, I think he's probably underrating Wall (or rather, overrating Thompson).  Thompson plays on the league's best team, alongside either the best or second best point guard in the league (who creates tons of wide open shots for Thompson every game), with a bunch of other very strong role players/semi-stars who make the team hum like a well-tuned engine.  Meanwhile, Wall carries the entire burden on offense for his poorly-coached team of good-not-great overpaid players (Nene, Marcin Gortat) and dinosaurs (Paul Pierce, Andre Miller until the Wizards cut him).  

He leads his team in scoring by a good margin while also handing out ten assists per game (second only to CP3 in the league) and grabbing a not-insignificant five boards.  He's the only guy on that team that can create his own shot and he plays 36 minutes per game.  It's a bit of a weird exercise since it would be chaotic to play Wall alongside Curry, but imagine switching these two guys and I think the Warriors come out way, way, way ahead on the deal.  In fact, better exercise--switch Beal and Thompson.  I think their numbers probably switch too.  Thompson is nothing special.  He also looks like he's probably an asshole off the court.  There, I said it.

UPDATE: If I had to do it over again, I’d give Wiggins and Kawhi these two spots and bump Wall and Thompson back a few spots. We’re stuck with those first two parts for eternity. Without further ado, the 10 most untradable players of 2015.

Yeah, people are really going to be looking back at these rankings five years from now.  You'll rue the day you improperly valued Wiggins in your bullshit rankings until you're in the ground, Simmons.  Totally.

GROUP B: “The Untouchables”

10. Kyrie Irving
Covered in detail in Friday’s 1,900-word “sneak peek” of Part 3. I can’t even pull off a sneak peek correctly.

I'm impressed you're even able to maintain your job at ESPN without being curb stomped by someone there who has actual knowledge and charisma yet makes 20% of your salary.  Don't be too hard on yourself.  Also, everyone go read this again.

9. Boogie Cousins

Hard to critique this part since I'm a DeMarcus Cousins fan, for reasons beyond his game.  Just kidding!  (Not about being a fan, but about this being hard to critique.)

In Part 2, I mentioned the smartest non-trades in recent NBA history — 

An easy set of non-events to compile, since we know all of them that have ever occurred, and teams definitely would never leak incorrect information about non-trades in order to further shape the market, affect free agent salaries, placate angry fans, etc.

including the time Houston dangled Hakeem Olajuwon for a Godfather offer (Steve Smith, Glen Rice AND Rony Seikaly), got turned down, then rejected Miami’s counteroffer (Seikaly, Grant Long and Harold Miner). How on earth was the window ever open to steal one of the NBA’s 12 greatest players ever? Because you are what you’re worth. 

Gee Bill, thanks for answering a question no one asked.  Let's see.  Kareen was traded in his prime.  Shaq was traded as he entered his prime.  Barkley was traded in his prime.  Kevin Garnett was traded at the tail end of his prime.  Could the answer to the question be one that every sports fan already knows: "These things fucking happen?"

For the previous five seasons, an increasingly unhappy Hakeem had been stuck playing with so many past-their-primers, never-made-its and never-got-theres that everyone inadvertently forgot that the Dream was unfreakingtradable. 

No.  Go fuck yourself with scissors.  No one "forgot" that.

Had the Heat countered with Rice (a top-15 trade asset that summer), Seikaly (averaged 16 and 12 in ’92) and either Miner or multiple no. 1 picks, then the deal would have gotten done 

WHO SAYS NO

and we would’ve had a different champ in 1994 and 1995. Instead, Houston won the ’94 and ’95 titles and Hakeem unleashed one of the NBA’s most iconic three-or-four-year runs of the past 35 years: 

I'm glad we are evaluating the trade value of DeMarcus Cousins right now.

the short list includes Jordan from 1989 to 1993 and 1996 to 1998, Bird from 1984 to 1987, Magic from 1987 to 1990, Shaq from 2000 to 2002, LeBron from 2012 to 2014, Hakeem from 1993 to 1995, and Kobe from 2008 to 2010 

Great.  Cool.

(and probably in that order).

THAT ORDER AND ONLY EXACTLY THAT ORDER.  NO ONE SAYS NO.

Maybe 2015 Boogie isn’t 1992 Hakeem, 

So, thanks for the tangent, then.

but he is definitely on pace to earn the same level of career-related empathy. In less than five seasons, he’s played for six coaches, two GMs and two super-shaky owners. He lived through consecutive seasons in which the Kings were moving … and then weren’t … and then were … and then weren’t. 

The Kings had the worst owners in the league (yes, worse than James Dolan).  Then those guys sold the team to some other asshole who doesn't know what he's doing.  I'd feel worse for their fans if they didn't live in the only part of California that 1) is close to cool shit 2) doesn't have THAT much meth and 3) is not outrageously expensive.

When I asked him during All-Star Weekend 

I HAVE ACCESS!!!!!  EVERYONE LISTEN TO ME MY OPINION MEANS MORE NOW!  Bill is really stealing a page from the Peter King playbook there.

how many starting point guards he’s played with, he couldn’t remember everyone off the top of his head. Maybe he took much-deserved Internet heat for a variety of foolish young-guy mistakes, and maybe he could have been a better teammate at times. (I’m being kind.) 

More King-isms.  SHAME ON YOU, BOOGIE.  WHY DO YOU GO BY BOOGIE?  THAT'S CHILDISH.  I'M GOING TO CALL YOU BOOGIE FROM NOW ON BECAUSE I FIND IT AMUSING.

But ever since he got himself into terrific shape last year, everyone has HAD to double-team him. I mean …

Boogie, last two seasons (123 games): 33.0 mpg, 23.1 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 48% FG, 25.5 PER
Duncan, ’01-’02 and ’02-’03 (163 games): 39.9 mpg, 24.4 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 51% FG, 27.0 PER

Maybe he isn’t Apex Duncan, especially in the defense/teammate/leadership/intangibles/getting-thrown-out-of-games-for-wonky-behavior categories, 

I'm glad someone taught you the word "wonky."  It should never be used, ever, but if you're going to use it that is not how you do so.  WHICH IS THE WONK TEAM?  Remember that horseshit?  That was also not a correct usage.

Boogie HAS improved. Did you know his rim protection numbers are slightly better than DeAndre Jordan’s numbers this season? And with the spacing that Boogie creates and the numbers he’s putting up, you could absolutely run a world-class offense around him. Only you can’t … because he’s wasting his pre-prime playing for Jackass Central on a perpetual lottery team in a stacked conference.

Haha.  No sarcasm, that last one is a good line.  "Jackass Central."  That's pretty good.  Bill does induce one chuckle from me about every six months or so.  HE'S STILL GOT IT!

So if you were Boogie, what would make you feel good about playing in Sacramento other than the city’s fantastic hoops fans? George Karl? Too soon to say. 

Yeah, the guy only has like 1,000 wins as an NBA coach, all in mid-sized or small markets.  Probably not a good fit in Sacramento.

Ben McLemore? Too soon to say. 

I don't think he belongs on this list.  I'd hate to be a guy picked 7th overall in a super thin draft and have someone be like OUR BEST PLAYER IS COUNTING ON YOU.  GET IT DONE.  That would suck.  McLemore left Kansas after just a year, and wasn't even the best fucking player on the team for that one year.

Cap space this summer? Crap, they don’t have it. 

Dang, now they don't have a chance to get turned down by Gasol and Aldridge, whose styles of play wouldn't mesh with Cousins's at all, or to overpay Goran Dragic!  Nuts!

Their next lottery pick? Crap, it’s headed to Chicago unless Sacramento finishes in the bottom 10. 

Which they are almost mathematically assured of doing at this point, so, let's not shit our pants just yet.

This is bleaker than bleak. 

No, that is your narrative that you are constructing because Hakeem once almost got traded or something.  In fact, watch this: Knicks, Lakers, Nuggets, Pistons, 76ers, Nets, Heat, Thunder (very suddenly on this list), Magic, Timberwolves (even with Wiggins).  There's a list of teams with bleaker futures than Sacramento's.  Fuck, the Knicks might not be a playoff team again until like 2020.  That's hard to do in a league with 16 of 30 teams making the postseason.  I'll bet you a shiny nickel the Kings get there before all the teams on that list that aren't in the playoffs already this year (i.e., the teams on that list that are also rebuilding right now).

My advice to Kings fans: You better keep showering Boogie with love. Because the moment he checks out and says to himself, “I cannot play for these jackasses anymore,” there’s no going back. (And we’re damned close.)

He's under contract through 2018.  They'll be fine.

Last Boogie note: Check out these names: Wilt, Kareem, Barkley, Pettit, Duncan and Elgin. That’s the complete list of players, along with Boogie, who averaged 23 and 12 with a 25-plus PER in their fourth and fifth NBA seasons combined. 

HOLY SHIT DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS????  It means that when a player is really good, like Cousins is, you can concoct a moderately complex set of criteria and show that only that player a few other all time greats have met all the criteria.  Very cool stuff. 

Boogie isn’t THAT good. 

Jesus, whose side are you on, here?  I thought we were all in the DEMARCUS (I hate people like Bill who over-embrace nicknames) fan club together.  He has a good chance of being every bit as good as Barkley, Kareem and Baylor.  The other three, maybe not so much.  But still.

But he’s really, really good. And he’s saddled with Vivek and the Bumbling Vivikettes. 

Forced.  Just stick with Jackass Central.

We’re well past the point of using New Owner Syndrome as a viable excuse. Too much has happened. We wasted five years of Boogie’s career. Next year, we’re probably heading for a sixth. Might be time to get Liam Neeson involved.

"We" haven't wasted anything.  You're not the center of the universe, you cunt.  You're not in charge of basketball.  You're not in charge of anything other than a vastly overrated "sports" (ok, it's really like 25% sports, but who's counting?) content mill and a shitty TV show that ESPN airs at 4 AM.  Just stay in your lane and come up with funny nicknames for dysfunctional franchises.  Christ.

More next week.

Monday, March 23, 2015

NBA WHO SAYS NO Rankings - Part 1


First, a fun (not really!) anecdote: on Thursday night I was at a bar that was (of course) showing NCAA tournament games on 59ish of its 60ish TVs.  The only exception was one screen over in a corner showing what was on ESPN at the time--a Phillies/Yankees spring training game.  No better demonstration of what ESPN's baseball coverage is all about than their decision to televise a game between two teams that, if things go well, will combine to win 150 games.  Anyways, I (partially) focused on this game for about 8 or 9 minutes.  That's all the time I needed to see: 1) Ryan Howard make an error trying to field a ground ball that 80% of high school first basemen would make 2) an unearned Yankee run score due to said error, and finally 3) a montage of Derek Jeter moments, likely prompted by the fact that new Yankees SS Didi Gregorious committed the baseball faux pas of coming up to bat while playing Jeter's former position.  I really feel bad for Gregoious.  If he starts at least 120 games at SS for the Yankees this year and performs at any worse than an All-Star level, someone in the Bronx is going to run onto the field and attack him by mid May.  Anyways, fuck ESPN's baseball coverage.

Now we move to Bill's piece de resistance, his Trade Value column.  Not content simply to write like an asshole, this year he also edited/promoted like an asshole as well.  I don't need to cover that, 1) because it's hard enough to just critique the flaws with the substance of this piece and 2) because Drew Magary did a great job talking about the other stuff last week.  It's awesome.  Go click that link and read it.  If I were to pick the best and most demonstrative line, it would be:

Bill Walton and Larry Bird changed my too-harsh opinion of Kobe's style…

(Magary) "No way! Two great basketball players told you a great player was great? WHAT A REVELATION."

Really, that just about sums up what Simmons is about at this point.  He's a wannabe "hoops nerd" who actually knows little about basketball but hopes that hiring Zach Lowe and having access to NBA greats via his ESPN gig will make his opinions interesting and legitimate.  But the opinions are just as idiotic as ever, and now, by flaunting these ESPN-facilitated relationships that would NEVER develop or maintain themselves organically if he were an independent blogger (even a nationally popular one) outside of the ESPNiverse, he's exposed for being a starfucker too.  Good on you, Bill.  Feel free to quit ESPN and go the fuck away any month now.  DIE.

Anyways, this is actually part 3 of 3 of his trade value column.  I'm just going to start here because it's plenty long anyways and I'm blogging at a snail's pace these days.  In fact, this whole first post is just going to be the first half of his recap of the previously published rankings from 60 up to 11, and commentary on how things have changed in the time since he made those rankings in January and February.  Really makes sense, right?  No one enjoys Bill's writing and Bill's thinking and Bill more than Bill, so of course he's going to comment on thoughts he thinks he thought a few weeks ago.

GROUP O: “You’re Just Lowballing Me Because He Expires Soon”

One of the dumbest features of what could (could) be an interesting premise for a column--the fact that conveniently, he ends up ranking guys that all have some relatively unimportant (relatively unimportant in the entire scheme of the player's total trade value, I mean) in common together consecutively in groups.  For fuck's sake, he puts Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge together at 13 and 14 below because they're both unrestricted free agents this offseason.  Yeah, they're maybe both top 20 value guys right now, but did you absolutely have to do it that way?  To the extent Bill takes this serious (he really, really does) this really takes away whatever legitimacy he was hoping to cultivate.

60. Brandon Knight
59. Greg Monroe
58. Paul Millsap
57. Draymond Green
56. Goran Dragic

UPDATE: In February, no. 56 and no. 60 DID get traded … and Dragic fetched a slightly higher price than Knight did. Big win for the 2015 Trade Value column! Don’t get used to it.

Both were dealt in three way deals, but in essence, in exchange for Knight the Bucks got a possibly useful combo guard (Michael Carter-Williams, who should be less of a shooting disaster now that he's not carrying the crappy Sixers around) who has two team option contract years left, a young point guard (Tyler Ennis) who may or may not be anything, and a warm body (Miles Plumlee).  Meanwhile, in exchange for Dragic, the Suns got a guy who probably doesn't even qualify as a warm body (Danny Granger or THE CORPSE of Danny Granger lolololol) and first round draft picks in 2017 (top 7 protected) and 2021 (apparently unprotected).

They're both good players, but Dragic is a better scorer than Knight (for now), so Dragic is definitely the better overall player (for now).  But as far as value goes, I feel like Carter-Williams + Ennis >>> a protected first rounder that's 27 months away and an unprotected first rounder that's more than two presidential elections away.  Like, that's a pretty clear win for the Bucks, as far as comparing their haul to Phoenix's.  Yeah yeah yeah, you've got to stockpile draft choices blah blah blah, but fuck that.  A first rounder in 2021?  The guy the Suns could potentially take with that pick is probably in like 8th grade right now.

GROUP N: “I’m Hanging Up and Calling You Back From a Pay Phone”

Why would a GM do this?  Because their office phone is tapped?  By who?  Unfunny, unclever, dumb.

55. DeMar DeRozan
54. Ty Lawson
53. Eric Bledsoe
52. Kevin Love

Here we have a group of guys who are thankfully not tied together by some unifying thread; Bill just thinks they have relatively equal trade value.  But here's another fundamental weakness of this whole thing that ruins its legitimacy from the start.  (And again, I get that the whole column is just supposed to be a fun thought exercise.  But you Billophiles out there know this to be true: Bill desperately wants to be taken seriously, and the NBA is the sport which he knows the most about.)  Love is a stretch four with just one year left on his deal.  Bledsoe is a point guard with four years left on his deal.  The idea of either getting traded for the other, or either getting traded for draft picks and trying to decide which would fetch more, is so totally dependent on the needs of the other hypothetical teams involved and those teams' willingness to take on long term salary that this list loses all meaning.

Yes, I know I just a minute ago said it was bullshit that Bill groups together guys who have something in common, and now I'm saying it's bullshit that he groups together guys who have nothing in common.  Guess what?  This whole dumb column is, in fact, bullshit.  If you asked me for a sincere idea for how to make it less bullshitty, after telling you to jump in a wood chipper, I'd suggest that the whole list be just 20 players long.  How the hell do we even begin to guess if the Suns would or would not swap Bledsoe for Love?  It's pointless.  The only fun and meaningful theoreticals of that kind involve superstar level players, not guys like the four listed above.

UPDATE: Latest odds for Kevin Love’s new home address this fall: Back Bay (-120), Brookline (+200), Beacon Hill (+350), Wellesley (+500), Weston (+500), South End (+700), Charlestown (+2000), Scituate/Hingham/Duxbury (+4000), Revere (+2000000).

KEVIN LOVE!!!  NEVAH WAS THEY-AH A TRUE-AH CELTIC.  HE'S BEEN PAHHHHT OF OW-UH CITY HIS WHOLE LIFE!  IT JUST TOOK HIM UNTIL NAW TO GET HE-AH!

GROUP M: “I Know, I Know, We’re Being Irrational”

51. Victor Oladipo
50. Alex Len
49. Jonas Valanciunas
48. Nikola Vucevic
47. Jusuf Nurkic
46. Nikola Mirotic
45. Derrick Favors

UPDATE: Oladipo made The Semi-Leap after the All-Star break: 12 games, 20.6 ppg, 4.8 apg, 45-39-83 percent splits, excellent defense and a recent Orlando Sentinel story headlined “Victor Oladipo is learning that success commands opponents’ attention.” 

That's not "making the leap."  "Making the leap" is a dumbass concept that Bill likes a lot (naturally), when he most commonly applies it to situation like this which would more properly be called "a good month-long stretch by a good player on a bad team."  OLADIPO IS ON HIS WAY TO THE HALL OF FAME, READERS.  YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.

The following "self-deprecating" sentence is presented without commentary:

Please add “Oladipo over Bennett and Noel” to my all-time NBA draft win tally, along with “Durant over Oden,” “CP3 over Bogut and Williams,” “Derrick Williams over Kyrie,” “Okafor over Dwight” and “Jabari over Wiggins.” (Fine, I’m batting .500. Whatever.)

What an asshole.

GROUP L: “Sorry, He’s Worth More to Us Than He’s Worth to You”

44. The Completely Rejuvenated Pau Gasol

He gets a special nickname because he's white!

43. Jeff Teague
42: Zach Randolph
41. Joakim Noah
40. Markieff Morris
39. Wesley Matthews
38. Kyle Korver

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Korver is a good player signed to a good contract (about $6MM per year for the next two years).  Many contenders would be happy to have him; he's obviously the best pure three point shooter in the game right now (he has a shot at finishing the season above 50%) and he's not too much of a liability on defense because of his size.  But holy shit--Randolph is also signed for the next two years, at about $10MM per.  Teague is signed for the next two years at $8MM per.  Noah is signed for next year at $13MM.  You're either drunk or mentally challenged if you think Korver has more value than any of those guys, and it's not particularly close.

UPDATE: Matthews was earmarked for an $80 million to $90 million market max payday before that unfortunate Achilles injury. What a bummer. 

Even without that injury, since he was on an expiring deal this year, he's probably the one guy from the above list who maybe actually belonged alongside the likes of Korver.

If you gave me a do-over, I’d stick Matthews on the Trade Value DL, move Oladipo into this group and give Oladipo’s old spot to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Why? Because MKG is destroying people on defense, to the point that he boasted, “I want to be the best defender ever” last week — and nobody laughed. 

I'll laugh.  He's not even in the top 20 in the NBA right now in defensive rating, which might seem to some like a bullshit fancypants way to judge defense until you see that the top 5 (currently) are Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gobert and Tony Allen.  Or in other words, five guys who all are frequently mentioned as among the best in the league based on the ol' eye test.  So yeah, maybe Kidd-Gilchrist is on his way to greatness, but he's a couple plane flights away.

Kawhi and MKG are in the Finals in any “Which Guy Would You NOT Want Guarding You If You Had To Score A Basket To Save Your Own Life?” contest.

That isn't a contest, and it's a really dumb way of trying to make the point you're trying to make.  In any case, Leonard is obviously way better, as are a lot of guys.

GROUP K: “No Thanks — We Don’t Want Him to Come Back and Haunt Us”

37. Rudy Gobert
36. Jabari Parker
35. Joel Embiid

UPDATE: I didn’t have the balls to throw Gobert in the low 20s with Giannis and Wiggins. Big mistake. His next 11 games after Part 2 was published: 11.3 ppg, 15.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg, nine wins in 11 games, one Kirk Goldsberry piece titled “Rudy Gobert Is Making Utah an Elite Defensive Team.” Anytime “The French Rejection” and “The Gobert Report” aren’t your best possible nicknames, you know something special is going on. All hail the Stifle Tower!

MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST FOR DEFENSIVE POY!!!!  Also, just the fact that you have to account for a guy like Embiid in these rankings makes them not worth writing, or reading.  Obviously the guy is untradeable right now.  Nothing anyone offered the Sixers would be good enough, and if they shopped him around, every team they offered him to would say that they were asking an insane price.

GROUP J: “Don’t Tell Anyone, and I’ll Deny It to the Death, But I’m Listening”

34. Carmelo Anthony

HAHAHAHAHA again.  Simmons went into greater detail about how fucked Carmelo and the Knicks are in the full version of part 2 of these rankings, but he (Simmons) still refused to recant his position that you can "absolutely" win a title if Carmelo is your best player.  Really, if I had to pick one piece of evidence that he's a fucking moron when it comes to the NBA, I might settle on that one.

33. Chris Bosh
33. Hassan Whiteside
32. Dwight Howard

UPDATE: Whiteside wasn’t really a top-60 guy (just filling in for Bosh), 

Just another reminder that while Bill wants these rankings to be taken seriously, a guy with like 100 games of NBA experience can be plugged in for a ten time all star.  Because both guys play on the same team and sort of play the same position, kind of!  It makes sense!  WHO SAYS NO

but let’s say I told you, “I will bet you $100 that Whiteside will either make the 2016 All-Star Game OR be out of the league before the 2016 All-Star Game, and you can pick only one of the two sides of that bet,” which side would you pick? I can’t decide, either.

I hate entertaining his little thought experiments, but I'll take the latter.  Whiteside kind of seems like an asshole who can't get his shit together.

GROUP I: “This Is So Ludicrous That I Can’t Even Hang Up On You Yet”

31. Gregg Popovich

UPDATE: I don’t know if you noticed the ’69 Celts potential of the 2015 Spurs lately, but … well … I mean …

IT ALL COMES BACK TO THE C'S!  BAWSTON IS THE LITAHRAL AND FIG-YOU-A-TIVE CENTAH OF THE UNIVAHSE!  FIFTY YE-AHS FROM NOW, PEOPLE WILL ASK "DID THE POPOVICH SPURS PROPAHLY CARRY THE DYNASTY BANNER ESTABLISHED BY THE AUERBACH C'S?  AND THE ANSWER WILL BE FACK YOU, BEANTOWN IS THE GREATEST!  I BET POPOVICH WEARS C'S PAJAMAS TO BED!  WHO SAYS NO?

More later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What the fuck is this shit? Fuck you


OK, so, as promised, I'm going to get around to Bill's NBA trade value column.  I'm going to pretend like I didn't go to Grantland to pull its text earlier today and see that the front page story right now is a two-authored piece titled "Who is the Greatest Fictional Basketball Player of All Time?"  I'm just going to tell myself that this is not capital "c" Content that any reader in the world would ever want, and thus that a major sports website would never publish it.  I must have just imagined it.  Nothing to see here, move along to the trade value column.

Actually, that's not quite true.  I'm going to make one other quick stop (that definitely does not involve rhetorical questions about who would win a 1 on 1 showdown between Bugs Bunny in Space Jam and Jimmy from Hoosiers) on the way.  I received a tip about another non-Simmons Grantland NBA article last week, and boy, is it a load of garbage.

Maybe you have heard--in fact, if you pay attention to the NBA, you definitely have heard--that the 76ers are really bad again this year.  For the 2nd year in a row.  Wow, it's so zany that it has to be talked about by everyone.  Anyways, I suppose it's somewhat notable because even though teams are bad for two consecutive seasons all the time, the way the 76ers are doing it is a bit unorthodox.  First, they've now drafted (or traded for on draft day) two players in the last two years who they knew would not play a single minute in the then-upcoming season--Nerlens Noel in 2013 and of course Joel Embiid in 2014.  (And of course, the fact that they acquired Noel on draft day in 2013 is part of what put them in position to be bad enough to draft Embiid a year later.)  That's a move that screams "we are bad and we want to stay bad."  Second, they are shuffling their roster incessantly, stockpiling draft picks and moving various players and assets around without any evident desire for the current team to be anything but a placeholder.

Now, none of this should sound too crazy to you.  In fact, a very prominent "sports" "writer" named Bill Simmons is a big advocate of NBA teams getting shitty in order to get good later, rather than staying mediocre (as Philly was from 2010-2012).  But it does raise eyebrows, and make people say unfunny and unclever things like OMG THEY'RE TAKING A DUMP ON THEIR FANS.  And that outrage can lead to counteroutrage, from analyticsphiles who love the way the team is aggressively pursuing its goal in unorthdox ways.  And that counteroutrage can lead to some asshole Grantland writer trying to write a thinking man's response to the whole situation.  And that response can be, and is, absolutely horrible, trite, and full of WRONG all the way through, but I want to highlight probably the worst part of it, which also happens to be the guy's first point in support of his thesis.  The thesis is that while no one should be outraged about the situation--it's not "insulting" to the game of basketball or some bullshit like that (true)--it IS stupid.

The Sixers’ plan is stupid.

It’s not disgraceful. It’s not wrong. [...]


But it’s pretty stupid.

[...]

That’s my real problem with what the team is doing. It’s not the plan that’s been unbearable, it’s the cult of Sixers fans and media members who insist on mocking the skeptics while they marvel at Philly’s brilliance. 


He's referring to the counteroutrage, and to be sure, both those people as well as the regular outraged people who think tanking is disgraceful can all go eat a dump truck full of dicks.

The NBA system incentivizes losing, they say. Lose to win.  Here’s a GM who’s smart enough to exploit the system for as many chances as possible.

I get it. I really do. The only thing wrong with what Philly’s doing are the people who think it’s some profound approach to basketball philosophy. 

So the ONLY thing wrong is that some of the supporters of what Philly is doing are obnoxious about their support.  Got it.

Just because something is counterintuitive doesn’t make it more intuitive.

Oh, so you were bullshitting a sentence ago.  Really, there is another thing wrong with tanking.  Tell me all about it!

Start with the fundamental idea: lose to win.

And again, I'm not going to cover this whole article.  But I can't not cover his analysis of this first point.

Are We Sure Tanking Actually Works?

Well, yeah, it sure does.  And he'll start to establish right now, but fail to properly fully establish it by cutting off his own analysis well short of completion, because if he actually dug into the topic he'd realize how dumb it is to question whether tanking works.  In order to preserve his pre-determined conclusion he lies.  Allow me to help correct that lie, after he's done saying his bit.

There have been three triumphant NBA tanking efforts. 

And we start with a Simmons staple.  THREE AND ONLY THREE.  NO ONE DENIES THIS.

The first involved the Spurs. When David Robinson broke his foot at the end of 1996, their season crumbled, and San Antonio decided to keep Robinson on the sideline and bottom out. Spurs fans will deny this happened, and I guess you can’t prove it one way or another. But San Antonio landed the no. 1 pick at the end of Robinson’s prime, drafted Tim Duncan, and won five titles over the next 17 years.

This is true.  This is all true.  Good for them.  Fucking Spurs.

The Celtics also tanked in 1996-97. They went all in to get Duncan and came away with Ron Mercer and Chauncey Billups. They didn’t make the playoffs for another five years.

Did they go all in?  Did they?  (No.)  In 1995-96 they were a bad but not horrible team that won 33 games.  Their whole nucleus was under the age of 30.  In the 1996 offseason, their only meaningful move was on draft day, when they swapped first round picks with Dallas (which netted them Antoine Walker) and in that same trade sent off Eric Montross (not a significant contributor to the 1995-96 team; 7 PPG, 6 RPG) while receiving Dallas's 1997 first rounder, which would end up being 6th overall (nice!) and was used to select Mercer (damn).  That was a good trade that definitely can't be interpreted as a tanking move.  That was one of only two trades they made that year, and the other was pretty insignificant.  

In 1996-97 they brought back almost the same roster.  The season end player stat breakdown is very similar to the previous season, with the following changes: 
1) The addition of Walker, who had a great rookie season, going for 18 and 9.
2) 1995-96 top scorer and rebounder Dino Radja (HEY REMEMBER HIM???? JEFF PEARLMAN PROBABLY DOES!!!!) was sidelined for the rest of the 1996-97 season after a knee injury just 25 games in.  The only way this was a tanking move is if the Celtics hired someone to take his knee out telekinetically.  Radja would never play in the NBA again, despite being a 20 and 10 guy the previous season (at age 28), which pretty much tells you whether or not this was a "They held him out in order to tank!" move like Robinson's is alleged to be.
3) 1995-96 sixth man Dana Barros was also limited to only 24 games, presumably due to injury; his Wikipedia page isn't nearly as awesome as Radja's so I'm lacking detail here.

That's really it.  Two important rotation guys got hurt, and a promising rookie stepped in to kind of fill the shoes of one of the departed guys.  The Celtics literally didn't make a single trade during the season.  And that's it?  That's "going all in" to get Duncan?  Fucking hardly.  Add to that the fact that while Mercer was a bit of a dud, they did get Billups, who ended up being a five time All-Star and a possible Hall of Famer.  The fact that he didn't even get to play a full season for Boston before being traded has nothing to do with the argument that THE CELTICS TRIED TO TANK AND FAIL.  First, they barely (if at all) tried to tank, and second, they got a really awesome player anyways.  So even though I hate the Celtics and hate researching their pointless mid-90s transaction histories, you can see why I'm writing this post.  This author (I'm not even going to identify him by name--fuck him) is writing shit.  And I like writing responses to shit.

Boston’s tanking success didn’t come until 10 years later. With a roster built around Paul Pierce and younger players like Al Jefferson and Rajon Rondo, the team was going nowhere. So when Pierce went down with a vague “stress injury,” Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge held him out for most of the second half of the 2006-07 season. A starting lineup that featured Ryan Gomes and Allan Ray 

Can't believe this dingbat passed up a chance to make a "from Allan Ray to Ray Allen!!!!" joke anywhere in here.

finished out the year at the bottom of the league. That spring, they got screwed in the lottery 

Bill, your tears are so delicious!  Too bad they won a fucking title anyways.

and wound up with the fifth pick. Then they got lucky. They turned that fifth pick into Ray Allen, and then Kevin Garnett wanted out of Minnesota, and Ubuntu was born. Boston won a title 10 months later.

Yep.  I'd say that tank job worked, if unconventionally.

The other side of that Ray Allen Celtics deal is what the Sixers are chasing. Seattle stripped its roster in 2007, in part to rebuild around Kevin Durant and (maybe, possibly) in part because the owners were gearing up to move the team to Oklahoma City. 

I'd like to reiterate my intent to kick in the nuts any Seattle fan who is still bitching about this, should I get the chance.  They've been warned.

They traded Allen and Rashard Lewis, and while Washington state was stalling on stadium proposals, attendance suffered — it certainly didn’t hurt that the basketball product became borderline unwatchable (even with Durant). Over the next two years, all the losing birthed a title-contending nucleus that also featured James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook. It’s just that they played in Oklahoma City.

OK, given OKC's whole one Finals appearance and zero titles with that nucleus so far, I wouldn't call that tank job "triumphant" (and sticking to that insane standard is really the only way he can get 25% of the way to justifying his point, so it's kind of funny to watch him tacitly abandon it here).  But it was certainly successful.  Now, I expect he'll start listing any of the other many, many teams that have gone from bad to good thanks to emptying their team of good players and gunning for a great lottery pick.

In other words, the only recent examples of tanking to a title come from two teams that already had franchise players and used one bad season to rebuild on the fly. 

Oh?  That's it, is it?  I almost forgot--THREE AND ONLY THREE.  First of all, as I just mentioned in that excessively lengthy parenthetical in my last paragraph, the Thunder don't have a title, no matter how much HOOP NERDS who NERDGASM all over the place when RUSSELL WESTBROOK dunks GOSH YOU HEATHENS DON'T PROPERLY APPRECIATE RUSSELL ONLY HOOP NERDS LIKE US DO want to award them with a title.  Second of all, holy shit, are you serious?  THAT'S your standard for figuring out if tanking works or not?

The Cavaliers tanked like dogs to get LeBron in 2003, sending away their top three scorers from 2001-02 (Andre Miller, Wesley Person, Lamond Murray) for peanuts during the 2002 offseason.  In his first seven year run with them, the team would make five straight playoff appearances, losing once in the conference finals and once in the Finals.  That's not "triumphant," I suppose, but fuck, what was their other option?  Build around Miller, Person, Murray, and 2002 draftee Carlos Boozer, and try to compete with the Lakers/Spurs that way?  Fuck you.  Give them a chance to do that sequence over again and they'd tank like they did 100 out of 100 times.  

The Nuggets also tanked (I'm not going to get into the details, but believe me, they tanked) throughout 2001 and 2002 to land Carmelo in that 2003 draft.  They then made the playoffs for ten consecutive seasons (after going to the playoffs twice in the previous twelve seasons) and came thiiiiis close to a Finals appearance against a mediocre Magic team in 2009.  Same story--not triumphant, but fuck, they wouldn't change anything about 2001-2002 in hindsight.

So, no titles for either of them.  Hey, how about this?  The Bulls were a playoff team in 1980-81, and a bad but not horrible 34 win team in 1981-82 (which went through three coaches, and then switched again during the 1982 offseason).  Then during the 1982-83 season they trade HOFer Artis Gilmore, still in his late prime, for nothing (yes, Dave Corzine is nothing), along with several other player-for-pick trades.  Then, during the 1983-84 season, ANOTHER new head coach (their sixth in four seasons... sounds a bit tanky to me) decided that Reggie Theus, who had scored 23.5 per game the previous season, should come off the bench.  He would be traded for nothing that February.  The Bulls still somehow managed 27 wins, but had the 3rd overall pick, and then took Michael Jordan.  Now in this case, shit, they actually DID have a good alternative--I'm not going to research it, but I bet a lot of fans were pissed that they traded Gilmore and Theus for peanuts in back to back offseasons.  Trying to win a championship with those two guys isn't exactly the worst idea.  But given how things worked out, again, I think the Bulls were happy with their choice.

I'm not going to go on like this for every single great player who was drafted by a team that obviously tanked to at least some level of significance.  (More than the 1996-97 Celtics tanked anyways.)  But you get the point.  This writer is an asshole who is annoyed by people on the internet and his preferred method for dealing with them is deciding that because they are annoying they must be wrong.  Well, trust me: I am both annoying and right all the time.  It's not that hard to do.  Where were we?  Oh yeah, back to the end of this little F-minus explanation as to why tanking is stupid.

That’s why it always made the most sense for a team like the Knicks to sit Carmelo and lose as much as possible this year. You never know what can happen. For everyone else, there’s a chance you could be the ’97 Spurs, but there’s a much better chance you will be the ’97 Celtics. 

"Be careful, everyone!  If you tank, you might only end up with a top 25-ever point guard!"  Now, terrible syntax in that sentence aside, I will grant this point: tanking does not guarantee that you will draft the greatest power forward ever the following June.  But it's sure as hell a lot smarter than NOT tanking.

The only recent example of a full-scale, multiyear tanking success story comes from a team that quite possibly used that strategy to kill basketball in its own home city. That’s the dream.

Yeah, good logical implication, fuckhead--if your team tanks, they'll probably end up leaving town.  Totally.

I’m not saying losing deliberately is a horrible idea, 

You kind of are though!

but it’s OK to look at the history before we call it brilliant. 

Cool, just did.  It's not "brilliant" per se, it's just smarter than NOT tanking, and the way it is done may or may not turn out to have been brilliant post hoc.  Maybe what the Sixers are doing is a brilliant tank job, or maybe it's just an average tank job.  But just because HOOPS NERDS who care about the Sixers or are otherwise complimentary of what the team is doing are shitheads doesn't mean you can just ignore history.  

If the Sixers are going DEFCON: TANK for several seasons in a devious play to maximize the probability of landing a title nucleus … shouldn’t it matter that this only really worked three times in 20 years? 

I like the 20 year cutoff thing.  Helps you avoid that whole Jordan issue.  Also, if tanking "didn't work" for the Cavs or Nuggets, I'd hate to see what results they would have come up with during the 2000s had they tried something else.

Is this plan really that devious?

It's not devious, it's just a good, solid plan.  And the rest of this article is just as bad.  Fuck yourself, Grantland staff writer guy.  Grantland is the worst.

Trade value column forthcoming.  No, seriously.