If you missed the first two installments of my annual "Who Has the NBA's Highest Trade Value?" gimmick, here's Part 1 and Part 2.
It's fun for me to go back through the archives of this blog and look at old posts from 2007 and 2008. Besides being an awesome portal to the past and to a time when my life sucked much less, it's also astonishing to me how often this blog published back then. We averaged over a post per day! Wild stuff. Obviously we had more people writing, but we also really cranked out the content. What happened eventually is that we all grew up, got much more demanding jobs, and stopped having time to write snarky bullshit about bad sportswriting. It happens. Life happens. You're only 23 once. When you hit your late 20s shit gets complicated in a hurry. (Fortunately I do not have kids yet, so I won't put you through an excruciating 5000 word essay about how WACKY AND ZANY it is to have a kid like Magary writes twice a week on Deadspin these days. I'm just saying, life right after college rules. Life several years after college rules a lot less.) Meanwhile, Bill's job is to write about sports, and yet he took more than three weeks to finish this column. Part 1 was published on April 18, and part 3 finally came out on May 10. This is a column he writes every year, and has plenty of time to think about. That's dedication to your craft, people. I'd say he's as lazy as Rick Reilly, but no one is as lazy as Rick Reilly.
Did I stretch 2013's edition into a 23,000-word trilogy spread over the course of four weeks? Yup. Were my readers happy about that decision? NO! NOOOOOOOOO! Not in the least. Josh from Albany summed up everyone's feelings: "What the hell is this — Lord of the Rings?"
Lol, like those movies based on Game of Thrones! If there's one thing I've learned from Bill over the years, it's that sports = movies = TV = sports.
That's exactly what this is! It's The Lord of the Rings!
Like I just said.
If you want to know the truth, spreading the top 50 over four weeks didn't screw up my overall rankings too much. Only five players saw their rankings get affected, for better and worse.
"I wanted to keep tinkering, but one of the three people who work for ESPN who actually has authority over me told me they were going to cut my Grantland budget if I didn't just finish the fucking thing."
KLAY THOMPSON: I ranked him 47th in Part 1, noting that "If there weren't a 68 percent chance that he's submitting a deer-in-the-headlights performance in the Denver series, I'd have him ranked higher." And then … BOOM! No deer, no headlights.
What's the point of doing these rankings in the first place if you're going to drastically alter them based on one six game series? Also, why would you crank up Thompson's ranking because he happens to play on the same team as Steph Curry?
MIKE CONLEY JR.: Even if I'm a charter member of the Rudy Gay Is Severely Overrated committee, I never anticipated the addition-by-subtraction elements of that trade: (a) Memphis becoming Conley's team, and (b) Conley making a semi-leap in the playoffs for a legitimate contender. Throw in his suddenly agreeable contract (three more years at $26.34 million combined) and he's absolutely a top-50 guy. If I had a do-over, I'd give him Paul Pierce's spot
and stick Conley at no. 37 in that Rondo/Chandler group. I'd also appreciate a do-over on this tweet from two and a half years ago:
Mike Conley??? Are you sure it wasn't 5 million for 45 years? RT @FRancium34: ESPN reports Conley gets 5 year 45M extension.
Not that anyone's analysis is ever going to be 100% perfect (Lord knows my Justin Upton rant from a couple months ago looks severely retarded right now), but that Tweet is the kind of thing that makes me realize I should invest a little time into learning more about the NBA so I can more properly call Bill out for the piles and piles of idiotic things he undoubtedly says about basketball all the time.
I AM THE VP OF CAWMAWN SENSE!
SERGEBALLU LAMU SAYONGA LOOM WALAHAS JONAS HUGO IBAKA: Here's what I initially wrote about Serge for Part 3 (when he was penciled in at no. 17):
Blossomed into a legitimate third banana, averaging a 13-8 with three blocks and making 50 percent of his shots from 10 feet or more. Not a misprint! Every time a Serge 18-footer leaves you muttering "That's a terrible shot … oh wait, I forgot he makes those!" He's a freak athlete with a little "dark alley" in him, a budding provocateur who gives OKC a much-needed edge. He's also the league's third-best out-of-nowhere blocker behind Larry Sanders and LeBron, a starter on the "Guys Who Make You Look Over Your Shoulder At All Times" All-Stars. He's only 23, with a four-year, $49 million extension kicking in next season.
Even if explained in an obnoxious way, those are all things that mean something.
And he's named "Serge Ibaka" —
That's something that means fuckall, and isn't funny or interesting either.
one of those names that's destined for success,
IF JOEY HARRINGTON HAD GONE BY JOE HARRINGTON HE'D HAVE BEEN GOOD! That's a point Bill has actually pushed in the past. Bill is the guy watching the game at your friend's place, and while everyone else is just trying to enjoy the game and pay attention to it, he's telling you that Serge Ibaka has an awesome name.
whether you're an athlete, rapper, Breaking Bad character,
Sports = TV = sports!
Disney movie franchise, or whatever else. You're not failing when you're named "Serge Ibaka."
So what happened? After Russell Westbrook went down, everyone assumed Ibaka would pick up some of Westbrook's slack. Nope. Poor Serge doesn't have another gear. You're getting 11 and seven from him, with no low-post production whatsoever, regardless of who is out there.
If only a genius basketball mind like the author of NYT bestseller "The Book of Basketball" had been there to weigh on Ibaka, maybe we'd have known about his shortcomings earlier. Alas.
If anything, Westbrook's absence exposed Ibaka as being less of a building block and more of a luxury. That's a HUGE deal. He can't be in the top 20 anymore.
Fuck the Thunder. I hope they never win shit and that Durant does a "The Decision"-style TV feature when he announces he's leaving town.
As for everyone else …
GROUP E: "We'll Call You Back; We're Not Done Arguing Internally About This Yet"
18. Dwight Howard
This is unrelated to the rest of the post, but it's never a bad time to mention that Dwight Howard is mental 12 year old and truly a piece of shit.
Remember when Mike Tyson came out of prison and wasn't the same boxer anymore, even though he looked like the same guy?
Amazing that he went with a sports analogy there, I figured he would have gone with "Remember when [that one thing that changed the character in question] happened in [The Shawshank Redemption/The Karate Kid/Teen Wolf/some other overrated or terrible movie]?"
That's Dwight Howard since 2011's NBA lockout. He's not a force of nature anymore.
Much as I think he's a piece of shit, I also think he is being honest when he says he did not play at 100% at any point this season. He's only 27, and even though he relies a lot on athleticism, I think he'll age decently.
The Eye Test backs it up, and so do the results: Howard dragged a 219-102 record from four half-decent Magic teams from 2008 to 2011, then went just 75-55 in these past two seasons once his body started breaking down.
Without him, the 2011-2012 Magic miss the playoffs by a mile. NBA team wins as an individual statistic are only slightly less stupid than MLB pitcher wins.
There's been a not-so-subtle dip in his offensive numbers …
2011: 22.9 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 59% FG, 60% FT, 227 dunks, 26.0 PER (second in NBA)
2013: 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 58% FG, 49% FT, 187 dunks, 19.4 PER (38th)
… and defensively, Dwight isn't the NBA's most impactful player anymore. You would rather have Marc Gasol or Joakim Noah, both of whom are just better at anchoring a defense. Throw in the undeniable injury risks, the maturity issues, and the words "not even a hint of any leadership whatsoever" and, um, why would I want to give him $118 million again?
Again, I am 100% of the opinion that Dwight Howard is a jackass, but you want to give him that money because even when he's playing hurt, he can give you 17 and 12.
We'll tackle this in detail before free agency kicks off.
Ooh, he might finish whatever column that is by August!
GROUP D: "Sorry, There's No Way You Love Him More Than We Do"
17. Joakim Noah
Covered above, and also in Part 2. It's too bad we can't cement Noah's rapid rise up the Trade Value Trilogy by linking to an elaborate music video of his father singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and featuring a Joakim cameo. Wait, what?????????
Sports = YouTube videos = sports! (Obviously I didn't want to bother to imbed this video in the post. If you don't go find it and watch it, guess what you're missing? *fart sound*)
16. Anthony Davis
Even though a few unlucky injuries cost the Brow a Rookie of the Year award, I'm focusing on a 19-game stretch he played this spring: 31.6 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG and 53.3% FG until … whoops, he got hurt again. (Stay on the damned court, Brow!) I love his Very Poor Man's McHale/Duncan low-post potential, and I love the roster flexibility that Davis provides: Once his outside shooting improves (and it will), he could be your small-ball 5 (like Chris Bosh in Miami) or your big-ball 4 (like Ibaka in OKC). You could win a title someday with the Brow as your second-best player. New Orleans was lucky that David Stern owned the Hornets and gave himself the no. 1 overall pick to get him.
Things stupid people believe: 1) The NBA draft lottery is rigged (although I do agree with Bill that it should be televised, there's no way it wouldn't be extremely popular no matter how mundane it is) 2) Your name determines whether you will be a good athlete 3) Crowds in Boston are smarter than crowds in other cities and can will Boston's teams to victory
15. Paul George
Reader Dave King reminds us that George grew up as a huge Clippers fan — repeat: a huge Clippers fan!!! — but that didn't deter the Clippers from taking the immortal Al-Farouq Aminu two spots ahead of him in the 2010 draft. That's right, the Clippers could have landed Blake Griffin, Paul George and Kyrie Irving in back-to-back-to-back drafts! Please add this to your "The Clippers Are Cursed" files.
4) There are curses in sports
By the way, I have some advice that will help Paul George become a household name.
CHANGE YOUR NAME TO PAUL LARRY BIRD! IT'S FOOLPROOF! WHO WOULDN'T VISIT AN ISLAND RESORT NAMED THAT?
He should change his number immediately from no. 24 to no. 13. Here's why … can you think of anyone being helped by a nickname more than Paul George suddenly becoming "PG-13?" Uh-oh, PG-13 is heating up! Warning, this game contains strong language, violence and a possible heat check! We might have to make this performance rated "R" — it's too hot to handle! Let's make this happen already.
You're an unfunny twat.
14. Marc Gasol
Any pickup-basketball regular battles an ongoing dilemma: What's it worth to keep playing for as long as possible? If it's super-crowded and you want to stay on the court for a few games, you might suck it up and jump on a team with Pickup Carmelo or Pickup Kobe — a.k.a. a one-on-one guy who will shoot half your team's shots, only he's good enough that you might be able to ride him for two straight hours. But if it's less crowded? You take your chances with people who are fun to play with — a.k.a. unselfish guys who run the floor, know how to pass and cut, keep the ball moving, don't take stupid transition shots, and generally know what they're doing.
Pretty sure that when Bill goes to the gym to run, he's viewed by everyone else there as Pickup Shawn Bradley, but much shorter and with less quickness.
And ideally, this is what happens: A few times per year, you'll find the right four guys on a crowded day, everything will click, you'll turn into the '77 Blazers, and you end up laying the smack down, 2013 Heat–style, for six or seven straight.
Chris Jones, Chuck Klosterman, and the rest of Grantland's self-obsessed writers marvel at Bill's self-obsession.
It's just the best day you can have. It's the greatest. You limp out of there beaming, and when your wife or girlfriend asks you later that night why you're so damned happy, you can't even properly explain it. How can you explain total bliss? I love playing basketball — even now, with my body breaking down and my game decaying to alarming degrees — if only because it's one of the few places left on earth where you can connect with total strangers like that.
Everyone at the gym after Bill leaves: "Man, who the fuck was that asshole? Why did he keep calling plays for himself when he can't dribble or shoot?"
Age doesn't matter,
Not that I want to discuss the intricacies of pickup basketball with a 45 year old navel-gazing loser, but yes it does.
backgrounds don't matter, nothing matters. You have four teammates, they can be anybody, and you either know how to click with them or you don't.
FANS IN THE GAHHHHHHDEN KNEW HOW TO CLICK WITH EVERY CELTICS PLAYER. NO ONE DENIES THIS.
That's what makes Marc Gasol special, and that's why you can't totally measure him with stats. I voted for him as my first-team All-NBA center. Why?
Because he's white? I like Gasol, and I may have mentioned that I think Dwight Howard is a piece of shit, but Howard was the better player this year.
Because he can blend in with any four guys in the league. He'll anchor your defense, grab some rebounds, make every smart pass, post up when you need him. He's a phenomenal leader and chemistry guy. And he's malleable.
In Bill's imagination, he and Gasol hold the court for seven games in a row! They even beat that HORRIBLE MEAN BACKSTABBER Ray Allen and his team twice!