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
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)
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!”
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.
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!
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 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 don't care.