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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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.
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.
It’s amazing. Utterly, completely amazing.
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."
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:
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.