4.10.2006

No lost art is artless



I don’t think there’s any question that the Wade/Bron meta-duel was one of the most astounding displays of basketball acceleration this side of Atlantis. In perhaps the greatest measure of regular season eventfulness, my watching of ranks up there with Christmas 2003, when I eagerly witnessed James and T-Mac gun the fuck out the ball in an OT floor show. For anyone keeping track of things, those type of tingles obviously edge out the “post-season can touch sludge and make tinsel” variety, since you get that “playoff-type atmosphere” and stars willing to take all sorts of chances in the eternal defense of basketball magical innards.

Over the weeks since, though, something altogether more bountiful has begun to dawn over me as a result of this stupefying occurrence. I am not sure if any of our readers are regularly kept under wraps by large quantities of medication. But if any of you are familiar with the experience of forgetting to get yourself fixed up, you know the feeling of which I speak, that interminably vague yet sweepingly definite sense that something is amiss in the realm of the senses. I said on McSweeney’s a few weeks back that this season’s bout of scoring has been akin to the Steroids Era, perhaps the awful end of time that some coaches yowled about when first the rule changes came down.



It’s not, though, simply the accumulation of points that makes me lurch out loud, but how they’re gotten. And after that fateful contest, in which truly gaudy numbers and breathtaking creativity were forced into a holy union for all the world to see, there’s no denying it: this new NBA of skill and competence is directly responsible for the outlandish individual offense. With so so many defensive specialists, and so many freakish dissectors of positional order, prowling the Association, it’s never been a tougher place for a name-in-lights go-to-guy to get off an easy basket. If scoring is up, it’s because we’re seeing more and more plays like those that wrote the script of 4/1/06; it’s not just that LeBron and Wade are unstoppable, facile killing machines (Amare, anyone?), but that they are capable of rising to heights above impossible.

The above might seem frightfully obvious to anyone who hasn’t spent the last six months mourning the loss of ’04-’05, but there is an even prouder message I have taken from my end-sum evaluation of this season, one that resulted from the viewing of another game that happened around the same time. Seeing Melo’s oddly misproportioned Nuggets knock off the Kobe and Odom show did, as usual, remind why the league needs Kobe (and Kobe needs the league). The real revelation, though, was coming to terms with the fact that everything I said about Melo’s game in November is now completely and totally obsolete. At this point, Anthony is not only a thing of pure beauty to watch—he’s the Association’s Most Improved Player, a borderline MVP candidate, and every bit as much of a franchise cornerstone as Wade or James.

I don’t want this to turn into a lively discovery of the 2003’s draft’s retaliatory promise, since you can trust you’ll be hearing more on that from me in a few days. On the subject of basketball finest competitor of remotely Latin American extraction, though, this season has found him rounding into shape and becoming nearly twice the player that, coming out of Syracuse, we’d thought he’d be. The hallmarks of Anthony’s NCAA run were his maturity and composure—admirable traits, but hardly the stuff iconic performers are made of. And while one of the least forgivable lines in my aforementioned post called Melo “the spare parts left over from the Frankenstein experiment that gave rise to Garnett, Odom, and Kirilenko,” it’s safe to say that his “quietly excellent at everything” was a powerful counterpoint to this era-defining “fits and starts of dramatic behavior in anything you can imagine” archetype. You all know what happened once he hit the Association—ROY aside, dude never appeared to have the balance that defined his glory at the previous level, and what he did achieve felt for all the world like the sound of a very finite natural talent bumping up against his own glass ceiling.



There was noise as he headed into camp this fall that Melo was in the best shape of his life; DLIC laughed, and while there was a visible difference, it was more cosmetic than anything else. And while most of his first half was typically blotchy, that baseline fitness set the stage for him to improve—physically, mentally, and spiritually—so that by the All-Star break, Anthony had become an altogether different player. The clunky, chunky kid of yore was now a stallion, unafraid to put it on the floor, charge the basket for the facial, throw up circus shots, and be the kind of legit inside/double-inside/outside/double-outside threat that, with his size, attitude, and newfound agility, defined “scoring machine” before it was pejorative and dehumanizing.

Most Improved? Without a doubt. Of course I want to see Gerald Wallace, who went from propulsive enigma to occasional dominator, take home the hardware (sidenote: every single year of my life, I have the MIP on my fantasy team). But Anthony went from borderline All-Star to elite, game-changing titan. What’s more, it’s not like his development was a simple matter of truth coming to fruition. Like the player Wallace has become, the final destination of Melo’s evolution could hardly have been predicted. For a flawed, apparently limited, malcontent to burst through the heavens and clutch the basketball sublime is, to my mind, a more dramatic reversal of fortune than raw potential’s finding its form.



I would never dream of giving Melo the MVP, but that’s only because he’s had but one half of sustained adventure. Let’s not think for a second, though, that he’s any less crucial to the Nuggets than Nash to the Suns, Bron to the Cavs, Kobe to the Lakers, Billups to the Pistons, Wade to the Heat, etc. There’s a tendency in basketball commentary to downplay the importance of the lead scorer, especially when, as with Anthony, he doesn’t also pitch in with 3x2 mortar. Kobe has practically forced the issue this season; Anthony, though, has a far less sexy case; he’s a constant threat to put the ball in the basket, no more and no less, and he does so without playing a Rip-esque brand of team ball. Yet try and imagine the Nuggets, essentially a motley bunch of energy guys, finishers, and dizzy combo guards, without Anthony’s brash reliability. Last time I checked, you can’t win without putting points up on the board, and having a weapon who can smartly and unobtrusively get you those without inflicting chaos or jeopardizing the game’s flow is a perfectly good place to start a roster. In a way, it’s more logical square one than a player who, by virtue of his own singularity, throws the usual blueprint into disarray and makes the entire project of personal assemblage into an experiment. Melo may never be a one-man wrecking machine, but don't pretend for a second like it's been easy for the Cavs or Heat to figure out how to work around their young stars' prismatic omnipotence.

Hell, according to sources who get NYC radio, Melo himself is now all about opening up that debate. And while he'll lose, he's earned the right to go down swinging.

50 Comments:

At 4/11/2006 12:51 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

Melo does deserve serious MVP consideration but you and I both know there's no way he will (and more importantly SHOULD) win it. His play this season has been an absolutely delightful revelation. And all those game winners, damn!

My MVP picks :

1-Bryant (transcendent player, carried bordeline NDBL squad to the postseason, 81, 62 in three quarters against a very good squad, averaging 35 a game and nearly 5 assists)

2-James (32-7-7, made the postseason with a weaker team than most would like to admit, 2 game winners, if healthy will probably go down as the GOAT)

3-Billups (65 +win team, difference-maker in most of the big games, smoking-hot wife)

4-Nash (50 wins sans Amare, a joy to watch, fellow Canadian, soccer player playing basketball)

5-Anthony (5 game winners, transformed himself into a legit superstar, absolutely carrying his squad, financed a documentary called "prison ball")

6-Dirk and Wade (you have to include both of these guys, but nothing about them screams MVP like the above cats)

honorable mention: Artest

I, for one, am very glad to be alive and a fan of the Association to bear witness to this revolutionary offensive explosion (in part due to the new rules and in part due to so many great players playing at the same time).

 
At 4/11/2006 12:55 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

Shoals, thanks for reminding me of that 2k3 James-McGrady matchup, I vividly recall the rainbow fadeaway three King hit over a leaping Tracy on the baseline; prompting McGrady to laugh (what else could he do?) at the absurdity of the shot as he ran upcourt to pay James back on the offensive end.

THAT is what the NBA is really all about.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:07 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

looking at that list makes me realize why i've been kvetching all season. the tension between individual stars and team effort has never been more pronounced. last year, it felt like there was much more room for a squard to accomodate both ideals.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:13 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

i hate to be a comment-hog, but I must address something that bugged me about the post. Any argument regarding the MIP starts and ends with Boris Diaw.

2K5: 4.8ppg, 2.3apg, 2.6rpg, 42fg%

2K6: 13.5ppg, 6.0apg, 6.9rpg, 53fg%

Melo has improved but Diaw has redifined himself and has along with Tony Parker made basketball scouting in Paris a legit occupation.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:16 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i could argue that diaw wasn't even really in the league to begin with. how can you renovate nothingness!?!?!?!?!

but yeah, that was my reckless oversight there.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:20 AM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

THE WEAKER SOLDIER.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:23 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

I really don't understand why you've been kvetching this season at all. This year has been so much more interesting than last. With Bryant's theatrics, Detroit's dominance, James' elevation into the pantheon of the greats, Melo, Gilbert, Artest reviving Sac-town, Larry Brown's demise in NY, Dallas playing defense (!) etc. I see no reason at all for anyone to complain. There's just so much going on this year.

 
At 4/11/2006 2:05 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

what's been at stake this season, other than kobe's life?

 
At 4/11/2006 3:11 AM, Blogger Pooh said...

It’s not, though, simply the accumulation of points that makes me lurch out loud, but how they’re gotten. And after that fateful contest, in which truly gaudy numbers and breathtaking creativity were forced into a holy union for all the world to see, there’s no denying it: this new NBA of skill and competence is directly responsible for the outlandish individual offense. With so so many defensive specialists, and so many freakish dissectors of positional order, prowling the Association, it’s never been a tougher place for a name-in-lights go-to-guy to get off an easy basket.

This touches on something that's been on the edge of my consciousness for at least a few months. It seems that, by-and-large, NBAers are increasingly defined more by what they lack than what they possess. Too short, too weak, can't shoot, can't handle, can't guard, etc...

I think this plays largely into the tension between "Stars", so defined by their ability to either ignore or simply not have exploitable weakness (witness Tony Parker's refusal to care that he still can't shoot and still getting into the lane at will. Until the playoffs when K-Mart and/or Josh Howard/Diop or whomever put him on his ass the first 2 times he tries it every game in the playoffs) and their teams. The coaching has become so overwrought and so sophisticated that the star has to fight not just the D, but the fundamental play which would say "get the ball here!" except that play has been chosen by the defense as the one least likely to succeed. Thus the Heat winning and losing on Wade beating triple teams or Haslem making 18 footers.

And for me, this is why I find the Suns so fascinating, as they are, as a team more unbound. Which helps them, as players naturally gravitate away from weaknesses. But it also hurts them, as when the D is dialed in, the O's advantage comes from precision and knowing the exact timing of the coordination of the 5 players. Which is anathema to D'Antoni's brand.

 
At 4/11/2006 3:19 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

I know it's a post about MIP, and I don't really have much to say about that, I need to cry foul on the opening thesis here.

"With so so many defensive specialists, and so many freakish dissectors of positional order, prowling the Association, it’s never been a tougher place for a name-in-lights go-to-guy to get off an easy basket."

The thing is, I've read from "other sources" (sorry, can't remember where, but it's been enough of a pile of commentary that it's pretty overwhelming) that scoring is easier than it's ever been, based on the enforcement of perimeter contact rules on defence. The whistles come out right away on perimeter contact, and the foul is called (Kirk Hinrich, victim). I've read, as I mentioned, lots of folks saying that's the reason why so many people have come out of nowhere to toss up 40+ in games this year. I'd love to toss out an 82 games thing here, but I've got no clue how to find it. Even so, it's just a ridiculous number of guys getting up there. I think the opposite of what you say is true, in that it's *never* been a better time to be a slasher in the NBA, which leads, I think, to the opposite view. It's never been a harder time to be a perimeter defender. In fact, as I feel bile rising in my throat, in a just world, the DPY should probably go to a non PF/C player, just for how astounding an effort it has to be to shut a wing player down this year. I'm already stabbing Ben in the back with this, so I think I'll go all out: Bowen, DPY.

I feel so dirty.

 
At 4/11/2006 8:02 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Scottie Pippen for one dicussed this topic of perimeter contact rules when talking about Kobe's 81-point game in his blog on NBA.com. He was basically downplaying Bryant's achievement by saying that MJ could have put up as many points had it not been for the Knicks-Heat type defensive grudge matches going on at the time.

While Pippen's article and its feeble attempts at appearing objective leave the impression that he's still angry because of Kobe's and Shaq's Lakers effectively killing the Trailblazers, he does have a valid point that you, Torgo, also make. The 40+ point games, just from the top of my head, have almost all come from perimeter players. Amare might have balanced things out a little bit, but it's still a striking development. And it also hasn't been the high scoring PG's the Association has, seemingly every big game has come from a SG or SF (the exceptions being Iverson and Arenas if you see them as PGs and for the bigs Nowitzki as a PF but still playing on the perimeter).

And while right now the talent pool seems deeper at those wing positions than at PF or C, I'd argue that the league has always had its share of high-scoring wing players. The few that have joined in the last 2-3 years for example - if you think about it - are not that many that they would be the sole explanation for this drastic change in scoring.

So I'd second Torgo for giving the DPY to a perimeter defender, ideally to Bowen.

And while we're on the topic of Ben Wallace as a DPY candidate, to me it seems like opposing PFs have had a relativly good year against the Pistons. Guys like Bosh and Dwight Howard come to mind who have had career games against the supposed best frontcourt defense in the league. To me it seems that the Pistons' defensive success now hinges more on Prince shutting down or at least slowing down the other teams' best scorers from the wing (Kobe in the Finals, Wade this year). Wallace does put up amazing stats and is said to be the motor of the Pistons D and providing the energy, but shouldn't you have to be your own teams most important defender to be considered for DPY?

 
At 4/11/2006 8:35 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

Kaifa, thanks for the agreement, but I think you might have mixed up your Wallaces. I think Ben still has it. Since the perimeter defense is so restricted, it's like perimeter defense is a lost art, and the key is funnelling the slasher directly at your big man. If you don't have a shot blocking big man, you're in trouble in this league. Ben Wallace is the man standing there when the slasher gets around his man (it's like the ole defence is mandatory now), and he alters a lot of shots.
What I'm starting to wonder about is Rasheed. I love him to death, his desire is amazing, his taunts (Ball don't lie), priceless. But looking at his box score, night in, night out, I see a lot of 2-10s, 3-12s, 4-7 rebounds. He has so many weapons, but unless he's matched up against Duncan, he doesn't seem to use them. And I think he's usually the guy guarding PFs for the Pistons. I'm wondering if he's starting to fade. If so, the Pistons could definitely use a shot blocking 7 footer with a good mid-range game, who can also hit the 3... Oh, wait. Darko.

 
At 4/11/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

rasheed was having his best season in years for the first half of the season. he was arguably the best player on the pistons. i think he's been coasting for a while, waiting for the playoffs.

i still think he could have been a top 3 all-time power forward if he had the desire and competitive drive of a jordan, kobe, etc. he's so athletic and has a great jumper. i'm not saying he's lazy, but it's fairly obvious from looking at him that he doesn't spend much time in the weight room.

 
At 4/11/2006 9:41 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'd written

"in this universe of all fulfilled hypotheticals, you'd have to then have webber as he should've been. and as much as i love me some sheed, webber might well have been the greatest pf ever, hands down"

but then it gets down to the question of what the fuck we're saying would've changed. in both of their cases, i think a lot of it has to do with putting a different personality inside the embodied skill set, and that's straight creepy

 
At 4/11/2006 9:49 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

and look, i too have been disgusted at some of the point totals i see cropping up in box scores. but seriously, think about how bron and wade got theirs in that game, or what kobe has to do on the regular. . . don't tell me that their lives have gotten any easier.

 
At 4/11/2006 10:04 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

shoals, good point. one could certainly give top 3 all-time PF status to the hypothetical derrick coleman, as well as the hypothetical c-webb. and probably some other people i'm forgetting. shit, at this point, maybe even a hypothetical KG. that pains me to write that last sentence. out of the four i've mentioned, though, KG came the closest.

 
At 4/11/2006 10:29 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

god that's depressing. but yeah, you could hardly ask for a more determined animating principle then kg's mind and soul.

this seems for all the world like an attempt to quantify the essentially unquantifiable, but damn sun, aren't we really needing some index of whose personality was crappier relative to the profundity of their skill set?

like coleman had the least helpful personality of all the people we've mentioned, but did he have more potential than webber?

fuck this.

 
At 4/11/2006 10:48 AM, Blogger T. said...

but did he have more potential than webber?

I thought he did. Whoop-dee-damn-do, indeed.

Better rebounder, more range on his shot, not as good with the passing or shooting, but much much more physical.

Depressing = Yao Ming breaking his foot last night. (Does he get any votes for MIP? Probably not, but he's broken through some sort of ceiling at least this year. Go back and check his games since the All-Star Break, would ya? You'll be surprised).

 
At 4/11/2006 11:06 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

I read an interesting article maybe about a year ago about how Van Gundy and Ewing as an assistant coach were driving Yao the wrong way, trying to make him a center in the Ewing mold when instead he should have been used like Sabonis or a slower version of Vlade. I haven't seen Yao play all season long (damn German TV stations and their total neglect of basketball) but I still remember seeing him in his rookie season, coming from the weak side low post, coming up to high post and waiting for the pass, sensing the double team coming (from the weak side defender standing behind him) and - without catching the ball or turning his head - blindly slapping the ball that was thrown to him to the open guy in the corner whose defender had sneaked onto Yao. Just an amazing play that had you wondering what the ceiling for Yao was. When I now see him in highligts, it's always those slow-footed baseline turnarounds or ugly babyhooks that are just released so high that there difficult to defend - but nothing special. Any opinions on his wasted - or limited - potential?

And if we're talking top hypothetical all-time PFs, where does Shawn Kemp rank? And is he the most depressing case because he was on the verge of getting it right when everything fell apart? Damn you Jim McIlvaine, whereever you are enjoying the millions you got paid instead of the Reign Man.

 
At 4/11/2006 11:11 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'm surprised that no one has called me a moron for suggesting it's as easy, if not easier, to build around melo than bron or wade. they're just both far mroe ethically sanitary versions of what the sixers have had to put up with, personel-wise, for a decade. such is the burden of having too briliantly diverisifed a player --he nullifies the other positions, at least in the traditional sense.

t-mac played the best ball of his life when he was teamed up with yao and forced into a more traditional role, albeit with all the bells and whistles that being t-mac brings.

 
At 4/11/2006 11:19 AM, Blogger WeRDevos said...

Darko is the leading NBA shot blocker off the bench since the All-Star break, helping Magic win 13 of last 17. Former doormat Orlando has the third best record in the NBA during that time following only NJ & Detroit.

Since Darko's arrival the Magic have transformed from a ball-pounding turnover prone 3-games-from-worst record in the league team into a shot blocking, pass-happy club that took down Dallas, Detroit, Milwuakee and Miami all in one week.

Darko is a young god. And he's not even in shape yet...

 
At 4/11/2006 11:34 AM, Blogger Rocco Chappelle said...

WeRDevos,

In due time I'll be more than willing to sing Darko's praises but I think the Magic turn around has a bit more to do with Francis being gone, Jameer returning from his foot injury with the free reign to be the quickest slow person in the history of the game (his style is all angles), and Arroyo's presence supplying the requisite Puerto-rock gulliness.

 
At 4/11/2006 11:34 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

T., you might want to stop posting here for a while. you're obviously bad luck. what other team has lost its two superstars to injury?

 
At 4/11/2006 11:42 AM, Anonymous Kaifa said...

Shoals, I'm somewhat with you on this point. Melo, like Kobe in a different way, excells at one aspect so much more than at others (although both still warrant the label 'versatile' in my book) that it's clear which pieces you need to build around them. Denver has done a good job providing the energy/hustle guys who don't need a lot of shots to support Melo. LA clearly has difficulties finding the right personnel, but obviously they've disregarded the idea of also using Kobe as a ballhandler by playing him off the ball at least when starting the offense.

With Wade and LeBron I'd add two things. In my opinion, Pat Riley has made a huge misjudgement after last season. I think that the Heat had the right formula to complement Wade (and of course Shaq as well) in 04/05. I know the point has already been made from every expert that tinkering with last year's line-up was a bad idea. But it was so damn obvious that Wade needed the ball in his hands early in the offense that I still can't understand how someone as knowledgeable as Riley would surround him with guys like J. Williams and Walker who take up half of the shot clock dribbling. Wade is the one who can create that first situation for the defense where they have to react, have to rotate, have to switch etc. Playing Wade off the ball that much makes no sense at all (alley-oop passes by J-Will or not), damn, he's even good at throwing entry passes to Shaq. Any PG alongside him that could stretch a defense with his shooting range would have been fine (see Jones, Damon).

Still, Wade's position is pretty clearly defined. With LeBron's size and versatility the problem is much bigger. From the few games I've seen in each season of LeBron's career, it appears to me as if he's being used more as a scorer than as a primary ballhandler. I mean, it's still pretty hard to argue against him when he's had several triple doubles in this year alone. But I was more impressed with the way he passed the ball in his rookie season and my feeling is that he's starting to go away from that to some degree. All those little no-looks and passes in mid-air he threw reminded of Magic's ability to direct the game and see the floor in ways others couldn't. Again, I haven't seen nearly enough of him to fully stand behind my notion of him becoming more of a scorer, but at least the personnel (Hughes, Snow) the Cavs acquired supports this notion, doesn't it? I would have loved to see LeBron play the point, but I'm biased because Magic Johnson is my favorite player of all time (and was obviously not half the scorer LeBron is). But my dream world, LeBron would play point, Redd at SG and a Bowen/Battier type at SF.

 
At 4/11/2006 11:49 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

free reign to be the quickest slow person in the history of the game (his style is all angles)

melo was neck-in-neck with him prior to the transformation. i think i actually had the phrase "work the angles" in an earlier draft of this post, but it was in reference to his current self which is only moderately true AND ignores how much anthony can just sniff for the hoop and find it these days.

interesting fd sidenote: post vs. piece

re: lebron. insert non-descript statement about how badly hughes and bron mesh. and wonder if hughes makes sense with anyone but arenas.

 
At 4/11/2006 11:53 AM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

C-Webb remains my vote for hypothetically best PF of our era (hard to say all time). Coleman was more rugged physically, but I think Webber could have used his athleticism and court awareness to be a better rebounder, if he'd been willing to get that close to the basket. But Webber's passing, shooting range, ball-handling, smarts, athleticism, and HANDS should have made him the best. He should have been the PF version of LBJ. Kemp is an interesting counter-argument. Kemp and Coleman probably win on the crappy mentality index, though, if only because of their blazing self-destruction.

I have definitely thought, basically from the day the Rockets hired him, that JVG was the wrong coach for Yao (not to mention T-Mac). His offensive imagination is sufficiently limited that Van Gundy just doesn't seem to know what to do with a player with Yao's skillset. What's amazing is that Yao has enough talent and adaptability to have learned in three seasons how to be successful as an entirely different type of center. Over the course of his career, I'd like to see the center he was supposed to be, though

Just an interesting side note on LBJ's two game winning shots from the Elias Sports Bureau via ESPN today: "James has made 19 of 29 field-goal attempts this season in the last two minutes of a one-possession game (66 percent). No other player with at least 25 attempts has made more than half of them. Derek Fisher ranks second at 50 percent (13-for-26)."

And he's got at least two game-winning passes in addition to the two shots. Does anyone really know yet what to make of a 21-year-old kid who averages 32-7-7 without having played in college? It's too much, too soon, too easy, and as many have mentioned here, without an assertion of personality commensurate with the talent ... but with the rest of the class of 2003, who each provide the other with necessary foils, he makes me interested in future basketball, even when the Pistons, Spurs, etc. have me chewing on coffee grounds.

On the MIP ... I'm just mistrustful of the category. Players and people are supposed to improve. We all have ceilings, both real and imagined, but overcoming is what we should do. When done, it seems that it should be received with nods and not hardware. But I agree that Melo's tale of overcoming is most welcome, not least because of the importance of that class of 2003.

 
At 4/11/2006 12:45 PM, Anonymous Carlos Destrroyo said...

In my opinion, Carmelo will never win a MIP award unless he goes bonkers and drops 35+ a night. Sure, he's raised his game to a top-tier level, but he started at such a high level that it's hard for the general basketball population to see that improvement. What I'm saying is that the award always goes to a guy who went from unknown/average to good. The good to great transitions are awarded with all-star appearances.

And to throw a wrench in the potential PF discussion, where does Stro Swift rank in the "wasted potential" category? Here was a guy who could score, block shots, rebound, and jump out of the gym; now all he does is get dogged for not doing anything. But he has a sick dunk every few weeks at least.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

stro has somehow gotten even worse than when he was raw and untested. like being in the league has hurt his game. though myabe i am blinded by the van gundy.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:24 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

I'm glad Seattle Shawn Kemp at least got mentioned in the "hypothetical-PF" context. Our memory of him is stained by the Cleveland and (especially) fat-bastard Portland years, not to mention the kids. But all I could think of when watching Amare was "evolutionairy Shawn Kemp".

RE LBJ's 32-7-7, let's not get too caught up in #'s. If Hughes plays most of the season he averages 5 per game less. If they have a PG who doesn't suck, he gets 5 assts, and if they had a PF who wasn't a wuss, he probably loses a board as well. 27-6-5 is nothing to sneeze at, especially on a 55-27 team (which they'd be, at least). NBA #'s are almost as much about opportunity as talent, and since the Cavs are somewhat talent deficient, the King gets more opportunity than he might.

 
At 4/11/2006 1:28 PM, Blogger T. said...

BR, Esq - I'm trying to get the roster thin enough so I can get a 10-day contract.

Shoals - I was told by a certain former MVP that Stro might be the dumbest player in the NBA. Personal interactions with Stro have just shown me that he's quiet - but I've never played basketball with him.

I don't think he measures in the most-wasted of all-time, because I don't think many people had that high hopes for Stro - I thought DC was going to be the standard for the 4 for all-time. As for Stro, I'm hoping for 15 and 8, 2 blocks and 2 dunks a game.

I never really thought JVG was a bad coach for Yao. He's an excellent motivator (at least in Yao's case). I would like to see us getting the ball to Yao a lot more on his move across the key - but actually despite everyone disparaging the Mike James trade - I think Rafer deserves a good 8% of the credit for Yao's improvement this year. Skip gets him the ball right where he likes it, underneath the basket in position to score. I don't think we're taking enough advantage of Yao's vision - but honestly, 27 + 11? I'll take that.

Kaifa - what you're missing is Yao destroying any team that double teams him with a combination of the turn-around, the jump hook in the middle of the key - and the best post-spin move around here since #34 patrolled the key. He just KILLS cats with that baseline spin.

 
At 4/11/2006 4:04 PM, Anonymous Buforana said...

Pooh - Gooden's a wuss, but for his limited minutes he pulls in alot of boards. If I'm not mistaken, he's in the top three in the league on the offensive glass. As for everything else, how is it you can discredit LBJ for what he'd hypothetically (under)achieve had the Cavs essentially had an entirely different roster, or been devoid of injuries? Circumstance is as much a part of performance as opportunity is. Fact is, Lebron has put up unreal numbers this year, period. Flip Murray is as adept an offensive talent as Larry Hughes, yet Lebron started a streak of nine 35+ point games sharing shot attempts with him, as the primary offensive options with Z out and Hughes slowly working back into the line up.

Kaifa - Your perception of Lebron as becoming more of a scorer isn't entirely off, but it is unwarranted to say he doesn't handle the ball much anymore. I'd say 60% of the time he's on the floor, he's got the rock, especially in the 4th quarter. Having seen nearly every Cavs game this year, I can attest to a multi-fold of crisp crunch time passes that were crucial in the outcome of the game. One dish to Donyell Marshall for a stuff literally caused Austin Carr to leap out of his seat in unadulterated joy.

As for the hypothetical great 4's--is it just shit luck that Washington had their pick of Sheed, Webber, and Juwan Howard, and chose Juwan Howard to lock up to big money?

 
At 4/11/2006 5:31 PM, Blogger T. said...

As for the hypothetical great 4's--is it just shit luck that Washington had their pick of Sheed, Webber, and Juwan Howard, and chose Juwan Howard to lock up to big money?

Don't forget Ben Wallace

 
At 4/11/2006 6:18 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

Fact is, Lebron has put up unreal numbers this year, period.

No doubt, but from there to GOAT is still a hike. I'm not trying to denigrate LBJ, I'm just saying, a la the Wolf, let's not all start sucking each other just yet.

(And BTW Flip Murray = Larry Hughes?)

As a further aside, it seems un-FD to simply hold a statline up and say "Excalibur!"

 
At 4/11/2006 6:40 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

More re BronBron: OR if Hughes had played more games and the Cavs had a PG with a decent outside shot, LBJ's assists would have gone up. Net increase or decrease?

With a more dominant PF, more of the other team's players focus on the PF during rebounding situations, and LBJ pulls a couple extra boards. Net increase or decrease?

With a true PG, LBJ gets the ball in scoring position a few more times or a few fast breaks don't end in errant passes, and he gets a few extra points. Net increase or decrease?

I'm not getting caught up in numbers or sucking anyone's dick just yet ... my suggestion was about the long-term implications of a player who, at 21 and with no college experience, puts up 32-7-7. It's not the numbers; it's the raw clay of imagination.

 
At 4/11/2006 7:49 PM, Blogger Ian said...

Melo as Will Oldham. Fantastique!

 
At 4/11/2006 8:24 PM, Anonymous Buforana said...

Not trying to say Flip Murray = Larry Hughes. Hughes obviously has a much, much more expansive game, but offensively they're about equal. When Flip gets a chance to, he can wet jumpers all night and drive to the rim at will. Of course, Hughes has the size advantage among other things, but Flip does some shit you just don't see often. Ball faking while under the rim, then laying it in while his defender spins around to find nothing but air behind him? Priceless.

 
At 4/11/2006 8:37 PM, Anonymous andrew d, said...

look, i'm just glad you put up a pic of will oldham (at least it looks like him?).

 
At 4/11/2006 8:44 PM, Blogger SilverBird5000 said...

that forehead of his never ceases to amaze/terrify me.

one of the greatest.

 
At 4/11/2006 11:21 PM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

I'm with Torgo on it being easier to score now than every before. Fouls are just called so much closer now. They used to let people mug jordan, and he still killed them. As a result the espn ticker is all bizarro world. jason richardson 44? villanueva 48? joe johnson 42? give me a break.

i'm on the carmelo MIP bandwagon. In a weird and somewhat intangible way he has always reminded me of pierce, and his transformation only solidfies this. last year both pierce and melo heavily employed my least favorite basketball play in the universe: the three jab steps leading to a pull up jumper. There is no more boring or stupid or excruciating way to score—5 full seconds where the only thing moving on the court is one fucker's foot, consummated with a dumb jumpshot. and then this year neither of them do it anymore. now they look versatile and creative, and as a result they are both surprisingly fun to watch. (obviously there are big differences between the two of them, but they have walked a similar path out of the desert of basketball despair.) I'd never thought i'd be a carmelo fan, but he's convinced me.

i also think dirk is the mvp, because even in a league of lessened defense, he's done what we all said he'd never do: he got tough. In becoming a more complete player he made dallas a legit title contender up there giving the spurs a run. (The only problem with this argument is that despite what we've seen this year, we just don't believe our eyes. we all want to give him the mvp for learning how to play defense are for not being so soft, but we all think that come playoff time he's going to forget how to play defense and turn out to be soft.)

 
At 4/11/2006 11:58 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

I don't think anyone seriously wants to give Dirk the MVP. And he's not a defensive player by any stretch of the imagination. Avery Johnson has changed the Dallas attack but Dirk is by no means a "defender". To me, he's the same player he's always been, just the team around him has gotten better.

 
At 4/12/2006 12:24 AM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

I don't really mean to argue that he's a great defensive player, but only that he defied people's expectations. I think many (including me) thought he could be pushed around to the extent that you could never assemble a defensive team around him—he would be too big a liability. I think it's less technical defensive skill that he has gained, and more that he's lost his reputation for being a shrinking violet.

 
At 4/12/2006 12:29 AM, Anonymous White People Don't Know said...

That said, if brand could end the season really hot, i'd love to see him get it.

 
At 4/12/2006 1:31 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

there's no way Brand is getting it. Nash last year was bad enough, let's not get silly.

It will be interesting, though, to see just how splintered the vote will end up.

 
At 4/12/2006 6:36 AM, Anonymous Torgo said...

My dirty secret: I love two teams. It's even worse since they seemed destined to meet in the first round. When I think of a possible Bulls/Pistons series, I feel like Marge, just hoping that nobody gets hurt playing little league hockey...

That said, I love Elton Brand. I've never understood the rational behind trading him to the Clippers for, essentially Chandler. It seems the idea was that Chandler had the potential to someday be, say, a 20 and 10 guy, so we traded Brand, who was a 20/10 guy, already good and getting better at blocking shots. But then again, in Chicago, we all know it's organizations that win championships, not the players.

As much as I love Brand, I wonder how much Cassell pushed him over the top. Look at Garnett: one year with Cassell, the team far exceeds expectations, Garnett wins MVP. I'm not willing to claim a direct corelation, but the parallels are there. ET has special powers, what with the glowing finger.

 
At 4/12/2006 7:39 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

it's hard to imagine now, but chandler was considered to be the next KG coming out of high school. he was almost as hyped then as greg oden is now. they did a "60 minutes" feature on him. can't miss prospect. the conventional wisdom was that brand had already hit his ceiling: a solid 4, maybe even a potential all-star, but not someone you could build a team around. still, trading a proven 20-10 guy for a high school kid is hella risky.

the bulls really fucked themselves by trading brad miller and artest for jalen rose and antonio davis. yikes!!

 
At 4/12/2006 9:55 AM, Blogger T. said...

Chandler was so good that I remember hearing about him when he was a 7th grader. He was called "The Franchise" and was going to be the consensus #1 pick when he came out of high school.

I have all sorts of back issues of Street & Smith's that detail him as a youngster.

Still - the trade doesn't make sense - I didn't think Chandler could be anymore than what Brand was already. But the NBA is a league of potential

The other interesting thing is that Yao and Chandler are about the same age - so all those Nike Camps and AAU Summer Leagues (yeah, even Yao played AAU) and Hoop Summits - those two were always paired up against each other so Chandler is one of Yao's friends from pre-NBA. (Along with Teyo Johnson - the tight end for the Raiders).

 
At 4/12/2006 10:29 AM, Blogger T. said...

Mark Stein with his of the most FreeDarko players. . . at least it reads like a list of FreeDarko's finest - except maybe missing Gil Arenas

 
At 4/12/2006 11:10 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i would like to take this opportunity to officially cease my case against josh smith. he's clearly begun to put it all together, as in "realize that he lives and dies on a basketball court for the next decade" and bring that awareness to his outlandish playmaking. before, though, it seemed like he was still in shock that he'd made the league and was capable of mass destruction at such a high level.

such are the pitfalls of looking too good too soon.

 
At 4/12/2006 11:50 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

T.--that list would be pretty FD, were it not for the inclusion of jason richardson, the most boring exciting player in history.

word verification: gnudo

 
At 4/12/2006 8:59 PM, Anonymous Torgo said...

The angst I feel over the post-Jordan Krause Era of the Bulls cannot be measured. If he hadn't been out to prove that he was the reason behind the 6 freaking rings, the Bulls would have Artest, Miller and Brand in the front court. Instead, we have Chandler and... anyone? Sweetney, who is about two donuts shy of Oliver Miller-hood, and plays about 10 minutes a game. Malik Allen? I think? Othella Harrington? Could any other team say it took a huge blow when Darius Songalia was finished for the year?

Still, watch out for Noce. He's already getting Bowen-esque complaints from opposing playeres. And while he does have that amazing 3 percentage, he actually does other stuff, like rebounding and (recently) scoring.

 

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