Manimal

Kenneth Faried is awesome!!!

The two players who have impressed me the most during summer league play have been Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried.  Thompson’s game is reminiscent of Allan Houston’s.  They have a similar build, handle the ball fairly well and are dead-eye shooters.  If Thompson continues maturing at this level, he may make Stephon Curry expendable in Golden State and entice the Warriors to bring in another pass-first defensive oriented guard to play alongside Thompson, or at the very least a more durable playmaker like the Bucks’ Brandon Jennings.

But the player who’s been the most exceptional has been Denver Nugget sophomore Kenneth Faried.  Faried attacks every trip down the court as if it’s the closing play in the NBA Finals and his team is trailing by a point.  Watching Faried corral in every rebound in a 3-mile radius has been a joy to watch.  He’s reminiscent of a young Dennis Rodman with Ben Wallace’s physique.

And as evident in the quote below, Faried is not reluctant to assert himself as a leader:

“It doesn’t matter (that it’s Summer League),” Faried said. “It’s going to show guys that even the best player on the team can go out and still get down and dirty.”

Watching Faried play prompted me to go back and review last year’s NBA draft to see who was taken ahead of him.  And while one can make slight accommodations for Tristan Thompson and the Morris Twins Markieff and Marcus because they played in better conferences, Faried has by far outplayed all of the forwards selected ahead of him in last year’s draft.  As this draft is revisited in the coming years the teams who may end up being hurt the most by not selecting Faried are the Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats who selected the aforementioned Thompson and Bismack Biyombo respectively.  Faried is precisely the kind of hard-nosed rebounder/finisher who would have helped the maturation of young point guards Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.  A similar principle might apply to the Washington Wizards, but the Wizards already had Trevor Booker on board and he has a similar skill set and motor.  There’s no doubt in my mind however that fans in Cleveland and  Charlotte would have immediately rallied behind Faried’s blue-collar attributes, and high basketball IQ.

via The Manimal Comes Alive in Las Vegas « NBA.com | Hang Time Blog.

Brook Lopez

Do the Brooklyn Nets really matter?

I was struck by this line in Carles’ recent piece on the Brooklyn Nets

The Nets spent the past two seasons as the most literal group of assets that any professional franchise has presented to their few remaining fans. Sure, every team in the NBA is just a collection of assets, but it’s usually nice of the team to at least pretend that they’re trying to win.

Outside of any consternation about whether Deron Williams would stay or bolt to Dallas, and the seemingly never-ending Dwight Howard saga, the Brooklyn Nets never seemed to really matter as a basketball team.  With their surplus of cap space and expiring contracts the Nets have in many ways been the NBA’s version of an adjustable rate mortgage these past two years.  Everyone’s been watching not because we cared about what was happening on the court, but to see what would happen when the rate shifted. Unfortunately for those interested in train wrecks, Deron Williams did not flee and the Nets did not go under.

Unfortunately, for the Nets’ marketing department Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humprhies mean good basketball, but not necessarily good copy.

In other words, the Nets will be the first team to have failed–oddly enough–because they put together a well balanced middle of the road basketball team.  The Nets have become the Utah Jazz when their goal was to become the LA Lakers.

 

via Carles on winning culture, Deron Williams, and how the Brooklyn Nets botched their move to a new city – Grantland.

J.R. Smith pays the price

When J.R. Smith first entered the NBA I thought he was comparable to Ray Allen.  Both men are athletic, have excellent jump-shots, but have a reasonable amount of trouble handling the rock.

When he was paired alongside Chris Paul after Paul was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets the following year, it seemed almost inevitable that Smith’s career would be finish up somewhere between Allen’s or Allan Houston’s, another athletic sharp shooter of recent vintage.

Eight years later it appears as if Smith will fall far short of either comparison.  While he’s had a solid NBA career (12.5ppg/24.5mpg), Smith’s has not been the stellar career that many envisioned when Paul and Smith seemed on the verge of becoming a 21st-century version of Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.

Instead Smith has toiled for the last eight years as the consummate wild-card, equally capable of a 20-point outburst or nailing a game-winning shot, or going scoreless, turning the ball over multiple times all the while playing listless defense.  Were the NBA a poker site, Smith’s value as a wild-card would be certain.  But it’s not and as much as the league embraces improvisational players—teams need players who they can depend on to show up on a nightly basis.

Making matters worst, Smith has been eclipsed by a number of guards who were taken after him in the 2004 draft including Jameer Nelson, Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza and Tony Allen, three of whom (Allen, Ariza and Nelson) played in an NBA finals.  One can even make a case that Smith has not even distinguished himself from other fellow 2004 draftees, Delonte West and Chris Duhon.  Even Dorrell Wright, who was picked one slot after Smith has had a resurgence.  And with the exception of West, all of Smith’s 2004 draft mates currently have more lucrative contracts than him.

This last point was amplified when it was recently announced that Smith will sign a two-year 2.8 million dollar deal to return to the New York Knicks.  To put this in perspective, Ray Allen, ten years Smith’s senior was recently offered a two-year 12-million dollar contract by the Boston Celtics before eventually settling on a 3-year 9-million dollar with the Miami Heat. 

If this were say Allen Iverson at the end of his career one could make an argument that Ray Allen was offered more money because he’s a bigger draw—but no.  Allen is more valuable simply because he works harder, has kept himself in excellent shape and is infinitely more dependable than Smith.

Smith’s teammate Steve Novak, another sharp-shooter just inked a 4-year 15-million dollar offer from the Knicks.  Heck, the Knicks signed 38-year old Marcus Camby to a 3-year 12million dollar deal.

After nearly a decade of failing to display the discipline and professionalism that his first NBA coach Byron Scott said Smith so tragically lacked, Smith is now literally paying for his lack of growth as a player.  In an era where shooter’s of Smith’s caliber are so highly sought out, it is telling that Smith received an underwhelming response as a free-agent.

Therefore while Smith has not wasted his talents, he has also has not made the most of them.

D_Howard

Dan Gilbert would be a fool to help Nets land Dwight Howard

He’d also be a hypocrite…

Even if we are willing to disregard Gilbert’s asinine rants after James’ departure in 2010, there is the obvious fact that the Cavaliers would be helping one of their competitors get better which makes this scenario even more absurd.  Cleveland helping New Jersey is worst than Memphis giving Los Angeles Pau Gasol, the player who became the lynchpin to their recent titles.  Memphis was at least in precarious financial straits and were not going to improve significantly with Gasol.  Moreover, the player they received in return for Gasol, his younger brother Marc, has outplayed Gasol the past two years and almost helped Memphis advance to the Western Conference finals in 2011.

Cleveland on the other hand is considering helping a team that only won one more game than them last year improve dramaticallyYes, New Jersey was only +1 in the victories column last season, which means had Kyrie Irving or Anderson Varejao not been missed significant playing time, Cleveland could have easily surpassed New Jersey in the win column.  At this point the best case scenario for next season is that both teams would be battling with the Bucks, Sixers and Celtics for the seventh seen in the Eastern Conference.

However, if Cleveland helps Brooklyn get Howard, the Nets automatically become the odds on favorite to win the Atlantic, and in so doing, arguably push the Cavaliers out of the playoffs as New York and Boston slip down a notch in the standings.

The bottom half of the Eastern Conference is increasingly becoming more competitive over the past three years and if the Cavaliers don’t play their cards right, they can find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture for years to come.

Bomani Jones Roasts NBA GMs

Underneath Jones’ satire is the sad reality to which he alludes to: Last year NBA owners went through a lockout in an appeal for fiscal austerity, but a year later, they are back to making the same kind of decisions that allegedly almost drove the league off a financial cliff a year ago.

NBA owners can not have it both ways, either you can afford to pay the Omer Asik’s of this world 25million or you can’t. But don’t sign Asik to a contract and then penalize the fans two years later when you realize you might’ve made a mistake…

NBA greatest players of all time draft

This has to be one of the best streams of unintentional comedy of all-time. Barkley’s mistake is classic because it reveals the careless strand that Jordan and Pippen always suggest undermined his career. And while he appears to be joking, you can’t but think that McHale’s loyalty to the Celtics hasn’t occasionally factored into his decision making (see Garnett, Kevin).

All of which to say if these guys can mess up on something as straightforward as picking an NBA greatest team, how can real execs not mess up when trying to determine bow much to pay someone like Omer Asik? Whatever the setup being an NBA GM is more often than not A Fool’s Errand…

The Case for JaVale McGee

This was my summation of a trade that brought JaVale McGee to the Nuggets in exchange for Nene:

This is a win-win for the Nuggets and McGee.  If McGee plays well, the Denver goes even further in the playoffs.  And if he just plays at his current level and Denver realizes that the JaVale experience is not what they’re after, then they still have a legitimate 7-footer to offer in a sign-and-trade deal.

Denver is still likely to lose to the Lakers in the first round, but it won’t be McGee’s fault.  In his first playoff series McGee is averaging a double-double and proving that with a good coach, a mature point-guard, and veteran teammates committed to winning, he’s a pretty good player.

 

What people tend to overlook is that McGee is only 24-years old (six years younger than the person for whom he was traded) and if we look at Tyson Chandler’s career trajectory for example, McGee has a chance of being of better offensive player than Chandler by the time he’s 30 and just as good of a defender.

McGee will always have trouble guarding behemoths like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, or someone as skilled as Marc Gasol, but other than these three players, are there any other centers out there who pose definitive mismatches for McGee?  Andrew Bogut comes to mind, but his injury history is such that he’s more likely to be unavailable for tip-off than he is to drop a double-double on McGee.

There won’t be any shortage of people to disagree with the following statement, but if handled properly the McGee acquisition might prove more valuable for the Nuggets than the Carmelo Anthony trade.  The Nuggets got market value for Anthony, but none of the players in that haul are likely to eclipse him as an individual player.  Not only might the Nuggets have gotten the better player in the McGee trade, but even if they don’t keep him, it’s hard to think they wouldn’t be able to significantly upgrade their team by trading him.  Even if you were to trade McGee for say, Joakim Noah, they’d still be better off financially than they would have been holding on to Nene’s contract.

I may in the minority, but I’m all in on Money McGee