dirk
I wonder if Dirk would be smiling so widely if he realized
that he looks like the cover model for WNBA Live 2011.

The Dallas Mavericks

Last season, the Mavs won 55 games, which was the second-best mark in the Bestern Conference and fourth-best in the league (behind the Cavaliers, Lakers and Magic). Then they lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Sure, it was a six-game defeat by San Antonio, but the Spurs were swept clean in the second round. So I'm not sure that speaks very highly of how good the 2009-10 Mavs actually were.

And check it: Despite being a top team in terms of wins and losses, the Mavericks ranked only 8th in Point Differential, 10th in Offensive Efficiency and 12 in Defensive Efficiency. I say "only" because those are decent rankings. But "decent" and "championship-caliber" are two very different things.

And these Mavs are not contenders. I mean, what's changed?

Mark Cuban re-signed Dirk Nowitzki (four years, $80 million) and Brendan Haywood (six years, $55 million), and he traded Erick Dampier's expiring contract (plus Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll) for Tyson Chandler's expiring deal (and Alexis Ajinca). Lesser (read that, meaningless) deals included drafting Dominque Jones and signing Ian Mahinmi to a one-year contract.

Other than that, all the Mavericks did was get older. The age of the team's top six players ranges between 30 (Caron Butler) to 37 (Jason Kidd). Dirk Nowitzki is still churning out points at a fairly efficient rate, but the rest of the crew seems to be in slow decline.

Why should we expect this squad to get any better?

Okay, there is a wee smidge of hope. Between Butler, Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson, Cuban has $27 million in expiring contracts. And you know what that means: Mid-season trade! Dallas could almost certainly pick up one or two key players with that kind of money. But unless it's a high-caliber All-Star or Superstar-level player -- which seems doubtful -- I don't see the Mavs leaping from also-ran to major player.

This team has finished with at least 50 wins for 10 straight years, and they'll either reach that mark or come close again this year. But another first round exit -- or, if they get a favorable matchup in round one, an elimination in the conference semis -- is about as optimistic an appraisal as I can muster for these guys.

Which means more Mark Cuban facepalms!

cuban facepalm
This never gets old. Never.

The Houston Rockets

During the 2009-10 campaign, the Rockets were the little engine that almost could. Despite losing Yao Ming to injury and Tracy McGrady to fail, Houston managed to win 42 games with a bunch of gritty role players giving their best. It was a true underdog story. [Insert uplifting music here -- maybe Queen's "We Are The Champions" -- and feel free to shed a single, dramatic tear.]

Unfortunately for the Rockets, they weren't in a movie. So instead of the happy ending where a group of scrappy misfits bust the odds to defeat a group of vastly superior athletes, the team got an early vacation.

game over

So how did the Rockets improve over the summer? They locked up Luis Scola for five years (overpaying him with a $47 million contract), drafted Scola's backup (Patrick Patterson), overpaid ($24 million!) for backup point guard Kyle Lowry, overspent on Brad Miller ($15 million!) for Yao insurance, and traded Trevor Ariza for Courtney Lee.

Other than the Ariza trade, those moves don't look all that great on paper do they? Or a computer screen. Or an Etch-A-Sketch. But I keep hearing about what a crazy-mad genius Daryl Morey, so I'm sure these were championship moves. Now please wait a moment while I mop up all this dripping sarcasm.

Still, if Yao can stay healthy for once, the Rockets have two legit inside threats (Ming and Scola), a great young point guard (Aaron Brooks), a crack perimeter player (Kevin Martin), and a group of solid role players/shooters (Lee, Shane Battier, Chase Buddinger, etc.). The Rockets have talent. They definitely have talent.

What they also have is a franchise player who's body is made of broken glass covered in soggy marshmallow and tissue paper. Meanwhile, their second best player (Martin) is more of a crispy papier-mâché, having missed 88 games over the past three seasons. Oh, and two speedsters (Brooks and Lowry) surrounded by a bunch of guys who have the quickness of a thick paste (Battier, Ming, Miller, Scola, Chuck Hayes, Pat Patterson). It's kind of hard to fast break when most of your team takes 10 seconds or more to cross halfcourt.

Doesn't another Yao injury, 40-45 wins and a brave but ultimately futile playoff chase sound about right? Yeah, it sounds right to me, too.

The Memphis Grizzlies

The general consensus among NBA fans is that the Grizzlies had what was, for them, a wildly successful season last year.

Reality check: That success equated to a 17th place finish in Offensive Efficiency, a 24th place finish in Defensive Efficiency, 40 wins, and yet another year of watching the playoffs from the lavish comfort of their own homes while covered in Victoria's Secret models and hundred dollar bills. Or maybe fifty dollar bills.


When the 2009-10 season was about to open, some Basketbawful readers suggested an "Assist Watch" for the Grizzlies, who opened the year with Allen Iverson, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph on the roster...notorious ball stoppers one and all. Sure, Memphis sent Iverson packing when he started ranting about minutes -- which happened after the first game, mind you -- but that still left the Griz with a "Big Three" who live by the motto "I will go down shooting. And then shoot from my grave."

The result: According to ESPN's John Hollinger, the Grizzlies had the lowest percentage of assisted field goals last season. And according to Basketball-Reference.com, Memphis finished with only three more total assists than the 12-win New Jersey Nets.

Shock. Awe. More shock.

For all their "success," the Care Bares were a shot-happy, defenseless bunch who probably would have won only 30-35 games if they hadn't led the league in offensive rebound percentage (KBAs, baby!).

Don't worry. It gets worse.

During the offseason, owner Michael Heisley made a series of mystifying moves, like way overpaying ($81.6 million!) for Rudy gay, letting Ronnie Brewer walk (after having acquired him from Utah for a first round pick), immediately insulting two smart draft picks (Xavier Henry and Greivis Vasquez) by offering them 20 percent less than the maximum specified by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and then selling the 25th overall pick in the 2010 draft to the Dallas Mavericks.

Oh, and he signed Acie "One and a half feet in the NBA grave" Law.

The Grizzlies have a beastly frontcourt in Randolph and Marc "Why am I still so underrated anyway?" Gasol, a couple streaky perimeter players in Gay and Mayo, and...Mike Conley at point guard. Ugh.

Adding Henry, Vasques and Tony Allen will improve the team's depth, but I wouldn't trust this bunch any more than I would trust Eddy Curry to guard my ham sandwich. This team won't make the playoffs. Heck, they probably won't win 40 games again. Maybe ever.

But at least they have Allen marinating in the locker room.

The New Orleans Hornets

Chris Paul is begging, crying, and even screaming for some help. And if the Hornets don't give it to him, he's probably going to leave.

Seriously.

Well, no worries, Chris: Help is on the way!

Here you go: Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, Craig Brackins, Quincy Pondexter, Mustafa Shakur, Jason Smith, Jerryd Bayless! And Aaron Gray!!

Oh dear God. CP3 is so gone.

I mean, the starting five -- Paul, Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor and Marcus Thornton -- is solid (if not spectacular) enough. But there's no depth. None. The New Orleans bench is like one of those old NBA Live games where the reserves were just a bunch of faceless guys who cheered and clapped in an endless loop. Even if everybody stays healthy and Chris Paul plays like a miniature Godzilla pumped up on Super Soldier serum, this team's ceiling is, what, 40-45 games? Unless coach Monty Williams turns off fatigue so the starters can play 48 minutes a night...oh wait, this isn't NBA Live.

The only winner here is going to be the Knicks when they trade for Paul at the deadline. Just kidding. But not really.

The San Antonio Spurs

Look, can we just agree that the window has closed?

Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. A lot of Spurs backers are pointing at the Tiago Splitter signing and using that as proof that there's still a glimmer of hope. Maybe even more than a glimmer.

I said it before and I'll say it again:


Look, I'm not trying to get lazy with my analysis here. But the Spurs aren't contenders for one key reason: Tim Duncan is in decline. It's hard to tell. I mean, he's played at least 75 games in each of the last five seasons (including 78 last year). His PER has been standing pat at 24+ for the past four seasons, including a fifth-place mark of 24.7 last year (which is only three-tenths of a point off his career PER of 25.0). And he's still in the top 10 in categories like Rebound Percentage, Defensive Rating and Win Shares.

See, that's how freaking amazing Tim Duncan is: Even in decline, he's awesome.

But he's not what he was. He's not. If you have an HD television, you can practically watch his knees creak. And even though he's still amazingly efficient and as smart as ever, he doesn't dominate the way he used to. He doesn't own games like in the old days. And when he has bad nights -- often against the better teams -- they're stinkers. Take his 5-point, 1-for-10 performance in a 110-84 loss in Orlando. Or his 6-point, 2-for-11 outing in a 92-83 home loss to the Lakers. Or even his 4-for-23 brickfest at Indiana.

Everybody has bad nights. And Duncan still has more good nights than bad ones. For instance, he had a 27-rebound game in a win over the Hawks and grabbed another 26 rebounds in that Indy game. But you can't automatically pencil TD in for total domination anymore. Which is a problem, because he's the foundation of San Antonio's offense and defense.

The Celtics can get away with Kevin Garnett's semi-gimpy knees because he anchors their defense but is only a happy addition on offense. Duncan is responsible for everything. Sure, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (assuming their health holds out) take pressure off on the offensive end. But the O begins with Duncan and the D ends with him.

Unfortunately, Duncan is 34 years old and his NBA odometer reads 977 regular season games and 35,577 game played, plus another 170 playoff games and 6,740 minutes played. Timmy has spent the last decade-plus carrying the Spurs on his back -- and make no mistake, Duncan (not Kobe, LeBron, or Shaq) was the best player of the 2000s -- and I just don't think he has it in him to keep doing it and win a championship.

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58 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
did you want to pour out anymore haterade on the rockets?

i am too baffled how darel morey is considered a genius for overpaying low producing players and underpaying the good ones

but good lord man you sound like espn..

at least we didnt give 125million to a guard or sign shaq

Blogger Basketbawful said...
did you want to pour out anymore haterade on the rockets?

Dude, I like the Rockets.

Specifically, what about what I wrote do you disagree with? If you share that, then we can discuss it.

Anonymous The Other Chris said...
Can we officially retire the phrase "don't be hating" and all of it's mentally retarded variations? If you have some valid, logical points to make, then make them. Save the catch phrases for myspace or your Jersey Shore viewing parties or.. well you get the idea.

Bawful mostly pointed out that Morey wildly overpaid for Kyle Lowry (dear god) and Luis Scola (not as outrageous, but still excessive). And that Yao is made out of cotton candy and tissue paper. Could anyone with the slightest grasp of reality dispute either of those things?

I agree that Tim Duncan is the best player of the last decade, but that's gasoline on the fire for the brigade of Kobe fanboys.

"You're all such haters!"

(throws up in mouth. repeatedly.)

Blogger Dan B. said...
I'm with Bawful on this one. The Rockets seem to have their entire gameplan built around Yao Ming staying healthy. That sounds like a heartbreaking season in the making. And it's a shame because they are a likeable team, the scrappy underdog, etc. But those off-season moves (or, perhaps, lack thereof) are just baffling.

Blogger starang said...
Uh oh....here comes the "don't be hatin" Kobe dong suckers! I can hear their gayness approaching...

Bawful, could you please elaborate on why Tim Duncan is the best player of the 00's and Kobe is not...I thought I would pose that question before The Rapist fans ask in their most annoying ways.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
The comments on Morey are not straight up hating on him, but more pointing out that he's gotten by on reputation of his statistical knowhow for a while, but still seems prone to Kahn-esque decisions and doesn't really have the results to back it up.

Also, Marcus Thornton lost the starting job to Belinelli. I loved reading the phrase "as the Hornets desperately try to find a backup to Chris Paul..." in the Bayless trade reports. Um yea okay. Whole lotta dumb going on in the Southwest.

Finally, I think Shaq vs Duncan is much closer than Bawful made it sound, for best of the decade. I know he's an assclown and all that, but maybe there's some recall bias going on there.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Also, if you're looking strictly at player performance and not championships, KG and Dirk have to be in the mix too. I guess Shaq would rank better if you go from 96-05 instead of 00-09. Ah well, such is the life with such arbitrary comparisons.

Anonymous Hellshocked said...
I don't think the Rockets overpaid for Scola at all. In today's NBA that is roughly what a player of his caliber in that particular system goes for. Kyle Lowry is probably the best backup point guards in the league and will thrive in Houston's offensive and defensive sets. Courtney Lee is a great pickup for them, though I'm not as thrilled about Miller. He will fit in seamlessly in their offense but he is not what they needed. They should have gone after an athletic shot-blocker. Tyson Chandler would have been a fantastic acquisition though if they had picked him up they would probably have given Portland a run for their money in the "how many centers can we injure during a season" race.

I have a feeling the Rockets are going to try and trade Brooks at some point and use Lowry as a starter. Brooks meshes very well with Martin but not so well with Yao and the rest of the slow-it-down crew. He was almost an All-Star last year which means his value is about as high as it is going to get. The more Yao plays the more his value will decrease.

As far as Memphis goes, I think Mr. Bawful may have actually been too kind. Zach Randolph is on a contract year. This means he will be gunning for stats like crazy, freezing Marc Gasol out, bitching at management for not paying him and being his overall sweet and cuddly self on and off the court. Is there any doubt that the same dude who stupidly maxed out Rudy Gay is going to pay through the nose to keep Randolph, let Gasol walk and try to pass it off as progress? I liked watching Memphis last year. They actually tried hard. I don't see that lasting past the first losing streak this year though.

Yes, unless the Spurs can swing some miracle deal this season their window has closed. The problem isn't so much Duncan getting older as it is the fact that the team hasn't adjusted to his decline. They are still trying to use the same formula they terrorized the league (especially David Stern when he had to muster enthusiasm out of thin air for that Spurs-Pistons finals) as if they refuse to accept the fact they can't pull it off anymore. Ginobili had a throwback season last year but he is a shadow of his former self. His slashing was one of the keys to the Spurs' dominance, but these days he is almost strictly a shooter. Parker has lost a step and plays as if he were 5 years older than his listed age. The shooters' looks from three point land aren't quite as open as they used to be because Duncan doesn't require a double team nearly as often. Three seasons ago the Spurs should have begun to shift their team from an offense and defense structured almost entirely around around Tim Duncan to an offense and defense that feature him as a very useful tool. Hell, put him in a team like, say, Houston (without Yao) and they're a championship contender.

He's far from done (his economy of motion is a thing of beauty to watch and he could totally play into his 40's if he so chose to) but his days as the undisputable man are long past him.

Anonymous JJ said...
Duncan has been obviously more consistent. I mean, his stats look like they just entered "20-10" then copy/paste. But, Shaq in prime was definitely more dominant than Duncan in prime. But, if you are comparing a large sample, such as a decade, I'd agree that Duncan comes out (slightly) ahead.

Anonymous Patrick said...
Well, Duncan hasn't been "dominant" in three or four years. Respectable? Yes. Good stat nights? Yes. But he hasn't taken over a game like a Bryant, a James, or a Wade in a few years. And yet San Antonio remains in the mix.

I'm not saying I disagree with "the window being closed", but it isn't because Duncan isn't "dominant" - hardly news - it's because under all the hype and bells and whistles everyone knows the moment L.A. traded for Pau Gasol, the Western Conference was sewn up for them.

Blogger Will said...
On the Cleveland-based radio show I listen to, the host brought in some Wiccans and they placed a curse on LeBron. So if/when he has a debilitating injury you can thank/blame Rover's Morning Glory. ESPN may be giving this a little coverage.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Bawful, could you please elaborate on why Tim Duncan is the best player of the 00's and Kobe is not...

Well, for starters, he is a statistically superior player. I won't bother to list all the ways TD trumped Kobe, but if you're curious, go to Basketball-Refernece.com and check out the Appearances on Leader Boards, Awards, and Honors section for each player. TD has many more and superior entries than Kobe. And if Kobe has the edge in point scored, Duncan did what he did far, far more efficiently than Kobe could ever even dream of.

TD churned out MVP-type year after MVP-type year, never complained or begged for more help, was the ultimate teammate, always gave it 100 percent on both ends, consistently inflated the value of the guys around him (no offense to Manu and Parker, but they owe their place in league history to Mr. Duncan).

To me, Duncan is the ultimate foundation player. During his prime, you could plug and chug around him and win, even if Stephen freaking Jackson was a key piece to your title team.

Frankly, Kobe was never able to win consistently without one of the best post players in the league. His perimeter brilliance was never going to lead L.A. to a title without a premier inside guy.

Anything more than this would require an entire post.

Blogger starang said...
An entire post of hatin' Kobe? Come on now Bawful...don't tempt us like that! Now you have to do it!

I'll be patiently waiting...

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Also, if you're looking strictly at player performance and not championships, KG and Dirk have to be in the mix too. I guess Shaq would rank better if you go from 96-05 instead of 00-09. Ah well, such is the life with such arbitrary comparisons.

My decisions are based on player performance first, total skill set second, and championships last.

KG and Dirk are certainly in the mix, but KG was never the offensive force (specifically as a back-to-the-basket post scorer) that Ducan is/was, and Dirk was never even close to the foundation-on-defense type of player Timmy is/was. Frankly, the same goes for Shaq. Although, at his peak, Shaq was so unstoppable it didn't really matter.

Shaq was the Player of the Decade until 2005-ish, but that's about when he became the second-best player on his own team. Hard to qualify for Best of the 00s when you spent half of those years as Robin (or, later, Aquaman).

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey Basketbawful how's it going? I emailed you yesterday about the Chicago blog, but haven't received a response. Can you please respond when you get a chance?

Thanks

Blogger Wormboy said...
Morey does an impressive job with little. He gets that hate because he's got a modest record. But I'd argue that Knee-Mac and Yao would have harmed most other franchises more. Had they both played up to potential, they'd have been a contender. So, maybe lionizing Morey is inappropriate (OK, it definitely is), but he's done quite well.

Re: Duncan. Yes, he's the best of the aughts. Fantastic all-around game, and he has always, his entire career, done the best for his team. He seems to be without ego, he always does his absolute best, and that best is stunningly good. He has also been the best defensive player in the league for most of that time, while Kobe's D is good but not great. People gush over Kobe because of his "cheating D," but I've been unimpressed by his "lockdown" mode. He's just not that great, and he saves it for the offensive end. Duncan does it on both ends, no excuses.

And news flash: Parker and Ginobili are not great players. Put them on any other team, and that team improves by 10 wins. Put Duncan on any other team and they are an instant contender. Didn't his advent on the Spurs herald one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history?

Sorry Kobe, but you've never won a title without a bona fide franchise player next to you. Parker and Ginobili are excellent ballplayers, but neither is a franchise player (and I think they both know it.) Kobe has only been the MVP in the last two years because of politics. Gasol is much more efficient and should have been MVP.

Blogger chris said...
I can't wait for the inevitable Care Bare stare at empty seats at the FedEx Forum!

Anonymous AK Dave said...
I think HOU should just go all-in and turn into a SSOL team with Brooks, Martin, Budinger, Scola (at center), and Lee.

Drop the dead weight and go for it! Wooooo!

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
A bit on the Hornets... Craig Brackins has been long gone and so is Shakur. We have Jason Smith and Jerryd Bayless instead. Now, that might not seem special... but Smith had a very nice preseason. We'll see if it carries over.
And this may sound silly.... but Aaron Gray might turn out to be pretty useful. He did not look like his old Chicago self in his time with the Hornets last year. He rebounded like a beast and managed an 18 PER. Again, we'll have to hope it carries over.

And as for Jerryd Bayless- Paul/Bellini/Bayless/Thornton.... and um, Willie Green. You have to admit that's a pretty impressive backcourt offensively. Some of the projection systems out there are predicting the Hornets to be damn good offensively.

I think this Hornets team should be able to be as good as the 07-08 team... just look at the respective rosters. So their ceiling should be much higher than 45 wins in my estimation.

A lot of what the Hornets did this offseason is addition by subtraction. A backup frontcourt of Gray/Smith/Mbenga might not strike fear in opponents... but its definitely better than Darius Songalia and Craig Brackins. By the same token, Ariza may not be a savior... but he's going to give us a lot more than a washed up James Posey. So personally I'm expecting a 50+ win season if everyone stays reasonably healthy.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Ruben Patterson is probably still slow, but that has nothing to do with the Rockets.

Blogger dc said...
I guess if you just pin it on 00-09 it would be duncan. But it is pretty lame and doesnt paint the whole picture... because ppl played ball before and will play after that era.

as we all know, lengthy arguments could be had about who will end up with 'most dominant of this era' title (duncan, kobe, shaq to mention a few) They were all players who found ways to win~ phenomenal talent.

it seems that kobe's flare on the floor rubs a lota ppl the wrong way~ and ppl would rather fall in love with duncan or nash type player... and thats fine, i think it really comes down to personal preference. but ppl should withold comments like "I thought I would pose that question before The Rapist fans ask in their most annoying ways." because as you know for many kobe/laker fans, those are fighting words~ and its obvious who started the fight here.

but the way i see it... if kobe wins another title or two, he will demand a place with the elite of elites.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
A bit on the Hornets... Craig Brackins has been long gone and so is Shakur. We have Jason Smith and Jerryd Bayless instead.

Yep. My bad.

I think this Hornets team should be able to be as good as the 07-08 team... just look at the respective rosters.

That team vastly overachieved and snuck up on people. This particular club, I can't see it coming anywhere close to 57 wins and nearly stealing the West's top seed.

Ruben Patterson is probably still slow, but that has nothing to do with the Rockets.

Ugh. Meant Pat Patterson. Guess I have the Kobe Stopper on my brain.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
it seems that kobe's flare on the floor rubs a lota ppl the wrong way~ and ppl would rather fall in love with duncan or nash type player...

Duncan has never been a terribly popular player. Most have derided him as boring, and he rarely gets talked up to the extent the more exciting perimeter players (like Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, etc.) are. It's because his game isn't really fit for SportsCenter, which has radically shifted how people appreciate and understand today's game.

OpenID sohum said...
Scola can run the floor so not sure the jibe about him being slow destroying our fast break is entirely accurate.

Also someone else said that our entire GP this season is based around Yao Ming. Don't know how that could be the case with him already having a hard-limit of 24 minutes a game and us investing in/testing out several big men at the C position (Miller, Hill, Jeffries, even Scola has played the position in preseason).

If anything, we have suitably covered our asses in the case Yao does go down instead of being overdependent on him.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
That team vastly overachieved and snuck up on people. This particular club, I can't see it coming anywhere close to 57 wins and nearly stealing the West's top seed.

I hear what you are saying... but I don't know that I would say that the 07-08 club overachieved. Having a completely healthy Tyson Chandler and a Peja who was still averaging 15+ a game and shooting 40%+ from three in combination with Paul and West... I would expect that team to win 55 - 60 games every season. The only reason the team didn't win 55+ plus the very next year was due to Tyson and Peja both missing tons of games. They still managed 49 wins though.

Granted, I'm not saying they will match that team's productivity or come close to challenging the Lakers. But I think
50ish wins and a seed in the 3 - 6 range is a very attainable goal for this roster.

Anonymous The Other Chris said...
The things that rub me the wrong way about Kobe are, in order:

1) Overwhelming arrogance
2) Terrible shot selection
3) Anal raping

Kobe fans seem to see #2 as his "flair". Yeah, no.. it's flair in the same way that Jennifer Aniston was forced to have "flair" in Office Space.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
"It's because his Duncanface isn't really fit for SportsCenter,"

The saddest part of Duncan's career is that he didn't get the nickname The Wizard or Gandalf, or whatever D&D/fantasy inspired knickname he actually wanted.

Comparing Shaq's 3.5 rings to Duncan's 3.5 rings, and maybe looking at 1998-99 to 2007-08, I'd give the edge to Duncan.

Blogger Andy said...
I'm wondering why you think Aaron Brooks is "a great young point guard" while thinking they overpaid Lowry considering that Lowry is frequently the better player. Brooks is flashier, clearly a better scorer, but he's also kind of dumb, inefficient, and I don't think he's going to get much better than he is. I'm thinking the Rockets will likely try to trade him if a really good player comes on the market.

As for Morey's moves in general: Hey, you'd think he's a genius, too, if you had to suffer through the Carroll Dawson years.

Blogger BadDave said...
Which makes you rare (like me, too), because one of Duncan's rings came during lockout season. Like next season will be. Awesome!

BTW - I'm really just picking this nit because you referenced the D&D thing before I got here. Jerk.

As a the longest-time supporter of Bawful, I totally get our mission. But reflecting on these season previews, I feel like there will be no winner. Everyone is destined to suck.

Blogger Paul said...

Frankly, Kobe was never able to win consistently without one of the best post players in the league. His perimeter brilliance was never going to lead L.A. to a title without a premier inside guy.


As you already know I'm a Laker fan .

But wow! Mr. Bawful this is exactly the reason I've continued reading you throughout the years.
Many people across the interwebs have dared to compare you to Bill Simmons, but I digress.
I honestly think that it would be an insult to your writing skills, your Basket Ball knowledge and your brilliant sense of humor to compare them to those of the "Sports Guy"

I couldn't agree more with you about all the points you make about TD. I do think Timmy is the player of the 00s and you bring out great comments and accurate stat references.

Two things from my own perspective though.
1. I truly believe that while we have solid evidence that
Duncan is the ultimate foundation player. During his prime, you could plug and chug around him and win, even if Stephen freaking Jackson was a key piece to your title team.

We never got a chance to see Bryant in that kind of environment.
Kobe's career is probably as bipolar as his personality.
We've seen him in great teams accompanied by the "Ultimate sidekicks" ala Shaq or Gasol.
But we've also seen him playing alongside what possibly go down in history as the "Lakers all time Bawful 5" (Kwame, Cook, Vujacic,Smush...)

There isn't really a good sample size as to whether Bryant would've thrived or failed in a system where you would plug in REAL USABLE NBA PLAYERS.
Never have we been granted the opportunity of seeing him play alongside a bunch of good reliable role players and border line all stars.

2. In spite of agreeing with you on having Timmy atop of the 00s player rankings, I believe that when it's all said and done Kobe's career has a good chance of topping that of Timmy's.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
To be fair to Kobe (baaaarrrrrffff ok I'm ready), pretty much everyone needs their sidekick to win. I mean, not everyone can be as awesome as Hakeem, and I'm failing to think of any team in recent history outside of the 93-94 Rockets that has won with one guy and crappy crap. I don't hold Kobe's rings against him, but Duncan was definitely above him for the decade.

Anonymous JJ said...
Paul:

Duncan will never top Kobe's criminal career. Ever.

Blogger dc said...
"But reflecting on these season previews, I feel like there will be no winner. Everyone is destined to suck."

really? i think this will be one of the best nba seasons in recent memory~ i cant wait to watch games tonight!

"not everyone can be as awesome as Hakeem, and I'm failing to think of any team in recent history outside of the 93-94 Rockets that has won with one guy and crappy crap"

clyde the glyde doesnt count as a sidekick? sam cassell was pretty serviceable pg too during their runs.

"Duncan has never been a terribly popular player."

true. he doesnt get a lota love, but also doesnt get as much hate as other more popular players...
but overall most ppl respect the dude, much deserved respect.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
dc - They got Clyde in 1994-95.

In 1993-94, let's take a trip down memory lane and notably look at the Playoffs results, where Hakeem led the team in PTS, TREB, AST, STL and BLK, the best DRtg and WS, while Sam Cassell was still a rookie, "servicable" as a backhanded compliment.

Yea, Hakeem p much ruled.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
There isn't really a good sample size as to whether Bryant would've thrived or failed in a system where you would plug in REAL USABLE NBA PLAYERS.
Never have we been granted the opportunity of seeing him play alongside a bunch of good reliable role players and border line all stars.


That's fair.

In spite of agreeing with you on having Timmy atop of the 00s player rankings, I believe that when it's all said and done Kobe's career has a good chance of topping that of Timmy's.

By quantity of numbers, maybe, like total number of titles, total number of points scored, etc. But in terms of their peak output, Duncan was superior.

To be fair to Kobe (baaaarrrrrffff ok I'm ready), pretty much everyone needs their sidekick to win. I mean, not everyone can be as awesome as Hakeem, and I'm failing to think of any team in recent history outside of the 93-94 Rockets that has won with one guy and crappy crap. I don't hold Kobe's rings against him, but Duncan was definitely above him for the decade.

True. Shaq needed Kobe as his sidekick, Pau needed Kobe as his sidek...or, wait, was it the other way around? ;)

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Christ, the Southwest Division preview comments section is all about Kobe? I think the haters want to talk about him more than his fans do.

Tim Duncan is an incredible player, and he's definitely been overlooked, and probably will have his legacy overlooked due to him not having a loud personality. The guy should probably be the starting power forward on anyone's All Time Starting Five, yet I rarely see his name come up in those types of discussions (I myself make this same omission). But Mr. Bawful is right, Timmy D has definitely been in decline ever since the Spurs last won a title in 2007. When they begun their title defense that next season, even though the Celtics had loaded up, I just figured the Spurs would win it again, but I clearly wasn't expecting Duncan's decline at the time, and I think it's right to not count the Spurs as a contender anymore because of it. How many years can we hear "you should never count out the Spurs" or when they get off to a slow start "they do this every year, but you know they'll be there in the end" only to have them really not be there in the end? The Spurs made one last push in the offseason of 2009 when they picked up Richard Jefferson, but he was a bust, and so here they are. They'll be solid, they'll make the playoffs, but I don't think they're a real threat to challenge for the title this year.

Mr. Bawful's right on the money with Houston: their whole season is pinned to Yao's health. If Yao does stay healthy (and I really hope he does), then they could be one of the better teams in the West, possibly even as high as a 2 seed, IMO. But odds are that Yao will have to start slow and it's unknown if he'll ever really be that healthy again. They've got a solid team around him though, they won't be an easy win for any team out there, I don't think.

If the Mavs do make a mid-season trade, they could be a pretty dangerous team. I still don't know why they folded so badly against the Spurs last year, maybe that was just a bad matchup for them. On paper they should be dangerous as hell, but for whatever reason they just never seem to live up to that potential. They're one of the few teams in the West that gives me as a Laker fan any real worry though, whether it's justified or not.

The Hornets and Grizzlies are a mess.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
One thing to point out on the Kobe vs. Duncan front, Kobe's teams have quite an edge over Duncan's teams over the course of their careers. The edge is even greater over the course of the arbitrary cutoff point of the decade since that eliminates the Spurs 99 lockout title.

The argument for Duncan is consistency. His career stats page has only minor fluctuations. You can note his career years (02-05) and his only real down year (06) mostly due to plantar fascitis. Team success is consistent also. Even though the Spurs were afterthoughts in the title picture early in the decade and at the end of the decade, they always made the playoffs. Kobe had lower lows and higher highs in the decade. Duncan never had a season to match Kobe's 2006, but also never had a season as weak as some of Kobe's weaker seasons. Even a metric as biased towards bigs as offensive win shares, Kobe had 3 seasons higher than Duncan's best. Kobe had more titles, more team success, but also had a 3 year bottoming out in the middle of the decade that would never have happened on Duncan's watch.

Like Paul said, we never got to see Kobe on a normal team. Every Lakers team of the decade has been either completely stacked or completely bawful. The closest to normalcy would be 07-08 before Gasol came and that was a 1st place team for a minute or two.


Personally I think Duncan is the least worthy candidate for player of the decade out of the big 3 (Shaq, Kobe, Duncan). I give it to Shaq seeing as how his prime years early in the decade obliterate anything the other 2 actually did. If you make a purely stats-based argument, KG actually has as good a case as Duncan does, and that's just silly.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Excellent preview Basketbawful.

Could you see the Spurs winning the SW division?

Also, props on saying TD is player of the decade, I totally agree with that.

I also wanna say that the decline of the Spurs isn't just because of Duncan, but moreso because of the loss of Bruce Bowen. Without him, Duncan would only have half as many titles. Bruce was that important to the team concept. Now, they struggle to find that lockdown defender on the perimeter. Hopefully Splitter can shore up the interior D if he's as good as advertised, but the perimeter D is gonna make it a nightmare going against the best guards in the league.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Edit: In 2002-03, let's take a trip down memory lane and notably look at the Playoffs results, where Duncan led the team in PTS, TREB, AST, and BLK, the best PER, DRtg and WS, while Manu Ginobili was still a rookie, Tony Parker was a second-year guy and The Admiral was on the brink of retirement.

And there was a wide gulf between TD and the second-place guys:

PTS: TD 593, Parker 352
TRB: TD 369, Admiral 152
AST: TD 127, Parker 85
BLK: TD 79, Admiral 31

Looking back at that Rockets team, Hakeem had only 26 more total rebounds than Otis Thorpe and only two more assists than Vernon Maxwell. So his dominance in those areas wasn't as profound as Duncan's.

And regarding PER, discounting low-minute guys like Steve Kerr and Kevin Willis, the other "best" players like Robinson (17.7), Manu (15.0), Parker (11.9) and S-Jax (12.0) couldn't get close to Duncan (28.4).

Now compare those PERs to Hakeem's 'mates, like Robert Horry (16.7), Sam Cassell (16.3), Kenny Smith (14.7) and Otis Thorpe (14.4). Meanwhile, Hakeem's was 27.7.

I'm just sayin'...that 2002-03 Spurs team wasn't full of great sidekicks and borderline All-Stars. Robinson was well past his prime and Parker/Manu weren't there.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
http://www.youtube.com/user/adidasbasketball?v=O-a9lx3pOC4&feature=pyv&ad=6072896882&kw=lil%20wayne%20music

I don't know what to say.

Blogger Sorbo said...
True. Shaq needed Kobe as his sidekick, Pau needed Kobe as his sidek...or, wait, was it the other way around? ;)

I know you're joking, but look, there isn't a way to calculate the eye test with Gasol, but when's the last time you watched a Lakers game and said, "Pau's taking this game over. No one is stopping him." If you said anything but "never," you're lying to yourself. I love Pau, he's amazing to watch, fundamentally sound, great post moves, awesome offensive rebounder...but he is the truest "flow of the game" player I've ever seen. That's not a bad thing, but also it means he never puts his stamp on a game. He always just plays in the flow of the game, takes what defenses give him, and never forces the issue. 90% of the time, that's what you want, but sometimes you have to force the issue, get mean, and dominate, especially on the road. As the Finals games in Boston showed, he's not always capable of doing that. It's one of those things that's impossible to quantify.

Take Duncan, probably the best player of the 00s, but because he had so little charisma and played in a "boring" system, he'll rarely be in the "Best of the 00s" discussion. Stats will back up his greatness, but the eye test rarely will, even though he took over games. It was in such a non-flashy fashion (bank shots, blocked shots that stayed inbounds, using position to dissuade penetration) that people didn't consider those performances "dominating" enough. The two games I remember of Duncan was the three pointer over the Suns (sorry, Suns fans), and the game against the Lakers where he hit that bank shot from the top of the key that nearly won it (before Fisher's 0.2 score). In those two, he has that goofy stare after the three pointer, and the other game, he lost. Failing the eye test and the "only championships matter" test that many writers obsess over.

I hope that's not too much of a rant.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Even a metric as biased towards bigs as offensive win shares, Kobe had 3 seasons higher than Duncan's best. Kobe had more titles, more team success...

Just a few notes. If you want to bring Offensive Win Shares into the equation, why not bring up Defensive Win Shares. Duncan led the league four times and is currently ranked 7th place all-time in that category.

Kobe, on the other hand, despite all his high-scoring exploits, has never, not once, led the league in Offensive Win Shares and ranks 5th all-time. Oddly, TD actually DID once lead the league in Offensive Win Shares, in 2001-02.

I'm just sayin'.

Kobe has never ranked better than 4th in Total Win Shares despite being on some great teams. Duncan has led the league in Total Win Shares twice, finished 3rd three times, and has another three 4th place finishes...which matches Kobe's three best finishes.

I could go into the PER numbers, which also favor Timmy, but you get my point. Sorry, but the advanced metrics favor Duncan in most categories.

As for having more team success, he's up by one title, but three of his rings came as Shaq's sidekick. Duncan has always been The Man for the Spurs.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Edit: Kobe ranks 15th all-time in Offensive Win Shares, not 5th.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Anon - I think you need to be more clear with your claims.

We can look up every time Kobe's played Duncan, and it's 22-19 in Duncan's favor. Even if you take off pre-1999 like you say, that actually shifts it to 21-14 that Duncan's won over Kobe.

In the playoffs Lakers vs San Antonio:
1999 0-4
2001 4-0
2002 4-1
2003 2-4
2004 4-2
2008 4-1
So there's more success there.

Sorbo - Pau took over just enough to close out the Suns *grumblegrumble*. He actually was, like, aggressive and stuff.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Christ, the Southwest Division preview comments section is all about Kobe?

Sorry, Yams. It's the only way we can be sure to draw you out. You've been too quite this summer. :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
How can you overlook the fact that Brian Cardinal is still on an NBA roster? The Mavs kept him on their roster and now he's somehow managed to hang on for 10 seasons.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Why not bring up DWS"

Because it's literally impossible for a guard to accumulate DWS at the same pace as a big man. It's not even an apples to oranges comparison. The point of bringing OWS is that even in a formula that is biased towards big men, Kobe's best seasons offensively are better than anything Duncan produced. Kobe's career offensive production outpaces Duncan's and OWS proves that it's not really even much of a debate since Duncan really only had 2 good OWS seasons. His overall WS score is boosted by the DWS side of the equation where he was nothing short of phenomenal every season of his career. Even on a stat like PER, Kobe's best season statistically still beats Duncan's best, but Duncan was somewhat more consistent.

Also this is the achilles heel of all stats-based arguments. Kobe's best statistical year was 2006, which was probably Kobe's 4th best year career-wise under real world criteria. As you mentioned, Duncan has always been the man on his team and had every play called for him. Kobe and Shaq cannibalized each others stats and it makes their 00-04 stats much weaker than they could have/should have been.

Again, if you're grading on statistical consistency then I can see the case for Duncan (but again, it brings KG into the equation which doesn't pass the common sense test). It's hard to make that argument when you look at the amount of A+++ seasons that Shaq threw up in the early part of the decade (punctuated by Shaq putting under his heel in May). Shaq's the real player of the decade, even if he took the last 3 years off.

Blogger Paul said...
I'm just sayin'...that 2002-03 Spurs team wasn't full of great sidekicks and borderline All-Stars. Robinson was well past his prime and Parker/Manu weren't there.

Definitely the best Pro-Duncan argument and I'm not about to dispute it.
Most of those guys were past their primes or yet to become stars on their own right.

I always thought Bruce Bowen D was a little over-rated but he was still an elite defensive hound out there. And on top of that he killed it from 3 point land that year letting it fly a career high 80 times on 44% long distance shooting.

Parker had a great season and Manu wasn't your typical "Rookie" though.
In fact Manu had 7 years of professional Basket Ball under his belt.

Neither of those guys chopped liver or even close calls to making the "San Antonio all time Bawful 5"

Still like Bawful points out, hard to find another superstar lacking a legitimate "Robin".

Anonymous Anonymous said...
kobe's better because he can get the ball whenever he wants and can dribble up the court to get his own shots. tim duncan has to depend on his teammates to get him the ball in the spot he wants. when the lakers big man gets the defensive rebound, kobe can just run up to him and get the ball to dribble up the court because the big man isn't going to dribble up himself. when tim duncan gets the rebound, he has to give it to a guard and then hope he gets the ball back later in the post. in the half court, kobe can run up to whoever currently has the ball and get it because that person isn't good enough to deal with his defender and kobe's defender at the same time, but kobe is. tim duncan can't just bring his defender over to force his teammate to give him the ball, he will ask timmy "wtf are you doing" and tell him to get back in the post. it's a lot easier for tim duncan's teammates to say "fuck timmy, i need my own shots and i'll just tell him he had a defender behind him or i didn't see him open." but you can't do that to kobe when he's right next to you yelling at you to hand him the ball.

tim duncan is great if you're playing 5 vs 5. but basketball isn't always a 5 vs 5 sport. sometimes it's you vs everyone, sometimes it's you and 2 of your teammates that you trust vs the rest of the guys on the court, sometimes everyone's on the same page and wants to win the game.

if i were a couple of points away from my big bonus, then fuck everyone else. that bonus means 10 more people in my family are taken care of for the year. do i know timmy? is he family? no he's just my coworker. after i stop playing, i'll never see him again. fuck him, he's already rich. he's just playing a game; if i don't get these shots, that's another nephew of mine that'll be hungry this year. it's not like our shitty old team is going to win the championship this year anyway.

should i do my job how i'm supposed to or take care of my family? personally, family comes first every single time. sorry timmy, i didn't have the angle to get you the ball...

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Okay, Duncan's 03 is beastly too. Throw in the fact that he was surrounded by less quality 3 pt shooters, had to go through 7 games in round 1, and had a monster 116 ORtg paired with an absurd 92 DRtg (Dream had 109/97), and that's pretty awesome. But having someone like Robinson (and Kerr I guess) who were quite the exception to age decline is still a bonus Hakeem didn't have.

Anyways, I'm all for putting 2003 Duncan on the list with 1993 Hakeem.

Anonymous Marc d. said...
@Anonymous: is that Latrell Sprewell?!?!?

Anonymous Kyle said...
Anon- So following your line of reasoning Nate Robinson is a better player than Duncan because he can bring the ball up the court and shoot better than Duncan can. Seems fair...

Anonymous No Ring King said...
If I could have made it to the NBA, all my cousins would be alive today.

Blogger Sorbo said...
Shaq might be right on this one, you can't compare guards and big men. Kobe might be the best guard of the 2000s, and Duncan the best bigman. I'm not familiar with the wins-shares formula or any of the advanced metrics, but I imagine Duncan gets a boast because of his FG% (often higher for bigmen on avg.), rebounds, (a bigman stat), and blocks (another big man stat). The only figures that could pull Kobe's share total up would be 3P%, but I'm sure how heavily that's weighted.

@Anaconda: I'm not saying Pau isn't always aggressive. He's usually pretty hyped up at home, but it's always a "flow of the game" type of aggression. He pushes hard when the flow of the game is to push hard. Also, the Suns had only one guy that could guard him one-on-one (Lopez), and he divided his time between Odom and Bynum. On the other hand, the Celtics had three guys before Perkins got hurt.

I guess what I'm saying is, I've never seen a game where I thought Gasol looked completely unstoppable, that is, no one in the league (not just that game) could guard him. Again, there's flaws in my logic, because it's an eye test thing rather than based in statistics, but I can't shake it.

The only other person I can compare it to is Rondo. He can have a statline of 2 pts, 9 assist, one steal, but it wouldn't speak to how he controlled the game. Last year's Boston-Cleveland series comes to mind here. Sometimes, Gasol will have the opposite effect on me: great statline, with his stats making him seem more important than he might have been in that game. Again, plenty of holes in this logic, but sometimes, I just trust my eyes over the stats.

With all that said, he needs more touches in the offense.

Anonymous bizarro said...
unfortunately, I totally agree with your Spurs preview. My spurs... I love you guys, but you're old

Blogger Benway said...
Couple add ons:
Not sure how Dominique Jones can be considered meaningless. Aside from Marion, he is probably already Dallas' most versatile perimeter defender, and Carlisle has already pegged him as a defensive stopper.
Also, if Dallas had (for example: Steph Curry) or another nice 2nd year guard who showed flashes of brilliance last year as a rookie, that would also be worth mentioning, I think. Truth is, anyone who saw them go head to head last year definitely would not trade Rodrigue Beaubois for Curry.
And speaking of Beaubois (and his nearly 30 DNP-CD last season), the reason Dallas didn't match up with SA is b/c JJ Barea apparently has some pretty sweet Dong Shot dirt on Rick Carlisle and is always threatening to "out him". There is no other explanation for why a coach would play a 5 foot (whitish) midget over a guy who can shoot lights out from 3 and cram the alley oop while being fast enough to stay with any of the quickest PGs.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"So following your line of reasoning Nate Robinson is a better player than Duncan because he can bring the ball up the court and shoot better than Duncan can. Seems fair..."

in some ways, yeah. in other ways, no. it changes depending on your personal preferences and what you're looking at. it's like arguing about who is the hottest girl in the world. is it the most downloaded? the one that won the most beauty pageants? the one with the "perfect" hip to waist ratio? some mathematical equation taking all these factors into consideration? or does it just come down to personal preference?

of course there's going to be a huge difference between a supermodel and the girl who greets you at walmart, just like there's a difference between nate robinson and a 6 year old kid. but when we're comparing best in the world, then it's up to you. you got your own eyes and you got your own opinions. just like watching a beauty pageant. maybe your favorite girl wasn't first place or even anywhere close, but sometimes you just know she's the hottest and no score or ranking will change your mind.

don't put too much faith in the numbers. there's too much to keep track of that the numbers leave unaccounted. remember: it's a basketball game, not a math class.

Blogger BJ said...
(nods) Fair, concise, reasonable, logical--

God I hate you.
-BJ

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