Friday, March 27, 2015

Best 12, Next 12, Trash 12 -- Part IV -- Guys 12-7."

Who are the best 12 NBA players of all time, based upon the Hoops Maven's review of the stats, historical record, personal observations and personal preferences?  Well, we already know that in alphabetical order they are:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 
Wilt Chamberlain,
Tim Duncan,
LeBron James
Magic Johnson,
Michael Jordan,
Karl Malone,
George Mikan,
Shaquille O'Neal,
Oscar Robertson,
Bill Russell, and
Jerry West

Interestingly, in 1980, the NBA announced its 35th Anniversary Team:  This is the most exclusive team ever announced, as it includes only 11 players!! 

6 of those players still made my top 12 (Kareem, Wilt, Mikan, Oscar, Russell, West).  For guys who starred mainly between 1981 and 2003, I have added 4 guys (Magic, Michael, Karl, Shaq) and for guys who are still current players I have Duncan and LeBron.

So let's get to work;:

12.  Oscar Robertson -- a one-time MVP who only won a title while on his last legs with Milwaukee (riding Kareem to the title - watch those game films, you will wonder how Oscar was ever considered such a great player).  His teams were not always good, and of the top 12 he had some of the least playoff success (Oscar's college team also never won the title while he was there, but they won the year after he left!).   So why is he on the top 12 versus, say, Bird.  Oscar was regarded by his peers as a top 5 player.  9X first-team all-NBA, 9X top 5 in MVP balloting, won an MVP in a league that featured both Wilt AND Russell AND Bob Petit.   I also give some credit for the fact that people who saw Magic and Oscar play routinely stated that Oscar was, by far, the better all-around player.  Now, some of that is old guys being old guys, but if you look at Oscar's career Win Shares overall and per season, there is only one guy who is regularly superior -- Michael Jordan.  And it is hard to dismiss a 30-10-10 season.  It just is.

11.  Jerry West -- never won an MVP, so there is an argument that he doesn't belong on this top 12 list with the other guys.  But let me defend my selection -- he was top 2 in the MVP balloting 4 years and top 6 nine times.  First-team all-NBA 9 times.  He was the Finals MVP in a year that his team LOST!!  Does own a title in 1972 when he was still first-team all-NBA.  If you review his WS/48 (top 10) and then review his playoff stats (only Jordan and Magic have better stats for guards in the history of the game), you have to conclude that he is top 12. 

10.  George Mikan -- it pains me to put him so low, especially since it appears that I am favoring the guys I have actually watched play and trashing all of the older guys at the bottom.  But.....Mikan only played 7 years.  He was so ridiculously dominant during those years that he won 5 titles and put up numbers and advanced numbers that are just silly they are so good.  His career playoff PER is 28.5!!!!!!!!!!  And, he changed the game.  He was so good at basketball that they made the lane wider so he wouldn't score so much.  Teams held the ball against his team, leading to a cry for more action and the 24 second clock.  Goaltending used to be legal, but, again, Mikan was so good in college that they changed that rule.  I cannot take him out of the top 12, but his short career and the fact that he had only 3 super great seasons will leave him stuck at 10.

9.  Shaquille O'Neal -- From 1992 through 2004, he was virtually unguardable when healthy.  The 3 time Finals MVP during a three-peat (ala Jordan).  14 times all-NBA (8X first-team), which, for a center competing with Hakeem and David Robinson all those years, means he was damned good.  One wonders where Shaq would come in on the list if he cared seriously about getting in shape for the regular season.  But, that said, part of greatness is picking up your game when the playoffs come around.  How great was Shaq in the playoffs?  BANG!   Even when he was sometimes fat and sometimes hurt, he would draw doubles and triples in the post.  Took Orlando to the Finals, took the Lakers to the Finals, was a good starter when Miami won the Finals.  I believe that he is a victim of his own potential.  When a guy is 14X all-NBA and an MVP and has 4 titles and owns 3 finals MVPs, and he basically cannot be stopped on the offensive end for 13 years, he is a top 10 player in my book.

8.  Bill Russell -- I know, he won all of those titles, and he was way ahead of his time as a defensive player (watch old NBA footage - he is the only guy with any concept of the word "help" on defense.  Everyone else stays glued to their guy as if they were subject to removal from the league if they strayed an arm's length away).  He always won -- San Francisco won two titles, the Celts won almost every year.  Yet I just cannot get over his extremely mediocre offensive stats.  He shot 44% from the field and 56% from the line.  His career PER is under 20.  He did not reach 30 Career Offensive Win Shares (he had an NBA record 133 Defensive Win Shares).  His playoff numbers are not any better. 
I just have to conclude that a top 5 player needs to contribute significantly on both ends of the floor.  Sorry, Bill. 

7.   Karl Malone -- statistically, Karl Malone has an argument to be a top 4 player.  Who contributed more, as a star, to his team during the regular season?  Only Wilt and Jordan, if you believe this stat.  The guy was truly great for a LONG LONG LONG time.  He was MVP of the league twice.  11X First-team all-NBA!!  11X!!  He is 3rd for total Win Shares, 2nd (behind only Jordan) for Value Over Replacement Player.  Despite playing a ridiculous number of years, he STILL is top 20 all-time in WS/48 (a stat that will get worse as you get older -- ask LeBron).  Statistically, Malone is arguably a top 4 player.  The fly in the ointment, of course, is his playoff performance.  It is poor.  Everything plummets.  There is not one year that you can point to and say, "That is the year he showed he was a top 5 all-time player."  What else can you say?  I mean, "if you are so great, why can't you win a title and why do you get eliminated early A LOT!?!?"  That said, he did reach the Finals twice, and he WAS the best guy on those teams.  So you cannot say he was McGrady-esque or Garnett-ish.  I will put him at #7 and let everyone take shots at me, both pro and con

Next up -- guys 6-1.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Best 12, Next 12, Trash 12 (Part III)

So, we started with this list.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen, Charles Barkley
 Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird 
Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Drexler
 Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Julius Erving
 Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek
 LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan
 Karl Malone, Moses Malone, George Mikan
 Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowtizki
 Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Paul
 Gary Payton. Bob Petit, Scottie Pippen
 Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell
 John Stockton, Dwayne Wade. Jerry West.
After "Trashing 12," in Part II, we are down to these 24 all-time NBA greats: 
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley,  Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird
Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Tim Duncan, Julius Erving
Kevin Garnett,  LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan
Karl Malone, Moses Malone, George Mikan, Dirk Nowtizki
Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Bob Petit, Oscar Robertson,
David Robinson, Bill Russell, John Stockton, Jerry West.
So now I have to relegate 12 guys to the "Next 12" and then (in Part IV) I will list and rank the Best 12.  Let's get started. 
What makes someone not just merely "great" but one of the true elite -- the greatest players of all-time?   It is difficult to identify exactly what the characteristics are.  Here are ten -- 1) was regarded at his time as truly great; evidence of this would be all-NBA selections and top 5 MVP voting; 2) was regarded as the best player in the game at least once, and, hopefully, on multiple occasions, as would be generally reflected by MVP awards; 3) was dominant in some aspect of the game - teams needed to adjust their games to stop him and generally did not succeed; 4)  was physically superior to other players; 5) was well ahead of his time as a player/there simply were not players that did what he did at the time he did them (and possibly there still aren't today); 6) played a sufficient amount of time that his body of work can be considered not just a blip; 7) was consistently excellent for a long time (this can be determined most easily by advance stats); 8) his playoff performance did not generally decline substantially (same); 9) led his team far into the playoffs on multiple occasions; 10) won multiple titles.
I am sure there are more, but as you go through the list of great players, these all appear to be common traits.  So, ranking 24-13, I go with the following:
24.  John Stockton - 1, 6, 7, 8, 9.  Lacks in the remaining categories.  Great player, played at a high level forever.  I have reviewed the issue of "who was better, Stockton or Malone" many times and many ways.  And I always eventually reach the conclusion that Malone was the better player, and by a lot.
23.  Dirk Nowitzki -- 1, 2, 3 (shooting), 5, 6, 7, 8.  His teams did not always advance as far in the playoffs as you would imagine, and he was not physically superior to other players such that he was regarded as truly unstoppable,  Like Stockton, he has been excellent for a long time, but he also has an MVP and a title.  But only 4X first-team all-NBA.
22.  Kevin Garnett -- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (maybe), 8.  Hurt by the fact that he had so many playoff failures in his prime, and had only 1 title.  Does have an MVP.  The best "out on the floor" defending big man ever.  Tremendous passer.  Played at 100% effort more than almost all great players.
21.  Charles Barkley - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (kinda), 8.  The Round Mound was a dominant scorer and rebounder.  Great out on the open court for a man whose weight ranged from 240 to 310.  1 MVP, reached one final, and his Philly teams didn't always go far in the playoffs.
20.  Elgin Baylor -- 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (kinda), 8, 9.  Baylor is a difficult call.  Widely regarded during his time as a top 5 player (10X first-team all-NBA), people talk about him as if he was basically an unstoppable force of nature.  His scoring feats are legendary and he could pull down 15-20 rebounds a night.  Yet he has 0 MVPs and 0 titles that he contributed to.  20 seems about right.
19.  Julius Erving -- 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (kinda), 9, 10 (if you count ABA).  The rating of the good Doctor J. all depends upon how much credit you give him for his ABA stats and titles.  His NBA stats alone are sufficient to probably get him into the tail end of the top 24, but if you completely discount his ABA stats I have him too high and if you give 100% credit to his ABA stats, he is too low. 
18. Kobe -- 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10.  Kobe was not as physically dominant as some other players, his playoff stats are not as good as his regular season stats, he won 3 titles with Shaq as the main guy, and his Lakers teams could collapse at times in the playoffs.  Only 1 MVP.  Look, I despise the guy, and I despise putting him this high, but he does have 5 titles, played forever and was given an MVP despite my protestations, so.....yuck, #18 overall.
17.  Bob Petit --  everything but maybe not 7.  10X first-team all-NBA.  1 MVP, 1 title (recall that only Petit's Hawks and Wilt's Philly squad took a title off Russell's Celtics).  Regularly flirted with 20-20 seasons.  Simply excelled as a player.  We cannot lose him to the trash heap of history, so he needs to be ranked very high.
16.  Moses Malone -- everything except 10 and maybe not number 7.  The mileage and bumps and bruising and fractured eye sockets eventually caught up to Moses, and his truly great years are basically 1977-83.  Played a lot longer, but it was that stretch where he and his teams flourished.  Led an awful Houston team to the finals.  Embarrassed Kareem in the 1983 Finals, which is something I don't think any other player in NBA history could say - that he whipped Kareem for four straight important games.
15.  Hakeem Olajuwon -- once we get to 15, what we need to start doing is picking at weaknesses, however slight, since the strengths are so plainly obvious (one of the best defenders of all-time, two titles, has an MVP).  People seem to forget that by 1989 the Rockets were unhappy with Hakeem and were shopping him.  Had Jordan never retired or had John Starks been able to make a shot in 1994 Finals, Hakeem might have never received his due as a player.  But Hakeem's teams did not always win, his playoff performances were not always great, and since we need to really split hairs here in the top 15, I have to leave him at 15.
14.  David Robinson -- look, this is personal preference, I concede, but David played on teams that were a LOT worse than Hakeem's teams and before Duncan got there David was basically playing by himself (Sean Elliott anyone?  Willie Anderson?), coached tell me?   David's WS/48 for his career is the same as Jordan's.  David's teams against good teams were regularly -10 per game without him on the court.  In my opinion, a truly great player who has been shorted by history.  He will not be shorted here - #14.
13.  Larry Bird -- Well, this ranking should cause some outrage.  He was 9X First-Team all-NBA and 3X MVP.  From 1980-1987 he was one of the best 4 players in the league every year.  Won 3 titles and also went to the Finals and lost in 1985 and 1987.  But, again, we are top 15 now, so we are tearing people down and not building them up.  His playoff stats are far worse than his regular season stats.  Of the three titles the Celts won, two were against flukish Houston clubs.  If you value longevity and greatness over a lengthy period of time, Bird simply does not match up.  For all-time Win Shares, Bird is ranked 23rd.  For all guys with over .200 WS/48 and 100 Win Shares, his .203 WS/48 ranks last.
Bird's 24.8 Playoff WS ranks him 11th in career playoff WS, and of guys with at least 15 playoff WS, Bird's .179 WS/48 ranks him 19th, just behind Kevin McHale.  So, despite the fact that he played on great Celtic teams, his overall performance and longevity of performance in the playoffs simply was not that great. 
There are just too many holes in Bird's relatively short NBA resume (he started at age 23 and once his back went, so did he, and so did the Celtics) to crack the top 12.  I realize other may disagree, but then they can write their own lengthy analysis.

The Best 12 in alphabetical order:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,  Wilt Chamberlain, Tim Duncan, LeBron James

Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, George Mikan,

Shaquille O'Neal, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Jerry West


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Best 12, Next 12, Trash 12 (Part 2) -- "The Trash Heap"

I previously listed 36 all-time NBA greats:   Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen, Charles Barkley
Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird
Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Drexler
Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Julius Erving
Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek
LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan
Karl Malone, Moses Malone, George Mikan
Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowtizki
Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Paul
Gary Payton. Bob Petit, Scottie Pippen
Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell
John Stockton, Dwayne Wade. Jerry West.
Here is my bottom 12 list, per the rules, these guys are on the Trash Heap:
36.  Scottie Pippen -- never the #1 option on a great team, he failed in Chicago, Portland and Houston when asked to step up to the #1 spot.  Great second banana with the Bulls.
35.  Gary Payton - great player, great defender, just not as good as the rest of the list. 
34.  Reggie Miller -- extremely one-dimensional, no titles, played a long time, but not that awesome.
33.  Patrick Ewing - very very good, just not an all-time top 24 player.  The 1994 Knicks were better than the 1994 Rockets.  He wasn't better than Hakeem.
32.  John Havlicek -- consistent and played forever on winning teams.  Stats don't match up to top 24 guys.
31.  Dwyane Wade -- great player, durability a question mark, not someone who has put up huge overall numbers for his career given how long he has played.
30.  Steve Nash -- cannot deny his 7 appearances on various all-NBA teams or his 2 MVPs, but is one of the worst defenders of all-time.  There has to be some deduction for that.
29.  Clyde Drexler -- extremely underrated.  But he cannot make top 24 because, while he was great, his career accomplishments do not match up to those I have ranked above him.
28.  Ray Allen -- at his best, he was a top 5 off guard all-time.  Add in his success late in his career with championship teams and he is top 28, just not top 24.
27.  Rick Barry -- A guy who no one but true basketball fans recalls.  I probably rank him too high, but he was 9 times first team all-NBA or all-ABA and led his heavy underdog team to an NBA title.  Led college, NBA and ABA in scoring.
26.  Chris Paul -- there is probably no one in basketball history who is more underrated than Chris Paul.  He is several times first-team all-NBA, his WS/48 number is ridiculous (top 3) and he just keeps going.  Guys just don't regularly put up 14 assist/2 turnover games while being the best defensive PG in the league.  It doesn't happen, except for CP3.  Durability, shortness of career, and lack of playoff success keep him off the top 24 far.
25.  Kevin Durant -- do you realize that Kevin Durant has ALREADY been named 5X first-team all-NBA and won an MVP?  Except for Steve Nash, no one else on the Trash Heap has won an MVP.  Durant has become a ridiculous force in the NBA.  He is kept out of the top 24 because he is young and now he is injured.  If his career were to end today, he would not have the career that the top 24 guys have. 
Next -- Part III, guys 13-24.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stretch With Michelle Jenneke

I have literally watched this clip 5 times and I have never heard one word she says.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Best 12, Next 12, Then Trash 12

Here are 36 all-time great NBA players in alphabetical order -- pick the all-time best 12, then separate out the next best 12, then throw the other 12 on the proverbial Trash Heap.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen, Charles Barkley
Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird
Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Drexler
Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Julius Erving
Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, John Havlicek
LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan
Karl Malone, Moses Malone, George Mikan
Reggie Miller, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowtizki
Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Paul
Gary Payton. Bob Petit, Scottie Pippen
Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell
John Stockton, Dwayne Wade. Jerry West.

You are not required to pick by position. You may have 12 centers or 12 guards if you would like. The question is, "Who, in your opinion, are the best 12 NBA/ABA players of all-time and then who are 13-24?" Then you toss the last 12 on the trash heap, regardless of how close you think the vote is between 24 & 25, etc.
I will post my choices in a week.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Who is an NBA "Replacement Player" for Judging Value Over Replacement Player?

So, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and LeBron James in their careers all tallied 100 or more as a "Value Over Replacement Player" -- leading one to wonder, who is this "replacement player" over whom they have more value.

So..........for guys who since the 1999-2000 season who have toiled at least 8,000 NBA minutes, we have the following guys who are pretty close to a "replacement player."

Guards -- Devin Brown, Roger Mason, Gerald Green, JJ Barea, Gerald Henderson, Howard Eisley, Kendall Gill.

Forwards -- Kris Humphries, Stromile Swift, Jason Maxiell, Alan Henderson, Reggie Evans, Eric Williams, Andrea Bargnani

Centers -- Lorenzen Wright, Kwame Brown, Jason Collins, Jarron Collins, Chris Kaman.

Kaman is the greatest "replacement player" of the bunch because he has over 19,000 minutes and has almost exactly 0 VORP (it may be exactly 0, or it may be rounded).

If you go back to 1980, and you increase the minutes to 10,000 and require a tighter adherence to "very close to replacement", you get:

James Edwards, Wayman Tisdale, Chris Gatling, Lorenzen Wright, Reggie Evans, Chris Kaman, J.R. Reid, Stromile Swift, Jason Collins, Jason Maxiell, Andrea Bargnani and Gerald Henderson.

Jeb Bush -- "Ummmmmm, that is some good Amnesty A-Brewin'!"

THIS is the guy that the crazy GOP is going to promote as their candidate?  The guy with the one time illegal immigrant father-in-law and the wife who watches Spanish TV and whose eyes well up with tears when she hears the Mexican National Anthem?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

GOP House's Budget Resolution -- More of the Same

Victims -- the poor, kids who want to go to college, ObamaCare, the elderly

Beneficiaries -- the military, the wealthy.

Is this really where we have come to?  The Republican Party so blatantly saying a huge "fuck you" to anyone who isn't wealthy or making weapons? 

If you are really concerned about the budget deficit (there is no reason to be concerned about the budget deficit, it is under 3% and is going down), then you do what any reasonable person would do - raise taxes and cut spending.  You need to cut back on Social Security COLA and increase the level where the tax ends, and you need to cut Medicare reimbursement some.  Everyone should have to pay some taxes, or at least not get money BACK from the government (Reagan's invention - the Earned Income Tax Credit).

So, if you have a $600 billion deficit, you raise taxes by $300B a year and you cut spending across the board by $300B.  You are all set.  Unfortunately, 33% of spending is off limits to the GOP and there is NEVER an appropriate time for a tax increase ("we are in a recession!"  "We re doing so well!"  "We are just starting to do better!"  "We are just starting to do worse!")

Look - you want to fuck over the poor?  Fine.  But then lay some pain on the rich also.  Do I want to pay more in taxes?  Certainly not.  But if we reach the conclusion that the budget deficit is SOOOOOOOOO awful (again, it is not) then we need to all do our part to get it to $0.

By the way, in 2001, Bill Clinton had left such a great economic situation for George W. Bush that we had a projected surplus.  The federal government sent out checks to people as their share of the projected surplus!!!  (Yes, this actually happened.).  However, the deficit hawk GOP apparently did not exist back then because GWB signed TWO different tax cuts into law and drove the deficit skyward.  Not one GOP leader said a thing. 

The reason that the people in power do not cry about deficits is that deficit spending increases jobs and GDP.  It makes you look like a better ruler.  The reason people who are NOT in power cry about deficits is that the perceived "good times" reflect well on the people in power (i.e., not them).   Reagan - huge deficit creator; George HW Bush -- tried to gear it back, generally did not succeed.  GWB -- his VP noted, "Deficits don't matter."  But, boy, the black guy gets into office with the worst economic meltdown since 1929 in full force?  "Oh my God!  He is deficit spending!!!"

Makes me sick.