Friday, June 24, 2016

Have A Great Weekend - From "Throwback Birtney"

Britney is now 34.  Here she was around 20-21 I think. 

Don't say I never did anything for you.  Have a great weekend.

The Timberwolves' Draft Night, Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio

Boston last night was sitting at #3 and everyone said they would take Kris Dunn and trade him.  But there was a rub.  The Celts have 4 guards who, next year, will be as good or better than Kris Dunn (Thomas, Smart, Bradley, Turner).  So, if you take Dunn, your options are to play him almost not at all, trade him, or trade someone else.

The difficulty becomes this -- you are a guy with two nice TV's living in a one-room apartment.  They are nice TVs, everyone know you have them and nowhere to put them.  Now you put them on the market and say "best offer."  Everyone says "$4".  You say, "Hey, I am going to just keep them both, maybe one will break down.  Maybe I can put them both up and watch two shows or just watch one on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays."

If your TV is worth $800, you may get $400.  Or you may be offered $4. 

The Celtics chose not to do that.  They chose Jaylen Brown.  So they basically bought a stove rather than a fifth TV.

The Timberwolves, on the other hand, had a TV that was a little too big and had some flaws in the picture (Rubio) and they bought a brand new TV.....that is a little too big and has the exact same flaws in the picture.  I would bet they thought they could trade Dunn and LaVine for Jimmy Butler, which would have been awesome.  (You don't just acquire 27 year old 8 WS guys every day).  But that failed.

So now the Wolves live in a one bedroom apartment and have two TVs, same flaws.  One is a little newer.  So they can just throw the old one in the trash or give it to Goodwill or hope that someone really needs a TV and will pay 50 cents on the dollar. 

They really, really needed a shooter, like someone needs to buy food to survive.  Two excellent shooters were available (Hield and Murray).  The Wolves could have taken their asset and bought some food.  Instead, they bought another TV that they did not need.  And they spent the rest of the night saying, "Shit!  Maybe if I don't take the TV out of the box, it will be worth more than I paid." 

That is how the Wolves ended up taking the #5 pick and Ricky Rubio and turning it into Ricky Rubio 1.0 and Ricky Rubio 2.0(Dunn).

So where does that leave the Wolves as far as options go?

1) Keep both and play them at different times -- this is like watching the one TV three days a week and the other 4.  Why?

2) Keep both so you have insurance if one breaks down -- certainly a luxury to have if you are the Spurs or Warriors, but c'mon.  You spent the #5 for an injury replacement?

3) Keep them both and play them together -- neither can shoot.  Wiggy isn't exactly a deadly marksman either.  So.....your three smaller positions will feature basically no outside scoring?

4) Trade Dunn -- you won't get the utmost value, but he is like the new TV in the box.  You might be able to convince someone he has no flaws at all.

5) Trade Rubio -- his flaws are well known.  So you are hoping to trade him for a nice bicycle that no one ever rides, or a used car that runs pretty well for its age.  You will get screwed on this deal, but you have to do it or sit there and watch the TV lying dormant on the floor of your closet.

As you can tell, I am no fan of the Kris Dunn draft.  Here is a Skip Bayless-esque "hot take" for you -- I predict Tyus Jones will be a more successful NBA player in his career than Kris Dunn.  And we already have Tyus Jones. 

But if you love Kris Dunn, then your best decision for your team is to play him immediately, dump Rubio for a sack of basketballs and some hand powder and move on to the Kris Dunn Era.  If you don't think he is that great, you probably should never have drafted him, kept Rubio and drafted Hield or Murray. 




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LeBron Derangement Syndrome - Why So Angry About 3rd Title & 3rd Finals MVP?

In the movie "Bad Teacher" Jason Segel plays a gym teacher arguing with a grade school student over the Jordan/LeBron debate.  The kid says "LeBron is a better passer AND a better rebounder."  Segel responds that Jordan won 6 titles.  The kid replies, "Is that the only argument you got?"  Segel, "It is the only argument I NEED!"

In "We're The Millers" a 10 pound bundle of marijuana falls on Jennifer Aniston's lap in plain sight of another couple, and she and Jason Sudekis claim that it is a baby named LeBron.  Sudekis, "We wanted to name him after a prima donna who will never be as good as Jordan."

LeBron's team just won a Finals in which he led both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.  That has never occurred.  According to ESPN, that has never occurred in any playoff series ever, at any time.  They used to play 2 out of 3 series in the late 70s early 80s.  Magic and Moses and Bird never did it for a two game stretch?  Apparently not.  If you search for Finals Games since 1984 (when the basketball-reference.com database goes back to) in which a player registered 25 points, 9 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in a game, you get Dennis Johnson 1985, Michael Jordan twice, and LeBron James three times.........three times this year!  In this series, LeBron had the #1 and #3 Finals "Game Score" of any Finals game played since 1984.  LeBron, therefore, just had two of the three greatest Finals games played in 33 years.

Against this background, the Skip Baylesses of the world replied after these historic results -- "Kyrie should have been the MVP."  The Ric Buchers of the world, "LeBron quit on his team in Game 4."   These comments make the speaker look so ignorant and borderline insane that you have to wonder what causes the LeBron Derangement Syndrome.  I mean, I don't care for Kobe, but this would be similar to me watching Kobe score 81 points and the very next day saying "Carmelo Anthony is better."  (Skip Bayless, by the way, has actually stated that Carmelo and Johnny Manziel are better at their sports than is LeBron).

I mean, LeBron is NOT a guy who tanked a playoff game intentionally because he had been criticized for shooting too much the last game (Kobe) or who has been accused of raping a hotel employee, or who regularly showed up for the regular season 20-40 pounds overweight (Shaq - to whom Kobe allegedly compared his own Colorado problems, saying Shaq was just as bad) or who intentionally tried to humiliate his teammates every day in practice (Jordan) or who lost millions gambling and decided to retire suspiciously, or a guy who engaged in an amount of unprotected sex with so many partners while married that he got an incurable disease (Magic).  LeBron has not, to my knowledge, ever abandoned his daughter and refused to talk to her or to pay $40/week in child support for her (Bird). 

Undoubtedly James has many skeletons in his closet of which I am unaware (almost every athlete cheats on his wife, it is almost a given, so I assume that there is that to start), but certainly the players we hear LeBron compared to are not exactly saints who are preferred to LeBron due to their sparkling reputations and perfect lifestyles.  Certainly "The Decision" (which raised money for charity) was poorly done, but has it not been completely redeemed?  The people hurt the most by The Decision are now more than happy with LeBron.

And the reasons given for hating LeBron generally range from ridiculous ("I don't like his tweets over Kevin Love") to self-contradictory ("he went to Miami to win/and he doesn't care enough about winning").  I heard one yesterday from a radio caller who said that LeBron's numbers should be "discounted" because "he has the ball in his hands so much" and he doesn't "do much off the ball."  So, James is lazy, unassertive, lacks a desire to win, but at the same time puts up otherworldly numbers because he is only playing for himself....but not to win......plus he passes too much to others and should shoot more, except he should also play off the ball more. 

The evaluation of LeBron James on a regular season basis and a playoffs pre-Finals basis is that he is a top 2 player.  LeBron is #1 all-time in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), both in the playoffs and the regular season.  LeBron is #1 by a substantial margin over Jordan for career playoff Win Shares.  LeBron is the most versatile player of all-time and it is not remotely close.   He is now 10X first-team all-NBA, so the whole argument that it is "too soon" to evaluate his career makes no sense - he has more first-team all-NBA's than only two guys, and he has played more career minutes than Bird or Magic.

So, why the irrational hate of LeBron James now, after his 3rd title and third Finals MVP (ignoring Russell who played when there was no Finals MVP, only Shaq, Magic, Duncan and Jordan also have 3+ titles and 3+ Finals MVPs)?  As I discussed with my friend Scott (shout out to Scott), the reason probably lies way back at the top of this item -- the only argument that these haters have enjoyed against LeBron over the years is this vague belief that he is a loser and if he were so great then why doesn't he win the title and Finals MVP every single year?   Well, now he has won as many titles as Bird, and he has more Finals MVPs and two more conference titles.  He has as many Finals MVPs as Magic and Duncan and Shaq.  He is the only guy to win Finals MVP by defeating Duncan, and he has also won a Finals MVP defeating Curry and the 73-win Warriors.  That really sticks in the craw of the people who worship Jordan and Magic and Bird and Kobe and believe that there is something inherently bad about casting LeBron in the same light. 

And LeBron's name will always now be mentioned in discussing the NBA Finals -- team overcame a 3-1 deficit to win; only player to lead both teams in all positive stats.   That is just galling for haters.  Not only did James win, he did so in a manner that was unique.  You cannot say, "well Jordan also came back from 3-1...." or "Magic also led the Finals in all 5 stats."  It did not occur.  So you are left with arguments like "He could have had he wanted to!" which is like me saying that if I were single I COULD go find the hottest professional cheerleader in town and have sex with her.  So long as I never am in a position to do that, I don't need to worry about proving or disproving it.  Does not trying or having the opportunity make me better than the guy who actually accomplished the feat?  One would say ----------- no.

Anyway - when I make up my next "36 greatest players" list, I may have to consider moving LeBron up from #4.  He has certainly earned consideration.  And with the Mount Rushmore conversations?  Hard for anyone seriously to argue LeBron is not top 4.  There just is not a lot of meat left on those bones except "I personally dislike the guy."

And to Skip Bayless and Ric Bucher, as Nelson Muntz would say -- "Ha! Ha!"

5 Most "Consistently Accomplished" Players of All-Time -- Michael, LeBron, Magic, Duncan, Russell - No Advance Stats Used

Here is what I have done, I took my top 18 players (ranked in 2015) and ESPN's top 18 ranked players (ESPN ranked early 2016) and eliminated players who appeared on one list but  not the other.  This eliminated David Robinson, Mikan, and Pettit from my list and Dirk, Barkley and Dr. J from ESPN's list, leaving these 15 guys:

1.  Jordan
2.  Wilt
3.  Kareem
4.  LeBron
5.  Duncan
6.  Magic
7.  Karl Malone
8.  Bill Russell
9.  Shaq
10. West
11. Oscar
12. Bird
13. Hakeem
14. Moses
15. Kobe

Those 15 guys have been evaluated by me and by ESPN's panel of dozens of basketball "experts" to be top 18 players of all-time.

So, how do you cut down the list?  Well, to purport to be the most accomplished player of all-time, you should at least have won 2 regular season MVP awards.  If you cannot claim to have been evaluated by your contemporaries as the best player in the league twice while you were playing, you don't really have much of an argument. So....

Delete -- West (0), Oscar (1), Shaq (1), Kobe (1)

11 guys left.

Then let's eliminate any player without 3+ titles.  This eliminates Hakeem (2), Wilt (2), Moses (1) and Karl Malone (0).

That leaves us with 7 guys -- Jordan, Kareem, LeBron, Duncan, Magic, Russell, Bird

Then you eliminate all guys without 3+ Finals MVPs (unless it is Russell, who played when the award did not exist and won 11 titles).  This eliminates Bird (2) and Kareem (2).

That leaves you with only 5 guys -- Michael, LeBron, Duncan, Magic, Bill Russell.

You can decide how to break that 5 way tie.  But what I did was go back to the ESPN list and my list and give the guys the point level of where they ranked on my list and the ESPN list.  Lower score is better:

5th Place -- Bill Russell (7th on ESPN list, 8th on mine)
4th Place -- Tim Duncan (8th on ESPN list, 5th on mine)
3rd Place -- Magic Johnson (4th on ESPN list, 6th on mine)
2nd Place -- LeBron James (3rd on ESPN list, 4th on mine)
1st Place -- Michael Jordan (1st on ESPN list, 1st on mine).

There ya go. 






 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Logic 101

Exhibit A -- Peter King (not the football writer, the Congressman):

Guy is a terror suspect, can we:

1) tap his phone?  Yes.
2) listen in on all of his communications?  Yes
3) place him on 24 hour surveillance?  Yes
4) send him to a CIA black site?  Yes.
4) waterboard him?  Yes.
5) take away his right to a public jury trial?  Yes.
6) send him to Guantanamo forever with no trial at all?  Yes.

7) Make it difficult for him to obtain a gun?  Whoa, whoa, whoa, the man has due process rights!!!!


Exhibit B -- LeBron James detractors:

"The guy's game is deficient in many areas."
"The guy doesn't try hard"

But he  leads all playoff performers in various stats. "F you, stat nerd!"
His team has lost only 5 games and won 14.  "Only the Finals matter!"
And LeBron has been the best player in the Finals.  "He should be better.  He doesn't try!"
How do you judge whether he tries or not?  "When he tries, he goes 40-10-10.  He could do that every single night easily."
So the issue of whether he is trying is determined by the stat line he can put up?  "Yes."
But when he has the #1 stat line overall, that does not matter and is not a fair measure of his play?  "F you, stat nerd."
If his game is deficient in many areas, doesn't that mean it is a miracle he is even good at all in any round of the playoffs?  "Apologist!"

So is he a great talent?  "No."
But if he tried he could go 40-10-10 every night?  "Yes." 


Not sure which Exhibit is worse, but what each has in common is that the speaker(s) come into the discussion with a clear conclusion (I can never say anything bad about guns; LeBron sucks) and really refuse to see the glaring logical problems with their position. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

LeBron James and What Is a Reasonable Expectation

What would be a reasonable expectation for a LeBron James game against Golden State?  I mean, would a 30 point triple double be adequate?  Would that serve as a reasonable (adequate, not great) level of performance? 

We know from last year that LeBron's ridiculous Finals performance was deemed a horrible and complete failure because Cleveland could not win.  His 2016 Finals numbers?  Roughly 36 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists a game.  So, people had greater expectations for LeBron, because he should have gone, say, 40-15-15 and won the series.

But I would concur that the Cavs are overmatched by Golden State, and that for the Cavs to win the title that LeBron needs a 30 point triple double every night.

So -- getting a 30 point triple double in the NBA Finals since 1984 (when the basketball-reference database goes back to):

http://bkref.com/tiny/ZxDAg  It has happened 5 times.  Three LeBron's, Worthy in Game 7 in 1988, and Barkley in a loss to the Bulls in 1993.  That is it.  If you drop it to 30-9-8, to pick up some actual occurrences, you get: 

 http://bkref.com/tiny/fuEFI  13 times, 5 by LeBron.  Jordan and Worthy have 2 each.  The other 4 are Shaq, Barkley, Magic, Kareem. 

Therefore, what we expect out of LeBron for his team to win a game is simply ridiculous and irrational.  Michael Jordan won 6 titles.  He went for 30 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in a Finals game twice -- 1997 versus Utah and 1993 versus Phoenix.  That is it. 

It should be noted that 4 of LeBron's 30-9-8 finals efforts involve him being older than anyone to do so, except Michael and Kareem. 

What if we geared it all of the way back to 25-5-5.  I mean, what chance would the Cavaliers have if LeBron went 25-5-5?  Almost no chance, right?  Well, in the past 33 Finals, only 30 guys have ever had a game where they went 25-5-5.    http://bkref.com/tiny/tZcn8  The absolutely best players have 1 such game per Finals....except Michael and LeBron, who have around 2 per series. 

LeBron in 2016 is averaging 25-11-8 in the Finals, with 4.1 steals+blocks!  Yet, he sucks.  He is a disappointment.  He is killing his team. 

We have set the bar so high for LeBron that it is virtually impossible for him to play to expectations.    The Cavs are likely to lose a close Game 5, and then we can hear all of the crap about how LeBron lost again and he really isn't very good and how ___________ is better.  But it is all just that - crap.

Paige Spiranac Wins Cactus Tour Event

http://www.golfchannel.com/news/grill-room/spiranac-gets-first-pro-win-cactus-tour/

There is no sports story more important than keeping this woman in the public eye. 

https://www.instagram.com/_paige.renee/



Thursday, June 09, 2016

Cavs Get Game 3, Now Get to Determine Their "Relative Worth"

Generally the worse team in any series will get a game. It is almost always Game 3 featuring a huge pop from the fan base or Game 4 where the opponent simply doesn't care and would rather just take Game 5 at home.

There are rare exceptions - Philly took Game 1 from the Lakers in the famous Iverson steps over Lue game and then lost 4 straight.  I think Miami won Game 2 in 2014.

Anyway, I predicted GState in 5.  My thought was that the Cavs were way worse but would get a game.   Now the Cavs can show where they stand on the GState scale

Are they Houston (lucky and happy to get a game)?   Are they basically Toronto value to Cleveland (won two home games - never really a threat to win series).  Are they Seatle 1996? (Got two games after it was too late)?  Are they Utah 1997-98?  (Good team, great players, were never going to win but had some hope).  

What fans of basketball should hope for is that Cleveland 2016 is either Detroit 2005 (pesky, lose in 7) or Miami 2013 (win in 7 as an underdog).

I am still sticking with GState in 5.  But I now see a 49-51% chance that Cleveland can at least be a Toronto equivalent and win a couple at home.  

The Cavs' best chance to prevail is injury.  So Mozgov and Delly should play some - they are the players most likely to cause injury to the opponent.




Friday, June 03, 2016

A Review of Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals

When you hold Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to 20 points on around 25% shooting, and your three best guys score 65 points, you think you ought to win, right? 

Wrong, Cavs did all of that and lost by 15.  It was the sort of loss that (as someone who used to coach) would keep me up at night saying "what in the hell can we do to compete with this team?"  Well, it would help if you kept their bench from shooting around 85% and got some production from your bench.  Good starting point. 

But if I told you instead, "Warriors will get 100% shooting from Livingston and Barbosa and they will score 30 points combined" you'd say "40 point blowout."  So it all depends upon how you look at the game.

Game Observations:

1) Kyrie Irving's presence is a stumper for Coach Lue.  If Kyrie cannot score, he is really killing you because he is clearly just a target at the defensive end.  So you need to let him score and give him opportunities, but he cannot have a 35% Usage rate and dribble 22 times a possession.  That is insane.

2) Coach Lue may have to completely scrap the playing of J.R. Smith as a starter or guy who gets 20+ minutes.  J.R. had a Game Score of 0.  In 4 of J.R.'s last 7 Finals games, J.R. has had a Game Score (15 is good) of under 4.  His Usage Rate last night was 5 (so he was significantly involved in about 5% of offensive plays).  Despite rarely ever touching the ball and almost never taking a shot, he regularly got winded and begged to be taken out.  He looked about as ready to play as I would. 

3) LeBron needs to be more aggressive offensively.  Now, that said, the Warriors played a TON of illegal defense last night (the overhead shot of the Warriors' "great defense" in clogging the lane showed that three of their guys were in an illegal defense position).    But LeBron is the only hope for Cleveland.  He needs to have 30+ point triple doubles every night.  If he shoots 35-40% in that effort, so be it.

4) LeBron could not be any more aggressive on defense.  My goodness, he was basically hugging Curry and Klay off ball screen action and there were times when he literally had both arms surrounding them when they dribbled.  If LeBron is allowed to do that, you are not going to score much on him, no matter who you are. That is like being guarded by a large bear with "call your own" fouling rules.

5) The "too many holes in the dyke" theory comes around again for Cleveland.  Curry can't get hot - put LeBron on him.  Thompson can't get hot - put LeBron on him.  Livingston is killing us - they actually did put LeBron on him eventually.  You cannot win games that way.  Sorry.  Some non-star at least has to do some guarding. 

6) Iggy plays with Draymond Green and he gets upset when he get an inadvertent slap in the balls?

7) Draymond Green is so happy to be away from Steven Adams.  Draymond is now one of the biggest guys on the court and doesn't have someone 5 inches taller taking his rebounds and outworking him.

8) Kevin Love missed a bunch of bunnies, but he was adequate defensively and tried hard.  He'd be all-NBA if he was willing to give a similar effort every night in the regular season.

9) Ty Lue tried one offensive set with LeBron off the ball -- didn't work.  Never had anything else to even try? 

So, what do you do as Cavs coach (other than cry)? There are no really obvious good options, but let's go with the not-so-worst ones that I can imagine:

A) You have to play Delly, Shump, Jefferson and Frye more.  You just have to.  Kerr isn't going to suddenly play 6 guys, so you have to play your bench more.  Hell, even try Mozgov for 5 minutes when Curry is not in.  Cutting JR's minutes is a start. 

B) LeBron needs to run the offense.  Sorry, Kyrie, but your low efficiency high usage play just destroys the team rhythm.  The fact of the matter is that if LeBron cannot 30+ point triple double every night, you are gonna lose.  So if he tells you as coach "I cannot do that any more and chase Curry also" then you need to go back to the "cry" option.

C) You probably have to play faster.  It is basically "pick your poison" here.  Play slow and struggle to score 80 or risk giving up 120.  I don't see the Warriors ever losing a game where their opponent scores 80.  So you have to hope you shoot well, make their life hard and try to win 118-115.  (Hey look, nothing is easy, so this idea may be a disaster, but at least 150 year old Barbosa isn't going to enjoy this pace of play).

D) For God's sake, run some passing sets.  The Warriors line up very much like the 2008 Celtics when they see LeBron with the ball up front -- basically turn toward the ball and stand on the corners of the lane.  The only tweak is that they never leave J.R. Smith.  LeBron to succeed will need to beat a good defender in Thompson, Iggy or Barnes, and then be faced with bigger guys at the rim (note that Kerr still plays a center a lot).  Try to run some sets where the opponent gets backscreened or diagonally cut against; do something.  How about just some basic screening away from the ball when LeBron is posting?  Moving a couple feet when your guy turns his head? 

As I previously stated, the Warriors are a terrible matchup for Cleveland.  They can exploit every Cleveland weakness and Cleveland has a far worse coach than GState, so the Cavs will always be a step or two behind in adjustments.  So, I predicted Warriors in 5 and certainly nothing in Game 1 changed that. 

As I said on Twitter -- barring injury or Pop coming in to coach the Cavs, Cleveland stands very little chance.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Steph Curry after His Age 27 Season -- a Top 19 Playoff Performer

http://bkref.com/tiny/wGWBL

Certainly we can take into account that some of these guys have played a LOT more games and minutes than Curry through his age 27 season (basketball-reference.com uses the player's age as of February 1 of the season, so it is not entirely a fair comparison, but if you want to sort through 19 guys and figure out their birthdays, go ahead).  In any event, Curry is a March 14 birthday, so he is really 28.  If anything, this flaw in the system favors him by giving him an extra year to qualify versus, say, LeBron who is a December 30 birthday.

LeBron and Magic are far and away the biggest minutes guys on the list.

Jordan, Wilt, Shaq and LeBron and Kareem are the most effective per minute.  Duncan and Durant deserve mention for having good total WS.
(Note - I sort of cheated and tailored the list to get Durant in.  He has the worst WS/48 - I kept him in and left Wade out.  Wade almost makes the list).

It should be noted that lists like this are a major reason why I place Bird so low on my all-time rank list (13th).  Bird is last on the list in PER, 3rd to last in WS/48 and 11th in Win Shares.  He was a great player, but he does not deserve a top 5 or even top 10 ranking among the all-time greats. 

For those of you wondering, through his age 27 season, 2006, Kobe had a playoff PER of 20.5 and a WS/48 of .139 good for 26th and 37th place on a far expanded list.

Curry is 17th in PER, 15th in WS/48 and 19th in WS for guys on this list. 
No matter what Curry does in this series, he isn't going to be anywhere near the top 4 or 5 guys for overall production or production per minute. 

Summary -- Curry has been excellent, but certainly not at the very top of the all-time best NBA playoff greats.