Friday, May 29, 2015

The Best Option for Kevin Love and the Cavs? A Trade.

I heard Timofey Mozgiv being interviewed the other night.  While apologizing for his English, he was able to convey, quite well, the reason he enjoys playing with LeBron James.  LeBron plays at such a high level and wants to win so badly that you, as a teammate, want to do the best you can so that you do not  "let him down" by how you play.

When I was 25-35 years old, I played on a team with a guy who was the LeBron of our league.  We always won.  I spotted up and hit threes and tried as hard as my body would let me on defense.  We won 7 titles in 8 years.  All the guy had to say after a few bad plays was, "Come on fellas, we don't need that."  And while you could get mad, because you were trying, you really felt more embarrassed to be called out as the guy who was fucking up and letting the team down.    When you have the best guy, you just need to do the small things you are asked to do, try very hard, and not be a burden on the team.

Mozgov understands the limited purpose for which he is needed -- be big, play defense, block shots, score 6 points a game and rebound.  If he happens to score 10-14-18 points, no one is happier for him than LeBron.  It makes LeBron's night easier.

The same can be said of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith -- Shumpert is a HIGH END defender.  Even on shitty teams, his defensive rating was good.  He can guard both guard spots.  J.R. Smith is, well, a gunner.  He has had something like 13 games in which he has hit at least 8 threes.  That is just silly.  Both guys understand their role.  And you know what?  Shumpert has actually had some good scoring games and J.R. has given far more defensively and rebounding-wise than anyone might expect.  Do what you can do, and if through effort or luck some nights you are better than expected, great. 

Kyrie Irving fought and fought and fought to play the game his own way.  Then LeBron took a week off and Kyrie's club was 19-20 and looking bad.  Kyrie finally realized that his way was the losing way.  Let LeBron run the offense.  He will get tired or rest sometimes, then you can go nuts and take over.  But it has to be related to what LeBron wants to happen.  You are a supporting player.  Play hard, try on defense, and we will get your offense when we need it.  They seem to have come around somewhat as a duo.

Kevin Love?  Um, no.  Kevin Love sees himself as a star player on the same level as LeBron.  He does not feel, in any way, a concern about letting down LeBron James.  Kevin Love plays for himself.  If his team happens to win, all the better, but he isn't going to be happy about scoring one fewer point or grabbing one fewer rebound to gain another win.  He just isn't.  And when you play with a great player, what is the one thing they demand out of you?  Constant defensive effort.  Kevin Love does not provide constant defensive effort.  If his guy gets 25 or 35 or 45, well, he guesses that just happens.  I saw Kenneth Faried beat Love down the floor 5+times for dunks one game at Target Center.  One would think that after time 2-3-4 that the foremost thing in Love's mind would be "I will foul out before he gets another dunk."  One would think wrong. 

The reason that Tristan Thompson is so much better for the Cavs than Kevin Love is that Tristan Thompson is an effort player.  He dominated Paul Millsap on defense and on the boards.  He provided a physical presence.  He provided help defense.  The worst thing that happened to the Atlanta Hawks this playoffs was the loss of Kevin Love.  Paul Millsap would have eaten up Kevin Love.  If you search, you can find a lot of early season footage where guys strolled to the rim against Kevin Love's "help defense" and LeBron stared at him like "Jesus, come on!"  Love didn't care.  He wasn't going to get hurt or in foul trouble.

Traditionally, if you are going to be a top flight defensive club, you need to play two shot blockers.  Thompson qualifies; Love does not.

So where does this leave us?  Well, Love can opt out or he could opt in for a year.  I believe (although I could be wrong) that under either scenario the Cavs could do an extension+trade or a sign-and-trade.  This would allow Love to receive more money.  Now, who has anything to give?  Do the Celtics want to give Sullinger and Smart?  Do the Lakers want to give up Julius Randle or their #2 pick?   Who knows?  But certainly acquiring a player like Okafor or Randle or Sullinger or Smart of Olynyk makes a lot more sense for Cleveland than keeping Kevin Love at some ridiculous salary.  He just isn't a good fit to play with LeBron.  If we was willing to play 20-22 minutes off the bench for the Cavs and have Thompson start and finish games, great.  But that is Ryan Anderson, that is not Kevin Love, especially a Kevin Love who is making $15-$17M a year.

By the end of Cavs/Warriors, LeBron, Jordan and Magic Will Have All Played About the same number of Playoff Minutes  It will be around 7,400-7,600. 

Clear edges -- Magic with assists, Jordan if you include "Steals+Blocks" as a category, LeBron in fewest fouls

Close ones -- Effective FG%, True shooting %. 

Where will they rank:

Win Shares:
1 Jordan
2 LeBron
3 Magic

Value Above Replacement Player:
1 James
2 Jordan
3 Magic

Box Score Plus-Minus:
1 James
2 Jordan
3 Magic

Titles Won:
1 Jordan
2 Magic
3 James

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor? An Analysis.

As a 26 year Timberwolves season ticket holder, I know their capability to fuck up a one car parade.  So, to figure out what exactly is keeping the Wolves from just saying "We are picking this guy: [fill in the blank]" I actually sat and watched 8 minutes of Karl-Anthony Towns' highlight reel footage.  (As will be explained later, I have no need to watch Jahlil Okafor footage).  This is my resulting analysis.

Karl Anthony Towns: 
I think the thing that surprises me from watching the footage is that Towns isn’t really that explosive.  You don’t see him turning on guys and dunking on them or beating everyone down the floor and dunking.   Most of his dunks are uncontested or come off alley-oops where he is 6 inches above the rim. 

I have heard an Al Horford comparison, and that appears to me to be a good one,  Solid, hard worker, strong, good on both ends.  I would add as a possible comparison -- Rasheed Wallace.

One thing I saw that I really liked is that Towns seems to know how to correctly and efficiently perform every aspect of the game (catch, dribble, pass, fake, shoot, footwork).  I think his greatest skill is probably his shot blocking.  His timing is impeccable;  he gets the ball early and he always seems to be in the right spot.  Towns can guard on the perimeter, and he can guard down low. 
Towns seems to be a bit top heavy, and his leaner lower body is a plus while moving in the open court, but he can be pushed off his spot down low. 

Jahlil Okafor:
I am a big Duke fan, so I have watched Okafor play on TV a lot.  Jah will certainly wow you with his size and power.  His dunks are often 12-18 inches above the rim and extremely powerful.  He is tougher inside on offense and certainly heavier and stronger than Towns.  He has explosive spin moves and a whole variety of ways to score.  You will not move Okafor off the block on offense or back him under the basket on defense.  He is a mammoth man, broad through the shoulders and chest and seems even bigger from the waist to the knees.
Okafor, however, has gaping holes in his game and when double teamed is not a very effective offensive player.  Defensively he has the ability to be an average post defender, since he is big and has long arms and won’t get pushed under the basket.  But he lacks lateral quickness and does not move his feet well to cut off dribble penetration.  (Note here the comparison to Towns -- Towns can be moved around a little due to his lack of lower body bulk, but all of Okafor's bulk slows him down and reduces his lateral quickness). 
Okafor is terrible as a pick and roll defender and (worst of all) his effort defensively is awful.   On run-out opportunities with a chance for Duke to score, Okafor would often be the 3rd guy down the court for Duke, resulting in some scary dunks in transition.  But on defense talented offensive teams could just torch Duke because Duke had two 6’1” guards back on the break and Okafor jogging behind 40 feet behind the fast break.  I watched at least 20 Duke games on TV;  I never saw Okafor bust his ass back on defense to stop a break or chase a guy down for a block.  Never.  So that is around 600 minutes of play and he had 0 such efforts.  That is embarrassing.  Any team that selects Okafor will have to have a long talk with the kid and say, "Look at this defensive footage -- can you possibly explain this?  Are you just extremely slow in only one direction, or do you not give a damn about defense?"
Okafor, however, has a skill set that is very valuable in the NBA regular season – he kills bad teams.  If Duke played a bad team, Okafor would go 20-10 or even 20-20 and shoot 80% from the floor.  He likes to score, and he does not let up or grow tired of scoring against weaker opponents. 
My Conclusion

Knowing what I know today, I would take Towns #1.  But I am disappointed that his highlights don’t show a guy who is a Dwight Howard type of athlete.  But if he can go 18-11 with 2-3 blocks a game and anchor the defense, that is a very valuable guy to have.

I hear rumors that Flip really likes Okafor's upside.  He is certainly the far more explosive force, but you would really have to bet on substantial improvement in roughly 60% of the game (defense, defensive transition, free throw shooting would need to go from 50% to 70%).    There are certain players that are so raw and strong that you know they have further improvement in them.  I don't see Jah, who has been the best player in his class since 3rd grade, as "raw" or with huge upside potential.  That said - no one in the world could be less interested in playing defense than Blake Griffin was as a rookie, and he has progressed to the point where he is passable.  So, miracles do happen..  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Your Memorial Day Video -- Abigail Ratchford Car Wash

Happy Memorial Day!  USA, USA!

NSFW so enjoy in privacy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Kobe -- Soon to Be Quitter

Quitter.  Will be interesting to see if the Lakers take Russell in the draft and move Kobe to the bench.  (Laugh stifled).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why Robert Kraft Doesn't Want to Waste Time in Arbitrations

Former WWE Diva "Sunny" Negotiating to Do Porn

Well, back in 1990 this would have been a good idea.  Time is a difficult thing -- it doesn't fail to leave its mark on most of us.  Tammy Sytch demonstrates the rule, not the exception.  Now she is basically the third best looking housewife in most suburban neighborhoods.  She has made some progress since 2013, when she would have ranked last in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Alexis Knapp

Do yourself a favor and watch Project X the next time it is on non-basic cable.  Ryan Philippe's baby mama also looks great in the Pitch Perfect series.

The KG/Chris Paul Puzzle

Back in the day, Kevin Garnett regularly led the Minnesota Timberwolves to the playoffs.  From 1997 through 2004, Garnett was the star player on the only good teams the Wolves ever had.  The Wolves regularly lost playoff series.  As a result, Garnett was pilloried by the media as "not that good."  He went to Boston and won a title, and suddenly he gained a great deal of respect, even though by the time he got to Boston he was 75% of the palyer he had been in, say, 2002.  I have him as the #22 player of all-time.

Chris Paul, as I have previously reported is ranked by me as the 26th best player of all-time.  But he has never played in a conference final.  Even I have deducted points from Chris Paul's resume because he has failed to win playoff games. 

Is it fair to just destroy NBA players for not winning titles or reaching the finals?  I mean, as I have said on Twitter - do we really believe that Matt Dellavadova (I am not looking up the spelling) is a better player than Derrick Rose?  Would we say that after the Clips/Rockets series result we know that Josh Smith is a better player than Blake Griffin?  Prigioni (sp?) better than Chris Paul?  All of that sounds just ridiculous.  Would any idiot take that position?

Well, we have seen people say Dirk is better than LeBron and Kawhi Leonard is better than LeBron - right?  Remember that?  A lot of people going through and saying, "Well, Kawhi really shut him down and he scored easy baskets on the other end...."  If you think Kawhi Leonard will be ranked as having a better basketball career than LeBron James, you are a moron.

Similarly, there are those who cannot accept that Wilt was a better player than Russell.  Now, the voters who voted first-team all-NBA back when they both played preferred Wilt.  And Wilt once had 55 rebounds in a game against Russell, and Wilt was far better statistically.....but Russell won titles.  So, ergo, people assume that Wilt was worse.  If Wilt couldn't will Tom Meschery to a title over Havlicek and Jones and Jones and Saunders and Heinsohn, Wilt just wasn't that good.

Have we lost our minds?  Is Luc Longley (3 titles) better than Moses Malone (one title)?  Is Will Perdue (5 titles) better than Karl Malone (0 titles)? 

We have 82 games a year to evaluate players, and players who deserve to be evaluated have played at least 8 seasons.  You can take those 600+ games and evaluate whether the player plays well and helps his team, or whether he is someone who isn't really that good.   After 600+ games, Chris Paul is obviously very, very, very good.

Chris Paul (except for one very bad games against OKC) does not play poorly in the playoffs.  His stats are good to great every year.  Kevin Garnett always played his ass off in the playoffs.  He had a couple rough years, but overall, he has very good playoff stats.  But people for years blew him up for losing.  The same thing is happening now with Chris Paul.  (Today's "hot take" - Paul is no better than Carmelo Anthony.  Really, wow, go review playoff stats for both guys.)    It doesn't matter whether Paul plays well, it just matters that he hasn't won it all or come very close.  If you are not first, you are last.

So what, really, is the perception here based upon?  Well, there are two factors at stake - one obvious and the other not so obvious.

First -- even people who do not follow "Win Shares" can understand that early playoff exits means very few Win Shares.  Paul and Garnett both suffer badly when you compare their 10 WS regular seasons and their lack of 2+ WS post-seasons.

Of active players, guys with the most 10+ WS seasons:

Duncan and Dirk 12 seasons
Kobe and LeBron 11
KG - 9
Paul and Pierce 8

Of the active players with the most 2+ WS seasons in the playoffs:

LeBron 8 seasons
Kobe and Duncan 7
Durant, KG, Ginobili, Wade 4

Tied for 16th -- Chris Paul, 2

So Factor #1 is that being so consistently good in the regular season sets the bar very high. 

Factor #2 is kind of a tricky one -- does your team win even though you don't play well?  Tony Parker has won 4 titles.  Do you know how many 2 WS playoffs he has had???  1.  In his entire playoff career, he has accounted for less than 9 Wins Above a Replacement Player.  He has played 203 games.  Kobe's WS/48 during the Lakers' first title with him?  0.115.  Not good. 

When your team wins, you get the reputation as a "winner" even if you had little to do with it, or were just OK.  So there is a little luck involved.

Happy Birthday Andre the Giant

Would have been 69 today.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Top 101 Win Share Per 48 Seasons of All-Time - 2.5 years later  is the old list.

New list, Kevin Love at #101 (it sorts funny, trust me, Love is #101).

Notable -- 5 new entries in the top 20 (LeBron 1, Durant 2, Curry and CP3 1 each).

Youngest -- Shaq and then Anthony Davis.  Oldest -- Karl Malone and Wilt.

Longest ago -- 4 guys in 1951-52
Latest -- 4 guys this year.

Year with the most -- several tied with 4 guys.

Huge drought -- from 1978 through 1985, only one guy had a WS/48 high enough to make the list -- Moses Malone in 1982-83.  Weird, huh?  Bird and Magic were young players, Dr. J was in the league, none of them played well enough to get on the list.