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Monday, March 24, 2008

Is Dallas Done? Lackluster Performances, Nowitzki's Injury Cast Doubt on Mavs' Playoff Chances

The Dallas Mavericks' season may have ended with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter of their 88-81 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. That is when Dirk Nowitzki landed awkwardly after blocking a shot, his left leg crumpling at a grotesque angle under his body. Nowitzki had to be helped off of the court and he was unable to put any weight on the injured leg. Early word out of Dallas is that he will miss at least two weeks but a more detailed announcement is expected from the team later today. The Dallas Mavericks were hardly tearing up the Western Conference even with the 2007 NBA MVP playing at a high level and losing Nowitzki for the bulk of the remaining regular season games could very well make the Mavericks the odd team out in the nine team race for eight Western Conference playoff berths. Amazingly, the Mavs have yet to beat a team with a winning record since acquiring Jason Kidd, the All-Star point guard who was supposed to be the missing ingredient to fuel a championship run for a team that made it to the 2006 NBA Finals and had the best regular season record in the NBA last season (67-15).

After hearing about Nowitzki's injury, Hubie Brown said, "Nowitzki is taken for granted. He comes to play every night." Brown added that Nowitzki contributes scoring and rebounding while shooting a high percentage both from the field and the free throw line but for some reason a lot of critics "nitpick" his game. I agree completely. We all know that Nowitzki is not going to go down to the low post on a regular basis but as a face up player who is seven feet tall with almost unlimited range he is incredibly difficult to guard. He is also a very underrated rebounder whose work on the glass is even better in the postseason than it is in the regular season. He has been a very durable player throughout his career, so the games that he misses now in this most critical part of the season may very well turn into an instance of absence making the (fans') heart grow fonder; Nowitzki's critics are most likely going to get a demonstration of just how valuable he really is. Dallas Coach Avery Johnson tried to put the best possible spin on the situation, telling ABC's Michelle Tafoya that several of his players have been requesting more playing time so now they will have opportunities to show what they can do.

The Spurs played solid defense throughout the game but they looked terrible on offense. They shot 30-91 from the field (.330), with Tim Duncan shooting just 7-21, including 1-10 in the first half. Duncan finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Manu Ginobili shot 2-8 in the first half but he really stepped up in the second half, shooting 4-7 and finishing with 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists. He was the driving force behind a 19-0 San Antonio run that lifted the Spurs from a 54-42 deficit at the 6:24 mark of the third quarter to a 61-54 lead with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter. Although most of that comeback happened before Nowitzki got hurt Nowitzki's injury seemed to suck all of the life not only out of the Dallas crowd but also the Mavericks' team. Dallas stayed in contact the rest of the way but never managed to tie the score.

The Spurs have now won three games in a row after going through a stretch where they lost six out of seven games. Their 47-23 record is just three games worse than their mark at this time last season but the West is so tough that they would only be the sixth seed if the playoffs started today. Of course, the standings are so tightly bunched together that they could easily be the top seed by the end of the season. It seems like many "experts" spend most of the regular season either ignoring the Spurs or trying to make the case that they are too old to win the championship again--and then after the playoffs are over they have to backtrack from their earlier remarks. The reality is simple: unless Tim Duncan sustains a serious injury, the Spurs are still the team to beat. There are a few teams that have a decent chance of doing that this season but the onus is on those teams to prove that they can beat the Spurs four times in a seven game playoff series. The Spurs' defense is so stifling that even with Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker all shooting terrible percentages in the first half Dallas only enjoyed a 40-36 halftime lead. Parker never did find his stroke and the 2007 NBA Finals MVP finished with just 13 points on 4-21 shooting. How many teams play good enough defense to overcome that kind of bricklaying by one of their key players? The Spurs may not shoot that poorly again the rest of the way but they will play that kind of defense night in and night out.

The Spurs' main advantages over their rivals are, in order, Tim Duncan, great team defense, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. However, a fourth advantage is their great composure. They are mentally tough and do not get rattled by anything that happens, from poor shooting to hard fouls by the other team to any other kind of adversity. For instance, late in the third quarter, Dallas swingman Jerry Stackhouse did not like the way that Ginobili was boxing him out so he threw Ginobili to the ground and then delivered a glancing blow to Ginobili's face with an open hand. The referees inexplicably called a foul on each player, a ruling that ABC's Jeff Van Gundy rightly criticized, because Stackhouse clearly was the only one who committed a foul; Van Gundy went so far as to label the play "dirty," though Mark Jackson felt that it was simply a foul but not a dirty play. Stackhouse also received a technical foul on the play. Ginobili did not hop to his feet and do the macho posturing that is so common in the NBA and he certainly did not throw a punch and run like Carmelo Anthony did last year when Anthony escalated a situation that did not even initially involve him in the first place. No Spurs' players did any macho posturing and no one from the team left the area of the bench. The idea that if everything does not go exactly your way that you have to completely lose control of your emotions is false. The Suns sure could have used that kind of composure during last year's playoffs, when their overreaction to a foul by the Spurs' Robert Horry led to suspensions for Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw. When the Spurs come on to the court their one and only objective is to win the game, not to prove how "tough" they are and not to receive recognition for their individual achievements.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:41 AM

13 comments

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13 Comments:

At Monday, March 24, 2008 4:14:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

It looks like things are falling in place for a Spurs repeat. Who can beat them? Utah and Phoenix have too many flaws defensively. New Orleans is too inexperienced. The Rockets don't have enough offensive firepower. The Mavs are sinking, and the Warriors and Nuggets simply don't play a style that could lead to much success against the Spurs in a 7-game series.

That leaves the Lakers. You can never rule them out because of two things. First, Kobe could have a series for the ages. Second, they are so deep that they can overcome inconsistency from some of their players over the series. However, I still feel like the Lakers are too soft defensively. They don't have anyone who can guard Parker, and the Spurs will take advantage of the Lakers any time they fail to rotate properly. Ironically, Bynum and Ariza probably provide much of what the Lakers are lacking. I can't see Bynum coming back and immediately picking up where he left off (which may not have been good enough anyway).

Hopefully we'll get an epic Celtics-Spurs finals where Tim Duncan will prove why he's more valuable than Kevin Garnett.

 
At Monday, March 24, 2008 4:37:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

As I have indicated in several recent posts, I think that people are vastly underestimating the Suns. Shaq provides the inside presence that they were missing. He has gotten over the need to be the number one offensive option and is content to be a role player. Grant Hill fills a lot of the roles that Marion used to and Amare is now playing his correct position. This Phoenix team is capable of beating the Spurs. I'm not saying that they will but they are capable; I did not feel that way about the previous Suns' teams and the results bore that out each season (Phoenix excuses notwithstanding).

Kobe is the best player in the NBA, so he does not need as much help to turn his team into a contender as other All-Stars do. Gasol and Bynum may be enough, along with the bench, for the Lakers to win a title eventually but it will be hard for them to pull it off this year. Gasol and Bynum have not even played one second together. Kobe is playing with a broken finger, even though this does not get the play that it would if Brett Favre were doing it. The bench is still unproven in terms of the playoffs. For that matter, Gasol and Bynum are unproven in terms of the playoffs. I have no doubt that Kobe will play very well in the playoffs but it would be pretty amazing if Gasol, Bynum and the bench all come together as playoff contributors in the next month. If Gasol and Bynum come back in time for the playoffs then I expect the Lakers to be able to give the Spurs a run for their money but probably come up a little short.

One problem that is emerging for the Lakers in the second half of the season is that Derek Fisher seems to be wearing down. He played an important role in the team's early success (pre-Gasol) but his shooting percentage has been declining and opposing point guards have been feasting on his defense recently.

I think that a Cavs-Lakers Finals would be fascinating--the best player in the NBA versus the young gun who is trying to seize the throne. That would be interesting not only to basketball purists but also to casual fans who may not have watched since MJ retired. There would be the subplots of Jackson going for his record 10th title as a coach, Kobe going for his first post-Shaq ring and LeBron going for his first ring period. If we don't get that Finals this year there is a chance we could get it next year after the two teams have a full training camp with their newly acquired players.

 
At Monday, March 24, 2008 12:44:00 PM, Blogger madnice said...

Dallas is done but werent going to win a title anyway. The Spurs look very old at times, especially Duncan so well see if he perks up in the playoffs like he usually does.


Obviously Bryant, even though he is the best player, needed much help (Gasol and an improved Bynum) for the Lakers to become contenders because before this they were first round exits.

 
At Monday, March 24, 2008 2:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Madnice:

I agree that the Mavs were not going to win the championship this year but I don't think that they would have fallen out of the playoff race without this injury. Now I really think that the Nuggets will get the last spot, assuming that Dirk is going to be out for two weeks.

All great players have needed help to win titles/contend for titles. Kobe has less help than any of the other top stars on contending teams in the West do (except for T-Mac now that Yao is out). I hate to use commenter Reggie's whole thing about the main star/second star but in most cases with these teams it is clear who the main star is, so let's recap:

Spurs--main star: Tim Duncan, helped by All-Stars Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, perennial All-Defensive Team player Bruce Bowen, former All-Star Michael Finley, veteran big man Kurt Thomas, former RoY Damon Stoudamire.

Suns--main star: Steve Nash, helped by three players who have made the All-NBA First Team (Shaq, Amare, Grant Hill), All-Defensive Team player Raja Bell, Sixth Man Award candidate Leandro Barbosa, versatile reserve Boris Diaw.

Hornets--main star: Chris Paul, helped by All-Star David West, top five rebounder Tyson Chandler, former All-Star/MVP candidate Peja Stojakovic, quality reserves Bonzi Wells, Jannero Pargo, Morris Peterson.

Jazz--main star: Carlos Boozer (or Deron Williams), helped by Deron Williams (or Carlos Boozer, depending on how you rank these two), former All-Star Mehmet Okur, Ronnie Brewer (.545 shooting percentage), versatile Andrei Kirilenko, dead-eye three point shooter Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap (tough rebounder), Matt Harpring (physical reserve).

Mavs--main star: Dirk Nowitzki, helped by All-Star Josh Howard, All-Star Jason Kidd, Sixth Man Award candidate Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Erick Dampier.

Compare those names to this year's Lakers:

Main star: Kobe Bryant, helped by one-time All-Star Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Sasha Vujacic.

Bryant's second best player, Gasol, joined the team in mid-season and has only played 19 games, far fewer than the second best player on any of the other contenders. Bryant's third best player, Bynum, just became good this season and has only played in 35 games. Gasol and Bynum have yet to play even one second together. Odom is extremely overrated. He has some skills but he is not consistently productive and he is much more comfortable as the third or fourth option instead of being the second option, which injuries (and lack of other talented players in previous seasons) force him to be. Fisher is a solid point guard and a big upgrade from Smush but Fisher has been fading down the stretch of this season. Do you really think that he is better than fourth options Grant Hill, Michael Finley, Peja, Ronnie Brewer? Even if he is better--I might concede the point with Brewer--Fisher has had to be the third or even second option at times due to injuries to Gasol and Bynum. The second and third options on these other teams are All-Stars/All-NBA players.

The Lakers have a lot of nice, decent NBA players who look a lot better playing with Bryant than they would in other situations. Their second "star," Gasol, is a fringe star at best and their third "star" was not even a productive player prior to this season. Without Kobe, the Lakers would be a lottery team out West, even if Gasol and Bynum were both healthy. With Kobe they are contending for the best record and they have held their ground twice when the big guys got hurt, first when Bynum went out and now when Gasol got injured.

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 9:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think that you are selling Gasol short. "Fringe star"?
You call 19-9-3 with 1.5 blocks, 50% from the field 80% from the line a "Fringe star"?

Gasol carried the Grizzlies into the playoffs. I do not think Josh Howard, Tony Parker, David West, Manu Ginobili, or even Amare Stoudemire could have carried a similarly "talented" team into the playoffs.

"former All-Star Michael Finley" the key word here is FORMER, the guy doesn't play defense and he's shooting worse than Bruce Bowen. BRUCE BOWEN!!!
"former RoY Damon Stoudamire" he also shoots worse than Bruce Bowen, and he's a defensive liablility. The Spurs are 'struggling' not because Duncan's picking his spots, or Parker and Ginobili have been inconsistent, but because they get no offense from Finley, Horry, Vaughn, Udoka, Stoudamire, Oberto and Bonner. They routinely get out-rebounded because Bowen, Udoka, and Oberto (not to mention the rest of their bench) are poor rebounders for their positions. Thomas should help in this area. That Scola trade was dumb.

"former All-Star/MVP candidate Peja Stojakovic" again, FORMER. He rebounds very poorly for his position, defends poorly for his size, and brings nothing when the games are tight or when his shot is off. For all of Odom's flaws, he still averages 10 rebounds, alters more shots, passes better, and only averages 2 less points. When Odom goes 2-11, he still helps his team. Peja has nothing to offer.

"helped by one-time All-Star Pau Gasol" Parker, Ginobili and West are also "one-time all-stars"

What is it about Gasol that you don't like anyway? He scores efficiently, he passes well, rebounds, doesn't turn the ball over often, doesn't foul often, and isn't a locker room menace. He's one of the few bigs that have the tools to guard Dirk outside. His interior defense is better than Amare's, and he provides more rim protection than Boozer. Why don't you ask Hubie Brown? See if he agrees that Gasol is a "fringe star."

Z

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4:13:00 PM, Anonymous denizen said...

I think Dallas can't win the championship with this player anytime cause they gave whole their talent player. Nowitzki and Kidd can win a lot of games with no centers but to be a champion they need strong bench.
It is a good article thank you anyway.

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4:21:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

It is interesting that any time I assert that a "name" player is not a "superstar" (Gilbert Arenas, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol) that people I assume that I "hate" that player. I have high standards for "superstar" status: a "superstar" must regularly be an All-NBA caliber player, preferably on the All-NBA First Team. That is why I say that guys like Melo and Anthony are "just" stars: they make the All-Star Team and contend for All-NBA Third Team status (Arenas did make the Second Team once). I just don't believe that there are more than 5-10 "superstars" in the NBA.

Gasol has never even made the All-NBA Third Team and I don't think that anyone can make the case that he has been "snubbed." He has made one All-Star team and I don't think that he has been "snubbed" in that regard either. He has been around long enough that I don't expect that he will substantially improve. When you make the All-Star team once in seven seasons you are a "fringe" star. I honestly do not understand what is controversial about saying that.

I like Gasol's game and his skill set fits very nicely in the Triangle Offense. That said, he is known to be a bit soft and his help defense is better than his one on one defense (in that regard he is similar to Amare). He is a talented player but most assuredly not a superstar. As you noted in your previous comment, the reason that he has not made the All-Star team more than once is that there are many forwards and centers out West who are better than he is; I completely agree with you about that--and when there are many players who are better than you at your position then you are a fringe star.

Other than the Spurs' Big Three, most of their veterans are relied on more for the playoff productivity (Finley, Horry) at this stage of their careers. Also, Finley is taking half of his shots from three point range and his three point shooting percentage is fine (.364). Until proven otherwise, I trust Finley, Horry and that group as playoff performers more than I trust the young, unproven Lakers' reserves. Stoudamire is new to the team and that is why I listed him last. Maybe he won't contribute anything but this is a guy who has had some big playoff games during his career and it just speaks to the depth of the team that they can bring him off of the bench. Plus, they re-signed sharpshooter Brent Barry for the stretch run.

Parker is a Finals MVP in addition to being an All-Star. Manu has won numerous championships in FIBA play and is a proven playoff performer (unlike Gasol). West is a young, improving big man who will likely have played in more than one All-Star game by his seventh season.

We can quibble about the relative value of some of these players, though when it comes down to it you are agreeing with me even though you don't seem to realize it (as indicated by your own list of West big men who are better than Gasol)--but you are missing the biggest points of all: (1) these other teams have been together longer than the Lakers and (2) these teams have been healthier this season than the Lakers. Bynum has played 35 games. Gasol has played 19 games as a Laker. There is no way that 54 combined games by those two, who have never been on the court at the same time as teammates, is worth more than what the second and third best players on the teams I cited have produced this season. The disparity is so great that it is amazing to me that this is even an issue.

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do agree with most of your points, but I think we have a misunderstanding with Gasol's status.
I have never said that Gasol was a "superstar", just not a "fringe star". Basically, I'm saying Gasol is a "star."

By definition, we would reserve superstar status to the All-NBA first/second team (as you said 5-10 players).
Star players would be the tier below, say the next 20 players, as it would be silly to have more "superstars" than "stars.
I think Gasol belongs in this tier, and not below it(fringe star).
You rank him low not because of what he brings to the court but by counting the number of accolades that he doesn't have.
This is unfair simply because the Grizzlies are a very bad team in the toughest division. Awards are hard to come by.
If Gasol was playing in the east then his all-star appearances would be higher.
KG's first round playoff exits didn't seem to hurt his "star" credentials, why should Gasol's 3 playoff exits be judged differently?
The Grizzlies were a very bad team, Gasol led them into the playoffs in the west. A "fringe star" should not be able to do that.
You can't even say the same for each and every one of the "stars." McGrady never led his team past the first round, but everyone agrees he's near "superstar" level.
Before Cassel, KG never got out of the first round either, he's a "superstar."
You use All-NBA selections, All-Star selections, Playoff success as a measuring stick for "star" eligibility,
but these criteria have one theme in common: team success.
Other "name" players like Vince Carter, Jermaine O'Neal, Arenas, Joe Johnson, Redd, Pierce, Allen, etc. couldn't have led those sorry Grizzlies to a good record.
Not even Jordan could have led those Grizzlies past the first round against San Antonio, Phoenix, and Dallas.

Good numbers on a bad team?(KG(twolves), McGrady(magic)), but Gasol still made the playoffs.

The reason why I asked you what part of Gasol's game you didn't like, because I feel that it's unfair to judge him based solely on team accomplishments.
I wanted to know if you think I'm appraising Gasol's on court production too high. That doesn't seem to be the case.

Kobe has "less help" precisely because Gasol was injured. Not because he wasn't a legitimate star when he was healthy.

Z

 
At Tuesday, March 25, 2008 11:53:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

We agree that Gasol is not among the top 10 players. You refer to the next 20 players as "stars." I can go along with that, though 20 may be a bit of a high number (I'd probably cut it off at 14-15, because how can you be a star if you don't even make the All-Star Team?). I said that Gasol is a "fringe" star because he is barely in that group, probably the 25-30th best player in the NBA. That is a "fringe" star. He is not solidly in that area; he is toward the bottom--the "fringe"--of it.

East All-Star forwards/centers in recent years include LeBron, Bosh, Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal, Dwight Howard, Caron Butler, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Paul Pierce, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Antawn Jamison. Whose spot would Gasol have taken in the particular years that those players made the All-Star team? Maybe if Gasol were classified as a center he would have beaten out Ilgauskas and thus have one more All-Star selection than he currently has.

T-Mac has been much more productive in both the regular season and the playoffs than Gasol. He has made the All-NBA Team six times. I don't rank KG as highly as some people do but he perennially makes the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams. I seriously doubt that anyone would take Gasol over him.

You might be interested to look up Memphis' record with and without Gasol. He was the best player when they had some good seasons but he was hardly carrying the team by himself and there was hardly a noticeable spike with him in the lineup compared to when he was out. In fact, in 2004-05 the Grizzlies went 28-28 with him and 17-9 without him.

I would not call Carter, Jermaine O'Neal or the other players you listed superstars either but several of the guys in that group have better individual and team credentials than Gasol does.

I like Gasol's game a lot. He provides a very nice complement to Kobe and fits in well with the Triangle Offense--but the reality is that Kobe's supporting cast was so weak the past few seasons that the addition of any "fringe star" would have been a huge upgrade. The significant part of the Gasol trade is that the Lakers gave up nothing of value to get him.

The bottom line is this: Gasol for 19 games, Bynum for 35 games and Odom for the majority of the season is not even close to equaling the supporting casts that Phx, NO, the Spurs and the other contenders have (with the exception of T-Mac and the Rockets now that Yao is out).

My point is that Kobe needs a lot less help than the other MVP candidates do to lead his team to the top of the standings.

 
At Wednesday, March 26, 2008 11:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you honestly take any of the Wallaces, Jamison, Bosh, Jermaine over Gasol? Those guys had better teammates, thus better records, thus more likely to get recognition.
The bottom line is, team success has a lot to do with all-star selections, and the players above have had more help.
Butler has only recently emerged as a star, though the talent was always there. He's better than Gasol now, but not a couple of seasons ago.
Carter has better credentials than Gasol? Being selected by fans into the all-star game holds very little meaning for me.

How many PF/C's can you name who have better, more complete offensive weapons, and use them more consistently than Gasol?
Dirk is probably the one player who trumps Gasol in every offensive facet of the game.
Rasheed doesn't play like that every game, and he hurts his team with his antics. Jamison is shooting a low percentage with a bad assist/to ratio.
Jermaine and Bosh have MAY have better post games(but they don't pass as well), but they have been drifting towards the perimeter more and more,
and Gasol is better than both of them here. A lot of bigs have increasing fascination with long 2's but they don't do it as well as Gasol.
I'm focusing on what Gasol can/can't do, how often he attempts things that he can do, how good he is at the things he attempts.
He's an excellent passer/freethrow shooter to boot!

On defense, he's not as bad as people seem to think. He's long, fast, and smart. Like I mentioned, protects the rim better than Boozer/Amare.
He holds his ground better than Bosh. He doesn't foul often, and he doesn't whine as much.
Note that he played with Jason Williams, who routinely let his man drive to the hoop.

I'm talking about what Gasol does on the court, how well he does them, and how often he does them, not what awards or recognition he has gotten.
He doesn't have a glaring weakness. People instantly label him "soft" but on what grounds? He doesn't flex his biceps, or make faces after a dunk?
He doesn't have a lot of tatoos?

Just because he fits perfectly as a second banana doesn't mean he's not legit.

Z

 
At Thursday, March 27, 2008 7:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

Our exchange regarding Gasol reminds me a little of a previous exchange that I had with a different reader regarding Melo. In that instance, I said that Melo was not an "elite" player, while the commenter asserted that he was--but when we actually ranked Melo, we basically had him in the same general area (the 15th-20th best player in the NBA at the time of our discussion). We are basically having the same conversation here, only this time the word/phrase in dispute is "fringe star."

The bottom line is that I am ranking Gasol as the 25th-30th best player in the NBA and you are not substantially disagreeing with that (i.e., you are not proposing that he has been "snubbed" and should have earned six All-NBA First Team selections).

In other words, we think of Gasol in the same general way but for some reason you object to the terminology ("fringe star") that I have chosen to describe Gasol, just like my previous commenter wanted to expand the definition of "elite" farther than I think it should go regarding NBA players. I say that there are only 5-10 "elite" or "superstar" players. After that there are 15-20 stars, max. Gasol is at the bottom of that group, hence the designation "fringe star."

As for the specific players you asked about, keep in mind that I brought up those names in response to your assertion that if Gasol had spent his career in the East he would have made the All-Star team several times. I would definitely take the All-Star versions of Jamison, Ben Wallace, Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal over Gasol in those particular seasons (which is not at all the same as saying that I would take B Wall or Jermaine--neither of whom is a current All-Star--over Gasol now). Sheed is perhaps a tougher call. He is more talented than Gasol but Sheed does not bring it on a nightly basis. I guess the answer would depend on which East team Gasol played for, what kind of numbers he put up and what his team's record was. Sheed is a "fringe star," too.

Butler did not make the All-Star team a couple years ago, so I think that you are missing my point; what I am asking is if Gasol had been in the East his whole career then whose spot would he have taken on the All-Star team in each of those years? I just listed a few of the forwards/centers who made the All-Star Team the past few years to give you an idea of who I am talking about; that does not mean that Butler has been better than Gasol this whole time.

Gasol is soft for two reasons--he is not a particularly physical player (he can be pushed around) and he takes awhile to recover from injuries (as we are seeing now). Kobe is playing with a broken finger that will require surgery and an ankle that he sprained a few days ago. Earlier in the year, Kobe played with a groin pull and a bum elbow. The reason that Memphis wanted to get rid of Gasol and start over is because management does not believe that it could build a championship team around him for precisely those reasons: you don't build a championship team around the 30th best player in the league (i.e., most teams have at least one guy who is just as good or better), let alone a player whose toughness can be questioned in certain situations. Playing with Kobe (and alongside Bynum when he comes back) is an ideal role for Gasol.

I never said that Gasol is not "legit." I think that being the 25th-30th best player in the toughest league in the world is pretty "legit."

 
At Thursday, March 27, 2008 11:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you rank Gasol at the 25-30th place, I place him a bit higher, at the 18-23th perhaps? Not a big difference
Jamison played with Butler and Arenas, and looking at the Wizards' record, I don't understand how you could rate him, or Butler ahead of Gasol.
Gasol was derailed after that foot injury during the FIBA tournament, but he was already a very good player, and was still improving then.

He didn't have the opportunity to be "snubbed" because his team was bad. Wade is still extremely popular so he's an exception.
Put him on a better team, in the weaker east. Could you honestly say that 20-10-3 is not in his reach? That he can't get in the All-NBA 2nd/3rd team?
Or multiple all-star selections? Let's take out guys like Carter from the All-star list, I can see Gasol being an all-star.
Looking at his skill set and his consistency throughout his career, I can't put Bosh ahead of him either. Or David West, or both of the Wallaces.

Anyway, I just rank Gasol a bit higher than you do, that's about it.

Z

 
At Thursday, March 27, 2008 4:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Z:

As I've been saying, I think that we only disagree slightly about how to rank Gasol, though we are using different terminology to express our opinions.

The Arenas-Butler-Jamison situation opens a whole other can of worms. As I indicated earlier in the season, I think that Arenas is vastly overrated. Perhaps after this season people will understand that Butler is in fact the most valuable player on that team.

Anyway, that is neither here nor there in terms of the Gasol discussion. Could Gasol have made more All-Star teams if he had spent his whole career in the East? Perhaps, but if you carefully look at the All-Star rosters of recent seasons that is hardly a sure thing. In any case, even if he had made a couple more All-Star teams, unless his production was markedly better than it has been I would still rank him 25th-30th. I am not basing my ranking purely on how many All-Star teams he has made; that is just a rough but useful indicator that he is not an elite or superstar level player. The All-Star and All-NBA selection process is hardly flawless but I can't think of any truly elite player who repeatedly gets snubbed, even if he plays for a bad team (and truly elite players' teams generally don't stay bad for long).

 

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