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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Selecting NBA Award Winners: The Battle of Stats Versus Storylines Versus Logical Analysis

The 2011 NBA Championship will be determined on the court over the next couple months; during the playoffs, the NBA will periodically announce the winners of various individual honors: media members vote for every award except the All-Defensive Team (selected by NBA head coaches) and the Executive of the Year (chosen by NBA executives in polling conducted by the Sporting News).

Some of the winners are pretty obvious (Blake Griffin seemingly clinched Rookie of the Year back in November), while others may spark controversy. The NBA does not provide much formal guidance concerning the qualifications/standards for these awards, which results in annual debates among people who favor "advanced statistics," people who like good stories and (the few) people who actually at least attempt to inject some logical, objective analysis into the process.

The various "advanced statistics" describe which players performed in a manner most closely conforming to the biases of a particular "stat guru" (some "stat gurus" use formulas that favor rebounding, while others favor scoring or some kind of nebulously defined "efficiency"); people who like good stories frame seasons, teams and players in narrative terms (conveniently disregarding any statistics and/or facts that do not fit the chosen narrative). Both approaches are highly subjective, but don't tell that to an advocate of either method unless you want to be derided for being closed-minded--never mind the fact that legitimate scientific inquiry is based on constantly and relentlessly questioning one's theories, methods and conclusions--or ridiculed for failing to conform to the larger narrative being crafted by various national media members.

I prefer to select award winners based on a logical analysis of all relevant factors, including statistics, observation of games (a heretical act according to at least some "stat gurus") and historical context; using logical analysis does not mean that I am always right or that I have successfully removed any traces of unconscious bias but it does mean that I value being right over being popular and that I have done my best to render unbiased judgments.

Here is my take on the 2010-2011 NBA regular season awards:

MVP

1) LeBron James
2) Kobe Bryant
3) Dwight Howard
4) Derrick Rose
5) Dirk Nowitzki

This season's MVP race is perhaps the strangest one in recent memory; the league's best regular season performer will likely not receive the award because he has become unpopular, while the league's most complete player--and the NBA's greatest winner of the post-Michael Jordan era--is being treated as an MVP afterthought even though he has put his team in position to reach the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season, something that has not been accomplished since the 1984-87 Celtics.

I refuse to accept the popular notion that LeBron James and Kobe Bryant should be considered mere footnotes in the 2011 MVP discussion--but this is hardly the first time that I have bucked conventional wisdom on this subject; I disagree with many previous MVP selections. Forget the MVPs that voters robbed from Michael Jordan in order to fill the trophy cases of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone and just look at the past decade: the first part of the post-Michael Jordan era featured two dominant low post players--Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan--who combined to lead their respective teams to six out of seven NBA championships between 1999 and 2005 and who should have combined to win all seven MVPs during that time frame (Duncan actually won two MVPs, while O'Neal inexplicably only received one MVP). As O'Neal and Duncan became less physically dominant, Kobe Bryant completed his emergence as the league's best and most complete all-around player--a devastating scorer who could also rebound, pass and defend at an elite level; Bryant should have won the 2006, 2007 and 2008 MVPs but he only won the 2008 award.

Bryant appeared to be on track to earn the 2009 NBA MVP until LeBron James moved past Bryant in the final weeks of that season. This is what I wrote in my analysis of the 2009 MVP race:

Until March, I continued to maintain the opinion that I have had since last season, namely that Bryant's complete skill set slightly trumps James' powerful athleticism and improving--but still incomplete--skill set. However, in March, James led the Cavs to a 16-1 record while averaging 28.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg and 8.4 apg; he shot .472 from the field, .386 from three point range and .759 from the free throw line. Bryant's Lakers went 10-5 in March as he averaged 25.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 4.6 apg while shooting .432 from the field, .338 from three point range and .840 from the free throw line. Bryant's skill set is still more complete than James' is and James' inability to consistently make midrange jumpers could be a factor in the postseason but in a close MVP race James has to get the nod on the basis of outperforming Bryant down the stretch as the Cavs wrested the best record in the league from the Lakers.

James similarly outperformed Bryant during the 2010 regular season--by a slightly greater margin than in 2009--though it is worth remembering that Bryant led the L.A. Lakers to championships in both seasons, twice earning the Finals MVP.

In the wake of James' infamous "Decision" we are supposed to believe--for statistical and/or storyline reasons--that he should no longer be considered an MVP candidate. While it is true that the pairing of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade alongside All-NBA caliber power forward Chris Bosh has demonstrated the absurdity of the "stat guru"-fueled notions regarding the value of James and Wade--namely that they are supposedly by far the league's two best players and thus would lead Miami to something like 90 wins in an 82 game season--it is ridiculous to assert that James has somehow disqualified himself from the MVP race.

James is a terrifying combination of speed and power, particularly in open court situations. He is an excellent rebounder, passer and defender. His only skill set weaknesses are midrange shooting and, to a lesser extent, free throw and three point shooting. James clearly established himself as the Heat's best player, leading the team in minutes, scoring, steals and assists while placing second in rebounding. James shot a career-high .510 from the field, better than any Heat player except for some members of their center by committee who rarely shoot and generally only take close range shots. The biggest strike against James' MVP candidacy is that he did not perform particularly well in late game situations but such situations invariably comprise a small sample size with a lot of variance; the larger reality is that James was clearly the best player on the team that earned the second seed in the East.

Bryant has demonstrated a greater ability than LeBron James to successfully help his team navigate choppy playoff waters but Bryant's declining minutes and James' youthful energy/athleticism have enabled James to surpass Bryant as a regular season player; we are no longer seeing the Kobe Bryant who could run off a streak of multiple 40 or 50 point games, either because Bryant cannot do that anymore or because the required energy expenditure/physical wear and tear would exact too high of a cost come playoff time. The Kobe Bryant of 2006-08 would have lifted the 2011 Lakers to 65 wins simply by exploding for huge scoring totals on the nights that Pau Gasol and the other Laker bigs trotted (Jeff Van Gundy's term) up and down the court instead of sprinting and the nights that the Lakers' bench squandered leads or turned small deficits into insurmountable margins. James has surpassed Bryant in terms of regular season impact--but even in Bryant's relatively reduced regular season role I'd still take him over any player in the league other than James.

I will not be surprised if some MVP voters leave Kobe Bryant's name off of their five man ballots; Bryant only received one of the three MVPs that he deserved, so now that his numbers are reduced and his contributions are subtler it is easy to ignore his value. The balky right knee that will likely shorten Bryant's career convinced Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to reduce Bryant's playing time to 33.9 mpg, Bryant's lowest average since his second season; that is why Bryant's per game averages have dipped but it should be emphasized that his per minute productivity is still essentially the same: in fact, Bryant posted his highest points per minute average since the 2006-07 season when he won the second of his two scoring titles. The Lakers cost themselves some wins by keeping Bryant off of the court but the 400 or so minutes of wear and tear that this conserved (plus an even more drastic reduction of his time on the practice court) should pay dividends in the postseason. I expect Bryant to average around 38 mpg in the playoffs and five extra minutes of Bryant in each game should keep most games close enough for Bryant to save the day at the end. I still insist that Being a Clutch Player is More Significant than Just Making Clutch Shots but it is worth remembering that Bryant hit six game-winning shots in 2009-10 and that proved to be the difference between capturing the Western Conference's number one seed and dropping to the sixth seed; the extra time that Bryant sat out this season meant that some games were too far gone in the fourth quarter for Bryant to have a realistic chance to bring the Lakers back but despite their inconsistent bench they still managed to grab the second seed in the very tough Western Conference--after Bryant logged 38 minutes in a 116-108 overtime victory against Sacramento in which he poured in a game-high 36 points on 13-24 field goal shooting, grabbed nine rebounds, dished off six assists and had just two turnovers; Bryant nailed the three pointer that sent the game into overtime and he scored or assisted on seven of their first nine points in the extra session. From a skill set standpoint, Bryant could have done that in several other games this season and dragged the Lakers to the number one overall seed, but Coach Jackson correctly decided that he would rather have Bryant save those heroics for late April, May and June; if everything goes according to that plan, Bryant will receive a third Finals MVP as a "consolation prize" for sacrificing a real shot at winning the regular season MVP. In an era in which players routinely sit out for minor injuries, Bryant played in all 82 games for the third time in the past four seasons--and even a sprained ankle that he called the scariest injury of his career did not sideline him.

Derrick Rose is going to win the regular season MVP and the voting probably will not be close. Derrick Rose's story--a humble young man leading his hometown team to the best record in the NBA--is more appealing than LeBron James' story, particularly if it is true that during last summer's free agency drama Rose essentially told James that James could either become part of the Bulls' future success or else the Bulls would beat whichever team James decided to join; Rose lacks arrogance but he certainly has an abundance of well-founded confidence. Kevin Durant's story--a humble young man who quietly stayed with a small market team instead of focusing on "building his brand"--is also more appealing than LeBron James' story. I understand why the media tried to hand the MVP to Durant before this season began and I understand why the media is trying to hand the MVP to Rose now; I just do not believe that Rose or Durant are better, more complete or more dominant players than LeBron James.

Rose is a tremendous player and he has definitely taken the mantle of best 6-5 and under player from Dwyane Wade, thus earning a spot on the All-NBA First Team, but the 6-3 Rose simply does not threaten defenses the way that the 6-8 runaway locomotive LeBron James does or the way that Bryant does with his exquisite footwork/ability to make any shot from any distance--and at the other end of the court, James can guard any player in the league from point guard to power forward (and even some centers), while Bryant can lock down most point guards, shooting guards or small forwards; in contrast, Rose has improved defensively but he can only guard two positions at most and cannot yet be considered an elite individual defender.

Frankly, considering the way that James handled his free agency process and the way that he arrogantly pranced around last summer while talking about winning five, six, seven or more championships--an outrageous statement to make in the wake of blatantly quitting in the 2010 playoffs versus the Boston Celtics--I can honestly say that part of me would much rather see Derrick Rose win the MVP than to see James capture his third straight MVP trophy; however, it would be disingenuous to let those personal feelings prevent me from analyzing this year's MVP race by the same standards that I have always analyzed MVP races: I have consistently said that the MVP should go to the best, most consistent all-around player in the league, with the only exception being if there is a dominant big man whose overall impact cancels out certain skill set weaknesses (the way that Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Shaquille O'Neal ruled the league in their primes despite being poor free throw shooters). Rose is currently the fourth best player in the NBA, trailing James, Bryant and Dwight Howard, the league's most dominant big man.

I cannot place Howard above James or Bryant--big wing players who can play multiple positions and who impact the game at both ends of the court--but I still would take him over anyone else in the NBA. Howard is a monster defensively and on the boards and he has made great strides with his offensive footwork/post moves. What he has not shown is the inclination and/or ability to dominate offensively for significant stretches of time--in the regular season or the playoffs--by averaging 28-30 ppg like Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon did in their prime, championship-winning years; Howard needs to demand the ball the way that those guys did, particularly now that he has the ability to do more on the low post than just dunk off of alley-oop passes. I believe that Howard could lead an average supporting cast to 50 wins (one could argue that he did just that this season, because the Magic currently have no true backup center, no good wing defenders and a lack of overall depth) but I think that "small" players like Rose, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul could not do likewise; Rose's Bulls are deep and well balanced (which enabled them to overcome some injury problems), Wade presided over one of the worst collapses ever by a championship team and Paul's supporting casts are routinely underrated by media members and "stat gurus" who annually try to force his name into MVP consideration (Paul is a great player and at one time he was the league's best point guard but he has never been the best player in the league).

Dirk Nowitzki rounds out my top five. Nowitzki posted the highest field goal percentage of his career and has done an excellent job leading the Dallas Mavericks to the third seed in the West. His rebounding average declined for the sixth straight year but that is hardly surprising for a 32 year old who has played nearly 1000 regular season games, not to mention the fact that he plays alongside a point guard who is very active on the glass (Jason Kidd) plus a center who is a defensive and rebounding specialist (Tyson Chandler). Nowitzki's rebounding tends to increase during the playoffs and that will probably be the case this season as well. I give the nod to Nowitzki over Kevin Durant because the number one skill set area for both players is shooting and Nowitzki easily outdistanced Durant in field goal percentage and three point field goal percentage while nearly matching him in free throw percentage; another tiebreaker is that I know that Nowitzki can be a highly productive performer against elite teams but Durant has yet to prove that he can do that consistently (just think back to the first round of the 2010 playoffs, when Ron Artest harassed Durant into some very low percentage shooting).

Rookie of the Year

1) Blake Griffin
2) John Wall
3) DeMarcus Cousins

Griffin is the gold standard among this year's rookies and he should join Ralph Sampson (1984) and David Robinson (1990) as the only unanimous winners of this award since 1984. Griffin made the All-Star team and will likely receive consideration for the All-NBA Team as well. Griffin's playing style reminds me a bit of a younger LeBron James: Griffin is breathtakingly explosive but he also has a high basketball IQ and an on-court maturity that belies his age. Like a younger James, Griffin still does not fully understand how to be an effective defensive player in the NBA, nor has he completely figured out how to use his individual skills to greatly increase his team's win total: despite all of the justified hysteria about Griffin's highlights and individual productivity, the L.A. Clippers barely won more games this season than they did in 2009-10.

Similarly, John Wall made some flashy moves and posted good individual numbers but his team showed no tangible improvement collectively (the Washington Wizards actually have a worse record this season than they did last season). Wall scores, passes, rebounds and amasses steals but he still does not really understand how to run a team or how to play efficiently. Wall was the second best rookie and yet both the NBA and the NCAA would be better off if players like Wall spent more time in college instead of jumping so quickly into the professional ranks; early entry at least partially explains why a team shoots less than .200 from the field in the NCAA Championship Game and why two NBA rookies who would have been consensus All-Americans cannot even come close to leading their respective NBA teams to .500 records.

DeMarcus Cousins' talent is matched--and limited--only by his immaturity. He could turn into a great NBA player or he could become someone who 10 years from now is discussed only in terms of wasted potential. When I watch Cousins I think of Derrick Coleman; Charles Barkley once said that the first time he saw Derrick Coleman play he thought that the game was over and that Coleman would be the next dominant player in the NBA. Coleman had a solid NBA career but never truly became a great player. Greatness is there for the taking if only Cousins develops the wisdom and maturity to maximize his talents.

Defensive Player of the Year

1) Dwight Howard
2) LeBron James
3) Kevin Garnett

Dwight Howard has been a landslide winner two years in a row and he should be a unanimous selection this season; he is surrounded by defensive sieves and yet collectively the Orlando Magic are a good defensive team.

LeBron James gets too much credit for "chase down" blocked shots (he totaled just 50 blocks this season, tied for 69th in the league) but not enough credit for his ability to guard multiple positions and for the way he uses his size, length and speed to disrupt the opposing team's offense.

Kevin Garnett seems healthier than he did last season and he thus had a more significant impact defensively, once again anchoring the Boston Celtics' attack at that end of the court.

Sixth Man of the Year

1) Jason Terry
2) Lamar Odom
3) Jamal Crawford

Lamar Odom is almost certainly going to win this award, even though he started nearly half of his team's games and even though he was not the league's most effective reserve (for some reason, people insist on looking at his total statistics without considering that he padded his numbers by starting so many games); Odom's numbers as a reserve (13.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, .494 FG%) are much worse than his numbers as a starter (16.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg, .573 FG%).

Jason Terry only started 10 games this season and he has been a major fourth quarter scoring threat for the Dallas Mavericks. Terry should win the Sixth Man Award, with Odom placing second in a thin field; Odom did not start enough games to be disqualified in this category and there is not exactly a plethora of candidates from whom to choose: Manu Ginobili--an annual contender for this honor--became a full-time starter this season, while 2010 winner Jamal Crawford (who gets my third place nod) scored less and shot worse this season than he did last year.

Since Odom is likely going to be a landslide winner of this award, it is worthwhile to debunk some myths about him. He is supposedly playing much better this season in the wake of his contributions to Team USA's victory in the FIBA World Championship but the reality is that Odom is producing around his career norms in most categories except for field goal percentage (he shot above .500 for just the second time in his 12 year career, in no small part because he is attempting fewer three pointers while also connecting on a better than usual percentage from behind the arc). Odom may be the most overrated--or at least "over talked about" (to coin a phrase)--player in the NBA: he has never made the All-NBA or All-Star team (for good reason) yet he is often referred to as one of the league's top 25 players and/or someone who supposedly could start for most teams in the NBA (even Jeff Van Gundy, who is usually right on target with his player evaluations, uttered the latter phrase during a recent telecast). Instead of tossing off a throwaway line without thinking about it, let's look at the starting power forwards for this season's playoff teams:

Western Conference

San Antonio: Two-time NBA MVP, three-time Finals MVP, 13-time All-NBA selection, 13-time All-Star Tim Duncan
L.A. Lakers: Two-time All-NBA selection, four-time All-Star Pau Gasol
Dallas: One-time NBA MVP, 10-time All-NBA selection, 10-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki
Oklahoma City: Serge Ibaka
Denver: One-time All-Star Kenyon Martin
Portland: LaMarcus Aldridge
Memphis: One-time All-Star Zach Randolph
New Orleans: Two-time All-Star David West

Eastern Conference

Chicago: One-time All-NBA selection, two-time All-Star Carlos Boozer
Miami: One-time All-NBA selection, six-time All-Star Chris Bosh
Boston: One-time NBA MVP, one-time Defensive Player of the Year, nine-time All-NBA selection, 14-time All-Star Kevin Garnett
Orlando: Brandon Bass
Atlanta: One-time All-Defensive selection Josh Smith
New York: Four-time All-NBA selection, six-time All-Star Amare Stoudemire
Philadelphia: One-time All-NBA selection, two-time All-Star Elton Brand
Indiana: Tyler Hansbrough

The only Western Conference playoff team that Odom would clearly start for is Denver. One could make a case that he'd start for Oklahoma City but I'd take Ibaka's size and shotblocking over Odom's abilities as a lanky rebounder. Odom would start for the Hornets now, but only because West is injured. The only Eastern Conference playoff teams that Odom would clearly start for are Orlando and Indiana. Odom could start for the Knicks if Stoudemire played center but that would make the Knicks undersized.

It's not like Odom would automatically start for any non-playoff team, either: Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Kevin Love (Minnesota) and Luis Scola (Houston) would clearly start ahead of Odom.

Odom is a very solid third option for the Lakers and his primary skill set strength is rebounding; he has carved out a nice niche for himself as a valuable contributor on two championship teams but I will never understand why some people try to elevate Odom's status to All-Star or All-NBA level when it should be blatantly obvious that he is not that good.

Most Improved Player

1) Kevin Love
2) LaMarcus Aldridge
3) Dorell Wright

Kevin Love went from being a guy who barely played for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship to leading the NBA in rebounding while averaging more than 20 ppg and amassing the most consecutive double doubles since Moses Malone patrolled the paint for the Houston Rockets. Love probably still is not as good of a FIBA player as Tyson Chandler, Chris Bosh or Lamar Odom but he seems poised to become a perennial NBA All-Star.

LaMarcus Aldridge became Portland's primary offensive threat after injuries felled Brandon Roy and Aldridge responded by posting career-high numbers in scoring, rebounding and free throw percentage. He added some bulk and became a much more effective low post player.

Love and Aldridge were both lottery picks, while Dorell Wright was a late first round selection who blossomed in his seventh NBA season, emerging as a starter in Golden State after spending most of the early part of his career as a bench player for the Miami Heat.

Coach of the Year

1) Doug Collins
2) Tom Thibodeau
3) Nate McMillan

In general, it is easier to improve a team from the 20 win range to the 40 win range than to guide a team from the 40 win range to the 60 win range; all other factors being equal, what Tom Thibodeau accomplished in Chicago would be more impressive than what Doug Collins accomplished in Philadelphia--but all other factors are not equal: Collins' Philadelphia roster is essentially unchanged, while the Bulls made several key acquisitions, including Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and Kyle Korver. One of the many fallacious "stat guru" credos is that coaching does not matter but Collins' career strongly suggests otherwise: he has led teams to double digit win increases in his first season with Chicago (1987), Detroit (1996), Washington (2002) and now Philadelphia. Michael Jordan's famous quote (in response to criticisms that he did not make his teammates better to the extent that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson did) is true--one cannot make chicken salad out of chicken bleep--but some coaches are able to make good chicken salad with the right ingredients while other coaches cannot make a palatable meal with those same ingredients.

Thibodeau's Bulls have completely bought into his defensive system but a lesser reported story is that the Bulls also run some of the same offensive sets that the Celtics profitably employ; during the playoffs, watch how effectively the Bulls use multiple screening actions and sharp big to big passes to get layups and dunks--and those same actions also can lead to open jumpers for Luol Deng or Kyle Korver (much like Boston creates air space for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen).

The Portland Trailblazers lost Greg Oden to injury (again) and had to remake their team's pecking order on the fly after knee injuries transformed Brandon Roy from an All-Star to a role player but Nate McMillan still guided them to the sixth seed in the West.

NBA coaches are generally underrated collectively but this season there have been an exceptional number of coaches who performed very well. Gregg Popovich incorporated the best aspects of fast paced offense/reliance on three point shooting into the Spurs' repertoire without completely sacrificing their defensive identity. George Karl helped the Nuggets survive months of "Melo drama" and then led his new-look team to the fifth seed. Phil Jackson's Lakers battled injuries and complacency to finish with the fourth best record in the league, just one game behind a Miami team that many people predicted would win 70 or more games. Monty Williams improved the Hornets' defense and lifted them to a playoff berth.

Executive of the Year

1) Pat Riley
2) Gar Forman
3) Sam Presti

Pat Riley pulled off something that no one thought was possible until it happened: he signed three max level players last summer at a time when most teams were straining to figure out how to obtain two such players--and I wish that people would stop saying that the Heat have "two and a half" great players: while it is true that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are a level above Chris Bosh, Bosh's pre-Heat career is much more impressive than Pau Gasol's pre-Laker career and Gregg Popovich literally called for an investigation when Mitch Kupchak brought in Gasol to play with Bryant. If Bosh had not joined the Heat there are many other teams that would have gladly signed him to be their franchise player. No executive had a bigger impact on his team--or the very face of the league (the Heat's triple signing had a ripple effect that inspired other moves and may lead to a lockout-induced restructuring of the Collective Bargaining Agreement)--than Riley.

Many NBA fans probably don't even know who Gar Forman is but he quietly made several masterful moves: he hired Tom Thibodeau and then he bolstered the Bulls' roster with several quality players, only one of whom (Carlos Boozer) even remotely qualifies as a big name. The Heat are trying to overwhelm the league with star power while the Bulls are built around one superstar, a defensive-minded coach and a very well balanced, deep roster.

Sam Presti's Oklahoma City Thunder were considered a team on the rise prior to this season; they obviously did not need a major overhaul but Presti improved the Thunder's size and toughness by acquiring Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed. Riley's moves made the most waves and Forman's moves helped the Bulls post the league's best record but it may yet turn out that Presti's team wins a title before the Heat or Bulls do.

All-NBA First Team
G Kobe Bryant
G Derrick Rose
C Dwight Howard
F LeBron James
F Dirk Nowitzki

All-NBA Second Team
G Dwyane Wade
G Russell Westbrook
C Amare Stoudemire
F Kevin Durant
F LaMarcus Aldridge

All-NBA Third Team
G Tony Parker
G Chris Paul
C Pau Gasol
F Kevin Love
F Blake Griffin

The First Team will probably be pretty close to consensus choices; voters who are overly influenced by "advanced statistics" will foolishly favor Wade (the second best player on the East's second seeded team) over Bryant (clearly the best player on the West's second seeded team) but I think that Bryant will make the First Team (possibly for the last time).

Every year, the question of what to do with the center position on the Second and Third Teams becomes more difficult (barring injury, we can expect to write in Dwight Howard on the First Team for the next several seasons). There just are not that many great true centers and many teams use their centers and power forwards almost interchangeably. Amare Stoudemire and Pau Gasol are natural power forwards but they both frequently started at center this season and they are more deserving of All-NBA honors than any of the league's full-time centers other than Howard.

Kevin Love may be considered a controversial choice but the league's rebounding champion deserves a spot on the All-NBA Team in most instances and Love is not a one dimensional player: he scores both in the paint and from behind the three point arc and he is a good passer. TNT's Kenny Smith says that sometimes it is hard to tell if players on bad teams are just "looters in a riot"--i.e., putting up numbers in a chaotic situation--but I don't think that Love is "looting."

It would be easy to pencil in the high-scoring Carmelo Anthony but the Nuggets are thriving without him while the Knicks have only been mediocre with him, so Blake Griffin earns the final forward slot.

All-Defensive First Team

G Rajon Rondo
G Kobe Bryant
C Dwight Howard
F LeBron James
F Kevin Garnett

All-Defensive Second Team

G Thabo Sefolosha
G Grant Hill
C Tyson Chandler
F Tim Duncan
F Gerald Wallace

This is the only award that is selected by the league's head coaches. In each of the past three years, I chose eight of the 10 All-Defensive players who were ultimately honored by the coaches but it will be difficult to match that feat this season because there are many candidates who are equally worthy.

Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler are the obvious choices at center and I think that Kevin Garnett regained his status as a top notch defender (even if he is not as good as he was back in 2008 when the Celtics won the championship). I know that the "stat gurus" will be outraged to see Kobe Bryant's name mentioned at all but Bryant is the vocal leader for the Lakers' defense and--despite his advancing age and creaky right knee--he often has to check opposing point guards because Derek Fisher has seemingly lost all of his lateral mobility. I suspect that the coaches may put Bryant on the Second Team this year, ending his run of five straight First Team selections.

Rajon Rondo had an up and down season overall but he is an excellent defender who is willing and able to guard much bigger opponents, even including LeBron James.

The positional designations will probably be stretched more this season than ever before; I put Grant Hill at point guard because he almost always defends the point guard even though he is nominally a small forward.

Thabo Sefolosha is a nightmare with his long arms and quick feet; he gives Kobe Bryant fits at times.

Tim Duncan is not as mobile or dominant as he used to be but he is still the anchor of San Antonio's defense and his work at that end of the court is a major reason that the Spurs posted the best record in the West.

Luol Deng may get the nod from the coaches over Gerald Wallace or Hill but Hill is a more versatile defender than Deng while Wallace is more athletic than either of them. Joakim Noah deserves serious consideration and Andrew Bynum will probably get some votes, though I don't think that someone who plays half a season (and really was only dominant for 15-20 games) should be chosen ahead of players who are more durable.

All-Rookie First Team (selected without regard to position)

Blake Griffin
John Wall
DeMarcus Cousins
Landry Fields
Gary Neal

All-Rookie Second Team

Greg Monroe
Jordan Crawford
Wesley Johnson
Ed Davis
Derrick Favors

The first four choices are obvious. I gave Gary Neal the First Team nod because he is a key rotation player for a championship contending team.

The Second Team was harder to select. Only eight rookies averaged at least 24 mpg this season--down from 11 in 2010 and 15 in 2009--and that includes Jordan Crawford, who appeared in just 42 games. Crawford put up big numbers in March and April after hardly playing for most of the season; he may be a "looter in a riot" for the sorry Wizards or he may be a star in the making but he at least earned a Second Team selection in a thin rookie class. Greg Monroe, Wesley Johnson, Ed Davis and Derrick Favors likewise may just be "looters" on bad teams, though one hopes that they will eventually prove to be solid contributors on good teams. I am sure that fans of various franchises believe that "their" rookie deserves mention over one or more of my Second Team selections--and those fans may even be right, because after the first five rookies plus Crawford's great two months it is very hard to choose from the next batch of first year players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:49 AM

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38 Comments:

At Thursday, April 14, 2011 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are some strong selections although i do find it curious that logical, objective analysis and statistical analysis are different categories in your book.

Lebron is the best player in the league by a country mile. He should be the MVP. Or Howard. Everyone else really isn't close.

Owen

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 1:41:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

So much here to talk about. I want to hear your take, though, on who would you take for the playoffs as your #1 pick today. And then, who do you think has performed the best in the playoffs the last few years. I think Kobe has proved each of the past 3 seasons that come playoff time, he's the man.

Also, I agree that lebron is better than rose, in an individual way. But, when incorporated into the team concept of the sport that we know as basketball, rose, for this year alone, has been more valuable than lebron. I still don't think lebron truly knows how to play team basketball, which is one reason why he/wade/bosh have had so many growing pains together as compared to kobe/pau, playing well together right from the start, back in feb. 2008. He doesn't really listen to his coaches very well, and often lacks concentration.

For me, I think howard is mvp. His offensive game has been very good this year. He gets to the line way more than anyone else in the game, and he's by far the best defensive player in the game.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 3:24:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Owen:

Statistical analysis, as conducted by many of its current practitioners, is highly tendentious and biased; it is almost the complete opposite of objective analysis. Too many "stat gurus" make broad, sweeping claims with total disregard for the scientific method and then ridicule anyone who points out the flaws in their methodologies.

LeBron James has been the best regular season performer in the NBA for the past three seasons, though not "by a country mile." Howard is clearly the league's dominant defensive player but he is still limited offensively; elite teams can safely guard him one on one, something that is never true of Bryant and is only true of James in certain areas of the court.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 3:31:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

I will make my playoff predictions in a separate article.

Kobe Bryant has been the league's best playoff performer for the past several seasons; during the Lakers' run to three straight NBA Finals his numbers and overall impact are comparable to Michael Jordan's performance during the Bulls' second three-peat.

You make a good point regarding Rose's ability to blend in with his teammates. Rick Barry has said that there should be an MVP award and a Player of the Year award. James is the best, most productive regular season player in the NBA but I agree with you that one could certainly make a case that Rose has been the Player of the Year; such a designation would permit one to take into account the storyline factors that have pushed Rose to the top of the heap for most national media members.

Howard gets to the line the most because he is a poor free throw shooter, as opposed to someone like James or Bryant (who still attempts around seven free throws a game) who initiates contact and draws fouls. Howard is the most dominant big man in the game today but he does not dominate the way that O'Neal and Duncan did during their primes, so I cannot rank him as the MVP as long as James and Bryant remain at the top of their games.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 3:50:00 PM, Anonymous nimble said...

David welcome back!

More articles please,you are like an oasis in the ''advanced''stat laden desert.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 4:07:00 PM, Blogger West Coast Slant said...

As always, a terrifically thorough, well-thought-out and convincing piece of journalism here David. I just have one question? Why no love for Tony Allen on any of the defensive teams or for a spot on your list of defensive player of the year? There's plenty of media hype about him sure, but from what I've seen, he lives up to most of it in terms of his impact defensively. I truly believe he's been the main factor behind the Grizzlies having a much improved defense. Is it because he hasn't been a starter the whole season?

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 4:35:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Nimble:

Thank you.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 4:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

West Coast Slant:

Tony Allen averaged just under 21 mpg this season and only started 31 of the 72 games in which he played. When selecting players for the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams one of the factors I consider is minutes/overall role, because that affects how much impact a given player has. As I said in the article, there are a lot of rather evenly matched All-Defensive Team candidates this season, so it will be interesting to see who the coaches select; it is possible that the coaches will give Allen some Second Team votes.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:28:00 PM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

Its not fair to elevate players over Lamar because of All Star appearances. First, your own essay leads with how dumbly these awards are granted. Second, All Star selection is pretty iffy and playing time/counting stats figure large. A lot of those other guys would have sat on the Laker bench and lost those All Star appearances. Last, a lot of those awards are old and Van Gundy was talking present tense.

Set aside appearances and playing time boosted stats and look at skill alone. Lamar is versatile (something you credit to other players), durable (I think health is a skill), passes well, dribbles fine for a big, rebounds well, and shoots OK. That combination of skills was better in 2010-2011 than Kenyon, undersized, defensively iffy, volume shooters West & (brittle) Boozer, the offensively challenged Ibaka, and Bass, (brittle) Brand, Hansborough.

 
At Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally wouldn't mind if Rose did get the MVP award. They missed Boozer and Noah for a significant amount of time yet still claimed the #1 record in the league.
LeBron is a better player and his sidekick is arguably better than Rose if you look at it from a skill/size perspective, but if you look at it from an accomplishment point of view, I think Rose has done more with less. The same argument can be applied with Kobe. The Bulls are not as talented as the Lakers yet Rose led them to #1.

To be honest, I think Howard should be MVP. Unfortunately, most voters tend to think of MVP as "offensive MVP".

Interesting that you recently wrote an article that the Spurs were constantly underrated. They went from 7th to 1st while trotting the same lineup plus a couple of rookies yet Popovich isn't even in your top 3. Ginobili isn't in any of your lists. After Kobe and Wade, there is no better shooting guard. Duncan isn't even in the 3rd team. Remember that the Spurs 6 game slide started with TD out in the first 4 games. Despite all the media hype that it's now Tony's team or Manu's team, he is still their most important player.

It's curious that a team that flirted with 70 wins would receive such little love. Most of them would probably just miss the cuts of various awards. It's simply remarkable how well they fly under the radar.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 1:35:00 AM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Regular season awards are nice but the real prize is won in the postseason. Players like Kobe and Paul Pierce understand that better than most, and I expect to see their best come playoff time.

Bulls and Spurs were the two best teams in the regular season but neither team are favored to make it to the NBA Finals. Playoffs are a different animal altogether and I think we'll see players like Kobe, Lebron, and Paul Pierce rise to the top while Rose will fall just short of that level.

Still, the Bulls were a great story this season and it'll be nice to see them rewarded with the MVP and Coach of the Year. The Larry O'Brien trophy and the Finals MVP will be headed elsewhere, however.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 2:15:00 AM, Anonymous Gil Meriken said...

@Owen There absolutely is a disconnect between "logical, objective analysis and statistical analysis", at least the statistical analysis being done today in what is misleadingly called "advanced basketball statistics". Actually, let me rephrase that, the analysis is mathematically sound. But the implications derive from it can be completely wrong. It's fairly obvious to anyone that understands basketball that in the case of individual points, rebounds, assist, turnovers, etc., correlation definitely does not imply causation. It would be great if all you tried to do as an individual player was maximize those statistics, but that is not how it works in reality. So trying to use those things as your foundation for analysis is going to lead to faulty conclusions.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 5:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

9WO:

I did not "elevate other players over Lamar because of All-Star appearances." What I did is note that many people have repeatedly said that Odom is an All-Star caliber player who would be a regular starter for many teams; I think that it is significant that Odom has never made the All-Star or the All-NBA team, because that means that neither the fans (who vote for All-Star starters) nor the coaches (who vote for All-Star reserves) nor the media (who select the All-NBA Team) have ever chosen Odom. If Odom is really underrated then who is to blame? Literally everyone has had an opportunity to honor him but this has never happened and the reason is simple: Odom has never been one of the top four or five forwards in his conference or one of the top 15 players in the NBA. I listed All-Star, All-NBA and All-Defensive honors in the article as a shorthand way of pointing out that most of the other starting forwards for playoff teams are far more decorated than Odom; I stand by the conclusion I reached that Odom would not regularly start for most of those teams.

I agree with you that Odom is durable. He is an excellent rebounder, something that I have repeatedly said about him. His versatility is somewhat overstated; he is a questionable decision maker in the open court (too many offensive fouls, wild shots and turnovers) and he is a below average free throw shooter. Odom's field goal shooting has been very good this season but that is a bit of an aberration--particularly his accuracy from outside of 15 feet.

Odom is well suited to be the third scoring option for the Lakers but the idea that he is an All-Star level player is absurd. Who would you remove from the All-Star team in any of the past several seasons to replace with Odom? Fan voting is sometimes criticized but the truth is that even though the fans don't always select the five best players they usually select five of the best 12 in each conference, which means that the coaches are able to choose the next seven without having to redress a situation of someone being snubbed. Even this year it did not matter that the fans voted for Yao; he was injured and could not play, so he did not end up taking a roster spot away from a deserving player.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 5:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Rose was not getting 10 plus rebounds per game when Boozer and Noah was out (which is something that Michael Jordan actually did for a stretch when injuries and/or suspensions removed Dennis Rodman from the lineup); the Bulls have a deep roster of bigs who could fill in for Boozer and Noah on a short term basis.

It is somewhat ironic that the same fallacious supporting cast denigration that helped LeBron James win the past two MVPs is now being used for Rose and against James this season; James is being "disqualified" because he teamed up with Wade and Bosh, while Rose is being elevated because his teammates supposedly would not be that good without him. James and his superstar sidekicks won fewer games this season than James and the Cavs won in each of the past two seasons; many people simply don't understand just how important rebounding, depth and team defense were for both the 2009/2010 Cavs and for the 2011 Bulls.

One could make an MVP case for any First Team All-NBA player but Rose and Howard do not have the impact or cause the matchup problems that James and Bryant do.

The Spurs' success this season is a product of collective effort more than individual greatness, but it is not correct for you to suggest that I bypassed worthy Spurs when making my award selections. Popovich earned an honorable mention in my Coach of the Year discussion, Parker made my All-NBA Third Team, Duncan made my All-Defensive Second Team and Neal made my All-Rookie First Team. Duncan still has a lot of impact and I expect him to do well in the playoffs but with his reduced minutes and productivity he is no longer one of the top 15 regular season performers. Ginobili had a good season but not an All-NBA caliber season in comparison with Bryant, Rose, Wade, Westbrook, Paul or his teammate Parker.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 5:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I agree that Bryant and Pierce have willingly sacrificed individual stats and regular season recognition in exchange for maximizing their opportunities to contend for championships.

However, it is a bit premature to sell Rose or the Bulls short as postseason performers. In my just-posted playoff preview, I predict that the Bulls will win the East.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 7:20:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

Why should starting so many games count against Lamar Odom? If a starter goes down, is it not the role of the 6th man to fill in if he plays that position? Surely, by being a starter for those games that Andrew Bynum was injured and playing as well as he did -- putting up All-Star worthy numbers -- should only further Odom's case for the 6th Man Award. Not to mention that during that entire time, Odom kept encouraging his young teammate through rehab and assuring him that his starting spot was safe -- how many players would show that kind of leadership and have that kind of self-awareness?

You say that Odom has never made the All-Star team "for good reason" but the reasoning behind saying that Odom's stats are padded by the increased playing time as a starter could also be used to argue his case as an All-Star in that his stats suffered by coming off the bench while players like Kevin Love and Blake Griffin benefited by getting more minutes as starters.

The notion that Lamar Odom is an All-Star/Top 25 caliber player isn't headed by "stat gurus" but by people like Jeff Van Gundy, Hubie Brown, Mike Krzyzewski, Doug Collins... well-versed minds in the game of basketball and its nuances -- all of whom have praised Odom. I remember Phil Jackson saying about Lamar that -- you see him on television, and then you see him at floor level... and you see this guy who's 6'10" rebound the ball and bring it up the court like a guard... and coaches and players realize that they have to deal with this guy -- and I think when people like Jeff Van Gundy see Lamar Odom and they think about his skill-set and his value to this Lakers team that has made it to three straight Finals and the fact that he hasn't had any individual accolades or All-Star appearances compel them to say things like Lamar Odom is under-rated.

You mention that Lamar Odom is supposedly playing better this season and then state that he is only producing around his career norms aside from his shooting % and 3pt %. I've followed Odom's entire career and there definitely is a difference in his play this year even just compared to his past three seasons. There was an interview with Craig Hodges towards the end of last season where he says -- "I told him [Odom] he was the same place that Scottie [Pippen] was," Hodges says. "Then he was named to [the] Dream Team and he got better. He came at Horace [Grant] at practice the day after he was announced to the team harder than I've ever seen him. You're on U.S.A. Basketball now. You're on another level that was only reserved for MJ. That's Lamar and Kobe, too." -- and I believe Odom's experience being on and succeeding on Team USA has had an effect on his confidence this season. You can sense he has more confidence in the shots he takes and he has taken and made them -- 3 point shots especially -- in quite a few critical moments this season; something that couldn't be said last season. He, more importantly, has a much better sense of the game and of moments in the game where he knows he can make an impact... things that don't show up in statistics. His confidence in his shot does show in his improved 3pt % however, and by being more *aware* he plays more to his strengths and has been aggressive in attacking the lane this season which has contributed to the fewer 3pt attempts. Odom said himself that after playing on Team USA he truly feels like he belongs alongside with the great players today. To me, the demeanor Craig Hodges talks about with Scottie Pippen has manifested itself in Odom's play this season.

Cont...

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 7:20:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

...cont.

Statistics simply just don't tell the story with Lamar Odom and it seems like for you to consider him as an All-Star caliber player or worthy of the 6th Man Award that he should continually perform at a certain level statistically. You did an interview with Vince Carter a while back and adeptly asked him if it were difficult to adjust from being able to take 20-25 attempts a game to accepting a role on a championship contending team and having fewer attempts... it's clear that an adjustment of roles can be difficult for a lot of players. I think it is overlooked that Lamar has to deal with that change every game because his role in each game constantly changes -- whether it is being a facilitator/playmaker with certain units on the floor or being the scorer... he has to read the situation each night and adjust accordingly. It's hard to expect consistent statistical output from a player when his role isn't even consistent on a nightly basis. Phil Jackson has said that Lamar is the "glue that holds this team together" and I don't think he meant it from only a team camaraderie standpoint. I think it is fair to say that Odom has consistently lived up to his ever-changing role this season.

You've said that your criteria for picking an MVP is that it should go to the most consistent, all-around player. Why shouldn't that reasoning be applied to the 6th Man as well? Odom is an excellent rebounder, can handle the ball and play-make, has a post game and is a decent shooter, and can defend multiple positions. Jason Terry is not nearly as versitile as Odom with his only real value being on offense... if you needed a defensive stop at the end of the game, I doubt you'd even want Terry on the floor.

If Lamar Odom wins this year's 6th Man Award it will absolutely be well-deserved.

 
At Friday, April 15, 2011 9:25:00 AM, Blogger Codysseus said...

This is pretty refreshing. The "MVP race" this year is pretty tight, so it's nice to see someone treat it that way rather than acting as if Derrick Rose receiving the MVP would be some sort of big injustice. Clearly, there are several deserving candidates for the MVP. The idea that any of the top 3-4 candidates are simply there because of hype is simply silly. I've been noticing that Rose is receiving backlash by "stat gurus" that is remarkably similar to these gurus' treatment of Kobe over the years. They place too much emphasis on PER or field goal percentage while largely ignoring context. The truth is that Rose's efficiency statistics are relatively lower than other players because of the offensive load he carries on a nightly basis. Sure, he's not shooting 45%, but he's the only player on the team who can be counted on to create a shot. He's the primary scorer and playmaker and consistently faces double teams. He's also relied on to jack up shots at the end of quarters and when the shot clock is nearing 0.

I'm not entirely sure he's the best candidate for MVP (Lebron, Kobe, and Dwight are all right up there for me) but the idea that these folks conclusively state he's entirely undeserving just strikes me as reactionary...and incorrect.

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 5:35:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

By rule, if a player starts more games than half of the games that he plays he is ineligible for the Sixth Man Award. Technically, Odom is eligible (he started 35 games) but my point is that (1) people seem to be swayed by his overall stats but his stats as a reserve were much worse (particularly his shooting percentage, which should not be impacted by minutes played) and (2) Terry was truly a sixth man for virtually the entire season while Odom would not have even been eligible at all if he had started just seven more games. Terry's better productivity combined with the fact that he spent most of the season as a reserve make him the most worthy recipient of this season's Sixth Man Award. I put Odom second, so obviously I don't think that it would be a travesty if he wins; I just think that Terry is a better candidate.

I never said that Odom was a bad teammate; I just said that he spent nearly half the season as a starter and he was not as effective as a bench player as Terry was this season. Manu Ginobili is perhaps a deadlier sixth man than either Odom or Terry but Ginobili did not qualify for consideration because he was a starter this year--and if Odom had started just a few more games then he would not have qualified either. Would you call someone the best DH if that person played a defensive position in over 40% of his games while another DH was more productive in that role while spending virtually the entire season exclusively as a DH?

Odom has been in the NBA for 12 seasons and has never been selected as an All-Star or All-NBA player by the fans, the coaches or the members of the media. If you think that he deserved either honor in a particular season then please cite exactly which year and tell me which All-Star/All-NBA player he should have replaced. I'll give you a head start on this season: not only was Odom not better than any of the Western Conference All-Star forwards he was not even next in line to get a spot--LaMarcus Aldridge clearly had a better season than Odom.

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 5:39:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

Intelligent experts are not necessarily going to agree about every single player/team. I am not questioning the overall basketball acumen of the coaches you cited but I disagree with the idea that Odom has ever been snubbed for the All-Star team. I would be interested to hear/read a specific quote from any of those people saying exactly which year Odom was snubbed, who he should have replaced and why. There is a lot of intellectual laziness regarding Odom; people throw out phrases like "All-Star snub" or "could start for any team in the league" without backing those words up with concrete reasoning. I noticed that in your two part comment you did not even attempt to refute my specific critiques of Odom or offer reasons that Odom would start ahead of the players I listed.

Odom did shoot better from three point range this season but the difference actually amounts to 10 more makes in four fewer attempts; basically, that is a variance consisting of a few hot games.

I understand why Hodges is trying to pump up Odom's confidence but the parallel between Odom and Pippen is tenuous at best. Pippen led the greatest team ever (1992 Dream Team) in assists and ranked second in steals; Odom played very well for a solid Team USA in the FIBA World Championship. Pippen went on to become the best player in the league at his position and he finished third in MVP voting after Jordan's first retirement. Odom is not even the third best forward in the West, let alone the third best player in the entire league.

Carter's situation is different than Odom's; Carter transitioned from being a perennial All-Star to being a role player. Odom has never been an All-Star and never had to carry the burden of being his team's best player. In fact, Odom seems to be more temperamentally suited for the lesser role that he has filled since the Lakers acquired Gasol--and I said for years that the Lakers should bring in someone to be the second option so that Odom could be the third option. The only reason that Odom was ever the Lakers' second option is that their 2005-07 squads lacked talent and depth.

I agree with you that Odom deserves credit for doing whatever is asked of him without complaint--he did initially say that Phil Jackson must have "bumped his head" when Jackson made Odom the sixth man but Odom quickly changed his tune--but I think that Odom's versatility is a bit overstated. Odom is an exceptional rebounder and a solid defender but I question his decision making (not just about passing/shooting but also committing fouls at inopportune times, etc.) and I am not yet convinced that he has permanently become a reliable shooter.

You are acting like I completely disrespected Odom but all I did was objectively explain why I would rank him second in Sixth Man Award voting and why I don't think that he has truly ever been snubbed in All-Star/All-NBA balloting.

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 10:15:00 PM, Anonymous Sonny said...

As you said, Ginobili doesn't qualify because he was designated as a starter this year. Bynum is the designated starter for the Lakers and Odom, as a reserve, filled in for Bynum until he returned. He was fulfilling his role as a reserve by starting in place of Bynum. I have a problem with holding it against Odom for having more minutes because when Ginobili was a designated reserve, he was still playing starter minutes... were his numbers held against him because he happened to play more minutes than other 6th Man candidates? It just shouldn't be held against Odom that he started especially when "technically" he didn't start enough games to be disqualified, regardless of how close he got to whatever arbitrary number it was.

I don't think that your baseball analogy really applies because "productivity" is better-- and more easily -- measured through statistics in baseball than it is in basketball. Also, if a position player were to get injured and the DH filled in for him for a portion of the season... the fact that the DH had the ability and was capable of filling in -- providing he did well-- would make him a more valuable and better DH in my book.

I'm not debating whether or not Odom should or shouldn't have been an All-Star/Top 25 player this season or throughout his career. On every account, you are right that he doesn't have the numbers to back up that claim. I also really couldn't care less how many All-Star selections a player receives because I don't use All-Star selections as any kind of basis for how I would evaluate a player. I don't know how many All-Star selections Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Scottie Pippen or Julius Erving have received but I do remember how many championships they've won and, more importantly, how they played the game. I only wanted to put in perspective a possible reason for why those coaches have said that they think Lamar should be an All-Star or on the same level as the great players in the league -- that being that they recognize his skill-set and value to his team and then consider that he hasn't been recognized as one of the top players so they are compelled to put him in context with his peers... which is, for them, being an All-Star.

I wasn't comparing Pippen's and Odom's skill-set or impact on the game and their respective teams. The comparison I made was in the change in demeanor that, in context to themselves individually, made them better players. You have mentioned that you've played in rec leagues and are a good shooter... now, if you were invited to a team of top shooters and you found yourself being able to hang with, and in some cases do better than, your peers on that team... don't you think that when you played games after that experience that there would be more of a confidence in how you played and shot the ball? In essence your game would be taken to another level in a very personal way. I have no doubt that you would think of yourself as a better player than you were before that experience and using that Pippen parallel would apply just as much with you as it does with Odom. Now if I had said that all of a sudden you had the same impact as Pippen had, then sure, you could say that the parallel was "tenuous at best."

Cont...

 
At Saturday, April 16, 2011 10:16:00 PM, Anonymous Sonny said...

...Cont.

The fact that Odom had to play as a starter for most of the first half of the season and then having to adjust to becoming a regular reserve again is quite similiar to Carter's situation; albeit on a smaller scale. Nevertheless, the transition and adjustment is still difficult to make, especially having to make it within the season -- possibly accounting for his lower numbers as a reserve.

In the same way you seemingly felt disrespected by thinking that I compared Odom's impact and skill with Pippen's, I think you can understand why someone would feel that way. I really just took issue with your choice to refute supposed myths about Odom in the context that you did because it does make it seem like you were downgrading him even though you feel like you are just objectively refuting what others are saying. I think that Odom is playing better this season and it's the subtle changes in his game and demeanor that I can see when I watch him play that make me believe that. For you to just merely suggest that it is a myth and then only cite something as statistically motivated as in he is only "producing around his career norms" isn't something I've come to expect from you because I know you have a deep appreciation for the subtleties and nuances of the game -- probably one of the key reasons Dr. J and Scottie Pippen are your favorite players.

Odom's value go beyond just statistics and natural athletic abilities so when some people who are well-versed in the game tout him as a should be All-Star or All-NBA or as being a starter on every team... I can understand where they are coming from because the things he does, his value and impact, are on a championship level. I'm certainly biased in some regard when I say this, but if you are more about winning the right way than just winning at all costs... I would choose having Odom on my team over a lot of those "All-Stars" who only have the talent to put up numbers.

 
At Sunday, April 17, 2011 6:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

You obviously feel very passionately about Odom's value but that does not change the fact that you carefully avoided even attempting to rebut any of the points that I made in the article. I primarily focused on three issues regarding Odom:

1) He started nearly half of his team's games this season, meaning he was not a "pure" sixth man the way that Terry was. The "official number" is not "arbitrary"; to be considered for the award a player must start in fewer than half the games he played. Odom started 35 games, so just seven more starts would have made this whole discussion irrelevant. Terry started just 10 games.

2) Odom's overall season stats were better than Terry's but Terry's stats in a sixth man role were at least as good, if not better, than Odom's. Terry is a crucial part of Dallas' fourth quarter offense, second in importance only to MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki. Odom is a very good rebounder but when Odom has an off rebounding game he can be replaced (Kobe often picks up the slack in that regard); the Lakers can win when Odom is a non factor but the Mavs were just 5-7 when Terry did not score in double figures.

3) Odom's candidacy for this award is being boosted by failing to consider his stats in the context of his role and also by the nebulous perception that he has somehow been snubbed in terms of All-Star selections/All-NBA selections; it seems like momentum is building around the idea that Odom should be given some consolation prize for all of the times that he was allegedly snubbed.

The reality is that the sixth man field is weaker this season than it has been in recent years due to Ginobili's elevation to full-time starter and the declining numbers of other regular contenders. That is why I ranked Odom second even though he was really a starter for almost half of the season.

You missed my point about the DH/position player example; what I am saying is that if one were ranking the best DHs some consideration has to be given to how often a player performs that role. Terry spent virtually the whole season as a sixth man, while Odom did not. No matter how you or anyone else spins this, actually being a sixth man is a major part of winning the Sixth Man Award, particularly considering that Odom performed much better as a starter than he did as a reserve.

 
At Sunday, April 17, 2011 6:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

I challenge you or anyone else who feels that Odom has been snubbed to pick a specific year and offer a logical rationale explaining why Odom should have been chosen as an All-Star ahead of a particular player; I am not interested in paeans about Odom's versatility or random quotes/paraphrased statements taken out of context: I would like to hear a skill set based justification for giving an official All-Star the boot in favor of Odom.

Odom is a very good third option for the Lakers. He has had a very solid NBA career and he has performed well when he played for Team USA. Why is it necessary to artificially inflate his abilities?

The whole Pippen/Odom thing is a red herring that you introduced. I never heard/read the complete Hodges quote so I don't know what he said or in what context he said it. Pippen was a vastly superior player to Odom. Whether or not Odom gained confidence from his Team USA experience is not relevant to evaluating the skill set that he displays in NBA games and determining if he should be an All-Star or a Sixth Man Award winner.

It also is not relevant whether or not Odom's situation is similar to Carter's or how difficult it may have been for Odom to adjust to his role. The qualifications for being the Sixth Man Award winner are to come off of the bench in more games than a player starts and to be the best player in the league in filling that role. Terry served as a sixth man much more frequently than Odom did this season and, in my estimation, he performed better in that role than Odom did.

Odom is a productive player in his role but he has never demonstrated the capability or even the inclination to be the best or second best player on a championship contending team; that is what distinguishes All-Stars and All-NBA players from good, solid players. Odom is a good, solid player and there is nothing wrong with that. It has become fashionable and almost cliched to blithely suggest that Odom is more than just a good, solid player but I have yet to hear a convincing case made in that regard. Again, instead of saying that Odom has been snubbed or that he is an All-Star caliber player I would like to hear specifically why Odom is more valuable than Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol and the other Western Conference All-Star forwards of recent seasons. You said that you would take Odom over All-Stars who just put up numbers. Would you care to name even one specific All-Star who you would trade straight up for Odom? It's easy for you to write that sentence as a throwaway line but it's a lot more difficult to actually look at an All-Star roster and start making a case for Odom over anyone on the list.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 1:15:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

There hasn't been any attempt by me to "carefully" avoid or even just avoid rebutting your points. The points I agreed with I had no reason to bring up and I thought I was very clear in talking about what I didn't agree with and why.

1)I agree that Odom wasn't a "pure sixth man" in that he didn't play a good majority of his games as a reserve who came off the bench but I said that I don't think it should be held against Odom that he started during those games because he was simply fulfilling his role as a reserve by stepping into that spot and playing. You keep mentioning that if Odom had only 7 more starts he wouldn't be qualified but the bottom line is he didn't and does qualify. It was only happenstance that Jason Terry started 25 less games so it doesn't make sense for me to give Terry -- or Odom; I would feel the same way if their situations were switched -- an edge based on something that didn't require any skill or ability on their part.

2)I also said that Odom's overall stats were affected by him being a starter can be compared to how Ginobili's stats were also inflated because he was receiving starter minutes even though he was designated as a reserve. Ginobili definitely deserved to win the 6th Man Award when he did and Jason Terry has a case this year as well because of their impact and how they performed in their respective reserve roles. However, for Odom to have the impact he had this year and to be able to fill in for Bynum and put up the numbers he did -- and you have to consider that while starting he put up those numbers against the starters of other teams and not the second unit/tired starters that a reserve would normally match up against-- is something I think should further his case for winning the award instead of taking away from it.

3)We obviously have a disagreement in how we consider Odom's stats in the context of his role, which is fine, but aside from explaining why I can understand why some people have said that Odom should be/should have been an All-Star/All-NBA, I have never said or implied that any part of the reason I think he deserves the award is because he has been snubbed or that it should be some kind of consolation prize... so that presumption is irrelevant to me. I even said that I couldn't care less about All-Star selections because I don't use them as any kind of basis for evaluating players. I do agree with you that that "nebulous perception" you talk about likely is a reason for why others are talking about Odom the way they are.

I believe Odom deserves the award because he has consistently filled his role while playing a key part in helping the Lakers get the 2nd best record in a tough Western Conference and although his stats are skewed from being a starter for 35 games, I don't believe that it's fair to disregard his stats as a starter and only compare their stats from a "pure sixth man" role because it was Odom's role as a reserve to start in those games where there was an injured starter. If Terry played well in his 10 games as a starter than that should further his case as well.

Cont...

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 1:15:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

...Cont.

You're point about the DH was well taken the first time and it is my point that you are missing. You cited Jason Terry's stats as a reserve as being at least as good, or better than Odom's but unlike in baseball, their impact and performance cannot be accurately portrayed through statistics. Odom and Terry have two very different roles on their respective teams so it is difficult to even compare how they did in fulfilling those roles by just looking at the numbers, especially when Odom's role isn't defined mostly by the numbers he gets. I believe the 6th Man Award should go to the best reserve player: that being the one who has a key impact and consistently fills his role at a high level and I also take into consideration skill-set and their overall ability as a player. I think both of their numbers in total -- or even just as pure reserves -- were close enough that my consideration on which of them was the more complete and valuable reserve made me lean more towards Odom. If you are ranking the best DHs... and you have two who had comparatively similar batting numbers... yet one could switch hit and play multiple positions well... who would be more valuable going into a playoff series or even just a game? There is no spin in the fact that a DH who you can use in multiple positions and can bat against both righty and lefty pitchers is better and more valuable than a DH who basically only hits. I don't care if one DH played more at DH than the other one... if their numbers are relatively close and both of them qualify as DHs... then I'm going to rank the more complete and versatile DH higher. If being the 6th Man Award weighs more heavily on being the sixth man in the pure sense of being the first reserve off the bench in games... then you're right, Terry should win the award. As much as you can say Odom's versatility is over-rated, it doesn't change the fact that Odom is the more versatile and more complete player than Jason Terry is.

Just to be clear, I've never had an issue with you saying Jason Terry is more deserving of the 6th Man Award. The way you said that Odom was going to win in a landslide and that he was the most "over-rated" or "most over-talked about" player and then went on to use that opportunity to debunk supposed "myths" about him made it seem like you didn't think he was really deserving of it. Ranking him 2nd on your list and then saying there wasn't exactly a deep field of players to consider this year didn't really make it seem like a ringing endorsement for him winning the award either. The idea of Odom being undeserving of the award all-together was what I took issue with, but you did say in your comments that it wasn't the case.

Cont...

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 1:16:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

...Cont.

What is this All-Star challenge about? Again, I never said I thought Odom was snubbed and I even agreed with you that he hasn't had the numbers to back up that claim. My "paeans" about Odom's versatility and "random quotes/paraphrased statements taken out of context" weren't made to make a case for Odom being an All-Star or being snubbed as one. I took great care in making sure that those quotes weren't taken out of context and accurately applied to the point I was trying to convey so I'd appreciate it if you didn't make them out to be as such.

I also never made any attempt to "artificially inflate" Odom's abilities beyond that of a very good third option for the Lakers and of being just a very solid player who has found his role with Lakers suitable to his abilities; that is very much what I consider Odom to be.

The whole Pippen/Odom thing wasn't a red herring to begin with until you seemed to perceive it that way. Yes, clearly Pippen was a vastly superior player to Odom. I never said he wasn't or even talked about comparing their skills and impact as players... that was your assumption. In your article, you said that the notion of Odom playing better this year is a myth. I believe that there is some validity to the idea that Odom is a better player this year than he was the year before and that by simply saying he is only producing his career norms doesn't really go into the fact that Odom can be a better player despite it not showing up in his numbers. The Pippen/Odom parallel was in support of that -- that someone can become a better player just by simply feeling they belong with their peers at a more elite level and therefor playing with more confidence. If Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant didn't have the kind of confidence they have in themselves then their games would have never reached the levels they have. You never answered my question, do you think you would consider yourself a better player than you would have before the experience of doing well against your peers who are supposed to be the best of the best? My contention is that Odom's experience on Team USA did make him a better player -- based on what I've seen from him this year -- and that it is not a myth. I do not think that his confidence or experience with Team USA make him an All-Star or a 6th Man Award winner or better than Pippen or whatever else you thought it was.

The Carter situation is relevant in that I brought it up to help support my view that it is often overlooked that Odom has to deal with that kind of adjustment on a nightly basis because his role is constantly changing and that it makes sense why he doesn't put up consistent numbers because he doesn't have a consistent role... to which you did agree that Odom deserves credit for doing whatever is asked of him without *much* complaint. I did not bring it up to support his case as an All-Star or for the 6th Man Award.

Cont...

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 1:16:00 AM, Anonymous Sonny said...

...Cont.

Players that were named All-Stars that I would trade straight up for Lamar Odom:

Kenyon Martin
Antawn Jamison
Carlos Boozer
David West
Rashard Lewis
David Lee
Zach Randolph
Elton Brand

Obviously Kevin Love put up historic All-Star numbers but I think Odom is a better overall player at this point in his career and would rather have him if it's a one season deal and I had a Championship contending team. Odom's abilities on defense and his length are more valuable to me and in their head-to-head matchups this year, Kevin Love had a hard time dealing with it.

All of those players probably had much better numbers than Odom during the respective times that they were selected as All-Stars. The All-Star game is about entertainment and supposedly recognizing the best players in the game... mostly based on the numbers they've put up at that point in the season. The All-Star game has nothing to do with winning championships and as I've said before, if you're more about winning the right way and not just about winning at all costs... I'd choose Odom over those All-Stars who only have the talent to put up numbers. Odom played a key role in losing to the Celtics in the 2008 Championship but responded and found redemption by playing crucial roles in winning Back to Back titles... which tells me something about him as a player that isn't going to show up in statistics. Just because I feel "passionately" about Odom's value doesn't mean I don't have it in proper context and would think he was more valuable than players like Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitzki.

I know that you take pride in being able to break down the game the way a scout would view it and I appreciate that you are one of the few people who give unbiased skill-set views of players, but the simple truth is that there is more to the game than just skill-sets and talent. It's the reason why Hubie Brown was quoted recently in saying that the first things he looks for in a player are "heart" and "pain threshold" ... and the reason that when Derek Fisher made crucial plays in Game 4 of the 2009 Finals, Phil Jackson cited Fisher's "high character" and "intestinal fortitude" instead of anything having to do with a skill-set. These traits aren't something you can break down through some statistic or skill-set evaluation, but they absolutely and undeniably have an effect on the game, and play a crucial role in why certain teams, and players, have been able to find success on a consistent basis. As refreshing as it is to read well-thought out, unbiased skill-set evaluations and detailed game break downs like you've written... I don't think those kinds of traits should be entirely ignored because they certainly have an important place in the game.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 2:59:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

You covered a lot of ground and made some interesting points but it seems like we are talking about completely different issues.

In the Sixth Man Award portion of this article I explained why I would choose Terry over Odom for that honor but I also analyzed why I think Odom is overrated; this is relevant because the way that Odom is overrated has contributed to the perception that he should be a landslide winner of the Sixth Man Award this season: there is this nebulous feeling that he has been "snubbed" for All-Star honors, that he has had a career-best season and that he performed at a very high level as a bench player. The reality is quite different: he has not once been "snubbed," this season he played at a comparable level to several of his previous seasons (though his field goal percentage was indeed higher than usual) and his stats as a starter were much better than his stats as a reserve--particularly in field goal percentage, the key stat that I have repeatedly heard cited as a reason that Odom should win the award.

I expect that Odom will win the award in a landslide and I don't think that it is a travesty--I picked him second, after all--but the thought process involved in reaching that decision is quite flawed. My point was not to "disqualify" Odom as a potential Sixth Man Award winner but rather to place his performance--both this season and throughout his career--in proper context.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 3:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sonny:

It is easy to dismiss All-Star selections as being purely related to entertainment but the reality is that the coaches select seven of the 12 All-Stars in each conference and that even if the fans sometimes select a starter who should probably have been a reserve they rarely select a starter who should not be in the game at all (Yao was an obvious mistake this season but injuries prevented him from playing so he still did not end up taking a spot away from a deserving player).

I am not interested in a random list of players who made the All-Star team who you don't think were/are as good as Odom. If Odom was in fact ever snubbed then that means there is a specific Western Conference All-Star (or Eastern Conference All-Star if you go back to his days with the Heat) from a specific year who you think did not outperform Odom that season.

My larger point is that, as much as I respect some of the national commentators who have praised Odom, I do not think that anyone who says that Odom was ever "snubbed" has really put much in depth thought into this subject. I have followed Odom's entire career and I have followed who has been selected to All-Star/All-NBA teams and there has never been a season that I thought Odom was particularly close to deserving either honor.

The whole Carter business is irrelevant; adjusting to being a reserve is part of the job, so I do not give Odom, Terry, Ginobili or anyone else "extra" credit in that regard.

If Odom had vastly outperformed Terry as a reserve then the games started issue would not matter but I think that their performances/impact AS RESERVES this season is fairly similar, with a slight edge to Terry because the Mavericks depend on him to produce in the fourth quarter on a nightly basis. Therefore, the fact that Terry played basically the whole season as a reserve is, in effect, a tiebreaker. Similarly, if there were a DH of the Year Award and two candidates had a similar impact in that role I would favor the candidate who spent vastly more time as a DH. It doesn't matter why one candidate spent nearly half the season playing first base and it does not matter why Odom spent nearly half the season as a starter. The Sixth Man of the Year should go to the best sixth man, not the player who might have been the best sixth man if he hadn't started over 40% of the games.

I consider heart and the other intangible factors you mentioned; I also consider the fact that Odom's attention drifts, that there are many games in which he has no impact and that Odom seems to have never fully maximized his physical gifts--it certainly seems like Odom has the necessary physical talent to be an elite player but he has never come close to reaching that status and this is something that I definitely hold against Odom. In contrast, a player like Derek Fisher maximized his physical gifts--physical gifts that are much less extensive than Odom's.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 3:04:00 PM, Anonymous Boyer said...

It seems like you two are arguing different things. The rules for 6 man of the year state that you have to start less than half your games played. So, just by that definition alone, Odom should win. By, I think David has slightly changed his definition for 6th man of the year, in that if the top candidates are very close, then the one, if there is one player, who has started a much less # of games, will then get the nod for the award.

I have no problem with David tweaking the definition of 6th man of the year, similar to how the definition of MVP needs to be tweaked and why voters have dozens of different definitions in defining what MVP actually means. But, with that being said, Odom gets the shaft for this award because Bynum was injured for a long stretch of time. Also, even though I see no problem with Terry winning it, though if I had to choose, I'd vote for Odom, I would say that Odom has had a better overall year than Terry.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 3:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

I am not "tweaking the rules." That would only be the case if I said that I am eliminating Odom as a candidate even though he is formally qualified. Most people apparently consider Odom to be the landslide winner in this category but from watching the games and looking at the relevant numbers I think that Odom and Terry are fairly evenly matched in terms of their impact this season IN GAMES THAT THEY PLAYED AS A RESERVE. I hate to use all caps but it is important to understand that in terms of this award it is very deceptive to compare Odom's numbers as a starter with Terry's numbers as a reserve. Odom's field goal percentage and other numbers were much worse as a reserve than as a starter.

I would take Terry's impact as a clutch fourth quarter scorer over Odom's impact as an excellent rebounder off of the bench. Rebounds are fungible to some degree--if Odom had not been around to grab the rebounds he did then the Lakers' depth would have been weakened but their rebounding total probably would not have been substantially different but if Terry had not been around as a fourth quarter scoring option the Mavericks would have had a lot of trouble replacing him.

Therefore, I think that Terry had a little more impact as a reserve than Odom did this season so I would take Terry over Odom.

If someone is going to say that games played as a reserve don't matter at all then why not vote for Ginobili as the Sixth Man Award winner? Ginobili is probably the best sixth man in the NBA but it is not his "fault" that the Spurs used him as a starter this season, just like it is not Odom's "fault" that the Lakers used him as a starter 35 times. When selecting award winners I prefer to analyze what actually happened, not what might have happened.

 
At Monday, April 18, 2011 10:36:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

David, voting for 6th man, unless I'm mistaken, doesn't only include stats from when that particular player came off the bench. The entire season's stats are included and part of the formula for 6th man voting. The rules for 6th man of the year don't exclude stats when that particular player started, unless I'm mistaken about the rules, which I might be. Please clarify. If I'm right, then you are tweaking the rules, which I have no problem with.

The ginobili example isn't a great example, because ginobili was the best player on the spurs this year, or at the very least the best SG on the team. Terry is a tweaner player, so he's probaby a legit 6th man. Odom is the 4th best laker, if bynum is healthy, but should clearly be a 6th man behind bynum/gasol, if both of those guys are healthy

But, I thank for your thorough analysis. I'm very weary of the media, but they even trick me. I thought Odom should usually win as well, before your article. I still think Odom should probably win, but definitely not easily, but I've barely seen Terry play this year, so I can't make a more accurate assessment than you can.

 
At Tuesday, April 19, 2011 3:21:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

The only "rule" regarding the Sixth Man Award is that a candidate must come off of the bench for more games than he started. The voters are on their own regarding how to look at stats, intangibles and any other factors. It is my opinion that in Sixth Man Award voting one should compare the various candidates' stats primarily from the games in which they came off of the bench. I understand what Sonny is trying to say when he talks about it being a credit to Odom that he performed well as a starter this season but performing well as a starter really should not have anything to do with winning the Sixth Man Award.

My point about Ginobili is that Sonny seems to be suggesting that Odom should be considered as a sixth man no matter how many games he started and no matter what the difference is between his stats as a starter and his stats as a reserve; if Sonny really feels that way about the award then he should throw his support behind Ginobili, who proved for several seasons that he could be the quintessential sixth man. It is not Ginobili's "fault" (to borrow Sonny's word choice) that he became a starter this year any more than it is Odom's "fault" that he started 35 games. Rather than thinking about "fault" or projecting what someone might have done, I choose to look at what actually happened: Terry came off of the bench for virtually the entire season and his fourth quarter scoring punch was a major reason for the Mavs' success. Odom started over 40% of his team's games and his performance in the sixth man role was good but did not carry quite as much impact as Terry's did. Odom is going to win the award in a landslide but at least people who read this article will gain a better understanding of what actually happened this season, an understanding that they would never get if they just listen to/read the so-called experts.

 
At Tuesday, April 19, 2011 10:53:00 AM, Anonymous boyer said...

Yes, I see where you both of you are coming from. I agree about ginobili in past seasons somewhat, well, mostly. Even though he was at least a top 2-3 player on his team every year, pop wanted him to be 6 man most of the time. This year, though, that's not true, as he's not coming off the bench this year. So, yes, ginobili probably got shafted in past seasons, but based on this season alone, the ginobili comparison to odom doesn't hold much weight.

As far as terry and odom, I agree with your thinking of 6 man. But, the award is or should be handed out to the top player who starts less games than games he comes off the bench. So, in the end all of his stats are relevant. That's just my point. The award's rules doesn't say starting stats are not to be included. But, I agree with how you are looking at.

 
At Tuesday, April 19, 2011 3:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

Terry had more impact this season as a sixth man both in terms of how often he filled that role and also in terms of what he did in that role (major fourth quarter scoring option). However, the media members who vote on these awards will not consider either of those factors and they will give the honor to Odom, probably in a landslide.

 
At Sunday, April 24, 2011 7:19:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

You make a great point about how overrated Lamar Odom is, and I basically agree with you. However, in making a case for which teams Odom would or wouldn't start, I think it's important to note that C and PF are often interchangeable these days.

For instance, although Tim Duncan will always insist on being listed as a PF, Odom would easily be the second best big on the Spurs and start for them (in which case Odom would get listed as a C, just like 6'6" DeJuan Blair). It's difficult for me to think of any playoff team for which Matt Bonner would be anything more than a 12th man. The fact that a guy like Bonner gets so much playing time for San Antonio is a big reason why many people (including me) have been skeptical of the Spurs' ability to contend this season. As we are seeing in the Spurs/Grizzlies series, Bonner can't guard anybody, and Duncan is getting very little help inside. Consequently, there's a very real chance the Grizzlies will eliminate San Antonio.

 
At Sunday, April 24, 2011 9:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

It is possible that Odom could start for San Antonio alongside Duncan but I suspect that if Odom were a Spur that Popovich would use Odom in a sixth man role.

The larger point is that the cliche about Odom being able to start for virtually every playoff team (or even every team in the whole league) is incessantly repeated but I have yet to hear or see an example of anyone even attempting to do what I did--actually analyze who starts at power forward for various teams and see where Odom might fit in to the mix.

Odom is a solid player whose best skill set strength is rebounding but he is not an All-Star caliber player nor would he start for most playoff teams.

 

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