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Monday, March 05, 2012

Who Looks Like Half a Man Now?

Whenever the Miami Heat struggled last season, critics mocked the team's "Big Three" by calling them "Two and a Half Men"--charging that Chris Bosh was not worthy of being considered a full man (in terms of basketball star power) like his teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. This season, the Heat are 8-1 sans Wade, 1-0 sans James--and 1-2 sans Bosh, who has missed the last three games after the passing of his grandmother. Last season, the Heat went 4-2 sans Wade, 1-2 sans James and 3-2 sans Bosh, so thus far in the "Big Three" era the Heat are 12-3 sans Wade, 2-2 sans James and 4-4 sans Bosh (interesting historical note: when Wade got hurt during the 2006-07 season, I correctly predicted that the Heat would not miss Wade nearly as much as many pundits were suggesting and the Heat went 16-7 while Wade recuperated but then lost the first game when he came back before being swept in the first round of the playoffs).

Clearly, these are small sample sizes that fail to take into account strength of opposition, home/road splits and other important factors but when you consider Bosh's pre-Miami body of work--five All-Star selections, one All-NBA selection, three 20-10 seasons (including 24.0 ppg and 10.8 rpg, both career-high figures, in his final season with Toronto)--it should be apparent that he is a very valuable player and a key component of Miami's team. Earlier this season I imagined what it would be like if ESPN's chief basketball blogger wrote about LeBron James and the Heat the way that he writes about Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers; the funny thing about that satire is not just the way that it mocks how the biased and/or simple minded take statistics out of context to support their most cherished beliefs but the fact that there is actually more truth to the idea that the Heat need to figure out how to better take advantage of Bosh's proven skills than there is truth to the assertion that Kobe Bryant does not fully utilize Pau Gasol--a one-time All-Star who became a perennial All-Star and won two titles as Bryant's sidekick--and Andrew Bynum, an injury prone role player who did not stay healthy or consistently play at a high level until this season. Before enraged Bynum fans--or Jim Buss, Bynum's greatest advocate in the Lakers' organization and perhaps the only person other than Shaquille O'Neal who would favorably compare Bynum to Dwight Howard--fire off scathing reactions to that last sentence, please remember that during the Lakers' back to back championship runs Bynum averaged 6.3 ppg and 3.7 rpg in the 2009 playoffs and then averaged 8.6 ppg and 6.9 rpg in the 2010 playoffs; for comparison purposes, Luc Longley averaged 8.3 ppg/4.6 rpg, 6.5 ppg/4.4 rpg and 7.9 ppg/5.0 rpg in the playoffs during the Chicago Bulls' 1996-98 three-peat. I wonder if ESPN's chief basketball blogger believes that Michael Jordan was a selfish gunner because he did not pass the ball more frequently to Longley?

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:30 AM

6 comments

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6 Comments:

At Monday, March 05, 2012 5:45:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

In that summer of 2010, I had honestly thought that the Heat were actually better with only Bosh and Wade than they are now with all three only because Bosh is so under-utilized and mishandled. It's funny how the Heat were still dominating when Wade was out because LeBron and Bosh were complementing each other so well.

Bosh is a legitimate 2nd option and too good to be such an average 3rd option for the Heat. It may sound outlandish but I see it possible for the Heat in the later future (3 or 4 years) to use Bosh as the second option while Wade slowly becomes the 3rd option as age catches up to him and his reckless playing style.

 
At Monday, March 05, 2012 6:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Eric:

Based on youth and talent, the Heat are understandably considered a championship favorite in this lockout-condensed season (though I don't think that they will win the title). If the Heat fail again this season I would not be shocked if they trade one of their "Big Three"; the new CBA makes it expensive to have three superstars on the same squad and then surround them with anything but minimum salary players and the Heat may not be willing to pay such a price for a team that underachieves when the games matter most.

 
At Tuesday, March 06, 2012 1:31:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

David,

Do you have any reaction to Whitlock's column asserting that Kobe is nothing more than a great gunner but nothing more and not deserving of being mentioned with the likes of Bird, Magic, or Jordan. I thought it was bunk but I was curious as to your thoughts.

 
At Tuesday, March 06, 2012 3:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Unknown:

Why would I waste my time reading Jason Whitlock?

If you are correct that Whitlock asserted that Kobe Bryant is nothing but a gunner then Whitlock has no idea what he is talking about. Bryant has earned 11 All-Defensive Team selections, tied for second with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bobby Jones and Kevin Garnett. Tim Duncan is first with 13 selections. Bryant's nine All-Defensive First Team selections are tied for the most with Michael Jordan, Gary Payton and Kevin Garnett. The All-Defensive Team, which has been chosen since 1969 (that is why you don't see Russell among the all-time leaders), is selected by the league's head coaches. I think that they know a little bit more about basketball versatility than Whitlock ("stat gurus" disagree and have convinced themselves that they know a lot more about basketball than NBA coaches do but I have stopped wasting my time reading what "stat gurus" write).

Bryant has averaged at least 25 ppg, five rpg and five apg in the same season seven times; as I mentioned in a 2008 article, Oscar Robertson leads the "25-5-5" Club with nine such seasons and Michael Jordan accomplished this feat seven times. Since I wrote that article, LeBron James moved into a tie with Jordan and will undoubtedly notch his eighth such season this year (Bryant may also produce his eighth such season this year as he is only .2 apg off of the pace). No one else comes close to Oscar, MJ, Kobe and LeBron in this category; Jerry West did it five times, Larry Bird did it four times and Magic Johnson never did it (his career-high scoring average was 23.9 ppg).

 
At Tuesday, March 06, 2012 6:51:00 AM, Blogger Matt said...

What he argued is that the media has falsely elevated Kobe's status to the level of Bird, Magic & Jordan- in large part due to bash Lebron. (He think's Kobe is more at a Jerry West level, which by the way he considers a complement.)

He also argued that Wade is a more complete player than Kobe; another writer has suggested that Wade and not Lebron is Kobe's true rival (Whatever that means.)

I read 'em so you don't have to.

 
At Tuesday, March 06, 2012 5:36:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Matt:

Who in the media is comparing Bryant to Bird, Magic and Jordan? I more often see people (Abbott, various "stat gurus," fools like Krolik, etc.) denigrating Bryant. I know that Mark Jackson said that if Bryant kept up his pace he could be equal to or even superior to MJ but most people dismissed MJax out of hand when he said that; MJax' view was hardly a mainstream perspective (and I have never thought that Bryant is as good as MJ, though I do think that "old" Bryant has aged at least as well, if not better, than "old" MJ if you compare the Bryant of the Lakers' last three Finals runs to the MJ of the Bulls last three Finals runs).

I just am not very interested in what Whitlock says because he often makes no sense and frequently seems to have some kind of thinly veiled agenda (which is true of many writers). I have been accused of being biased toward Bryant but if that were true--if I were writing purely as a Bryant fan or a Lakers fan--then I would still be saying that Bryant is the best regular season player in the NBA. I stopped saying that three years ago, when James became the more consistently productive player. It is no secret to anyone that James has some playoff issues to overcome, so I would still trust Bryant over James in a playoff scenario (Bryant's effectiveness in last year's postseason was compromised by injuries, not by quitting).

 

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