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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Milwaukee Versus Boston Preview

Eastern Conference Second Round

#1 Milwaukee (60-22) vs. #4 Boston (49-33)

Season series: Milwaukee, 2-1

Boston can win if…the Celtics' defense can keep Milwaukee's high scoring offense in check to the extent that the games are close and then Kyrie Irving dominates in crunch time. Irving has many vocal critics but he is undeniably a big time performer in clutch situations and he made essential contributions to Cleveland's 2016 championship team. Irving led the Celtics in scoring (22.5 ppg) and assists (7.8 apg) during their first round sweep of the Indiana Pacers.

The Celtics have tremendous depth and a nice mix of young players/veterans but throughout the season they did not maintain a consistently high level of play. They looked very good in the first round but the Milwaukee Bucks pose an entirely different challenge than the Indiana Pacers sans Victor Oladipo. Maybe the Celtics are putting it all together at the right time but it is more likely that they feasted on a depleted Indiana team and will struggle to keep up with the Bucks.

Milwaukee will win because…Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best basketball player in the world and the Bucks perform at an elite level at both ends of the court, a rarity in an era that heavily favors offense over defense. The Bucks led the league in scoring during the regular season (118.1 ppg) and they increased their production to 121.8 ppg while sweeping the outmatched Detroit Pistons; the Bucks also ranked third in regular season field goal percentage (.476) and they shot .510 from the field versus the Pistons. The Bucks ranked 11th in regular season points allowed (109.3 ppg) but even that solid number is inflated by the Bucks' fast pace; a more accurate reflection of their defensive dominance is their league leading defensive field goal percentage (.433) and point differential (8.8 ppg).

Other things to consider: Last year, the Celtics beat the Bucks in a hard fought, seven game first round series despite not having the services of the injured Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward but the Bucks are a much improved team. One might have expected that the addition of Irving and Hayward would have made the Celtics the best team in the East but that did not turn out to be the case. The Celtics ran hot and cold during the regular season as they tried to integrate Irving and Hayward into a rotation that had advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals without those two stars.

The Celtics had no answer for Antetokounmpo during last year's playoffs, as he torched them for 25.7 ppg on .570 field goal shooting while also averaging 9.6 rpg and 6.3 apg. Antetokounmpo is even better now than he was a year ago and this series could be his national coming out party--but the Bucks are a lot more than just one superstar: Khris Middleton is a solid All-Star, Eric Bledsoe is a good point guard and center Brook Lopez provides a defensive presence in the paint while also spacing the floor on offense with his three point shooting.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:38 AM



At Wednesday, April 24, 2019 2:14:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

I'm also picking Milwaukee, but Brogdon's health makes me nervous. Boston is a very smart defensive team and they're going to work hard to force people other than Giannis to initiate the offense; Bledsoe is unreliable and Middleton is at his best off-ball, but Brogdon is crafty and consistent if unspectacular. If he's diminished, it hurts Milwaukee's secondary playmaking ability.

That may still not matter because Giannis, but while I'm picking the Bucks, it's not going to shock me if they're able to scheme Milwaukee into a competitive series, especially as their young guys finally looked right against Indy after a mostly uneven season.

At Wednesday, April 24, 2019 9:51:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

I've been wondering about this match-up since it was clear that Boston was locked into the 4th/5th spot. I predicted the sweep of the Pistons and the Celtics finished off the Pacers earlier than I expected (6 games). The Bucks have the best player, though Kyrie is very very dangerous. I think the coaching is a wash. In a vacuum, I believe the Celtics have the slightly more talented team, but the Bucks have executed far better this season. All signs point to the Bucks in a long series. I've long said the winner of this series is going to the finals.

David, I noticed that you anointed Giannis as the best player in the world around the middle of the season. He is one of my favorite players behind Westbrook, and I'm happy to see the future of the league in his hands. However, I am still unsure if I'm ready to call him that. Before Monday, he had not won a playoff series. Going into the playoffs I ranked the best players list this (alphabetical order):

Bigs: Davis, Embiid, Jokic
Wings: Antetokounmpo, Durant, George, James, Leonard
Guards: Curry, Harden, Irving, Lillard, Westbrook

I've seen enough to rank him over the bigs. For the guards - Westbrook is by far my favorite player, but Giannis would not look inferior to Lillard in a playoff series. For as much as people bag on Westbrook's shooting percentages, Harden is shooting 37%. We know how much I can't stand him. I think we are one of only a few that still consider Westbrook as somewhat equal to Curry. Giannis is essentially a bigger Westbrook. However, I can understand why one would still consider Steph better.

As for the wings - Giannis is clearly better than PG. There are some that may still consider Kawhi superior, but I've never been as high on him as some are. How are you entirely convinced that Giannis is better than LeBron and Durant when he has not had postseason success yet?

I've wanted to call Giannis the best since mid-season, but I guess I'm still reluctant to do so without postseason evidence.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


Very much appreciate your take.

My 2 cents. What makes Giannis better than Kawhi? "Load management" isn't needed. Also, I believe Nick has made this point, while Kawhi is the better individual defender, Giannis' impact on defense covers the entire team and is thus more valuable.

There's certainly a KD vs. Giannis debate. Just depends (imo) which you value more: Supreme offense, or supreme defense.

Regarding Lebron, I had the bitter displeasure of watching "the King" destroy my purple and gold heart all season long. Perhaps at his absolute zenith, Lebron's selfish style of play (yes, despite his "pass first ways", he plays extremely selfishly) didn't hold him back from being the best. But, now, with his athleticism clearly diminished, and his utter lack of even trying to play defense other than a handful of times a game, there's no way Lebron is the best player in the league.

His glittering numbers belie his actual impact.

In fact, you can make a solid case that every other player you mentioned, was better than James this season. Especially when you factor in impact on teammates. Only Davis had a worse effect on his team dynamic.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Agree with almost everything you wrote, though I think Giannis is pretty cleanly better than KD this year. The gap on offense is a pretty small one, owing pretty much exclusively to KD's superior shooting (which does matter), but Giannis makes up much of that gap by being bigger, faster, stronger, longer, and a superior passer (and, if you want to count it, offensive rebounder).

Despite KD's shooting advantage and having more space to operate (as good as Milwaukee is, their shooters aren't Steph and Klay), KD actually scored fewer points on more attempts than Giannis this year. His shooting is still an advantage (particularly off-ball) but it's not a gigantic one.

Meanwhile, Giannis is one of the best defenders in the league and KD is mildly above average. The gap is just so much wider there.

Additionally, Giannis is about double the rebounder, and isn't the moody chemistry complication KD can sometimes be.


Describing Giannis as a "bigger Westbrook" is a pretty big insult to Giannis defensively. Giannis might be the best defensive player in the league. Westbrook isn't even the third best defensive guard on his own team*.

*When Roberson is healthy.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 2:07:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


Just to clarify, I agree with you. I too think Giannis is the best player. He's Shaq-lojuwon. But, there are people that will strongly make a case for KD as KD is the most complete player. Those people are wrong...lol...but they can and do make a case.

I also echo your calling out the Westbrook comparison. I am as big of a Westbrook stan as possible, but I could credibly argue that if you took away Giannis' offense, he'd still be nearly as valuable overall based solely on his defense/rebounding, as Westbrook is.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 2:48:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Jordan

To be clear. I don't have a strong opinion on Giannis being considered the best at this point. There is strong evidence to suggest that he is, but the glaring issue is that he just made it to the 2nd round. I have no problem with someone waiting to rank him over KD.

As for LeBron, he has a huge asterisk this year. I'm not ranking him. For example, Lillard and Jokic thus far have clearly had better seasons, but in no way, shape, or form are they better players.

I've never been big on Kawhi. I've always considered him a Paul George level player that played on good teams. In fact, for a good part of this season, PG was playing better than Kawhi ever did.

@ Nick

I've read your comments long enough to know that you aren't as high on KD as others. I actually agree with a lot of your criticisms of him. Your case that Giannis is already clearly better is valid.

As for the "bigger Westbrook" comment, I think you took it too literally. A younger LeBron was also a "bigger Westbrook". Westbrook never was and never will be the impact defender that Giannis is and the biggest reason is size. However, Giannis is not the man defender that someone like Kawhi is. He can guard your best player most of the time, but he's not a shut-down defender in that sense. Size and athleticism contributes heavily to his impact. Sure, Giannis does have a higher motor on that end, but Giannis also plays in a system where he doesn't have the ball in his hand as much as Russ.

You can argue skill either way, but Westbrook and Giannis both dominate with their athleticism. Neither are great shooters. Westbrook has never played in a 4-out offense that allowed him to drive and kick nearly as much. I'm not sure how much you watched Giannis last year, but he is not loads better this season. The primary change was coaching. At this point, Giannis is clearly better and is likely surpass Westbrook's peak.

I did not mean that Giannis is skill for skill Westbrook's equal plus 8 inches. They both are amazing players without great jumpshots, but can impact the game in various other areas because of their high motors and supreme athleticism.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 4:34:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Gotcha. From a pure athleticism standpoint I see the comparison.

You are right that neither are great perimeter shooters, but there's a distinction to be made there in that at least Giannis seems to realize it. They're also night-and-day as 2pt scorers: Giannis shoots 64% from 2, Russ shoots 48%. Heck, Giannis' 2pt percentage all-up is higher than Russ' percentage within 5 feet (61%).

That's almost all because of how absurd Giannis is at the rim (he shoots 72.6% inside of five feet) but he takes the vast majority of his shots from that range, about 11 of his 17 per game. By contrast, Russ only takes 8 of his 20 shots per game in that range (and shoots under 38% from every other range).

I do think Giannis took a leap this year, but I agree that coaching certainly had a lot to do with it. I agree that his size has a lot to do with his defensive ability.

I think Giannis is a borderline shut-down guy when he's determined to be, but he isn't always determined to be. He's actually kind of similar to RWB in that he has two different defensive gears; the difference is that Giannis gears are "really good" and "near-perfect" while RWB's are "actively hurting his team" and "pretty good."

I would also challenge the idea that Giannis' superior defensive motor is a product of lower offensive responsibility. He actually had a higher usage rate than RWB did this year (though you are probably right that RWB had the ball in his hands more total time as he tends to hold it a lot longer than Giannis does).

In general though I don't ever like the "player X expends too much energy on offense to try on defense," at least not until guys are in their mid 30s or so; Jerry West, Walt Frazier, Sidney Moncrief, Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, etc. spent a ton of energy on offense and still could lock guys down on the other end. Your mileage may of course vary.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 7:53:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Nick

I agree at this point, Giannis is a superior scorer to Russell and if he hasn't already, he should exceed Russell's peak as a scorer. Again, size is a significant factor. It is fair to say that Giannis has far better shot selection, but again, his system affords him the ability to not take some of the shots that Westbrook does.

I agree that Giannis has borderline shut-down capabilities. The question is if his energy level on the defensive end will go down as his offensive responsibilities increase. He's 24 and is arguably at his peak in terms of athleticism. It's not fair to compare 30 year olds to that. Giannis also comes from humble backgrounds and his work ethic looks to be out of this world. As an international player, he had/has more to prove. That plays a role in his effort.

All that is to say Giannis is an amazing player and is one of my 2 or 3 favorite players in the league right now. I said this last year (when Giannis was averaging 30 through his first 15 games): outside of LeBron, he is the only player in the league I believe who has a chance at firmly cementing himself in the Pantheon. One can argue KD, but I'm not so sure.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I agree with basically all of that, with two minor notes:

1) Your point about age is well-taken, but Giannis' effort level as a 24 year old exceeds that of KD or RWB at the same age.

2) I could also see Curry cracking the Pantheon. I'm less sold on KD but it depends on the best of both of their careers. I agree Giannis is plausible.

At Thursday, April 25, 2019 11:34:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

*rest of both of their careers. Blaming autocorrect for that one.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 2:02:00 AM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

I'm curious... If Giannis is accepted as the best and LeBron is no longer that guy and arguably way down the list, what does everyone's top 5/10 (gun to your head) look like?

I've considered LeBron #1 since 2011 when Kobe was done winning. Durant has been #2 for me since he surpassed Kobe in 2012 or 2013. I dibbled and dabbled with Curry over Durant in 2016. I also dibbled and dabbled with Westbrook over Durant and Curry in 2016 and 2017. Those 3 have been on similar playing fields for me since Durant's injury in 2015. Unlike most, I do not consider Harden in that group, but I also find it difficult at times ranking players like Davis and Leonard over him when his resume exceeds theirs. Due to Harden’s perception today, I don’t feel it’s worth arguing and generally group him with Curry and Russ.

All in all, my top 10 (gun to my head) today looks like:

1/2. Giannis/Durant (we'll know by the end)
3. LeBron (Regardless of his season, no other player was clearly better to me)

------- Former MVPs/First ballot HOF guards -------
The wings above them are better in a vacuum, but they can have similar impact at times. At this point, it's whatever. If you think Steph is the best guard, you have a valid argument and there's little to be said to convince you otherwise. Same for Westbrook. Same for Harden. Westbrook's stock is at its lowest right now. Harden's is at its highest. Westbrook does not have a team that can win when he doesn't shoot well. They are the 3 best guards of this era. A case can be made that they will all go down as top 35 players all time (did I mention I hate Harden?). Give me Westbrook any day of the week, but I understand taking the guy with 2 MVPs & 3 rings or the other guy that just scored 36ppg over a season.

I really really really dislike Harden. I want the Rockets to lose in embarrassing fashion so bad and I have no problem admitting that. However, Harden has consistently led his team to the playoffs and puts up gawdy numbers. He's the very definition of a farce, but he's a very consistent one. At this point, I cannot rank you over Harden if you cannot put up a MVP season and lead your team to the playoffs. If someone feels he’s the best guard in the league, more power to them.

4/5. Curry/Westbrook (I know I’m alone here)
6. Harden (I hate him, but must give him credit)

------- Possible Future MVPs -------
Very good scorers, great defenders, not great distributors, not the "build your system around him" type, past health issues (except George)

Davis is very difficult to rank. Last year, he played better than Kawhi ever did. However, when I watch him play, his impact is often less than what his numbers may lead you to believe. He has played more than 68 games literally only twice in his career. I refuse to rank him over past and current MVPs that have consistently led their teams to the playoffs... including Harden. I do not have a strong opinion on him vs Kawhi/George and to be honest and I do not think he's much better than Embiid in a vacuum.

Kawhi is not much better than George and he did little this year to prove otherwise. In fact, earlier this year, George was playing better than Kawhi ever did.

7. Davis
8. Kawhi
9. George
10. Embiid (honestly still not sure how high he should be. I can see him ascending to the top if he stays healthy)

------- Possible HOF guards -------

I do not have strong opinions on how they rank vs the group above them. I understand ranking Lillard over George for example or Kyrie over Kawhi and Embiid

11/12. Kyrie/Lillard

At Friday, April 26, 2019 2:50:00 AM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Nick

Curry is not a pantheon level player and here's one simple reason why:

LeBron - 14 All-NBA Teams, 12 firsts, 2 seconds behind a pantheon player (Duncan)
Duncan - 13 All-NBA Teams, 10 firsts, 3 seconds behind a pantheon player (LeBron)
West - 12 All-NBA Teams, 10 firsts, 2 seconds behind a pantheon player (Oscar)
Kobe - 13 All-NBA Teams, 11 firsts
Jordan - 11 All-NBA Teams, 10 firsts, 1 second behind a pantheon player (Magic)
Oscar - 11 All-NBA Teams, 9 firsts, 2 seconds behind a pantheon player (West)
Kareem - 15 All-NBA Teams, 10 firsts
Baylor - 10 All-NBA Teams, 10 firsts
Doc - 12 All-NBA/ABA Teams, 9 firsts, 1 behind a pantheon player (Bird)
Wilt - 10 All-NBA Teams, 7 firsts, 3 seconds behind a pantheon player (Russell & Kareem)
Russell - 11 All-NBA Teams, 3 firsts, 7 seconds behind a pantheon player (Wilt)
Magic - 10 All-NBA Teams, 9 firsts
Bird - 10 All-NBA Teams, 9 firsts
Shaq - 10 All-NBA Teams, 8 firsts
Curry - 4 All-NBA Teams, 2 firsts

* I only count first and second teams because players whom played before 1989 are at a disadvantage when it comes to third teams. Shaq, Kobe, & Duncan would have more on this list.

There's all of the Pantheon players in comparison to Curry. He entered his prime too late and has been too injury prone. Some of those guys would have more first team finishes had they not shared the league with another Pantheon player at their position. Even if Curry finishes with a first team this year, he's 5 short of matching the lowest Pantheon guy. He finished behind CP3, Harden, & Westbrook. Neither of them are Pantheon level players.

Even then, if you pay close attention, 3 of the bottom 5 are centers. There are less spots for centers on All-NBA Teams. The other two had their careers cut short due to injury. Curry is 31. Magic retired at 31 and Bird permanently hurt his back at age 31.

Curry is way behind and will have to settle for top 20 at best. More likely top 25-30 (which is still great).

At Friday, April 26, 2019 9:14:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I disagree that All-NBA teams are the best way to determine a Pantheon (if they are, KG and Karl Malone should be in there, for starters). The wider point that Curry's not done as much yet, and started his prime late, I partially agree with; as I said in my post above, it depends how the rest of his career goes.

However, if he ends up with 5-7 rings as the best (or sometimes second best, if you're a Durant guy) on a title team he'll be in pretty elite company with Russell, Kareem, Magic, Jordan, and Kobe. If it's six--and that's in play--it's just him, Kareem, Jordan, and Russell.

It remains to be seen how well his game ages-- shooting tends to age pretty well, but he is somewhat reliant on footspeed to get open off-ball--but if he ends up with a strong eight-ten year peak (even if he only makes 7 or 8 All-NBA teams) but dominated the league for most of a decade, he'll warrant serious consideration, at least from me.

I would also note that All-NBA teams favor guys from earlier eras, particularly the 60s, when there were fewer teams/stars (even with the addition of the Third team, Curry is competing with 59 other starts for six spots while Oscar/West/Baylor/etc were competing with 15 guys for 4 spots).

I also think winning has to factor in pretty heavily, and Curry has already got more rings than Oscar, West, Wilt, or Baylor, and is tied with Bird, Doc, and Lebron. If he gets another one this year he'll pass them and move into a tie with Shaq. As a winner, he's competitive.

I am certainly not ready to put Curry in the Pantheon (or in my equivalent tier) today but his peak, I'd argue, is definitely high enough and it's now just a question of if he can make up enough ground in the longevity department.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 9:23:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


My current top 10:

1) Curry (people sleep on the value he provides off-ball, but it's the single most valuable element in basketball today)
2) Giannis (he'd be my MVP, but I think Curry gives you a better chance to win a ring)
3) Lebron (he's on a bad team now but he's still basically Lebron when he wants to be)
4) Kawhi (I prefer him to Durant because of his defensive ability, though we'll see if this load management nonsense persists)
5) Durant (he's great, he's just slightly less great than his rep)
6) Anthony Davis (I feel weird about this one for the reasons you stated; he should win more than he does)
7) Joel Embiid (would be above Davis but his injury issues are tough to ignore)
8) Victor Oladipo (assuming full recovery)
9) Klay Thompson (much like Curry, I think his off-ball value is badly underrated)
10) Damian Lillard (Wasn't on this list for me a month ago)

Paul George is probably 11th, but I couldn't in good conscience take him over LIllard after what we just saw. Kyrie might be ahead of him, and if not he'd be 12th, but he wasn't a great teammate for long chunks of this season and his team underperformed. I don't have Harden or RWB on my list because I can't trust them in the playoffs. If it were a regular season list they'd both be Top 6 or so.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 2:06:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


You know I vibe with a lot of what you write on here, but your top 10 list is a bit of a head scratcher. I'm sure Anonymous will chime in passionately. Is your list based on this season or potential or based off of past failures? Leaving both Harden and Westbrook out of your top 10 is...nuts to me. Especially based off the sole reasoning that you don't trust them in the playoffs.

You don't trust them but you trust Anthony Davis? AD has proven zilch in the playoffs other than his team stomped on an extremely favorable matchup last season with Portland. Besides that, what has he done? Gotten swept in the first round or…not even made the playoffs for 70% of his career? Not only do I not trust AD in the playoffs, but I don't trust him in the regular season either. Kyle pointed out that the dude has averaged 66 games a season. You even mention that while his individual stats are eye-popping, he hasn't won very much. Those are facts. AD also killed his team dynamic.

I don’t know how we define “better”, but unquestionably Nikola Jokic has propelled his team to greater heights. The last two seasons, Denver has been the sixth best offense. This season, they were even a top 10 defense. The same can’t be said about the Pelicans. In a vacuum, I don’t think Jokic is “better” than Davis, but your point about Curry sort of plays in this situation me thinks. Team success based off of gravity (Jokic has his own unique sort of gravitational pull) vs. individual brilliant numbers that sometimes lead to team success (your biggest gripe against Westbrook).

Let’s move past AD. I like Oladipo, but he is currently very injured. He struggled to play at an elite level this season and didn't come close to matching last season's output. As it stands right now, even without the questions surrounding his injury, Olidipo has proven himself to be inconsistent. 17-18 could just be a one season supernova, sandwiched between years of near all-star level play. Furthermore, Dipo has not proven himself in the playoffs as the man (meaning, not gotten out of the first round) and in fact, his team made the playoffs without him. The Pacers are kind of like San Antonio Lite and nobody’s putting Derozan or Aldridge in their top 10.

Klay Thompson is certainly underrated. As is his gravity. But…he’s at best the third banana on the Warriors, and if his gravitational pull is top 10 best-player-in-the-league good, then there’s no way Curry deserves the top spot (not with 2 other top 10 players). It’ll be fascinating to see what Thompson does this offseason. I’m as curious as anyone to see if he can be the #1 option and still maintain elite defense on a team sans Curry. But until he does that, there’s no way for me to justify him as a top 10 player. He had an entire month where he shot like barely 40% and the Warriors didn’t really miss a beat.


At Friday, April 26, 2019 2:16:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


I hate Harden. I hate his game. I hate his constant pushing the boundaries of the rules. I hate the fact that he flops and stumbles around as a foundational aspect of his entire game. I hate his gross beard. I hate how he disappears in crucial moments. (Okay okay okay. I actually kinda like that). But...he made it to the Western Conference Finals last season and pushed the Warriors to the brink. He's a top 5 MVP candidate at the very worst and has been for the past 3-4 seasons. And there are a lot of voters who will put him #1 on their ballot this year. He averaged 36 points per game and carried the Rockets without Chris Paul and Clint Capela for large chunks of this season. To say nothing of losing Ariza and Mbah A Mute and replacing them with a rookie and a G-League guy. And they still won 53 games! Whatever one thinks of his lax defense at times (he’s improved quite a bit to be fair), dude doesn’t need “load management”. He’s durable, an entire offense unto himself, and has been the furthest in the playoffs as the alpha compared to everyone else on your list not named Lebron/Curry/Durant.

There is zero way to justify leaving Harden out of the top 10. Especially in today’s travel-friendly, hop-step-jump-back-3-spaces NBA landscape. His stepback, which would be illegal in every other era, is legal in today’s NBA. Which means, it’s akin to MJ’s fadeaway or Kareem’s skyhook. I hate that I just wrote that. But, sadly, it’s true. So, if it's akin to the Skyhook or the Fadeaway, it's akin to Curry's gravitational pull. Teams come up with the wackiest schemes to try and contain Harden.

I’ll give you leaving Westbrook out of the top 10. But, he’s coming off a knee injury which clearly affected him this year (and still averaged a triple double and co-led his team to 49 wins and the playoffs). Dipo will be coming off a knee injury too, had already declined in production from his breakout season before the injury, and was equally reliant on his athleticism to be elite. Just, the amount of leeway provided for Dipo compared to Harden and Westbrook seems…biased. And, for the most part, I feel you are extremely objective in your analysis.

Last thing I'll say. The Lakers were not that bad. Sure, they needed shooters (which team doesn't?). Sure, the offseason acquisitions were...interesting at best. Foolishly optimistic at worst. But Lebron had enough talent on the squad to make the playoffs. He just didn't feel like working as hard as it would take to do so. He also got injured. As did half the roster. Yah, I know all of the Lakers youngins are now looked at like baby poop (thanks Magic/Pelinka/Lebron), but they are a talented bunch (all of them took a positive step forward this season in spite of the circus, except for Hart...though he lit up Summer league). They would have been on the same trajectory as the Kings this year, if the King never came to LA.

Lebron is overrated and coasting on his past glory. Unless the Lakers miraculously get 2 superstars to join them this offseason, nobody will talk about Lebron as a top 5 player next season...except for Lebron.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 3:09:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


If we allow the premise that the goal is to win championships, then Harden and RWB being unable to perform at an MVP level when the chips are down is reason enough (for me) to leave them off.

I honestly completely forgot Jokic. He should probably be on there.

As for AD, I don't really disagree, but I do think that he, more than Harden or RWB, can make the "doesn't have enough help" claim. His individual playoff numbers are stellar and unlike those two, there isn't an obvious way to counter him. I think he could conceivably be the best guy on a title team; I don't think they could. Ergo, he's better.

Dipo I made the injury caveat. If he's done, or diminished, he's not the guy, but we haven't seen that yet so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for now. But when healthy he's a reasonably efficient volume scorer with above average playmaking and rebounding ability who also plays really strong defense. There is a critical distinction between Dipo and your DeRozan comparison in that I've seen Dipo bring it in a playoff series, whereas DeMar kind of famously doesn't. Dipo's also the superior defender, playmaker, and a more efficient scorer.

If Harden makes it through the playoffs this year without pooping the bed in multiple major playoff games, he'll probably need to be on there. Up to this point in his career, he hasn't figured out how to do that. I don't think this is the year either, given his hot-and-cold routine against an overmatched Utah squad, but time will tell.

I don't think Klay has as much gravity as Curry but he also contributes a lot more value defensively than Curry (or, in my opinion, KD) does, and that makes up some but not all of the gap. He is difficult to rank against primary ballhandlers because I think in most cases he's better than they are so long as he has a primary ballhandler on his team with him, but he isn't well-suited to being that ballhandler (Paul George is a similar conundrum).

Still, I think you could probably build a title team where Klay was your best guy so long as your second or third best guy was a Jrue Holiday or Mike Conley type who could take on the playmaking load.

I think our disconnect may be coming from the emphasis I put on the whole "can this guy win me a ring" side of it. Obviously if you weight the regular season more highly Harden and RWB leap into the Top 10, and probably Top 5. Both would make my All-NBA Teams this year, but that's a regular season award.

But I'd rather have a 50 win team that can win me a chip than a 60 win team that can't, and I don't think you're winning anything with either of those guys as your best dude, at least in their current forms.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 4:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan, another delusional Nick player ranking list. The Harden denigration agenda stuff in here is getting old. I could care less if someone likes a player or not, at least attempt to keep bias out of ranking them, which I'm glad to see you do. That's a great point you made about if Thompson is really 10th best player in the world, how did GS underachieve so much? It's kinda sad, would be nice to have some good discussions sometimes, but gotta be in the realm of reality.

It's funny that Nick says he doesn't trust Harden/RW, because I don't completely trust anyone on his top 10 list other than KD.

Let's break down some of this nonsense:

Giannis: 2-man race between him/Harden for MVP. Giannis will likely win.
Curry: teamed up KD and an AS starting lineup to win a total of 4 more games than HOU, and now lost 2 games to mediocre LAC. Hard to see anyone beating GS, but he's hardly made a case for being better than Giannis/Harden this season.
KD: same as Curry.
Kawhi: TOR was better when Kawhi didn't play in the regular season. Great player, but caused problems in SA. Only time he's led a team to a CF, his team didn't even need him in a closeout game.
James: LAL had more talent than perceived. Even when he played, they were only on a 42-game win pace, which wouldn't have made the playoffs. He's not even in the MVP conservation, and nowhere near what Harden has done this season. I don't where I'd rank him now, but probably not in the top 10, maybe not even top 20. That was a pitiful performance he had this season and continues to act entitled.
Nobody else even needs mentioning.

And for the record, almost everyone is a KD guy.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 4:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, Harden's made 2 WCF, and was up 3-2 against GS last year(the de facto NBA Finals). What are you talking about? Who else on your list has as good of a resume as the #1 guy? Only Curry, KD, and James. James couldn't even make the playoffs this year. Curry/KD have both needed ridiculously great casts. Which Harden's had some good ones(though overrated in here), but not like them.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 6:10:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

While, I agree with your top 10 take, I don’t think Nick is delusional. He typically has sound/data-backed reasons for his takes. I just felt his top-10 list was hastily put together with some uneven justification. Nick even admitted he straight up forgot Jokic. I will say, I can’t find any way to discredit Harden this season. But, if Nick is basing his picks on who can win a championship as the main guy, perhaps that is the only way.

My point about Dipo was not to compare him to Derozan. To me, he’s proven at his peak, he’s better than Derozan (who I think has become slightly underrated over the last couple years). My point is you dock Westbrook for playing on an injured knee this year, despite 3 years straight of consistent, MVP-level production, but give Dipo the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that his production sharply decreased before his injury. If his 17-18 was top 10 MVP discussion worthy (not MVP worthy), his 30 games this season were barely All-star in the East. Big big leap of faith for me, especially considering Dipo has been anything but consistent throughout his career.

I think AD is the most overrated player in the league (outside of Lebron). People always make excuses like AD hasn’t had enough talent around him. Well, he’s had enough talent to at least push for 40 wins a season – if he’s as transcendentally awesome as people tout him to be. Outside of last year, his teams have barely managed 30 wins. Jrue constantly getting hurt has made things uber difficult, true, but so has AD being in and out of the lineup with one injury or another. My take is he’s just not the type of player that makes others better. I think comparing his impact with Jokic’s impact is a pretty good litmus test. AD is a ball stop. Jokic makes the game fluid for all of his teammates. And, as he proved last night, he can score a ton when needed.

I don’t believe AD will ever stay healthy. Some guys are just built differently, and/or their style of play results in injuries.

I like Klay. I wanted him on the Lakers before I quit my favorite team for the next 3 years. But, I have no idea why you believe he can carry a franchise to a championship as the best player. He’s like a super version of Reggie Miller, only sans all of the charisma, showmanship, and testicular fortitude that Reggie had. Which, to me makes them sort of a wash. Players can follow Reggie. They can be propelled by that swagger and ballz. Klay is an introvert. I find it difficult to see him motivating his team. He’s not Kobe Bryant. And he’s not Steve Nash. He’s not anywhere in between those two either regarding vocalization.

He certainly could become those things in a Lonzo Ball sort of leadership way. And, maybe he comes out of his shell in an extrovert sort of way once he has a team of his own. After all, his father has that extrovert persona in spades. But, Klay has shown none of that up to this point. And at 29, he’s never had to carry the offensive load for an entire season (Steph/KD), nor has he had to be a vocal, emotional, or by example leader in a lockeroom (Green and Iggy).

At the very least for your two biggest omissions…Harden has the former. Westbrook has the latter.

One last word on Westbrook. Dude has been defying haters his entire career after he made the jump from UCLA. In his exit interview, he talked about how people called him a ballhog and how he evolved his game to lead the league in assists for 3 straight seasons. He said, next year, he’ll be a better shooter. It’s that kind of IDGAF attitude that makes me a Westbrook fan, as much as it turns many people off. It’s also that attitude that makes me believe Westbrook will come back next year as a far improved shooter. We shall see. It’s going to take him completely revamping his shot (he can’t have that athletic jump shot jump shot anymore, especially from 3). But whether it’s out of pure motivation or pure spite (or a combination of both), I believe he will improve a great deal.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 6:19:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Nick

I'm going to have to roll with Jordan and Anonymous here. A case can be made that Oladipo and Klay are barely top 20 players. Heck, guards alone, I would entertain a discussion of Kemba, Beal, Simmons, and Butler being ranked over both. It's certainly debatable. Are you seriously taking them over bigs like Jokic, KAT, and Blake? I would also entertain discussions for Gobert & maybe Aldridge too.

I understand Westbrook's stock is low and probably only myself and David still consider him top 5 worthy at this point. However, having both him and Harden out of the top 10 is asinine and I think they've covered the main reasons why.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 7:01:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I'm not docking RWB for playing hurt. I'm docking him for three straight years of shooting less than 40% from the field in the playoffs. I'm docking him for never bothering to play defense past January or so (he had his freaking hands on his knees on one of those CJ plays!). I'm docking him for never getting it done even when he had KD. I'm docking him for being so predictably stupid and out of control in crunch time that teams gameplan for it. I'm docking him for being dead last in the league in shots contested among players who played at least 33 minutes a game. I'm docking him for being statistically the worst three point shooter in NBA history (in terms of volume + accuracy).

I can't win a title with that guy on top of my team until something changes. I might be able to win one with any of the ten guys I listed.

Fair points on Dipo. With him I think there's a chance I can win; with RWB and Harden I'm pretty sure I can't. I might be wrong on either side of that, but that's how I feel today.

If you wanna call Klay Reggie I wouldn't fight you. I think Reggie was good enough to be the best guy on a title team, too. He didn't, but mostly because his prime overlapped with two different dynasties that had 2 guys who were good enough to lead a team to a title (Jordan/Pippen and Shaq/Kobe). You might have a point about the leadership stuff, though; I hadn't really factored that in. I just think he's the best 2 in the league, and the space he provides (much like the space Reggie provided) is a rising tide that lifts all boats. I also think he's a stronger defensive player than Reggie was.

I think if you put Klay Thompson on your basketball team you're guaranteed a Top 10 offense and at least one lockdown perimeter guy. I think that's pretty damn good.

AD I'm of two minds on, but I do think "good AD," who so far has shown up more often than bad AD, is good enough to lead the right team to a title. I agree his injuries matter, but they're not a deal breaker; heck, Walton got a ring, didn't he?

If Westbrook legitimately improves as a shooter he'll probably be on my list when someone asks me next year. Right now, he isn't. He raises your floor and lowers your ceiling. Isn't it weird that his team with "no help" two years ago won a whole two games less than his team this year? You know, the one with another MVP candidate on it, and a bunch of rangy defensive wings who could at least kinda shoot? Why do you think that is?

Someone mentioned Kemba, who's another guy I thought about putting on there but he just doesn't have the wins in the bank.

I'm not a KAT believer, at least not yet. Gobert's an awesome one-way guy but he just got exposed against Houston, and that's the direction the league's moving. Beal, Simmons, etc. are all good dudes I don't think are on the level of the guys I listed. Butler's a chemistry killer, but he'd make my Top 15 in spite of that.

Yes, Harden got up 3-1 on GSW. Then he played the worst basketball of his career for three games. I don't want that guy on my team. You can have him on yours, and you'll have homecourt when my guy rips out his heart in a Game 7 later on down the line.

The cases being levied against my guys are mostly fair, but they're not based on the same metric I used to make my picks.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 7:33:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Nick

As for the Curry/All-NBA topic - I wasn't trying to make the point that All-NBA teams are the best way to determine a Pantheon player. My case centered around all of the Pantheon players having a minimum of 10 All-NBA selections and 9 First Teams as a non-center. It indicates dominance over the league at their position for a minimum of a decade. Players like KG and Malone share that in common with the Pantheon players, but it is not the sole indicator of deserving to be ranked with said group.

Havlicek was arguably the best player on 4 different championship teams w/ Russell & Cowens (68, 69, 74, 76) and was at worst the 3rd best player on 3 others (he and Sam Jones went back and forth in 64, 65, 66). That does not automatically make him a Pantheon player. He was clearly on a lower tier than Oscar, West, and Baylor most years in the same way Curry is not or never has been as good as the Pantheon guards before him. Though it is not talked about like it is with Harden, he is also a huge beneficiary of how you can't defend players today.

It should not matter whom Curry is competing against in terms of All-NBA teams. If you feel that he is Pantheon level and clearly superior to other the hall of fame worthy guards of his era (Westbrook, Harden, CP3, Kyrie, Lillard, etc...), then his accolades would reflect that the same way they do for everyone else. The 60s guys were at the disadvantage of not having modern science to help their bodies last longer like Duncan, Kobe, and LeBron.

It really doesn't matter how his game will age. He just turned 31. All the Pantheon players were clearly in that tier by age 31. Here's a snapshot of everyone by their 31st birthday:

At Friday, April 26, 2019 7:35:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Nick

Russell – Already 7 championships and 4 MVPs in. He would win his 8th championship and final MVP later in the season. Every after just added to his resume. He was already the GOAT winner.

Jordan – Already retired for the first time. It was not uncommon for Jordan to be called the GOAT by majority of the basketball world.

Magic – Gearing up for his last season before retiring due to HIV.

Bird – In the middle of his last great season as the Larry Bird that we knew him.

Duncan – In the playoffs, on his way to his 4th championship. Already the GOAT PF.

Kobe – Just won his 4th championship and 1st without Shaq.

LeBron – In the middle of the 2016 season. He would win his 3rd that season with the 3-1 comeback.

Shaq – Already 3-peated.

Wilt – Just won his 1st championship over the Celtics. Go look up the 1967 Wilt Chamberlain season. It is regarded as his finest and arguably no player ever was better than him this year.

Kareem – 1978. Kareem’s career was somewhat of a disappointment here, but he was already 1 championship and 5 MVPs in. He had peaked. Magic had not arrived yet, so Kareem’s resume wasn’t’ as decorated, but he was accepted as a peer to Russell and Wilt by this point.

Oscar – Had not won his only championship yet and was still with the Cincinnati Royals, but he was accepted as the greatest perimeter player of all-time with small crowds favoring the Laker duo of West & Baylor.

West – Had not won his only championship yet, but he was right behind Oscar in terms of being considered the greatest perimeter player of all-time.

Baylor – See West.

Doc – Had not won his only NBA championship or his only NBA MVP yet (he would later in the season), but ABA Doc was already considered Pantheon worthy and he had already put work into the NBA.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 8:00:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

@ Jordan

I share your criticisms of the AD. I think he is grossly overrated, but I don't want to get to the point of underrating him. He is still a very talented player. He is this generation's Kevin Garnett in a lot of ways. I struggle with ranking him over guys like Harden, but I'm not sure if George, Irving, or Lillard is really better.

The AD vs Jokic argument is interesting. How do you compare Embiid to them? I am hesitant on ranking Jokic highly for this season alone because his team is perfectly built around him and he is a subpar defensive player at the most important position for defense. His offensive impact is phenomenal however. I generally have a one season rule with first time all stars. Isaiah Thomas was never better than any of the other elite point guards; he just had a fantastic season. The jury is still out for me. Davis is still a 6 time all star, 3 time All-NBA player, and finished top 5 in MVP voting twice.

I think your're going overboard with your assessment of 2019 LeBron. Just a year ago he was so far and away clearly the best player in the world. It was a bad season. The all-star game is not the best for making strong conclusions, but a lot of the time you can see who the best players truly are. You can't tell me that 5 players looked better than LeBron. No one goes from #1 to outside of the top 10 in one season. I hate his attitude, but that doesn't stop me from being objective.

How would your top 10 look today? Same for you @Anonymous

At Friday, April 26, 2019 9:24:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I see what you're saying, and I don't disagree that those players had more individual accolades* at this point than Curry had**. My suspicion however is that Currys' 10 year peak (let's say 2013-2022) will hold up favorably to anyone else's when all is said and done. Just because his peak starts later doesn't mean it can't be just as impressive.

*Well, if you ignore his two MVPs anyway. Those are at least in spitting distance with everyone but the three top Centers.

**Except for West, Oscar, and Baylor, at least. Arguably Wilt as well. Kobe and Lebron are also iffy cases as they had quite a few extra years under them already having come out of high-school; Lebron's first 10 years earned him fewer rings than Curry's. After ten years, Curry has the same number of rings as Jordan, Bird, Shaq, and Kobe. Only Duncan, Magic, and Russell had more, and he can tie Duncan this season with a win. Magic and Russell both had even more help than he does, and for much longer, though it wouldn't shock me if he catches Magic anyway.

I've gone over my issue with All-NBA teams before but the short version is that I think much like MVP they are often more narrative driven than necessarily a reflection of who is the best when. That said, I'll be shocked if Curry doesn't end up with at least 7 or 8 first or second team selections by the time its all said and done.

I don't thinK Curry's greatness is as instantly apparent as some of the other guys; the extra space he creates for his teammates isn't immediately apparent in the box score. It does, however, show up in the wins column.

Even with KD for the last three years, here's how the Warriors do without Steph:

2019: 5-8
2018: 17-14
2017: 2-1
2016: 2-1
2015: 0-2

That's a total of 27-26. Now obviously the system is built around him but even allowing for that that's pretty bad for a three-star team with KD on it.

By contrast, here's how they've done without KD the last three years:

2019: 16-4
2018: 9-5
2017: 3-1

28-10. That's still a 60 win pace.

So it's tough for me to see Kevin Durant as conceivably Pantheon but Curry not, at least based on peak.

I think Curry's five-year peak already hangs with anyone but Russell's (if he gets his fourth ring this year only Russell will have done better). I think his five year peak already is probably straight up better than Oscar's, Magic's, Baylor's, West's, Duncan's, Kareem's, or Kobe's.

On pure (peak) skillset I'd take him over Magic, Baylor, and maybe Oscar. None of those four are great defenders (Curry's the weakest rebounder of the bunch but probably the second best man-to-man defender behind Oscar and arguably the best help defender) but Curry is as dangerous (and, arguably, more dangerous) with the ball as any of them and infinitely more dangerous without it. He affects a greater percentage of action on the court while he's out there, IMO. You may disagree, and if you do it makes sense that we're not on the same page here, but that's how I feel about it.

So that makes it a question of longevity, for me, which is not a question we can answer yet. Especially since about half those guys (Bird, Magic, Oscar, Baylor, Russell, Wilt) had relatively short careers by modern standards. If Curry is only at his apex for, say, seven years but he's an All-Star for 13 and ends up with 6 rings... is that really not better than Oscar or Baylor?

TL;DR: In terms of playoff success, Curry's competitive with anybody from the Pantheon you want to pick, and I think whether or not he belongs there largely hinges on whether his next five years look more like his first five or his last five.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 9:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I would add that points like "but he was accepted as the greatest perimeter player of all-time" don't do a ton for me. They're not sourced, they rely on the assumption that the masses are correct (you know, the masses that might now say Harden is the greatest player alive), and especially in cases like that they're largely irrelevant; how does Oscar being considered the best player ever in 1964 or what have you have any bearing on how good Curry is in 2019? Even if that's the barometer, Curry's competing with five extra decades of great players to get there. Y

Kobe never reached that level for most (outside of Lakers stands) because he followed Jordan. Does that mean he didn't do enough? i don't think so.

We all have our different rubrics, but for me Curry's already ticked the "peak value," "best guy on a title team," and "won a bunch" boxes. All that's left is proving some sustainability.

At Friday, April 26, 2019 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Dammit, now I got curious about 5 year peaks. Here they are for all 14 Pantheon guys (plus a few other guys and Curry):

Russell: 16.3/24/4.5 on 45/NA/58 shooting, NA steals/blocks (a lot), 5 titles, 4 MVPs 5 All-NBA
Wilt: 27.3/23.3/6 on 57/NA/45 shooting, NA steals/block (a lot), 1 title (2 Finals apps), 3 MVPs, 5 All-NBA
Oscar: 30.3/10.4/10.6 on 49/NA/83 shooting, NA steals/blocks (some), 0 Finals apps, 1 MVP, 5 All-NBA
Baylor: 31.4/15.2/4.5 on 43/NA/80 shooting, NA steals/blocks (some), 4 Finals apps, 5 All-NBA
West: 29/5.6/6.7 on 48/NA/84 shooting, NA steals/blocks (a lot), 4 Finals apps (1 Finals MVP in loss), 5 All-NBA
Kareem: 30.8/15.5/4.3 on 55/NA/71, 1.2 stelas, 3.4 block 1 title (2 Finals apps, 1 MVP), 3 MVPs, 5 All-NBA, 3 All-D
Doc: 28.7/12.4/4.8 on 50/32/78 shooting, 2.4 steals, 2.8 blocks, 2 titles (2 Finals apps, 2 MVPs), 3 MVPs, 5 All-ABA, 1 All-D
Magic: 21.5/6.6/12.2 on 51/32/88 shooting, 1.7 steals, 0.3 blocks, 2 titles (3 Finals apps, 1 MVP), 3 MVPs, 5 All-NBA
Bird: 27.3/9.8/6.8 on 51/40/90 shooting, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, 2 titles (4 Finals apps, 2 MVP), 3 MVPs, 5 All-NBA, 1 All-D
MJ: 32/5.8/6.3 on 52/33/84 shooting, 2.7 steals, 0.8 blocks, 3 titles (3 Finals apps, 3 MVP), 2 MVPs, 5 All-NBA, 5 All-D
Shaq: 28/11.9/3.3 on 58/0/55 shooting, 0.6 steals, 2.4 blocks, 3 titles (3 Finals apps, 3 MVP), 1 MVP, 5 All-NBA, 3 All-D
Kobe*: 29.8./5.6/5 on 46/35/85 shooting, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks, 2 titles (3 Finals apps, 2 MVP), 1 MVP, 5 All-NBA, 5 All-D
Duncan: 22.8/12.3/3.3 on 50/24/68 shooting, 0.8 steals, 2.6 blocks, 2 titles (3 Finals apps, 2 MVPs), 2 MVP, 5 All-NBA, 5 All-D
Lebron: 26.3/7.3/6.8 on 54/36/74 shooting, 1.6 steals, 0.7 blocks, 3 titles (5 Finals apps, 3 MVPs), 2 MVP, 5 All-NBA, 3 All-D

Hondo**: 25.4/7.7/6.9 on 46/NA/84 shooting 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks, 1 title (1 Finals app, 1 MVP), 5 All-NBA, 5 All-D
Barry: 27.7./7.2/5.2 on 46/29/89 shooting, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1 title (2 Finals apps, 1 MVP), 5 All-NBA/ABA
Moses: 26.8/15.4/1.7 on 52/6/75 shooting, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks, 1 title (2 Finals apps, 1 MVP), 3 MVP, 5 All-NBA, 2 All-D
Hakeem: 26/11.8/3.3 on 52/24/75 shooting, 1.7 steals, 3.7 blocks, 2 titles (2 Finals apps, 2 MVP), 1 MVP, 2 DPOY, 5 All-NBA, 4 All-D

Curry: 26.5/4.9/6.5 on 49/43/91 shooting, 1.8 steals, 0.2 blocks, 3-4 titles (4-5 Finals apps, 0-1 MVP), 2 MVP, 4-5 All-NBA

*Kobe had two peaks to choose between; I went with the one where he was the unquestioned #1 vs. the one where had more team success but weaker solo numbers.

**Went with when his numbers were highest, rather than when he won the most.

I included Hondo/Barry/Moses/Hakeem because I believe David has said at various points that they all played at Pantheon level at their peaks but didn't have the sustained peaks the "true" Pantheon guys (David, apologies if I'm mistaken about any of them). Their 5-year numbers are pretty comparable to the Pantheon gan

By the numbers, so is Curry. He scores about a Pantheon level (he's higher than some, lower than others) but scores more efficiently than everyone but Kareem, Shaq, and Wilt, basically. He's a weaker rebounder than all of them but sixth in assists (and only 0.3 third). He also wins more than anyone else except Russell during his 5-year peak, moreso if he wins again this year. If he makes the Finals this year, he ties Lebron and Russell as the only guys with 5 straight Finals; otherwise, he's tied with Bird for third at 4. If he wins this year he joins Russell as the only other guy with 4 titles in 5 years (unless we wanna count Hondo, who did that, but not during his peak).

That's a pretty cleanly Pantheon-level peak, I'd argue. It's just a question of if he can sustain it.

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 1:19:00 AM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...


I understand your points. I think where we part ways is the simply, how good is Curry?

I believe Curry to be a huge beneficiary of the modern rules. Curry is also a player that is beloved and escapes criticisms from the masses. I believe him to be a massive front runner. Also, contrary to popular belief, I don't believe that he is "the system" in Golden State. Even dating back to the pre-Durant days, too often could Golden State get by with his poor play. I do not care for advanced stats, but I saw something before that said Curry shot as many wide open 3's as typical spot up shooters. Think about that... When have we ever talked about a Pantheon level player scoring a ton of wide open points? Curry plays in a system that allows him to have off games and win without him having to consistently create shots for his teammates. He is not a plug and play player for teams that require their guy to create off the dribble majority of the game.

"So it's tough for me to see Kevin Durant as conceivably Pantheon but Curry not, at least based on peak." ... Let me help you out there. Durant is not a Pantheon level player either. Close, but no cigar.

"I think Curry's five-year peak already hangs with anyone but Russell's (if he gets his fourth ring this year only Russell will have done better). I think his five year peak already is probably straight up better than Oscar's, Magic's, Baylor's, West's, Duncan's, Kareem's, or Kobe's. " ... I find it very very very hard to believe that you watched any of these players if you think Curry has ever been straight up better than any of them. How? Did you see Kobe play? He won his last ring 9 years ago averaging 29ppg. Even on his worst days and battling injuries was he better than Curry on the defensive end. Kareem? He averaged 35ppg on 57% shooting while playing in a league against Chamberlain, Willis Reed, & Nate Thurmond. He was also a superb defender. I. Just. Don't. Understand.

With that said, Curry is an amazing player and has played a crucial role in revolutionizing the game. There has not been one season where he was clearly a better player than Westbrook to me. He plays on a team where he is not the best player. Durant, the best player on his team, until this season, was always inferior to LeBron. How can Curry, who is inferior to his teammate, whom is inferior to a Pantheon player, be a Pantheon player then? Doesn't make sense. Curry is one of the guards along with Isiah, Wade, Westbrook, and maybe Harden (kill me now please) whom will go down as best non-Pantheon players (somewhere between top 20 and 30). Wade also won a lot and at times was 1A to Kobe as best SG, but he wasn't great enough to go down as equals by the end.

Put it another way. Forget Oscar, West, & Baylor. Which post NBA/ABA merger player is at the bottom of the Pantheon? Most knowledgeable historians would say Shaq. Simple question... is Curry better than Shaq? If your answer is yes, then I have some nice snow blowers in the Bay Area that I would like to sell you.

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 11:30:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I disagree with a few premises you have assumed.

"I believe Curry to be a huge beneficiary of the modern rules"

This I'm with you on but we can only judge him on the era he plays in. Oscar would likely not be as good today with a reduced size advantage and an iffy perimeter shot, but that does not diminish how good he was in his era.

"I do not care for advanced stats, but I saw something before that said Curry shot as many wide open 3's as typical spot up shooters. Think about that... When have we ever talked about a Pantheon level player scoring a ton of wide open points? "

If you watch Curry play, you'll see how hard he works to get that open. But, to answer your question, West, Bird, Baylor, Duncan, and Kobe at least were often open thanks to the talent of their offensive teammates at different points in their careers. Usually when Curry is wide open it is either a transition opportunity or because he's blasted through an off-ball screen.

"Curry plays in a system that allows him to have off games and win without him having to consistently create shots for his teammates"

This is also true of West, Baylor, Wilt, Russell, half of Doc's career,three quarters of Kareems (and he did dick in that other quarter), at least half of Magic's, Bird, at least half of Duncan's, most of Shaq's, and about half of Kobe's. Even Jordan and Lebron spent good chunks of their careers with another elite creator just in case (Pippen/Wade/Irving). Oscar's the only one who didn't for his first ten years and he had by far the least overall team success; even Pantheon guys need backup.

" I find it very very very hard to believe that you watched any of these players if you think Curry has ever been straight up better than any of them. How?"

I've watched all of them, thank you. As for how: spacing. Even when he doesn't have the ball he's often occupying 2 defenders, and pulling another 1 or 2 a step away from where they want to be, especially when he's in motion. Their offense has consistently been 10-20 points better per 100 when he's on the court for the last five years, and their offense has been the best in the league for those five years. He is a one-man Best Offense in the League check who can not only get you 30 points on 20 shots while making your entire team better.

So many great players need the ball in their hands to be their most effective: Magic, Jordan, Kobe, Oscar, Lebron, all the bigs. Only really Bird was much of a factor off-ball, but he didn't have Curry's speed or stamina and wasn't constantly cutting the way Curry does (though Bird made extremely smart cuts when he wanted to).

Curry has arguably the greatest offensive footprint on team success in history. Pay attention to what he does when someone else has the ball next time you watch him, and what the defense has to do about it. He can get himself, or anyone else, open basically at will.

"Even on his worst days and battling injuries was he better than Curry on the defensive end. "

Before he quit playing defense, sure. And if you want to attack Curry, his defense is probably where you need to start. The problem there is that Magic, Baylor, and Oscar weren't particularly good defenders either. Bird famously overrated as one. Kobe quit trying consistently on that end (at least during the regular season) about when Shaq left. Lebron quit about four years ago.

Curry is an unremarkable but above average defender. If that's disqualifying then Magic, Oscar, and Baylor are out too.


At Saturday, April 27, 2019 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"Durant, the best player on his team"

Vehemently disagree with this premise. Golden State for the three years they've been together has been much more tied to Curry's presence for their success than KDs. KD has been big for them in the playoffs, but it's not exactly like Curry has stunk up the joint, and KD benefits a lot more from playing with Curry (+10 fg%, +6 3pt%) than Curry benefits from playing with KD (+6 fg%, +3 3pt%).

THAT'S what makes Curry so damn good; everyone else's life is made easier by him, even when he doesn't have the ball.
"How can Curry, who is inferior to his teammate, whom is inferior to a Pantheon player, be a Pantheon player then? "

I disagree that he is inferior to his teammate.

"Which post NBA/ABA merger player is at the bottom of the Pantheon? Most knowledgeable historians would say Shaq. Simple question... is Curry better than Shaq? "

If we're talking peaks-- and we are-- it isn't Shaq. Peak Shaq was unstoppable. Maybe Magic? I like him as a comp because with Magic you don't get the "Curry has so much help" excuse, and you don't get to argue that Curry's defense is some big detriment. They're both guys whose biggest value is that they make everyone around them better, Magic with his passing, Curry with his spacing/gravity, who can capably and efficiently score when their team needs them to (though Curry much more so). They both correlate strongly to their team's offensive success (though over the best 5 years in Magic's prime the Lakers went 19-13 without him while the Warriors are 26-27 without Curry over the last 5 years).

For four year peaks, they're almost even (3 rings, though Curry got an extra Finals appearance and the 73 win record). If Curry gets his fourth ring this year, though, his five year run beats Magic's.

He is, basically, his generation's Magic: an offensive supernova of a guard who pretty much guarantees you a top offense, makes everyone around him better, and is fortunate enough to play with several other All-Stars and a DPOY. The question now is whether that'll be true for five years (not Pantheon) or closer to 10 (Pantheon).

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 12:37:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


You are probably right. I’m salty AF at Lebron. So, perhaps I’m being a bit subjective. That said, if we’re talking about what was done this past season, I think it’s fair to question whether he’s in the top 10. Especially considering this conversation really got going because Nick has excluded from his top 10 Westbrook (probably maybe but not really valid) or Harden (a lot lot less valid).

I can’t think of anyone that went from #1 to out of the top 10 in one year. But, Kobe went from top 10 to…well, bottom 300 in 1.5 seasons. Injuries and age do that. And, well, Lebron is the same age as Bryant was, just suffered the worst injury of his career, and has more miles on his body than Bryant had at the same point in their careers. Sure, Lebron is Kobe Bryant on steroids and HGH, but that saying about Father time being undefeated is true for everyone but Jesus (if you believe in that).

That’s the thing with Lebron, at any given moment, he has the ability to be flat out better than everyone in the world. That is, until this season. This season, it doesn’t feel like he can be better than Giannis, which is why I believe Giannis is the best player. But, Lebron is Lebron is Lebron. You take that limitless potential, with the limits he puts on himself mentally and emotionally.

It’s been that way with him for over a decade now. The highest of the highs – his super Saiyan mode in the 2016 NBA Finals – mixed with the highest possible lows, pick any of the multiple playoff series where he averaged 27/7/7 on excellent percentages, but at the same time flat out gave up and cost his team winnable games/series.

3 and 6 in the NBA finals. It’s not the end all be all number, but it’s telling nonetheless.

And that was before this year. Where he flat out quit. His mind is half preoccupied by all his off-court stuff. He’s looking for easy fixes (bring in AD). He claimed he’d enter “playoff mode” and proceeded to lose even more than in regular mode. Then, he bowed out of the rest of the season. The team looked more engaged without him. Again, very telling.

So, on pure talent/ability, Lebron is still a top 10 player. But all his other garbage, his halfass effort, his atrocious, passive aggressive, whispers-behind-the-scenes-orchestration “leadership” style, push him out of the top 10 as I think he’s no longer a slam dunk in terms of bringing wins to a team.

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 12:38:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Ok, my top 10.

1. Giannis: Shaqlajuwon
2. KD: Most complete player
3. George: Ahead of Harden and Curry because he’s a top 10 defensive player.
4. Kawhi: IMO, would be above George and maybe KD but for load management.
5. Curry: Most impactful offensive player, but not convinced he would be as good/efficient sans Klay/Dray, let alone KD.
6. Harden: Most unstoppable offensive player under today’s rules/not convinced he’d be as good if you swapped him and Westbrook. Also, Harden’s gimmicky game, while nearly unstoppable, is still a gimmick. Gimmicks can be exploited as has been proven over and over with Harden. Also, when he’s exploited, he just sort of disappears, which is why he’s below Curry.
7. Jokic: Ahead of Embiid due to better health, less help. Plus, his offense is far more conducive to 2019 NBA playstyle.
8. Embiid: On any given day, could be the best player, but limited playing time holds him back. I wouldn’t argue if you pushed him lower. I’d argue if you pushed him higher, but you may be right.
9. Gobert: By far the most limited offensive player on here, but is a Defensive system that, remains the best in the biz. Jazz lost to Houston not because of their defense, it was their putrid offense. I see him as the antithesis of Harden.
10. Lillard: I’m a huge fan as I believe he is the best leader on this list. Perhaps this ranking is just me buzzing from his first round series, but he did have a stellar season and can cement his status here with a strong second round and beyond.
11. Lebron:
12. AD: If this were the NBA of the late 90s early 2000s, he’d have a case for #1 on this list (assuming it is the same players on the list). Alas, it’s 2019. I think the game has already moved past him in many ways, since his offense in the post is extremely ball-stoppy. That said, he’s 25. IF he adds elite passing and stays healthy for 75+ games…skies the limit.
13. Westbrook: His jumpshot kills his value. If he averaged 15, 11, and 11 and played good, consistent defense, he’d be a much better player even if he shot as poorly. Can’t, in good conscious place him higher than this, despite my belief that he has the talent to be a top 5 player in today’s NBA. Watch him come back and shoot 40% from 3 next year. If that happens, he moves back into the top 10 easily and it will change everyone’s future outlook as well, since his declining athleticism will be far less foreboding.
14. Irving: Can’t stay healthy. I don’t trust he can handle the load of a regular season + playoffs as the main guy. Also, he’s proven to be too quirky and loose with the lips to be a good leader.
15. Thompson, Beal, Butler, Aldridge, Griffin, Walker, Dipo, Porzingis, Horford, Lowry, DeRozan, Hayward, Conley, Holiday: All of these guys could maybe push for 7-15, though the cases for Griffin, Horford, Conley and Aldridge are quickly trending more towards 20+ due to age. Horford doesn’t put up eye-popping stats, he just plays excellent basketball and, you know, wins. Same with Lowry. Dude just wins (except, you know, first games of the first round of the playoffs). DeRozan needed Pop. His defense is much improved, as is his distribution. He's a more complete player, even in spite the fact he abandoned 3s.

I put Hayward and Porzingis on here, as Hayward was comfortably a top 20 player at worst pre-injury/pre-Kyrie. Porzingis and Dipo get the let’s wait and see how they return from injury exception, but both performed as top 15 players pre-injury. KAT needs to show me he can do it consistently which comes down to mental fortitude. But, everything outside his brain has shown top-10 ability.

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 4:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Jordan: "Nick has excluded from his top 10 Westbrook (probably maybe but not really valid)"

Also Jordan: *ranks Westbrook 13th*

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 5:09:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


Lol. Probably maybe. What can I say? You’re convincing. Also, as much as it pains me, I have way more issue with your exclusion of Harden.

At Saturday, April 27, 2019 5:14:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I get it. If it's a regular season list he's in my Top 5. But if you're asking me who the best 10 guys are, the guy whose playoff meltdowns I can pretty much set my watch by isn't getting in. I want rings, Ernie!

At Monday, April 29, 2019 2:21:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Game 1 was a reason why I am still hesitant to anoint Giannis as the best player in the world. Kyrie and Giannis are probably my 2nd and 3rd favorite players so I don't care who wins the series. However, I wasn't confident in my pick for the Bucks. If the Celtics were only 10% less consistent in the season, I probably would have selected them coming in. They flat out looked like the better team in Game 1 and I don't think Brogdon would have changed that. I kept saying the winner of this series is going to the finals because one of two things would happen:

1.) A win for the Bucks meant that Giannis lived up to his regular season performance and looked like the best player in the world.

2.) The Celtics looked like the team they were supposed to be at the start of the season.

#2 looks more true right now, but it's only been one game. We'll see.

At Monday, April 29, 2019 2:30:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...


I must ask because I haven't seen much commentary from you here. I remember in 2009, the talk was Kobe vs LeBron. Who was the best? I remember reading your work at the time and you elaborated on my very thoughts: at the age of 24 and with his talents, LeBron was more equipped to lead his team to 60 wins and thus surpassed Kobe as the best player. However, Kobe was more equipped with his experience and advanced skill-set to lead his team to the championship.

So depending on the context of the conversation, both Kobe and LeBron were the best player in the world. By 2012, once LeBron fully ascended to not disappearing as much in important games, he assumed the role of being the sole best player.

My question to you is, is Giannis the best to you in similar ways LeBron was in 2009? If so, who is the Kobe? What does your top 5/10 look like?

At Monday, April 29, 2019 9:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Giannis deserves the 2019 regular season MVP by any reasonable set of factors: best player on best team, all-around skill set, two way player, dominant scorer/rebounder.

Regarding the rest of the top 10 and regarding whether someone else with a more developed postseason resume is still the de facto best player in the world, I don't have a brief definitive answer but I will provide a few observations:

1) LeBron is no longer the best player in the world. He has lost desire, health and athleticism. I doubt that he would be the first pick of any GM in the league now.

2) Durant has been the best postseason player for at least the past 2+ years.

3) Westbrook--because of his triple double dominance and consistent hard effort (no load management for him)--and Curry (because of his fantastic shooting and excellent passing) are both top five players.

4) Kawhi has top five talent but I hate his load management and am not sure where to rank him in this past regular season because of that.

5) Anthony Davis has top five talent but does not seem to have top five impact and he seems a little soft or injury prone.

6) Embiid is always hurt and/or dealing with minutes restrictions, so he is not in the MVP discussion from my perspective because he misses too much time.

7) Jokic is not a top five player just yet but he could become one.

8) Irving and Lillard are somewhere in the top 10 but not in the top five in my estimation.

9) Harden plays in a disgusting way that distorts the rules and perverts the game. I don't know what to make of his funhouse mirror 36 ppg numbers but if I had a "real" MVP vote I would probably be "that guy" who leaves him off of the ballot and gets killed by the rest of the media. Harden is without question an All-Star and an All-NBA player but he would not be among the top five players I would pick if I could choose without regard to salary cap and so forth.

At Saturday, May 04, 2019 11:29:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Back on the original topic of this thread...

If Giannis has figured out how to deal with Horford (and last night it sure looked like he did) even when he doesn't have a ton of space, Boston is in real trouble.

Milwaukee does really miss Brogdon, though. Big question mark if this series goes long or in the next round. They need him for spacing and defense and getting the ball out of Bledsoe's hands a little more often.

At Wednesday, May 08, 2019 10:08:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, Kyrie's "good enough to be the best guy on a title team" case isn't looking so good right now, is it?

Heck, this Boston roster is on-paper pretty good, even!

It's not *all* his fault (Giannis gonna Giannis) but as the alleged star he needed to better than whatever this is. Like a lot better.


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