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Monday, March 07, 2016

Lakers Defeat Warriors in Biggest Upset in NBA Regular Season History

No NBA team with a winning percentage as bad as the L.A. Lakers (12-51 entering Sunday's game) had ever beaten a team with a winning percentage as good as the Golden State Warriors (55-5 entering Sunday's game) prior to the Lakers' shocking 112-95 victory over the defending champion Warriors. Jordan Clarkson (25 points) and D'Angelo Russell (21 points) led the way for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant, playing in his final game against the Warriors, contributed 12 points and three assists in 24 minutes while tying Lakers' reserve forward Brandon Bass with a game-high +16 plus/minus rating. Bryant's individual numbers were not eye-popping but he was an inspirational, stabilizing force while he was in the game, providing nifty passing and even accepting the challenge of guarding current (and future) MVP Stephen Curry on occasion. A nagging shoulder injury--Bryant still has not completely recovered from his January 2015 surgery for a torn rotator cuff--prevented Bryant from seeing much second half action but he remained involved and engaged on the bench, mentoring and encouraging his young teammates. Curry topped the Warriors with 18 points but he shot just 6-20 from the field, including 1-10 from three point range.

The Lakers efficiently executed an excellent game plan, demonstrating poise, patience and passing on offense while applying a lot of pressure against the Warriors' key scorers and ballhandlers. The Lakers played physically against the Warriors' guards, trying to deny--or at least heavily contest--every three point shot, while actively rotating to cutting big men after the Warriors' guards passed the ball in response to being trapped. The Warriors shot just .402 from the field, including .133 from three point range (4-30, one of the worst single game three point shooting performances since the NBA adopted the three point shot in the 1979-80 season). The Warriors also committed 20 turnovers. In contrast, the Lakers shot .471 from the field and .375 from three point range while turning the ball over just 11 times. Golden State won the rebounding battle 49-41 but those eight extra possessions could not make up for all of the Warriors' missed shots and ballhandling miscues. How aberrant are those numbers? The Warriors rank second in the NBA in field goal percentage (.486), first in three point field goal percentage (.412) and they average a little over 15 turnovers per game; the Lakers rank 30th (last) in field goal percentage (.415) and three point field goal percentage (.322) while averaging a shade under 14 turnovers per game.

Why did the Lakers seemingly turn into world beaters while the Warriors morphed into the Washington Generals? Part of this is overconfidence by the Warriors, who had destroyed the Lakers in each of the three previous meetings between the teams. Also, there can be no doubt that the Lakers were very pumped up for this game while the Warriors were likely looking ahead on the schedule. Lakers Coach Byron Scott has been much maligned but he deserves credit for designing and implementing the kind of "old school" game plan that many legends of the game have recently said would have slowed down the Warriors if the Warriors had played in a different era; the Lakers did not let Curry or his backcourt partner Klay Thompson have free reign to launch open three pointers and the Lakers rotated well enough to prevent the Warriors from making passes to cutters for layups. The Warriors missed some shots that they usually make but the Warriors were also under more duress than they usually face.

No one should ever get too carried away by the outcome of one regular season NBA game. Ultimately, the Warriors are still likely to win the championship and the Lakers are still a bad team. However, very few things that happen in a game of skill should be entirely attributed to luck. The Lakers demonstrated that there is a way to frustrate the Warriors. Can this way work over a seven game series when the Warriors presumably will be more focused than they were in a March 6 regular season game versus the Lakers? That is the key question, but if San Antonio or Oklahoma City adopt a similar game plan they have much better personnel to execute that plan over seven games than the Lakers do.

The Warriors must finish the season 18-3 to break the Bulls' 1996 record. Think about that: as well as the Warriors have played for the past several months, they still have to be almost perfect to surpass what the Bulls accomplished--and yesterday's game showed that, to borrow a phrase from the NFL lexicon, anything can happen on any given Sunday. What the Bulls did not just in 1996 (winning a championship to punctuate their record-setting regular season) but also in 1997 (69-13 record plus a second consecutive title) and in 1998 (62-20 plus a third consecutive championship) is remarkable.

It is mathematically possible that both the Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs will win at least 70 games this season, a plateau only reached by the 1996 Bulls. I have been thinking a lot about what this means. Are both the Warriors and the Spurs two of the best single season teams in NBA history, much like the Lakers (69-13) and Bucks (63-19 after going 66-16 and winning the championship the previous year) in the 1971-72 season? Or, is the league somewhat watered down now?

When they are at their best, the Warriors are a joy to watch: they pass, they cut, they shoot the ball exceptionally well and they help each other on defense. Similarly, the Spurs are also a joy to watch, for many of the same reasons. I have always believed that the very best teams from any year in the post-shot clock era would do well if transplanted to a different era but I am not convinced that the Warriors and Spurs both possibly rank among the three best teams of all-time alongside the 1996 Chicago Bulls. There are multiple NBA teams that are tanking now, even though it has been demonstrated that tanking does not work. While some of the criticisms of today's game and today's players may sound like they are based on jealousy or bitterness about the amount of fame and money today's players receive, specific and valid points made by the sport's legends should not be blithely dismissed: (1) it is true that the game used to be more physical and (2) it is true that the Warriors and Spurs are exploiting various rules changes that have been made over the years. The Warriors and Spurs deserve credit for adapting their style of play to be successful but it is fair to question how well the Warriors and Spurs would do in the 1990s against the Chicago Bulls' "doberman" perimeter defenders or in the 1980s against the Bad Boys Pistons or in the 1970s when seemingly every team had an enforcer.

Commentators should not take either point to the extreme; it seems silly to suggest that the 2007 Warriors would beat the 2016 Warriors in a playoff series just because the 2007 Warriors beat a 67 win Dallas team in the first round but it is also premature to crown the 2016 Warriors as the best team of all-time when they have yet to prove that they are even the best team of this year by winning the championship. In 1996, Chicago's Scottie Pippen and Ron Harper made some T-shirts bearing the phrase, "72-10 Don't Mean a Thing Without the Ring." Regardless of how many games the Warriors win this season, in order to be in the greatest team of all-time conversation they must win the championship. No one talks about the 68-14 Boston Celtics from 1972-73 or the aforementioned 2007 Mavericks because those teams did not win the title.

Golden State probably will win the 2016 NBA championship and earn a seat at the sport's symbolic "Champions of Champions" table but--as we just saw yesterday--no team is invincible. If the Warriors have one misstep at home in the playoffs, a team like San Antonio or Oklahoma City could eliminate them with three home wins.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:01 PM



At Monday, March 07, 2016 12:42:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I agree that the Warriors might struggle against some of the greatest ever teams- if playing in their era. We've talked about this before with the Bulls specifically, but It think the Warriors would consistently defeat most of the other "greatest ever" nominees if playing by the 2016 ruleset because teams from the 602/70s/80s/90s were not built to space the floor in the same way the Warriors are, nor were their offenses built to contend with modern NBA defense (the illegal defense and hand check rules have completely changed the defensive complexion of the game over the last decade or two).

Obviously the Warriors would be nothing special playing against, say, the 1970 Knicks in 1970, with no three point line and no help from the referees when Reed and Debusschere would inevitably start knocking their guards on their asses every time they went for a layup. By the same token, though, in 2016 that Knicks team would face a packed paint with only Dicky Barnett to space the floor, and Frazier would likely struggle to contain Curry without being allowed to put his hand on him; this isn't an indictment of Frazier, who's among the greatest defensive PGs ever; so far no PG has figured out how to meaningfully cool Curry, and playing with a different set of defensive rules would only further complicate that equation. Reed's bruising defense would likely lead to early foul trouble as well.

At Monday, March 07, 2016 1:57:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

The Bulls played in a water-down league with both the Grizzlies and Raptors being introduced that season and pulling players from each team. Today, there are Jordan-level athletes (not ability-wise, but athletically) on every roster. In 1995, that wasn't the case at all.

Video analysis, strength and conditioning, advanced tracking of player movements, multiple coaches on every roster that have very specific job functions, and players having hours and hours of edited video footage to study, all mean the NBA is far improved. If anything, this is the best the NBA has been in terms of basketball skill. Sure, "toughness" and "physicality" are not on display, especially compared to some of the WWF-style defenses that were going on in the 90s. But, if anyone thinks that Andrew Bogut, Steve Adams, Z-Bo, Griffin, Drummond, Cousins, Gortat, Favors, Marc, Asik, etc. etc. couldn't lay out players like the Bad Boy Pistons or 90s Heat or 70s Knicks, they aren't paying attention.

Besides, I'm not so sure this idea that this Golden State Warriors team couldn't compete on a physical level with teams of NBA past is true. Curry looks like a grade schooler, which is why people think he's not physical, but dude can deadlift 400 pounds. I wonder how much Gary Payton or Walt Frazier or Cedric Ceballos could dead lift in their primes...

Then there's Bogut and Varejao the two most likely candidates for enforcers due to their physical style of play (Varejao flops a lot, but he's a 90s throwback with his picks, grabbing, etc., which is why he's always hurt). And Festus Ezeli, Draymond, and Speights are all big dudes. Speights is 6-10, 260. Reed was 6-9, 235, or about how big Harrison Barnes is...

And, Iggy is a superhuman physical specimen.

Besides, a lot of those "physical" players, would get murdered in today's NBA with the sheer speed and quickness that every team has, not just from the guards, but from the big man positions as well. The 95 Bulls had Rodman and Pippen, so they'd adjust well to the new NBA, but Bill Laimbeer? Not so much. While hand checking would slow Curry down, how much more open could he get if he got the illegal picks that were a staple during the 80s and 90s?

To piggy-back on what Nick wrote, NBA defense is stingier now, despite being looked at as soft. The degree of difficulty of the 3-point shot, is often overlooked, when these old school players start to talk. There's a reason for the migration beyond the arc, and that's because modern NBA defenses are so much better (at least the good ones) at taking away the paint.

Shaq can jaw all he wants to about how he's Superman and Howard is nowhere near as good as Shaq was. And while that's absolutely true, Shaq would struggle mightily in today's NBA, where the paint is jam-packed, zones are allowed, and every team utilizes the Hack-a-Shaq method. With how bad he shoots freethrows, he wouldn't be averaging 30. Maybe not even 25. I mean, look how many shots his "protege" Cousins averages...20 shots. And he shoots 3s and he shoots 71 percent from the line, all to average 27 points.

At Monday, March 07, 2016 3:58:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

The argument that the 1996 NBA was watered down is valid but I think it's pretty clear that the Warriors and Spurs are feasting on a Western Conference where the quality of the mid-level and bottom teams has fallen out because of injury and free agency and aging, inflating their records. The Western Conference currently has two teams pushing into 65 - 70 win territory (Spurs, Warriors) and a strong candidate for 55 - 60 wins (OKC). That's pretty lopsided, especially in comparison to the previous years in the Western Conference. Even in the expansion year of 1996, the closest competitor to the Bulls was the 64 win Supersonics and both conferences were decently balanced.

The 1970 Knicks are actually a solid comparison for these Warriors historically in my mind. Deep, talented, team focused, with an MVP player and excellent backcourt. Not quite a team I'd peg as unbeatable though.

At Monday, March 07, 2016 4:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with most of what Jordan said. I never understand when someone talks about how much more physical the game used to be or when they bring up handchecking and how much harder it was to score, when in fact it's almost the complete opposite. And the game is officiated differently today, of course it's less physical than back in the 80s. The fact that players are so much stronger today than back then, I'm sure they could handle the extra physicality. For a time there in the 2000s, team defensive philosophies ruled the nba. Now, the nba offenses have had some time to catch up to that. But, today's players' athleticism/skills are off the charts. Even in an era where there's the most teams in nba history, the nba looks the least watered down I've ever seen. The game has grown so much just in the states, but also worldwide. The Dream Team dominates in 92, and just a short 12 years later, Team USA was lucky to get the bronze.

Shaq does have a right to talk about today's centers. If Howard is the best center since him, that's not saying much for the position. Shaq never averaged 30ppg when he played. But, he hasn't been retired for that long. He faced all the hindrances to his game that you mentioned. He's dominating in any era. Cousins is a current AS-caliber player, and he reminds me of Love when in MIN, but he's clearly no Shaq. Shaq in his prime could elevate almost any team to the playoffs. Cousins isn't even close, and he has some good players on his team. Maybe no current player could elevate SAC to the playoffs this year, but if Cousins was close to as good as Shaq was, SAC would at least be on verge of making the playoffs. I know they're only 5 games out technically, but that's a lot in the nba, and they're 11 games under .500. The #8 seed will be at least .500 or just under. SAC would have to go at least 15-6 the rest of the way just to have a chance, can't see that happening.

At Monday, March 07, 2016 5:08:00 PM, Anonymous Kevin P said...

David, just wanted to start out by saying that I'm a big fan of your site. You provide some of the best basketball analysis around, I especially want to give you props for your takes on CP3 and Harden whom I also consider to be overrated in today's advanced stat-driven NBA. It's been a pretty good year to be a "hater" of both of them this year, with CP3 being overshadowed by the superior Westbrook and Curry (whom have both been better since at least 13-14 and I'd argue even earlier) and Harden not being in the lucky situation he was in last year.

That said, I'm curious to hear your take on Curry now vs Kobe at his peak. Is there an argument in Kobe's favor? I still really want to give Kobe the nod but what Curry has been doing is remarkable, I scoffed at the notion last year and early this season but he's legitimately playing at a pantheon level, at least offensively. He's obviously got WAYS to go before he can be grouped with Kobe all-time, but peak vs peak it's certainly a debate.

At Monday, March 07, 2016 5:59:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Keith, that's true. The West is somewhat watered down across the board. But, the fact there are two teams in the Western Conference pushing for 65-70 wins, two more that (when fully healthy) could push for 55-60 wins (OKC, Clips) and two teams in the East pushing for 60 wins, that's a helluva lot tougher road to 70+ wins and/or the championship than the Bulls had to face.

Anonymous, Shaq can and will talk about today's centers. And, yeah, never averaged 30, but he did average 29, and he always talks about 30 and 15 when it comes to what Howard should average. Shaq would still be a dominant force today, but only if he had a team like the Pistons where he'd get the spacing needed to do damage on the offensive end. That said, he'd be eaten alive on the defensive end. Never much of an effort player on defense (other than in 2000) or a dominant rebounder, he isn't the prototypical center needed to thrive in today's NBA. He'd need four players that were all athletic, could all shoot from deep, and would all be willing to cover for his defensive, uh, apathy.

And, at that point, it would be more beneficial to have a defensive-minded center who could punish one-on-one matchups on offense, and rebound and cover for his team's defensive lapses...namely, cover all of these stretch fours and fives that are taking over the NBA. A back-to-the-basket beast who converted a lot of 2-point shots, but gave up a ton of freethrows, wouldn't be nearly as valuable as he was in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Even in his prime, Shaq struggled to cover the pop-out on the pick-and-roll. Imagine the ground (or the defensive adjustment that his team would need to collectively buy into) to cover a pick and roll with Curry or Lillard or Paul or Harden or Thomas or Lowry or Reggie Jackson or, well, you get the idea. Smart teams, run one pick and roll, and then move right into another one to take advantage of the mismatch. Shaq would constantly be put into these situations by every team that mattered.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 12:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hold on there Keith, you're getting way ahead of yourself on many things. There were only 3 teams with more than 47 wins in the East in 96, and only one other contender. The West is more top heavy this year than usual, but there's 4 legit teams, and MEM will push for 50 wins, and still the stronger conf. SAC and NO each have a big-time star and decent casts around them, and both teams won't even sniff the playoffs. HOU has had some changes, but more-or-less the same team as last year and might not even make the playoffs, which finished 3rd overall last year. Not a fan of CP3 or Harden, and don't like David's double standard of disliking when others hate on certain players while he does the same thing to players of his choosing, but Harden kept HOU elite last year even without Howard, and CP3 is doing similar things this year without Griffin. They've earned their respect. Whereas, Westbrook couldn't even take OKC to the playoffs last year. Obviously, the West and the rest of the nba look lopsided when 2 teams are much better than everyone else for the regular season.

Curry vs Kobe? You're caught up too much in the moment. Curry has lots of AS appearances, all-nba teams, all defensive teams, etc. to even be in the conversation. Let's wait 10 years from now. He just had the worst loss in nba history, so let's hold on for a minute.

Jordan, I think you're greatly underestimating Shaq. Nobody could stop him for many years, and he was a defensive force for many years as well. He had his shortcomings, no doubt, but who doesn't? Shaq's a top 10 player all-time. To say he needs all of these special things in order to excel seems like quite a stretch to say the least.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 1:50:00 AM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

Two things about Shaq:

1. People often compare players from different generations as if, like time travel, they are taking that player out of that time period and inserting that person into the future. In reality that player would develop in the future so a lot of their supposed "weaknesses" may not be there if the player had developed or evolved to the needs of playing whatever style of game a time period requires.

Talented athletes adapt and Shaq would adapt.

2. I think people underestimate how much transformative athletes effect the league. If all we talk about is how Shaq would react to x or y in the league now, I think we forget how the league would (or even could) react to him. What I mean by this is that maybe GSW small ball isn't possible with Shaq on the floor, so while Curry is free on the pick and roll Shaq is shooting 100% up the other end against Bogut/Green.

I don't want to get in an argument about whether that particular example is valid, because I am trying to illustrate the point that other teams may have to hire bigger less skilled centers just to slow down Shaq ie. The league was bigger and slower as a reaction to teams competing against Shaq. I think it is more complex than this but there is some effect there.

The fact that league contemparies like Tim Duncan are still effective makes me think Shaq would do well if 18y/o Shaq came into the league today, same with Wilt etc. They wouldn't be the same player, but not do I think the league would be the same if they came in tomorrow.

Transformative players are both transformed by, and they themselves transform the league no matter what generation.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 2:11:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I will address the alleged "double standard" business one last time and then I will delete any subsequent comments that mention this nonsense.

Chris Paul is supposedly a great leader and was supposedly (according to the "stat gurus") more valuable than Kobe Bryant when Bryant won the MVP and subsequently led the Lakers to back to back titles. I contend that while Paul was the best point guard in the NBA during that period of time, he was not nearly as valuable as Bryant. Furthermore, Paul's "leadership" is overrated, because he has had good to excellent casts around him for years and has never made it past the second round of the playoffs. Paul is a small player who wears down physically during the playoffs and he will never be the best player on a championship team.

When Harden left OKC, I predicted that if he remained Houston's best player then the Rockets would have a string of first round playoff losses. I asserted that he is an All-Star caliber player but not an elite player. This is his fourth season in Houston. The Rockets lost in the first round each of his first two years. Last year, the Rockets had the point differential of a fourth or fifth seed but they instead landed the second seed, knocked off a dysfunctional Dallas team, beat the Clippers after falling down 3-1 (Harden sat on the bench during the Rockets' key runs during that series) and then got waxed by Golden State in the Conference Finals. This year, the Rockets were hyped by many as a legit contender and Harden was hyped by many as the "real" MVP. Instead, Harden has shown himself to be a self-centered, offense-only player who threw his coach under the bus, is feuding with Dwight Howard and has a Stephon Marbury/Gilbert Arenas/Carmelo Anthony-like ability to put up meaningless numbers for a team that is going nowhere. After the Rockets either miss the playoffs or lose in the first round, Harden's postseason resume in Houston will be exactly what I predicted other than the fluky win against the Clippers--and when two pretenders meet in the playoffs, the rules are someone has to win. I honestly was not sure before that series which overrated "superstar" was going to live up to my evaluation but in a sense both of them did: Paul's team choked, while Harden was an innocent bystander on the bench as Howard, Ariza and Smith did the heavy lifting to win the series.

Does Harden have more All-NBA selections now than I expected him to get? Yes. I expected him to make multiple All-Star teams and to maybe make one or two All-NBA Third teams, max (a la what Manu Ginobili would have done had he left the Spurs). Harden has been helped by injuries to top guards who otherwise would have beaten him out for the All-NBA Team (including Bryant, Westbrook and Rose, to name just three) and I also think that Harden has been overrated by people who are enamored with the Daryl Morey myth. The bottom line that matters most in evaluating a supposedly great player who has at least a decent supporting cast around him is what his team does in the playoffs. If Harden ends up with three first round exits and one fluky Conference Finals appearance in four years, that hardly refutes my original predictions about him.

Everyone is seeing the real Harden this year, the ball-hogging, no-defense, locker room toxin. Is he talented? Sure. Can he score 30-40 points on a given night? Sure. Can he accumulate double digit assists in a game? Yep.

Would I want him to be the best player on my team if my goal is to win championships? As Kenny Smith said on Open Court in response to a question about whether Charles Barkley could play five good minutes in an NBA game right now, "Hell to the no."

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 2:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

While I am surprised that Harden has garnered All-NBA First Team honors, I doubt that he will get many more of them unless he improves in the areas that I cited as deficient years ago (defense, leadership, attitude, shot selection, turnovers) and I don't put much stock in those honors if the end result of his career in Houston will be a string of first round losses plus one Conference Finals appearance. That sounds a lot like Carmelo Anthony, another player who is (for very similar reasons) ill-suited to be the best player on a championship team.

I am not now and never have before applied a "double standard" to Harden, Paul or anyone else. In terms of being the best player on a championship team, I value two-way players who are 6-6 or bigger and who have a leadership style that brings out the best in their teammates. Curry may prove to be an exception to that general rule (in terms of size and two-way status; he is a very good leader), though it is worth noting that (1) he did not win the Finals MVP and (2) he has a great ensemble cast around him, which was also the case for other teams that won championships behind the play of guards who were 6-4 or shorter (including 1979 Seattle with Dennis Johnson, the Bad Boys Pistons with Thomas and Dumars and the 2004 Pistons with Billups).

Kobe Bryant is a better leader than Chris Paul or Steve Nash ever were, because Bryant's leadership style actually brought results. I'll take a 6-6 killer who plays on both ends of the court over a 6-0 or 6-3 point guard any day of the week (again, the 6-3 Curry may prove to be a one of a kind exception to a general rule that has otherwise stood the test of time).

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 2:29:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

As for Curry versus Bryant, I agree that Curry needs a much more extensive resume to be in a conversation vis a vis Bryant. Regarding peak value, I would not take 2016 Curry over the Bryant who led the Kwame-Smush Lakers to the playoffs two years in a row or the Bryant who led the Lakers to back to back titles with one-time All-Star Pau Gasol as his second best player. I am not sure that I would take 2016 Curry over the Bryant from the first three-peat either. The Bryant who racked up nine straight 40-point games while O'Neal healed on "company time" was not too shabby, either. Put that Bryant next to Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and company under today's rules and Bryant might have averaged 35-40 ppg.

Curry is an underrated defender but not an All-Defensive Team caliber defender as Bryant was during his prime. We have never really seen anyone exactly like Curry. He is perhaps Pistol Pete Maravich with less passing flair but greater shooting efficiency (and that shooting efficiency may very well be in part the product of having better teammates around him). I love watching Curry play but am not quite sure where to rank him all-time. He is the best player in the game right now, though. LeBron James has entered a phase where he seems to spend more time talking about being the best player in the world than actually playing like the best player in the world. James has more physical gifts than Curry but Curry has more impact even without being a great defender. If James remains stuck on two championships he will have pretty much talked/played his way out of the greatest player of all-time conversation because he won't even be the greatest player of his era, a distinction held right now by Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan (with Curry trying to earn his way into that conversation). James has some kind of Wilt Chamberlain-thing going where he has all of the physical gifts and will hold numerous individual records yet he is not the dominant champion of his era. Chamberlain has a valid justification: he had to deal with Bill Russell and Russell's cast of Hall of Famers coached by Hall of Famer Red Auerbach. James got punked in the Finals by the likes of Jason Terry, pre-All-Star status Kawhi Leonard and Andre Iguodala. I can make a credible greatest player of all-time argument right now for Chamberlain but I don't feel like I can make one for James at this point.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 6:38:00 AM, Blogger A Lenda said...

The Kobe-Curry comparison (I agree with you, David) got me thinking if I would rate Curry over my favourite small guards, Isiah Thomas and Allen Iverson. I wouldn't. Both were worst shooters but far better defenders and could score at will. Isiah was a far better passer too. What's your opinion, David? I love Curry, by the way, and love what the Warriors are doing but I really don't see how they would beat the 96 Bulls or even the Kobe/Shaq Lakers, even with today's rules.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 8:01:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

A lot of interesting stuff being talked about here. My thoughts on some of it:

Re: Harden and Paul

I think Harden is much more overrated- and much less valuable- than Chris Paul. While Paul has admittedly underperformed from a wins and losses perspective in the playoffs, he is still a two-way superstar who plays excellent basketball. It at this point seems unlikely that he will ever win an NBA title, but I would contend that he is still one of the five or six best guards in the league. I am not sure exactly why he hasn't been able to get further; he's had very strong supporting casts, but not especially mentally tough ones. That is perhaps a failure of leadership on his/his coaches' parts, but like many stars who have never won a title there is likely an alternate timeline where Paul played alongside a different supporting cast and made at least one trip to the Finals.

Harden, on the other hand, is a glorified stunt show whose offensive talents arguably have less of a positive effect on his team than his attitude and defense have a negative one.

Re; Kobe vs. Curry

I think it's fair to say that Kobe never had an offensive season like this one. Nobody really has. Curry is not only scoring 30+ ppg every night, he's doing so with record-breaking efficiency and his range is totally shattering traditional defensive principles; he's almost playing a different sport than everyone else at this point.

That said, Curry's been doing this for about a year; let's see him put together a five year stretch before we start throwing him against the best guards of all time.

Re: Shaq

I think people are forgetting how athletic Shaq was in the first half of his career. He'd be fine in today's NBA, at least until he got old and lazy.

Re: Lebron

I don't personally think he is better than Duncan or Bryant but I disagree with David that there's no case to be made; he's the first NBA superstar to make five consecutive Finals appearances since the 60s (and did so despite changing teams during that run), his presence turns a team into an automatic contender, and his peak value is as high as anyone's. He has had a few bizarre series (Boston and Dallas) but the same is true of more stars than you think (Kobe vs. Detroit and Phoenix most recently).

The guy is a headcase and his personality grates, but he's clearly a top 15-20 player all time and it is not hard to argue for placing him higher than that based on Finals appearances, individual numbers, and overall skill set.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 8:04:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Curry vs. Iverson/Thomas

I don't think there's any argument that, assuming some degree of continued excellence, Curry is at this point better than Iverson. Thomas was a much better defender and a better passer than Iverson but he was never as dominant as Curry is right now. There's a reasonable argument to be made that Curry's effectiveness would be greatly reduced playing for a different team/system, but he doesn't play for a different team/system, so we must take him for what he does in GSW, and what he does in GSW is far beyond anything we saw from Thomas or Iverson.

Re: Curry's defense

I agree with David; he's underrated, but he is not an All-Defensive type guy. I would certainly count him as a two-way player, though.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 10:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Curry and larry Bird are the greatest shooters in nba history. This guy has 300 3 pointers with 20 games left. He the nba best player and way better than harden or Westbrook. He a good defender great passer and dribbler. Pete maravich is a good comparison. I just feel like no guard ever played in the style he does.

I go with Iverson and Thomas career wise clearly. Curry got to do it longer. But curry more efficient than both.

Prime Kobe

I like kobe over steph. But steph more efficient. He didn't defend and score at the rate Kobe did. But Kobe wasn't as efficient.

They need to quit the Westbrook or harden comparison to him. Its disrespectful

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 12:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Westbrook, but David was too quick to anoint him as the premier guard in the league. He's had a great team around him for years now, and up until possibly this year, he's been Durant's wingman, and still only one final and that's with Harden. He couldn't make even make the playoffs last year. Bash Harden all you want, but he led HOU to the playoffs in 13 with a weak cast. Nobody is winning with that cast. And he led HOU to back-to-back 50+ win season in 14/15 with only one other fringe AS in 14(none in 15). His cast was decent, but it's a bunch of misfits mostly. That team doesn't have good chemistry. While some of this might be Harden's fault, he's certainly not the only one to blame. Nobody wants Josh Smith and his previous became much better without him, but yet he became a key piece to HOU's playoff run last year.

I don't see where this supposed Harden love is coming from. He's actually not well-liked by the fans. Paul is, though. Paul deserved MVP consideration in 08, just like Harden in 15. Paul has had much better teams and more often than Harden though, and he still hasn't reached even one CF.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 12:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobe has averaged 40 points in a month multiple times. Curry and Jordan never did. Curry's having a phenomenal year, but Kobe was better in 06/07. No way 2016 Curry leads 06/07 LAL to the playoffs.

For top 10, yea, James probably is in there somewhere. For best player ever debate, no way. Making 5 consecutive finals is great, but once you realize his casts and Eastern conf. competition, it should be a given if he remained healthy, which he did.

Not really sure what was bizarre about Kobe vs DET/PHO. This sounds like Nick nitpicking on Kobe again, his favorite pastime. I know he didn't play well vs DET while coming back from injury/criminal case and with a garbage cast. LAL actually performed extremely well vs PHO in 06, and PHO was lucky to win that series.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 1:06:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Month =/= year. And the difference is that what Curry's doing is leading to a league-leading offense (albeit with a much better supporting cast). Kobe was absolutely dominant, but that was within the context of beating normal defenses. Curry is invalidating normal differences; it's actually more similar to Shaq than anyone, in that he's completely changing the complexion of the sport when he's out there.

As for Phoenix, I was referring to the game 7 in which he refused to shoot in the second half in protest of the media claiming he shoots too much. Very similar to Lebron's no-show in Boston.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 1:07:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Westbrook

It remains to be seen if he can actually be the best player on a good team (while his individual numbers were good, OKC was a disaster with him at the helm last year), but he's at the very least a much better passer and defender than Harden is.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 1:48:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Andrew, I hate people that throw out “I’ve been watching so and so for x number of years” as if that gives them some sort of insight. And, while hypocritical, I’m going to tell you that I watched Shaq’s entire career. Lol.

I love 20SecondTimeout because David’s main goal is to break down skillsets, coaching, the intricate interactions of players on the court, the commentary of smart analysts, and all of the nuance that informs what actually happens on a basketball court outside of the box score or even advanced numbers (though he uses both as tools) in order to paint the most well-thought out, relevant, and insightful commentary possible.

Regarding Shaq…one thing I can say, the one thing that is irrefutable, and the one thing that infuriated me about him, was the fact that he did not in fact “adapt.” Ever.

In fact, it was the opposite. You’re right. The League adapted to him. Which, in many ways is why the league looks like it does today. But today, because of Shaq’s influence on the NBA, Shaq would need to guard a bunch of stretch 4s and 5s or athletic defenders. And while he’d be able to overpower anyone, the hard doubles, the constant hack-a-Shaqing, and the advanced defensive schemes would force Shaq to pass the ball more, or give him a harder time scoring, especially if he didn’t have the necessary floor spacers around him.

Tim Duncan in comparison to Shaq is about as polar opposite of a player both mentally and physically. Duncan has adapted because he’s that kind of personality and has a coach and organization that has fostered this personality. He’s evolved from the offensive fulcrum and defensive anchor, to the defensive anchor and offensive second option, to the defensive anchor and a bit offensive facilitator. It’s how’s he’s remained elite (in limited minutes) for so long, but is also the knock against his top-10 all time status.

Outside of one fluke season, Shaq never got better at freethrows. His defense never improved. He never became a better rebounder. He never really developed a post game outside of his right hand jump hook, his bunny hop in the pea patch, his “bows”, and that devastating drop-step and/or reverse spin that landed him plenty of lobs. He was a nice fit in Miami as he played with the closest thing to a Bryant-level wing talent as possible. But, the Cavs had to adapt to him. Phoenix had to adapt to him. And it wasn’t until he was on the Celtics, when he was barely able to stay on the floor, that he started to try and adapt his game (meaning, try on defense). By then, it was just too late.

No bank shot. No left hook. No consistent shake or fade. No advanced footwork (the amazing thing about him, is that he was such a freak athlete, his footwork looked great, but was not technically sound). To say nothing of the fact he couldn’t score outside of 7 feet from the basket.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 1:48:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Andrew and Anonymous,

I’m not trying to underestimate him. I’m trying to break down, realistically, a theoretical version of prime Shaq and how he would fair in today’s NBA, against today’s players, with today’s rules, and today’s coaching schemes, etc. based on what he know of him and his character traits, work ethic, skill, talent, etc.

As a TV personality (and personality in general), he continues to loudly promote how he would dominate today. And he probably still would offensively. 25 and 11 is nothing to sneeze at. But regardless of how dominate he would be offensively, his offensive impact would only mean so much in today’s NBA. His ability to draw fouls would still be valuable, but he wouldn’t be able to get away with not making them like he did in the early 2000s because all of the successful teams rely much more heavily on the 3-point shot. Against the Spurs or Golden State or an on-fire Durant or the Clips or the Hawks or the Cavs—Shaq’s dominating two-point scoring, could easily be overcome with three-point shooting.

The post is a relic of the NBA past. What few players that do utilize it as their main weapon, are wandering souls. Monroe is coming off the bench. Okafor dropped in the draft. Z-Bo was relegated to the bench until recently. That skillset just doesn’t have the same kind of value it used to. Posting up is still vital to the game, but the most successful teams don’t use it as the focal point of their offense. Just watch the Knicks when they were trying to run the triangle. It looks archaic. I mean, it is archaic.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 2:53:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

A Lenda:

Curry's peak thus far is shorter than Thomas' or Iverson's but in terms of production and efficiency it is at least comparable, if not superior.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 2:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Kobe never had a season "like" Curry's in terms of three point shooting but averaging 35 ppg while also being an elite defender surrounded by little help at either end of the court is nothing to sneeze at.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 3:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


OKC was decimated by injuries last season. Westbrook missed 15 games himself and OKC went 5-10 in those contests, missing the playoffs in the stacked West by a tiebreaker with a 45-37 record. So, please stop shoveling garbage about Westbrook being overrated or prematurely anointed by me. He put up some numbers/streaks last year that had not been seen since the Big O and Westbrook was still recovering from a serious knee injury in addition to having other ailments.

Harden has a good cast around him. I can't help it if you have not heard of these players or don't recognize their contributions--and during the playoffs Harden rode the bench when the Rockets made their key runs, which could be why Harden got McHale fired (hoping that the next coach would be scared to bench the no defense prima donna).

Paul was a top five player in 08 but not nearly as good as Kobe or LeBron.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 3:16:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Detroit and PHX stuff has to stop. I have already refuted both myths repeatedly in various threads. A worn down Kobe was not at his best during the 04 Finals vs Det but even Jackson, who often and sometimes unfairly tweaked Kobe publicly, did not blame that loss on Kobe.

Kobe had a huge scoring first half in game seven versus Phx and the Lakers were down double digits. Jackson decided to slow the game down and force the ball inside. Kobe did not quit and he was not trying to prove a point. I find it odd that when Kobe shoots a lot you accuse him of trying to make a point at the expense of the team and then when he passes the ball inside for a seven minute stretch in the third quarter you accuse him of making a point at the expense of the team. In other words, whatever approach Kobe took you would find fault instead of looking at context.

Those series have nothing to do with this post, so let's try to focus on new material instead of worn out discussions.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 5:01:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


My point with saying Kobe never had a season like Curry's was that Curry has a transformative effect offensively that goes beyond the box score. it not a criticism of Kobe/Magic/almost every other great player ever that they did not play a style that fundamentally changed the way defenses operate, but it is a credit to Curry.

"I have already refuted both myths repeatedly in various threads"

I disagree. You have presented an alternate perspective on those events, but it is not one that I find remotely convincing.

"I find it odd that when Kobe shoots a lot you accuse him of trying to make a point at the expense of the team and then when he passes the ball inside for a seven minute stretch in the third quarter you accuse him of making a point at the expense of the team. In other words, whatever approach Kobe took you would find fault instead of looking at context."

Actually, you're the one ignoring the context. I criticize Kobe for shooting too much when he's shooting horribly while his teammate- then the best offensive player in the world- is dominating and being guarded by a man half his size. I criticize him for shooting too little in a series in which he was his team's only dependable scoring option- a fact that was abundantly clear by game 7- and in which he was being chiefly single-covered (albeit by Raja Bell, who's generally done as well of a job on Kobe as anyone...but no one could really *stop* Kobe in his prime). Had Kobe uncorked another 50 point game, it's quite likely the Lakers would have won the series. Instead, he took 16 shots (11 below his season average) and played passive Lebron-in-Boston-esque ball the entire second half; he wasn't working as a distributer, either, recording only a single assist in the game. If he had been penetrating and then dropping it off to open Kwame/Lamar when the defense rotated, that would be one thing, but that's not the case. He mostly hung around the 3 point line and listless passed the ball.

There's an over-sensitivy to any criticism of Kobe here, and I apologize for starting this tired argument up again; I brought up the examples merely because they were the most recent non-Lebron example I could think of a normally stellar player putting in confusingly disappointing playoff performances. Next time I'll dig deeper and pick on Magic or Bird in order to spare us all this rehash; that said, the fact that you disagree with me about those series does not make me a "basher" or even wrong; it just means we- who, despite what this thread would suggest, usually agree- have a difference of opinion on those two series.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 5:06:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Shaq

"Shaq’s dominating two-point scoring, could easily be overcome with three-point shooting. "

Yes and no. Any reasonable GM with Shaq in the current era would surround him with shooters (much like the Magic, Lakers, and Heat did) and allow him to create easy 3s by drawing double teams. Shaq was an exceptional passer, and his ability to draw fouls inside would eventually force the other team into foul trouble/force their best bigs to the bench; I think he'd still be dominant.

Someone brought up Cousins as a comparison, but not only is Cousins not Shaq, he's also surrounded by a nonsense roster full of non-shooters. Give Demarcus Cousins a team full of shooters like the Clippers or the Spurs around him (even if you remove CP3/Blake/Aldridge) and he'd be anchoring a contender.

Also, Shaq's D is taking a weird beating here. In the first half of his career Shaq was an excellent defender, with enough speed to switch on the PnR without dooming his team. As he aged, he got slower, but he remained a giant obstacle in the paint who could change shots. A smart modern coach would have him drop back on the PnR, which would be death against Curry/Paul/Lillard/2-3 others, but otherwise a sound defensive strategy. A smartly constructed Shaq team could still absolutely contend for a title, and the ability to remove guys like Draymond from the game with fouls would go a decent way towards making up for Curry or whoever raining down uncontested jumpers.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 5:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not sure if Curry is "transformative" or not but he is the best player in the NBA right now. I can't put him ahead of peak Kobe for the same reasons that there are very few players I would put ahead of peak Kobe: Kobe's size and defensive prowess combined with his offensive repertoire put him on a level that few can match.

You stubbornly insist on believing that Shaq's FG% and Kobe's FG% vs. Detroit are dispositive regarding how the FGAs could/should have been allocated. The only way to prove your point would be to go through a possession by possession analysis of the series to see if Kobe was really shooting when Shaq was open or if Kobe was shooting the best shots that the Lakers could get based on score/shot clock/defensive alignment. You are also assuming that if Shaq's workload increased his efficiency would have remained the same. You fail to consider the possibility that maybe Shaq took exactly the right number of shots in the context of the series and that he maximized those opportunities. There is no proof to support your assertion that Kobe shot a lot to try to prove some point. There is plenty of evidence to suggest you are wrong, namely a career's worth of games that demonstrate how important it was to Kobe to win. Kobe did whatever had to be done to win; it just so happens that against Detroit at the end of a long, grueling season, Kobe was not at his best.

This is what I wrote shortly after game seven of the Lakers-Suns series:

Suns Outrun and Outgun Lakers in Game Seven

I don't have a tape/DVD of the game in front of me, but in my article I state that Bryant was being double-teamed and I am going to trust my own reporting :)

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 5:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The next day, I followed up my game recap with this piece:

To Shoot or Not to Shoot?

Here is some commentary from the latter article:

"On Sunday morning, the ensemble cast of ESPN's Sports Reporters weighed in with their disapproval of Bryant's play as well. The whole scenario is very comical. Critics have spent this whole season--and much of Bryant's career--labelling Bryant a selfish gunner who cares more about scoring than winning, despite the fact that Bryant was the primary playmaker on three championship teams. Bryant did not shoot a lot for long stretches of the first four games of the series against Phoenix. Why should nefarious motives be ascribed to him not shooting during the third quarter of game seven, particularly since he was constantly double-teamed? The same guys who are blasting him now would have blasted him even more severely if he had attempted shots with two defenders on him. Mike Lupica made the comment that two defenders couldn't stop Bryant from hitting the game winner in game four, intimating that Bryant must have been pouting to not attempt more shots against double-teams in game seven. Of course Bryant can shoot--and connect--against double-teams. That is one of the things that makes him special and one of the major reasons that the Lakers even made the playoffs--but against Phoenix, Coach Phil Jackson made establishing an inside game the Lakers' top priority. Bryant went along and the strategy worked, to a point. But, as TNT's Kenny Smith astutely observed, guys who are not accustomed to being big time scorers are unlikely to be able to produce high point totals for the duration of a seven game series.

Bryant's production in the fourth quarter of game seven is a moot point, because the game was long out of reach by then; people who are making a big deal of him only attempting three shots in the entire second half are ignoring the fact that the Lakers had no realistic chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, whether Bryant sat for the whole quarter (like LeBron James did on Sunday--see below) or jacked up 15 shots in 12 minutes--even down the stretch of the third it was apparent that only a complete Phoenix collapse could save the Lakers. What happened in game seven is that Bryant played the same way that he played in the Lakers' wins but his teammates failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities to score against one-on-one (or one-on-none) coverage while two defenders shadowed Bryant's every move; how exactly is this Bryant's fault?"

What a lot of people forget about that series is that Kobe actually reduced his shot attempts so that the Lakers could slow the game down and pound the ball inside. ESPN's Ric Bucher commented that he could not see Michael Jordan willingly accepting that role the way that Bryant did. In game seven, the Lakers started out the game by going inside and it didn't work. Bryant exploded in the second quarter and that was just enough to keep the game in reach but it was not how the Lakers had obtained their three wins. In the third quarter, the Lakers went back to what Jackson called their "inside man" strategy but it failed. By the fourth quarter, the Lakers were so far behind that no strategic adjustment could help.

Tying all of our themes together here, it is interesting that when Jackson had an MVP level player and some journeyman big men he elected to stay big and pound the ball inside against a run and gun team. He lost the series but the Lakers pushed the vastly superior Suns to seven games and could have won the series in six if not for one missed box out. I guarantee you that if Jackson had been coaching the Cavs last season in the Finals he would not have gone small.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 6:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with you about Shaq. Early Shaq would have been a beast in any era and you are right that the best strategy is to surround him with three point shooters to take advantage of his ability and willingness to pass out of the double-team.

Shaq was never a great defender but when he was younger and more mobile he was a pretty good defender--and he was at his best in his first season under Phil Jackson.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 6:25:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I don't want to spend much more time on this, so I'll limit myself to one more paragraph on each series and then let it be.

Against Detroit, I find it hard to believe that a passer of Kobe's caliber and height could not get the ball to a man Shaq's side being guarded by a man Ben Wallace's size literally whenever he wanted. The amount that Shaq's efficiency would have to drop in order for Kobe to be the better option in that series is about 30%; I highly doubt four-six more shots would have fatigued him enough to miss that many more of his shots, but it likely would have been enough to swing the series (or at least extend it). Additional Shaq possessions would also have helped put the Wallaces into foul trouble, and created better looks for not only Kobe, but also the Lakers' offensively challenged role players. Shaq's defense in that series was pretty bad, so he's not without blame, but Kobe took about the worst possible offensive tact he could have, whether to prove a point or simply out of hubris/instinct/competitiveness/whatever. Like Lebron, we can only speculate on his motives, but the results are irrefutable.

Against Phoenix, I similarly don't agree that Kobe could not have either scored or created better opportunities for his teammates. As a Suns fan, I was paying very close attention to that game and was both thrilled and perplexed by Kobe's passive role in the second half; it was not merely "not shooting" but it was not attacking. Had he been working inside, either by driving or posting, and dishing to his teammates to create good looks then the "he was doing what his team needed to win" argument would have more water, but he mostly wasn't; he was checking himself almost totally out of the offense. Note the single assist he recorded; four fewer than his next lowest total in the series (and possibly a career playoff low? Not sure). I also don't agree that that particular Suns team was "significantly" better, as they had no true big men without Amare that year and a very short bench (basically just Barbosa and Thomas); Nash was obviously incredible but it's been well-documented on this blog that he was a defensive liability, and without any rebounding or rim protection behind him, that '06 Suns was doomed from the start. Everyone on the roster at that time except for Bell & Marion were significantly sub-par defenders; tough to survive in the playoffs that way, especially without rebounding or interior scoring.

At Tuesday, March 08, 2016 6:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Detroit was a great defensive team with a lot of long-armed defenders. The Lakers fielded a lineup that included gimpy Malone (or an ineffective bench player) and 98 year old Gary Payton (who in that series did not look a day over 153). Jackson analyzed the series in his book and Kobe shooting too much did not make the cut as a major reason for the series loss. Kobe shooting a lot did make the cut as a reason that the Lakers made it to the Finals, though.

Regarding the Phoenix series, I don't doubt that Kobe and several other superstars may have spent a quarter or a half of a regular season game shooting too much or too little to make a point. I recall Jordan doing that and Bird as well. The idea that in the seventh game of a playoff series Kobe Bryant would suddenly decide to play in a suboptimal fashion to prove a point is an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence to take it seriously. You have not offered any evidence at all. Go back and find Phil Jackson's quotes about the series. He kept referencing "Inside Man" (a movie that came out that year) and saying that the Lakers had to pound Phoenix inside. Kobe was fully on board with that plan and he did his scoring in bunches as necessary.

You can't just look at numbers to intelligently figure out what happened in a game. You have to actually watch the game with understanding. My game recap not only described what actually happened but I anticipated where the media would go wrong in its coverage of the game.

If you watched the series then you know that Kobe's play in the third quarter of game seven was no different than his play in many other quarters throughout the series--and Kobe was being double-teamed; it makes no sense to drive into the paint if you are being trapped on the perimeter: passing the ball out of a perimeter trap creates a four on three advantage and is the right play, whether or not it leads to a bucket.

Can you find on tape one possession where Kobe passed the ball and just stood on the perimeter? Probably. Is Kobe the only top 10-15 player in the history of the game who receives such possession by possession scrutiny? Yes. LeBron gets scrutinized but he also won multiple MVPs (Kobe should have won multiple MVPs) and LeBron's bad games have been forgiven/forgotten after two rings while Kobe's are still brought up despite winning five rings.

As I noted in one of my aforementioned articles, assist totals are a function in part of the recipient making the shot. Also, the triangle offense does not always lend itself to high individual assist totals.

The easiest way to detect an unfair criticism is to flip it around and see if the proponent would still be critical; in the Detroit scenario, if Kobe had passed more the Lakers would still have lost (due to Malone and Payton, plus the Fisher injury) and then Kobe would have been blamed for making a point by not shooting. Similarly, if Kobe had forced up a bunch of shots against double teams in game seven then he would have been criticized for trying to be a hero.

You seem to think that you catch flak for rating Kobe 13th all-time or whatever but I don't have a problem with that, even if I might rank him a little higher (those top 10-15 guys can be shuffled around in a lot of reasonable ways); I have a problem with specific critiques that are not founded on fact. If you just said that Kobe shot poorly versus Detroit or even that he looked worn down from the weight of the season then I (and Phil Jackson) would completely agree.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 11:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, since you bring up context so often, let's review the LAL/PHO 1st round series some more with real context instead of make-believe garbage.

Kobe only averaged 20.7FGA/game for the series compared to his 27.2FGA/game for the season. It wasn't just one game, it was the entire series. In fact, only once did he exceed 24FGAs, and that was a 35 in his 50 pt. game, which was a loss, and PHO was without Bell.

Kobe averaged only 18.7FGA/game in the 3 LAL wins, shooting .482, which is just slightly below his series average. 3x in the series, Kobe shoot extremely well with 17FGA and less(9-14 in game 4, 10-17 in game 5, and 8-16 in game 3). Overall, the evidence points to LAL doing better when Kobe shoots less, though there's much more to it than that.

Nick, you sound like Barkley. Barkley was ripping Kobe at halftime of game 7 for shooting too much. Kobe was 8-13 at the time, and LAL was getting destroyed. Kobe then goes 0-3 in the 2nd half, and Barkley rips Kobe for shooting too much. Which is it? PHO was ridiculously better than LAL. Only a superhuman performance by Kobe could've swayed the series to LAL. The only game Kobe went off was game 5, and LAL loss. Phil knew the whole team had to get involved for LAL to have a chance, and that was the gameplan from game 1. The difference was that PHO's offense finally woke up over the final 3 games.

Why would Kobe suddenly decide to make a point, not in the 1st half of a game 7, but in the 2nd half? Get real. Nobody, other than the media/fans have ever said Kobe was trying to make a point or quit.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 11:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, go back and watch game 7 again. LAL was continuously getting good looks in the 2nd half. The problem was that LAL sucked and couldn't make that many, along with PHO's offense looking amazing. Kobe scored 50 in game 6 and lost. To think that if he scores 50 in game 7 would result in a LAL win after he went off in the 1st half and LAL was getting destroyed, is not based on fact. Kobe could've been more aggressive, but hard to score when you're double teamed everywhere on the court, and he's playing 1 on 5 basically. And the game was never even remotely close in the 2nd half either. Brian Cook was LAL's 3rd option. I'm sorry, but PHO's talent level was light years better than LAL's.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 11:31:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You are right on all counts. Both anti-Kobe narratives are ridiculous but the PHX one is particularly ill-considered. It is true that Kobe had a subpar series vs DET but there is no evidence that Kobe was sabotaging the team, whereas in the PHX series Kobe played at a high level throughout and almost took down a stacked team led by the media-selected MVP. One missed boxout near the end of game six kept PHX alive or else the Lakers would have won the series.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Hmm. I thought I replied to David's last batch of comments but my response must not have gone through. I'll finish briefly here.

*"You can't just look at numbers to intelligently figure out what happened in a game. You have to actually watch the game with understanding." This is an unfair implication, and vaguely insulting. I watched every game we're discussing, and my comments up to now ought to make that clear.

* The argument that claims Kobe was trying to do what was best for the team against Detroit is actually more insulting to him than the argument that he was trying to prove something, as it assumes he's a moron. I don't think Kobe's a moron. Neither do I think it was remotely possible for that Detroit team to keep him from getting the ball to Shaq whenever he damn well pleased, given Kobe's passing skills, height, and Shaq's massive size advantage over Ben Wallace. Also, it's not like Kobe was taking open shots and missing them; he was taking awful shots (and, hey, frequently doubled) and missing them; he's smart enough to know better.

* I've seen the second half of that Phoenix game somewhat recently (about a year ago a Lakers fan friend and I re-watched the series for fun), and there are a lot more than one instance of Kobe lazily lobbing the ball in from the perimeter. He is sometimes doubled, mostly off of picks, and usually only briefly. It has been a year, but I think he was doubled maybe 40% of the time, if that. I don't know for sure whether he attempted a single drive or post up in that half, and if I recall his only shot attempts were heavily contested three pointers.

* "Only a superhuman performance by Kobe could've swayed the series to LAL." I agree; too bad he didn't bother trying to give one. You cannot tell me that Kobe was trying to win in Detroit by shooting all he could and trying to win in Phoenix by not shooting at all, especially considering each series required the opposite; he's not that dumb. You also cannot tell me that Kobe Bryant trying his hardest in a game 7 against that PHX team ends up with only 4 rebounds and 1 assist; I recall a Kobe who's shot wasn't falling in a game 7 racking up 15 rebounds (against an actually good rebounding team) and playing his heart out; they won that game. Also, while it's true the Triangle does not always generate huge assist totals, it did generate pretty steady ones for Kobe through the first 6 games (but of course in those games he was attacking the basket and stressing the defense).

* The game was not a blowout at halftime; it was a 15 point deficit. Every year multiple teams come back and win playoff games from similar deficits, although generally not while their best player opts out of the offense. We've seen teams- and teams with nobody Kobe's caliber- come back from 20 points 4th quarter deficits; don't try and convince me that a 15 point halftime deficit against a team with a 16th ranked defense is insurmountable for a guy you claim might be the best ever.

*I love that '06 Suns team more than almost any other team, but it was a chronically flawed roster with no rim protection, rebounding, or interior defense. Their starting center had played shooting guard the season before, for crying out loud. It was basically the brilliance of Steve Nash on offense and poor Raja Bell trying to guard the opposing backcourt by himself on defense. They were a little deeper than that Lakers team, but they had nobody near Kobe's level and I think it's fair to say Mike D'Antoni is no Phil Jackson.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

" And the game was never even remotely close in the 2nd half either. Brian Cook was LAL's 3rd option. I'm sorry, but PHO's talent level was light years better than LAL's."

Forgot to comment on this directly. Brian Cook was 6th on the team in FGAs. Not that Chris Mihm and Smush Parker are anything to write home about, but there's no need to outright lie.

I mean, unless you're trying to convince someone that Kobe Bryant trying his best never crosses the three point line and quits rebounding and shooting in the second half, I guess.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 1:19:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Nick, I enjoy your commentary a lot. I think you're really smart and know your stuff. I just wonder about you continually bringing up the Detroit series as a black mark against Kobe. He played poorly, true. He should have done things differently since his shot wasn't falling. True. But...making a point to sabotage the Lakers?

I think David and Anonymous have done a good job of clarifying the Phoenix series. But that Detroit series...even if, as you say, Kobe went out there to make a point, why is he the only one to blame?

I remember being furious at Shaq for not demanding the ball, and for playing passive, especially when the Lakers fell behind (which was basically every game, another reason why Shaq got iced out of fourths, because, well, he couldn't make freethrows). It was almost like he was trying to make a point too. Like, if Kobe is going to try and win these games, he's going to have to do it without Shaq.

And then, there's the whole Phil Jackson angle. How does Phil come away unscathed?

It's a bit hard for me to believe that someone who was actively trying to win the series (Kobe) regardless of how effective he was, is the only one to get universally criticized for his efforts, while the supposedly Most Dominant Ever meekly stood by and "let" Bryant "shoot them out of the series" and the arguably Greatest Coach of All Time, let Bryant make a point, while ruining his chance at his (at the time) 10th ring.

The truth is, the Lakers were basically playing 2 on 5. They had Slava Medvedenko (or a one-legged, 40-year-old Mailman) trying to guard the best power forward in the game (when motivated, and seeing as Duncan is really a center). They had the past-his-prime-un-ideal-in-the-triangle Gary Payton trying to stop the eventual Finals MVP. No one that could space the floor (every other Laker shot under 40 percent, besides Shaq). No one, other than Bryant, who could chase Rip Hamilton around the court. I mean, they had Byron Russell and Brian Cook out there getting minutes, that's how thin the Lakers were in terms of talent and outside shooting.

Shaq dropped 36 and 20 and the Lakers still lost by 8 in game four. Kobe shot only 13 times in game three and the Lakers only scored 68 points. Much like Kobe against Phoenix, Shaq could've averaged 30 a game for the series, and the Lakers would have still lost.

Blame is a slippery slope.

I mean, "making a point" by trying to win the series is...uh, the point right?

The reality is that Detroit's defense was the second stingiest in the League that year. They had the 2-time defending defensive player of the year, who would go on to win 2 more. They had a HOF coach. They had the best starting five in the league in terms of balance, shooting, defense, offensive movement, pace, etc. AND, Detroit had a deeeep bench. I mean, the guys on Detroit's bench were better than LA's starters other than Bryant and O'Neal. Corliss Williamson, Lindsey Hunter, Elden Campbell, Mehmet Okur, and even Mike James...

Bryant contributed to the Lakers losing that series because he shot the ball poorly. But to say he sabotaged the series to make a point...well, it's a misguided point for you to continue to make.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 3:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I watched both series closely and I stand by what I wrote then and now. Kobe's efficiency versus Detroit was subpar but, following Occam's Razor, there are many reasons that more plausibly explain his play and the series outcome than your stubborn, unsubstantiated opinion that Kobe was trying to prove a point. Jackson and Tex Winter have not hesitated to criticize Bryant (unfairly at times) but even they don't buy what you are trying to sell.

Regarding the PHX series, Anonymous perfectly supplemented the points that I previously made. Regarding the talent on the teams, the Lakers started a pg and a center (arguably the two most important positions) who barely belonged in the league and would not have started for many Lottery teams.

Diaw was miscast as a pg but he subsequently played a key role on the 2014 Spurs as pf/c. Bryant is the only Laker who would have started for PHX and Odom is the only other Laker who would have cracked the regular rotation.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 4:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This needs to stop, Nick. We've talked about the 04 finals a lot already. A few points to remember. Shaq got his touches and then some. He and Kobe needed to shoot/score a lot and somewhat efficiently. Shaq tired easily in the finals, and was up/down throughout the series. His defense was abysmal. Unless Kobe and Shaq both played amazing on both ends of the court, LAL had no chance, and they still probably wouldn't have won. Kobe was only at 22.6FGA/game, this isn't very extreme and only 4.5 more than his season average. Shaq greatly regressed in 04, down to 21.5PPG from 27.5PPG in 03. Even a Kobe coming back from injury/criminal problems was better than Shaq in 04. You should be actually applauding both to even make the finals. That was a huge accomplishment in a tough conf. and a garbage cast. Instead, you continue to nitpick/hate on Kobe with ridiculous factless assertions.

Not sure what you're looking at regarding game 7 in 06, but that's not what happened. LAL continued to get good looks, and ran good offense that Phil wanted to see; however, the exectuion was horrible. Kobe played PG for much of the 2nd half, too.

Actually, that superhuman performance did happen in the 1st half. PHO-60, Kobe-23, Rest of LAL-22. How do you assert Kobe didn't even bother trying? LAL is down 15, and he's playing amazing. This isn't working. You also completely ignore the fact that Phil told Kobe to get everyone else involved first in the 2nd half and that was the gameplan for the entire series. Again, which is it? Is Kobe trying to win on his own terms, which you've claimed before, or is he actually trying to be a team player, which you know criticize him for as well? At least pick one, not both, even if both are ridiculous claims.

Outside Kobe/Odom, every other Laker wasn't a good NBA player and none deserved to be in any contender's rotation. Maybe Cook was only 6th-8th man overall, just because the only thing he could do was shoot basically. But, when he was in the game, he was the 3rd option offensively. And if Smush, Brown, Mihm or whoever else is your 3rd option, your team is going nowhere. Stop acting like PHO was barely, if any, better than LAL that year.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 4:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Thank you. I enjoy your comments as well.

We have a couple of minor misunderstandings I should clarify-

You're 100% right about Shaq and Phil sharing the blame, and I totally agree. It just hasn't come up in this thread. Shaq absolutely should have demanded the ball (or done the old Barkley "if you don't pass it to me in the post I will get a 3 second violation then nobody gets to shoot) and busted his ass on defense, and Phil definitely should have run through the offense through the dominant post fulcrum that couldn't be guarded by Detroit's lineup.

Also, my contention is not that Kobe deliberately lost the series, or was trying to lose the series. Kobe was absolutely trying to win the series, but he was more concerned with Kobe winning the series than the Lakers winning the series. He definitely wanted to win, but he wanted to be the reason they won.


If we go by Occam's razor then the answer is that Kobe was too dumb to realize he was shooting poorly and that Shaq was unstoppable; that's the simplest explanation. I believe Kobe's way too smart of a player for that, so I'm forced to look for other explanations. Given the well-documented "who's the man" feud with Shaq and Kobe's subsequent threats of leaving if he didn't get to be, the explanation that makes the most sense to me is that Kobe was trying to prove he was more important to the Lakers than Shaq.

I actually agree with most of what you're saying about the PHX and LA rosters, except that Odom absolutely would have started (probably at center, knowing D'Antoni), and that Diaw in SA is a much different and smarter player than Diaw in PHX. I just think Kobe was enough better than anyone on PHX that the talent gap, if any, was small, and that that Phoenix team was so defensively/size/depth flawed that they were eminently beatable in spite of their great offense.

I looked up some clips from the game on YouTube before this post (they're easy to fine) to refresh my memory, and am even more convinced based both on his play and his body language that Kobe had given up and was pouting pointedly.

David & Jordan-

I agree that the Lakers supporting cast was crap, that the Pistons were good, and that the Lakers may not have won even if Shaq had gotten more touches. I do not think any of that justifies Kobe's counter-productive play and chuckery.

Consider this last tidbit: Kobe shot two more shots per game against Detroit while playing with Shaq than he did against PHX while playing with Kwame (and in much fewer possessions). Does that really make basketball sense in either direction?

We are hitting the point, however, where we're all going to go in circles, and I'm not interested in discussing either series further at this point.

At Wednesday, March 09, 2016 10:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't tell if Nick is Barkley, Wilbon, Barry, or some combination of all 3. But, let us know when you figure out the magical # of shots that Kobe should be shooting each and every game.

The only times I ever hear someone making amazing claims of Kobe trying to prove a point comes from Kobe haters. It isn't based on facts or the like. And if you think there's a player in nba history who doesn't prefer to be the main reason why their team won, then you need to wake up. Everyone knows wants to the be 'man,' just very few even have one chance to do so. If you can actually find some evidence backing up this absurd claim that Kobe deliberately threw the 04 finals, I'm all ears.

Also, let me ask you this. In order: Kobe averaged 20.2 FGA/game, 21.7 FGA/game, 19.3 FGA/game, and 22.6 FGA/game throughout the 04 playoffs. In order: Shaq averaged 13.2, 14.2, 12, and 16.8. With Malone useless in the finals, they each upped their attempts slightly, but neither upped their attempts extraordinarily, and Kobe's FGAs are right in line with his career averages for each series. If anything, it looks like Kobe was trying to sabotage LAL in the first 2 rounds, since Malone was healthy, if you're going to make such a claim. If you think Kobe was sabotaging LAL in the finals, then he must've been trying to sabotage LAL in the playoffs before then as well. Correct? And let's not forget, DET probably had the top defense in 04, and Ben Wallace was 1st team all-defensive center. Shaq should've had bigger advantages in the previous series.

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 11:25:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


David and Nick. There is no doubt curry the best shooter u ever seen right. If not who in his league

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 2:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Curry is on a short list, for sure. Are we talking pure shooting or also the ability to get off a shot? Curry's ballhandling separates him from pure shooters like Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr. Larry Bird and Ray Allen could get their own shots but not from as far out as Curry.

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 4:45:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Curry is pretty provably the best shooter of the 3-pt era. He is probably the best shooter of all time, but it is difficult to compare him directly with guys like Pistol Pete and Jerry West who played in the pre 3 era. FG%s are not terribly helpful as the game has changed a great deal since then in terms of both pace and philosophy, and in the case of Pistol Pete, according to his teammates he'd often take harder-than-necessary shots just to see if he could make them. As a pure shooter, though, Pete was unbelievably good and the one guy I can think of off the top of my head who often made shots from the range Curry is making them now.

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 4:47:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I should also mention Drazen Petrovic, who was an otherworldly and improving shooter with a lightning fast release, but who died before we could see wha the was ultimately going to be. Curry's game reminds me quite a bit of Drazen's, though Curry is a much better ball handler and a better passer.

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 5:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree about Pistol Pete and Petrovic. Someone did an analysis of Pistol Pete's FGMs in college and figured out how many more points he would have averaged if the three point rule had been in effect and the numbers were amazing, especially considering that Pistol Pete already owns the career record with a 44 ppg average!

Petrovic was an incredible shooter as well.

In the non-NBA category, Oskar Schmidt deserves to be mentioned.

Craig Hodges and Hubert Davis were one dimensional players a la Kerr but as pure shooters they could hold their own with anyone.

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 5:21:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I've read a lot about Schmidt, but I haven't really seen him play much. Could he create his own shot, or was he just a knock-down spot up guy like Kerr/Hodges/Davis?

At Thursday, March 10, 2016 5:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't consider myself an expert on Schmidt's game but based on what I saw in FIBA play (Pan-Am Games, Olympics) and based on research (including a conversation with at least one person who saw him up close), here is a mini-scouting report:

1) Schmidt is bigger than you might think (roughly the same size as Bird) and that length provided an advantage for getting his shot off on the perimeter. In addition, Schmidt had a high release point on his shot.

2) Schmidt was an unabashed gunner. My favorite Schmidt quote is, "Some guys carry the piano. I play the piano."

3) Kobe Bryant, whose father Joe played against Schmidt in Europe, has said that if Schmidt had played in the NBA he would have been one of the best players in the league.

4) Schmidt was not a tremendous athlete or great ballhandler but his range was very deep and he knew how to get open. The Brazilian national team would set screens for him 30 feet from the basket and he would fire (and hit) at will.

Schmidt was a one dimensional player but he was very, very good at that one dimension.

At Friday, March 11, 2016 12:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


David and Nick

I have never seen no one shoot that far out. If he shot from the normal 22ft he shoot a higher percentage he shoot from 30ft plus.

Also a lot of of older players think that if he played in the era of handchecking forearms and no zone defense. He wouldn't be as affective.
Do u agree.

Also I'm looking at dangelo russel and devin Booker as poor man curry both of them got a great stroke

At Friday, March 11, 2016 1:50:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Pistol Pete used to shoot from that range. He's the only one I can think of, though.

Playing under older rulesets he'd be less effective as a penetrator, but it wouldn't do too much damage to his shooting. He gets a lot of his action when people back off him out of habit 30 ft from the rim, when he uses his handles to fool a defender, or off of screens, all of which would still happen. He might get a three or two less per game against smart defenders who have the energy to ride him with a hand check from when he crosses the court each time, but what makes Curry special is that he can get his shot off basically whenever he wants; the older defensive rules would only make that slightly harder.

I haven't watched the Lakers much this year because they're a depressing dumpster fire of bad coaching. So are the Suns, but they're my team, so I've watched a lot of Devin Booker, and he's certainly a good shooter, but it's a bit premature to compare him to Curry. I suspect he'll end up being much more like Klay Thompson on offense; great shooter off of screens who can do a little but of playmaking off the bounce, but isn't qualified to run an offense as the main guy.

At Saturday, March 12, 2016 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curry's shooting impacts the game so much people are asking for a rule change. When was the last time this happened? He's started a new movement in the league with everyone looking to shoot three pointers now.

Definitely the greatest shooter of all time and might have the best PER of all time this year. Sure his supporting cast is great but take out Curry and this team isn't special. He's made his teammates great by placing so much pressure on the defense and setting the tone for their offensive philosophy.

Soon he'll have one more MVP than Kobe.

At Saturday, March 12, 2016 8:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curry's a great shooter, no doubt. But, people jumping the gun quite prematurely. And typical Kobe hate I see continues. Why are people are so concerned comparing him to Kobe and not anyone else really?

What exactly is this new rule change? The nba has been shooting large quantities of 3's for years now. Curry isn't introducing anything new. GS had 2 former AS coming off the bench last year, and neither were very old players: Lee/Iggy. Both still had a lot of game. And this year's GS team is even better. Take Curry off GS, and they're still a top team in the league.

At Saturday, March 12, 2016 9:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Anonymous 1-

The increase in 3s has been going on since at leas the Nash-era Suns, the Warriors are just the best at it. But the league's been trending that way for a while.

Anonymous 2-

I think you overestimate how good GS would be without Curry; they actually lose games (by a fair margin) when he sits. Their entire offensive philosophy is based around his unique gifts. If they didn't have him, they have to run a different system, which may or may not work (they'd still be good defensively), but they wouldn't be nearly as dangerous offensively. I suspect they'd be about as good as the Pistons/Warriors/Rockets tier of fringe playoff teams.

That said, I agree with you- to a point- that it's too soon to compare him to Kobe (or anyone else in the GOAT conversation). I disagree that Anonymous 1's comment is in any way "hate"; it's just a factual observation. Don't be so sensitive. Also, most of the comparisons I've been hearing about Curry pit him against Lebron and/or Jordan, not Kobe, so I don't think people are "comparing him to Kobe and not anyone else."

At Saturday, March 12, 2016 10:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree that the league's usage of the three point shot has been trending upward before Curry emerged as the NBA's best player.

It is difficult to figure out precisely where to place Curry among the league's all-time greats just yet. His career arc and skill set are both somewhat unusual. I don't think that purely going by MVP count is the best metric, particularly considering that in the past decade and a half the voters have shorted both Shaq and Kobe (one MVP each) while conferring questionable MVPs on Iverson, Nash (twice) and Rose (a few other MVP choices during that period are reasonable but also debatable, including Nowitzki and Durant). LeBron has received four MVPs but conceivably could/should have won more.

At Sunday, March 13, 2016 1:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debating about different eras is a waste of space. However, can we at least agree that the Warriors are the most fun team to watch now? Maybe purists (Charles Barkeley) disagree but this is the new NBA until further notice.

Curry is having an all-time season, guy is averaging 30ppg with an unreal 50-40-90 percentages. Sure he hasn't done this over an extended period of time but let's not take anything away from what he's doing. He's basically been in the zone for the better part of 1.5 years.

Oh by the way, he'll probably hit 400 3's this year.

At Sunday, March 13, 2016 1:17:00 AM, Anonymous Space Ghost said...

I don't mean to sidetrack from this shooting conversation David, but I have to ask you, what do you think about D'Angelo Russell? He was labeled as a bust earlier in the year, but after getting back in the starting lineup he's been on fire. Still needs to improve his on ball defense significantly, although he is a decent gambler at times. He also showcases post up skills every game recently. What are your thoughts?

At Sunday, March 13, 2016 1:58:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

I don't think MVPs are the right way to gauge greats either; Harden almost won last year for crying out loud.

I agree Shaq should have won at least one more, and arguably two or three. Kobe arguably should have won in '09, but I don't think the Lakers were good enough in '06 or '07 (the years most people think he should have won) to merit consideration; I like my MVPs to anchor contending teams, but as we've discussed before, MVP criteria is deliberately vague and subjective, so I don't fault anybody who thinks Kobe should have won those ones, I just disagree with them.

Which brings me to the guys you listed. The funny thing about the Nash MVPs is I think you can justify either one ('05- best player on the best team, '06 player who's team would decline the most if he were removed), but not both at once; whatever your criteria is, shouldn't it be consistent year to year? That said, while I probably wouldn't have given him both of those, I think he got robbed in '07, so he ended up with the right amount of awards, just for the wrong years, in my opinion.

I honestly didn't pay much attention until the playoffs in '01, so I don't remember what the justification for Iverson was. Seems silly in retrospect though.

Rose won only because everybody was mad at Lebron that year; James was clearly both the best player in the league by such a wide margin at that point, and the guy whose team needed him the most (see: 2011 Finals when he disappeared and/or 2014 Heat when Wade, Bosh, and a better supporting cast couldn't stay above .500).

Nowitzki's a fine choice in '07 if you don't think it should have gone to either Nash, Duncan, or Kobe. I'd have had Dirk probably 2nd or 3rd on my ballot.

Durant's a fine choice if you wanna pretend Lebron wasn't still way better than him. That said, he was definitely the second most deserving guy by most metrics.

I know Anonymous and David have axes to grind with Lebron- and I do too, sometimes- but as far as regular season dominance goes, he's hard to argue with. He probably deserved every MVP from '09 or '10 to either '14 or '15. But voters get bored and look for other narratives; happened to Jordan and Duncan, too.

Speaking of Duncan, you could make a case for him winning a bunch more than he did, too. 4-5 of them wouldn't have been out of line in the mid 2000s, though which years he "should" have won varies based on what your criteria are.

At Sunday, March 13, 2016 6:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, not sure what these missed games of Curry are. He missed 4 games in 13, 4 in 14, 2 in 15, and 3 in 16. Even if GS lost every game, the sample size is too low to tell us anything. In the 4 games that Curry missed or barely played this year, GS is 3-1. You take Curry off of GS, and GS is still one of the most talented and deepest teams in the leagues, and they most likely still grab homecourt advantage for at least one round in the playoffs. OKC probably misses the playoffs or maybe a 7/8 seed if either Westbrook or Durant go down. CLE probably makes playoffs in weak East without James, but likely a bottom seed and gone in 1st round. Curry is still the best player in the nba this year, regardless of the amount of help he gets.

Stop it Nick, you're being ridiculous again, as usual. The point is why are so many people concerned with comparing Curry to Kobe and not Curry to ? I don't know about other message boards, but it's happening here and that's why I commented on it. The obsession of consciously or subconsciously with bringing Kobe down is always there. I remember reading an article after Dirk won the title in 11. The writer was trying to tell his readers that Dirk was now better than Kobe. Not Dirk better than Big O or West or ... No surprise Kobe was the primary choice for comparison.

Kobe should've won 06-10 for sure. Who cares how good his cast was or wasn't? Curry has best cast this year, maybe all-time, but he still deserves it. Maybe Nash deserved some consideration from 05-07, but it was pretty clear Kobe and a few others were clearly better than he was. PHO was just a great story. And given Nash's playoff failures with such talented teams and his former team getting better after he leaves, he shouldn't have won anything.

Rose deserved it in 11. Hard to argue Rose's cast was better than James, and CHI had a better record with Rose playing awesome, similar to Harden last year. If Curry wasn't in the conversation like in 11, Harden wins, and given how he kept his team elite with only one other semi-star for half a season, it makes sense.

Duncan was just never that dominant and played during the Kobe and Shaq eras, and his best years were during Shaq's best years, and then some during Kobe's best years. Shaq was the man from 00-02. Kobe was amazing in 03. Duncan was fortunate to get one, but given his career, 2 seems about right. Kobe and Shaq worked against each other and took votes from each other.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 1:57:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


The Warriors lose by an average of 7.7 points per 100 possessions when Curry is not on the floor. That's about equivalent to the point differential of the Phoenix Suns. Now, if they didn't have Curry at all they'd run a different system, and they'd be better than that... but they wouldn't be a meaningful contender. They'd be first-round fodder in the West, most likely.

I've decided I'm not going to get into it with you anymore about anything involving Kobe or Lebron; it's clear that you're completely beyond objectivity when it comes to either of those guys, and there's nothing to be learned by engaging with you.

Duncan was absolutely dominant through most of the 00s, but if you only look at offense, then no, he wasn't as dominant as some other players. He was, however, the best defensive player of the decade while still being one of the four or five best offensive players.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 11:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said GS lose games without Curry by a fair margin. We have no sample size to even consider this, but like I said, GS is 3-1 this season without Curry/injured Curry, so they aren't losing games without Curry. And that's great GS does a lot better with Curry as they should, but that still doesn't change the fact that GS would still have 2 AS(Thompson/Green), a good coach, a talented team, a deep team, and Finals MVP Iggy still coming off the bench without Curry. They'd still have solid guard, wing, and big play.

Taking Curry out of the equation, only 7 other teams have multiple AS(CLE, MIA, OKC, ATL, TOR, CHI and SA). LAC would be another if Griffin was healthy. All of these teams are top teams in their conf, except CHI(lots of injuries-but still underachieving) and ATL(currently 6 seed in East, but only 1.5 games out of 3 seed). GS would be at worst the #5 seed in West without Curry, though I think they'd be 3-4. They'd be in the top 5-8 team range in the league, not quite contender status but could do some damage in the playoffs.

Right Nick, I'm beyond objectivity, good one. I guess David is, too. Not sure what my last Kobe comments are such red herrings to you. I said he deserved MVP from 06-10 at the very least. If you think never-won-anything-Nash still undeserved some, maybe even 3, go right ahead. I actually think James is certainly a top 10 player all-time now. I have a hard time making a case of Bird over James, and Bird is in my and almost everyone else's top 10. James has had the luxury of playing in a weak conf. for his entire career as well. His stats are unbelievable, but it's a lot more than just stats, and he has a lot of work to do to catch-up to Kobe/Jordan. I see his career very similar to Duncan's, though he's been better individually. They both have had good, usually great, teams every year(other than James first few years). Duncan has achieved more team-wise so far, but James has several years left.

No, I don't only look at offense, though individual offense remains much more important than individual defense. But, let me know when Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, or Tony Allen make the AS team or an all-nba team, ok?

Duncan only averaged over 23.3ppg once. Even in his offensive-prime days, his offensive responsibilities were much less than for guys like Kobe, James, or Jordan. Duncan had a nice run from 99-06. But, he's already dipping down to 18.6ppg in 06, and never more than 34.8mpg after 04. Fewer minutes and offensive responsibilities along with good/usually great casts every year allowed him to conserve energy and focus on other areas. I don't consider these types of players as good as important as ones that do everything and shoulder all responsibilities of the game to the fullest like Kobe/James. If Duncan was really that much better than Kobe or even Jordan according to you, he should've won more titles and a lot more titles really with the casts that he had.

Duncan's peak just isn't that high and not sustained, though his near-peak was for awhile. He's a model of consistency more than anything else. Even in his best years, other than possibly 03, he was either looking up to Shaq or Kobe, and this is what primarily happened in the playoffs whenever Shaq or Kobe had any resemblance of a contender.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 12:37:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I phrased my initial point about Curry poorly, I see that now. I wasn't referring to their record when he's out (I haven't looked that up and assume the sample size is too small to matter anyways), I was referring to their on-court performance when he's sitting on the bench (for which we have a massive sample size).

It is debatable whether or not Draymond Green would still be an AS on a Curry-less team, as much of his offensive value relies on the spacing Curry creates. That said, he's certainly a great defender either way, but as you pointed out, great defenders are often overlooked for AS/All-NBA type honors.

I think the Warriors would struggle to create the kind of high-percentage looks they get with Curry out (they certainly struggle when he sits) but remain a good defensive and great shooting team. Still, with either Shaun Livingston (who hurts their spacing) or Draymond Green (who's untested in a primary playmaking role) as their best playmaker I think their offense would drop from league-best to middle of the pack. I think they'd end up near the bottom of the West, along with other "two star" teams like Memphis, Houston, and Portland.

It wasn't just your latest comment WRT Kobe and Lebron, I've just grown tired of your fan fiction. I'm happy to converse with you about other topics, but to be perfectly frank I just don't value your opinion on those subjects enough to spend any more time debating them, sorry.

With regards to Duncan, I suppose this comes partially down to a fundamental disagreement we have about offense and defense, but to characterize Duncan as an "individual" defender is to miss the point entirely. Perimeter guys like Battier/Bowen/etc. don't have nearly the same impact on defense as a rim protector does; they're directly involved in so many fewer possessions. Duncan's anchored elite defenses for nearly twenty years by protecting the paint, calling out sets, and making whip-smart decisions. The Spurs have stayed defensively elite (or something close to it) no matter how their cast has changed, or how many defensive zeroes (Parker, Bellinelli, Old Ginobili) they throw out on the perimeter.

During his prime, Duncan's defensive impact was greater than the offensive impact of anybody who wasn't putting up MVP-type offensive numbers, and was arguably greater than those, too. Factor in 20+ ppg on high percentage scoring, elite passing skills, and extremely smart off-ball play and brutal pick-setting, and he's an easy candidate for MVP any year you like. There's a reason he's the only guy to win two MVPs during Shaq's prime, and it's because while he wasn't as offensively dominant as Shaq, he was so transcendently gifted defensively that it made up the difference.

Additionally, offense is about more than raw numbers; the attention guys like Shaq and Duncan draw inside is as important as their actual scoring numbers, as it creates opportunities for their perimeter guys. The inverse is also true, but for the first half of Duncan's career- the half I'm talking about hypothetical MVPs for- he didn't have elite perimeter offensive talent, and even in their primes Tony Parker and Manu never contorted defenses or attracted extra attention the way Duncan did.

Duncan's teams have been top 10 in the league defensively all but 1 year of his career (they were 11th), they've been top 5 all but 3 years, and they've been top 2 a whopping 11 times (including 5 times at #1). The only constants there are Pop (definitely a factor) and Duncan; without Duncan, they aren't that defensively elite.

Even today, Duncan has the strongest defensive On/Off #s of any starter on the Spurs; Kawhi will likely win the DPOY, but it's Duncan that makes that defense into what it is. It always has been... and the Spurs have won five titles behind that defense.

Trust me, it's at least as valuable as individual offense. Probably moreso.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 3:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Green is probably the most versatile defender in the league today. I don't care who he plays with, but he's clearly playing at an AS level this year, maybe low-level AS, but still an AS. He's a great rebounder, not quite elite though. I questioned last year whether he was as good as people were saying, and I don't think he was quite at AS level last year, but he is this year. He can guard multiple positions at an elite level, and his offensive game is solid. He leads his team in assists, which has the best player in the nba this season who happens to be a PG. Not saying he actually does, but it's worth thinking about that maybe it's Green who's making Curry and others better more than Curry is, or at the very least Green deserves a lot of credit, too, as a playmaker.

You can think very little of my opinion of Kobe or whoever, I could care less, but it's very obvious your player evaluations in general is very bad. Think about the 4 players you talk the most about: Westbrook, Dragic, Kobe, and Nash. You love two, you hate two. You elevate the 2 you love much higher than anyone I've ever heard, and the two you hate much lower than anyone I've ever heard. Everyone has their own opinions. I have no doubt you would still think very lowly of Kobe even if you correctly ranked his defensive prowess, and didn't hold bizarre assertions about the 04 finals and 06 1st round.

When we talk about best players ever, it's primarily what they did as an individual player first. If they were on good teams, then titles are very relevant, which every supposed elite player has been on good teams, some more years than others though. This is why someone like Big O is thought of so highly, and probably rightfully so. His stats were awesome, but team-wise, not so much, at least compared to guys like Kobe, Jordan, Duncan, Kareem, etc. Maybe he didn't have that great of teams, but I don't see him elevating his teams anywhere nearly as much as the other elites. Kobe's individual stats and individual play are right up there with anyone. And the only supposed elite players to get 5 rings or more are Russell, Jordan, Kareem, Magic, Kobe, and Duncan. This shouldn't be that hard to see when rating him. If you and others can't see it, then so be it. Sure, I'll defend him, but I'm not making ridiculous untrue claims about him, and I'm rating him the same way as every other player.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 3:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duncan was a great defender, no doubt, nobody is saying differently. The old adage is that bigs are more valuable than mids/smalls for defense. While this is probably true and primarily true, there are exceptions like Kobe/Jordan who would do it all.

Yea, that reason that Shaq only won one MVP was the voters.

Every elite offensive player in nba history, regardless of who their teammates were, could excel offensively. Mcgrady or Iverson might be the two best examples. Big O and Wilt are two more. Kobe and Jordan are two more. Duncan always had competent teammates. Actually, when his perimeter teammates got better, his offensive game slipped moreso.

If Duncan was as great as you say he is, then he should've won many more titles. I say the same thing with Nash with you. Neither one can be as great as you claim when they won so little. And yes, 5 rings for Duncan is little relevant to the teams he's had, if he's the 2nd best player all-time as you claim.

Like I've said many times, the only time Duncan beat either Shaq or Kobe when either had a decent team was 03, and that was with Shaq healing on company time and LAL going for 4 straight finals. And I have no doubt if Kobe had contender-type casts from 05-07, he'd have outperformed Duncan those years as well.

I don't know what your cutoff is for Duncan's eliteness, it seems like you think he's still elite in 2016. But, once Kobe got a decent team, he beats up on Duncan in 08, Duncan loses badly in 1st round to DAL in 09, then PHO sweeps SA in 2nd round 10, SA as a #1 seed loses to MEM in 1st round without Gay. I mean, really? This is an elite player for any of those years. I don't see it. SA has just been stacked the past few years as well. Almost any center in the league could replace Duncan, and they'd be at least very good, case in point, look at SA's record this year without Duncan. Overall and H2H in the playoffs, Kobe clearly comes out on top. Kobe's had maybe 9 chances at most, 00-04, 08-11. He won 5x, and made finals 7x. His team has some serious issues in 03-04, and that's coming off of a 3-peat as well. BOS way too good in 08, and his team over-the-hill in 11. He didn't play as well as he could've in 11, but they weren't winning and that's going for 4 straight finals as well. Kobe maximized his chances as well as anyone could've. Duncan's had competent teams every single year, at least 15-16 good chances, and he's still made fewer finals and lost in the 1st round 3x in the past 7 years, and his last 2 finals were with him playing a much lesser role than an elite or MVP-type player would be expected to. Duncan's amazing, no doubt, but don't act like it's far-fetched or complete bias, etc., to think Kobe has had the better career between the two, when almost everything points in Kobe's direction.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 4:19:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Green

I don't disagree that Green helps Curry, nor do I disagree that he's a great defender. I don't think he helps Curry as much as Curry helps him, though, and I think his points, FG%, and assists would all decline sharply without the spacing Curry provides. All-Star teams are largely bullshit, but for the sake of this argument, consider the following players:

Dennis Rodman: One of the three or four greatest defensive forwards ever, one of the three or four greatest rebounders ever. 2 AS teams in a 13 year career. They came in his 2nd and 4th highest scoring seasons, despite the fact that they came before his greatest defensive years, and that he had fully nine seasons of much higher rebounding than his first AS appearance.

Mark Eaton: 2nd or 3rd greatest shot blocker since they started tracking the stat, anchored 4 #1 defenses, made one AS team.

Ben Wallace and Dikembe both made a few, but generally only when threatening to lead the league in both rebounds and blocked shots.

All-Star teams lean heavily towards offensive stars, and without Curry, I don't think Green has the offensive numbers or team success to make the cut.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 4:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Player evaluation

Let's talk about the four guys you mentioned.

I have Kobe about 13th all time, and as the 3rd greatest guard. I think usually big men have more of an impact in a two-way sense, which is why ten of the twelve dudes I have ahead of him are forwards. That's all I really want to say about him with you.

I have Nash somewhere around 40th all time (though I haven't plotted my list out name-by-name that far, so he could be lower). I do think that Nash is a difficult player to evaluate, because he was so incredibly valuable on offense, but a near zero defensively. Curry is the evolutionary Nash, both more dangerous as a scorer and much more competent as a defender, but he's the only guy I can think of besides Nash who singlehandedly guarantees a league leading offense. That counts for something, and I maintain that had a smarter front office surrounded Nash with rim protection and rebounding he could/would have won at least one title. More on titles later.

I think Westbrook has improved a lot over the last few years, and consider him the 2nd best point guard in the league right now. I'm not *quite* as high on him as David is- I don't think he's a top 5 guy- but he's definitely shored up his defense and he's underrated as a passer (guys shooting off his passes almost universally shoot a markedly higher percentage than normal). I haven't sat down and made a hard list, but I'd estimate I think he's around the 10th-12th best player in the league right now.

I think the current version of Goran Dragic is about the 5th or 6th best PG in the league (he'd be higher if he had his three point shot back). His season-long numbers aren't anything special, but that's more a product of usage than of his skill. Since the All-Star break, with the ball finally in his hands, he's averaging 18.5/7.5/5.2, he's 4th in the league in +- (he was first before a rough overtime in Toronto last night), and his team is 9-4 despite losing their best two-way player in Chris Bosh. They've played only five teams outside of the playoff race in that span, and 3 of their 4 losses are against top 6 teams, with their only home loss to the Warriors in what was basically a one-possession game. For the season, he's by far Miami's best On/Off and +- player, and all of his teammates perform better when he's on the court than off of it.

1/2 on Player Evaluation

At Monday, March 14, 2016 4:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

The guy's basically a lesser Nash on offense (he only guarantees about a top 6 rating when he's got the ball), but he's an above average defender on the other end. While it's unfortunate that coaches have a bizarre fixation on asking him to do the single thing he's worst at (shooting corner 3s), his results as a primary option both in '14 and over the last 13 games (54-35) are better than those of such highly regarded players as Bosh (38-49 in Miami, 232-275 in Toronto), Westbrook (22-18 w/o Durant in '15), or John Wall (162-228); that Suns team also won 7 more games than any Bosh team that didn't feature Lebron. Neither Wall nor Westbrook has ever led a 48 win team, either (though if you wanted to argue Westbrook is better than Durant this year, I might listen). Wins aren't everything (more on that when we talk about titles in my next post), but they're something, and they suggest that giving the ball to Dragic isn't a bad idea, especially when you consider that literally every single one of his fellow Suns from '14 have seen their numbers decline without him, no matter where they went. Only two of them are currently starters, albeit starters for the third worst team in the NBA. Not exactly a 48-win supporting cast.

Dragic isn't a perfect player, and he needs both the ball in his hands and an up-tempo (ideally PnR) style to be at his most effective. He can't shoot from the corners, he gets bullied by larger guards (except for Westbrook, who he tends to do weirdly well against), and he also tends to run out of gas on the second night of back-to-backs. But give him the ball and the pace, and he's one of the best PGs in the league, scoring efficiently, keeping the ball moving, and getting easy buckets for his teammates. The fact that he also plays defense means I'd much rather have him than the Lillard/Irving/Parker type of guards who score a lot but don't do much else.

You can knock my player evaluation all you want, but so far the results favor what I've been saying.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 4:59:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Titles

I think titles are too hard to divorce from context to use as a be-all, end-all metric. Not only do you need to factor out teammates, injuries, and coaches, but the level of competition differs from year to year. I'm a lot more impressed by the Spurs beating Miami in '14 than I am with them beating Cleveland in '07, for example, but both equal one title. I'm much more impressed with the '83 76ers curb-stomping the Showtime Lakers than I am with the '89 Pistons putting the old-as-dust version of that team out to pasture. The Bird title that means the most is the one where he beat the Lakers in their hey day, not the ones where he beat up on overachieving Houston teams. Shaq and Kobe beating the Pacers impresses me a lot more than Shaq and Kobe beating the '76ers. The list goes on.

I think titles are worth mentioning, but they need to be placed in the proper context. I tend to weight titles where a guy was at least arguably his team's best player higher than titles where he was clearly a #2- apologies to Magic, Kobe, and all non-Russell 60s Celtics- but I'm more interested overall in skill set and impact on the game than I am in rings. Otherwise, I'd have Robert Horry 2nd all time.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 5:27:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

And finally, back to Duncan.

Your contention seems to be that he always had a great cast; I disagree. I've covered the '03 cast repeatedly- the worst #2-#10 roster to ever win a title- but even outside of that, he only had truly stacked teams in '99 (fellow elite level guy in Robinson) and '14 (with an extremely deep, talented team). He has his best team ever right now, although it remains to be seen if that's enough to beat the Warriors.

Generally, he had 1-2 fringe All-Stars, a few good role players, and little else. That's pretty standard, probably slightly below average, for a contending team. He did not get to spend most of his career with elite two-way guys (Parker, his only post-Robinson teammate to make an All-2nd team, is a famed defensive failure), not did he ever have a meaningfully above average offensive forward before Leonard got there (though Bowen was an excellent defender). If you look at the other guys who have 5+ rings, they won them consistently with other All-NBA guys on their teams. In 4 of Duncan's 5 title years, he didn't have a single teammate on the All-NBA team. Magic got 2, Kareem, Russell, and Jordan got 1, Kobe got 0*. It takes a damn village, unless you have Tim Duncan.

*Worth noting is that the 3rd team didn't exist until '89; if you don't count 3rd teamers, Kobe and Jordan each get an extra one.

Now, as for the years he lost. I'm not as moved as you are. It's hard to win a title with only one A-list star. We can chock up the after-title years to fatigue if you like, or just running into the wrong team. The '83 76ers are my pick for the greatest team ever, but they lost in the first round the next year thanks to a bad matchup. There's probably at least one Spurs year where they could have beaten everybody except who they played in the first round; the Grizzlies particularly were a nightmare for them, with Gasol doing a great job on Duncan, the Battier & Allen & Conley combo meaning they were able to guard Parker & Ginobili simultaneously all 48 minutes, and Randolph absolutely abusing the rotting corpse of Antonio McDyess at the 4.

I'm not sure any other team that season could have attacked the Spurs at their weak points in the same way; OKC didn't have a post scorer to punish McDyess nor the perimeter depth to turn off SA's guards. Dallas might have been able to do it, but they weren't well equipped to deal with Parker's speed and Chandler couldn't make Duncan work on the other end (though Dirk would have had a monster series). Miami was still soft inside at that point, and would have had just as much trouble scoring at the rim against Duncan as they did against Chandler.

It was a matchup issue, not a "Duncan is a failure" issue. That said, that team had absolutely goose egg perimeter D, so that would have been a factor. Show me a perimeter player who won a title with no interior D, and I'll shut right up (it hasn't happened).

You mentioned that I think Duncan's still elite; you're absolutely right. His offensive role is reduced (though he still scores fine when asked to and sets some of the best picks in basketball), and he's anchoring the best NBA defense we've seen since the 70s. There are a few players I'd rather have in today's NBA... but not many. The guy has been one of the best 15 players in the world for 19 years now, including about 15 years where he was one of the best 5, and ten years where he might have been #1.

Long story short, the years Duncan didn't win usually make sense, and usually don't have a ton to do with Duncan. A couple of the years he did win, he probably shouldn't have. There's absolutely nobody who's been better for longer, and only a few guys who had better peaks. But in terms of overall impact on the game, there's very few people who can make a case against him; he's won more often with less help than anybody else.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 7:39:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

*Typo way above; meant to say 10 of the guys I have above Kobe/Magic/etc. are forwards or centers, not just forwards. Either 5 or 6 of them are centers depending on what you count Duncan as.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 10:47:00 PM, Anonymous Space Ghost said...

Kobe Bryant is arguably the greatest player of all time. 13th is pretty laughable and an insult to a true great. I actually have played competitively so I'm not just pulling this out of my ass or anything. From a skills and iq perspective he is 2nd to none.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 11:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Space Ghost:

It is premature to call Russell a bust. He is very talented but he is immature. He lacks focus at times. Byron Scott has been criticized for not giving the young players more minutes but I agree with Scott's philosophy that they have to earn their playing time. Playing time is the only leverage an NBA coach has vis a vis players who have guaranteed contracts.

Russell has the potential to be a very good NBA player if he improves his focus and gains some maturity.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:12:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Space Ghost:

I respectfully disagree, but I'm pretty fatigued on the subject right now and don't want to get into another protracted debate about it. Suffice it to say, I think it's pretty difficult for a guard, no matter how skilled, to match the value of a player who protects the rim and rebounds; all of the twelve guys I have ahead of Kobe are also elite scorers except for Russell, but all of them are better rebounders than Kobe, and all but possibly Oscar (we didn't have block stats when he played) are better shot blockers. I also think there are some weird personality things with Kobe that aren't there with most of the guys I have above him (Lebron takes a hit for similar reasons).

That said, my ratings are fairly amorphous. Over the last year or so Larry Bird has fallen several spots to #12, Shaq has dropped from the top ten to below Kobe, Magic has dropped from 9th to about 16th, etc. It's not unlikely that Bird'll drop below Kobe as I continue to watch more old games for both of them/as my understanding of the game evolves. Ditto Oscar, who's defense I have a hard time properly defining.

I think it's unlikely that I'll ever value Kobe over my top 4, who are Doc, Duncan, Kareem, and Jordan.

Still, I find it difficult for me to take a guy who scores an extra five points over a guy who gets an extra seven rebounds and prevents an extra dozen plus points by changing, blocking, and discouraging shots at the rim. Perimeter players simply don't influence the same number of possessions defensively.

Fun challenge: can you find an NBA championship team that didn't have at least above average rim protection and rebounding? Because I can find several that don't have a major perimeter scorer. There's a reason for that.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 2:33:00 AM, Blogger Jordan said...


I really like a lot about what you are saying, which is why Duncan is such a fascinating case study in terms of Pantheon ranking. But, a couple points to your last comment because you issued a challenge.

Nary a one. Though my memory only goes back to 1988 regarding players I actually saw. And, it wasn’t until 91-92 I started to really understand the game.

That said, your question is a bit of a false one because it contrasts two team needs to one. Above average rim-protection and rebounding are two wholly different functions on the court. Yes, they often overlap, but it's not a given that they do. Exhibits A: Whiteside. Pre-Rivers DJ. Drummond. Exhibits B: Hibbert. Marc Gasol. Horford. So, it's a little bit of a disingenuous argument from the onset.

If you split them up, there’s a couple (kinda)answers. The Bulls (rim-protection). The Mavs (rebounding).

The fault in your thinking is that it assumes that the major perimeter scorer only had one function. You can’t argue against the fact that Bryant wasn’t just a main wing scorer, but the initiator of the offense. He led every championship team in assists. He was the team’s shot creator (probably the best shot creator ever, well, until a guy named Steph came along). And, especially on the first 3-peat teams, he was assigned to defend the other team’s best offensive wing player.

Try finding an NBA champion without an above-average offense and shot-creator.
I think there is nothing but truth and factual evidence in your case for Duncan, but you may be undervaluing shot-creation and/or the offensive instigator.

2nd, 4th, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 7th, 8th, 7th, 3rd, 3rd, 11th, 6th, 10th, 9th,

That’s 14 years of a top 10 offense and one 11th place finish (a championship team). For 15 straight years, having Kobe on your team meant a top 10 offense. It doesn’t matter who you put with him. Shaq (duh). Gasol (duh). Dwight (eh). Bynum (ugh). Kwame (wtf?). Or in what system. Phil. Rudy T. Hamblen. Brown. D’Antoni. Kobe’s teams were a top 10 offense. Just like Duncan’s squads were often at least above average offensive squads, all of Kobe’s teams were above average defensive squads—even during the Kwame/Smush days—and were nearly as elite as Duncan’s teams during their championship runs.

I like how you moved Shaq out of your top 10. I never understood why the general populace values him so highly. He’s top 15-20 for sure. But, he a fatal flaw to his game that just can’t be overlooked. Plus, look at who he played with…Penny. Kobe. Wade. Nash. Lebron. Big 3…

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Green/AS teams: Do you really deny Green isn't an AS? AS teams are a good indicator. Lots of people like to nitpick them when 1-2 bad selections are made each year. Of the 10 picks by fans, at least 8-9 are legit AS, usually all 10. Coaches select the rest. While the coaches might make a few dubious picks every once in awhile, generally, they're right on, and they know the game better than you or I, don't think otherwise. I can't remember a year when none of the top 20-21 players in the league weren't AS.

Rodman's a borderline HOFer, and while he probably should be there, he probably didn't deserve many more, if any, AS appearances. I'm sure there's several players that made more AS than him that he had a better career than. It's not just about looking at AS solely, it's taking everything into account. The all-time AS selection list is pretty much right on, depending on the # of years each player played. You don't see any scrubs with many selections.

What about Eaton? You're making my point even more. He played with 2 other AS for many years, and only made 1 CF. He's not even close to HOF either. Look at Deandre Jordan. 0 AS, and I'd take him over Rodman, who's a knucklehead. Jordan better offensively and much bigger, while very comparable defensively. Jordan's close to making the last few AS teams, but he's playing with 2 AS, and still hasn't reached a CF. If Rodman didn't play with super-stacked DET team and Jordan/Pippen, he most likely never wins a title. I'm sure Jordan could've fit those roles as well. You need a bevy of good/great players if your best player is offensively challenged, no matter how great he is defensively. The old adage remains true: good offense beats good defense.

Titles: They're very important when determining the all-time greats. Kobe only has realistic chance at 3 with your 'being top guy' claim. That's another wrong/unfair claim you have towards Kobe. Jordan or whoever else would've been in the same situation if they started with prime Shaq. But, even still, that doesn't really make sense to be used against Kobe. He's playing at a phenomenal level for all his titles, and he still got 5 while the best years of his prime were completely wasted. If Jordan, Shaq, and Wilt were all on the same team, someone has to be the best player on that team. It doesn't make sense to discredit the others.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I had a long post just get eaten by a crash. Here are the bullet points.

*Rim protection/rebounding are indeed two separate things, but title teams have both (and Duncan provides both).

*Rim protection isn't just blocking shots. '97 Bulls were third in the league in opponent's FG% at the rim. '98 team dropped a bit, but got it together in the playoffs (4th among playoff teams).

*You have to adjust rebounding numbers for pace. Dallas was 5th in the league in rebounds per 100.

* Kobe's 14 years of offensive top 10 finishes is awesome, but impresses me less than Duncan's 19 years of defensive finishes, especially considering Kobe was a secondary offensive option for the first five or so but Duncan has always been his team's primary defensive fulcrum (except arguably in '98).

* Not sure where you're getting "all of Kobe's teams were defensively above average." '05 team ranked last in the league, '07 team ranked 24th. Overall he had 8 top ten finishes (once while a rookie) and 9 ranked 20th or lower. Kobe's teams were mostly only good defensively when he had 1) rim protection, and 2) Phil Jackson.

*Duncan, meanwhile, never finished below 17th on offense (his rookie year), had 12 top ten finishes and is probably working on a 13th.

* Which is sorta my point; a great big guarantees you success on both ends; a great guard guarantees you success on one.

*Title teams without meaningfully above average perimeter scoring, shot creation, or instigation: '94 Rockets, '99 Spurs, and '03 Spurs. Those might be the only ones, but there they are. You could make a case for a few other teams, but those are the ones I'd pick. They had non-star guards who averaged pedestrian assist numbers and mostly were there to throw entry lobs and shoot spot up jumpers.

* People tend to read "Duncan's better" as "Kobe's not good" which isn't what I'm saying. Kobe's amazing. I have him as the third greatest guard ever and wouldn't fight anyone who said second. Duncan's just more amazing, and for longer.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


My point about Green is that I don't think he's an All-Star if he's not playing with Curry. He'd remain an awesome defender, but his offensive numbers would dip, and you generally need one of the two following things to make a modern All-Star team:

1) Great offensive numbers (or good offensive numbers with great team success)
2) Be threatening to lead the league in blocks and rebounds.

Green can't produce either of those without the space Curry creates for him. Do I think he's one of the best 24 players in the league? Almost certainly. Do I think he'd make an All-Star team without Curry? No. Do I think he and Thompson would carry the Warriors to a top 4 seed in the West? Absolutely not.

Thompson is a great scorer/shooter, but he isn't much of a playmaker. Green's an above average playmaker but my contention is that much of his playmaking is enabled by Curry's presence. I don't think Golden State's offense would be stable enough without Curry to be much more than a fringe playoff team.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duncan: I never said 'great.' I said good or great. He's always had a competent cast though, and his casts have been good enough to win every year he's played. His 03 cast was much better than you claim, and not the worst 2-10. Kobe's 09-10 casts were worse 2-10. I don't know where I rank Duncan's cast for 03 season, but it's still at least in the top 5 of the league, and easily good enough to win with 03. And the only team he faced in the playoffs that year that possibly had a better cast was DAL, and of course Duncan was better than Dirk. Well, if Duncan has only had 3 stacked teams, Kobe's only had 1(00), maybe 09 if Bynum stayed healthy.

Duncan had the best team in 99(lockout year, too, faced #8 seed in finals). Best team in 01, doesn't even make finals. Top 2-3 team in 02, loses in 2nd round. He had best or very close to best cast in 03. He had top 3 team again in 04, loses in 2nd round again. Wins with a top team in 05. Top team in 06, loses in 2nd round. Top 2-3 team in 07, wins with DAL losing in 1st round, which was big since DAL has beaten SA multiple in playoffs. Top 5 team in 08, loses in WCF. Maybe only top 5-7 team in 09, but loses 4-1 to DAL in 1st round. Only 7 seed in 10, loses in 2nd round, but his cast is solid as usual. Duncan clearly has been slowing down at that point in his career. Top team in 11, loses in 1st round. Top 2-3 team in 12, loses in WCF. Top 2-3 team in 13, super easy road to finals, and loses. At this point, SA changes the way they play. Duncan has so many weapons around him, it's ridiculous. They manage to win in 14, but then lose again in 1st round in 15. Except for maybe 1-2 years, he always has at least a top 5 team, and when they slip out of that category, it's because his game has slipped. But, even if so, SA is so good, they usually can still manage top 5 status at worst. I know it's hard to do it every year, but he's had multiple instances with the top team not only not making the finals, but losing in 1st/2nd round even. You don't know what's going to happen with him. Talk about defense all you want, but except for a brief few years in early 2000s, Duncan hasn't been able to take over games offensively on a consistent basis. When a player can do that, and his cast is even remotely competent like Kobe, James, or even Durant, those players and their teams are mostly likely going to win. Except for 03, Duncan has always looked up to either Shaq or Kobe when they have even remotely decent casts.

Nick, your players' list is ridiculous at best, and completely absurd at worst. You place Pippen at #9. Pippen might be underrated or more accurately overlooked, but he was only a 7X AS, only 1st team all-nba 3x, only an MVP candidate or borderline candidate 3 years at most. Do I need to say more? It's not just Kobe either. I guess you're fine placing certain players ahead of others who have accomplished less and often much less individually and team-wise. It's odd your fascination with bigs, but yet DR. J is #1, and somehow Jordan is only #4. I know Moses and Hakeem were great, but ahead of guys like Shaq, Magic, and Kobe? Huh?

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your challenge isn't even on the same levels. You say 'above average' for interior defender and then 'major' for a perimeter scorer. What if we change the question to 'major' for interior defender and just 'above average' to perimeter scorer? Every title team needs at least some resemblance of a defense, and competent players who can score. You need both, unless something bizarre really happens and all the top players/coaches get injured, then mid 2000s PHO might actually win something.

What it boils down to, which I've said many times, and you've yet to make any case even remotely contrarily. Duncan's in my top 10, sure, but if he's really as great as you claim, #2 all-time, and individual big-man defense is so important, why isn't he winning more with the teams he's had? And why is Shaq and Kobe almost always beating him when they have a decent team? And even Dirk and James. SA wins in 14, but Duncan's a distant 3rd best player in that series, at best. I'm sorry, but he's not even approaching MVP-level status. And elite players don't lose in 1st round with competent casts, and 3x times at that, and have so many underachieving playoff individual/team performances, if they're as good as you claim they are. SA was a big-time contender last year, and looked what happened. When have Kobe/Jordan's teams ever flopped with contenders like that?

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How exactly does Curry create defensive rebounds for Green? Green actually doesn't get that many offensive rebounds. Almost everyone in the league recognizes Green's values by now. Chandler/Noah have been AS teams recently, and I'm sure there's more, and Green's better than both of them. Green averages around 13ppg. For nba starters who play at least 30mpg, it's hard not to average at least 10ppg. I think you're overestimating Curry's impact quite a bit, and underestimating Green quite a bit. We've all seen how valuable Green was to GS title last year and this year so far. No one player can lead a team to even remote-elite status

Nick, you're not making sense again. If Green is a top 24 player, then he's an AS-caliber player. You can't have it both ways. Playing with or without Curry doesn't change how good he is. It might help get better looks, etc., but it doesn't change how good he is. Curry can't make him jump higher or run faster. And why exactly does Green average more assists than Curry, too? That's bizarre. GS has lots of guys who can be playmakers, and it'd by committee if Curry wasn't there. Also, if Curry wasn't on the team, and if his replacement was just a top 25-35 PG in the league which is nothing special, that guy would be a decent enough playmaker where your playmaker concerns for GS would be answered.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:10:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Ignoring all the Kobe stuff, but I'll touch on a few points.

Duncan's '03 team: Parker, shooting a poor percentage with mediocre scoring and assist numbers and no defense, Robinson, playing ok for 24 minutes a game, Stephen Jackson (hey! An above average starter! Hooray!), Bruce Bowen, a great role player, Manu Ginobili, shooting in the 30%s, and Malik Rose. That was the team. You realize Lamar Odom- nevermind Pau Gasol- would have been the second best guy on that team?

"My fascination with big men" is shared by NBA history.
MVPs to Centers or PFs: 35
MVPs to SFs: 9 (though all 4 of the guys who won them- Bird, Lebron, Durant, Doc- spent time at the 4 during their career and helped protect the rim and/or rebound more than most star SFs)
MVPs to Guards: 16

As for Duncan's playoff losses, you continue to ignore the context. I reject the premise that he had elite teams every year- he's spent most of his career with a defensively inept PG and has very rarely had any help inside post Robinson (until Aldridge). Your complaint seems to be that he had more help than Bryant overall and won the same amount; that may be true, but he rarely if ever had the same quality of support Bryant did when he won. Note that Duncan's title teams very rarely feature another All-NBA level guy.

I will dip back into Kobe land to answer one quick question, which is "why couldn't Duncan beat Shaq and Kobe except in '03?" Because 1 top 15 guy < 2 top 15 guys. During that era Shaq as about as good as Duncan- though of course Duncan had a much longer peak and eventually learned to make free throws- and SA had no secondary guy at Kobe's level.

As for Pippen, I think his overall skill set and ability to guarantee the playoffs- look at that '94 Bulls roster and tell me how he won 55 games- as well as his ability to elevate his offensive game to MVPish levels as needed puts him in the top 10. He won 6 titles and came within a sketchy call ('94) and an incredible alley-oop ('00) of likely winning at least one more (though I think Houston would have whipped him in '94). I also think somebody who is arguably the greatest defensive player ever at his position (though I'd take Bobby Jones by a hair) and is also an elite offensive player is more valuable than, say, Magic, who is perhaps the best offensive player ever at his position (though I'd take Nash by a hair on pure offense), but is a mediocre defender.


At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:10:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

The counter-argument to Pippen is that he was never the best player on a title team, and that's a fair one. My counter to that is that he spent all but one year of his prime beside Jordan, and in that one year he was probably the second best player in the league (behind Hakeem, who I also have ahead of him). I contend that he could likely have won a title replacing the best player on a number of existing title teams, including the 80s Celtics and later 2000s Lakers.

Like Duncan, he almost guaranteed a top 15- and often a top 10- finish on both ends of the ball for any team he played for. The guys I have below him have a lot more seasons in which their team was weak on one side of the ball or the other. I value two-way play very highly, and I value guys who's two-way play is reflected in their team's overall two-way performance more than guys who put up gaudy offensive numbers for iffy offensive teams or guys who make All-Defensive teams while their teams finish with mid 20s defenses.

I remain much less persuaded by metrics like All-NBA and All-Star appearances than you. I disagree that Duncan's Spurs teams "flopped", and I disagree that he generally had top flight support; he generally had good support, but almost never had another top 15 type guy, and was often wholly responsible for his team's interior scoring, defense, and rebounding. He went 2-3 against the Shaq/Kobe Lakers in the playoffs (perfectly respectable), he was an instant MVP candidate in his first season, and he's still, in his 19th year, arguably the most valuable defensive player in basketball; I cannot think of anyone else who's had more long-term two way value, or more overall team success (except Bill Russell).

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:16:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I didn't see you'd posted again.

Sorry if I was unclear. Curry doesn't create rebounds for Green; I merely meant that Green doesn't get the kind of rebounding numbers needed to make an All-Star team without being on the sort of dominant team he's on because of Curry.

Noah and Chandler both fit my qualifier of "threatening to lead the league in blocks and rebounds." Green does not.

"If Green is a top 24 player, then he's an AS-caliber player. You can't have it both ways."

I can if I think All-Star teams are largely offensive-leaning bullshit, which I do.

"And why exactly does Green average more assists than Curry, too? "

Because Curry creates the space for Green to operate, and defenses devote most of their resources to "stopping" Curry.

"GS has lots of guys who can be playmakers, and it'd by committee if Curry wasn't there."

Yes, and it would not be nearly as effective.

"Also, if Curry wasn't on the team, and if his replacement was just a top 25-35 PG in the league which is nothing special, that guy would be a decent enough playmaker where your playmaker concerns for GS would be answered."

Disagree. The 25th best PG in the league is who, would you say? For the sake of argument, let's say it's Jose Calderon (he's a starter, at least, so he's theoretically in the range you offered). All of a sudden Golden State's defense is extremely vulnerable against the PnR, their offensive spacing shrinks, teams can freely go under picks against the PG (which neuters Draymond's rolling somewhat), and all of a sudden they're nothing special. Let's say it's Patrick Beverly; their defense stays solid- even improves- but their PnR game is gone, their spacing shrinks... see what I'm getting at here?

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 1:18:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Do you have an opinion on what Golden State would look like sans Curry? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 2:10:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


More on Green/Warriors:

*Over a quarter of Green's assists are to Curry; considering Curry is the most efficient shooter ever, it's likely that Green's assist numbers would drop a bit in his absence.

*Over 100 possessions, Green shoots 6% better with Curry on the floor, and records a 15 point better +- with him than without him.

* To my surprise, he does get more assists when Curry sits, but I suspect that's more touches related than anything else.

* When Green plays with Curry, the Warriors have a +21 net RTG. When he plays without him, they're still +8. That's good- about as good as the Memphis Grizzlies starting lineup. Giving Green the benefit of the doubt that he'd maintain those numbers against starting units if Curry disappeared- and assuming that GSW roughly keeps its -8 margin when Green sits (it'd actually go much lower without Curry shoring up most of those Green-less lineups)- That'd have the Warriors with an average win margin of about +4 (assuming 100 possessions and Green playing 75% of the game). Pretty good, about a 5 seed in the current West.

* However, that assumes the following 4 (unlikely) things:

1) Green's #s would not drop as the primary defensive focus for opposing teams; teams would be scouting him, instead of Curry.
2) Those numbers, compiled almost entirely against bench units, would not drop against starting caliber competition.
3) The Green-less units would perform as well as they do even without Curry (they would not).
4) Nobody gets hurt (GSW's done ok here, but in this fantasy scenario even losing Festus really hurts).

I think those three variables are probably worth at least an 4 points per game, easily, which puts GSW right where I said they'd be, as a fringe playoff team.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:27:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Kobe was the secondary option? On that first championship team, yes. But, after that, he was probably the more important offensive player due to his swiss-army knife ability to do many things and do them exceptionally well. He organized the offense. Led the team in assists, and was second or first in scoring in every series for the remaining two championships. It’s easy to say Shaq was the first option. He was. Back then, the league used to work from inside out. But, he wasn’t the most important offensive player on the team. Shaq never played without a dynamic wing, so there is no A/B testing to be done. That said, he’s only succeeded with one of the best wings on his team. The facts we know about Shaq—he couldn’t close games, and he needed someone to feed him the ball—dictate that Bryant was the more dynamic (and thus, more indispensable) offensive player.

I bring up Kobe’s offense, because his offense is just as important as Duncan’s defense. At Duncan’s pinnacle (2003), he was probably more important than Kobe (06) at his pinnacle, because, as you’ve said an elite big is more impactful on both ends. But, we aren’t just looking at individual seasons (and, I’m not sure Duncan could have elevated Kobe’s 06 squad the way Kobe did if we swapped Kwame for his guard equivalent to team up with Smush Parker and Luke Walton).

Duncan’s squads have ten top 12 finishes on offense, but half of those aren’t because of Duncan, who has barely averaged 30 minutes per game over his last half dozen seasons. Duncan has not been the main offensive focal point for some time now. He hasn’t led the team in scoring for the past seven seasons (though the first two he was still the second option). The reigns were handed over to Parker (and Manu when healthy) who led the “new look” offensive resurgence (all the credit goes to Duncan for stepping aside and letting this happen), that has since been assumed by Leonard and now Aldridge. For the past three years, Duncan’s been an ensemble to bit offensive player.

And, again, let’s look at the personnel. You said Kobe’s only been good with an elite big or with Phil, but Duncan’s always had Pop. He’s always had a lockdown wing defender (if not multiple) who was one of the best in the league (during his championships). He’s always had elite outside shooting. He’s always had a bruiser-esque power-forward to handle, well, bruising things. And outside of that 05 season, Duncan’s largely had deep casts.

Bryant’s never had deep casts, which means he’s been forced to shoulder more responsibility on the court for longer periods of time. Due to the nature of how the Lakers run their organization, he’s never had stability in terms of rosters (yes there’s been a lot of turnover in Duncan’s rosters, but he’s largely had the same core teammates for over a decade now). And Kobe’s never played with any elite defensive players outside of Lamar Odom, and if you squint really hard, maybe a past-his-prime Metta.


At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:27:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Let me reiterate, you are right that being the backbone of one of the stingiest defenses for basically his entire career makes Duncan valuable, but my point (and I think Anonymous’ as well) is that his offensive value wanes as his career progressed. After 07, when Parker (wrongly) won the Finals MVP, Duncan’s two-way dominance receded. Now, he’s still important to the Spurs defense, but has minimal value on offense. The team is 15-2 without him this year (mostly against non-elite teams).

Duncan had a higher peak, but his peak was shorter, which has allowed him to have a longer, more team-oriented success rate as he has been able to rest a lot more. Despite missing most of the last two seasons, Bryant has still played 1,234 regular season minutes more than Duncan. That’s another 25 games. While Duncan has played more playoff minutes, he still trails Bryant by 723 career minutes played. That’s 15 full games or 24 Duncan minutes restricted games. While that distinction seems minute, given that Duncan has been consistently elite whenever he steps on the floor for 19 seasons, it also must be noted the markets both played in. There’s no way that Duncan would have been allowed to sit so many games, or play so few minutes, if he were the star in LA.

Television demands, the national spotlight, the need to sell tickets in LA, courtside celebrities, all meant Bryant needed to be on the court. Duncan had the luxury of playing for a small market team, that let him rest and take nights off, and worked patiently to continue to build him solid to great supporting casts. Bryant’s organization was a rollercoaster ride from the getgo. So, while Kobe played with more high profile players, he needed to make major adjustments to personnel every three or four years.

Duncan’s adjustments have been organic.

It’s all a matter of where you draw the line. I agree that Duncan is a top-10 player, much like I agree that Kobe is as well. They did it differently, but they both came away with five championships.


At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:27:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

As to your examples of teams without above average playmaking/shot creation.

The 94 Rockets had Vernon Maxwell and Kenny Smith. While Maxwell was a net negative offensively, he still could create shots and led the team in assists. The two of them combined were “above average” shot creators. The Jet probably should’ve played more as he was efficient and athletic.

The 99 Spurs had Avery Johnson. I get assists don’t mean much in a vacuum, but the Little General averaged 7.4 assists on a championship team as the starting point guard. I’d say, that’s at least above average.

The 03 Spurs had three players that could create their own shots and did—Parker (15.5 and 5 accounts for 30% of the offensive team point total), Stephen Jackson, and Manu. Parker by himself was “above average” as he put up Goran Dragic-type numbers that year. But when you factor in Jackson and a coming-into-himself Manu, that outlook probably jumps to good.
This team was stacked defensively. Bowen (led the league in 3-point %) and was arguably the game’s best one-on-one defender, Jackson (second in DWS), young Manu, Robinson (dude was still a nightmare defensively in those 24 minutes), and Rose.

The Bryant/Shaq Lakers may not have faced off against the toughest Finals competition, but they certainly went through a gauntlet to get to the Finals including Portland, Sacto, the Spurs, and Dallas. And Kobe played two of the league’s best defenses (one historically great) in the Finals to earn his last two chips.

The 99 Spurs feasted against an 8th seed in the Finals to cap off a sloppy, truncated season. The Spurs in 03 beat a worn-down Lakers team going for its fourth straight finals (didn’t face Webber and those nightmare Portland teams were gone) and an offense-heavy Mavs squad. In 05, they faced a tough Detroit squad in the most boring finals ever. In 07, they beat a flawed Suns team, a one-time blip Utah squad and a completely out-of-its-depth Cleveland team that had no business being in the Finals outside of Lebron’s brilliance (and a weak ass eastern conference).

Duncan’s been more opportunistic with his NBA championships. I mean, that first one was a bit asterisks-y. The 03 chip was solid (arguably Duncan’s best year). The 05 chip as well. The 07 one was a relative cake-walk as Anonymous pointed out that the Mavs losing in the first round cleared the path to the easiest finals matchup possible. The toughest one, was in 15 when he had a stacked squad.


At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does SA cast compare to any other cast in 03? That's your primary failure not being able to see this. And you're too caught up in the #2 guy stuff. You also mentioned #2-10 guys. Nobody is arguing 09 Pau wasn't better than 03 Parker, who are both future HOFers. 03 DAL was solid, but no 'rim protector.' That's your primary argument for title teams. Give me a true elite player with either SA or DAL's 03 cast, and I'm going to win every time. DAL probably a little more talented, but SA was deeper. And as usually happens in the playoffs, the team with the best player wins when both teams are fairly equal.

Outside of Kobe, Pau(low-level AS), Odom(never an AS) in 09, LAL they had basically nothing. Ariza was nothing before that year, and he still was a low-level rotation player for most contenders, Fisher stinks, and then you only have a hobbled Bynum, and crappy Walton/Farmar for your bench. Like I said, I'll take SA's #2-10. If you don't, fine, but don't act like SA's cast was so much worse when it wasn't.

Not a complaint, just facts. Duncan clearly had lots more help than Kobe. Even for you, I cannot believe you're arguing otherwise. And I don't understand what this quality help was. Even with Shaq, the rest of their teams were terrible usually. After Shaq, he only had decent teams for 3-4 years. And none of his casts were that great.

Really-how did Pippen lead CHI to 55 wins in 94 with 2 other AS and Kukoc? Hmm, I wonder. I'd hope a team with 3 AS another very good role player, and some other competent role players could get to 50 wins at least, especially in the weaker East. Jordan's great, but this is reason #1 why he's so overrated. Kudos to Pippen, but if he actually is an elite player in 94, he should be able to do this, though he lost in the 2nd round. Pippen would've made many more AS teams, all-nba first teams, etc. if he's as good as you say he is. This is what you continue to do with players. You need to sit back and really analyze their careers. If Nash, Duncan, Pippen, whoever were as good as you say they were, then where's the evidence? It just doesn't all add up. You're overrating Pippen 20-25 spots more than almost everyone. Better than Magic? What?

You live too much on these defensive/offensive team stats, whatever you're citing. This isn't reality. For example, if Duncan is so amazing on defense and he's a solid offensive player, why is he getting outplayed so often by players who can only play offense, according to you? Except for maybe 1-2x, Kobe and Shaq are always outplaying Duncan in the playoffs. And Kobe/Shaq both were awesome in 03 2nd round, and LAL still had little chance to win that series, it wasn't like they were playing poorly. It's amazing they won 3 titles playing 2 on 5, but it won't last forever.

If you're ok saying someone is elite when losing 3x teams in the 1st round in a 7-year span, and each time that player had very competent casts to not only win one round but the whole thing, go right ahead. You clearly define 'elite' differently than most.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 5:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Green does. Look at Horford, Millsap, Thomas this year. There's lots of examples from almost every year. Green certainly fits making the AS team. Green is a big, and when bigs are top 5 defenders in the league or very close and have a decent offensive game as well, they're almost a lock for the AS team. Green averages something like 14,10,7. Those are amazing #'s for a PF. Actually, his #'s would probably be better without Curry. He'd score more and have the ball more, probably more assists as well.

No, you can't say Green is a top 24 player and not AS worthy. And I challenge you to find more than 3-4 examples of players who shouldn't be AS in any given year in the past 15 years. I've done this before, and could never find more than 3-4, and that's with realizing the last few picks will always be nitpicked. At least the top 20 players in the game through the AS break are always AS. I suppose there could be an exception somewhere.

Obviously, GS is better with Curry. I'm sure Curry's #'s are better with Green, too. Again, most of these #'s you cite are spreadsheet #'s, they're not reality. They don't necessarily translate directly to wins/losses. I don't know how you make up a seed for them. #5 seed isn't a fringe playoff team either. And even if they're that low, that's still good for about top 7-8 in the league, which is still very good, and that's with taking off Curry.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 5:08:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I couldn't help myself and I got curious, so I looked at the On/Offs for Kobe and Duncan.

Disclaimer 1: On/Offs aren't great for comparing guys straight up across teams; teammates muck up the context. They are, however, great for making the "who had more help" case, or at least the "whose team relied on them more" case.

Disclaimer 2: On/Offs only go back to '01, so career numbers are skewed a bit; Kobe's missing (probably) four of his worst seasons and Duncan's (probably) missing three of his best.

Both guys have had 4 seasons of a +10 or better On/Off.

Kobe's high is in '06 with a +12.6, followed by +10 in '03, +11,1 in 09, and +12.4 in '10.

Duncan's high is _17.7 in '05 with 13.7 in '03, 12.5 in '01, and +14.5 in '07.

Both guys also have negative years, surprisingly. Duncan's team was a little worse with him than without him in '14, and Kobe's teams did better without him in '02 as well as these last three years as his body has broken down.

All five of those are easy to explain away; the '14 Spurs and '02 Lakers had plenty of other talent (lotsa borderline stars for SA, apex Shaq for LAL) which played while the stars sat. Also, On/Offs tend to punish starting guys, as they play against opposing teams' best players. Since both guys only have one "bad" year that counts here, I think it's fair to call them a wash.

Taking the stars out of it, let's look how their supporting casts played without them in the title years (per 100):
SAS: '03 -5.6, '05 -0.8, '07 -0.7, 14 +9.9
LAL: '01 -2.4,'02 +9, '09 -0.1, '10 -3.8

Other Finals years:
SAS: '13 +2.8
LAL: '04 +0.2, '08 +2.0

Surprise, surprise; '03 Spurs are the worst team of the bunch (in fact, they're even worse than the Kobe-less '05 or '07 Lakers). '10 Lakers did worse than I expected, though. Best guess at explaining that one is Bynum missing 17 games. '09 Lakers played the competition essentially to a draw, and the '05 and '07 Spurs were only slightly worse than that. '02 Lakers rampaged, as did the '14 Spurs.

Looking at all that, it's difficult to make the case that Kobe had less help, both on his title teams and even in '06 than Duncan did. In non-title years, Duncan's teams did do a little better on average without him than Kobe's did without him, so there's some credence to the idea that Duncan's had more consistent help- but I've never fought that one. I've fought the idea that Duncan's title casts were better than Kobe's- they aren't- and the idea that Duncan's teams were "stacked" generally- they also weren't, at least not until the last few years.

Duncan's '03 team, specifically, is statistically worse than any team Kobe played on except '06 (and are closer to that '06 team than they are to any of Kobe's title teams).

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 5:29:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I don't have the On/Offs for the earlier seasons, but we can try to approximate them, at least for the title years.

Kobe was +10.5 per 100 in '00, the Lakers only +8.9, so they were losing while he was out. He was playing a little over 38 min, so let's round that up to 80% of the game, so they got +8.4while he played and +0.5 while he sat (Net of about +7.9)

Duncan in '99 was +10 per 100, the Spurs were +8.8. Duncan played a bit over 39 minutes that year, so let's round it to 82% of the game. That's +8.2 per game with him, about +0.6 without him, for a net of +7.6.

So, I was wrong about '00 being a bad year for Kobe on Net RTG (unless I've borked the math, which is possible), but both guys had a pretty typical (for them) Net RTG year in the first year they won the title, with high but not superhuman RTGs.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 6:14:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


A lot to respond to there, and I might not have time for all of it right now, but suffice it to say I actually agree with a lot of it. The core premise- that Duncan's declined in usage if not in skill offensively- is fair, but I posit that 19 years of defensively elite and 10 years of offensively elite is still more valuable than 13 years of offensively elite and maybe 9 of defensively elite.

Now, to specifics.

Re: Shaq

I disagree that Shaq was not the most important offensive player on those teams. Kobe had more touches- and I've contended before that that eventually became a problem- but Shaq led those teams in playoff scoring every championship season, and every playoff defense they faced was primarily concerned with- and incapable of- stopping Shaq first, Kobe second, and everybody else last. Similarly, most of what the Lakers did offensively relied on Shaq and the attention he drew. Phil famously refused to turn the offense over to Kobe for exactly that reason, which was a contributing factor in the ensuing split.

Re: Supporting casts

"He’s always had a lockdown wing defender (if not multiple) who was one of the best in the league (during his championships). He’s always had elite outside shooting. He’s always had a bruiser-esque power-forward to handle, well, bruising things. And outside of that 05 season, Duncan’s largely had deep casts."

Duncan didn't have a lockdown perimeter guy until he got Bowen, by which point he already had a title. The Spurs in '05 were 24th in the league in 3 point %. I don't know which Bruiser you think he had in '07, where he started alongside flop-machine Fabricio Oberto.

That said, yes, he's generally had help. But he's had role player help, not All-NBA help. Ask any coach whether they'd rather have Pau Gasol or Bruce Bowen and I know what answer you're getting.

Re: More on Duncan's support.

Avery's 7 assists for a title team are hardly worth remarking on; I don't know where it ranks among starting PG assist totals on title teams, but my suspicion is that it's somewhere near the middle of the pack or below.

You missed a critical detail of Parker's numbers in '03: he shot like crap. His numbers are similar to Dragic's this year (though Dragic is a much better defender), but if you compare them to Dragic's career numbers as the primary ballhandler- the role Parker has- it's not remotely close. Dragic puts up roughly 19/6.5 on 49% shooting, not 15/5 on 46% (or 40% in the playoffs).

I'm not saying every member of Duncan's casts were worthless- but I'm saying he's had less help than anyone else with five rings, and it isn't particularly close. It is and has always been a star-driven league, and Duncan's on the short list of guys who've won a title without another star. He's won four without another All-NBAer, which I believe is the record.

At Tuesday, March 15, 2016 7:46:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Peak length

Kobe's peak, I think, is pretty cleanly from '01 to '13. I would contend that Duncan's absolute peak was from '99 to about 2010, about one year shorter. However, Duncan has stayed extremely valuable- I'm not sure there's been a season where he wasn't one of the best 15 players in the league- and made an All-NBA team as recently as last year. It is probably fair to say that Kobe had a longer tippy-top prime than Duncan, but Duncan has remained good for much longer (19 years to 15 or 16, depending on how charitable you want to be).

Re: "Feasting" on the Knicks

The Knicks were an 8 seed, but mostly that was because their top two players each missed a quarter of the season. They won 50 games the following season without any real roster changes.

Now, we can point out that Ewing was hurt and didn't play in the Finals, but then we have to treat Kobe's titles the same way and notice that Garnett was out for Boston in '09, who lost to Orlando, who were without All-Star guard Jameer Nelson when the Lakers beat them, and we have to point out that Boston had LAL on the ropes in '10 before Perkins went down.

For my money, I think LAL would have beaten Orlando anyway, but I don't think they beat a healthy Boston in either '09 or '10.

It's a slippery slope.

Re: Playmakers

I think I covered Johnson in a previous post, and I feel roughly the same about Maxwell and Smith. They are average-ish to mildly above-average creators; you can win with those. You can not win without top ten-ish rebounding and rim protection.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:20:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


Let’s wrap this up. (Apologies for length, David; this should be my last big one on this thread)

"How does SA cast compare to any other cast in 03?"

Poorly. The four teams they played in the playoffs, by their 2nd/3rd/4th best guys (now with stats!):

PHX: Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Penny Hardaway (45.4/25.5/7.5)
LAL: Kobe Bryant/Derek Fisher/Devean George (49.3/10.5/6.3)
DAL: Steve Nash/Michael Finley/Nick Van Exel (54.8/14.4/11.5)
NJN: Kenyon Martin/Richard Jefferson/Kerry Kittles (38.7/20.7/5.3)

For reference, SA's 2-4:

SAS: Tony Parker/Stephen Jackson/David Robinson (35.5/13.6/7.1)

So, yeah, every team he beat had a better supporting cast than he did. He was just light years ahead of everyone else that year.

"And you're too caught up in the #2 guy stuff."

I'm really not. Turns out they're the second most important guys. Teams with two stars win a helluva lot more titles than teams with one. I can only think of three teams off the top of my head that won with one star; I can think of dozens that won with two (or more) .


I disagree that Pau is a "low level" All Star when he's putting up 18/11/3 or so on over 53% shooting and some decent rim protection (though Pau was soft inside and slow in the PnR). He's a six time AS and a 4x All-NBAer (including the two years they won), to use your favorite metrics. Ariza's a very solid D&3 guy with a solid secondary offensive game, and Odom's one of the best non-AS players ever, with an all-around skill set and intermittently deadly shooting. Fisher's also a great roleplaying PG, with solid perimeter shooting and above average (though not elite) defense. It's telling that the Lakers sans Kobe played better than the Spurs sans Duncan.

Re: Old LAL

"For example, if Duncan is so amazing on defense and he's a solid offensive player, why is he getting outplayed so often by players who can only play offense, according to you? Except for maybe 1-2x, Kobe and Shaq are always outplaying Duncan in the playoffs. And Kobe/Shaq both were awesome in 03 2nd round, and LAL still had little chance to win that series, it wasn't like they were playing poorly. It's amazing they won 3 titles playing 2 on 5, but it won't last forever."

None of that's correct. The first point is subjective at best- and I vehemently disagree- but you seem immune to defense, so it's not a point much worth arguing with you. The second point is kinda silly; Shaq and Kobe went 3-2 vs Duncan; it's not shocking that the team with two of the best fifteen players ever did better than the team with one of them. Shaq/Kobe's teams usually had a very solid former AS third player (Rice/Grant/Malone), as well as several excellent role players (Horry/Fox/Green/Fisher/Harper). Hardly 2 on 5. Rice would have been the second best player on the '03 Spurs, in fact, nevermind the 3rd.

That's hardly the point, though, when the other team's #2 guy is one of the 5 best players in the league and Duncan’s is an average PG who won’t play defense.


At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:20:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Assorted players

"If Nash, Duncan, Pippen, whoever were as good as you say they were, then where's the evidence? It just doesn't all add up. You're overrating Pippen 20-25 spots more than almost everyone. Better than Magic? What?"

I have Nash 40thish. He won two MVPs and led the league's best offense for 11 years. Duncan won 50 games every non-lockout season, won 5 rings, leads all players in All-Defensive spots, and won All-NBA noms further apart than any player in NBA history. He also won a title with- at least statistically- the worst supporting cast ever to win one.

Pippen's the most contentious, but I explained my reasoning above. As for the difference between him and Magic, he was an A+ defender and an A- offensive player, while Magic was an A+ offensive player and a C+ defensive player. Additionally, Pippen won 6 rings, Magic won 5, and Magic had more help. Further additionally, Pippen had a more diverse skill set.

On this quote:

"If you're ok saying someone is elite when losing 3x teams in the 1st round in a 7-year span, and each time that player had very competent casts to not only win one round but the whole thing, go right ahead."

Kobe missed the playoffs and lost twice in the first round in a three year span, and I disagree with the second half of the premise. I disagree that Duncan’s teams those years were good enough to win a title, specifically (and in ’15 Duncan was finally- arguably, at least- no longer his team’s best player in year 18).

Re: Green

“Actually Green does. Look at Horford, Millsap, Thomas this year.”

All those guys outscore him significantly. Horford also outrebounds and outblocks him.

All-Star spots go to gaudy scorers or guys threatening to lead the league in something. Guys like Green only get in when their team is winning 60ish games, and that’s not happening without Curry.

Re: All-Stars

“And I challenge you to find more than 3-4 examples of players who shouldn't be AS in any given year in the past 15 years.”

Most one-way scorers and token picks? This year alone: In the East, Wade (actively hurting his team), Thomas (third best player on his team), Anthony (one-way player on non-contending team), and Millsap is dubious (team not good enough to warrant second guy), while in the West Kobe (obvious), Harden (underperforming one-way player on a an underperforming deep team), and Davis (completely unable to create wins for a team that made the playoffs last year despite a perceived coaching upgrade and decent- though injured- roster).

That’s 7 this year (5 if you wanna give Davis and Millsap a pass).


At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:31:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

“Again, most of these #'s you cite are spreadsheet #'s, they're not reality. They don't necessarily translate directly to wins/losses.”

They’re a literal reporting of what happens on the court when player X plays or doesn’t, so they’re objective reality. They correlate directly to wins and losses, incidentally. They're quite a bit noisier if you're trying to use them for bench guys, or to compare two guys straight up, but they're gangbusters for comparing supporting casts or a guy against his own team.

You can disagree with me all you like, and maybe I’m wrong about some- or even most- of what I believe. But I at least I try and back it up with real evidence as opposed to “nuh uh!” arguments. Some examples:

* “Tim Duncan’s ’03 Spurs were the best team in the league or close to it/would make the playoffs without him!” Thoroughly debunked above both in this post and higher up. Without Tim, they had a margin equivalent to the 5th worst team in the NBA.

* “Pau Gasol is a borderline All-Star!” 6 AS teams and 4 All-NBA teams and counting with career averages of 17/9.6/3.4 and 1.9 blocks on 51% shooting.

Patrick Ewing’s career numbers, incidentally: 21/9.8/1.9 and 2.4 on 50% shooting. Is four points, a fifth of a rebound, negative 1.5 assists, and half a block really the difference between a perennial MVP candidate and HoFer and a "fringe" All-Star? (Yes, I know Ewing was a much better defender, but I’m making a point here).

How about Dirk? 22/7.9/2.6 and 0.9 on .475 shooting; better scorer, comparable defender, worse rebounder, rim protector, and passer, MVP and Finals MVP.

Give Gasol his damn due. Without him, Kobe goes down in history as Shaq’s sidekick.

* “Your player evaluation is terrible!”

Maybe, but it keeps outsmarting those damned Vegas bookmakers*, and it makes sense to me.

*Except when John Wall breaks his stupid hand. Took a bath on that one.


At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:31:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

“Whenever Kobe had a good team he won except in ’03 ‘cause he was tired!”

Kobe had an All-NBA teammate in 13 of his first 17 years (and was too crippled to count his last 3).

Since adding the 3rd team:
Title teams with 3+ All-NBA players: 0
Title teams with 2 All-NBA players: 16 (5 of these are Kobe)
Title teams with 1 All-NBA players: 10 (5 of these are Duncan (though in the last one he’s not the All-NBAer)
Title teams with 0 All-NBA players: 1

Kobe’s had more elite help than almost any non-80s Celtic/Laker great. Yes, his teams have been shallow but the mere fact that we’re having this conversation is proof that it’s a star-driven league; it’s a lot easier to win with 2 stars and iffy support than with 1 and great support.

* “Tim Duncan had way more help than other guys!”

Let’s play a game, comparing the support of Duncan and his three biggest rivals:
Duncan: 9 All-NBA teammate seasons (4 2nd, 5 3rd), 13 All Stars
Kobe: 13 All-NBA teammates (6 1st, 3 2nd, 4 3rd), 15 All Stars
Shaq: 14 All-NBA teammates (too much of a pain to split with his team-jumping; mostly 1sts and 2nds), 20 All-Stars (but about half post ’06)
Lebron: 4 All-NBA teammates (0 1st, 2 2nd, 2 3rd), 11 All-Stars

Those numbers are fun, but even better, let’s look at who some of those stars are: would you rather have Shaquille O’neal, Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or Tony Parker? Parker’s 5th, right? Because he’s Duncan’s best teammate for three quarters of his career. For 14 of Kobe's 17 contending years, he had an All-NBA level big man. Shaq spent his entire prime with All-NBA 1st or 2nd level guards. Lebron won both his titles with two more top 15 guys. Duncan had a one-way low assist PG who didn't have a jump shot for 2/3s of his career.

And, after that novel, I think I’m done arguing any of this with you (Anonymous) for a while. I've tried to get through to you with my preferred evidence (common sense, context, and On/Off data), and in this post I've even tried using yours (All-Stars and All-NBA teams). If we can't reach some common ground now, I doubt we ever will.

Jordan, I apologize that our conversation maybe got snowed beneath all this; if you’ve got more to say I’m eager to hear it.

David, I’m still curious about your two cents on the Warriors sans Curry.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:03:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


The thing I love about you is that you’re a Suns fan, and you’ve spent the past couple of, I don’t know, years on this blog, promoting the merits of…of all people…Tim Duncan! (Though this could also be why you are such a Kobe hater lolol. jk)

Tim Duncan, being Tim Duncan and playing for the Spurs…and having crushed the hopes and dreams of my 1A favorite player of all time (who tops out at 40-50ish all time for you), is the very reason it's been a begrudging experience to come around on the Big Fundamental. And reading your thoughtful argument has been compelling enough to sway my opinion because you bring up a ton of salient, inarguable points. So, when I mentioned that I enjoy your posts, it’s truth. I learn a ton from reading your comments, regardless if I fully buy them or not.

One last note on your talk of talent-level played with. I agree that Pau doesn’t get the full credit he deserves, especially from a lot of “Lakers fans”. But, when people start to break down the advanced stats of why Pau was really the MVP of the Lakers during their championship run…that’s when I tune them out. He’s a HOF, and was one of the top 5 bigs during his prime, but he was never the MVP of the Lakers other than his last season with the team. He’s too Spanish to be the alpha on any team but the Spanish National squad (for a half dozen games, he can be the best player on the floor and lead. Not so much for 16-28, let alone 82).

Anyway, it’s true that Bryant had more elite talent than Duncan, but it’s also true that Bryant capitalized on that elite talent to heights and achievements that Duncan hasn’t gotten close to. Bryant has a pair of back-to-back-to-back finals appearances on his resume. Duncan’s only made it to the Finals in back-to-back years once, and he did that as arguably the team’s second best player for at least one of those years—and he was definitely not the main offensive weapon either year.

The thing about having deep teams (even if it’s not every single year), is that deep teams allow elite players the luxury to relax and…not coast…but take it easier during the grueling grind of an 82-game NBA season (take Curry for example). Not to mention the absolute Achilles-shredding grind it is to make multiple consecutive trips to the Finals. (Which is one of Anonymous’ relevant points and what makes Lebron’s feat of five straight finals appearances truly remarkable even though there are many who belittle his inability to win more of them).

So, Bryant’s pinnacle is more than just the numbers and success he enjoyed during his elite seasons, but the sheer difficult nature of what he was able to accomplish in his elite seasons. 19 seasons of elite play with at least 50 wins (or 50-wins winning %) with 6 finals appearances is better than 7 Finals appearances in 10 years? For a franchise yes. For a legacy? Not so sure.

I guess this debate just comes down to perspective. The truth is, Duncan was exactly the type of player San Antonio needed, and Bryant was the exact type player LA needed. Neither could’ve really filled the other’s shoes.

The Kobe/Duncan comparison is fascinating because they are contemporaries who both played a long ass time. As you and David and others have said, rating Pantheon players is an inexact science. So, regardless of where you rate Duncan and Kobe, the argument can sway either way regarding pinnacle of achievement vs. longevity vs. surrounding talent vs. environment vs. whatever else you can think of.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:16:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

One last note on Pippen (who is one of my favorite players, though, as Dirk once told it, kind of an asshole in real life). I agree that he is criminally underrated. While his peak was only 8-9 years, I think even in the latter stages of his career (with Houston and Portland), he was an invaluable difference maker that didn’t necessarily show up in the boxscore.

And what Pippen did with the exact same cast sans Jordan, is one of the most underrated feats in NBA history. They won 7 less games by replacing Jordan with a rookie Toni Kukoc and some guy named Pete. Anonymous notes the Bulls had three all-stars that year, but BJ Armstrong is one of the worst all-star selections of all time...

That lone season is proof Pippen was an alpha-level player who modified his game to make way for an alpha & omega-sized ego. MJ, being MJ, got all of the adoration, but prime Pippen was nearly his equal. I would have loved to see those two meet up in a playoff series.

My only gripe is that...top 10? The length of his peak is a huge knock, especially when we’re talking greatest players of all time. I think a prime Pippen would give any of the top 10 wingers of all time a run for their money (including LBJ, Doc, Bird, Bryant, Jordan, etc.), but he didn’t do it long enough (at least in my view) to be ranked in the top 10 of all time. I mean, 2009 D Wade is comparable to any top 10 winger. But, Wade never really came close to matching that season, was only elite for at best 8 seasons. And even those seasons never included even 80 games--mostly in the 65-75 range.

Anyway, Pippen in the top 25...I’m very very happy with. Not this 50-ish BS thrown out by the majority of media (and many fans who drop him out of the top 100...)

Twas a pleasure learning and debating.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 2:37:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Thanks again for the kind words. I really enjoy your posts as well, and for similar reasons.

I actually *hate* Tim Duncan. I hate the Spurs more than any other team, I hate his unmissable bank shot, and I hate his stupid bug-eyed whiny "who, me?!" face every time he's ever been called for a foul. I also hate he got a few of his titles partly because his team- though not him, specifically- were dirty dirty bastards (looking at you, Bowen and Horry) or wussy flop artists (looking at you, Parker and Ginobili), whereas I think most other greats won titles because their support was, you know, good. I hate him so much I refuse to fantasy draft him on 2K games.

But I can still admit that he's a transcendent player. Same thing with Kobe. I kinda wanna clarify that I don't think the margin between #2 all time and #13 is particularly large; probably about the same as the gap between the #2 and #3 player in an average season. Kobe's spectacular. I just don't think he's *quite* as good as Duncan.

"19 seasons of elite play with at least 50 wins (or 50-wins winning %) with 6 finals appearances is better than 7 Finals appearances in 10 years? For a franchise yes. For a legacy? Not so sure. "

I 100% agree with your point about fatigue (and the impressiveness of making boatloads of Finals in a row), I just don't know which of them it favors. Kobe got three nice long summers from '05-'07 before the best three year stretch of his career, while Duncan got a few later in his career. Is it harder to be a conference finalist 7 years in a row, or a Finalist 3? I don't have the answer, so I kinda just mark it a wash and move on.

I guess for me one distinction is that I think Duncan meant more to his title/Finals teams- on average- than Kobe did to his, and I admit to being especially swayed by his success in '03. I also think it's dangerous to go just off of titles or Finals appearances when there are so many mitigating factors; 50 win seasons aren't as sexy (or important), but they're less noisy.

I agree that these things often come down to perspective. If I could simplify my perspective- not just on these two guys, but on most of my list- it's that I value guys who are two-way elite above guys who are one-way elite, and I think it's difficult for perimeter guys (even Jordan, to an extent) to have the same kind of defensive value that bigger guys do. For Duncan and Kobe specifically, I feel like Duncan's been elite on one side of the ball for 19 years, and the other side for probably 12 or 13, and that Kobe was elite (for a guard) on one side of the ball for about 11 or 12 years and the other for about 14. Given that I think Duncan's D is better than Kobe's O- and I don't think Kobe's D is better than Duncan's O- it's a relatively easy A or B pick for me...but as you said, that's because of my "two-way first" perspective.

It's funny to me that I get so much flack for Duncan over Kobe, as opposed to Bird over Kobe (which I'm leaning towards changing) or Oscar over Kobe (which I need to watch more Oscar for, I think). Duncan's one of the only six or seven guys where I don't at least have second thoughts about taking him over Kobe.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 4:02:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I didn't see your Pippen comment at first.

Lemme start by saying that Pippen's one of about 7 or 8 guys in the top 20 I have a really hard time placing, so I'm not married to #9; on the one hand, you're not wrong that he had a relatively short peak, on the other what a peak it was. It also feels wrong to penalize him for spending 90% of that peak with Jordan (most other guys on the list have at least five years where they're unquestionably "the man," which Pip never got). I'm not going to make it- and don't really agree with it- but there's a credible case that can be made that Pippen's actually better than Jordan, which relies primarily on two premises:

1) Pippen could have played like he did in '94 for most of his prime if he wasn't deferring to Jordan (I probably agree with this).
2) Pippen's defense was just as good as Jordan's offense, and Pippen's offense was better than Jordan's defense (this one's trickier).

Pippen is also the one guy who kinda defies all the conventional wisdom about the defensive impact of perimeter guys (though he was a large perimeter guy). He wasn't the kind of shot blocker or rebounder the other top SFs were (Doc, Barry, Lebron, Bird), but he kills by every metric that tries to account for defense, including the ones (like D-RTG) that generally favor big guys. He created so much havoc defensively, and guarded the other team's best guy every night (which made Jordan's life a lot easier), that it's hard to place his value exactly.

He's one of the two best defensive SFs ever, and capable of playing like an MVP on offense when needed. That's a pretty great one-line resume.

I wouldn't fault anyone who had Pippen as high as #6 or as low as #20. Anything below that seems too low for me.

More generally, you touched on one of the biggest things that trips me up trying to rank guys: peak vs. longevity. I don't really know which is more important. Pippen was awesome enough for 11 or 12 years that I think he at least passes the longevity gatekeeper, and his peak is so hard to pin down since he spent it all with Jordan... *shrug*

Other guys I have a real hard time with, who could go up or down a few spots based on the wind:

Bill Russell: Can't figure out how much credit to give him for those titles given his cast, and he's a relatively one-way guy for this list...but he still has 11 titles, and that's hard to ignore.

Wilt Chamberlain: Free-throw achilles heel, and I can't shake the belief that he should have won more than he did. Didn't always care as much as he should have about defense, but sometimes did.

Oscar Robertson: Much like Wilt, he's statistically monstrous but it's hard to figure out how much to punish him for not winning a ring during the Celtics dynasty. Also never the best player on a title team.

Michael Jordan: Was his D great enough to make up for being a guard? Was his O so transcendent that it didn't matter? And how important was Pip to his success? Do we even know exactly how good he was defensively, since Pippen usually checked the biggest threat?

Larry Bird: Exactly how good of a defender was he? I go back and forth; he was slow, but crafty, and seemed to always be able to make a big defensive play at the right time (not just the famous ones; he'd often break up opposing runs with a momentum-crushing steal or deflection). Also very short- but very high- peak.

Jerry West: Unimpeachable skill set, but didn't ever win one as the best guy on his team (arguably), and couldn't get past the Celtics even with two other top-20 guys with him. His fault? Hard to say.

Lebron James: Crazy highs, but extremely confusing and difficult to defend lows.

Bob Pettit: I think he belongs in there somewhere, but I haven't seen him play enough. Old Hawks games are a lot harder to find than old Celtics/Lakers games.

Shaq: Go read what I wrote for Wilt again.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bowen was never a top 3 player on SA. Why would you compare Bowen to Pau when the more relevant comparison would be Bowen to a hobbled Bynum?

Parker and Ginobili are future HOFers, just like Pau. Ginobili’s made 2 AS teams and 2 3rd teams, maybe should’ve made more. Parker has 6 AS, 3 2nd teams, 1 3rd team. Pau has 6 AS, 2 2nd teams, 2 3rd teams. Maybe Parker/Ginobili benefit with accolades by playing with Duncan, though I’d say Ginobili was hurt by playing with Duncan, if anything. But, Pau certainly has benefited. He was a 1x AS in 8 seasons before joining Kobe, and then 6 of his 10 accolades happened in an immediate 3-year span. He’s not suddenly becoming that much better as a player overnight.

Kobe had Shaq for a few years, sure, but they both were playing at MVP levels and the cupboard was bare after them, unlike Duncan, who’s teams almost always could go at least 10 deep. Parker and Ginobili might not be picking up accolades every year, but they’ve more-or-less the same player for the majority of their careers. Now as their careers are winding down, SA continues to add a bunch more quality players, along with Leonard/Aldridge, who both look like future HOFers as well. I’d much rather have a bevy of near stars along with a bevy of solid role players than one borderline star, a couple of solid role players, and a few weaker role players to along with my superstar or Kobe/Shaq situation for the most part. Kobe and Shaq each had to play like true MVPs for LAL to win.

You obviously have a very different definition of elite than most. And general consensus on this site for ‘elite’ is more-or-less a top 5 player, which is my definition. Kobe was a legit MVP candidate every year from 01-13. Duncan maybe 98-07 at best. Kobe a bit longer, and more dominant in his run. I don’t think a few extra years at the tail-end of Duncan’s career changes anything. Kobe’s actually played more total minutes still, and not much fewer games. Duncan’s had fewer responsibilities for years now and could just sit back and let his teammates go to work; whereas, Kobe always had to take on and intiate everything. He became overworked, which primarily led to his Achilles injury. I’m confident that if Duncan in his 17th season was asked to play 38.6mpg for 78 games, not only couldn’t he do it, but his career would’ve been over for awhile now. Kobe certainly had the capability to focus on specific areas of the game to prolong his career if he was on stacked teams like Duncan, especially given that he was still MVP caliber in 2013 before his injury.

Why do you stop at #2-4 guys? Is basketball played 4 on 4 with no benches now? Give me either cast in 1st round vs PHO in 03 with an elite player, and I’ll win. Actually, Duncan’s cast outscored the opposing’s teams’ cast each series in 03. It’s one thing if Kobe and/or Shaq played poorly in 2nd round, but they actually both played extremely well. Given this among other things, shows how much you’re underestimating Duncan’s 03 cast.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 5:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lockout year in 99 was a big deal, and Kobe was only 20yo(Duncan would’ve still been in college). Duncan better than Shaq that series, I’ll give him that. Duncan nowhere to be seen until 2003 after that.

I’d take Kobe in 03, too. Reaching 4 straight finals is a big deal. The hardest thing to do in sports is repeat. Kobe’s done it’s 3x, Duncan 0x, and Duncan has only made 2 finals in a row 1x. Don’t put words in my mouth either. I never said Kobe was tired in 03. Given his 41.5mpg and 30ppg over 82 games during regular season plus 44.3mpg and 32.1ppg in the playoffs; he certainly wasn’t showing being tired.

Seriously? You really think comparing Kobe’s 05-07 casts has any relevance to any of Duncan’s casts? At least pretend to try to make sense.

Duncan’s only been an AS 2x in the past 5 years. He’s probably the most-respected player in nba history by coaches/players/fans. Also, only 1 1st team all-nba since 07, and that was in 13, which was a weak year for centers. This is telling given all these facts. Along with SA flopping in the playoffs and losing in the 1st round so often. These aren’t characteristics of elite(top 5) players, especially with contender casts around them. I’ll give Duncan elite status through maybe 09, though that was another playoff failure for Duncan. Kobe’s never had even one playoff failure like this. Kobe was still good, but not his usual-good self in 2nd round, though again going for 4 straight finals, and that wasn’t 1st round either. However; LAL lost to the champs that year. Each of Duncan’s 3 1st round losses weren’t to contenders, and 2 of them lost right away in 2nd round.

Hating Duncan is a much different hate than hating Kobe. Nobody really hates Duncan, especially now since he’s over-the-hill. Kobe hate continues and will continue forever. I’ve yet to hear you talk about Big O or Bird vs Kobe much if any, nor do I care to. Though neither really has a case to be ranked ahead of Kobe. And Duncan/Kobe played in same era, and there’s at least a weak case to be made for Duncan. It’s just impossible to debate with you, Nick, because you refuse to get all of your facts straight about Kobe and continue your double standard of him.

Wade-actually best player on MIA with Bosh out. Thomas-still easily best player on BOS. Melo-maybe, but looks like good pick. Millsap-who cares how good his team is or isn’t. Kobe-yes. Harden-still an AS-coaches continue to disagree with you. Davis-still certainly an AS. Kobe is the only obvious chance. The other 6, even if you disagree with, would still be very close at worst. I can’t wait to hear who their replacements would be, though. Almost all the playoff teams’ best players were AS this year, and rightfully so. Usually AS players lead their teams to the playoffs. Davis/Cousins won’t, and maybe they’re not as good as their stats indicate, but they’re still certainly AS. Are the coaches really that stupid to vote them? You certainly have a different perspective. But, stop acting like you know more than the coaches or real nba experts do. Maybe they're not always right, but they're not going to choose this many bad picks.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 7:36:00 PM, Anonymous Space Ghost said...

Thanks for your opinion Nick. I kind of see where you are coming from saying that bigs have a bigger impact, but is that for real? I am curious what David's stance on that is.

Personally, I can see a guard being in a position to being highly effective to a team, if not the most. Some overlooked things that guards do are control tempo, spacing, direct traffic, etc.

At Wednesday, March 16, 2016 11:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't specify year when I said Kobe wasn't usual quite elite self in 2nd round though he still played very well, that was in 2011.

Just looked up BOS' record with/without Thomas in 15/16. In 15, BOS 26-35 without Thomas, 14-7 with Thomas. And now they're a contender for the Eastern conf. this year. Thomas has definitely had a big impact and bigger impact on BOS than Dragic has had for MIA. Thank goodness you nothing to do with AS selections, Nick. The fans actually do a very good job usually, maybe 1-2 bad picks at most. And I give the coaches the benefit of the doubt usually, and their picks are generally very good. They actually know the game. Kobe's really the only bad pick, and given that it's Kobe, and he's probably the greatest player in AS history, it's only fitting he make the team.

Ghost, I agree that generally you'd take a good big over a good small. Though, if you're dealing with someone like Kobe, Jordan, or even James, that's different. And these guys aren't exactly small. Guards actually have to do so many more things than bigs on the court. You rarely see a center bringing the ball up the court or going iso with the game on the line, just to name two things. The impact on average is probably more for bigs if everything is equal, but each individual player is his own case.

Look at Tyson Chandler vs HOU in last year's playoffs. DAL's defense wasn't very good, and while Chandler is a very good defensive big, he was basically useless because HOU's players were entering the lane with ease. Someone like Duncan can't guard a SG like Kobe or a SF like James, and he needs his other 4 teammates to actually show some resistance on defense for him to have any chance of succeeding himself. Even if none of the 4 other players with Duncan are defensive liabilities, Kobe's going to shrewd them unless SA has a Bowen-type player who can occasionally slow Kobe down a little, and even then, it probably won't help. It's very hard, if not almost impossible, to dominate a game defensively individually, whereas games are dominated offensively individually on a nightly basis in the nba. When Kobe took it upon himself to guard Westbrook, Rondo, or Paul at various times in the playoffs; that was the closest thing I've seen to someone actually dominating defensively individually. What Kobe did to Paul and the Hornets' offense in game 2 of 1st round in 2011 just wasn't very nice. Paul was completely lost. And centers are usually the team's defensive leaders, which makes sense because they see everything since they're taller and the last line of defense. I'm sure other guards have done it at times, but Kobe actually did this for LAL, which is very rare for a non-big.

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 12:00:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

A lot of interesting material has been posted here in the past few days. Law School and family obligations prevent me from fully participating in the conversation at this time, though my views on Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tim Duncan and Scottie Pippen can be found in the archived articles in the right hand sidebar of 20 Second Timeout's main page. Quick summary: Bryant, James and Duncan are Pantheon-level players in my book (i.e., top 15 all-time), while Pippen is in the next group below that. Pippen is my second favorite player of all-time (behind Julius Erving and in a virtual tie with Pete Maravich) but he was not quite as deadly of a scorer as most of the Pantheon players (other than Bill Russell, who was the greatest and savviest defensive player of all-time).

Regarding the specific question directed to me by Nick about how well I think the Warriors would do sans Curry, history shows that an MVP-level player is typically worth between 20-25 wins (though there is the anomaly of Jordan retiring and the Bulls only declining by two wins, which is a testament to Pippen being a near-Pantheon player in his own right). The Warriors are on track to win about 70 games this season. Assuming that Curry is worth at least 20 wins, I would surmise that the Warriors would win about 50 games without him. I would not discount the possibility that the Warriors could even win 55 games without him. While Curry's greatness undoubtedly creates opportunities for his teammates, they are also creating opportunities for themselves and for him. Thompson and Green are All-Star level players with or without Curry. Iguodala is a former All-Star. Several other Warrior players are quite talented.

The Warriors would not be historically great without Curry and they would not win a championship without him but I think that they would be better than just a "fringe" playoff team. In that way, they are somewhat similar to the mid-90s Bulls. The Jordan-Pippen duo turned that team into a dynasty but the team would still have been very good even with just one of those guys. Thompson-Green plus a cast of good players is still a very good squad.

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:39:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I agree with most of what you wrote. However, given that Curry is having one of the most historically dominant seasons even among MVPs, I err closer to 25-30 wins than 20-25, putting the Warriors in the low 40s/high 30s without him.

Additionally, the distinction between that team and the Bulls is that without Jordan or Pippen the remaining one could still penetrate more or less at will and create offense; I have serious doubts about the Warriors' ability to attack off the bounce without Curry. It is possible that Draymond or Klay is better than I think, and could successfully initiate an elite offense as the primary option, but I haven't seen the evidence and doubt it. My suspicion is that the Warriors without Curry are probably about a 7th ranked defense and 13th ranked offense, as well as a team that struggles to win close games in crunch time without an elite shot creator.

The Warriors are also not as defensively stout as those Bulls teams, and therefore need even better offense.

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:51:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I'm not arguing anything subjective with you any further- I feel I've made my case, I feel I've made it more thoroughly and with much more compelling evidence than yours, and I'm comfortable letting it rest- but I'm happy to help you with factual corrections.

"Bowen was never a top 3 player on SA. Why would you compare Bowen to Pau when the more relevant comparison would be Bowen to a hobbled Bynum?"

I actually mostly went by minutes (though I fudged it to include Robinson, who I felt was important). That said, Bowen was also fourth on the team in On/Offs and +-.

"Duncan, who’s teams almost always could go at least 10 deep"

Spurs title teams by # of guys who played 10+ MPG in playoffs:

'99: 8
'03: 8
'05: 8
'07: 10
14: 9

1/5 =/= usually.

LAL title teams by # of guys who played 10+ playoff MPG:

'00: 9
'01: 7
'02: 8
'09: 10
'10: 8

"And general consensus on this site for ‘elite’ is more-or-less a top 5 player, which is my definition. Kobe was a legit MVP candidate every year from 01-13. Duncan maybe 98-07 at best."

Duncan top 5 MVP finishes: 9 (2 #1, 2 #2, 2 #3, 2 #4, 2 #5). Top 10: 12
Kobe top 5 MVP finishes: 11 (1 #1, 1 #2, 3 #3, 3 #4, 3 #5) Top 10: 12

"Kobe certainly had the capability to focus on specific areas of the game to prolong his career if he was on stacked teams like Duncan"

*points to previously mentioned stats about Kobe's lead in AS, All-NBA, and MVP teammate seasons*

"Actually, Duncan’s cast outscored the opposing’s teams’ cast each series in 03."

Actually true! (And has nothing to do with Duncan's defense at all, why do you ask?)

Points Per 100, Regular season vs. Playoffs vs SA

PHX: 103.7/91.5 /91.5
LAL: 107.2/107.1/103.6
DAL: 110.7/110.5 /104
NJN: 103.8/102.6 /93.3

Spurs Playoff Opponent w/ Duncan: 96.2
Spurs Playoff Opponent w/o Duncan: 104.0

“Wade-actually best player on MIA with Bosh out.”

Actually worst among all starters (and most of the bench) in +- and Net RTG. Team literally wins when he's sitting and loses when he's playing; about 6 pp100 better when he sits. Team has better winning % without him than with against a harder schedule.

“Just looked up BOS' record with/without Thomas in 15/16. In 15, BOS 26-35 without Thomas, 14-7 with Thomas. And now they're a contender for the Eastern conf. this year.”

Yes, but he’s 4th among starters in Net RTG and team’s winning percentage correlates more highly to presence/absence of Crowder/Bradley. I said Thomas was BOS 3rd best guy; evidence supports that.

“Thomas has definitely had a big impact and bigger impact on BOS than Dragic has had for MIA.”

Not statistically. Dragic has over triple the On/Off rating. Heat 3-6 without him, 36-22 with. ('16 Thomas win %: .582; '16 Dragic: .620)

“Chandler is a very good defensive big”

His (crappy) team is actually better defensively with him off the court than on it this year. Dallas’ playoff D was about 3.5 points better without him last year, incidentally (though their regular season D was better with him).

“Someone like Duncan can't guard a SG like Kobe or a SF like James”

’09 Kobe FG% at rim: 65%
’09 Kobe FG% at rim vs. Duncan: 20%

’13 Lebron FG% at rim: 74.4%
’13 Lebron FG% at rim vs. Duncan: 59%
’12 Lebron FG% at rim vs. Spurs (no Duncan): 100%

“Kobe's going to shrewd them unless SA has a Bowen-type player who can occasionally slow Kobe down a little, and even then, it probably won't help”

Kobe career FG%: .448
Kobe career FG vs. Duncan Spurs: .425

“What Kobe did to Paul and the Hornets' offense in game 2 of 1st round in 2011 just wasn't very nice. Paul was completely lost.”

Paul in that game: 20 & 9 on 11 shots with 1 turnover
Paul that season: 15.9 & 9.8 on 11.6 shots with 2.2 turnovers

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 12:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Playoff rotations are almost always shortened from the regular season, doesn’t mean teams can’t go deeper than the rotation they are using. SA could go anywhere from 9-13 deep on each title team. Look at Cory Joseph. He could barely find the court in the playoffs with SA. He’s currently played the 3rd most minutes on TOR this season, the #2 team in the East.

LAL played 10 guys in the 09 playoffs, but not by choice. Their depth for 08-10 for LAL was really 6-7 deep, and even some of those are questionable playoff-contender rotation players. Fisher’s playing big minutes, but he’d barely be a rotation player on most contenders usually. He was terrible in the 09 playoffs, too, but made a few big shots, dirty plays, and flopped a lot; and somehow that was enough.

You kept saying Duncan’s 03 cast wasn’t very good, and then only pigeon-hole his #2-4 guys, while his entire cast kept outscoring each opposition’s entire cast. I thought I was I pretty clear when I mentioned this previously that he was indeed getting plenty of help.

Yep, Wade is worst MIA starter. Thanks for the laughs. See Nick, this is what I repeatedly say to you, and you just ignore it. Your +/- stuff might have some validity to at least look at, but that’s not reality. Why is Wade repeatedly an AS then? And the coaches would’ve voted him in if the fans didn’t. And you can’t do this individual advanced +/- or whatever this stuff is. It’s 5-man units which is important. Your Chandler stats actually further my point, not yours. He’s actually very good defensively, but the stats you’re citing say otherwise.

Not sure what 09-1st round loss Duncan has anything to do with Kobe. A few regular season games don’t tell us much. And yes, I’m sure Duncan affected Kobe’s rim shots some, but that’s hardly an endorsement for Duncan stopping Kobe by himself or even keeping him from dominating. And Kobe doesn’t need to get to the rim to dominate either. Kobe’s career FG% against SA should be lower since he’s had to go up against better primary defenders first and better team defenses second on average than the rest of the league.

You should go back and watch game 2 of 1st round in 2011 of Kobe vs Paul. And this is a great example of why you just can’t look at the stats. Paul and his team’s offense were frustrated and stunk the entire game. Paul managed somehow to make a few fortunate shots and put up good #’s to his credit, but doesn’t mean he had much of an impact. Look at James in game 6 vs BOS in playoffs as another example, I think 2010. He puts up a triple-double, but he’s coasting, disinterested, and doesn’t have his usual impact, as BOS wins.

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 3:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I'm really done on Kobe/Duncan with you, Anonymous. However, Wade's a fresh topic, let's investigate. First:

"It’s 5-man units which is important."

Five man units with Wade:-1 per 100
Five man units without Wade: +5.1 per 100
MIA record without Wade: 4-2 (.666) Please note 5 of those games were against potential playoff teams.
MIA record with Wade: 35-26 (.573)

"Why is Wade repeatedly an AS then? "

Don't get me wrong, this is his first bad year. He made the team this year because- and we've covered this already- AS teams are mostly about who's putting up gaudy scoring totals on winning teams, not who're actually the best players (Miami pre-break didn't have anyone besides Bosh who deserved to be an AS, and even Bosh only barely).

However, Wade's not trying at all on defense, and he's slowing down the offense. To his credit, he's been a lot better about the second one since the All-Star break (he's largely abandoned defensive rebounding to do it, though). After seeing the team whoop Atlanta without them he did the grownup thing and gave a speech about how he's going to adjust to them, they don't need to adjust to him. I credit him for the speech, and the effort he's made to live up to it, but until he starts busting his ass on defense he's still hurting the team.

If you watch Miami play, you'll see what I mean; he's the only place the ball sticks, and he's no longer an efficient enough scorer to make up for it. It's unfortunate that he leads the team in usage, because the offense flows better when Dragic, Johnson, or Richardson initiates.

He's still talented offensively... but so is the entire Miami roster. They don't need him to score 20ppg (they're averaging 111 as a team in games he's missed since the break, and against upper-tier defenses); they need him to play into the team's system and do his job defensively. The team's offense is the exact same statistically whether he sits or plays (though it's at its absolute best when Dragic plays and Wade sits), but their defense is 6.2 points worse when he plays; considering his primary backups are Gerald Green and a (suddenly blossoming) 2nd round pick, that's not great.

Frankly, if they cut his offensive usage in half it wouldn't hurt the team's offense (Johnson and Dragic are more efficient scorers and better shot-creators at this point anyways), but it might let him save enough energy to actually matter on the other end. Best case scenario for them is that when Bosh comes back Wade gives up the ball a bit more and re-dedicates himself to the kinda D that won him three titles; if he does, they've got a really strong chance to upset a vulnerable Cleveland team in the East (though like everybody else, they're probably mincemeat against SA or GSW).

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 4:30:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


For reference, here’s how the rest of Miami performs with/without Wade per 100:

Bosh: + 6 better without Wade
Wade: 22.4 on 42% shooting (-1.7)
Without: 37.6 on 50.6% shooting (4.3)

Dragic: +8.8 better without Wade
Wade: 18.2 on 46.6% shooting with 8 assists (+2.1)
Without: 25.2 on 48.2% shooting with 10.2 assists (+10.9)

Johnson: N/A (because of the way the NBA stats site calculates these, it includes the games he played against Wade on Brooklyn; can’t separate it; that said, Johnson’s got an extremely positive Net-RTG and Wade has a team-worst one, so it’s safe to say he’s doing better without him)

Whiteside: +7.6 without Wade
Wade: 22.2 on 60.2% shooting (-1.6)
Without: 26.4 on 61.15 shooting (+6)

Deng: +4.9 without Wade
Wade: 17.7 on 44.7% shooting (-2.1)
Without: 22.0 on 46.2% shooting (+2.8)

Winslow: +4.5 without Wade
9.9 on 44.4% shooting (-0.3)
12.2 on 42.9% shooting (+4.2)

Richardson*: +7.6 without Wade
Wade: 20.7 on 62% shooting (-8.7)
Without: 11.8 on 35.4% shooting (-1.1)
* His numbers are wonky because of a massive mid-season role change/shooting improvement; he’s been on fire since the break, and was a bricklayer before when he racked up 2/3s of his minutes. Still, you can see even with him breathing fire on offense, Wade screws the D up enough that they still get waxed when he plays with Richardson.

Green: +6.6 without Wade
Wade: 16.5 point on 39.6% shooting (-2.4)
Without: 20.2 on 37.3% shooting (+4.2)

Stoudemire: +3.3 with Wade
Wade: 18.0 on 55% shooting, 3.3FTA (+2.9)
Without: 19.4 on 50% shooting, 6.9 FTA (-1.4)

So, as you can see, the eight highest usage players on Miami all play better without Wade than with him. Stoudemire, the 9th -10th counting Wade - won’t see the court once Bosh returns- posts decent numbers with Wade, but that’s largely because he only plays with him in the starting lineup alongside Dragic/Johnson/Deng, and racked up most of his Wade-less minutes before the break in doomed bench units with Gerald Green and Josh McRoberts. Speaking of Green, it’s especially damning that Miami’s doing better with him in Wade’s place, despite Green’s career-threatening shooting slump and famously iffy defense.

Miami’s succeeding in spite of Wade, not because of him, and the smartest thing they could do is convince him to take on a role as Ginobili-East, where he can beat up on opposing bench units who won’t punish him as much for his crappy D. Miami’s got four other guys who can put up 20 basically at will (and 3 of them are better three point shooters than he is, too), they don’t need Wade using 30% of their offensive possessions, either.

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 4:56:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Fun bonus stat, here's how Wade does with and without Dragic:

With Goran: 30.1 on 44.7%, +2.1
Without Goran: 33.5 on 45%, -8

Miami is 8 points better when Dragic plays without Wade, and 10.1 points worse when Wade plays without Dragic.

Put another way, Miami lineups with just Dragic are 18 points better than lineups with just Wade. That's pretty damned dire. Tell me again who their best guy is?

At Thursday, March 17, 2016 5:39:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Space Ghost:

In general, I agree with the idea that a big player can have more impact than a small player. I have written about this issue several times.

If Shaquille O'Neal were in his prime now, every team would want him and he would make any team an instant playoff squad. He would make an already good team a championship contender.

What has happened in the past decade or so is that big men are being groomed to play facing the basket and to shoot jumpers--but Shaq's mid-90׳s Magic would be a championship contender today just like they were 20 years ago and the Shaq-Kobe Lakers would present major matchup problems for Golden State.

At Friday, March 18, 2016 12:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, just be consistent with your arguments and don't treat Kobe differently than everyone else, and we'd at least get somewhere. That's my main gripe, along with living in fantasyland with a lot of these +/-. I don't think Kobe was ever LAL's best player when he played with Pau at least during their 3 finals' runs, according to many advanced stats, and sometimes only 3rd best behind Odom. I know you disrespect Harden greatly, but you tried to tell us the same thing last year, as Ariza was better than him. Ariza is better at some aspects of the game, but when has he ever threatened to even be a legit AS according to you or anyone else? Marc Gasol has also never put up big rebounding/block #'s nor gaudy offensive stats, but yet, he's a 2x AS, 1 2nd team all-defense, 1 1st team all-nba, and 1 2nd team all-nba. Great offensive players probably do get more respect than great defensive players, but rightfully so. You can dominate games offensively a lot easier than defensively. Someone like Tony Allen is a liability on offense and can mostly only affect the man he's guarding while on defense, whereas a bad defender can be hidden on defense and/or be put in spots to actually succeed in a good team defensive philosophy. Good defensive coaches with all average defensive players can have a good team defense. Can't really say the same for offense. You need at least 1-2 solid offensive players for your team to score points usually.

Well , the coaches and pretty much everyone else disagrees with you about Wade and a lot of other AS for that matter. I doubt he makes the AS team in West, but he plays in East. And I’m sure the coaches are voting for the best available players to be AS. While I think Wade is overrated and certainly not an elite player anymore, he at least deserved serious consideration for the AS team this year, and he’s leading his team to a high playoff seed.

Lillard's another great example. Even if he's as bad defensively as you say, which I seriously doubt, he's still POR's best player and leading POR to a probable playoff berth with a fairly poor cast. He's a top 24 player, but couldn't crack the deeper West AS roster. Individual offense has always been and always will be much more important than individual defense. Good offense beats good defense. It's team defense that's what's important. Duncan could never guard a player like Kobe or James. And Russell/Wilt is probably the greatest example of this. The supposed greatest defender ever in Russell vs the supposed greatest offensive player in Wilt. Wilt absolutely destroyed Russell. Give them each the same quality of cast, and Wilt would've won a lot more. Also, Wilt showed he could play the Russell-type role later in his career, and actually do a better job of it, while Russell never was able to play the dominant do-everything Wilt-type role. It's much harder to be an offensive force than to focus on defense/rebounding while your teammates do the bulk of the work. Russell probably sacrificed some of his offensive game for the betterment of his team, but I don't really see him ever showing signs of being able to dominate offensively in the nba.

At Friday, March 18, 2016 5:13:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Potentially relevant Wade/Heat epilogues, both from last night's game and from Basketball Insiders:

*Miami's been the fourth best team in the league overall since the All-Star break, behind SAS, GSW, and presumably CHA.

*Speaking of Charlotte, Miami opened up a 15 point lead on them last night with Dragic on the floor and Wade on the bench. They turned that into a nine point deficit with Wade in and Dragic out, then- with Wade benched- closed to two before benching Dragic in the 4th (he came back in the final minute) at which point Charlotte spaced them out again until Johnson's late-game heroics. Wade, for his part, went 3-11 for the game with 3 turnovers, blew endless rotations contributing to Charlotte's 50% night from 3, and then whiffed the game-tying bucket by trying to shoot an off-the-dribble three pointer with four better shooters on the floor despite having made exactly 7 all years, and 1 since November (`19% on the season, 0% in 2016).

Someone asked why I think I can criticize coaches? Because Wade played crunch time last night 100% on reputation rather than skill, performance, or the team's needs. The Dragic/Richardson/Winslow/Deng/Whiteside quintet has been whipping everyone they've put it up against (5 defenders and 3 shooters/5 finishers, with Winslow's outside shot improving almost nightly, is a pretty killer outfit), and was doing especially well against Charlotte early in the 4th.

Obviously Spo's a much better coach than I would be- and if not for SAS/GSW would be a decent Coach of the Year option this year for reinventing his team on the fly- but his loyalty to Wade has been borderline catastrophic for Miami this season.

*More from Basketball Insiders: "Dragic is the only player on the entire roster without whom the HEAT have been outscored on a per-possession basis since the break, a remarkable testament to the balance achieved despite a few glaring personnel holes many teams would flounder to account for."

The Heat literally win or lose based on whether or not Dragic is on the court.

* Johnson and Wade are proving pretty risky to play together; Johnson's spacing is incredibly valuable to Miami- I'd go so far to say he might be more valuable offensively to them than any other single player given his ability to both create his own shot and space the floor for everybody else (Dragic is the only other nominee, as he's a better creator for others, but he's not nearly the long-range shooter Joe is), but he's a step slow against most matchups defensively and playing he and Wade simultaneously leaves the Heat vulnerable to three point barrages from teams who can move the ball.

It'll be interesting to see how Spo manages that; playing Wade mostly in lineups featuring Richardson (who plays D and can shoot) seems a no-brainer, but it's hard to figure who the third perimeter guy should be in those cases; Dragic's much better without Wade and Deng's much better at the 4. Winslow is probably the best option, but he's an iffier shooter from range.

TL;DR Miami needs to rejigger their rotations a little to cover for Wade if they want to seriously contend, and they need to move away from relying on him offensively to the extent they currently do.

At Friday, March 18, 2016 5:36:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Since you doubt the stats, I'll say this one last thing about Kobe: those stats I've been using paint him as LAL's most important starter in both title years, and by a wide margin. They tend to favor bench guys, and they're not great for directly comparing guys across teams, but they're excellent for figuring out which starters teams live and die by.

"Great offensive players probably do get more respect than great defensive players, but rightfully so"

This is where we most disagree. It is not a coincident that 7 of the last 10 title teams had better defense than offense, only two had better O than D (Dallas was ranked 8th in both).

I do agree, though, that an elite one-way perimeter offensive player is more valuable and less damning than an elite one-way defensive player. However, I'd rather have somebody like Trevor Ariza than James Harden in most cases, because he helps me on both ends. Would I try to build a team around him? No. But I wouldn't with Harden, either. Ariza's slipped a bit this year, but the bottom line is that you're not winning a title with either guy as one of your top two. But you can win a title starting Ariza; I'm not sure you can win a title starting Harden.

You need at least one- usually two- two-way star(s) (or at least a one-and-a-half way star like Dirk), and a bunch of role player who don't kill you on either end.

How many one-way players did Golden State start last year? The Spurs have gotten away with a few with Parker, but they generally have 4 good-to-great defensive players around him, including one of the 5 greatest defensive players of all time in Duncan lurking in the paint to clean up his messes.

Regarding Wade, the case is laid out pretty thoroughly above. They can put him on as many All-Star teams as they want, he's still hurting his team, and all the stats- advanced or otherwise- tell the same story. Literally his entire team play better without him, and the Charlotte game is the third of their five losses since the break (he didn't play in Toronto) that can be laid at least partially at his feet; he made boneheaded plays in one possession games down the stretch against GSW and CHA, and his 6 turnovers in Milwaukee neutered Miami's offense while feeding the Bucks' fast break.

"Russell probably sacrificed some of his offensive game for the betterment of his team, but I don't really see him ever showing signs of being able to dominate offensively in the nba."

And yet he won 9 more titles than Wilt did and waxed Wilt consistently in the playoffs despite the fact that his second best guy (Havlicek) isn't as good as Wilt's 2nd or 3rd in LAL (West and Baylor). Wilt's Philly teams were stacked, too, with Greer/Walker/Cunningham. This isn't exactly '07 Lebron vs. San Antonio here.

At Friday, March 18, 2016 6:03:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Do you know what On/Off numbers are? They're not really an "advanced" stat in the sense that PER or something is. There's no formula to them. They're just an account of points scored for and against a team when player X is on the court vs when they're off it. As I mentioned above, they're not great for everything (and favor bench guys), but used as intended- "how's the team play with player X as opposed to without?"- they're pretty illustrative. They generally reflect either the team's best player or one that's at least a crucial cog to the team's system (i.e., Korver).

Title teams On/Off (starters only) leaders back through 2001:
'01: Shaq
'02: Shaq
'03: Duncan
'04: B. Wallace
'05: Duncan
'06: Wade
'07: Duncan
'08: Garnett
'09: Bryant
'10: Bryant
'11: Nowitzki
'12: James
'13: James
'14: Leonard (which I actually disagree slightly with, but I know you don't)
'15: Curry

If I were to try and unpack the one (out of 15) I disagree with, I'd contend that it has more to do with Diaw being a much better backup for Duncan than Bellinelli for Leonard, or with Duncan playing more minutes with the defensively not-so-great Parker, Bellinelli, and Ginobili while Leonard never really played in lineups without other strong defenders (Splitter/Green). Or maybe I'm just wrong and Leonard actually was their most important guy that year.

Do those seem wildly inaccurate to you? They're the Finals MVP every year except '04 and '07 (where a player with gaudier offensive numbers got the nod, natch).

At Friday, March 18, 2016 6:45:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Edit: Also not the Finals MVP in '08, but the same logic applies.

At Saturday, March 19, 2016 3:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might have some good points about Wade, but disagree overall. It's just not that simple looking at these on/offs, etc. There's a lot more going on with the basketball. With all these advanced stats floating around, scoring and MP remain two of the best stats that correlate with talent/success. If Wade was so bad, he wouldn't be playing so much. Crunch time is a different situation than the rest of the game. I'd have Wade in there as well usually at ends of games. There's always little things we can nitpick with coaches about, but they're around their teams the entire year and are experts in their craft. Even if they're bad coaches for the nba, they're still the best in the world.

You're obviously overrating Dragic as usual. He's still never made the AS team. He might bring some qualities that don't always show up in the box score, but if he's anywhere near as good as you think he is, every coach in the league would be salivating over him, and that's not happening, as well as each coach he's had not allowing him to fulfill his full potential according to you.

I'm not surprised most of the recent title teams or maybe most all-time had supposedly better 'team' defenses than 'team' offenses. This doesn't contradict anything I said though, actually furthers what I'm saying about 'team' defenses. Look at MEM in recent years. They've had some decent playoff runs, but they're not going to win anything. They've had awesome defenses, a few stars, a few near stars, and some solid rotation guys, too. They've had several very good offensive players, but they still can't generate enough offense. You need to be able to generate consistent offense.

Prior evidence would prove you wrong about Harden/Ariza. Harden was OKC's #3-4 guy in 12, and made it to the finals, while OKC has yet to make it back. If James was on OKC and Durant on MIA, OKC wins. Ariza's only made the playoffs 3x in 6 years after leaving LAL, while Harden has every year since leaving OKC, including leading his team to back-to-back 50+win season and a WCF along with being a perennial AS, and on and on. Obviously if guys like Kobe and James have the teams, it'll be hard for anyone else to win. And now Curry is top guy, but he has a top 2 cast as well. Durant and Westbrook play together and both have been top 5 guys for years now, and the only time they've made the finals is when they had another MVP candidate coming off the bench.

At Saturday, March 19, 2016 3:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Russell's teams beat Wilt's teams usually, that's obvious and should be expected, but Wilt still dominated Russell. Wilt's teams got better through his career, but for the most part, his casts were looking up at Russell's casts, though Wilt's 2 title teams were more dominant than any of Russell's title teams. Russell gets credit for repeat titles. I see Wilt winning at least as many, if not probably more than Russell if he played with BOS. I don't see Russell winning anymore than 1-2 at most, and much less dominant if he played on Wilt's teams.

Wilt only played with LAL vs BOS/Russell in 69, and Baylor didn't play. Though, I think West only winning one title and Baylor none shows how overrated they both probably are, or why they both only deserve fringe elite status. Havlicek won two titles without Russell.

At Saturday, March 19, 2016 3:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was wrong, Baylor played in 69, but wasn't very good. Wilt was older by then, and not the consistent dominant scorer he used to be, though he was still playing the Russell-type role better than Russell did. I wouldn't take Russell over Wilt, but Wilt probably should've won more titles. He was so close so many times, which is why I probably can't take Wilt over guys like Kobe, Jordan, Kareem, and possibly Magic who all have the stats but also pushed their teams over the top to win multiple titles as real X-factors, even though Wilt probably has the best stats all-time.

At Saturday, March 19, 2016 5:42:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I'll be quick on these:

*I'm 100% right on Wade. There's really no defending his play this season.

*On/Offs are not a be-all, end-all, but they're one of the best stats for what they actually do. Sometimes there are contextual/systemic things that make them more complex- Korver isn't ATL's best player, but he leads the team in On/Off because everything everyone else does offensively relies on his floor spacing- but it's one of the easiest stats to contextualize/use.

*Individual points are often an extremely misleading statistic. For example, nobody on those mid 2000s PHX teams averaged huge scoring numbers, but they were by far the best offense in the league. Yes, you need offense- and ultimately scoring- but I'm of the opinion that a guy like Dragic who creates offensive opportunities for his teammates regardless of whether or not there's an assist involved is more valuable than a guy who puts up gaudy individual numbers but whose team struggles offensively when he's on the court. Now, the tippy top greats- Doc/Jordan/Kobe etc.- did both, but we'r not talking about them here, we're talking about the Miami Heat. Dragic = good Heat offense, not Dragic = bad Heat offense. The sample size is large enough now that we can take that for what it is.

* While +- can be noisy, there is certainly something to be said when it's as cut and dried as "we win as long as this guy's on the court, but we lose whenever he's off it. This is only true of one guy on our team."

* While you may be right that if OKC had James instead of Durant they'd have won a title that year, the same is true of many teams; I said Harden can't be one of your top two guys. I do think he can be your bench weapon (especially since he'll be playing against less gifted offensive units most nights). Ariza would probably lose to Harden in a game of one-on-one but it is much harder to neutralize what Ariza does well (defense, floor spacing) in a playoff series than it is to neutralize what Harden does well (isolation or PnR scoring).

I don't necessarily think Ariza's a "better" player, but I do think it's much easier to build a good team that includes him that one that includes Harden, as you don't need to expend resources covering for him on either end; he's two-way useful.

* We can agree to differ about Wilt/Russell. I suspect most of the NBA coaches and experts you love to say I disagree with would have my back on this one.

*The Grizzlies are a bad example, as they were offensively bad. Most title teams are top ten on both ends, but better defensively. Very, very few are ranked 19th in either, and when they are there;s usually a contextual reason (somebody was hurt in the regular season, midseason system change/trade, etc.)

At Sunday, March 20, 2016 1:46:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


Not sure if you have time to answer this, or how much you've been watching the Heat lately, but how would you re-integrate Bosh (who may be back as soon as Friday) if you were in charge? After watching them trounce Cleveland I'm more convinced than ever that they're a real threat to win the East (though probably no match for SA or GS despite some strong showings against GS earlier in the year), but with a Bosh comeback looming I'm trying to figure out exactly how it would work. My not perfectly organized thoughts:

1) Obviously, all of Amare's current minutes go to Bosh. Amare;s been better than anybody had any right to expect, but that's a no brainer.

2) That said, how do you deal with Bosh/Whiteside? The team struggled for the first fifty games whenever they shared the court. Whiteside's a significantly better rebounder, roll man, and rim protector, but Bosh is a much better shooter, passer, and a smarter defender overall. Do you split their minutes 24/24? Cut Whiteside's down to 15 or so? Both guys are great two-way players, but it's not clear if there's any way for them to co-exist.

3) Offense. How do you involve Bosh in what's been working? The Heat's offense this year is at its worst on Wade or Bosh isos that slow everything down and reduce dynamic guys like Dragic, Winslow, and Deng to sub-optimal floor spacers. Stationing Bosh in the corners sometimes make sense to open the lane for Dragic/Wade/Johnson occasionally, but also seems like not getting the most out of Bosh. Not sure what the right answer is here.

4) Pace. The Heat live and die by pace; can Bosh even play at that speed anymore? And if he can't, then what?

At Sunday, March 20, 2016 9:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, I've never seen you even remotely close to 100% correct on any player. Stop acting like you're smarter than Spo. Spo's not going to play a player who's actually hurting the team the moment he steps onto the court, unless there's no other option.

Mid-2000s PHO teams were a lot different than almost any other team in the recent memory, especially with all the stars they had. And Amare did get high points. Nash would never get high points with any team. JJ would've averaged in the 20s if he stayed with PHO. Marion's average actually increased in 05 and 06. Not really sure what you're trying to say here. Nash, Amare, and Marion were pretty much AS every year there for awhile if healthy.

I've never seen an MVP candidate not be capable of leading a team to a title. And a lot depends which conf. you play in and how good the other contenders are. Look at all the struggles Durant/Westbrook have had, and they play together. And they'll be fortunate to make it out of the 2nd round this year.

Ariza has never really been better than the 3rd best player on any team, and other than 2010, every team he's been on had at least one other great player. His track record clearly doesn't suggest he's a big-time player, though I'd take him as a role player(4th-5th man, possibly 3rd man) on a contender.

Most people go with flat-out who won the most. Russell is obviously #1 in that area. It's just not that simple. Their casts/coaches weren't even remotely even either. Wilt revolutionized the game, and so many rules were changed because of him. Heck, I could win a few titles if I had HOFers coming off the bench on my team.

That's exactly why I used MEM. They're the perfect example. Their offense is bad, that's exactly my point, and they had at least 3 very good offensive players almost always(Gasol, Conley, Randolph, Gay). Even without Gay vs SA in 11, they won as an 8 seed, but a team like that won't be able to sustain that through 4 rounds even in an outlier year. DET squeaked in, in 04 in an outlier year, but they were better defensively, had a better coach, had more offensive firepower, and their main competition suffered huge injuries.

At Sunday, March 20, 2016 9:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also trying to figure out who your Eastern AS would be. You quickly discredit all these guys mainly because you don't like their on/offs, but there's not really any suitable replacements. I'd assume you think just James for CLE. TOR maybe 2. ATL is currently the 3 seed, but you already said a team like that doesn't deserve more than 1, so no team below them should have more than 1 AS at most. Bosh on MIA maybe, and obviously Dragic has to be there(even though not even ready to play to start season), smh. CHA gets 1. BOS must get 1, but no idea who, if not Thomas. IND gets 1. CHI only deserves one just barely hovering over .500 and the 8 seed. DET and WAS each might deserve 1.

Melo's clearly not as good as James, but he's at least been borderline elite player 2-3 different years. He's only had one cast that could described as good with NYK, and that cast still wasn't even contender-type cast. James isn't winning anything with those casts either. I'm not sure Melo makes the team this year if not voted in, but probably does. I don't think you realize just how hard it is and how special it is to be able to average 20ppg, but this doesn't mean you should be an AS necessarily.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 12:49:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"Stop acting like you're smarter than Spo. Spo's not going to play a player who's actually hurting the team the moment he steps onto the court, unless there's no other option."

I'm not. I never said I was. I'm right about one thing that he's wrong about. He's probably right about a few hundred things I'd be wrong about. However, I was also right before the season when I said Miami should play up-tempo with the ball in Dragic's hands, and I've been proven right on that one; took Spo a little longer to figure it out.

"His track record clearly doesn't suggest he's a big-time player, though I'd take him as a role player(4th-5th man, possibly 3rd man) on a contender."

Me too. But I wouldn't take Harden as anything other than my 4th best, or mayyybe 3rd if I've got two really super-duper mega stars and a great defensive supporting cast.

"Most people go with flat-out who won the most. Russell is obviously #1 in that area. It's just not that simple."

So you're saying it's possible for the "experts" to be wrong about something? Because I don't even especially disagree- I have Wilt and Russ I think 6th and 7th, the gap's miniscule for me- but if we're saying it's possible for idiots like us to be right about something as obvious as "hey, it's about more than titles' then logically it's possible for us to be right about other things the experts might disagree on, no?

Re: Memphis

My understanding was that your point was that a team couldn't win with just good D. I agree. They also can't win with just good O; show me a team that did.

Memphis was pretty much a contender- they went 7 with OKC, and they matched up well with Miami, not sure about Dallas- that season. They had 46 wins, which would be good for about 5th in the West this year. They were 15 games behind the one seed. This year, the 8 seed's gonna be close to 30 behind. As usual, context matters.

Lest you forget, my larger point when we've discussed that series before was not that Memphis was necessarily a contender- though they were- but that they were an extremely bad matchup for SAS, uniquely able to shut down SAS offense and punish their secondary bigs on D.


At Monday, March 21, 2016 1:11:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"I'm also trying to figure out who your Eastern AS would be"

I need 7, right? First, I should clarify my Atlanta point; their team in an ensemble outfit similar to the '04 Pistons with 4 or 5 roughly equally important dudes; generally, I don't think most of those dudes are individually All-Star level, but when the team is on top of the conference they should be rewarded. Also, Atlanta's been better since the break, I don't recall specifics but I believe they were behind Boston and possibly one other team (Indy maybe?) at the time. Could be wrong there, in which case I partially recant my Millsap criticism, but I'm probably not.

That said, I'd take both Crowder and Bradley off Boston before I'd take Thomas, and maybe both.

I'd actually be fine with a second Cav in principle, given how far ahead they were at the time, but I'm not sure who it'd be.

I wouldn't have taken Dragic at that point in the season, though if we picked a team now I certainly would. I'm not sure, but I suspect at the time Bosh had as-good or better On/Offs than Dragic, since Dragic was largely reduced to a glorified floor spacer.

I probably would have thrown Reggie Jackson on there, though, given how thin the rest of Detroit is.

Kemba Walker definitely should have been on there.

The Bucks probably should have had one. Take your pick of Giannis, Monroe, or Middleton.

Maybe throw Vuc on there for the Magic?

That was harder than I would have though, so if you wanna throw Millsap back on, go ahead.

That's 7 dudes in the East that'd be more deserving than who they had. Over West.. somebody from Utah, probably Dirk from Dallas, maybe CJ McCollum (though he's borderline IMO), and probably Conley from Memphis all woulda been more legitimate picks IMO than the guys I listed. I also wouldn't have been pissed to see Ibaka on there.

"I don't think you realize just how hard it is and how special it is to be able to average 20ppg"

It's about as hard or special as averaging 12 rebounds, 9 assists, or 3 blocks, I think... though more guys do it each season than any of those things. Sorta my point; people over-value scoring, because it's the most obvious/fun stat.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 11:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, do you actually know what you're saying about Wade/Spo. I don't think you do. You're saying Spo is actively sabotaging his team by playing Wade, and that Wade is so bad, he hurts his team the minute he steps onto the court. You're dealing in extremes again. Wade would get at least 15-20mpg with any team, even if he was backing up another AS SG like Thompson for example.

I wouldn't want Harden as my #1 guy either, but there's players in recent years that have led their teams to titles as worse players or at least very comparable.

I don't regurgitate what experts say, and all experts would disagree. I sit back, think, and analyze what they say. For example, when Kareem said he'd take Duncan over Kobe. Ok, maybe he would. I accept that. And nobody would take the same player over everyone else either, even when there's lots of bias. But, it's what Kareem said about Duncan that was very interesting. He said he'd take Duncan because 'SA has been able to win consistently and they didn't have to rely on him all the time.' Sure, Duncan has a lot to do with SA winning just like any other star player, but he's also saying Duncan overall has had lesser roles and didn't really have to do nearly as much as someone like Kobe or even James.

I think you're missing my initial point about bringing up MEM. It was about team defenses, not some individual defensive star, and MEM's lack of a great offensive player. Almost never will a team win without at least one offensive superstar. But, teams don't need that defensive superstar. What they need is at least a solid team defense. This is exactly what this thread was initially about. LAL is a bad defensive team with nobody that's remotely great defensively, but in a good defensive scheme, they were able to dominate GS.

46-win teams are almost never contenders, if ever. And they were only the 12th best team in nba that year, and without their leading scorer(who was their 2nd or 3rd best player). They did awesome to make some noise, but they had no chance to win a title. If they had Gay? Possibly, they could've beaten OKC, but they didn't have Gay. After that? Really hard to see them beating DAL. Maybe MEM was a bad matchup for SA, but SA had no business losing even with Duncan playing poorly.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look who you're choosing for East AS. You're picking some role players and some guys that won't even make the playoffs in the East. So, CLE 1(you didn't choose a 2nd AS), TOR 2, ATL ?, BOS 1-2 role players, maybe MIA 1, MIL 1(but you won't choose who), then you just throw-in 1 ORL(Vucevic has played 5 years now and his playoff experience consists of 3 minutes), 1 CHO. ATL must have at least 3 AS then, and they probably won't make 50 wins. Oh, I forgot DET. I assume you think Drummond should be an AS, but I won't assume anything with you. So, if Jackson is as well, that makes 2 AS for a likely non-playoff DET.

Like I said, you can nitpick a few guys or 60% of the AS in your special case, but you still you're not actually choosing everyone, and you're just choosing guys for the heck of it, it seems. And if MIL has 3 valid AS, why are they only 30-40 and sitting in 11th place?

12ppg, 9rpb, 3bpg might be good, but these guys are rarely as big of difference-makers as high scorers are. And the majority of high scorers do a lot more than just score and usually play high minutes. Very few, if any, non-current big-time scorers could be big-time scorers. While I see almost every current big-time scorer being able to fill the same role as some of these role players and probably do it even better. You don't necessarily have to be a high-scorer to be a superstar, but it's very hard. It's hard for me to justify role players as AS usually, and the coaches seem to agree with me. I don't see any bad picks for this year. Green is an exception for this year, but he does almost everything on the court, though I don't see him ever being a high-scorer or a superstar for that matter. I think he's clearly an AS, but a low-level AS. And he definitely contributes to GS great record.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I agree that Green *should* be an All-Star, I just disagree that he would be if GS weren't so ludicrously dominant; AS teams favor scorers.

If you want to make the case that individual scoring is more important than rebounding or what have you, that's fine, but I won't agree. The leading scorer in the league has won the title exactly once since 2000 (Shaq, 2000), and only made the Finals three times (Durant and Iverson).

In fact, Jordan and Shaq are the only scoring leaders to win a title since the merger. I obviously think both those guys are pretty great, but they did a lot of other stuff, too. My objection is to guys like Lillard, Thomas, and Harden who put up big scoring numbers that ultimately mean very little and hurt their team almost as much on the other end. Relative to those guys, I'd rather have a solid-two way guy like Middleton, who gives me maybe four or five fewer points but more than makes up for it with great defense and smart off-ball offensive play.

As for why Milwaukee's not doing better, they're only four guys deep and their defensive scheme doesn't work. That's a front office/coaching problem, not a "nobody's an All-Star" problem. They also start a PG who can't shoot, and isn't a great passer, which doesn't help the offense. Middleton and Giannis are still awesome two-way guys though, and Monroe's good at what he does (though he's a defensive liability against the PnR). If you want me to pick one I'd probably take Middleton, but I wouldn't fault anybody who took Giannis.

Drummond should definitely be an All-Star. Jackson probably should. I don't care that it gives Detroit two, considering their third best guy is Caldwelll Pope (young and improving, but not yet anything special) or Marcus Morris (wouldn't start for most teams). Again, context matters. Miami and Atlanta are loaded teams; being in the middle of the playoffs is about expectation for them. Detroit's a garbage roster with one real star and a PG who's surprising everyone (or at least me) by playing like a second one.

The big disagreement here seems to be that you think AS should only come from playoff teams; I disagree. If a team is out of the playoffs because other teams have more talent/better coaching, that doesn't mean one of its players isn't an AS. I knocked Davis off my list because his team actually declined sharply from last year and has a playoff caliber roster, but it doesn't immediately follow that Detroit and Orlando are in the same boat (and both were in playoff range at the time of the AS break).

At Monday, March 21, 2016 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"You're saying Spo is actively sabotaging his team by playing Wade, and that Wade is so bad, he hurts his team the minute he steps onto the court. You're dealing in extremes again. Wade would get at least 15-20mpg with any team, even if he was backing up another AS SG like Thompson for example."

I think Spo thinks Wade is still better than he is. And if you've been paying attention, my claim the whole time is that they should move Wade to the bench where he'd be more effective; 15-20 minutes is probably dead-on for him. 25 wouldn't be bad, so long as it was coming in the right spots.

Part of the problem is systemic and not fundamentally Wade’s fault, but with the personnel/system they have they need to space the floor on offense and rotate quickly on defense; Wade’s not really capable of doing either of those things anymore, at least on a night to night basis. Deploying him as a bench-wrecking super-sub would hide those weaknesses somewhat.

"I wouldn't want Harden as my #1 guy either, but there's players in recent years that have led their teams to titles as worse players or at least very comparable."

There are not. The "worst" best player on a recent title team was probably whoever you think he worst player on the '04 Pistons was, but I'd take all five of their starters over Harden.

"Almost never will a team win without at least one offensive superstar. But, teams don't need that defensive superstar."

Disagree, mostly. The '09-'10 Lakers are the only title team I can think of that didn't have a tippy-top defensive guy, but Kobe was still capable of playing great crunch time D, and Ariza/Artest/Odom/Bynum were all well-above average defenders.

On the other hand, '04 Detroit didn't really have an offensive superstar, and the ’14 Spurs didn’t have anybody averaging over 17 ppg. The high man for the ’07 Spurs was Duncan at 20ppg (20th in the league). ’05 was pretty much the same (though he wasn’t top 20 that year). That’s four teams since ’00 that won without a tippy top offensive guy to two that did it without an elite defender (though it’s worth noting that Kobe did make the All-D team those years, so if we wanna go by that metric then it drops to 0).

If we wanna go back further, there’s nobody in the 80s or 90s for either case, but the ’79 Sonics didn’t have an offensive star. The two 70s Celtics title teams didn’t really have any top-shelf scorers, either (nobody over 20 in ’76, only Havlicek and only 22 in ’74).

So, if we go all the way back to 1970… I count seven teams that won without a top shelf offensive guy, but only two that did it without a great defensive guy. Ergo, I don’t buy the argument that a great offensive player is more important to winning a title than a great defensive one.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 3:22:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Interesting post-script to the scoring vs. defense argument:

Going back to '83, all but 8 of the guys (15 total DPOY seasons) who've won DPOY have ended up with a title (though frequently not in the year they won it). Only 5 of them have not played in the Finals. Of two-time winners, only 4 (though Mutombo and Howard both made the Finals).

In the same span, there are also 8 scoring leaders without a title, and again 5 of whom never made the Finals. Of two-time scoring champs, 3 have not won a championship (technically 4, but Dantley won his first scoring title before the range we're discussing.).

About equal success rates. However, if you remove Jordan- the only guy who's won both awards- things get more dire, at least percentage-wise. Jordan only won one DPOY, but he won fully 10 scoring titles. Exempting him from both lists, the math doesn't much change for DPOYs, but it does for scoring leaders.

There are 7 non-Jordan scoring champs (counting Shaq and Kobe both twice) who won titles, and 16 that did not.
On the other hand, there are 17 DPOY seasons belonging to champions, to 15 that don't.

If we wanna go total titles...
Scoring champs: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1 = 23 total titles by scoring champs since '83
DPOYs: 6, 5, 5, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 27 total title by DPOYs since '83

So, it looks like they're at worst of comparable value, or DPOYs have a slight edge. Small sample size, though, and Jordan muddies the waters a bit. It might be more interesting to contrast All-D selections with top 5 scoring seasons. I'm posting now to avoid the risk of another crash, but I might peek into that next.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 4:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I know most AS are good scorers(as should be), but there's exceptions to that every year. Green should be an AS and was an AS, we both agree on that. Who cares if he wouldn't be on a different team, hypothetically?

Nobody said you had to lead the league in scoring to win a title. My main contention was about being an offensive superstar, which almost always requires someone to be among the league leaders in scoring, but not necessarily #1.

I might want Middleton over Lillard/Thomas, too, not completely sure, but most prior/current evidence doesn't favor Middleton. Harden has led his teams to back-to-back 50+ win seasons and one WCF. Lillard has come up big in the playoffs before, and has made it past the 1st round. He now is leading a sorry cast to the playoffs again, now without Aldridge. Thomas joining BOS immediately paid dividends to BOS last season and this season.

Middleton now plays with 2 other AS, according to you, and won't even make the playoffs in the East this year. When has that ever happened before?

Especially if we say MIL has 3 legit AS, I just don't buy it. Maybe they have some of the problems you mentioned, but if these 3 guys are all playing like AS and in the East, there's no excuse for not making the playoffs. Their roster might not be that good, but it doesn't look that bad to me either, same goes for DET. If DET has 2 legit AS, they should at least make the playoffs. And given what you said about ATL only deserving 1 AS, I'm surprised you think these teams, which are much worse, deserve not only 1 AS but multiple AS.

I never said AS can't be from non-playoff teams. If you remember, I said Davis/Cousins deserve being AS. I do think it's hard to be an AS from a non-playoff team, which is usually true since you're not elevating your team as much as good players on playoff teams do. Cousins is a great player, but he's not really elevating his team as much as he should if he was an elite player, which is why I put him in the bottom half of this year's AS. And there better be a very special case to have multiple AS on the same non-playoff team, which I don't see this year for sure. The top 2-3 teams in each conf. often will have 4-6 AS between them. That only leaves 6-8 spots for the other 12-13 teams. There's just not going to be many spots available for players on non-playoff teams.

The 'worst' player on 04 DET? Maybe you meant the 'best' player. Obviously you rate players very differently than most. And there's other examples. I think even Nash could've potentially led his PHO teams to titles if everything broke right, and he was small and couldn't be bothered playing defense, though I don't think he would've even if everything broke right. I don't consider him better than a fringe MVP candidate for any given year either. MVP candidates, if they have decent casts, generally make noise in the playoffs. But, a lot of depends on who you play, when you play them, and how difficult your path is to the title. Look at SA/LAC 1st round in 15, for example.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 4:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Kobe was 1st team all-defense in 09/10, and MWP was 2nd team. Chandler was 2nd team in 11. I don't agree either of these 3 teams needed a defensive superstar. They needed their stars to be able to play on both sides generally, though Dirk isn't very good defensively. Chandler also didn't need to be an elite defender, not sure if he was or not, but DAL just needed him to be competent and engaged, which he was. And I think the general notion applies to most years. Just because title teams had 1-2 guys as all-defensive selections, which should be expected for title teams, doesn't mean they needed these guys to necessarily play at elite defensive levels. And there's always exceptions. 04 DET and 14 SA are outlier years obviously. Both teams had a bevy of star/near stars, lots of quality playmakers, and were very competent on both sides of the ball. It depends on who your teammates are as well

Even if we say Chandler was an elite defensive player in 11, he's not dominating or taking over games defensively. And I don't think Kobe is for the most part or anyone else for that matter. It's very hard, if not near impossible, for any one player to take over games defensively, especially in the playoffs.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 4:22:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, this came out more dramatically than I expected:

Since 1969:

Total Top-5 Scorers with a title: 29
Total All-D 1st teamers with a title: 39

Total Top-5 Scorers with a title that season: 22
Total All-D 1st teamers with a title that season: 54

Total Top-5 Scorer titles: 65
Total All-D 1st teamer titles: 104

Actually looks like being a top 5 defender correlates a lot higher to winning titles than being a top 5 scorer.

At Monday, March 21, 2016 4:34:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


You misunderstood me. I think Milwaukee should have one All-Star, I'm just not sure which one. I've only watched them maybe six or seven times this season so I'm not as informed about what's working/isn't as I am for teams like Miami, GSW, OKC, or PHX, who I watch a lot more of.

I do think Nash could have won a title, but he would have needed more elite defensive teammates covering for him to do it, or at least fewer defensive liabilities. Harden is just as bad as Nash defensively, but nowhere near as impactful offensively, so I'm dubious that there's a team you could build around him as your main guy that contends. Even with Howard, Ariza, and Beverley, they were an easy out for GSW.

"Chandler also didn't need to be an elite defender, not sure if he was or not, but DAL just needed him to be competent and engaged"

I completely disagree. Against Miami especially, they needed elite-level rim protection to help stop Wade/James at the cup, and he gave it to them.

"Just because title teams had 1-2 guys as all-defensive selections, which should be expected for title teams, doesn't mean they needed these guys to necessarily play at elite defensive levels"

How is All-Defensive team not an "elite" level? You're more of a believer in the All-D teams than I am, so I'm confused by this.

"It's very hard, if not near impossible, for any one player to take over games defensively, especially in the playoffs"

Hard, sure. But so is taking over offensively. Guys do both. Opposing offenses were 9.6 points per 100 possessions worse when Chandler was on the court in the '11 playoffs. LAL's offense was 9.7 points per 100 better with Kobe in the '`10 playoffs. Kobe's obviously a better defensive player than Chandler is an offensive one, but his O in 2010 had almost the exact same impact as Chandler's D the next year.

How do you define "dominant?" Because those numbers look pretty comparable to me.

At Tuesday, March 22, 2016 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"I don't think you realize just how hard it is and how special it is to be able to average 20ppg"

I think I forgot to comment on this earlier, but it's relevant to what we're talking about.

It's not *that* hard. 22 guys are doing it this year. 15 did it last year. 19 the year before. It varies, but usually it's between 15-20 guys, and recent history includes such luminaries as Devin Harris, Al Harrington, and Cory Maggette. Anybody who takes enough shots can average 20.

Great defenders are a lot rarer- and more valuable- than 20 point scorers. The 20+ point scorers who are *really* worth something do a lot more than just score. The very best ones are also good to great defenders who make life easier for their teammates and get their points A) efficiently and B) in the flow of the offense.

That in mind, let's look at Harden again.

Harden's offense doesn't consistently translate to wins, it doesn't lead to above-average years for his teammates, and it isn't complimented by even league-average defensive work. Harden does get more rebounds than the average two guard, and he is fairly efficient, but comparing him to guys like Curry- (who completely changes the complexion of the game by stepping on the court and is much more efficient), Butler (who's a magnificent defender), or even, yes, Dragic (who's team lives and dies by his presence or absence) is completely ignoring his deficiencies and basically everything except the raw box score. This is all made more dramatic by the fact that he's playing on a team specifically built to emphasize his strengths and hide his weaknesses, while guys like Butler and Dragic are playing on mismashed teams that initially envisioned them as role players.

Harden's not cut out to be anything more than he was in OKC on a real contending team; his defense is too bad to win a title with him in the starting lineup, and he has so far not shown an ability to produce offensively as a first option in the playoffs (in Houston, he shoots 41% and puts up over 4 TOs per game). Ariza's not cut out to be a first option, either, but he's proven that he can start for a title team; he has a job he can actually do when the pressure's on.

At Tuesday, March 22, 2016 11:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't know which MIL player should be an AS and you said take your pick between 3 of their guys, how am I misunderstanding you? If you're fine with any or all 3 being AS, then you must think all 3 are AS caliber.

I don't want to talk about Harden, but you forced my hand. Harden hasn't been a good defender for his career overall, but he has played good defense at times in the past, gets good steals/blocks for a SG, and is much more athletic and taller than Nash. Nash was absolutely awful defensively and in a category all by himself. And disagree offensively as well. Harden isn't as good of a playmaker for others as Nash, but he's a much more lethal scorer, and draws more defensive attention. As David likes to mention the many 30 and 40 pt. games and how these correlate to LAL's success with Kobe, the very same can be said with Harden.

What's so special about Howard, Ariza, and Beverley? None are AS, and only Howard is even remotely in the AS-consideration conversation. And last time I checked, Beverley didn't play vs GS last year, why even bring him up? Yes, GS and Curry were better than HOU and Harden, but GS squeaked out the first 2 games at home. If Harden had Curry's cast, I'd be surprised if his team wouldn't have been up 3-2 after 5 games.

Lots of supposed rim protectors don't need to be elite to give enough to their teams. With Terry outplaying James and James quitting, DAL was almost shoe-in to win the finals.

What are you confused about with my all-defensive comment. Yes, most title teams probably have at least one guy on an all-defense team, but if these same guys were only 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th team, etc. guys if we had that many teams, I think they'd certainly be good enough defensively in most cases. Just because a title team has 1-2 all-defensive selection guys doesn't mean it correlates with needing these types of guys to win titles. And their impacts are usually much lower than an elite offensive player's impact is.

So what if DAL is X better with Chandler defensively compared to X better with Kobe offensively, or whatever you like to talk about? This isn't clear evidence or necessarily any evidence at all for how dominant each are on one particular side of the ball.

Really? Not that hard? Almost anyone can be a great defender if they focused on that, compared to a very small % of guys being able to be 20+ppg scorers. And even a weak man defender can still be a great help defender or vice versa. You can have a good/great team defense with ordinary defensive players or a terrible team defense with one elite defender and not much else. Defenisvely, you need a good system and guys meshing on defense more than anything else.

At Tuesday, March 22, 2016 11:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's say you're correct about Harden, etc. Why isn't this seen with his team and Butler/Dragic's team results? CHI might not even make the playoffs this year, much like Dragic's team last year. It doesn't add up, yet anyway.

Never said Harden is cutout to be the best player on a title team, just said he could. It depends on how good his cast is and how good the other teams are, and given some past best players on title teams, he could be. What proof do you need? Title? Then, lots of guys, including many HOFers, never proved this either. But, leading a team without any other AS to the CF in a very strong conf. is a great accomplishment. Very few players have ever done this. Heck, T-MAC never made it out of the 1st round for his entire career. Harden's averaged roughly 27, 6, 6, 2 with a solid TS% in playoffs with HOU. And I don't many, if any, primary playmakers, especially ones who are big-time scorers that don't have high a TO average.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:38:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


When healthy, Bosh is Miami's best player. The pertinent questions are (1) How healthy is he? and (2) What is his conditioning level? If Bosh's health problems are resolved and his conditioning would permit it then I would play him 35 minutes/game. Realistically, that is probably not possible.

While it is true that Dragic is playing better now that the Heat are playing faster, your comments about the team all but ignore the fact that the Heat added to their roster a perennial All-Star who seems to be revitalized mentally and physically now that he has escaped from the dysfunctional Nets. Deng is better suited to being a 4 than a 3 now and that has nothing to do with Dragic. Wade's recent high level play also has a lot to do with the Heat's success.

Is Dragic a factor? Sure.

Does the Heat's recent run over the past few games--after adding an All-Star, shifting players into different roles and increasing their pace of play--mean that you are right about Dragic? Not necessarily.

Your insistence that everything good in Miami relates to Dragic and your insistence that Thomas--who is clearly the engine behind Boston's success and who is indisputably having a better season than Dragic--is Boston's third or fourth best player diminish your credibility, which is a shame because otherwise you make a lot of sensible points about basketball in general and certain players in particular.

Thomas is a legit All-Star. Dragic is a good player who thrives in a specific role on an uptempo team. It's OK to acknowledge those truths. If Dragic ever averages 20 ppg again for a season, then feel free to bring up the possibility that he is a legit All-NBA player, as opposed to a good player who had a career year.

Feel free to post three long comments in response but it might be a week or more until I answer again because I am absolutely swamped.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:50:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Re: Milwaukee

I said above I haven't watched them enough to be sure. Gun to my head, I'd go Middleton based on what I have seen. I am not infallible, however, and admit the possibility that Giannis or Monroe have more to do with their success than I assume. I do not think the Bucks are good enough to warrant more than one All-Star.

"Harden hasn't been a good defender for his career overall, but he has played good defense at times in the past, gets good steals/blocks for a SG, and is much more athletic and taller than Nash. Nash was absolutely awful defensively and in a category all by himself."

First off, Harden gives up more points going for blocks and steals then he prevents by getting them, which is part of why he's such a crappy defender. Second, Nash at least was annually was near the top of the league in charges taken, and generally rotated properly; he just wasn't strong or fast enough to stop guys. Both were bad, but at least Nash had an excuse.

As for offense, lemme know when Harden's got several straight years of leading the #1 offense, including in a year when their best other scorer misses the season. Actually, lemme know when he has one year leading a top 3 offense, for starters. Because until then, it's kinda silly to argue he's in Nash's league. Also let me know when he's the second best statistical shooter of all time. Also let me know when he leads the league in assists a bunch of times. Also let me know when he's made more than one CF as his team's best guy- especially since he wasn't actually their best guy in the one he did make.

"What's so special about Howard, Ariza, and Beverley?"

They're great defenders; they're exactly the kinds of guys I'd try to surround Harden with if I got saddled with him (maybe not Howard specifically for personality reasons, but skill set wise he's a match), but they still couldn't cover for him. I'd forgotten that Beverly didn't play vs GSW last year, so apologies there. I completely disagree that if you switched Harden/Curry the results would have much changed. Curry's cast is better than Harden's, but Curry is better than Harden by such an order of magnitude that it wouldn't matter.

"With Terry outplaying James and James quitting, DAL was almost shoe-in to win the finals."

Come on, man. Even you've gotta know that Chandler's rim D had a lot to do with discouraging James and allowing Terry to "outplay" him. It also helped keep Bosh and Wade from winning the series anyway. The numbers are right there.


At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:51:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"Just because a title team has 1-2 all-defensive selection guys doesn't mean it correlates with needing these types of guys to win titles."

Sure. It's probably just a coincidence. A sixty year long coincidence.

Also, it's probably just a coincidence that most great coaches love saying "Defense wins championships."

Also, it's probably a coincidence that of the 20 best guys of All-Time, more of them have made All-D teams than have led the league in scoring (though a few have done both).

"This isn't clear evidence or necessarily any evidence at all for how dominant each are on one particular side of the ball."

I mean, it's factual evidence. Both guys were worth a little over 9.5 points on their respective sides of the ball on average during their respective title runs. I explained those numbers before; they're not some fancy formula, they're just an account of what happened; the extent to which they're "advanced" is that they prorate out to 100 possessions to make it easier to compare. Kobe made his team as much (technically 0.1 point per 100 better) on offense as Chandler made his on defense.

"Almost anyone can be a great defender if they focused on that, compared to a very small % of guys being able to be 20+ppg scorers."

You say that, and yet there are significantly more 20 point scorers than great defenders. That percentage, by the way, is usually 10-15 percent of starting NBA players. Not that small. Much greater than the percentage of guys who make All-D teams (3% of starters).

I also disagree that "anyone" can be a great defender. Relatively few people have.

"You can have a good/great team defense with ordinary defensive players"

Really? Name one.

"Defenisvely, you need a good system and guys meshing on defense more than anything else."

And yet the average title team has 1-2 of the top 5 defenders in the league that year. Weird.

"Why isn't this seen with his team and Butler/Dragic's team results?"

Chicago's been riddled with injury- including to Butler- this season. Dragic, though... let's look at how they've each done as the primary option (Howard in Houston, Dragic '14 and since Bosh went down):

Harden: 182-124 (.594 winning percentage)
Dragic: 58-36 (.617 winning percentage)

Now, Harden's got a larger sample size there, but he's also got- minus Dragic's last 18 games, at least (13-5)- much, much better teammates.

Also, to answer the initial question, because basketball is a team sport and Butler/Dragic don't have a team built specifically around them. That said, judging individual guys by record is iffy at best, what with the nine other guys on the court and all. Considering one of Harden's teammates has more top 5 MVP finishes than he does (and 3 DPOYs!), I think that's pretty relevant.


At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:51:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"It depends on how good his cast is and how good the other teams are, and given some past best players on title teams, he could be."

Disagree. The only guy I can think of off-hand who's even in his ballpark in terms of bad defensively on a title team is Tony Parker, and- misguided Finals MVP in '07 aside- he's never been the best guy on a title team, and arguably has never been the 2nd best. Also, he *was* backed up by one of the 5 greatest defensive players ever, which seems a bit much to hope for if you're trying to build a team for Harden.

In general, one way scorers don't win titles as starters... because they only play one way, and the kind of teams they'll face in the playoffs exploit that.

"But, leading a team without any other AS to the CF in a very strong conf. is a great accomplishment."

Did he lead them? Or was he- as David loves to point out- sitting on the bench when they made their most important runs? Also, Howard played like a damned All-Star in the playoffs, gimpy regular season be damned. Incidentally, the Rockets had a negative margin when Harden played but a positive one when Howard did. Tell me again how defense doesn't matter? Oh, and Ariza and Howard both had better playoff On/Offs than Harden, too. Weird, right?

Look, it's becoming increasingly clear that you don't recognize the value of defense, or even really the way it works. If you live in a vacuum where any five schlubs can play elite D with a decent scheme, then sure, Harden's pretty valuable. But... he doesn't live in that world, which is why he's never gonna win anything.

Let's look put Harden aside, though, and look at the facts:

1) Title teams consistently have 1-2 of the best 5 defenders in the league. Much more often than they have one of the top 5 scorers.

2) Title teams are generally better defensively than offensively.

3) Almost no player who's been- IMO, at least- the best player on a title team has been a one-way offensive player. In the rare case where they were- Magic/Bird (and Parker if you go by Finals MVPs), they were surrounded by All-Defensive level teammates, as well as multiple other offensive All-Stars. Covering for a one-way guy means you need a really, really stacked team.

4) Teams have won without great offensive players. I can't think of one that won without great defensive ones.

You can kick and scream all you want about how offense is more important, but you so far have yet to offer any actual evidence. You just say things like "Chandler didn't have much to do with winning in Dallas" or "All Defensive guys could be shittier and they'd still win," or "it's way harder to be a 20 point scorer than a great defender" but you don't back them up. Show me data, man. Show me proof. Show me literally anything besides "because I said so" and it'll be a lot easier to take you seriously. 'cause honestly? It's starting to feel like you're just throwing up straw men to keep the conversation going.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with much of what you post but you have a Harden blind spot to the extent that you distort things that I have written. I never said that every 25-5-5 guy is an elite player. I said that averaging 25-5-5 over a season is more impressive than having a triple double in a game and that--at the time I wrote my 25-5-5 article--each member of the 25-5-5 club had made the All-Star team at least four times. I even said that a 25-5-5 player "can carry a team."

Harden is a talented offensive player. I expected him to make multiple All-Star teams as a Rocket. I expected him to average between 23-25 ppg as a first option. I did not expect him to be selected to the All-NBA First Team, nor do I think that he deserved that honor.

However, my main prediction about Harden is that he is best suited to be a second or third option on a championship contender. I said that by going to Houston he gave up the chance to be the third option on a championship team in exchange for being the first option on a team that will lose in the first round almost every year. That is what has happened.

So, even though Harden's numbers are slightly better than I expected and even though he has received an accolade or two that I did not expect, his actual impact on team success has been exactly what I predicted.

This season, his (im)maturity, his (lack of) leadership and his awful defense are on full display. He ran off his coach and he has alienated the franchise center. If Kobe Bryant had Harden's resume, ESPN would devote a special website and network just to criticizing him 24/7.

I suggested that Harden should stay in OKC, average his 15-18 ppg and probably win at least one ring. I thought that made more sense than scoring a lot of points for the eighth seed. I would rather be Manu Ginobili, with some All-Star appearances and a bunch of championships, than James Harden with a bunch of empty accolades and no real accomplishments.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 4:43:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I agree that a healthy Bosh- in a vacuum, at least- is Miami's best player. However, I do not know that he can play alongside Whiteside, or that he is better for this roster than Whiteside (who is a much better rebounder and rim protector; extremely important for this specific team). Therein lies my confusion. Do you play them together and hope for the best? Cut Whiteside's minutes?

"While it is true that Dragic is playing better now that the Heat are playing faster, your comments about the team all but ignore the fact that the Heat added to their roster a perennial All-Star who seems to be revitalized mentally and physically now that he has escaped from the dysfunctional Nets."

It is worth noting that they'd already put up four out of five very strong games before adding Johnson; their record without him was 3-2 against all potential playoff teams (with losses to the Warriors and Boston in Boston); their record with him is 10-3, but with games against NY, PHX, Philly (2x), and New Orleans sans Davis. Remove those five gimmies- which, let's face it, they're probably winning anyways- and their record is 5-3.

That said, obviously Johnson makes them better, and he may presently be their second or third best player.

"Deng is better suited to being a 4 than a 3 now and that has nothing to do with Dragic."

No, but the tempo that empowers him does. I can't get the NBA stats site to split the following stats as Post-All-Star, but they paint a picture regardless:

Per 100 possessions Deng with Dragic vs. without shoots nearly 6% better, scores 2.6 more points, and posts an 11.5 higher plus/minus. He clearly benefits from Dragic.

By contrast, per 100 possessions with Wade, Deng shoots his usual percentage, scores 4.3 fewer points, and posts a 5.2 worse plus minus.

Consider that Deng plays about half his minutes with both Dragic/Wade, and the divide becomes even sharper.

"Wade's recent high level play also has a lot to do with the Heat's success. "

Wade has had two good games in a row now but overall has been terrible since the break. He is shooting 41.5% and turning the ball over 3 times per game. He is scoring 20 PPG, but it is taking a 32% usage rate to get there; Dragic is scoring 18 PPG on a 23% usage rate in the same span. The problem is worse on the defensive end, where he no longer has the speed to make crisp rotations (neither does Joe, but Joe's so valuable on offense, both scoring and spacing, that it mitigates his defensive shortcomings).

For the season, Wade is putting up a +2.6 per 100 when he plays with Dragic and a -6.9 when he does not.
Dragic, in contrast, is putting up a +11.5 without Wade.
Lineups with just Dragic are, per 100 possessions, 18.4 pp100 better than lineups with just Wade. That's pretty damning.

Dragic makes Wade better, but Wade make Dragic worse.

If you'd prefer more traditional stats, though, I've got those too.

Since the break, Dragic is averaging 18 ppg on 54.5% true shooting, 5.2RPG, 7.5APG, and 2.4 TOs with 23.4% usage.
For his part, D-Wade is averaging: 20.5 ppg on 50.6% true shooting, 4.7 RPG, 4.7 APG and 3.3 TOs with 32.3% usage.

I am of the opinion that a guy averaging 2.5 fewer points but 3 more assists, half a rebound, and 1 fewer turnover on roughly 9 fewer possessions is probably more valuable. That he's also killing the other guy on +- and On/Offs supports that dictum.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 4:53:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

David- 2/2

"Your insistence that everything good in Miami relates to Dragic and your insistence that Thomas--who is clearly the engine behind Boston's success and who is indisputably having a better season than Dragic--is Boston's third or fourth best player diminish your credibility, which is a shame because otherwise you make a lot of sensible points about basketball in general and certain players in particular."

There are two different points here.

The numbers back me up on both, however. Every single member of Miami- even Bosh- posts their best +- numbers with Dragic on the court, and most of them post their best FG%. Dragic leads the team- by a wide margin- in +- (currently 5th in the NBA since the break), and he leads slightly over Joe Johnson in On/Off rating. However, since the All-Star break- he leads the team by a wide margin with a +12.3 On/Off rating. He is also the only player with a negative off-court margin, meaning that the Heat lose when he doesn't play, but when win he does. For reference, the main eight guys On/Offs since the All-Star Break:

Dragic: +11.9 on, -0.4 off (+12.3)
Johnson: +12.6 on, +4.2 off (+8.4)
Deng; +9.3 on, +5.2 off (+4.1)
Stat: +10.4 on, +7.0 off (+3.4)
Whiteside: +8.6 on, +7.4 off (+1.2)
Winslow: +7.5 on, +9.0 off (-1.5)
Richardson: +9.1 on, +6.9 off (-2.1)
Wade: +6.8 on, +9.6 off (-2.8)

Now, interesting sub-plot here: the starting lineup of Stat/Deng/Johnson/Wade/Dragic is +12.9 per 100 possessions, so whatever's hurting Wade isn't happening in the 12.5 minutes he spends in that lineup per game. Similarly, the 2nd most used lineup- Whiteside/Deng/Winslow/Richardson/Dragic- is blitzing teams to the tune of +17.6 points, so whatever's hurting Winslow/Whiteside/Richardson is happening without him, too.

You're claiming that I'm insisting that it all comes to down to Dragic- and I am- but only because it does. +-, On/Offs, etc. all suggest that he's the single most important player on the Heat by a wide margin, and the only one they lose without. If your case is that he is not their most important player since the break, you will need to produce more evidence than citing Johnson's All-Star record or attributing the success to a player shooting using 30ish possessions to score.

Opposing teams agree with me, by the way. BOS, GSW, CHA, MIL, and NO all cross-matched from the opening tip to put their best perimeter defender on Dragic, not Wade. Cleveland tried to do the same after getting torched early, but it didn't help.

Fun aside that doesn't have much to do with anything: Dragic is also 1st among all starting guards in defensive FG%. He's 5th among guards overall, but bench guys have the advantage of guarding other bench guys. At any rate, opposing guards shoot 4.5% worse with Dragic on them. It's really crazy how much better he's gotten on D in the last five years, from being basically league average in '11. (Miami's D: 3.1 points better per 100 with him than without, a bigger difference than Thomas' entire net value for Boston).

If I am wrong that Dragic is Miami's most valuable player, then why is their on-court success so correlated to his presence or absence? Why is he, and not Deng/Johnson/Wade, currently posting a better +- post All-Star than Lebron James or Steph Curry? Why is he the only player whose absence on the court translates to a losing margin? Why does his presence- regardless of teammate- translate to their best production?

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 4:54:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

David: 3/3

Now, as for Thomas.

I think he's an excellent offensive player. I also think he's a bad defensive player. I think he's Boston's third most important player behind Crowder and Bradley, and I think that if Boston was getting an All-Star it should have been Crowder (witness their .500 play without him for some recent evidence).

Using those same On/Offs from before, here's how those guys rank for Boston:
Crowder: +5.5 on, +1.1 off (+4.4)
Bradley: +4.9 on, +1.7 off (+3.2)
Thomas: +4.7 on, +1.9 off (+2.8)

Going further on Thomas, he makes their offense 8.5 points better per 100 possessions, but their defense 5.8 points worse. That's about what I expected. I would never take Thomas/Lillard/Harden over a two-way player just because they put up 4-8 more points; I'd much rather not have a hole in my D on the other end. History's got my back on this one.

On/Offs aren't perfect, but they're a decent starting point, and in both these cases they back up what the eye-test was already telling me, and make sense given the skillsets of the players.

"Feel free to post three long comments in response but it might be a week or more until I answer again because I am absolutely swamped."

Cheerfully done, and no worries. I look forward to hearing from you when you have the time.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 5:17:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Sorry, 4th quick comment because I forgot to address this comment specifically:

"Your insistence that everything good in Miami relates to Dragic and your insistence that Thomas--who is clearly the engine behind Boston's success and who is indisputably having a better season than Dragic-"

I dispute your "indisputable" point.

BOS record w/ Thomas:41-30 ( .577 winning)
MIA record w/ Dragic: 37-23 (.617 winning)

Thomas +-: +4
3rd on team

Dragic +-: +3.7 (+8.5 since AS)
Leads team

Thomas On/Off: +2.8
3rd on team

Dragic On/Off: +8.2 (+12.3 since AS break)
Leads team

Thomas w Crowder per 36: 24.2 points, 7.8 assists, +5.2
Thomas w/o Crowder per 36: 25.4 points, 5.7 assists, +2.2

Dragic w/ Bosh per 36: 13 points, 5.9 assists, +3.3
Dragic w/o Bosh per 36: 17 points, 7.0 assists, +4.6

Dragic also raised his FG% and rebounding, which Thomas did not.

If you want to claim that Thomas is more valuable because he has not missed as many games, you may have a point. However, on the court he correlates about a third as much to his team's success as Dragic correlates to his, and Dragic has done much better in the absence of his team's best player than Thomas has done in the absence of his.

Thomas has more impressive PPG and APG in the box score, but is an atrocious defender who does not correlate nearly as highly with his team's success, and who's team still posts a winning margin when he sits; odd for a so-called "engine" of his team. Despite his better box score numbers, and the fact that his team has been much healthier overall this year than Dragic's, Dragic still posts a significantly higher winning percentage (about 3.5 games over a full season)... though the Heat are only 4-6 without him (all while they still had Bosh, too).

Take your time, but I'm eager to see how you defend calling this point "indisputable" when all of the available evidence disputes it.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 5:28:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Gah! Final thing I forgot. Feel free not to post this one as this thread's already bloated.

"Thomas is a legit All-Star. Dragic is a good player who thrives in a specific role on an uptempo team. It's OK to acknowledge those truths. If Dragic ever averages 20 ppg again for a season, then feel free to bring up the possibility that he is a legit All-NBA player, as opposed to a good player who had a career year."

It is more difficult to make an All-NBA team than All-Star team by definition. The tally currently stands at 1-1. Let me know when Thomas- who won't- makes an All-NBA team. I cannot be sure given the depth of the guard positions and the idiocy of the All-Star selection process, but I think it is likely that Dragic will make at least one AS team during his tenure in Miami so long as he stays healthy, particularly if Wade gracefully accepts a lesser role and stops using up a third of the team's possessions. I think it is unlikely that Thomas makes another one, and in fact suspect he will be replaced in the starting lineup by Marcus Smart within two years (barring trades).

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

*Mathematical correction

On Richardson's entry, I wrongly put -2.1 when it should have been +2.1. Mea culpa.

At Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:01:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

I disagree with David's judgment of James Harden. Not every player has the temperament of Manu Ginobili, a guy who has already won elsewhere before joining the NBA, who has played under great coaches and with hall of fame greats in Robinson and Duncan. Ginobili saw the wisdom of playing off the bench to win titles, given the cards he was dealt.

Harden's personality is less about being a dutiful soldier willing to sublimate his game behind others in order to contend and win titles, and more about brand or marketing, about being the man on a team. Those are not empty accolades for the majority of NBA players.

The erroneous judgment here is to expect every player to play for less than his market value, give up personal accolades for the sake of winning championships. The analyst cannot afford to be a fan of a specific team and expect the player to "play for his team" under the guise of analysis.

Harden is a flawed player, granted, but he's proven to be a much better player than a mere sixth man. Even John Havlicek ended up starting and being the leader for his team.

At Friday, March 25, 2016 12:35:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The Heat have changed their roster (adding JJ, subtracting Bosh--at least for now), changed players' minutes/roles and increased their pace of play. I would argue that these changes have helped Dragic as opposed to proving that he is the team's best player.

I--and the East coaches who selected the All-Star reserves--would take Thomas over Dragic because Thomas is putting up better individual numbers in a bigger role for a team with a better record.

At Friday, March 25, 2016 12:43:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I understand and accept that Harden and others have a right to value money/endorsements over championships.

I absolutely agree that Harden has a different mentality than Ginobili. In fact, that is my point: both players are best suited to fill secondary or tertiary roles on a championship team. Ginobili figured this out early in his career, while Harden either has not figured this out or has not made winning a championship his top priority.

Ginobili could have put up Harden-like numbers as a number one offensive option during his prime and the result would have been similar: a bunch of first round exits with maybe one fluky playoff run past the first round.

Harden is not even close to Havlicek's level. Ginobili at his best was better than Harden but also less durable and thus falls well short of the Havlicek standard as well.

At Friday, March 25, 2016 1:17:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


"I would argue that these changes have helped Dragic as opposed to proving that he is the team's best player."

The two are not mutually exclusive. Obviously those changes have helped Dragic, but it is equally obvious that since the All-Star break he is their most impactful player, and by a decent amount. Their offense lives and dies by him, and only Justise Winslow is a better perimeter defender (though Richardson is close). Literally every member of the team thrives in his presence- which jives pretty well with what I've always said about him, dating back to '14. At a certain point, it ceases to be a coincidence.

Do you have any response to the On/Offs and +- numbers that so loudly suggest he is their most important player?

The crux of your case against Dragic has always been based on box score numbers, which I find puzzling. He generally produces at roughly the same rate per play, it's just a question of role. Obviously when Wade and Bosh were using all the possession earlier in the season, his numbers were lower; now that he is using more possessions, he is putting up roughly the same (fewer points, more assists) numbers that he did in his "fluke" year in PHX.

Is Bosh a worse player because his numbers went down while playing with Lebron?

"I--and the East coaches who selected the All-Star reserves--would take Thomas over Dragic because Thomas is putting up better individual numbers in a bigger role for a team with a better record."

I mean, it's a better record by half a game because Boston has played one more game. Miami's been better since the AS break than Boston has. Considering my case relies on the fact that Dragic was misused prior to that point, I think post AS record is more relevant:

MIA: 12-6 (losses to GSW, SAS, TOR, BOS, CHA, and MIL)
BOS: 10-7 (losses to CLE, UTA, MIN, IND, OKC, HOU, and TOR)

That said, if your case is purely individual box score numbers, then sure. I just think that going off of purely individual box score numbers is a foolish way to evaluate players, and it's how you end up with Harden in the MVP race. I'm much more interested in skill set, weaknesses, impact on their team, etc... and Dragic wins out in all of those categories. He is a better finisher, overall shooter (though Thomas is better from 3), rebounder, and a much, much better defender, and his teams tend to do better the more he has the ball.

Also, unlike Thomas, he's demonstrated the ability to be the best player on a 48 win team. Thomas is the 3rd best player on a team that will end up right around there.

At Friday, March 25, 2016 1:18:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

David & Awet-

I think Ginobili- who I hate- is getting short-shrift a little here.

As a first option, yes, he probably wouldn't have won a title. But he potentially could have; he's not the defensive liability Harden is. You could built a '79 SEA or '04 DET team around him and have a real shot.

At Tuesday, March 29, 2016 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Small sample size but an additional data point probably worth noting:

Last night against Brooklyn- not exactly a great team- Dragic was out with an illness, and both Joe Johnson and Luol Deng turned in their worst shooting performances since the All-Star break. Probably just another coincidence.

At Tuesday, March 29, 2016 3:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't have time to address most of the other stuff now (as much as I enjoy the dialogue and would like to do so) and won't have time to reply if you answer this but, regarding the Brooklyn game, Miami won easily with Richardson posting Dragic-like numbers, showing that the increased pace of play matters more than who plays pg for Miami. There are a lot of guys who could fill Dragic's role when surrounded by that much talent; as you note, one or two guys can have an off night and Miami can still win, even without Dragic.

Regarding your oft-asked, broader question about On/Off numbers, such numbers are noisy in small sample sizes and I don't consider them the be all/end all that you seem to think that they are. You believe that if Dragic puts up 14-5-5 but has great On/Off numbers then he is the best player on the team. I just don't analyze basketball that way. Dragic is a system guy, which is something that you begrudgingly acknowledge when you state that he has to be used a certain way to be effective. LeBron, Kobe in his prime, Westbrook, Curry, Durant--those guys would be the best player on their team (unless paired with another similar guy, like Durant/Westbrook now) regardless of system or playing style. Dragic is a good, solid player. If the On/Off numbers say something else or make you believe something else, that alone does not convince me that it is true.

I probably won't be posting for a while but I will read any responses and I will answer eventually.

At Tuesday, March 29, 2016 3:38:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

@David @Anonymous,

I have to say, Nick doesn't appear to me to be using on/off numbers as the be all/end all as you are suggesting. But, he's certainly used them and many other facts to build a compelling case against Wade's effectiveness as the main offensive focal point for the Heat this season.

I don't believe Nick is saying that Dragic is the team's best player either. I think he's merely pointing out that Dragic is the team's most important. There is a distinction in that. The Brooklyn game should not be used as a test case. The Nets are rolling out a bunch of NBA vagabonds and a couple of guys that weren’t in the NBA to begin the season.

Wade's style of play is only conducive if he is the best player on the team and is...well, prime Wade. He can't shoot threes (never, ever developed this…one of my biggest gripes against him) and this year, apparently has completely disregarded playing defense. Also, his points and assists are accrued off of isos and/or pick and rolls. Wade’s current skillset is the opposite of effective in today's NBA. Ask Kobe Bryant.

A ball dominant, iso/mid-range heavy attack, bogs down an offense. Miami choosing to speed up the offense opened up things for everyone on the team—and increased Dragic’s value in the process—but somewhat alienated Wade.

Dragic may not be the most dynamic player, but he doesn’t have any holes in his game. His biggest knocks are his athleticism and his spot-up shooting. But give him floor-spacers, a rolling threat, and guys that can get out on the break, and Dragic is a deadly effective player. The raw numbers don’t always tell that story—but I think we can all agree that raw box scores are the worst possible way to evaluate a player—especially if that’s all we go on.

Every other indicator available to us—including the eye test—shows that the Heat are a far better team when Dragic runs the show (regardless of who he plays with on the team), and have proven to be worse when Wade is the main focal point. To quickly address the Spo comment—I think Spo and the Miami Heat organization feel the need to tread very carefully with the ego of their franchise player. But, even still, Wade came out two weeks ago and said he’s embracing “adjusting his style of play” for the betterment of the team. http://bit.ly/1MQGa0p

The point about Richardson filling in Dragic’s role is off. Wade filled in Dragic’s role and Richardson kept his regular role—a deadly 3-point shooter/scoring wing that spaces the floor. If Wade plays like he did against Brooklyn, then he’s better than Dragic (I might still argue this considering the huge, huge holes in Wade’s game). Thing is, Wade can no longer play like that every night—or, even 2-3 nights out of the week. Dragic can, and based on the rest of the personnel on the team, Dragic should be their offensive catalyst.

Wade, as he did on the 2008 Olympic team, could serve as a super sixth man—and can even be their go-to crunch time guy. Coming off the bench will save his legs for the fourth when the game typically slows down, etc.

At Tuesday, March 29, 2016 5:33:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


That is most of what I came here to say, only better put than how I would have put it. Thank you.


I want to further quibble with a few of your points anyway, just for funsies.

You complain that On/Offs are unreliable in small sample sizes. I agree! However, the sample size is now over 70 games, and even before the system change- I just checked- Dragic had the best numbers (about 1 point per 100 ahead of Bosh). He also had even better On/Offs throughout '14. He had mediocre ones in '15, but then that was him being used as a glorified floor spacer and being asked to guard guys six inches taller than him.

What sample size would be enough for you? 100 games? 200? Does it need to be an entire career?

Jordan's point about Dragic being their most important player as opposed to "best" is a good one. Chris Bosh, at least, is I think a more complete player than Dragic. However, on this Miami team, he is not as valuable; Whiteside replicates much of what he does, and his weakness as a rebounder and his inability (so far) to play at the team's idea pace hurt the team. By contrast, the team generally loses when Dragic sits, and wins by a near-elite margin when he plays.

I wouldn't say that I "begrudgingly" admit that Dragic is a system player; I've been saying it since the trade. I even agree that Kobe and most of the others you listed would be the best player on the team even in different systems- but they're better than Dragic (although Westbrook's D has slipped again since the AS break and I'm beginning to wonder if he'll ever put together a full season of two-way play). That said, they're just as vulnerable to being put in dumb systems as Dragic is- look at Kobe's '05; he has a decent team around him, was in the middle of his prime, and ended up with one of the worst records in the league. He even had a semi-decent team around him; it was just a system that didn't work. The next season, with an even crappier roster but a much better system, his scoring jumped about 9 points and his team came within a game of making the second round.

I also don't "only" use On/Offs; alone, they're a curiosity at best. However, when they line up with +-, winning percentage, usage%, eye test, etc.- as they do on every title team of the last 20 years, incidentally- they're usually pretty on the money. Considering Dragic's do line up with all those other factors and are *significantly* higher than every other starter (except Johnson, who he's only a point or two ahead of, but who doesn't have 50 games of playing on the stupid version of this team weighing his numbers down), I don't much mind trusting them in this case.

If your contention is that Dragic- outside of his preferred system- is a good-not-great player who isn't capable of being the top two guy on a title team, I fully agree with you. However, Dragic in his preferred environment is one of the most effective and valuable guards in the league. Since that's (mostly; they should still slide a few more of Wade's touches over his way) where he is now, that's the player I'm suggesting is Miami's current best guy, and he's a guy that is easily and demonstrably better than Isiah Thomas in every category except raw, context-less box scores. That he might not be their best guy if they went back to running an outdated half-court system around an aging Wade is hardly the point; Westbrook would be pretty crummy too if his job was to sit in the corners and miss 3s while somebody else ran isos.

At Tuesday, March 29, 2016 5:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Somehow missed your last lines, which is 100% the right call for Miami, but something I don't think Wade's ego will allow. Wade is still capable of playing well in spurts- and even played defense against Cleveland, presumably because he actually gave a damn- he doesn't fit with the rest of the roster and doesn't have the footspeed he used to. As a Ginobili-type bench guy, he'd be absolutely deadly picking on worn out starters or overmatched bench losers.

At Thursday, March 31, 2016 11:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read all Nick's Dragic comments, but from what I've read, which is still a lot, he thinks Dragic is absolutely amazing, and his on/offs are at least 90% of his arguments rating players. Even if these are good indicators of players' prowess, which they may not actually be, basketball just doesn't work like that. Not that they should be totally disregarded necessarily, but it's hard to make definitive conclusions from them. And even if overall they are good, each player is his own individual case, and may not be a good indicator for that specific player, too hard to tell. I'm not sure who he'd think is MIA's best player, if not Dragic, especially if he thinks Wade actually hurts the team and Bosh was only a borderline AS when healthy. Wade's playing very well lately, and JJ is giving almost nothing, and BKN stunk with him.

It seems like almost any PG could fill Dragic's role, or at least Richardson. Maybe not necessarily as well, but pretty close. Most starting PGs and lots of backups can run around for 30-35 minutes accruing 6-8 assists, scoring at least 10ppg, and getting everyone involved. MIA has a lot of quality of players who know how to score. Dragic is a good player and probably makes that 2nd AS game(players 25-48), but he's never been an AS, and he's in the weaker East now. And I never understood the most important player isn't the best player. I suppose there's always exceptions, but this generally isn't true. Remember, a lot of people tried to say Odom was the most important player to LAL when he was there.

How exactly is Whiteside's rebounding a weakness? Nick, what exactly are you looking at? This is the type of stuff that really questions if you understand basketball. You said the same thing about Kanter. Wherein, they're actually both fantastic rebounders. Kanter's 28th in rebounding in 20.7mpg, Whiteside is 4th. Nobody ahead of either plays fewer minutes. Whiteside is 3rd in RP48, Kanter 4th. This might not mean they're top 5 rebounders necessarily, but you can't suggest they're weak rebounders, that doesn't make any sense. And who cares if they don't rebound the way you want them to or fundamentally or whatever, they get the job done. There's a million different ways to do the job, everyone's different.

Kobe had a decent team around in 05, huh? That team was terrible. Kobe was injured that year, too. In reality, that team was good offensively, but horrible defensively. They could score reasonably well, not great, but couldn't stop anyone. In 06, LAL was about the same offensively, but average defensively instead of dead last in 05. Kobe was healthy in 06, and his cast was worse offensively, those are the main primary reasons for his scoring bump. Both systems resulted in good offense, but only one of the teams decided to actually play a little defense.

At Thursday, March 31, 2016 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


My argument is about a lot more than On/Offs. I also pointed out every other Heat player's individual performances with/without Dragic, their record with him running the offense vs without, and explained that his play creates opportunities for his teammates in a way that Wade's does not as Dragic's penetration forces doubles, switches, and rotations, but Wade's iso-heavy game does not. I also pointed out that, unlike Wade and Johnson, he also helps them defensively. The On/Offs happen to (loudly) support that argument, but I was making it before I even found out where to look those up. It is especially telling that the other players- including Wade, Deng, and Whiteside- have all at different points since the break attributed their increased success to Dragic.

Similarly, I pointed out that Dragic's production for his usage% is actually better than most guards; the difference is that he is on a team where he isn't required to post a 30+% usage rating; if he did, his numbers would likely be in the 24/9 range or something similar. As is, though, his role is not to score a ton of points, but to force the defenses into making choices; watch ten minutes of a Heat game and you'll see Dragic repeatedly get into the paint, drawing multiple defenders, and kicking the ball out. The guy he first kicks it to may not immediately shoot, nor even the guy after that, but the defense is scrambled and Miami will eventually usually get off a high quality shot. They don't force defenses to make those kind of adjustments when Wade initiates the offense or Dragic sits, which is why they lose when he sits, but only when he sits (the team posts a positive win margin with literally any other player on the bench, but a negative one without Dragic).

Wade has played well offensively over the last week or so but has overall been awful since the AS break, and has been a bad defender all season. Anonymous, you don't really seem to believe in defense unless you're using it to argue that Kobe is teh greatest, so it is not shocking that Wade's indifference towards it doesn't bother you. I happen to think it's pretty important, myself.

I said Bosh was a weak rebounder, not Whiteside, as part of my point about why Bosh is less important to this team than he might be to another one; they need rebounding, and Whiteside is better at providing it.

Kobe's team in '05 ranked 17th in the league in offense. His team in '06 ranked 8th, despite losing their second best offensive player (Butler), so I don't know how you rank them as "about the same." Yes, they also improved on defense (which similarly had more to do with system than personnel), though they remained mediocre on that end (15th, up from 30th), but my point was that they had much more success with a system change despite inferior personnel.

At Thursday, March 31, 2016 3:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's your view of how much Dragic helps/how little Wade helps. Some of it might be reality, though it seems most of it isn't. If you said Dragic was just slightly better than Wade for the past month or so, ok, that might hold some weight. But, when you say things like Wade actually hurts his team and Spo is sabotaging MIA by playing Wade even 1mpg, let alone 30+mpg, that stuff holds no weight. If Dragic is so valuable and so good, even in a specific system, why can't anyone really see this? He should've been able to take MIA to the playoffs last year if he was this good, as well as easily making the AS team this year.

If Dragic could score 24ppg and somewhat efficiently, then he would be at least approaching that. There's lots of PGs and non-PGs who get into the lane frequently drawing defenders. Nobody is saying he isn't a good player and maybe he is somewhat of a borderline AS-caliber player, but he has yet to do this for an entire season, though maybe his last full season in PHO. He wasn't even considered for the AS team this year, and in a weaker conf. Think about that for a minute. And why is he only valuable in a specific system and why is his team scrambling for homecourt advantage just in the 1st round in the East? His cast is good even with an injured Bosh.

I do believe in defense, I've said that and talked about it many times, but it remains on an individual basis much less important than offense when rating players. I also don't subscribe to your theories of extremes. Wade is older and I'm sure his defense is slipping, but I'm also sure it's not remotely as bad as you claim it to be. And I'm not a Wade fan at all and think he's been a bit overrated for his career. Dragic is better defensively than Wade now and may be a solid defender, but he isn't an elite defender. I never really hear people talk about him like this and I don't see any selections to his name yet either. Wade continues to get AS selections, and I'd bet the coaches would've voted him in several times, if not every time, over the past few years, if the fans hadn't already voted him in. You can ignore these facts and nitpick them all you like, but I'll believe them a lot more overall than some random fan.

It seemed like you were talking about Whiteside being a weak rebounder. Bosh isn't the rebounder he used to be, but he's not a weak rebounder.

No, 2005 LAL was 7th(not 17th) in offense, 2006 LAL was 8th. Butler was ok offensively, nothing special, but he obviously didn't help that much. The system defensively is important, I agree with that. Offensively, still important, but not as much as defensively.

Tomjanovich went 24-19 before resigning, Hamblen(who has no business being a head coach) went 10-29. Maybe very slightly more talent in 05 than 06/07, but not much. And if Kobe and others stayed as healthy in 05 as 06/07 even with just a competent coach(Tomjanovich still decent coach, but was certainly no longer a great coach), then LAL would've made the playoffs. Defensive improvement from 30th(not mediocre-just plain awful) to 15th(which is exactly mediocre) is huge though. I bet that's normally worth at least 10-15 games difference. If all Phil did was improve defense, let LAL run whatever offense they want(which he didn't do but probably could've), and let Kobe do his thing, then LAL makes the playoffs, which they did.

At Thursday, March 31, 2016 5:43:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Some of it might be reality, though it seems most of it isn't. "

Got any evidence for that? I've got plenty on my side. Wins, +-, On/Offs, player opinions, etc.

"But, when you say things like Wade actually hurts his team and Spo is sabotaging MIA by playing Wade even 1mpg, let alone 30+mpg, that stuff holds no weight."

Mostly I've been saying he *should* play him, but off the bench where his ball-stopping and crummy D won't be as big of liabilities, and that giving a full third of your possessions to a guy as dubiously effective as Wade's been this season is overkill. Take a third of Wade's possessions and give them to Dragic/Johnson, you'll have an even better offense, and Wade'll have fresher legs for D.

"here's lots of PGs and non-PGs who get into the lane frequently drawing defenders."

Very few of them translate to top 6 offenses, though, which Dragic has since the break (and don't tell me about how great his cast is; they couldn't crack 26th before they gave him the keys). He's like a lesser Nash in that regard; give him the ball, you're gonna be good enough offensively. There's not ten guys in the league you can say that about, but he's one of them. Like Nash, he needs to be surrounded by the right personnel to contend overall- no PG is anywhere good enough defensively/on the boards to carry the whole team- but that's true of everyone except the very tippy top guys (Lebron, Kobe, etc.), so that's hardly a criticism.

"it remains on an individual basis much less important than offense when rating players"

You have yet to make an evidence-based case for that, but I think I did a pretty good job of torpedoing that argument above.

"Wade is older and I'm sure his defense is slipping, but I'm also sure it's not remotely as bad as you claim it to be."

His team is 6 points worse per 100 with him on the court defensively. That's not my opinion, it's a literal reporting of the facts. It's also the worst mark on the team (Johnson is second, but has a much more positive impact on the offense to make up for it).

"Dragic is better defensively than Wade now and may be a solid defender, but he isn't an elite defender."

He's probably the sixth or seventh best defensive PG in the league- not All D level, but still a definite plus. Wade might not be one of the 30 best defensive SGs.

"Bosh isn't the rebounder he used to be, but he's not a weak rebounder."

7.5 RPG in 33.5 minutes is pretty mediocre for an All-Star big guy. He's currently tied with Lebron James for 37th in the league.

"No, 2005 LAL was 7th(not 17th) in offense, 2006 LAL was 8th."

My mistake. I misread the parenthesis as a 1. That point gleefully conceded, though obviously Kobe still did much better individually offensively in the Triangle than in the '05 system.

Back to the larger point, you're very dismissive of On/Off numbers, but have yet to explain why. David doesn't like them in small samples- neither do I- but we aren't talking small samples here. What is the flaw you perceive in these numbers? To me, they paint a pretty good picture of how much of an overall impact a guy has on his team, or doesn't, and when they say something weird it's usually easy to figure out why (and 9 times out of 10 it's because somebody's got a way above average backup, which isn't the case in MIA).

At Friday, April 01, 2016 4:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea, lots of evidence. The question continues to remain, do you? Dragic's only real accolade is a 3rd-team all-nba selection in 14 in an 8-year career. Unless something strange happens, he won't be adding anything to that this year. He'll only be playing in the playoffs for the 2nd time in his 8 seasons. He had a solid 2014 campaign, which ended up with him missing the playoffs again. He's been in a steady decline ever since. GMs only think of him as a middling starting PG, which sounds about right. Opposing coaches don't think of him as an AS. His own coaches don't think of him as a great player either. 3rd string PG on PHO in 2015, Thomas, has now become an AS in BOS, outperformed Dragic since they both left, and will be leading BOS to 2 consecutive playoffs. I'm confused why you think he's so special. He's probably in the 8-12 range for current PGs, but he's certainly not an elite PG and not an AS-caliber PG.

I gave you plenty of evidence about offense being more important than defense individually, you just fail to accept it. Look none other than how David rates players. He does it almost exclusively from an offensive viewpoint. I think there's more to evaluating players than just skills/athleticism, but that's the majority of it. Wilt/Russell is the best example. Wilt destroyed the supposed best defender ever overall. Another would be let's say Bruce Bowen/Chris Webber. And don't tell me Bowen isn't a big, doesn't have same impact as a great defensive big, blah blah. Maybe not quite, but it's still close. Webber will probably be a HOFer, but he'll never be considered a true great. Webber was very close to leading his team to a title, and was a great player for many years, regardless of how good/bad his defense was. Bowen had no chance to ever lead any team to a title. In fact, as a 4-6th man, Bowen's teams usually didn't win titles. Even someone like Webber, if he was only the 4th-5th best player on his team, that team would dominate and win multiple titles. The best defensive big in the game today, whoever that is, has no chance to stop Curry. In fact, Curry is going to dominate with whoever guards him. If Duncan was the best defensive big for a few years in his prime, he couldn't guard Kobe. Kobe's going to get his and more. Curry could be the worst defender in the league, and he'd probably still be worthy of being MVP this season.

7.5rpg might be mediocre for an AS big, but that's a far cry from being a weak rebounder. Bosh wouldn't be an AS in the West, and maybe he wasn't a top 24 at the AS break, but who's going to replace him? I've yet to hear of a good replacement for Bosh.

At Friday, April 01, 2016 4:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kobe was healthier in 06, along with another year removed from Shaq's departure and Colorado. I'm sure Phil being there helped, too. But, there's more to it than that. Kobe probably had less offensive help in 06 than 05, so he was forced to make up for that on his own, which he was fully capable of doing. He didn't need to do as much offensively in 05.

Yes, I've explained why many times. Advanced stats might be helpful somewhat, but it's so hard to say for real, for basketball, and often they don't. 5-man unit advanced stats are more helpful. You use this as evidence in rating players individually, which I don't understand. But, there's still so many variables going on. Games aren't played like that, and they're not necessarily reality. It's just not that simple, and this is shown from Dragic's nba career. He's still never played in the playoffs as a starter. You think MIL supposedly has 3 AS-caliber players, but they still can't make the playoffs in the East. Is there another example of this happening in nba history? I'd like to know. Dragic looks much better I think than Wade according to your on/offs or whatever you use. This just isn't true, and taking everything else into account especially with Spo's minute distribution, it's hard to buy your analysis. Maybe at times, yes. Dragic's #'s are down this year overall.

At Friday, April 01, 2016 6:40:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Ok, last big post from me to you, Anonymous. Let's hit these all one last time, and then, as ever, I'll accept that you're not interested in anything that contradicts your preconceived notions, and I'll move on. I'd still be curious to see what David has to say to Jordan & my posts above, but that could be a while. Still, if I'm closing this one out, let's be thorough. One topic at a time:

"He had a solid 2014 campaign, which ended up with him missing the playoffs again. He's been in a steady decline ever since."

Well, that's not really accurate; he's basically putting up his '14 numbers since the break. As I've explained before, it's a question of usage. If you took the ball out of any primary ball handler's hands, their numbers would go down. Dragic has declined a bit as a three point shooter, but I'd argue that his defensive improvement pretty much zeroes that out.

"I'm confused why you think he's so special. He's probably in the 8-12 range for current PGs, but he's certainly not an elite PG and not an AS-caliber PG."

If you think he's 8th, we're actually not that far apart. I have him about 5th right now, behind Curry, Wall, Paul, and Westbrook. This argument started with David's contentions that 1) 2014 was a fluke, and 2) Dragic would be the fourth best player on the Heat, while I felt that 1) No it wasn't, and 2) Second at worst. I feel that history has proven me right on the second and time likely will on the first.

He's definitely elite; you could win a title with him running your offense if you had the right defense/support. I suspect he'll make an AS team by the time it's all said and done but don't especially care if he doesn't; whether or not someone makes the AS team isn't all that important to me, and he's already made an All-NBA team anyway, which is a harder team to make.

"I gave you plenty of evidence about offense being more important than defense individually, you just fail to accept it."

Not really, you just said it was then had no rebuttal when I pointed out how much more defense correlates to titles at both an individual and team level. You did claim that Wilt dominated Russell.. let's look deeper on that:

Russell went 57-37 against Wilt in the regular season, and 29-20 against him in the playoffs (86-57 overall). I can't find FG% for those games, but he did hold Wilt to five fewer points and 4 fewer made FGs per game than his averages during that span. That of course undersells Russell's impact, as he also discouraged all of Wilt's teammates from attacking the paint and blocked/changed many of their shots as well; once again, a great interior defender affects more plays than any scorer.

You can argue that Russell only won because he had great help, and perhaps there's some truth to that, but Wilt was similarly surrounded with Hall of Famers (Greer/Cunningham/Walker/West/Baylor/Goodrich), and at the end of the day, Russell still kicked his ass a lot more often than not.

At Friday, April 01, 2016 6:40:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

" Look none other than how David rates players. He does it almost exclusively from an offensive viewpoint."

First of all, I think David would disagree with you there. Second of all, the balance between offense and defense is the single biggest thing he and I seem to disagree on (see our old arguments about Hakeem vs. Magic, for instance). That all said, the average NBA title team is better defensively than offensively and has more All-D players than top scorers.

"Another would be let's say Bruce Bowen/Chris Webber. "

Now that's a faulty comparison; Webber was an excellent offensive player, and a pretty good defensive one. Bowen was an excellent defensive player, and a mediocre offensive one with literally only one skill. A fairer comparison would be Bowen vs. someone like Jamal Crawford or Gilbert Arenas. In that case, I'd probably take Bowen (or, since Bowen is the single ballplayer I hate most in the world, someone like Bowen). It is easier to find another source of offense than it is to find another elite perimeter defender.

"Bowen's teams usually didn't win titles"

Um. They won three of them. That's more than 5 of the last 8 scoring champs have won combined. It's also more than 5 of David's 14 Pantheon players (and the same number as 2 more of them).

"The best defensive big in the game today, whoever that is, has no chance to stop Curry. In fact, Curry is going to dominate with whoever guards him."

That may actually be true. Curry is the first player we've really seen like that, who can dominate from 30 feet. He can't dominate on defense, though, and a great two-way big can. I'd still rather have, say, Hakeem, Kareem, or peak Duncan than Curry in a vacuum (though not on that specific Warriors team).

*skipping all the Kobe stuff because I'd be better off arguing with a screensaver*

"7.5rpg might be mediocre for an AS big, but that's a far cry from being a weak rebounder. Bosh wouldn't be an AS in the West, and maybe he wasn't a top 24 at the AS break, but who's going to replace him? I've yet to hear of a good replacement for Bosh."

I dont' recall saying Bosh shouldn't be an All_Star. I just said he was a poor rebounder, which he is, for his size, role, and minutes. My larger point was that he's less valuable to Miami than he might be on most teams because they can get a lot of what he does well- scoring, defense- from other sources, and they have other guys who fill that particular team's needs from that position- speed, rebounding- better than he does. Dragic is their only above-average creator, however (possibly slightly excluding Johnson), though, and is much more crucial to their success.

At Friday, April 01, 2016 6:41:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Advanced stats might be helpful somewhat, but it's so hard to say for real, for basketball, and often they don't."

You have got to stop generalizing "advanced stats." That's like saying "basketball players are sometimes good at basketball, but often they aren't." This particular stat isn't especially advanced- it just grades a player's team performance with them, against that same team's performance without them. There's no weird math or weighting like there is with PER, Win Shares, and other crummy advanced stats; it just reports what literally happens when a player plays, or doesn't. Dismissing it out of hand just because it's a stat you don't understand doesn't make it any less viable as a tool for evaluating who means how much to what team. It's about as "advanced" as a box score, and is actually much *less* noisy than...

"5-man unit advanced stats are more helpful."

Scroll up, I used those too. But, for quick reference, of the Heat's 7 highest usage lineups since the break:

Dragic is in 4 of the top 5 (the only one he isn't in is the one that beat up on league worst the Nets while he was sick) and none of the bottom 2.

Wade is 3 of the top 5, and both of the bottom 2.

"Games aren't played like that, and they're not necessarily reality."

Games are played exactly like that. The stat is literally an accounting of what happens when the games are played in reality. I.. I don't know how to make this simpler for you.

" This just isn't true, and taking everything else into account especially with Spo's minute distribution"

Dragic plays more minutes than Wade, and Spo has been pointedly trying to split them up more since the break. It's been mostly working, though all but one of the lineups with Wade/no Dragic get killed (predictably, it's the one that has Whiteside, Winslow, and Johnson in it).

"Dragic's #'s are down this year overall."

Yes, because they spent the first fifty games idiotically taking the ball out of his hands and having him stand in the corner. Cut Wade/Westbrook/Curry/Anybody's usage to 19% or whatever, their numbers are going down quite a bit as well.

At Friday, April 01, 2016 6:42:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Finishing up on Dragic: why do I think he's special? I'll break it down:

1) He's one of a very few guards in the league who is truly above average on both sides of the ball. He's a top 10 offensive PG and a top 10 defensive PG. That's rarer than you think, and there's probably only two other PGs on both lists (maybe 3 depending on how much you wanna punish Westbrook for his lazy post-AS D).
2) If you give him the ball, you will have an offense that's good enough to contend. That's true of maybe five-eight guys in the whole league right now, and only three-four other guards (Westbrook, Curry, Paul, and mayyyyybe Lillard).
3) He- provably, see the with/without numbers above- makes his teammate better.
4) He has no easily exploitable weakness for opposing teams to punish.
5) He's one of the best pick-and-roll ball handlers in the league.
6) He's one of a very few players I've ever seen who can increase their scoring/usage without any meaningful dent to their FG%.
7) His On/Offs show that his team literally lives and dies by his presence on the court; I'm not sure there's another team in the league that has only one guy with a negative off-court margin; it's extremely uncommon for a single player to be that important to a team's success or failure.

Anonymous, feel free to reply, but I'm done with you for a while. I don't get the impression you have any interest in learning anything, exploring anything, or doing anything other than trying to convince people of things you already believe. I like debating with David because even when we disagree, I can go "huh, that's interesting. Maybe I should think more about that?" When I debate with you, I mostly find myself having to explain context, statistics, or the idea that defense matters. It's... it's not a ton of fun.

At Sunday, April 03, 2016 10:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do overrate Dragic quite a bit. He's never made the AS team and never made the playoffs as a starter. It's one thing if he was a top 2 player on a contender while making multiple AS/all-nba teams, but that's not happening. Why we spend all this time talking about a guy like this is beyond me. Curry, Westbrook, Paul, and Lowry are clearly the top PGs in the league. Then, you have Walker, Wall, Lillard, Irving, Conley, and Thomas. And then there's several others in there. I have a hard time putting Dragic better than 9th, while he could be as low as 14-15th. And looking at his career overall, this looks right.

Dragic has been in decline since 2014, that's a fact. His #'s overall are done and so is his efficiency. MIA will be seeded 3-6, and might win one series in the weaker East. Wade/Bosh are both AS. Whiteside is putting up ridiculous #'s. Maybe Dragic is 3rd best player on MIA, but 4th sounds right. Making AS teams should be important. If you can't, you can't be considered elite. My definition of elite is pretty much same as David's-top 5 player roughly. Yours is obviously different-top 40 player maybe?

Looking at team W/L for Wilt/Russell doesn't necessarily tell us much. Each player can only control what he does. When Russell has HOFers coming off the bench, what exactly is Wilt going to do about that? Amazing that he came so close so often with much less help overall. Wilt dominated Russell H2H, and Russell couldn't guard him. When Wilt was forced into a Russell-type role, Wilt could do it and did it better. As a result, his 2 title teams were better than any of Russell's title teams.

At Sunday, April 03, 2016 10:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can’t speak for David, and neither can I, but I’ve looked/read at many of his player evaluations and others as well, and the majority of everything concerns offense. And yes, almost every title team is going to have great individual offensive and defensive players, that’s only natural, but this doesn’t prove one bit that one great defender can dominate like one great offensive player can. Look at the past title teams. Kobe, Lebron, Curry, Dirk, Leonard. Several are great defenders(Dirk/Curry weren’t), but they rarely actually dominated defensively. However, each dominated offensively on a consistent basis. SA was different-stacked team with lots of solid players, but no true superstars. Not sure if any Spur actually dominated, though. Leonard was most consistent, and was solid on both sides of the ball.

I just made up 2 guys. Webber didn’t need to play good defensively to lead his teams to the playoffs and deep in the playoffs routinely. Bowen never could’ve led any team to the playoffs as a #1 guy. I’m talking about being able to lead teams to titles. Crawford/Arenas don’t need to be mentioned. Dirk and Curry did recently, neither bad defenders, though certainly not great. Most greats are good on both sides, but if Kobe or James weren’t good defenders, they would’ve still found a way to win at least one title probably.

3 titles in how many years? Like I said, usually didn’t. And Bowen was 100% a role player-never a top 3 guy on a title team.

You don’t seem to know what being a good rebounder is or what a weak rebounder isn’t. I’ve tried to explain this to you several times. I’ll move on. But, it’s hard to accurately evaluate players when you don’t understand rebounding.

At Sunday, April 03, 2016 10:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That’s all fine and dandy about Dragic. But, you need to ask yourself why this doesn’t translate to more wins/team success. I’ve yet to see Dragic in the playoffs as a starter. Dragic has never made an AS team. GMs think he’s only around 13th-15th best PG in league, maybe he has moved up slightly since that poll. You even said he needs the perfect system. Real elite(top 5) players don’t need perfect systems, and they make the AS team every year, along with perennial all-nba team selections. I don’t treat Dragic any differently than any other player. I’ve never seen him lead his team to greatness or even near-greatness or even the playoffs. I still won’t see him lead his team to the playoffs this year, but hey, he’ll finally make it.

Funny closing statement. I guess you can say the same about you then. I don’t see you changing your stance on anything really even with overwhelming evidence to contradict yourself. You continue to put words in my mouth and make double standards, which you don’t like when I call you out on them. You deal in extremes way too much. I usually don’t make predictions like David does. I don’t care that much about the future until it’s here, but I can comment about the past/present. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that I actually do think defense matters quite a bit, but offense is much more important, which we continue to see in the nba. You’re in the huge minority about your views on Dragic(maybe alone). That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily wrong about him, but you need to ask yourself why that is the case. Why does the nba think so lowly of him, at least in regards to being a top player? The majority of what you talk about concerning Kobe is just flat-out wrong. I’m sorry if I’m hitting you with facts about him so much and you don’t like that those facts, but your views of him about most things aren’t close to reality.

At Monday, April 04, 2016 11:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One additional thing about AS selections. Take a look at the all-time leaders. Of David's 14 pantheon members, all have at least 11 selections, and only Baylor is at 11, which is tied for 27th all-time. Those at 12 are tied for 15th. And I'd say all but maybe 2-3 guys ahead of Baylor could have a strong case to be rated ahead of him. The only 2 guys in the top 10 that aren't part of his pantheon are Malone/KG. These 2 had great longevity. But, Malone was an 11x first-team all-nba. KG had little chance to win anything during his prime. He made 4 first-team all-nba and 9 first-team all-defense. They each have very strong cases and are all-time greats. 6 of his 14 pantheon guys at 11-12 AS selections didn't have as much as longevity as some others, though James will likely have more than 12. It's not an end-all debate as with any other single thing, but the all-time list looks pretty accurate overall as to the general vicinity where guys should be placed. There's probably some outliers in spots, but very few. But, if someone isn't going to accept that the players chosen for the AS game are more-or-less the best players in the league and that the coaches(who choose 14 of the 24 spots) actually know what they're doing, then obviously that person won't feel like AS selections are even worth talking about. The last few selections will always be nitpicked, but I've never found more than 3-4 bad selections at most for any given season, and usually those selections are still at least in the conversation. Also, these lower AS players won't be in the conversation for cracking top 20-25 all-time either.

At Monday, April 11, 2016 11:25:00 PM, Blogger KevDog said...

Good to see Kobe put up 34 in his final game against the Celts and 35 at Houston. Throwback.

At Wednesday, April 13, 2016 6:32:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I just don't buy the idea that no coach or team in the league properly understands how to use Dragic.

I also doubt that many--if any--GMs would take Dragic over Thomas now.

You act like Dragic has a long track record of high level play but what I see is a career year in PHX several seasons ago and some sporadic good play since then.

In the past 15 games, the Heat are 9-6 and Dragic has a negative +/- in eight of those games. He has an overall negative +/- in his seven April games.

This is called regression to the mean.

Dragic is a good, solid player. I agree that he functions better in an uptempo style.

I don't have to explain one outlier season or a handful of good games this season after he was below average for most of the season. The burden of proof lies with someone who asserts that Dragic is not what his overall numbers suggest and what his coaches believe (based on role/playing time) him to be: a good, solid player.

At Wednesday, April 13, 2016 6:58:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"I also doubt that many--if any--GMs would take Dragic over Thomas now."

He costs twice as much, so maybe not. At equal money, I suspect most of the smart ones would, at least.

"You act like Dragic has a long track record of high level play but what I see is a career year in PHX several seasons ago and some sporadic good play since then. "

I mean, he plays well when he has the ball and poorly when he doesn't. Sporadic makes it sound random.

"In the past 15 games, the Heat are 9-6 and Dragic has a negative +/- in eight of those games. He has an overall negative +/- in his seven April games."

That 9-6 is still a better winning percentage than they took into the AS break. Also, considering he was playing injured, then ill over that span, that +- stuff is hardly shocking.

Also, FWIW one of his actual legitimate weaknesses is that he plays poorly on back-to-backs, and there've been a few of those in that stretch. I'm fairly confident he'll underperform in Boston tonight as well for the same reason.

However, if we're talking about "the mean," it's worth noting that he still leads the team by a large margin in On/Off rating, which is a much less noisy stat than +-. Also, he still leads the team for the season in +-. In fact, his +- is over double that of any of his teammates for the season. If you're going to use it to pick on him over 15 games, you should also probably use it to laud him over the other 67.

The outlier year was '15, not '14, and I don't know a single knowledgeable NBA person who thinks he was used well in PHX in '15.

" The burden of proof lies with someone who asserts that Dragic is not what his overall numbers suggest and what his coaches believe (based on role/playing time) him to be:"

His playing time suggests he's the Heat's best player, then, since he leads the team in minutes. His "role" would I suppose suggest he's their second, though any reasonable analysis of what happens when he plays or doesn't would argue louder for first (Bosh exempted for injury reasons).

That all said, it's pretty clear that at this point we're both wasting our metaphorical breath, and even I'm tired of it. You're not interested in contextual or statistical arguments, and I don't accept the "if he's so good, why doesn't everyone know it?" argument even a little, especially since lots of prominent NBA figures *do* know it- Pat Riley, Kevin Durant (who complained when Dragic was left of the AS team in '14), every member of the Heat, and whoever voted him onto an All-NBA team.

Looking forward to your playoff preview!

At Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David's not talking about salary. And if players were paid after the season relative to their play, Thomas would be making more than Dragic.

True stars don't need one special situation in order to succeed. If Dragic is clearly MIA's best player or playmaker as you say and needs the ball to excel, then why doesn't he have the ball more? Spo's not an idiot.

Why is 15 the outlier year? Dragic's #'s are much worse even from 16 to 15, and especially from 16 to 14. His eFG is down to .513 this year from .561 in 14. His TS% is down to .537 this year from .604 in 14. Only his rebounds/TOs are slightly improved from 2 years ago.

Dragic came on late in 14. If he played consistently well the entire year, maybe he'd have a stronger case to make the AS team. And unfortunately for him, the West AS team in 14 was star-studded. He has yet to regain that form.

Dragic was 2nd on MIA this year in MP and mpg. They have 7 guys who averaged from 28.6mpg to 33.5mgp. MP is a good indicator of how good you are usually, but there's other factors as well as who's your backup, etc. Dragic isn't playing exceptionally-high minutes, and is basically right on par with 6 of his teammates for MP. He's important to MIA, but so are several other guys.


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