Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oden: Somewhere Between Diesel And Darko

I've heard the word 'bust' thrown around with alarming regularity where Blazers center Greg Oden is concerned. I've watched enough Portland games this year to tell you right now that Greg Oden will NOT be a bust. He's a solid rebounder and shot blocker. He's a good guy who works hard. His teammates love him. And he's quite popular with drunk white chicks.

Now for the bad news.

Comparing his first year stats to those of other high profile pivots is a sobering endeavor. Granted, right now Oden is being outplayed by Joel Przybilla (who's shooting over 80% from the field, for fuck's sake!) so he's not getting a full 30-40 minutes of PT. Oden's also fouling a lot, which rookies tend to do. But if the first third of this season is any indication, Oden will certainly not be one of the all time greats when all is said and done.

Here's Oden's 'big man' numbers to date:
8 pts, 8 rebs, 1.5 blks

Kind of underwhelming, yes?

Now here's the rookie statlines for other famous centers chosen in the lottery:

23, 14, 3.5
Dominant immediately. The Diesel was a superstar from day 1.

16.6, 12.3, 3
Interestingly enough, Deke posted his best numbers ever in his rookie campaign.

Dwight Howard
12, 10, 1.7
Has improved steadily every year. Hopefully, Oden will mirror this rise.

Patrick Ewing
20, 9, 2
Money from the jump, although he continued to develop the J and improve his range.

Hakeem Olajuwon
20, 12, 2.6
I can't tell you how many times I've heard experts say that The Dream was 'raw as a rookie'. 20 and 12 is raw? Fuck you.

Bill Russell
14.7, 19.6
The NBA didn't keep track of blocks in Russell's day. But look at that gaudy rebounding total!

Erick Dampier
5, 4, 1
A career scrub. Started that way, will end that way. Makes me mad when people compare Oden to this douchebag.

Rik Smits
11, 6, 1.8
The Dunkin' Dutchman. Worst nickname ever. Developed into an All-Star after a mediocre beginning, though.

Big Z Ilgauskus
14, 9, 1.6
Hasn't changed much, in skill or appearance. Here's Z on draft day (pictured).

Shawn Bradley
10, 6, 3
See my column about the NBA's Biggest Asshole.

Kwame Brown
4.5, 3.5
Jordan called him a pussy. Years later, so did Phil Jackson. They were both right. What a shocker that he's not working out for Detroit.

Michael Olowokandi
9, 8, 1.2
Yikes. These are eerily similar to what Oden's numbers look like.

Andrew Bogut
9, 7, 1
The Bucks drafted this Aussie dork over CP3 and Deron Williams. Double doh!

Darko Milicic
1.4, 1.2, .4
Speaking of draft day mistakes, Dumars chose this dumbfuck ahead of Melo and DWade.

Chris Kaman
6, 6, 1
I can't say anything. Kaman's too easy a target.

Tyson Chandler
6, 5, 1.3
A skinny teenager straight out of high school. Now look at him- one the league's best defenders and rebounders.

I picture Oden gaining steam and finishing the year closer to 13/10/2, which would put him in the Big Z/Rik Smits/Dwight Howard category for rookie production. I'm not sure that justifies a number one overall selection, though. Ten years from now, will we look back and mock Portland for passing on Al Horford?

Loose Balls- Thursday

Man, what a classic game last night between the Hawks and Celtics. This monster dunk by Josh Smith. Numerous clutch buckets by KG in the 4th. And Joe Johnson missing the game tying free throw at the end, prompting Paul Pierce to walk off the court labeling JJ a choke artist. I really hope these two squads go at it again in the playoffs.

The Hornets/Spurs contest was also spectacular. Every time I see Chris Paul, I�m more impressed. The guy�s a bulldog. He�s barely six feet tall but he plays low to the ground, making him appear even shorter. But don�t be fooled. That low center of gravity gives him the best opportunity to get to any loose ball or mishandled dribble. He broke an NBA record last night by recording a steal in his 106th straight game. He also won a key jump ball against Manu Ginobili (who�s six inches taller, btw) in the game�s deciding minutes. Dude�s a stud.

Speaking of studs, did anyone see this double/double spree coming from Paul Millsap? At this point, Utah could afford to let Carlos Boozer leave for Miami and not lose anything at the 4 spot. Millsap�s certainly a WAY better defender than Boozer already. Plus he's not an acne-covered steroid muncher.

Boozer: 'Huh, what?'

Friday, December 12, 2008

KG- All Talk

Lots of coverage lately about the unhinged behavior of Kevin Garnett. Of course you've seen the much discussed incidents with Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless. Many pundits consider his antics a motivational tactic. I'm more inclined to think that KG's just a foul-mouthed spaz with a glandular disorder or some particularly obscene form of Tourette's Syndrome.

He's certainly no tough guy. Despite all the trashtalk, this is what happens when somebody actually calls KG out (in this case former journeyman Anthony Peeler).

Personally, I've always been entertained by his quirkiness but I'm surprised that more players haven't pulled a Peeler and clocked his ass.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Power Of The Plus/Minus is pretty bad ass. Basically, they compile every stat imaginable to give a true indication of actual performance beyond the box score. My favorite stat is plus/minus per 48 minutes, which essentially tracks a player's performance, even in limited minutes, and predicts what kind of an impact that player would have over a full game. The plus/minus isn't just about scoring; it's about the overall effect on both ends of the court and how that translates into winning.

Using 82games data, I went through every team in the league and put together what each team's ideal lineup would be based on this theory. This doesn't mean these players should all be starters but it does mean they should get big minutes and be on the floor when the game's decided. I only included players who were already in the rotation since garbage time stats can be misleading.

What I discovered is that several big name stars would better serve their teams by riding the pine (I'm talking to you, AI).


Josh Smith's numbers project to an astonishing +19.4 per 48 minutes. This makes him the 2nd most effective player in the entire NBA right now (Lamar Odom's first with 20.1 but more on him later).

Best lineup- Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford

Kudos to Mike Woodson for knowing the numbers and playing his best unit big minutes.

No surprises. KG leads the team at +15.5. Ray Allen's second at 14.8.

Best- Rondo, Allen, Pierce, KG, Perkins

The entire team is in the negative so it's really just a matter of choosing who sucks the least. Also, basketball is a team sport so one good player can't make the other four not suck. Jason Richardson has their best numbers (-0.9), Matt Carroll, their worst (-10.1).

Best- Augustin, Felton, Richardson, Wallace, Okafor

Andres Nocioni is a winner (+4.8) and should be not only starting but playing huge minutes on a team full of minuses. Thought Derrick Rose was a superstar? Think again- he's -5.5. Vinny Del Negro should also be aware that Drew Gooden's playing 30 minutes a game despite his awful production (-8.2)

Best- Rose, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni, Noah

The King lives up to his title with a gaudy +17.3. Delonte West is right on his heels at +15.7

Best- Williams, West, James, Wallace, Z

Contrary to popular belief, Kidd (+7.5) and Dirk (+6.9) are meshing well. The big surprise? Dampier (+10.5) actually has the best number on the team. Who's got the worst? Jerry Craphouse at an abysmal -24.6. In fact, that number makes Craphouse the league's worst player per 48. He's now out of the rotation and asking for a trade.

Best- Kidd, Terry, Howard, Nowitzki, Dampier

Sorry, Craphouse. No minutes for you.

Chauncey's leading the team at +7.9. That AI trade's looking better all the time. Linas Kleiza is playing over 20 minutes a game but not producing (-2.8)

Best- Billups, JR Smith (not Dahntay Jones), Melo, Martin, Nene

Speaking of AI, he's at -1.7 and his ballhogging has made Rip Hamilton considerably less effective (-2.6). Stick 'em both on the bench. Arron Afflalo has been excellent (+12.8) in limited minutes- give him a shot.

Best- Stuckey, Afflalo, Prince, Sheed, Amir Johnson

Here's a clear case where the suggested change obviously WON'T happen. No way Curry brings AI or Rip off the bench but according to 82games, the Pistons would have a better chance of winning if he did.

Jamal Crawford is a great example of a guy who puts up numbers that don't translate to wins. Since coming to the Warriors, he's at -12.9. Kelenna Azubuike's pretty awful, too (-8.7). Ronny Turiaf, AKA The Chocolate Moose, is the team's most efficient player at +4.7.

Best- CJ Watson, Maggette, Jax, Turiaf, Biedrins

Shane Battier only played in a handful of games before getting hurt but his numbers are off the charts (+16.1). Yao's second at +8.5.

Best- Alston, Battier, McGrady, Artest, Yao

Yep, that's a lineup with Ron Ron at PF. Try it out, Adelman. Move Scola to the bench.

Granger (+3.2) and Marquis Daniels (+2.7) are their only good players. Little wonder they're a mediocre ballclub.

Best- Ford, Daniels, Granger, Murphy, Nesterovic

Nobody on the positive side. Camby's the closest at -1.4. Kaman (-9) and Ricky Davis (-21.3 for fuck's sake!) are the real reason this club is complete dogshit. Other than Craphouse, Ricky Buckets has been the worst rotation player in the game. I say 'has been' not because he IS ONE but because he hasn't seen significant PT in weeks.

Best- Baron, Gordon, Thornton, Randolph, Camby

As previously mentioned, Lamar leads the entire league at +20.1. It should be noted that he's frequently matched up with 2nd unit guys now that he's a 6th man so that stat might need an asterisk. Trevor Ariza's also at an eye-popping +18.2. Kobe's just being Kobe (+14.7). The entire rotation has big numbers but these three are the biggest contributors to the team's 17-2 start.

Best- Fish, Kobe, Ariza, Lamar, Pau

'Only 25 minutes a game for me, Phil? C'mon!'

Media darlings OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay (can I just combine their names and call them Ru J Gayo?) get a lot of attention for their big scoring numbers but these two are getting smashed in plus/minus (-7.6 and -8.6 respectively). The team is so bad, they're still the best options for big minutes but neither of these guys should be considered a star by any means. Like Jamal Crawford, they get points but not results. The team's best players? Darko and Hakim Warrick, believe it or not.

Best- Lowry, Mayo, Gay, Warrick, Milicic

Wade (+6.9) and Marion (+5.7) are solid. Michael Beasley's getting ripped in the press but still manages to stay in the black at +1.1.

Best- Chalmers, Wade, Marion, Beasley, Haslem

Sessions is better than Ridnour (+1.1 to -1.1). Charlie Bell is the weak link at -6.7. Rookie Luc Richard Mbaha Moute should be starting.

Best- Sessions, Redd, Jefferson, Mbaha Moute, Bogut

Not that Wittless is gone, McFail decides who gets the minutes. The smart money's on benching Gomes (-8.1) and Assy Telfair (-4.9).

Best- Foye, McCants, Miller, Love, Jefferson

Devin Harris is the only starter playing winning ball. Expect the losses to start piling up any day now. Their best chance of winning is with this lineup (seriously).

Best- Harris, Carter, Hassell, Yi, Lopez

No positives. Tim Thomas is the worst at -16. Harrington's at -6.9. Blech.

Best- Duhon, Q, Chandler, Lee, Harrington

Earl Watson (-19) and Nick Collison (-22.5) are playing CBA ball out there. Russell Westbrook and Joe Smith are much better options at those positions.

Best- Westbrook, Mason, Durant, Smith, Wilcox

Michael Pietrus was playing beautifully before getting hurt (+11.8). Good acquisition by Otis Smith (can't believe I just wrote that!).

Best- Nelson, Pietrus, Turk, Rashard, Howard

The numbers seem to indicate that the Sixers are losing mostly due to poor play by their bench, specifically Louis Williams (-6.9). Iggy leads the team at +4.3.

Best- Miller, Iggy, Thaddeus, Brand, Dalembert

Nash is the best starter at +3.4. Shaq's breaking even. Leandro Barbosa's fallen off a cliff at -7.2. His mother just died so maybe he's having trouble focusing.

Best- Nash, Bell, Barnes, Diaw, Stoudemire (sorry, Shaq)

Nic Batum (+9.3) and Aldridge (+9.2) lead the team. Prezbo (+6.1) is outplaying Oden (+0.3).

Best- Blake, Roy, Batum, Aldridge, Prezbo

Their 'best' is Beno Udrih at -4. Bobby Brown (and I'm not being cruel) is at -12. Rookie Jason Thompson is deserving of some extra burn.

Best- Beno, Salmons, Thompson, Mikki Moore, Brad Miller (in your face, Lil' Brad Hawes)

Bonner! +11.7! I'm speechless. Ime Udoka's next at +8.8. So why the slow start? Amazingly, Duncan and Parker are both in the red for the year.

Best- TP, Ginobili, Udoka, Bonner, Duncan

Kris Humphries and Jamario Moon have been their only good players. Bosh and Calderon are both hovering around -2. Jermaine is a weak -5.3.

Best- Calderon, Parker, Moon, Humphries, Bosh

AK47 and Paul Millsap have been excellent. DWill and Boozer, even when healthy, have been only so-so.

Best- Williams, Brewer, Kirilenko, Millsap, Okur

You know you're fucked when Nick Young and Andray Blatche are your best players. Deshawn Stevenson (-12.1) better grow his beard back or something.

Best- Juan Dixon, Butler, Jamison, Songaila, rookie Javale McGee

So there you have it. Again, not necessarily the best starting units but a strong recommendation for who should be out there in the 4th quarter when the game's on the line.

Thanks, 82games. You rock.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Not A Good Look: The Predator

I don't spend much time playing fashion police but every now and then a style comes along that is so...well, unstylish that I have to point at it and laugh. Hard. Today, I single out ballers who proudly rock The Predator. Definitely not a good look.

For all of you who live in a cave (or avoid really bad movies), this is The Predator.

And now, on to the imitators...

Marquis Daniels. My man. To quote the timeless classic Booty Call (holla!), 'Tarantula head fool! Motherfucker look like Predator!'

Renaldo Balkman says the party's in the back...near The Predator!

And Axl Rose proves that redheaded whiteboy douchebags are also not impervious to the persuasive power of The Predator.

The irony here is that all of these guys probably have well-paid stylists. Well, money can't buy taste. Watch out, Drew Gooden. I'm coming for you next.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Loose Balls- Monday

What�s up with the last place Sixers? Picked by many experts to challenge Boston for the Atlantic crown, Mo Cheeks� sorry crew has looked positively clueless while stumbling to a 7-10 mark.

The biggest issue: Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand don�t fit together. With EB clogging up the paint, Philly can�t run isolations or pick and rolls on the perimeter for Iggy.

Additionally, Andre Miller�s post-up game (one of his strengths) is no longer an asset since Brand�s big butt is occupying the entire painted area. Instead, Miller�s left to loiter at the 3 point line where he�s not much of a threat (4 made 3s in 17 games so far).

Brand�s lack of footspeed has also put the breaks on the burgeoning Sixer running game.

Brand's a good player, don't get me wrong. But he's not the RIGHT player for that system. In retrospect, maybe that money would have been better spent on Josh Smith (or saved for the Lebron/Wade/Bosh sweepstakes).


Who are these suddenly competitive New Jersey Nets? Even though they�re being outscored by almost three points a game on average, they�re staying above .500 largely because of All-Star caliber play from Devin Harris. Seeing Harris score 47 last night probably gave Mark Cuban a fucking ulcer.

Looking back, can we now safely say that last year�s draft was not, in fact, the best of all time (as it was widely hailed a year ago)? Kevin Durant is developing nicely into the next Tracy McGrady- not the next Michael Jordan. And Greg Oden? Right now, he�s more Dikembe Mutombo than Hakeem Olajuwon. The 1984 Draft, which featured Jordan, Hakeem (Akeem back then), Barkley and John Stockton, remains the standard by which all other drafts are measured. The 2003 Draft, with Lebron, Wade, Melo and Bosh, would probably be my runner-up.

Pictured: The Dream with El Douche in '84

Gotta give some love to Portland. Starting two defensive-minded rookies, Oden and Nic Batum, the Blazers are playing tough, physical basketball while holding opponents to 93 points a game. Their first unit, spearheaded by MVP candidate Brandon Roy, has established early leads in every game I�ve watched this year. They�re not a championship club yet, but I wouldn�t want to see them in the playoffs.

Speaking of MVP, there are only five players in the conversation at this point. Given that the MVP always comes from teams that win 50 plus games, only Kobe, Lebron, Dwight Howard, Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy qualify so far. Chris Paul is playing his ass off but his teammates, notably MIA Tyson Chandler, can hardly say the same.