Today, the US Olympic team played Australia. The Aussies pushed Team USA to the final minute. Largely because of Andrew Bogut.
Team USA shot a dismal 35% from inside the arc. Coincidence that Bogut was prowling the paint? I think not.
Meanwhile, Australia shot an astonishing 63% inside the arc, mostly facing this year’s 1st Team All Defense center – DeAndre Jordan.
Bogut not only closes the paint on defense, he opens lanes on offense!
Now Bogut’s refusal to play offense in the NBA frustrated the Warriors FO, and me. The Warriors needed an offensive upgrade at center, and they found one in Zaza.
But mark my words – the Warriors will miss Bogut. Defense will get much harder. Opposing centers will roam free, on both ends. Watching Bogut set picks on one end, and Jordan on the other, was like night and day. Bogut blots out the sun.
I’m betting that Bogut reports to the Mavs with a chip on his shoulder (for being discarded). He will start taking it to the hole again. And the Mavs will surprise everyone by grabbing the 4th seed in the West.
I did not expect to care about the draft last night. I was wrong. As usual, the Association never fails to entertain!
Teams I Care About
Warriors – Social Media instant analysis gave them an A+. Lacob’s FO has actually been good in the draft. I don’t actually know about any of the draftees. I never do. I only watch NBA games. But I’m optimistic about the Warriors.
Lakers – Picking Ingram was like hitting a 2-run homer: he was consensus pick, and fills a need at small forward. The other need for LAL is a center, and they took one in the 2nd round. Mitch K also has an excellent draft record, so I’m optimistic about this one as well.
Kings – WTH? They made two really nice trades, then picked a bunch of centers. Boogie tweeted “Lord give me strength.” If they secretly plan to trade Boogie next month, this might work out. If not… wow.
Celtics – LOL! Remember when Daryl Morey got stuck with a bag of picks a few years ago? No one would trade, so he had to pick ’em. Rockets didn’t get better. This time it was Ainge on the clock, but with an even bigger bag of picks. It became obvious Danny never intended to pick, because he grabbed random guys and Euro stashes. Meet the new Celtics – same as the old Celtics.
Suns – More centers? It’s like Rob Hennigan can only evaluate one position at a time. Two years ago, he cornered the market for point guards. Now he’s after centers. Oh kay…
Thunder/Magic – Fun trade! Instant pundits declared OKC the winner, but I’m not sure. Could be win-win. Could be Magic win. This one is good bar-talk fodder until the season starts.
It sucks to be a GM these days. A vast army of internet pundits awaits your every move. You will be judged instantly. And it’s zero-sum: Someone will be declared the winner, someone the loser. There are no ties on the internet. Pile up 24 months of internet losses, and you get fired.
The result, I fear, is that no one makes a deal unless they are convinced that they will “win” the trade. I’m sure the Magic thought, “We are getting Serge Ibaka, internet darling, for marginal guys. Win!”
Meanwhile, Danny Ainge is trying to make “fair” deals for his draft picks. But no one will bite on a “fair” deal. The only hope he had was to make over-the-top offers. But he didn’t. And had to pick.
Andrew Bogut was not the first team All-Defensive center – that award goes to DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan was good. Hard to argue the point.
But… second team All-Defensive center is… Hassan Whiteside?
If I am picking centers, I am taking Bogut 10 out of 10 over Whiteside. Whiteside is not even close to the defensive presence of Bogut.
I can only conclude that the East Coast bias is in full effect. How else do you pick Whiteside over Bogut? Do you even watch the games?
By failing to reach the 2nd team, Bogut loses $2 million in bonus money. Robbed. Thanks National Media.
I have a bone to pick with current NBA fandom. They think that only championships count. I disagree.
What is so bad about having a good team that makes the playoffs each year? Take the Mavs, for example. As long as they are pretty good, and have Dirk, they will have TV appeal. The counter example is the recent Lakers. Even with Kobe, I could barely stand to watch.
Kevin Arnovitz made the argument in a recent article:
Is there anything wrong with being very good for a very long time, even if it means only an outside shot for a title in any given season? That’s more or less how the Mavericks won the title in 2011 — a decade of very good basketball gave them enough chances to get lucky.
Or to put it another way, is there any hope a team like this can beat a team like that? Is it time to start over?
Privately, Grizzlies officials believe that the league’s obsession with contention “windows” and the title-or-tank mindset is off the mark.
With no Conley and no Gasol this spring, the Grizzlies will take a mulligan this spring, but the formula in Memphis will remain the same until further notice: 50 wins and a puncher’s chance.
A “punchers chance” is a great way to put it. If, as Doc Rivers suggests, the Warriors got lucky last year because their postseason opponents suffered a rash of injuries, couldn’t any team get lucky?
Look at what just happened in this year’s playoffs – The Warriors lost Steph Curry for 2 weeks, and the Clippers lost Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for the season. The Blazers could very well find themselves in the WCF!
And now we are hearing calls to “break up” the Clippers. There is some logic in making Griffin available. But on the other hand, what if the Clippers just stay the course? They are a very good team. Not Warriors/Spurs good. But very good. They have another 3 years of title contention left. Also, Steve Ballmer paid $2 billion for that team. You think he wants to rebuild? And is that even possible with Doc on a long and pricey contract?
What the Spurs have shown, I think, is that continuity is good. There is an astonishingly small amount of practice time in the NBA. Having the same coaches teach the same system to the same guys over multiple years is a powerful advantage.
Obviously, the Warriors are on a whole new level of awesome these days. But before that, honestly, we just wanted the We Believe Warriors to stay together longer. We lionized the Run TMC Warriors, who never contended for championships. We fell in love with tenured players like Adonal Foyle and Monta Ellis. They weren’t great, actually, but they were ours. It was comforting to see them out there year after year.
Plus, re-builds are risky. You don’t really know how long it will take to return to form, let alone exceed.
Basketball has so much to offer fans. If you are only in it for championships, you are missing out.
The Warriors notched their 70th win tonight.
Only one other team in history won 70. That was the 95-96 Bulls, who went on to win 72.
If the Warriors win the last 3 games, they will beat the record. If they win 2 of 3, they tie.
Even if they lose-out, this will be historic. They will have the second-best single-season record for as long as the world goes on. Or something.
The point is… Now is a good time to pause and reflect on the historic greatness of this team. No team is great forever. The 00’s Pistons won just one championship, despite being in the East Finals 6 consecutive times.
This is what worries me.
Of course, I hope and expect that the Warriors will win the championship again this year. But after that… I dunno.
Every off-season, teams change. New guys are added via the draft or free agency. Previous brothers are discarded. It’s a brutal calculus.
The Warriors are a fragile snowflake. Yes, the transcendent talent of the first 6 players is a powerful factor. But what if you discard 2-3 of them? Are they really fungible parts? If Kevin Durant wants to join, we’ll find out.
If they stand pat, it’s not really better. Everyone will be a year older next year, and a year older the year after. There is an expiration for all players. For Andrew Bogut and Andre Igouadala, that date is near.
But look, I come here not to bury the Warriors, but to praise them! 70 is a great achievement. Let’s savor the flavor.
The Pick and Roll is a basketball staple. Like a ballet, it must be executed perfectly, with precision and grace. And when that happens, it is nearly un-stoppable.
Except… It died. Maybe last year. Maybe a couple of years earlier. For sure right now.
Nobody uses it anymore. And that has consequences for a certain type of player: the scoring power forward.
In Zach Lowe’s latest, he looks at the PnR combo of Lebron James and Kevin Love. Unstoppable? Nope. Teams just switch. It is actually one of the Cavs least effective plays.
Why? Let me count the ways:
Jonathan Tjarks began writing about the importance of 2-way players early last season. His thesis is that basketball is a continuous motion game, with just five players per side. You cannot afford specialists. A team that fields the most 2-way players is going to win over the long haul.
In a remarkable coincidence, the Warriors went all-in on 2-way play last year. And won the Championship. Who got benched during that historic campaign? Elite PnR-man David Lee.
The NBA has a number of outstanding PnR power forwards, including Kevin Love. But they give up so much defensively that it doesn’t make sense to keep them on the floor.
PnR is designed to get very efficient 2-pt shots. Like 55% conversion, for example. But modern 3-pt shooters stroke it at close to 40%, for an effective shooting percentage of 60%.
PnR relies on isolation – it is a dance with 4 players. What if the other 3 defenders help? The latest defense rules allow teams to help, effectively using zone principles.
The future of 1-way power forwards looks a lot like the role David Lee is playing in Dallas now. (Also, Mo Speights in Oakland.) Come off the bench, defend against second-tier players, get buckets, sit back down. This is not max-contract level stuff. In fact, it is way down the salary tree.
(BTW – this is also the fate of mid-range shooters. Come in and gun while the 3-pt-shooting starters rest.)
The other option, honestly, is to just convert them to centers. At least half the teams in the league have a “defensive” center who is okay at defense, and awful at offense. They end up being big bodies who get in the way a bit,and absorb some physical punishment. Just as Dallas is now experimenting with Dirk at center, it makes sense for at least some teams to choose offense over defense.
I don’t really have any thoughts to add to the Kevin Durant speculation. As other, smarter people have noted:
- He will not waste these next 4 years developing a team. Sorry Lakers and Knicks.
- His best, most obvious option is to sign a Lebron-style deal: 2-years, with year 2 being a player option. He will be back on the market in a year, with a higher cap (and higher max salary). Plus, his BFFL Russ will be a free agent at the same time.
Here’s my add:
Durant, like LaMarcus Aldridge last summer, is seeking a total environment. He wants a harmonious locker room, quality coaching, a supportive FO. He is not fixated on market size or his brand. His brand does just fine in OKC. It will be fine elsewhere.
Which is why he unsubtly pal’d around with the Warriors, and said glowing things about the Celtics. Because if he does leave OKC, those are really the only sensible places. Every other franchise has one or more of the following:
- locker room problems
- suspect coaching
- suspect FO
- no clear path to a title
If he leaves this summer, he is giving up on Russ. Not sure I see that happening. And if he stays over for a year, I think that means he and Russ are plotting a package deal.
I wrote earlier that Larry Riley deserves credit for the Warriors revival. Here’s more proof: Joe Lacob credits Riley for the Bogut trade.
Let’s rewind the Kaepernick situation, shall we? (It could change at any moment.)
In December, the 49ers FO was leaking that Jim Tomsula had their full support. Kaepernick had already been banished from the team, presumably never to return…
After the 49ers sacked Tomsula and hired Chip Kelly, I think York/Ballke/Kelly were interested in cherry-picking Sam Bradford in free-agency. Kelly likes him. The Eagles seemingly had little attachment to him.
But then the Eagles pre-emptively re-signed Bradford for silly money: $22MM guaranteed, $36MM possible, over 2 years.
You don’t think that shook things up, QB-wise?
In the wake of the Bradford news, I think the 49ers realized that Kaepernick’s contract is quite reasonable (by comparison). That’s when Baalke and Kelly suddenly made encouraging remarks about Kaepernick in interviews. Which obviously blew up in their faces when Kaepernick asked to be traded.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch, the Super-Bowl-champion Denver Broncos knew they needed a replacement for Payton Manning, destined to retire. They had super-sub Brock Osweiler, but he was also a free agent. He would draw offers…
But wait! There’s more! The Redskins released RG III, potentially a very good QB, who maybe just needs a fresh start.
The Texans, as it turns out, were hot for a new QB. So that left a three team monte for three QBs: Kaepernick, Osweiler, and Griffin.
Osweiler signed with the Texans today.
It will be interesting to see how the Broncos reply. I’m sure they check with the 49ers to see if a cheap trade for Kaepernick is available. If not… do they snag RG III quickly? Do they wait out the 49ers (Russian-roulette-style) to see if they can just sign Kaepernick after April 1?