A Rebuttal

Now, look, the Bobcats throwing shade on Detroit is adorable

So I’ll forgo ether for now, let’s say that this is just chloroform.

Charlie V might be hairless, but you should cease with the hating

Because that fool trumps any Bobcat in on/off court net rating

And look, I’d love to talk tall shooters who have notable hair

But eviscerating Byron Mullens simply wouldn’t be fair

Playing past-his-prime Maxiell? Alright, I’m not really for it

But are you really gonna front when you employ Hakim Warrick?

 It looks like MKG’s award hopes are pretty much dead.

He’s hit the rookie wall harder than that knee hit his head.

OK, I’m done no need to respond or do this whole thing again

Now do the NBA a favor and free Jeff Adrien.

1 year ago · 0 notes

Enter The Dragon: The Rise of Goran Dragic

In a season that has given us Linsanity, there’s another young point guard quietly keeping his team’s playoff hopes alive despite heavy odds. Kyle Lowry was diagnosed with a bacterial infection nearly a month ago. At the time, things looked bleak for the Houston Rockets. Lowry was playing at a near-All-Star level, helping keep Daryl Morey and Kevin McHale’s club afloat despite dips in production by more highly paid players like Kevin Martin and Luis Scola. The team’s postseason dreams were crumbling, with only the narrow shoulders of a 25-year-old Slovenian point guard — one who had been a bench player for the entirety of his four year career — holding them up.

Goran Dragic has been an intriguing commodity for a few years now. After a rocky rookie campaign where he struggled to adjust to the NBA game, Dragic made a sizable leap in his second season as a Phoenix Sun, providing a solid 15-20 minutes of relief each night for Steve Nash. Dragic proved dependable in the regular season, but he exploded in the playoffs, torching the Spurs — ironically, the team that drafted him with the 45th pick in the 2006 draft — for 23 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the series for the Suns. He proved a handful for the Lakers, as well, using his speed to his advantage and memorably feuding with fellow Slovenian Sasha Vujacic. The Suns lost that series in six games, but Dragic performed admirably, consistently making Derek Fisher look his age, continuing in a long line of speedy point guards to pose problems for the Lakers in the 2000’s.

Unfortunately, the momentum the young guard had built up dissipated heading into the 2010-11 season, with the Suns going from a championship contender to a franchise in shambles. The departure of GM Steve Kerr, the loss of Amar’e Stoudemire to the Knicks, overpriced additions of Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress, and a confusing trade for Hedo Turkoglu combined to form cement shoes for Phoenix’s title hopes. Dragic went from making nearly 40 percent of his threes to converting a dreadful 27.7 percent of his attempts from behind the arc, in addition to shooting a Rajon Rondo-esque 60.8 percent from the free throw line. Before the trade deadline, the Suns would part ways with two of their biggest heroes of the 2010 playoffs: Jason Richardson, who was sent to Orlando in order unload Turkoglu’s bloated contract, and Dragic, who was shipped to Houston along with a first round pick for Aaron Brooks, the winner of the 2010 Most Improved Player award. The Suns would finish the season under .500 for the first time since the Stephon Marbury era, while the Rockets would narrowly miss the playoffs. Dragic rebounded nicely in his 22 games in Houston, shooting 52 percent from three and reducing his turnovers substantially.

The Aaron Brooks/Dragic trade, oddly enough, hasn’t received the same level of Monday morning quarterbacking as Houston’s decision to cut the aforementioned Jeremy Lin before the start of this season. In addition to shipping out Brooks, the Rockets sent Shane Battier and his expiring contract to the Grizzlies — which proved to have important playoff implications — as well as fringe point guard Ish Smith. The only team hurt by the trade was Phoenix, who ultimately sent a promising young point guard and a first round pick for two months of substandard production from Aaron Brooks, who opted to play in China during the lockout and is not currently signed with an NBA team — another ill-conceived move in a series of them following Kerr’s departure.

This season, Dragic has caught fire in Kyle Lowry’s absence. In 15 starts, Dragic is averaging a stunning 17.4 points per game, shooting 52.5 percent from the field, 44 percent on threes, and 82.7 percent from the free throw line. He’s also averaging a surprising 8.9 assists per game (to only three turnovers) in that span, and a solid 3.6 rebounds per game. These numbers are every bit as impressive as Lin’s were for the Knicks, and like Lin, Dragic’s contribution has been incredibly important to the Rockets’ playoff hopes. He’s had to play heavy minutes in his new role — over 38 minutes a game — as Houston’s depth at point guard is nonexistent with Lowry out. The Rockets traded the disappointing Jonny Flynn to the Blazers and were recently forced to sign veteran Earl Boykins (all 5’5” of him) off the scrap heap as a backup. Dragic has posted double digit assists in five of his starts, in addition to a number of memorable games — flirting with a triple double in a win over the Lakers, getting under Russell Westbrook’s skin in a surprise victory over the Thunder, and playing all 48 minutes in a down-to-the-wire loss against the Mavericks.

Dragic will be a free agent after this season, and he stands to make a fair amount of money in the long-term filling in for Lowry. It stands to reason that he could regress back to the mean — his shooting percentages aren’t sustainable for players not named Steve Nash or Chris Paul — as Lin did for the Knicks, and Houston’s playoff position is still tenuous, with only a game separating them and the ninth seeded Utah Jazz. However, The Dragon’s explosive play deserves much wider recognition than it’s getting. He hasn’t been sleeping on a teammate’s couch, but Dragic is one of the only things keeping the Rockets’ playoff dreams alive, and he could prove to be an even greater asset to them in the postseason.

2 years ago · 6 notes

Jon Leuer has played 34 total minutes the past five games.

2 years ago · 0 notes

Kenneth Faried and Jeremy Evans: Buried Alive

There’s nothing quite like a great character actor. Justified’s season 3 premiere saw the return of Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy, a security broker who looks like a character from Thirtysomething and acts like Gary Busey in Lethal Weapon. Burns doesn’t get many chances to stand out — he’s been relegated to supporting roles in non-classics like Prom and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles — but he’s the specific type of “that guy” character actor who knocks it out of the park whenever he’s given the opportunity to flex his acting muscle (his role as a group leader at a rehab center in Breaking Bad is a perfect example of this).

The closest the NBA can get to this is guys like Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried. Evans, a wiry combo forward, has appeared in just eight games this season and played a total of 53 minutes, while Faried — who essentially looks like the Predator if he were a power forward — has gotten even less burn, playing a grand total of 19 minutes in two appearances. End of the bench guys like these two don’t usually tend to muster much enthusiasm from NBA fans, but Faried and Evans are not your typical bench warmers. When either player enters the game, it’s pretty much guaranteed something amazing is going to happen. Evans looks like a pogo stick on the court — a coat hangar coated in flubber who can dunk an anyone or anything and can sky impossibly high to reject even the highest of floaters. Faried — or Manimal, as he’s affectionately known — is every bit as beastly as his nickname, dunking with authority, muscling opponents out of the way to gobble up rebounds, and rejecting shots with inhuman strength and fury.

The roads to the NBA have been a bit different for the two high-fliers. Faried was a first round pick after putting up patently absurd numbers at Morehead State and is buried on the Denver bench largely due to George Karl’s well-known hatred of rookies. Evans went undrafted out of Western Kentucky due to concerns about his weight and lack of offensive polish. He played two games in the D-League before Utah signed him to fill out their bench. Both players, however, consistently inspire NBA junkies to glance compulsively at the score on Denver and Utah’s games, hoping for the next 20+ point blowout that will allow another glimpse of Evans or Faried in the fourth quarter.

The most infuriating thing about these two is that they absolutely should be getting more playing time. Evans has only played 516 career minutes, but he’s made an astounding 67.7% of his field goals in that time and blocked shots at an above-average rate, and posted an excellent 19.3 PER. That kind of production would normally result in extended minutes, Evans is absolutely buried beneath Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. If he ever gets playing time commensurate with his abilities, it certainly won’t be in Utah. Faried’s lack of minutes is even more infuriating. Minutes are hard to find in Denver, with Chris Andersen playing consistently well backing up Nene and Al Harrington having a career season. This does not, however, let Karl off the hook, as long as he continues to eschew Faried’s development for the likes of Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos. Mozgov in particular has been absolutely pedestrian while inexplicably starting — given chance after chance to show signs of competence while Faried languishes on the bench.

The great thing about character actors is that sometimes they get appreciated. Look at Jon Hamm, or Steve Buscemi, or Bryan Cranston, or Adam Scott. At some point, someone notices their talent and gives them a real stage on which to shine. Evans will probably never start in his career, but there’s a chance he ends up on a team that gives him consistent burn. It’s entirely probable that Faried will start for the Nuggets eventually — if not this season, then the the next — given his pedigree and obvious talents. Even if they both end up doomed to their current fates, there are worse things. We’ll always have the no-look alley-oop to Faried, we’ll always have Evans’ utter destruction of Gerald Wallace, and we’ll always have Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy. Even George Karl can’t take that away.

2 years ago · 0 notes

All-Star Stock Watch

We’re about a dozen games into the 2011-2012 NBA season, so talking about the All-Star game seems a bit hasty, doesn’t it? Possibly, but it was this, ranking position players or MVP watch, so maybe just be happy with what I give you, eh? I could be even lazier if I wanted, you know.

Trending Up

1. Ryan Anderson (PF, Magic)

Anderson hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere this season — his per-minute stats have been good for years now — but he’s exceeded all expectations with extended playing time. Anderson is currently eighth in the NBA in PER (player efficiency rating), turns the ball over at the lowest rate of any starter and is shooting an absurd 44.8% from behind the arc while attempting eight(!!!) threes per game. He’s second on the Magic in points and rebounds (behind Dwight Howard in both categories) and has provided Orlando a legitimate second option for the first time since Jameer Nelson’s red-hot start in 2008. Anderson’s numbers might not be as flashy as other candidates, but he’s providing a peerless balance of volume and efficiency to start the season.

2. Andre Iguodala (SG/SF, 76ers)

Iguodala’s play — along with the contributions of Spencer Hawes and Lou Williams — has been a major factor in the 76ers’ 10-3 start, and while Iggy has been a good player for practically his entire career, he’s now playing better than ever. Iguodala, a career 32.6% three point shooter, is knocking down 42.9% of his threes this season on nearly four attempts per game. His true shooting percentage is the highest it’s been since 2006 and his steals are up by 0.7 per game over last season, despite playing fewer minutes. Iguodala’s stellar perimeter defense is also a major factor for the 76ers, who lead the NBA in defensive efficiency. With the likes of Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce under-performing, Iguodala would be an excellent choice for replacement.

3. Greg Monroe (PF/C, Pistons)

Monroe is 5th in the NBA in PER. He’s first among centers, even over Dwight Howard, and his averages are steadily approaching the 20-10 mark, despite playing for the Pistons, who are last in the NBA in pace. Monroe’s numbers are even more impressive when you take his team’s point guard play into account. Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, and Will Bynum are averaging a combined 8.9 assists and 6.5 turnovers per game, forcing Monroe to create most of his own offense, and even act as the team’s primary distributor at times. His progress — Monroe is dropping 17.2 points, grabbing 9.1 boards, and dishing out 2.8 assists in 32.4 minutes per game — is making Monroe look like the clear steal of the 2010 draft and possibly its best player.

Others to consider: Spencer Hawes (C, 76ers), Paul Millsap (PF, Jazz), Kyle Lowry (PG, Rockets)

Trending Down

1. Kevin Garnett (PF, Celtics)

Garnett, who was voted in as a starter in 2011, has seen his Celtics stumble to a 4-8 start, in addition to a steep drop in his own production. He is shooting 46.1% from the field, down from 52.8% last season, and is posting the lowest PER of his career. His rebounds are down from 8.9 to 7.5 per game, he’s turning the ball over more frequently, and his defensive impact isn’t what it once was. The Celtics are currently 21st in the league in defensive efficiency with Garnett as their anchor, despite playing one of the easiest schedules in the NBA. It appears that Garnett’s age is finally catching up with him.

2. Amar’e Stoudemire (PF/C, Knicks)

Stoudemire has probably been the biggest factor in New York’s disappointing 6-7 start. He’s seen major drop-offs in his points per game (25.3 to 17.9), field goal percentage (50.2% to 42.0%), assists (2.6 to 1.2), and PER (22.7 to 16.3). Without an impressive offensive resume to compensate for his poor defense and average rebounding numbers, Amar’e just isn’t a viable All-Star candidate.

3. Tim Duncan (PF/C, Spurs)

Duncan is still excellent defensively, but his offensive impact just isn’t what it used to be. He’s playing 26.3 minutes per game and only scoring 12.8 points on 11.2 field goal attempts. Duncan is shooting 47.3% from the field and 66.7% from the free throw line, both down from last season, and is rebounding at the lowest rate of his career. Like Garnett, he’s one of the greatest forwards ever to play the game, but Duncan can’t keep getting by on past achievements.

Others to consider: Deron Williams (PG, Nets), Blake Griffin (PF, Clippers), Russell Westbrook (PG, Thunder)

2 years ago · 0 notes

Dunk of the year, thus far.

2 years ago · 5 notes