Tag:Paul Millsap
Posted on: February 9, 2012 7:40 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 9:11 pm
 

The five biggest All-Star snubs

Posted by Royce Young

Jennings tweeted after the announcement, "Just gotta work even harder now." (Getty Images)

The 2012 All-Star teams have been filled out and as always, there are some serious snubs. It's a select group that makes the All-Star Game as just seven spots in each conference are open for reserves. It's not easy to make it which means guys that have a great case to be there always get left out. You can't take everyone and there have to be cuts. So here the top five guys that have a reason to be disappointed. Feel free to create your own "snubbed from the snubs" list too.

Brandon Jennings

The Bucks aren't having a great season at 11-14, but it would be really bad without Jennings. He's averaging 18.9 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. He's third among Eastern point guards in scoring and has been terrific in a number of big Milwaukee wins, including both over the Heat. Again, what hurts him is that his team is 11-14, but that didn't seem to affect Deron Williams' candidacy much. Jennings has a legitimate gripe to be left out.

James Harden

You're saying, "James Harden? There are way bigger snubs than that. But there should be something to be said for a guy that’s second at his position. It just makes sense for Harden to have been included. He’s second in PER (21.94) in the West for shooting guard, only behind Kobe. He’s 22nd overall in PER in the league. He’s fourth in scoring among 2-guards. He’s the third best player on the team with the best record in basketball. And his beard has the power to heal blindness. Those five things should add up to enough to trump Dirk Nowitzki, who even said himself he shouldn't be there.

Paul Millsap

The Jazz have basically come out of nowhere to contend for a playoff spot. People are saying things like, "Whoa, where did the Jazz come from?" and "Hey, what are the Jazz doing in the top eight?" You know why? Because of Paul Millsap. He's averaging 16.5 points and 9.7 rebounds which aren't as gaudy as his power forward counterparts in the West, but definitely better than Dirk who has missed a good number of games and isn't playing close to his level.

Kyrie Irving

He's a rookie. He's playing for a not great team. But as Blake Griffin proved last season if your play is outstanding, those things aren't supposed to matter. Look at Irving's 21.66 PER. That's top 25 in the entire league. And he's exploded over the last month too. He's really blossoming into one of the East's very best point guard and with the reserves just having two point guards, Irving has a good case to be a third.

Kyle Lowry

The top snub in my mind. Lowry isn't just having an All-Star caliber season. He's having potentially an MVP caliber season. His numbers don't pop -- 14.7 ppg, 7.9 apg and 5.8 rpg -- but considering his importance to the now 15-11 Houston Rockets, he has to be considered one of the elite players in the West. It's tough because the Western team is already guard heavy and it would be tough to say Lowry should go ahead of Tony Parker or Steve Nash, but this shouldn't be about name recognition. It should be about this season and Lowry is having as good a year for a point guard as anyone in the conference not named Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 11:25 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 11:32 pm
 

Report Card: Pacers survive, Pierce passes Bird

Paul Pierce took over No.2 on the Celtics' all-time scoring list and the Celtics improved to 14-10. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore


Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was. We want to hear your grades of the night on Twitter at @EyeOnBasketball.


Paul Pierce On a night where Pierce passed Larry Bird on the Celtics' all-time scoring list, the Truth was doing everything for the surging Celtics. His shooting percentage was nothing great, but 8 rebounds and 9 assists with just two turnovers to go with 15 points is excellent work. Pierce took a step up the Green's list of point producers, but it's his overall play that makes him a Celtic legend. Tuesday night showed why.
Indiana Pacers Played like warrior gods for about 34 minutes. Then utterly collapsed against the power of Paul Millsap while Frank Vogel hung out his second unit to dry. Then managed to slam the door shut thanks to what got them the lead in the first place. When the Pacers are clicking, they can be dominant, but this team is built with too many hustle defenders on the bench and not enough scoring. George Hill's absence hurts, but it goes beyond that. They might consider getting a backup scorer at the deadline. At the same time, a quality win against a good team.
Minnesota Timberwolves The Kings are more game to fight under Keith Smart, but this still should have been a more comfortable win at home. Then again, they didn't have Kevin Love. So basically, they pass, but next time maybe a little better shooting than 41 percent against a horrid defense is in order. 14 assists for Rubio in the win.
Kings final possession All you have are perimeter scorers. All you have are ISO guys. You don't pass well. I'm one of the guys who rails against the ISO-Final-Possession culture in the NBA, but in that situation, down two, give the ball to Thornton or Evans and let them do work out of Isolation. Instead the Kings tried to get inventive and cute. Not a good look. Honestly, DeMarcus Cousins should not be on the floor at the end of the game for the Kings right now. 22 for Thornton in the loss.
Tyrus Thomas 20 minutes. 1-6, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 1 foul, -12 for the game and got into it with Paul Pierce on the night he passed Bird on the Celtics' scoring list. Remember when he was going to be a difference maker?
E FOR EFFORT
LeBron James (24 points on 16 shots, 5 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals, excellent passing to close out the Cavs.)
Derrick Brown (10-10 from the field, 20 points, 4 rebounds)
Darren Collison (10-14 from the field, 25 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 0 turnovers)

Posted on: February 2, 2012 5:47 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 6:57 pm
 

The Power Forward Generation

Love and Griffin represent the next generation of All-Star forwards. How great can they be? (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore


How good is Blake Griffin? How good can he be?

Is Kevin Love one of those guys you're going to look back and remember when he had trouble getting on the floor in Minnesota and laugh? (Wait, he already is that guy. OK, more so?)

Why is it LaMarcus Aldridge has never been an All-Star, but Chris Kaman has?

Are these guys you can win a championship with? Are these guys legends? What is it we're witnessing, here?

All right, we're 75 words in and already miles ahead of ourselves. Let's back up and start where any discussion of the greatness of current NBA power forwards should start. With point guards.

-------------------------------

We're in the NBA's golden age of point guards. There have been amazing point guards before, and certainly great point guard eras. Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, and of course Magic Johnson, just to name a small handful. But the era we're currently in may top any before for overall talent. You have to go searching long and hard for a team without a quality starting point guard (as long as you're not starting with the Lakers). So it's easy to get caught up in debates over which is the best, in either conference.

But hidden behind that is a debate that began a year ago, has continued for the past 360 days, and which will be set aflame Thursday night as the starters for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game are announced.

Blake Griffin will be announced as the starter. He's certainly worthy of it.

Kevin Love fans will be outraged. They're going to have a point.

LaMarcus Aldridge will barely make the conversation. And that's a crime.

All three players have emerged as the best power forwards in the West and probably in the league. Blake Griffin is the reason the Clippers landed Chris Paul, the reason they are contenders for the first time. Kevin Love may be dealing with Rubio Mania, but he's still the man in Minnesota and the biggest reason the Wolves are within striking distance of a playoffs berth. And Aldridge, who was always passed over by fans for Brandon Roy and then twice for Greg Oden, is the rock holding Portland steady.

It's entirely possible one of them does not check in on Sunday, Feb. 26th, and that's more than a little bit insane.

But moving beyond the ridiculousness of the All-Star Game, the questions about each player and their long-term futures are more relevant. Aldridge is 26, entering his prime. At the moment, he's a better, more complete player than either Love or Griffin. But their ceilings are considerably higher, and even the question of which is better becomes complicated and sticky.

But are any of them legitimately "great" all-time players? Do any of them have the potential to be Hall of Fame guys? Where are they in that pursuit?

We're jumping the gun here, and we're well aware of it. Griffin is only 22 games into his second season. Love was only truly freed from captivity last season. Aldridge is just now entering his prime. There's no way to tell if they'll live up to potential, if they've peaked, if this is the best they'll ever be. We're exploring the question to give credence to the fact we have legitimately great players at this position, and to examine how great they really are.

For starters, let's look at some numbers. Let's start with this season's results for the three in question, plus Paul Millsap who is truly the dark horse candidate this season, and is only really held back by the number of touches he shares (Millsap has the lowest usage rate. I wanted to compare them to some truly great players that played in the same era so I took Dirk Nowitzki's best season -- the 2007 season which was simply incredible regardless of how it ended -- and had to basically pull one of Duncan's 2002-2006 seasons out of a hat.)



In short, Kevin Love looks pretty phenomenal and like he's on track for that. The stunner is that LaMarcus Aldridge would probably be right there if he were just rebounding a bit more. Aldridge is having his most efficient season ever, but his rebounds per game, minutes, and rate just don't add up. Without doing anything else of note, Aldrige suffers here.

But Love is really what shines in this comparison. His rebound totals are clearly boosting him along, but he's become such a terrific versatile scorer. And for a guy whose knock has always been defense, Love is in the 71st percentile in overall points per possession allowed according to Synergy Sports, and 81st percentile in post-up defense.

Griffin's numbers struggle, there's no question there. But how much of it is just youth? He's roughly 100 games into his career. Where does his start match up with the others on this list?





Now that is surprising. Griffin is top-two in points, rebounds, and assists per 36 minutes, and PER, true rebound rate, and assist percentage (those figures factor percentage of rebounds/assists of total possessions while on the floor) in those players' second years, and first in field goal percentage. Not bad, even when you consider the strange career arc of Nowitzki.

But numbers obviously don't tell the entire story.

There is a question when watching these players play if they're truly at that level. Blake Griffin is criticized for his lack of a mid-range jumper. Kevin Love isn't considered the kind of player you can simply get the ball to and ask him to get you a bucket, and his post offense is still a work in progress. They're obviously still forming their games, but the gap between those aspects and what people expect is enough to cause the question of if they will ever get to elite status.

-------------------------------

Is Griffin simply a product of his dunks? There's no question that things like, say, Rest in Perkins this week put him on a different level from a cultural perspective. He's the most prolific dunker in recent memory, and Dwight Howard put on a cape with music. The problem comes when we start to fall for an overreaction to that from a critical perspective.

"He's just dunks."

That's a pretty significant fallacy.

Griffin's leaping ability to collect and put back offensive rebounds is something that cannot be denied. He's a solid passer. His post-game shows glimpses of what is likely to be an incredible array of moves along with the kind of natural touch that you need for a player down low. There's nothing physically wrong with his jumper that isn't correctable, and he's got range to the perimeter, even if he's going to it too much this season.

But it's the drives that will continue to be his bread and butter. He works in the pick and roll, but face-up, you need help to guard him. You just do. You had better bring a few friends. Griffin's explosiveness is largely unheard of, and that's the hidden secret to all those dunks. He's not capitalizing off of blown coverages. He's whipping around, over, through defenders to get to the rim. There will come a point where the hammering Griffin endures will take its toll. It's at that point he'll have to adapt, and whether that loss of explosiveness as he ages changes his game will factor heavily into his legacy.

But you cannot watch games like the two-game tilt for the Clippers against the Thunder and Jazz and not be aware of how he can take a game over. There are only a handful of players like that in the league, and it's that special, immeasurable quantity that really reveals why you have to consider Griffin not just one of the league's best players right now, but a legend in the making.

-------------------------------

Kevin Love can get 30 points and 30 rebounds in a game. He's done it. This should not be overlooked. Being able to produce like Moses Malone is not something you find, even once in a generation. Love's game is a stat-magician's dream. But when you watch him, it's not the numbers that should impress you. It's his ability to make all the right plays.

Love isn't just a perimeter shooter or a guy who nabs the rebound from his own teammate (to be clear, he does a lot of that, too). He's able to measure whether to take the mid-range or drive. When to pass. His outlet pass remains a thing of absolute beauty. His understanding of the floor is something that sets great players apart from their peers. There's a reason Ricky Rubio manages to find Love in huge moments uncovered. It's because Love is crafty enough and able to understand the defense well enough to slip in that possession, catch, and shoot before the defense can react. He's got the range, to be sure. But he's also got the work ethic to improve and the mind to manage basketball. Does this make him among the all-time greats? No, but his rare combination of instincts and efficiency is going to get him there in a hurry.

-------------------------------

And then there's LaMarcus Aldridge.

Neither Love nor Griffin have won a playoff game. They haven't been the man on their teams for a playoff team. They haven't endured the kind of misfortune the Blazers have suffered and navigated their way through it. Aldridge is a poor man's Duncan in a lot of ways. Consistent. Quiet. Rarely emotional, largely unnoticed and brutally efficient.

Aldridge doesn't light you on fire like Love or break you into a million pieces like Griffin. Instead he simply hammers you into submission, with mid-range jumper and post move after post move. It's his curse to have a more refined game, but it's also to his benefit. Maybe neither of the younger guns can fit so easily into a coach's gameplan. Neither is as dependable, and neither know how to confound a defense as well in big moments. They may get there, but to ignore Aldridge's excellence at this point in time is criminal.

-------------------------------

And so it is, that while the debate over the best point guard alive continues (it's Chris Paul by the way; calling Derrick Rose a point guard is like calling an alien from Mars a citizen of Austin, Texas, they're both weird but that doesn't make it the same thing), the West is slammed with power forwards of past greatness and future legacy. But it's important to capture this moment, where we see the signs of both generations merging. Duncan and Dirk riding out the end, with Garnett fading out in the East, as Griffin sets the world aflame with a highlight reel and Kevin Love leaves you shaking your head.

But in the end, it may be Aldridge, underrated, largely forgotten, less dynamic and dominant and more proficient and capable, who goes the furthest this season of all.

-------------------------------

Closing note: You realize this list excludes Pau Gasol (admittedly having a terrible season), glosses over Millsap who would be right there in this conversation if he wasn't sharing touches with 50 other bigs in Utah, and the wide array of superb small forwards in the West? Let's face it, the league is stacked right now.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:30 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Pacers exploring trade and free agency

By Matt Moore 

The Indiana Pacers are coming off of fascinating season. They started off hot as fire, then cratered a bit. Jim O'Brien was fired, and then interim coach Frank Vogel took them to the playoffs, where they had as competitive a five-game series against the Bulls as a five-game series can be. So they're looking to upgrade the team and make a run, right now. They brought in George Hill through trade, and now are looking for more additions. 

The Indianapolis Star mentons a pretty intriguing option through trade: Paul Millsap
The Pacers talked to the Utah Jazz about forward Paul Milsap prior to the draft. Expect them to make a phone call to the Jazz again. The 26-year-old Milsap, a Pacer killer in the past, averaged a career-high 17 points last season.
via Mike Wells: A look at players the Pacers might pursue | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com.

Millsap would make for the power forward the Pacers are looking for in free agency through David West or Nene. If they were to trade Roy Hibbert as part of the package, thiy could sign Nene, then add Millsap making one of the better front courts in the Eastern Conference, along with Danny Granger. The Pacers are clearly looking to enter the conference race right now, instead of waiting to see their young pieces develop. 

The question is, what's the objective? Can the Pacers win a title with Danny Granger as their best player? They've put together an interesting, fast, young team that can defend at one end, hit from the perimeter, and get out in transition. But do they have a team that could get hot and go on an unpredictable run to the title? OK, it wouldn't be unpredictable if we could answer that. But the point is that the Pacers are loading up for what is likely a team whose ceiling is the second round. 

Have to try something, I guess. The Pacers surprised people last season. If they spend wisely, and that's a big if, they could do the same this year with heightened expectations.
Posted on: August 10, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 2:53 am
 

The EOB Elite 100, 51-60: The World Champ Jasons

Posted by Ben Golliver

Rankings by EOB Staff.

jason-kidd-jason-terry 
This is the fifth segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61

As we near the halfway point in our countdown of the top-100 NBA players, we take the opportunity to honor two first-time NBA champions who share a first name, a position (guard) and an age bracket (old). Dallas guards Jason Terry and Jason Kidd were both critical components of the Mavericks' run to the 2011 NBA title, highly-skilled role players who outpaced expectations in the postseason to provide franchise forward Dirk Nowitzki with the help he needed to take down the Miami Heat

For their contributions, Terry and Kidd both find themselves in the 51-60 range, along with two Utah Jazz forwards, two polarizing big-dollar pivotmen and four other players who range from young and immensely talented to nearing their last legs.

Without further ado, let's proceed.

60. Al Jefferson, F, age 26, Utah Jazz

2011 Stats: 18.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 49.6 FG%, 20.20 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 62, 53, 62

The wide-bodied Jefferson stared basketball death in the face twice – first by playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, second by tearing his ACL – and he lived to tell about it, playing in all 82 games for the Utah Jazz last season and returning to his near 20-10 form. Jefferson can’t be mistaken for an all-around player: he’s a liability defensively, is a bit of a black hole and he doesn’t boast much range. But he can fill it up around the hoop, take up space in the paint and secure a solid portion of the boards.

There are a lot of parts in Utah’s frontcourt, especially after the Jazz used the No. 3 overall pick to select Enes Kanter, but the fit is questionable and further roster shake-up is definitely a possibility. Thanks to his big-dollar contract that extends through 2012-2013, though, Jefferson is likely to remain in place through next season as a stabilizing force in the middle surrounded by a roster in flux.

59. Brook Lopez, C, age 23, New Jersey Nets

2011 Stats: 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 49.2 FG%, 19.33 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 55, 67, 55

Talented, promising seven-footers are rare in the NBA, especially those who boast 20 points per game scoring ability, no major injury history and excellent character.  That’s Brook Lopez, and together his skillset and background combination is rarer than a needle in a haystack. The only problem? It’s a big one: Lopez isn’t a particularly productive rebounder and hasn’t proven to be a game-dominating force in the middle. His rebounding and block numbers took a step back in his third season as a pro and the Nets won just 24 games.

On a better team, Lopez would score less, shoot a lot less and be required to do significantly more dirty work. Still, on anybody’s team, he stands as a solid core piece.

58. Jamal Crawford, G, age 31, Atlanta Hawks

2011 Stats: 14.2 points, 3.2 assists, 1.7 rebounds, 42.1 FG%, 14.29 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 62, 57, 55

Arguably the league’s most fun scorer to watch operate, Crawford has every dribble move you could ask for, plus a pretty shooting stroke to boot. He’s fearless and fearsome with the ball in his hands and he gives the impression that he would be happy to play hoops anytime, anywhere. But during his age 30 season, and his first year under new coach Larry Drew, Crawford saw his scoring productivity take a significant step back (from 18.0 points in 2009-2010 to 2010-2011) even though his playing time remained essentially the same.

That wasn’t great news for Crawford, who was in a contract year and is likely approaching the downside of his career. His defense has long been suspect. Crawford would make an excellent role player on a contender that needed some scoring pop off of its bench and it will be quite interesting to track where he lands during free agency.  

57. Thaddeus Young, F, age 23, Philadelphia 76ers

2011 Stats: 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 54.1 FG%, 18.46 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 61, 61, 50

Young probably qualifies as a surprise for being so high on this list. He can thank his potential and his player efficiency rating for that. His overall efficiency is driven in large part by his high shooting percentage and an excellent scoring rate in a reserve role.

Doug Collins leaned heavily on veterans Elton Brand and Andrew Iguodala last season – shocker, I know – but Young was still able to show plenty during his turn through the frontcourt rotation, more than enough to make him a top priority for the Sixers during the free agency period. At 23, and with further development still ahead of him, Young should command a sizable offer. Philadelphia shouldn’t hesitate to match as long as it isn’t totally ludicrous.

56. Ty Lawson, G, age 23, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 11.7 points, 4.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 50.3 FG%, 17.99 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 52, 54, 66

A favorite of the advanced stats community dating back to his time at UNC, Lawson entrenched himself as the starter in Denver, so much so that the Nuggets moved Raymond Felton, a starting caliber point guard himself, to the Portland Trail Blazers for Andre Miller, a veteran who should slide nicely into a big-minute backup role. The key to Lawson’s game is exceptional quickness and speed as well as his excellent shooting touch. That makes up for the fact that he’s often an undersized defender, and his toughness helps too.

His minutes and production should continue to rise next season. On a post-Carmelo Anthony team full of questions and free agents, plus a rotating cast of characters, Lawson is the surest thing.

55. Carlos Boozer, F, age 29, Chicago Bulls

2011 Stats: 17.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 51.0 FG%, 18.90 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 68, 47, 56

In his first season as a Chicago Bull, Boozer continued to be who we thought he would be: a multi-dimensional offensive force who doesn’t play much defense and isn’t quite reliable enough to be the No. 2 guy on a title-winning team. On paper, pairing Boozer with center Joakim Noah, a defense and rebounding specialist with energy for days, makes all the sense in the world. Injuries to both players probably slowed their acclimation together and it’s possible Year 2 for the new-look Bulls will be even more profitable than Year 1, which ended with tons of awards and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The new standard has been set though: beat the Miami Heat. A scapegoat has been established too: Boozer. The four years and 60ish million dollars remaining on his contract make the bulls eye on his back even bigger.

54. David Lee, F, age 28, Golden State Warriors

2011 Stats: 16.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steal, 50.7 FG%, 17.86 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 60, 58, 52

Speaking of highly-paid and polarizing power forwards, Lee was forced to deal with falling short of big expectations last season as well. Signed as a major money free agent by the Warriors in the summer of 2010, Lee was seen as the much-needed inside presence to complement an up-and-coming backcourt combination of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. Lee’s scoring numbers took a hit playing with the pair, who can each fill it up, raising questions about whether Golden State’s core needs a bit more diversity in its skillset.

All (well, most) signs point to the new Warriors ownership getting the franchise moving in the right direction; whether or not Lee is able to get back to his 2009-2010 contract year production levels will be a major factor in determining how quickly Golden State is able to reach its goal of making the playoffs.

53. Jason Terry, G, age 33, Dallas Mavericks

2011 Stats: 15.8 points, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 45.1 FG%, 15.93 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 58, 43, 59

2010-2011 wasn’t Terry’s best season statistically but there is no question that it will be the campaign he remembers most vividly when he looks back on his career when he eventually retires. Quite simply it was a dream. Terry has entered the fourth quarter of his career arc at 33 years old but he remains an excellent shooter and pick-and-roll operator with a penchant for taking and making shots at opportune moments. He has to worked around defensively because he’s undersized for his position and is getting a bit long in the tooth but Dallas found the right mix, allowing him to focus on what he does best: make shots and talk trash. A key emotional leader, Terry’s confidence never wavered in the playoffs and his swagger put an exclamation point on the Mavericks’ team effort in the Finals.

It’s likely all downhill from here for Terry. But who cares? He reached the pinnacle.

52. Paul Millsap, F, age 26, Utah Jazz

2011 Stats: 17.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals, .9 blocks, 53.1 FG%, 19.83 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 54, 53, 53

Thanks to the departures of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in the last 14 months, Millsap has improbably moved into the centerpiece mainstay role for the Jazz, at least until young forward Derrick Favors has another three or four more seasons to develop. In hindsight, Utah was extremely wise to match a toxic offer from the Portland Trail Blazers when Millsap was a restricted free agent during the summer of 2009. His work ethic, energy and consistency are unquestioned, and Millsap provides valuable contributions both inside and outside on offense.

Will he ever reach All-Star status? Probably not, especially because the Western Conference is loaded at his position. How Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin will get production from Millsap and Jefferson, while also developing Favors and Kanter, remains a bit of a mystery. Until the youngins are ready, though, Millsap is more than happy to trot out his hard hat and lunchpail game 82 nights a year.

51. Jason Kidd, G, age 38, Dallas Mavericks

2011 Stats: 7.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 36.1 FG%, 14.46 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 49, 44, 64

As with Terry, the 2010-2011 season was the best of Kidd’s career, even if his production was a far cry from the days in which he put up triple-doubles on the regular. Kidd was a pleasure to watch this season as he did so many vital things so well. He knocked down open jumpers. He exhibited excellent shot selection, almost always preferring the extra pass to a contested shot of his own. He orchestrated the halfcourt offense brilliantly, knowing when it was time to force-feed Dirk Nowitzki and when it was time to swing the ball around the perimeter. He defended larger players well, using his quick hands and excellent instincts to more than make up for his lack of lateral quickness. The list goes on and on but he was about as important as any NBA player has been at the age of 38.

For all of that, he got his first ring. A fitting lifetime achievement award for a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Posted on: July 11, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:23 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Northwest Division

A look at what is at stake for the NBA's Northwest Division if a whole season was lost due to the lockout. Posted by Ben Golliver.

ricky-rubio

Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division, the Atlantic Division, the Central Division and the Southwest Division. Let's continue with the Northwest Division.  

MINNESOTA Timberwolves


The NBA's worst team won just 17 games last year, had the league's seventh-worst home attendance and is generally mentioned at the top of the list of examples that "prove" the NBA's economic system is broken. That's because their local television, ticket and memorabilia revenue simply cannot compete with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the world. Despite all of that, the Timberwolves might very well have more to lose than any other team in the Northwest Division if the league were to miss an entire season.

Let's start with 2009 lottery pick Ricky Rubio, who against all odds took the plunge and decided to finally join up with Minnesota. For multiple seasons, Rubio has represented hope, carrying Timberwolves fans through ugly winters and late-season collapses. The wait was excruciating. The uncertainty about whether he would or wouldn't stay in Europe further into the future made it worse. Now that he's on board, he's been greeted at an airport, introduced to his teammates, sold some jerseys and rallied the collective fan spirit a bit. To lose an entire season would make that interminable wait that much longer. It would also rob Rubio of a valuable development and acclimation year, which would be an absolute disaster. This is a point guard who needs to start on Day 1, entrusted with the full support of his coaching staff and allowed to make mistakes and build chemistry with his teammates while learning on the job. No season means no opportunity to do any of that.

Aside from Rubio, there are financial risks as well. That might be surprising, because the Timberwolves currently are the only team in the NBA that does not have anyone on their books for more than $6.3 million next season, a fairly astonishing accomplishment. Of course, there's a catch: All-Star power forward Kevin Love is on his rookie deal. Indeed, Love is heading into the last pure season of his rookie deal before Minnesota either must issue him a qualifying offer or sign him to an extension. Worse yet, it's possible that Love, one of the league's premier rebounders, will command a mini-max extension or close to it. The point here? He's set to make just $4.6 million next season, a bargain for his production. If the season is lost, the Timberwolves miss out completely on that outstanding value and are one year closer to biting the bullet on extending him without having reaped full benefits. That's tough.

Last but not least, a lost season is the perfect excuse for any franchise to delay tough decisions or to talk themselves into trying to make things work. With an imbalanced roster full of mixed and matched pieces, the Timberwolves, despite their accumulated talent, are going to struggle mightly again next season. The pains of those struggles, theoretically, could be enough to finally convince owner Glen Taylor to pull the plug on president David Kahn, a man who hasn't shown the ability to construct a team and outright wasted two second round draft picks on technical mistakes during the 2011 NBA Draft, by trading a hurt player (Jonny Flynn) and drafting someone who lied about his age (Tanguy Ngombo). A year without games, then, is a year without losses, which means another year for Kahn to preach patience and wiggle out of responsibility for this mess. The sooner Kahn is gone, the sooner this ship turns around. A lost season will make "sooner" feel like never.

OKLAHOMA CITY Thunder

While the Timberwolves need to get headed in the right direction, the Oklahoma City Thunder are already there. With the best designed roster in the league, two young All-Stars, an undisputed Northwest Division title and a Western Conference Finals appearance under their belt already, and a passionate fanbase that is guaranteed to provide 40+ home sellouts next season, the Thunder would happily start the season today. A lost season, then, would be a nightmare.

Name something, anything, and it's at risk for the Thunder. They lose the value of Russell Westbrook playing on a rookie deal. They lose the value of James Harden on a rookie deal. They lose the value of Serge Ibaka on a rookie deal. They lose one year of Kevin Durant's Hall of Fame playing career. They lose another season of playoff experience. They lose a very good chance at making a run at an NBA Finals. They lose a season of having their top eight players (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefalosha, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor) all locked into affordable contracts. They lose the chemistry and momentum that goes with having an entire nucleus together for multiple years.

What's worse: they have nothing to gain from a work stoppage, other than perhaps the money that would come with increased revenue sharing. Without a single bad or untradeable contract on their books, there is no financial reason OKC would root for a year away from the game. In fact, any change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that firms up the cap would make it more difficult for the Thunder to keep all this talent in house. That means they wouldn't get the chance to win now and their ability to win later could be compromised.

Usually, young teams that make a deep run through the playoffs can't wait to get back on the court for a second go-around. Multiply that feeling by about 10 and that's the situation facing OKC. 

PORTLAND Trail Blazers

lockoutYou might think the injury-plagued Trail Blazers would welcome some time off to lick their wounds and assess the damage, but missing an entire NBA season wouldn't necessarily be a good thing for this franchise. Really, it's a muddled picture.

The main benefit is clear: the Blazers have a very difficult cap situation next season, thanks to a mini-max contract for guard Brandon Roy, who is apparently no longer capable of reaching his previous All-Star level of play. Saving the $15 million owed to Roy, as well as the $10.5 million owed to aging center Marcus Camby, would be a tempting proposition for most small-market owners. Money aside, saving the miles on Roy's knees wouldn't hurt either.

Blazers owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, however, has dealt with serious health problems in recent years and is clearly in spend-big, win-now mode. He would cut a check tomorrow for five times his team's total salary cap if it meant a shot at the NBA Finals, no questions asked. It's difficult to imagine a financial enticement that would make it worth Allen's while to take a year off. 

Aside from Roy, the other big question is center Greg Oden. Missing an entire NBA season doesn't play in Oden's favor, as he hasn't taken the court for an NBA game since December 2009. A lost season means his layoff would extend nearly three full years to October 2012. That's a long, long time to be away from basketball. Complicating that further for the Blazers is the fact that Oden is a restricted free agent this summer. The Blazers would retain matching rights on Oden if a season was lost but they would be forced to offer him an extension without being able to see whether he recovers fully to be able to take the court and, more importantly, withstand injury once he's out there. Oden could command a mid-level type of offer on the open market, which would be a major investment for Portland, because the Blazers have already committed to nearly $80 million in salary for next season, with contracts to Roy, forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and guard Wesley Matthews already on the books into the future. Without another center on their roster who is in their long-term plans, though, the Blazers wouldn't have a choice. They'd have to pay up. Given that situation, you want as much information as possible; a lost season would mean no information.

Finally, the Blazers have a big question at the starting point guard position. His name is Raymond Felton, and he was acquired in a draft day trade for previous point guard Andre Miller. Felton is in a contract year and hasn't played meaningful minutes with any of his current teammates, except for a stint in Charlotte with Wallace. Felton will require a good-sized contract extension next summer as well and the Blazers would surely like to see how he gels with their core, particularly Aldridge, before they commit to him long-term. Without any starting quality options on the roster, they would again find themselves stuck in a corner, forced to do what it takes to retain Felton without a readily available back-up plan.

To boil it down: the Blazers have enough questions without a lost season. Missing a full season would simply create an array of complications and made some tough roster decisions that much more difficult and, potentially, costly. 

DENVER Nuggets

Sure, the Denver Nuggets lost franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, but they did an excellent job of stripping their roster down to allow for a quick bounceback rebuilding effort. The Nuggets, somewhat like the Thunder, are in a financial position where their salary cap situation makes it more advantageous for next season to take place unhindered. The Nuggets currently don't have a truly horrible contract on their books, although the mid-level deal for Al Harrington and the $15 million or so left to be paid to Chris Andersen over the next three years are regrettable. Indeed, the Nuggets have committed to less than $40 million in salary for next season, pending a potentially major financial commitment to big man Nene, who has decided to test the free agency waters, and a decision on guard J.R. Smith.

The biggest risks for Denver would be missing out on the value of point guard Ty Lawson on his rookie deal and managing whatever concerns might arise about Denver's ability to use its salary cap flexibility to continue work on its rebuilding situation. Most analysts believe teams with salary cap room will be in a position of strength, regardless of how the new CBA shakes out, so perhaps that uncertainty is more of an annoyance than a true concern. 

The Nuggets have a lot of questions. How will they spend their money? Who will they bring back? Who will they let go? Are the players under contract currently good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference next year or is it better to continue slashing and burning for another season? These are good questions to have because they all point to one fundamental truth: The Nuggets have flexibility thanks to their young, cheap assets. The worst case scenario is that Nuggets fans have to wait a year to watch a promising, athletic upstart group entertain. That's not too bad. 
 
UTAH Jazz

If I'm the Jazz, I'm totally cool with taking a year off. A lost season means that Utah would save $14 million owed to Al Jefferson, $10.9 million owed to Mehmet Okur, $9.3 million owed to Devin Harris and $8.1 million owed to Paul Millsap. While Millsap is probably worth his number, the other three certainly aren't worth theirs, especially on a team that lost its foundational identity when it shipped franchise point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline.

Right now, Utah's finances are pretty tight, with $61.5 million already committed for 2011-2012. Look ahead just one year, though, and that number drops to $48.7 million. To make things even nicer, Jefferson, Harris and Millsap will all be expiring that season. The Jazz will be poised to take advantage of their new-found flexibility, keeping the parts that fit (probably only Millsap) and dispensing with the rest.

The biggest risk in a cancelled season for Utah would be the lost development for younger guys like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and 2011 first-round picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. In Favors, they have a potential franchise forward who needs to start enjoying a loose leash so he can blossom into the player the Jazz expect him to be. Forcing him to take a year off does him no good and, depending on how he responds, could do him some harm. Kanter, meanwhile, looks like an even bigger risk on paper because he was forced to sit out last year at Kentucky, his only year at the college level, due to eligibility issues and because he hasn't yet tasted the NBA game. A lost season would mean two full years away from competitive basketball, not an ideal situation for someone the Jazz selected with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft. As for Hayward and Burks, they are lesser concerns. Both have shown promise and clearly have room for improvement. Losing a year wouldn't be critical, but it would be better for them individually if it could be prevented.

On balance, the financial rewards seem to outweigh the development risks for the Jazz.

Salary numbers courtesy of StoryTeller's Contracts.
Posted on: June 16, 2011 7:38 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 7:46 pm
 

Utah Jazz making Millsap, Harris available?

The Utah Jazz are reportedly making forward Paul Millsap and guard Devin Harris available. Posted by Ben Golliver. derrick-favors

Owners of the No. 3 pick and the No. 12 pick, the Utah Jazz figure to be one of the major movers and shakers in next Thursday's NBA Draft.

Indeed, ESPN.com reports that the Jazz aren't simply looking to deal picks. They could also be open to moving major roster pieces.
Jazz looking for deals. Would be open to discussing Paul Millsap or Devin Harris.
Trading Millsap, Harris or both would be textbook rebuilding trade(s). If the Jazz ship either player out it shouldn't come as a surprise.

In Millsap's case, the Jazz must decide whether forward Derrick Favors, acquired from the New Jersey Nets in a deal involving Deron Williams, is ready to be their franchise forward. Given his talent level and sheer size, he should be sooner rather than later. Once the Jazz determine Favors is ready to be the guy, Millsap, an undersized power forward set to make $8.1 million next year, is a poor fit next to him. They'll either compete with each other for minutes or be forced to play alongside each other in an unconventional frontline. Either way, it's not ideal. It could work for next season, maybe, but eventually the training wheels are going to come off of Favors and someone's going to get their minutes and/or touches crunched.

Harris -- who is on the books for $9.3 million in 2011-2012 -- has been one of the most rumored trade pieces for years now. Perhaps that is because he is a "grass is greener on the other side" point guard for teams unhappy with their own starting one. He has good size, solid athleticism and a good but not great overall skill level. Unfortunately, he always seems to play on losing teams and  doesn't have the talent to right a ship by himself. One other major factor weighing on whether the Jazz keep Harris: they are in position to draft a potential franchise point guard at No. 3, with Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker as two possibilities. Another option: selecting Jimmer Fredette at No. 12. Either way, eventually Harris, and his salary number, is going to stand in the way of a youth movement.  

Building from the ground up requires a hard look at all of the current pieces. Outside of Favors, Gordon Hayward and whoever they draft at No. 3, everyone on the Jazz roster should be expendable. If you're heading towards a youth movement, it's best to go all the way with it. Plus, both Millsap and Harris carry some trade trade value. Shopping them makes all the sense in the world.
Posted on: November 14, 2010 7:35 pm
Edited on: November 14, 2010 8:46 pm
 

10 games in, Heat struggle with identity

Ten games into the Era of the Triad for the Miami Heat, big questions have arisen, even as they show flashes of brilliance.
Posted by Matt Moore






The Heat has played 480 minutes of basketball under the Triad's new era of alleged greatness. And so far? The results have been less than incredible. Miami isn't a bad team. That's important to state right off the bat. It's nearly impossible to be a bad team with the kind of talent they've assembled. But if we're looking at them honestly, game by game, there are significant weaknesses on a team that some thought would compete for 72-10. And they go way further than just "they're getting used to each other."

But to ignore the good is to fall into a very easy trap these days: overreacting to the weaknesses of a team that still has a winning record and has been within range in each of its losses of pulling it out. It's based on an emotional reaction by some to the grandiose approach the Heat gave to announcing their new superteam, most notably Lebron's little television fiasco and the whole "rising from the floor like you're some sort of wrestling superstar" bit. For others? They're simply cashing in on the easy pageviews trashing the Heat garners.

So what have we learned, ten games in? That in terms of X's and O's, this team is superb inside the rotation and weak out (as in great 2-3-4, and weak out, 1 and 5), and mentally they're superb out and weak in.

The Flames On The Floor


Watching the Heat, it's not as if you're left with nothing positive. There's a ton that you look at with this squad and marvel at. Particularly, the fast break with these kinds of athletes. There have been several times in the Heat's first ten games where LeBron James or Dwyane Wade would slip out on the break off the outlet pass, forcing the defense to overreact in abject panic as they sprinted up the floor. As the defense turned concave to guard them from getting in the paint, they gave up the backdoor to the other one sprinting, only realizing what was happening as the alley-oop sailed over their heads. Furthermore, there is not a single team in the league that possesses their kinds of players in isolation. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, man-up? Impossible to guard.

Those elements are why offensively, Synergy Sports has them pegged with shooting 62% in transition, in the top 10 teams in the league in that category, and 42% in isolation, which is in the top half of the league. The latter will almost undoubtedly rise as the season continues and 20% of their games aren't taken up by playing the best isolation defense team in the league in Boston, who constantly sends help.

Then there are the spot-ups. The Heat is the fourth best team in points per possession in spot-ups. You can probably figure out why. With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade driving and kicking to the perimeter, the defense is forced to collapse, and the Heat shooters find themselves wide open. This strategy is brilliant against teams that can't close out and don't have sound defensive principles. But against the good teams in the league, like the four teams the Heat have lost to? It's not working out so well. In wins, the Heat is shooting 45% from the arc. In losses? 31%. That's a huge difference in their games. But this element is greatly impacted by the absence of Mike Miller. Miller will have to be a better shooter than James Jones and Eddie House have been, particularly in the big games. If he's not, James and Wade will have to start taking more shots instead of jump-passing on so many plays that are contested.

But that's an element that's not clearly a disaster. What is a disaster? Their point guard play and interior defense.

Carlos Arroyo is not getting it done. Period. Arroyo is shooting fine, at 49%. His turnover ratio is low, losing the ball on less than 10% of all possessions. But he's averaging 3.3 assists per 40 minutes, 1.8 per game. The only point guard playing 20 minutes a game who's been worse at creating or teammates is... Eddie House. The idea coming into camp and that Erik Spoelstra has turned to is to let LeBron James play point guard. Which seems like a terrific idea, him being the best player in basketball.

But James too often is simply trying to bowl over opponents. Against teams like the Celtics who have the book on him, he's forced either into jump passes that go wild, off-balance leaning layups that carom off front-rim, or charges. He's not creating masterful plays like Magic Johnson. He's just running towards the rim, jumping and then throwing it in a general direction. Playing point means managing the offense, not simply lighting a fuse and hoping the charges blow.

Mario Chalmers is not the answer, that's pretty clear. But it's hard to argue that having a younger, more aggressive point guard would really be a worse option at this point. At least Chalmers will be able to give a full effort versus Arroyo, who seems largely overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Speaking of overwhelmed , how about Chris Bosh? When Bosh was taking calls from teams this summer, there were rumors that he was adamant about not playing center. Those talks simmered after he signed with the Heat, because obviously, he was expected to be the top big man on the team. The problem? This is no longer a big man's league, and even acceptable centers are hard to find. Meanwhile, Bosh looks lost on both sides of the floor. For some reason the Heat isn't using him in pick and roll situations, despite him being perfect for pick and pop scenarios. He's not rebounding, not attacking, and unable to fight like you need your primary big to .

This is nothing new; we knew this about Bosh coming in . But the team is trying to get him to be someone he's not , and in the interim, have no one to take the reins. For whatever reason, the subject of Erik Spoelstra's blame in the Heat's center problems has fallen on Joel Anthony. This despite being no worse than Zydrunas Ilgauskas and more capable of getting up and down the floor. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a pick and pop shooter. That's what he does. And he can do it against teams like the Raptors who don't close out. He cannot do it against teams like the Celtics who do, even with Shaquille O'Neal on the floor.

In wins, the Heat actually does pretty well inside. It's only against teams which challenge them that they struggle. Kevin Garnett, Paul Millsap, Emeka Okafor. These players are getting what they want and it's simply been too easy. Either Joel Anthony or Chris Bosh will have to step up, or the Heat is going to have to find another option at Center.

The Spark

The biggest problem with the Heat, however, has less to do with their ball movement and such. Their defensive numbers have been good, but fallen off against good competition. The problem has been mental. They have lacked the aggression of a team that seeks to go out and dominate. Instead, they seem meek, confused at most times, and uncertain. Their ball movement is tentative, and their offense most times seems most like a group of players trying to convince themselves to make something work they're not really sure of. That will surely improve as they learn the offense more fully. But in the interim, they need fire.

The Celtics smacked the Heat in the face. Twice. Without a home court advantage to speak of , this team of promise is going to have to look inside, to all that anger they talked so much about in regards to the haters. They have to play with passion, with desire, and most importantly, with urgency. When the Hornets came out and blitzed them, they simply went through the motions. When the Jazz stormed back on them, they acted shell-shocked. And when the Celtics blasted them from start to finish, they made their close to finish the game, but lacked the intensity to prevent the gap from being insurmountable, and the drive to finish the job. If the Heat wants to become the team they assembled to be, the team they were promoted to be, the answer is simple. They are going to have to want it more.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com