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Tag:Philadelphia 76ers
Posted on: September 24, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 2:36 pm
 

First up for each team in a post-lockout world

Posted by Royce Young



So the lockout could be ending soon, depending on who you're listening to. Maybe it extends into the season, but if it doesn't and a deal gets settled in the next few weeks, we're going to have one heck of a free agency period. Really, no matter when it's settled, we're going to have one wild free agency period.

(Unless we were to miss all of 2011-12 and you combined this class with next year's group. Now that would be something.)

If you thought the summer of 2010 was a frenzy, try cramming it all into a two-week period. Maybe I'm just thinking of how horrible it'll be for me. Regardless, you can be sure that all 30 teams have a pre-written itinerary on what they want to accomplish once the lockout is lifted. They have been planning, plotting and preparing to target the players they want or finish up a few final transactions on the roster.

But what's the first order of business for everybody? What's the priority, the thing that each team wants to get done right away? Here's a stab at each team's top job.

Atlanta Hawks: It really appears that the Hawks are ready and willing to let Jamal Crawford walk, but there's still a decision to made whether or not they want to compete for him in the free agent market. He was a key part of the team that made a somewhat surprising run to the Eastern Semifinals and re-signing him could be a priority. Problem is, they don't really have the funds for it.

Boston Celtics: What happens with Jeff Green? The Celtics have already tendered him a qualifying offer, but someone surely will extend him an offer sheet. The Celtics have issues at center still and Glen Davis is unrestricted, but figuring out Jeff Green's situation is probably weighing heaviest on Danny Ainge's mind.

Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats made a big splash in the draft, but if that's going to matter, they've got to get Bismack Biyombo on the team. His buyout could still be a major issue and though he says he'll be on the team when training camp starts, that's definitely up in the air.

Chicago Bulls: Wing scorer. Say it with me, wing scorer. Derrick Rose needs help (and an extension) in a big time way and it's up to Gar Foreman and company to find that help. Jamal Crawford maybe? Caron Butler? J.R. Smith if he wasn't in China? Someone has to give Rose a little offensive help and that's the top priority for the Bulls.

Cleveland Cavaliers: First thing? Putting Baron Davis on the scales to make sure he doesn't weigh 300 pounds. After that, there isn't a whole lot to be done in Cleveland. The club's rebuilding around their two lottery picks and you don't want to crowd the roster in a way that stunts their development.

Dallas Mavericks: The defending champs have a whole lot on their plate once the lockout ends. Caron Butler's contract is up. So is J.J. Barea's. So is DeShawn Stevenson's. So is Brian Cardinal's (just kidding -- well it is up, but you know what I mean). But the first order of business for Mark Cuban is to get Tyson Chandler re-signed. Not just that though, but to get him re-signed to a number that makes sense for the make-up of the roster.

Denver Nuggets: Despite the lockout, the Nuggets have kind of been gutted. J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Wilson Chandler are in China until at least March. Danilo Gallinari signed in Italy but has an NBA out. But all of that doesn't matter near as much as getting Nene re-signed. Without Nene, it doesn't matter. With Nene, there's still something worth building around.

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are kind of trying to quietly usher out the old and bring in some new. Tayshaun Prince is a free agent, but I don't think they care. What'll be most interesting is how they handle Rodney Stuckey. The Pistons drafted Brandon Knight in June with Stuckey already their point guard. Do they want Knight to take over? Do they want to play them together? Share the role? Sorting out Stuckey's future is definitely what Joe Dumars has to do first.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors could be players in free agency, but really, it's about deciding once and for all if Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry really are the backcourt tandem of the future for the team. If there's a time to move on, it's now when both of their values are still high. The Warriors flirted with dealing Ellis last season but it didn't happen. They're probably planning on revisiting that.

Houston Rockets: First order of business: Properly sending off Yao with a jersey retirement ceremony. After that, the Rockets are fairly settled, though you know Daryl Morey is just itching to pick up a phone and start transacting once the lockout's over.

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have a number of expiring deals and aren't likely looking to re-sign them (maybe Josh McRoberts, maybe Jeff Foster). Larry Bird has been hunting more pieces to add to his mediocre roster for a while and you can be sure the Pacers are going to target some of the bigger free agent names in this class.

Los Angeles Clippers: Eric Gordon is ready for an extension, but the Clippers better be ready to match any offer DeAndre Jordan gets. You might not think that's a big deal, but forget Chris Kaman. The future of the Clips frontcourt is Blake Griffin and Jordan. You seven-footer from Texas A&M finally started figuring himself out a little last season and he's not far off from becoming a major defensive impact player.

Los Angeles Lakers: Shannon Brown's unrestricted, but he's really not that much of an impact player to be that concerned with. The Lakers might have to focus on how to re-structure the roster to suit a new CBA that could greatly cut into their total salary. Will they have to move Lamar Odom? Metta World Peace? But first things first: Giving Kobe and Mike Brown a proper introduction and letting them figure out the direction of the offense.

Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol. That's it for Memphis. It'd be nice to get Shane Battier back, but it's all about Gasol.

Miami Heat: It's kind of been overlooked, but Pat Riley and the Heat have a busy couple weeks waiting on them. Mike Bibby, Jamaal Magloire, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier and James Jones are all unrestricted and Mario Chalmers is restricted. It's decision time for the Heat. Do they start restocking with veteran talent or look to get younger and develop?

Milwaukee Bucks: That first practice in Milwaukee is something Scott Skiles has probably been thinking about for a while. "Brandon, this is Stephen. Stephen, this is Brandon." The Bucks have some new talent as Stephen Jackson joins Brandon Jennings, but how will they get along?

Minnesota Timberwolves: Here's what David Kahn's to-do list looks like: 1) Hug Ricky. 2) Hug Darko. 3) Overpay a questionable free agent at a position you already have three guys. What it should look like: 1) Convince Kevin Love somehow to sign an extension. 2) Get rid of Michael Beasley and let Derrick Williams have the starting small forward spot all to himself. 3) Tell Rick Adelman to do his thing.

New Jersey Nets: Kris Humphies is an important piece of business but his re-signing goes hand in hand with the larger thing: Proving to Deron Williams that this is a place he wants to re-sign. The Nets have to take advantage right away of showing Williams they're serious about winning. And you do that by getting him some immediate help.

New Orleans Hornets: It's all about David West for the Hornets. Yes, he suffered a major knee injury last season. But he chose to become an unrestricted free agent and a team like the Nets is likely to come calling quickly. Can the Hornets hang on to Chris Paul's buddy?

New York Knicks: The Knicks have a little bit coming off the books but really they need to try and resist the urge to do something drastic in this free agency period. Which they will because of the big names coming up in 2012. Still, they want to field a solid team for this season -- and Mike D'Antoni needs them too -- so adding a quality veteran to help on the inside would be good.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The young Thunder roster is pretty much entirely set up. But Sam Presti has something to do right away once the lockout ends -- get Russell Westbrook his extension. Presti brought Kevin Durant his at midnight last July to make sure there was no doubt about locking up his superstar. Presti better be stalking Westbrook's house on the whim he lockout ends so he can extend the same treatment to his other star.

Orlando Magic: First order of business for Otis Smith and the Magic? Resume begging Dwight Howard to stay. One way to show it would be to get him some help, but Smith sort of laid those cards on the table last year in the Gilbert Arenas/Hedo Turkoglu trade. So it's back to convincing Howard there's a plan for the future and that it'll get better.

Philadelphia 76ers: Someone is ready and willing to give Thaddeus Young a serious offer, so the Sixers better be ready to match anything and everything.

Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash's trade value will be highest at the beginning of the season, so it's up to Lance Blanks and Robert Sarver to figure out if they're ready to move on. Aaron Brooks is a restricted free agent so if the Suns lock him up by matching an offer sheet, that'll be an indication that the Suns are preparing for life without Nash.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers are in love with Nicolas Batum, so extending him could be the first order of business, but really, the Blazers need to find a new general manager first. And whoever that guy is needs to decide that if for the off chance someone gives Greg Oden an offer, if he's willing to match. Oden already has an $8.8 qualifying offer, which is huge, so once Oden signs that, he'll likely be signing with the Blazers for another year.

Sacramento Kings: The Jimmer-Tyreke backcourt is going to be an interesting experiment, but Marcus Thornton is quietly one of the more intriguing free agents out there. The Bulls are likely looking at him long and hard right now. He's restricted, so the Kings could keep him, but the question is, with Tyreke moving off the ball for good and Jimmer handling the point, is it worth paying Thornton to just have him come off the bench?

San Antonio Spurs: Um, I guess just resume the typical day-to-day of the Spurs. Gregg Popovich is the longest tenured coach with a team and R.C. Buford probably isn't looking to go do anything drastic in this market. The Spurs are definitely aging, but there's not a lot to be done about that right now.

Toronto Raptors: Assuming the Raptors actually have Jonas Valanciunas for next season, Dwane Casey and company have to figure out if he's ready to cover for Andrea Bargnani on the inside. Can those two really play together and handle enough rebounding and defensive duties? The Raptors are in a place where they have to wait and see with some young players and aren't likely targeting any big names in the open market.

Utah Jazz: Most likely, Andrei Kirilenko won't be re-signing with the Jazz. So Kevin O'Connor will have to make a choice when the lockout's over: Does he try and restock a roster that can maybe squeak out the eight-seed, or does he commit to rebuilding around Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and others and just let them play it out? The Jazz would love to get some wing scoring help, so O'Connor will probably at least look that direction, but we'll have to see how serious he is.

Washington Wizards: It's not an earth-shattering decision, but Nick Young is a restricted free agent. And with his scoring ability, someone is ready to pay him. Do the Wizards want to keep him? Do they want to look elsewhere and maybe target say, Marcus Thornton? Or do they just let Young walk and see what Jordan Crawford's got?
Posted on: September 19, 2011 9:19 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2011 7:35 pm
 

Sixers sold after owners lost 'a lot' of money

Posted by Ben Golliverlockout

Getting rich people to brag about their investment wins? Not all that hard. Getting rich people to talk about their big losses? Significantly more difficult. 

That's what's made the back-and-forth concerning the NBA's overall financial landscape so confusing. The players have pointed to hard numbers showing record revenues while the owners have made vague, sometimes disputed, references to their losses and refused to open their books for an independent inspection by the media.

One team long assumed to be struggling financially was the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers were a bottom-6 team in home attendance last season, haven't advanced out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs since 2002-2003, have finished above .500 once in the last eight seasons and haven't had a true star or box office draw since Allen Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 2006.

Earlier this summer, Comcast-Spectacor, the Sixers ownership group, agreed to sell the team to a group headed by Joshua Harris, a co-founder of Apollo Global Management, an investment firm. Ed Snider, Comcast-Spectacor's chairman, explained why in an interview with the Associated Press.
"It was mostly economics," Snider said of the decision.

Losing money?

"A lot," Snider said, declining specifics. "We felt that we had given it our best shot and it was time for someone else to take over."
Snider's company still owns the Wells Fargo Arena, where the Sixers play, and the National Hockey League's Flyers, who are also a tenant. Peter Luukko, Comcast-Spectacor's COO, was quoted by the Associated Press explaining the new situation.
Comcast-Spectacor COO Peter Luukko said the Sixers were on the market because the sports and entertainment company decided to reallocate its capital and focus on expanding its facility management, food services, and ticketing subsidiary endeavors.

"It's not like teams are big moneymakers these days," Luukko said. "At the end of the day, it's not like we're losing the team because we still have the team on a long-term lease. It's the best of both worlds. It gives somebody an opportunity to be an owner and put their stamp on the team. For us, we'd love to have them as a tenant."

The NBA has claimed throughout the lockout that its financial model is broken. Snider's frank comments and the circumstances surrounding the franchise -- the arena and the NFL team -- seem to reinforce that point.

It's one thing for current owners to cry poor but continue to operate in the so-called broken financial model. It's another for an owner to explain his departure by bluntly saying he was taking too big of a hit, while his company continues to operate in other related industries.
Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Realigning the NBA

Posted by Royce Young



Conference realignment has sort of taken over the world the past few weeks. Texas A&M pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the Big 12 by bolting for the SEC and because of it, a whole new chain of events have tipped over. The landscape of college football could look a whole lot different in a few months. Or in a few weeks. Or even tomorrow.

But you know what else could use a little realigning? The NBA's divisions. They're kind of a mess. It's not going to be as a result of some $300 million network, recruiting ties or competitive advantages. Nope. For the NBA, it's more just about common sense. Geographically, the divisions are kind of a mess. In 2011 that's not as huge a deal as it was in 1981 because travel is much easier. You can go from Portland to Oklahoma City in just a few hours.

However, chartered travel is experience. Fuel is very pricey. And with the NBA and teams supposedly losing so much money, why not exhaust every option to cut costs and realign the divisions so they make a lot more sense? Why not group teams together that are hundreds, not thousands, of miles apart?

Plus, it just makes a lot more sense to have structured regions. Grouping teams together based on geography does more to forge rivalries, gives fans a chance to commute between games if the want to and gives the players less travel and more days of rest. All good, right?

So if you're going to spend all this time restructuring a new collective bargaining agreement, why not fix the divisions too? Here's how they should look:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

SOUTHWEST
Dallas
San Antonio
Houston
Phoenix
Oklahoma City

The NBA's new Southwest division is the American League East, the SEC West, of the league. It's a group of five teams that are all pretty good. Things change though and in 15 years, this could be the weakest division in the league. But for now, it'd be pretty good.

And it just makes sense. Dallas and Oklahoma City are about three hours via car away from each other. San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are in the same state. And OKC and the Texas teams and Phoenix just have one state separating them, which is a whole lot better than five.

MIDWEST
Memphis
Minnesota
Denver
Utah
Milwaukee

Clearly the division that needed the biggest overhaul is the Northwest, mainly because of the Sonics transformation into the Oklahoma City Thunder. When the team was in Seattle, the division made a lot more sense. Now it doesn't. That's why a midwestern division with makes a lot more sense.

That creates somewhat of a problem in the Northwest though. There's not a great fit. So for the sake of the argument, the Northwest has to make the Big 12 and peace out. No more Northwest, but instead the new Midwest.

The new Midwest is still a bit spread out, but all the teams are at least located somewhat centrally in the country. A trip from Utah to Milwaukee won't be quick, but the Jazz, Nuggets and Timerwolves have been oddballs in the Northwest. It's not an ideal division with teams right next door to each other, but it makes a lot more sense than the current setup.

PACIFIC
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
Sacramento
Golden State
Portland

Moving Phoenix away from the Lakers is a bummer, because those two teams are historical rivals that have always competed in the same division. But if A&M and Texas can separate, I think we can live with the Suns and Lakers moving apart.

The Pacific now features five teams that are actually next to the Pacific Ocean, which seems like it should count for something. Plus having the Blazers and Lakers together makes up for separating the Suns and Lakers.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL
Chicago
Detroit
Indiana
Cleveland
Toronto

Really, the new Central was the inspiration for this. Why aren't the Raptors in this division? Look at how close those teams are to each other. I think you could almost ride your bike between arenas. The old Central was really good too -- maybe better -- but the Bucks have to move. So it's the Raptors who replace them and the solid geographic setup remains.

ATLANTIC
Boston
New York
Philadelphia
Washington
New Jersey

Nothing too radical here. Five cities that you can transport between using a train. Old rivalries are preserved and the Wizards are added, which frankly, makes a lot of sense.

SOUTHEAST
Miami
Orlando
Atlanta
Charlotte
New Orleans

Two teams would swap conferences with the Bucks moving back to the West and the Hornets heading to the East. Not that this would upset the competitive balance of the league or anything, but it just makes a lot more sense for the Hornets to be placed in a division with Orlando, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami.

And let me add this: If college football has no issue tossing tradition and historical rivalries out the window, why not just eliminate conferences all together? It would be a radical move, but what's the point of the East and West, other than just that's the structure of the playoffs? If it were one unified "super" conference, that would finally solve the issues of a 50-win Western team missing the postseason while a 37-win Eastern team slips into the eight-seed.

You could even just build the league into three 10-team divisions. Combine the Southwest and the Pacific, the Midwest and the Central, and the Atlantic and the Southeast. There are your super-divisions. Now you can keep teams playing more in their division than anything else and cut down on long road trips. It would make a West coast road trip for the Mavericks a whole heck of a lot more interesting.

Basically, we'd be looking at a league with three sub-conferences and once the playoffs started, seeding would just be based from that. Almost like the NCAA tournament, you could set two regions and seed from there. Head-to-head tiebreakers, division records and all that stuff would separate any identical records. Just an idea while we're brainstorming, you know?

(Note: I don't really love that idea, quite honestly. But I was just throwing it out there. One of those things that probably makes sense, but wouldn't ever happen. Much like Bill Simmons' terrific "Entertaining As Hell Tournament." Really, a unified conference makes it easier to implicate the tournament too.)

Let's face it: The West has kind of sort of dominated the past decade. Sports operate in cycles, but if there's a way to prevent that, should we? The West compiled a record of 2,257-1,643 against the East from 1999-2008 and over the last 13 seasons has represented 10 champions. That's pretty dominant. That'll change eventually, but what really is the point of the conferences, other than the standard, "that's just the way it's always been done" answer? 

All that is after the fact though: Divisional realignment is the start. Fixing the structure of the postseason would be the ideal next step. It's kind of like a plus-one for college football. Maybe a pipe dream, but something that's really in the best interest of the game. But if anything's to be done, it's to realign the divisions so they at least make a little more sense. Preserve rivalires, start new ones, save money, cut down on travel and hopefully, help the league grow a little bit more.

Picture via Jockpost
Posted on: August 31, 2011 11:43 am
 

Thaddeus Young in talks with China

By Matt Moore

First Wilson Chandler headed for the East. Now Thaddeus Young's agent has also said he's in talks with a Chinese CBA team.From HoopsHype.com:
“I have been contacted by multiple teams in China expressing very serious interest in having Thaddeus Young play in their league this season,” Tanner said. “I have discussed this with Thad and he is intrigued by the possibility of playing in China if the lockout continues and has asked me to further explore these opportunities. At this point, our conversations with the teams have been preliminary but we are continuing to talk and to do our due diligence on each option.”
via HoopsHype.com NBA Blogs - Jorge Sierra » Young receiving interest from China.

The same concerns exist with Young signing with the CBA as with Chandler. The CBA adopted a rule earlier this month to bar teams from signing NBA players under contract with an opt-out clause, not wanting to become a temp job for locked-out players (which makes no sense for them, but whatever). 

There's still the possibility that Chandler and Young, if he signs, could return if the lockout is resolved simply by the Chinese team releasing them in an under-the-table agreement. But if Young signs and stays, it means another major free agent off the board. Young really came into his own last season as he started to play bigger inside and became more versatile for Philadelphia. But with Philly still having Elton Brand on roster, and with the logjam at the 2/3 with Iguodala and Evan Turner, this wouldn't harm them considerably. 

The bigger question is if the NBA meeting Wednesday goes badly, if enough free agents will be compelled to sign with China, abandoning hope for the 2011-2012 season to be played.  
Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 12:40 pm
 

Charles Barkley will not appear in NBA 2K12

Posted by Ben Gollivercharles-barkley-jump-rope

In a curious turn for one of basketball's most beloved personalities and all-time greats, Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley will not appear in the upcoming NBA 2K12 video game. NBA 2K12 will feature 15 NBA legends, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Barkley's former teammate with the Philadelphia 76ers, Julius Erving.

Kotaku.com reports that game maker 2K Sports negotiated with Barkley about appearing in the game but that a deal was not able to be reached.
"There's no doubt in our minds that Charles is and should always be a key part of the conversation as it relates to who are the NBA's Greatest players of all time," a 2K Sports spokesperson told Kotaku. "We have a very positive relationship with Sir Charles and while we were unable to include him in-game this year for a variety of reasons, we share everyone's hope that he may one day appear in our game."
But why?

Initial statements from 2K Sports said that Barkley's absence was a creative decision, albeit a difficult one. But the fact the game went forward, and was promoted, with Barkley's rookie year team without him—in a game that prides itself on accuracy—suggested otherwise.

Why Barkley couldn't fit in may be due to money, what billing he receives in the game, or a combination of both.
Of the possible explanations presented, money makes the most sense, by far.

Barkley has a healthy ego, but he's not delusional. It's dfficult to imagine he would play the, "Put me on the cover of this game with Jordan, Bird and Magic or I'm not doing it" card. And disputes over the licensing of NBA players are nothing new; Jordan himself has been involved in them for at least a decade, if not longer, and reportedly did not appear in any games from 2004 until last year's NBA 2K11 for licensing reasons.

That Barkley is the only obvious legend missing -- indeed, we called his early-1990s Suns teams the game's biggest snub last week -- is pretty disappointing. Not only are the Suns compromised, but the 1985 76ers, with Erving leading the way, will be lacking the younger, more ferocious Barkley. Weak.

Barkley's "round mound of rebound" game and oversized personality are what video game dreams are made of. A natural born populist, it's not often that Barkley finds himself cast in the role as the guy who let everyone down. Who knows? Maybe he will find a roundabout way to blame this on Kenny Smith.
Posted on: August 17, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:57 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 21-30: Celtics trio

Posted by Ben Golliver

Rankings by EOB Staff.

rondo-pierce-garnett

This is the seventh 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 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31

Asking Boston Celtics fans and observers to rank the team's players top-to-bottom is a bit like asking a mother to rank her children. With Rajon Rondo ascending and the Big 3 maintaining, simply ranking the team's four All-Stars is a task in and of itself. That job takes on an added degree of difficulty when they face off against their competition around the league.

Three Celtics All-Stars -- Rondo and forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- made our top-30, but none made our top-20, a decision that speaks to the team's balance at the top but also the role that age has played in recent years. Once a perennial top-10 selection, Garnett has slipped a notch, although he still leads the way for the Celtics on this list. 

Without further ado, let's dig in.

30. Andre Iguodala, F, age 27, Philadelphia 76ers

2011 Stats: 14.1 points, 6.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 44.5 FG%, 17.30 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 27, 36, 36

After playing all but six games in his first six NBA seasons, injuries marred Iguodala’s 2010-2011 campaign, keeping him out of 15 games and limiting his minutes per game to the fewest he’s played since his rookie year. As a result, his numbers took a predictable hit pretty much across the board.  Iguodala’s reputation as a two-way player is well-earned; his size, strength, quickness and instincts are an exceedingly rare combination.

Persistent trade rumors swirled throughout the season, too, owing to Iguodala’s long-term, eight figure per year contract and his tweener franchise guy status: he’s paid to be “the man” but not quite transformative enough to pull it off. Until he is moved to a contender with an established top dog, Iguodala will continue to impress outsiders and let down those who expect him to deliver a team to playoff success.

29. Joakim Noah, C, age 26, Chicago Bulls

2011 Stats: 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 52.5 FG%, 18.83 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 33, 32, 30

Perhaps Noah gets a friendly bump up in these rankings by virtue of playing in the vicinity of the Derrick Rose superstar glow, but he has done plenty to carve out a strong reputation for himself. It starts with doing the things most NBA players don’t like to do: crash the boards relentlessly on both ends, cover ground (while talking) on defense, hit the floor for loose balls, make the extra big-to-big pass and exercise restraint when it comes to shot selection.

Given his age, Noah should be a perennial double-double guy for the next 3-5 seasons. That, plus more than a block and a steal per game and 50+ percent shooting is excellent production from the center position.  

28. Tony Parker, G, age 29, San Antonio Spurs

2011 Stats: 17.5 points, 6.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 51.9 FG%, 20.44 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 26, 31, 30

San Antonio’s early playoff exit might have caused you to forget that the Spurs were the league’s second most efficient offense during the regular season. Parker’s well-rounded game – basketball intelligence, shooting, decision-making, pick-and-roll skills, drive-and-kick skills, open court skills – served as the engine in that machine. The elite newer-age point guards boast size/strength combinations that Parker can’t match, but he currently inhabits a pleasant nexus between “savvy veteran” and “not yet tailing off physically”, so he gives as good as he gets against just about anyone at his position.

The Spurs will never be able to replace Tim Duncan, but they were wise to ride with Parker into the foreseeable future.

27. Paul Pierce, F, age 33, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 49.7 FG%, 19.76 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 38, 23, 22

The passing of the Eastern Conference torch from Boston to Miami went down in particularly cruel fashion, with Heat forward LeBron James unleashing a whirlwind to usher the Celtics into the past. Not being athletic enough to keep up with Miami is no real sin, though, as that label applies to 99 percent of the league. Pierce is slower, more ground-bound, less decisive and less explosive than James, but he’s still an elite producer at his position, upping his numbers in most categories last season. He can score in a variety of ways, shoots with range, gets to the line and cashes in his free throw opportunities, and is a hard-working defender.

With three years left on his contract, it’s certainly possible the Captain becomes a burden on the books. For now, he’s steady and solid as always, the same All-Star with the track record for winning, even if his team has finally been overtaken.

26. Nene Hilario, C, age 28, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 14.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.1 steals, 61.5%, 20.49 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 27, 29, 23

Arguably the biggest prize in this year’s free agent crop, Nene has gotten overlooked to a degree in a crowded Denver frontcourt that always took a backseat to whatever Carmelo Anthony was doing. Now that Anthony is in the Big Apple, Nene’s uber-efficient scoring around the rim, high-energy play and overall athleticism look even better, especially if one considers what will be left of the Nuggets should he decide to find a new home.

25. Andrew Bynum, C, age 23, Los Angeles Lakers

2011 Stats: 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.4 assists, 57.4 FG%, 21.14 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 28, 22, 28

Nobody in the NBA causes more people to slap their foreheads than Bynum: he’s yet to approach his potential on the court, has a lengthy injury history and has repeatedly resorted to some of the dirtiest play seen anywhere in the modern NBA. For all his faults and immaturity, he has shown the ability to be the best center in the NBA not named Dwight Howard by simply overpowering defenders and playing over the top of them, finishing at the rim with an emphatic dunk or a soft touch. He doesn’t have ideal mobility but he is still a legit paint presence defensively, even able to control games at times. The progress he’s made in expanding his offensive repertoire gives hope for the future, as does his expressed desire to carry more of the load.

Bynum will likely see his ceiling stunted a bit by the final chapter of Kobe Bryant’s career, but that shouldn’t prevent him from being a perennial All-Star and top-10 player eventually. Only the injuries offer a legitimate roadblock to greatness.

24. Al Horford, C, age 25, Atlanta Hawks

2011 Stats: 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, .8 steals, 55.7%, 20.79 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 24, 24, 29

Horford is an interesting contrast with Bynum, in that he seems to have figured life out and come to terms with what he will be as an NBA player. An excellent defender whose offensive production doesn’t get enough run, Horford should be the centerpiece for the Hawks for years to come. He’s managed to improve his scoring numbers during all four seasons in the NBA while keeping his rebounding numbers near the magical double-digit mark. Horford is smart, consistent, has a winning mindset and provides zero distractions off the court. He can pass too.

At 25, he’s probably getting pretty close to his peak productivity and isn’t – and may never be -- a game-changing No. 1 option on offense.  Still, he provides stability and plenty to work around even if he is never able to carry the team out of the massive shadow cast by Joe Johnson’s contract.

23. Chris Bosh, F, age 27, Miami Heat

2011 Stats: 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 49.6 FG%, 19.44 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 19, 25, 28

The planet Earth sure learned a lot about Bosh this season. Indeed, he probably faced a greater increase in scrutiny than any other NBA player, when he bounced out of Toronto to team up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in South Beach. Bosh’s game is predicated on outside/inside offensive versatility. He is equally able to knock down a jumper, get to the free throw line, finish a play above the rim and create a bit off the bounce. He’s more sinewy than beefy and that’s earned him plenty of criticism because he doesn’t hold the paint on defense and lacks a true nose for rebounding and dirty work.

Bosh wore goofy outfits, was rightfully cast as a third wheel, got tattooed, got married, and broke down crying in his first year with the Heat. Who knows what the sequel holds?

22. Rajon Rondo, G, age 25, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 10.6 points, 11.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 47.5 FG%, 17.11 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 19, 21, 25

Rondo may very well be the most magical point guard since Magic Johnson, his knack for fitting passes into tight spaces is uncanny and his vision is peerless. At his best, he conducts games rather than simply playing in them, weaving together his teammates in such a way that open shots result. His eye-popping wingspan is matched only by his gambler’s instinct, making Rondo an excellent on-ball and off-ball defender. Of course there’s the whole business about his shooting, which remains troublesome and limiting, but he compensates with a warrior’s spirit and a full understanding of his own limitations. He is the future.

21. Kevin Garnett, F, age 35, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, 52.8 FG%, 20.67

Composite rankings (random order): 23, 21, 21

Over the past two years, a crop of younger power forwards have surpassed Garnett, whose prep-to-pros jump and heavy minutes as a franchise guy earlier in his career have taken their toll. His body doesn’t allow 82 nights of top-shelf performance a season -- it would be next to impossible to manage that at 35 -- but he’s still the most feared and hated player in the NBA. His length and understanding of positioning create endless problems for his opponents and his basketball intelligence and leadership making the game easier for his teammates. His trusty jumper has kept him an offensive force and he can be paired with all sorts of lineups – big and small – thanks to his face-up game, passing skills and mobility. While Garnett is no longer a player capable of carrying a team to a title, he’s still the last guy you want to play against.

Posted on: August 15, 2011 11:17 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 11:19 pm
 

Ex-Sixer Todd MacCulloch in pinball championships

Posted by Ben Golliver

todd-macculloch-pinball

As an NBA player, Todd MacCulloch's high score was 29 points. In his new line of "work" that number is surely considerably higher. Somewhere in the millions, probably.

MacCulloch, a Canadian who played four seasons at center for the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets, has taken up professional pinball in the years since his retirement from the NBA. 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that MacCulloch is one of more than 400 participants competing for the World Pinball Championships title near Pittsburgh this week.
When standing over a pinball machine, Todd MacCulloch, who is 7 feet tall, cuts a striking figure. As he approached the 10 machines in the B division bank Wednesday afternoon, several of his fellow competitors did double-takes.

Mr. MacCulloch, 35, retired from the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association eight years ago for medical reasons and resettled in Bainbridge Island, Wash. He's now a full-time father to his two children and a part-time competitor on the professional pinball circuit.

"I always loved pinball growing up," he said as he sat near the front entrance, collecting nods and greetings from competitors he has encountered on the circuit before. "Now that I can't compete [in the NBA], pinball has filled that void of camaraderie."

According to his PinballRankings.com profile, MacCulloch is currently the No. 193 player in the world and has already competed in at least five tournaments this year. 

MacCulloch averaged 6.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in his four-year NBA career, which ended in 2002-2003.

Basketball-Reference.com reports that MacCulloch netted more than $27 million in NBA earnings. A recent Washington Post story noted that his pinball earnings, as of December 2008, totaled $700.

Tilt!

Image credit: Getty Images via The Dagger.
Posted on: August 13, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Legend vs. Star: Moses Malone vs. Dwight Howard



By Matt Moore

We live in an immediate society. The internet, social media, the ever-accelerating news cycle, everything means that the next 30 seconds is 10 times more important than the last 30 seconds regardless of what actually happened in the past 30 seconds. As a result, we lose perspective on what stands truly relevant from the past. The NBA is no exception. So in an attempt to merge the two worlds (since, as a blog, we love/hate/want to be BFFs within the next 30 seconds), we'll be bringing you a look at players past and present, in relation to one another. 

Previously: Isiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul | Larry Bird vs. Dirk Nowitzki | Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant

Next up: Moses Malone vs. Dwight Howard

****************************

In the history of MVPs in the NBA, Moses Malone gets lost most often. He entered the ABA at 19, and it took him some time to find his place after the merger. Then he detonated in his second year in Houston, and became an MVP force year in and year out. But just as he should have been really making his name for himself, Magic and Bird emerged. So now you've got Moses, notoriously not eloquent and  whose game was neither pretty nor flashy, trying to compete with two of the greatest college players of all time, entering the league. The result? The 80s are defined by Bird, Magic, and their rivalry, and Moses is overlooked. This despite Moses being a three-time MVP. Three times, the man won the MVP and there were a few more seasons when he would have been the appropriate choice.

Numbers don't tell the whole story, but in Moses' case, they're worth talking about. How about his first MVP season, 1978-1979, when he averaged 24.8 points and 17.6 rebounds in 41.3 minutes. Talk about carrying the load. Yet he only had a 23 percent usage rate that season. For comparison's sake, Derrick Rose had a 32.2 percent usage rate this past season. Malone shot 54 percent from the field that season (while taking only 16 shots a game) and 74 percent from the foul line. That's a crazy season. And it was only his fourth-highest scoring season. In 1981-1982, which was arguably his best statistical season, he scored 31.1 points per game, an unbelievable amount, and grabbed 14.7 boards per game, while shooting 52 percent. He made up nearly the entirety of that Rockets team. And yet, the lost in the first round.

But Moses is not one of the sad stories of players who were excellent then forgotten without rings. He was traded in 1982 to Philadelphia, joining Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks, and Andrew Toney in a championship run to help validate Doc's career. On a team with that much firepower, Moses averaged 24.5 points and 15.3 rebounds along with a steal and two blocks per game. In short, it was a magnificent season that netted him NBA Finals MVP honors as the Sixers swept the Los Angeles Lakers. Yeah, league rarely trumpets the feat in its eternal quest to promote the Lakers, but Magic and Kareem were swept in the Finals.

But those are only numbers. The truth is that Moses was lord of the blue-collar rebounding machines. Most of his work was done on the offensive glass. If Dennis Rodman is the best offensive rebounder of all time, Moses is not far behind. Of the top 10 seasons in offensive rebounding percentage, Rodman holds the first and third best, along with three of the top ten. Moses owns four. A good comparison for his work to modern day might actually be Zach Randolph. Moses had that same level of touch, the ability to lift the ball up through contact and ease it off the glass. The ball seemed trapped in a vortex swirling it down into the bucket when Moses layed it up. As important as Moses' size, strength, and work ethic were to his success, that level of touch that he mastered was equally important, and what sets him apart from so many big men offensively, including Dwight Howard.



That Moses has never had a book written about him is not unexpected, but no less a disappointment. In this age of raw big men wondering what it is people expect from them, Malone stands as the emblem everyone wants. He wasn't the tallest, or the most versatile. He simply dominated in every way imaginable and wasn't worried about his global brand, either.

And then, there's Dwight Howard.

The difference between the two can be seen in any number of ways, but maybe their approach on and off the court is the place to start. Howard is amazingly gifted public figure. He's drawn to the camera like a moth to flame. His commercial appeal is as wide as his shoulders. He takes to the media constantly to talk about what he feels are his team's strengths and weaknesses, does impressions of his coach, and is generally seen as a big kid. He's friendly, loveable, has a good clean Christian image, and mostly fun-loving. He's the anti-Moses in most ways.

And on the floor, Howard's a different beast as well. Howard is likely the better defensive player, his defensive ratings cast a glimpse at that. Furthermore, Howard's superior athleticism gave him a different impact in terms of physically dominating his opponents. And in terms of overall impact, no player in the league at this moment impacts the defensive end of the floor the way Howard does. That was his biggest stake to the MVP thise season, even if it was ultimately futile. Howard made the most impact when you factor both sides of the floor.

Howard made his first Finals when he was 24, Moses when he was 25. Howard has been a part of a contending team that hasn't been able to get over the top, just like Moses' Houston teams. We'll try and spare Magic fans from expanding on this comparison to avoid the implication that he has to move on to win a championship. Howard has been a prominent face of the league for the past three seasons. Whether that's due to his dunk contest participation, the increase of media exposure, or his superior play is hard to determine. But examining the impact both in terms of wins and statistically, it's difficult to put Howard on the same level.

This past season was Howard's best season, from most accounts. From my perspective, the only real difference in Howard's game was an increase in usage. Howard's field goal percentage actually dropped this past season, which can be a career-high in usage. But if his game had improved that much, wouldn't his field goal percentage at least have been equal to the previous year, which actually was his best season? Howard's impact at both ends of the floor was largely the same, outside of adding a mid-range jumper, which is like putting a surfer decal on a mack truck.

Howard's best season saw him put up 21.9 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the floor (better than Moses' best overall season, we should note), with 27 percent usage. The numbers don't match up well with Moses, but there's still time. The biggest difference is touch. Assuming Howard is slightly better overall defensively, there is a gaping chasm when compared Malone on offense. That touch we discussed earlier? That's the biggest missing component. Howard shot 59 percent from the field last season, and yet you're still left wondering how much higher that would be if he had the ability to lay the ball in like Malone did. Or if he had Malone's footwork. Or versatility. But perhaps those are unfair comparisons. After all, the facts are that at 25, Howard shot better than Malone from the field. And Howard and Malone both had usage rates of 27 percent at this point in their career. So if that's the case, where's the big gap between them offensively?

You know where: The stripe.

Howard is either incapable or unwilling to raise his free throw percentage to an even decent level. The result is that Howard shot 112 more free throws in his seventh season than Moses did, and made 63 fewer. It will continue to be a thorn in Howard's offensive side until he can convince opponents that fouling him is not a viable strategy. Maybe Howard is just waiting for the fans to cheer loud enough for the ball to go in. (HT: Twitter.)

The surprise there is that Howard was a better rebounder at this point in his career than Moses was. Howard collected 21.8 percent of all rebounds last season compared to Moses' 20.3. So while Moses had a higher rebounding total, the advanced stats will tell you that Howard actually collected them at a better rate.

Still, Moses is, as expected, better overall. But maybe that was because of where Moses grew to be after this point in his career Howard is at. And that has to excite Magic fans and NBA fans alike. If Howard can improve in a few areas, work on some footwork, and keep rebounding at his current pace, he's got a shot at equaling Malone statistically in a few areas. That of course will not make up for the ring, but it might help get him there. One interesting difference, while Howard was a better overall rebounder than Malone was at this point in their careers, Malone was better at offensive rebounding by a considerable margin, 16 percent offensive rebound rate for Malone vs. 12 percent for Howard. Imagine if Howard improved in two key areas, offensive rebounding, where he's already a beast, and free throw percentage? 

Howard would be a tall, athletic freak able to create multiple opportunities for himself and create more points when sent to the line. That might be enough to make up the gap in offensive production, even if he never learns a great set of post moves from Olajuwon, improves his footwork, or gets a killer fadeaway. In short, there are ways Howard can surpass Malone without ever improving his touch.

The future's wide open for Dwight Howard. He's on the cusp. Whether he gets there is up to him. One thing's for sure. If he does, there will be more said about it than there was about Moses, and that's a crime.  

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com