Tag:Matt Moore
Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:35 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 9:35 am
 

New 'league' forming at Impact in Las Vegas

By Matt Moore

Since the lockout began, there have been discussions of the question, "Why don't the players just form their own league?" After all, the players' belief is that they are  the league, so why not just start your own, make some money off of it, and force the owners off their hardened fortress wall? We've seen organized exhibitions, or at least "organized" exhibitions like "Capital Punishment" featuring Drew League vs. Goodman League last Saturday, but nothing beyond that. However, Impact Basketball in Las Vegas may be taking things to the next level. 

From HoopsWorld:  
Impact Basketball, one of the premier basketball training sites in the world, will launch their own league in the coming weeks. Unlike this summer's popular pro-am leagues that featured a few NBA players on each roster, the teams competing in Impact's league will be made up solely of professionals. Nearly 70 NBA players will compete in the league and plenty of stars will participate.
via NBA AM: New League in Las Vegas - Basketball News & NBA Rumors -.

And this is more than just a claim, HoopsWorld sources Suns forward Jared Dudley as talking about it on the record. There are discussions of streaming the games online and the goal is to make it an NBA atmosphere in terms of game quality with shot clock and official NBA rules. Impact is one of the most popular training sites for NBA players, with stars like Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Chauncey Billups, John Wall, Rudy Gay, and Monta Ellis having worked there.

It's a provocative idea, considering Impact has the ability to not only bring in the top talent organically, but to put it in the best possible atmosphere. The Vegas location is obviously attractive to players, and the facilities are top notch. It won't be a real "league" per say, just teams playing regularly, but it's the shell of one anyway.

If they really want to take it to the next level, Impact should find sponsors to try and profit even more off of it and to improve the quality of the technology for the feed. Either way, this is going to be a rare look at how NBA players have stayed in shape or improved over the summer, and in a competitive environment, should they pull it off.
Posted on: August 23, 2011 8:44 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 12:50 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 1-5: Best of the best



By Matt Moore


This is the final segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. The goal was to create the best ranking of players based on total value, which comprises everything from respect and status to upside to statistical production and intangibles. All three of our NBA bloggers ranked every player, then we took the average to determine our ranking.

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6

We've come to the end, my friends. 

What we discovered while making this list is that the NBA has such remarkable athletes, that the gap between one to the next is quite small. There are no clear dividing lines. You make the best estimation off of overall value, take the aggregate, and may the basketball gods have mercy on your soul. You look at every player near the top and say, "that's got to be too low," until you look at the players above him. Then you begrudgingly move on to those players who you feel much the same about. We're blessed with incredible players in this league, versatile and extremely talented. Our attempt in ranking them wasn't perfect, and the best aspect is finding out your thoughts.

No one's going to agree on these lists completely. For every item you find accurate, there will be 10 you disagree with. And we're betting our top spot will neither surprise you nor please you. But, after watching these players night in and night out, this is the top of the chart in comparison to all others. It's been fun figuring out who goes where, even if it kept us up nights. And we promise we'll keep watching and working to figure it out every night to come. 

You know, once we have a season again.

Here now are the top five players in the NBA in overall value according to the EOB Elite 100.

5. Derrick Rose, PG, age 22, Chicago Bulls
2011 stats: 25.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 7.7 apg, 1.0 spg, .6 bpg, 44.5 FG percentage, 23.5 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 5, 5, 4

What I love about Rose ending up here is that he's simultaneously too low and too high and both arguments are valid. He's the reigning MVP. His team secured the top spot in the playoffs overall and won the most regular-season games. He led the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. Rose is young, brilliant, explosive, and seems to improve with every game. He's also inefficient at times, both in shooting percentage and turnovers. He's got great assist numbers and yet never blows you away with his passing game. He has elite speed and tremendous finishing ability, but his mid-range jumper is a work in progress and his 3-point shot, which improved considerably in 2010-11, is wildly inconsistent. He'll shoot 70 percent from the arc one game and go 1 of 5 the next. The end result is a career-best percentage that could go way up if he manages to stabilize it. 

Rose is an elite player in this league, but ... 1: We haven't seen MVP-level play from him beyond this season, and those above him have been at it for years; 2: His postseason struggles, particularly against the Heat stick with us. The problems did go beyond the Heat series, however. Rose had a 35.2 usage rate in the playoffs, which is astronomical (and he had to; have you seen Carlos Boozer?) yet only had a 43 effective field goal percentage. The way the Heat were able to adjust to solve him lingers, despite a stellar 2011 campaign. 

What Rose did stands out. I described Chris Paul as the best pure point guard in the league earlier, and I still believe him to be the best point guard. But that's because Rose isn't a point guard by any traditional sense. He's not even really a point guard by any advanced metric. This isn't to say he can't do what point guards do. He does, and quite well. It's that Rose is so prolific in his game, that he extends beyond the traditional position evaluations. I'm fond of saying, "Rose isn't a point guard, he's not a shooting guard, he's not even really a guard. He's Derrick Rose." His versatility and explosiveness are so unmatched, his specific style and approach so unique, he extends beyond the traditional models and establishes himself as his own entity. Even if that entity sometimes shows hiccups we saw in the ECF. 

Don't get too upset, Bulls fans. This ranking definitely hides the fact that our committee definitely believes that this will be the last time Rose is this low, and that his shot at the top spot next year is as strong as anyone's. And yet any drop-off from his tremendous season would be a huge letdown. This is the top of the NBA, where Rose belongs, and all of these factors make up the reasons why at No. 5. He's at once too low and too high for anyone and everyone. Say hello to Derrick Rose, the NBA's newest most-polarizing player. -- MM

4. Dwyane Wade, SG, 29, Miami Heat
2011 stats: 25.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 50 FG percentage, 30.6 3-point percentage, 25.65 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 4, 5, 4

Most of the talk about the Miami Heat has centered around LeBron James. He's the lightning rod, the controversial figure, the talking point. But here's what should tell you that Dwyane Wade still is entirely legit: The Heat are still his team. LeBron may generate most of the chatter, but the Heat just feel like Wade's team.

Wade sometimes is forgotten as a superstar for reasons I don't exactly know, but he's a champion, a Finals MVP, an elite defender and a top-tier scorer. His production may have dipped a bit because he's sharing duties with LeBron and Chris Bosh, but don't forget he averaged 30.2 points a game on nearly 50 percent shooting in 2008-09. Don't forget that he's averaging 6.3 assists a game for his career with two seasons of 7.5 a game. In fact, don't forget that for his career, he goes 25-6-5.

Wade is 29 though, and he's had a few major injuries and surgeries so he might start trending down in the next few seasons. He's the type of player that plays so hard he's borderline reckless. Eventually the wear and tear is going to slow him down. But he's still elite because he's a complete player. You may think of LeBron first when someone brings up the Heat but it's Wade's team and that's not changing. -- RY

3. Dirk Nowitzki, F, 33, Dallas Mavericks
2011 Stats: 23.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 51.7 FG percentage 23.52 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 5, 2, 3

We’ve arrived at the pinnacle of Nowitzki’s NBA career, a summit from which the German forward triumphantly holds up the Larry O’Brien and his NBA Finals MVP trophies and looks down upon all the critics who said he was too “soft” and not wired to be a No. 1 option on a title-winning team. The Mavericks were somewhat improbable champions and nobody benefited from their victory more -- at least from a perception standpoint -- than Nowitzki, whose unbelievable scoring efficiency and unmatched ability to hit off-balance shots stole the show during the 2011 playoffs.

Bracketed by Shawn Marion and Tyson Chandler, it didn’t much matter that Nowitzki still isn't an All-NBA defender and never will be. He performed capably in man-to-man or zone looks, but his overall offensive game was his ace in the hole; nobody could stop him when he needed to get a bucket in the postseason. Nowitzki wasn't only a weapon when he's leaning back and falling away, uncorking a jumper at an impossible angle. He’s agile enough, even at his size, to take most NBA bigs off the dribble and he can finish around the rim in a variety of creative ways, usually more smooth rather than emphatic. He commands constant attention and is a surgeon when it comes to picking apart weak, early or late help defense, equally adept at threading the needle to cutters or throwing on-the-money skip passes. He can shoot with range, from a stop or on the move; he can set picks and find his spots. Despite the spotlight, he’s still an underrated rebounder. And, please, don’t leave out his ability to pump fake to draw fouls and to convert his free throws at a ridiculous 89.2 percent.

Put simply, Nowitzki is so good on offense that he we’ve ranked him ahead of all but the very best two-way players in the league. Not too shabby for a soft, choking European who is afraid to play down low. -- BG

2. Dwight Howard, C, 25, Orlando Magic 2011 stats: 22.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 59.3 FG percentage 26.13 PER Composite rankings (random order): 2, 2, 3

There's one question to ask yourself when decided where you want to place Dwight Howard: How much do you value defense? Do you see it as the downtime in between offensive possessions (aka the Don Nelson philosophy) or do you see it as an equally important part to the game as offense, and in some cases more important?

The way you lean there tells you what to do with Howard, because he's the league's best defensive player and it's not especially close. He's won three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards and it's not only because he blocks shots and grabs a lot of rebounds. It's really about the shots he doesn't block. Officials stats don't keep track of altered shots or probably better, non-attempted shots that might've been taken had Howard not been looming in the lane. But I can guarantee you Howard leads the league in both those categories and it's not close. He changes every game, and does it just by being on the floor.

That makes it sound like he's one dimensional, which isn't accurate. He's not a dynamic offensive player. He scores in brutish ways -- alley-oops, put-backs, easy baskets. He gets it done with little finesse and without a go-to shot. But however it happens, he still averaged 22.9 points a game last year and shot an outstanding 59 percent from the field. He's getting better offensively and at only 25, he still has some space to grow.

If Howard's offense ever catches up to his defense, he'd make a realistic push at the top spot on this list. In terms of how much a game is impacted per night, Howard is king. His win shares are ridiculous (14.4) and his PER is outstanding (26.13). Pretty much any way you want to measure Howard, he lives up. And that's without being as good as he really could be on one end.  Now that's scary. 

1. LeBron James, SF, 26, Miami Heat
2011 stats: 26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 apg, 1.6 spg, .6 bpg, 51.0 FG percentage, 27.3 PER
Composite rankings (unanimous): 1, 1, 1

Thoughts from all three of our panel members on the top player in the NBA.

Matt Moore: You probably don't like this. That's OK. We don't like it much, either. LeBron James has showed an arrogance in the past year since The Decision that is so excessive the only way to defend it is to claim that all athletes are arrogant. Even then, it's the matter of degree that gets James in trouble. James never seems to say the right thing, never seems to take the right approach, never seems to put himself in the best light. This is a stunning change from four years ago when he was basically a shadow on the wall that sold shoes. It's a year after The Decision and we saw the best and worst of James. He continued to show the versatility that in large part puts him in this spot. His team made the Finals, and was two games away from a title, as they should have been with all that talent. And yet we saw James "shrink" or "choke" or whatever hyper-dramatic interpretation you prefer. There's no getting around the idea of whether you believe in "clutch" or not, James was not there when his team needed him most. That's pretty damning stuff. 

So how did he not only wind up as the top player, but the unanimous one?

Because he's better. Kobe Bryant's age is starting to affect him along with numerous injuries that have slowed him. Dirk Nowitzki is getting older and doesn't have the defensive impact James does (James remains an underrated individual and help defender, which is saying something considering how lauded he rightfully is for it). Rose is still learning to be efficient from everywhere on the floor and to be a better defender. Howard's still growing into his complete offensive game. For James, nothing he does is beyond reason anymore. A 40-point triple-double is conceivable from him (though not on this Heat team barring injuries because of usage). He can make the chase-down block at one end, lob a perfect outlet pass, then recover and jam home an alley-oop after leaving from mid-wing. He can pull-up and nail the mid-range jumper, even as that part of his game is at both still developing and something he turns to far too often. He can hit from the perimeter (ask the Celtics if you don't believe me) and bulldoze his way to the rim to draw the foul (ask the Bulls if you don't believe me). He's a one-man tour de force, able to cover the entire floor, able to play at any position, able to do more than any other player in the league. 

That's why he's No.1. Like it or not.

Royce Young: It's kind of a relief that we don't have to have the debate anymore. No longer is it "Kobe or LeBron?" No longer is it a question as to who the league's best player is. We all know. It's LeBron, whether you like it or not. 

You can try and talk yourself into someone else. You can try and single out LeBron's failures, his faults and his issues. You can try and point out his curious choke job in The Finals. You can try and devalue him simply because you don't like him. That's all fine. But you can't deny that he's the best player in basketball. He just is.  Even trying to fit in alongside two other All-Stars in Miami LeBron put out an incredible season. He still led the league in PER (again), still went for 26-7-7 and still was the single most dangerous player on the floor every night. And before you say, "Oh yeah, well people prove things in the playoffs and LeBron failed!" That's true, but only to a degree. Remember how he handcuffed Derrick Rose for the last two games of the Eastern Finals? Remember how he destroyed the Bulls in leading an incredible Game 5 comeback? Remember how he and Wade worked perfectly in concert in Game 1 of The Finals? It's easy to just forget all the good stuff because of how it all finished. But LeBron didn't completely lay an egg. He just did so in the last three games. Doesn't mean he's not still the best player in the game.  

Ben Golliver:2010-2011 was a boastful, bewildering season for James, who arrived in Miami with unprecedented hype and expectations, only to crash and burn in the NBA Finals as soon as his first title was within reach. The on-court imperfections are clearly established at this point: a difficulty impacting the offense without the ball in his hands, an erratic jump shot, and the occasional tendency to tighten up when the stakes are highest. The off-court annoyances are equally obvious: a lack of self-awareness, a massive ego, and an inability to relate to the common man or to productively process criticism.

Still, judging James or his season solely on his meltdown in the final three games of the NBA Finals would be a huge mistake. Zooming out to view the entire year, he was spectacular as always statistically, posting the top PER in the league despite the fact that he was getting acclimated to an entirely new set of teammates and a new way of sharing top dog priorities with Dwyane Wade. He was a menace defensively, sending the aging Boston Celtics into the past during the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and swallowing NBA MVP Derrick Rose whole in the Eastern Conference Finals. James remains the NBA’s best and most versatile athlete and saw time at four -- if not five -- positions for the Heat this season. There’s not a player in the league who can guard him one-on-one and there's not really anyone that he couldn’t defend at least passably.

Even for his critics, who were rightfully gleeful when things fell apart against the Dallas Mavericks, there must be a sense that this was as tough as it will get for James, that the perfect storm of hatred and disgust that followed The Decision will eventually dissipate, leaving James to finally assume the throne he clearly believes belongs to him.

Posted on: August 22, 2011 10:03 am
 

Delonte West could end up selling knives

By Matt Moore

You already know that Delonte West has been applying at the Home Depot for a job during the lockout. But it turns out West isn't limiting himself to just the orange big box store. He's got a whole range of places he's trying to get a gig to fill his time and pocket book. ESPN caught up with West this weekend at the Drew-Goodman showdown and he has other places he's looking, including an odd choice for wares to pitch. From ESPN:
“I actually might have work with Sam’s [Club], BJ’s, selling knives,” West said. “That’s pretty cool too. I get a microphone and everything.”
via Delonte West looking for a position in retail - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN.

Delonte West. Selling knives. OK. Could be worse, could be Cabella's or something. 

West also had a quality statement regarding the relationship of the NBA fans to the lockout. 
“With the lockout going on, guys could be anywhere in the world vacationing, but they’re right here supporting the people," he said. "The people are going through a lockout just like we are. They make it a lot about us, but the average American is going through a lockout themselves.”
Of course, the average American isn't being deprived of their profession over a multi-billion-dollar entity somehow losing money, but then, the average American isn't making between $2.5 million and $5 million annually, either. 

West continues to be an enigma on and off the floor. Maybe some time slinging in a big-box store will actually help his leadership skills. And hey, if Delonte West walked up to you, looked you in the eye and told you to buy something, you'd buy it wouldn't you? One tip for his employer, though? Better keep the break room stacked with doughnuts. Just a heads up.  
Posted on: August 21, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: August 22, 2011 12:24 am
 

Legend vs. Star: Magic Johnson vs. LeBron James



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 | Moses Malone vs. Dwight Howard

Next up: Magic Johnson vs. LeBron James

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

Even though we've tried desperately to hammer this home throughout this series, this one, due its participants, requires an even stronger preface than previously stated. So please, for the love of Auerbach, read this and let it sink in.

There is no real comparison in terms of greatness between LeBron James and Magic Johnson. By the time Magic Johnson was 27, which James will turn this December, he had not one, not two, but three championships under his belt. Magic was beloved by everyone who ever met him, everyone who played with or against him, even by his biggest rival, the man he will always be measured against. He brought the Lakers to the forefront of the NBA and helped avenge a disturbing pattern of L.A. being owned by the Celtics. He wowed with his passing, he dazzled with his scoring, he stunned with his rebounding, and he owns three of the most famous moments in NBA history. He played center in the Finals in a crucial game for crying out loud. He managed to build his business assets and party like a rockstar without ever getting caught or having it blow up in his face, he managed to be cocky while having everyone believe he was humble pie. He credited teammates and dealth with media storms by hiding out instead of exacerbating it. Magic won, constantly and consistently. Magic never had people question whether he shrank from the moment. He's Magic freaking Johnson.

This post is not a debate on who was better. It's to examine their games and careers and see where they are alike and where they are different. We're only now beginning to be able to put the 2011 NBA Finals into consideration for how it affects James' career, and while he's going to have a half-dozen more chances to rewrite the tale, the early returns are damaging.

And this is where it's important to bring up statistics. It's often said that most "statheads" or "geeks," "statnerds," "sabretricians," or whatever youw ant to call them preach an all-or-nothing approach. As in, if I believe that using points scored per possession is a wiser approach than points per game, or believing a better indicator of how much a guy rebounds is the percentage of available caroms he snags than rebounds per game that I automatically toss out all other indications. That somehow because I think PER is a good indicator of efficiency, not of value, but efficiency, that I'm somehow going to think that the players better than Kobe Bryant in PER are better than Kobe Bryant at basketball. It robs those of us who want to take all the evidence possible to concoct an opinion of the ability to toe the line. You're either with the numbers, or against. You either value big shots in big games for big wins, or silly numbers on a chart. And it works both ways, as too often numbers-heavy analysts will lose sight of the fact that sometimes a play does leave a team demoralized and they never recover. Happens in real life, happens on the floor. There's a middle ground.

That middle-ground is in beautiful stark relief when we consider James and Magic. Here's a nice start for you.

Through their first seven seasons, James has scored nearly 7,000 more points in a little over 4000 more minutes. Per 36 minutes, James has averaged 24.8 points per game, Magic 18.6. James averaged a line of 27.7-7.1-7.0-1.7-1.8 with 3.3 turnovers per game, Magic 18.6-7.3-10.6-2.1-.5 with 3.8 turnovers per game. James has a career PER Of 26.9, Johnson had one of 23.5 through seven seasons (Magic was one year older at that point). In short, James' overall production has been better up until this point. But to get there you have to consider the years where Magic was sharing the ball with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, when he was finding his way, when he wasn't producing other-worldly numbers. James was the man from day one.

Instead, take a look at James' eighth season in the league versus' Johnson's. The gap closes considerably. James scored less than a point more per 36 minutes, less than a rebound more per 36 minutes, and Johnson's 12.1 assists to James 6.5 is stunning. The PER gap closes to 27.3 for James versus 27.0 for Magic. And Johnson had a 47.2 Assist percentage, meaning nearly half of all the Lakers' Showtime assists in 1986-1987 came from Magic. James' closest to that was a 41.8 percent mark in 2009-2010, his last with Cleveland.

But the difference that presents itself most clearly to me is connected to the metrics, but not self-evident. Magic Johnson's greatest gift was his ability to excel above and beyond what was necessary, specifically in the role his team required of him. Magic filled a need better than any player in NBA history. If it was rebounding, he'd crash the glass. If it was setting up teammates, he'd drop double-digit assists. And if called upon, he could score at will (Johnson is, across the board, a better shooter than James, though last season James was only 1.2 percentage points behind Johnson in his seventh season). The 1980 Finals' Game 6 where Magic Johnson started at center is the easiest reference point, but that overlooks a decade of play wherein Johnson played point forward better than anyone ever had or ever will, most likely. His versatility is his strength, and it is both a bond and fracture between he and James' game.

When James signed with the Heat along with Chris Bosh, immediately everyone started conceptualizing how this three-headed monster would work. Very early on, Erik Spoelstra confirmed that we would see both James and Wade run point. And throughout the season, James indeed plyayed as the primary ball-handler. His versatility is a huge strengthpoint, in that James is a gifted passer who can make impossible passes, has terrific vision, and can use his size and strentgh to overwhelm an opponent to the breaking point, just before dropping the ball off to a teammate for an easy score.

The problem is that James too often seems intent on fulfilling an agenda. When Johnson played, it was without purpose, flowing within the rhythm of the game. James instead is like an orchestra conductor who wants the entire symphony to stop on a dime and switch to whatever new piece of music he's selected. Teammates should get out of the way because he's coming through. Now they should cut to the basket because he's looking for the baseline cutter. Now they should work to spot up. Now they should try and free him off a pick and roll. If a point guard's responsibility is to not only manage the game, but to identify the opponent's weaknesses and attack them, no one has educated James to that point. It may be a matter of James always believing it is he who should dictate what the defense should do and not the other way around, but that kind of dogma is best fit when you have a system to rely on. Phil Jackson never changed his gameplan because the Triangle would take care of itself (and because he had Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe Bryant to lean on, but let's not get into that). James has never operated in a rigorous discipline like that. He's always been granted decision-making power, the trust to deliver, as Magic often was. The problem is that Magic always knew how to identify where he needed to be, how he needed to play. James too often simply tries to slam the square peg into the round hole. The fact that he's as successful as he is wiht it is a testament to his ability.

In a way, you almost have to blame Jordan for part of the discrepancy. That's the man who James has always looked up, modeled himself after. And that's who we've expected him to be as a basketball society. The pull-up jumper, loop-de-loop layup, free-throw-line dunk contest winner, we want all of that, again. And James too often seems trapped in emulating it. He dabbles with the post, then feels like he's done enough time there and goes back to the crossover pull-up jumper. He never takes the time to recognize "Hey, Shawn Marion is 33 and DeShawn Stevenson is much smaller than me. If I post up, Chandler has to help and that probably means I'm going to the line 30 times." Some think that's because James is lazy. It's hard to see how an individual who is as good at basketball as James is, who is in the physical condition he's in could be lazy. Instead, it's an expectation Magic never had to face. Deferring to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar only made him more popular. Deferring to Dwyane Wade makes James weak. He's supposed to hit the mid-range jumper, the fadeaway. He's supposed to be Jordan. In reality, his career would benefit in no way more than trying to emulate Magic. On and off the court.

Johnson was a media darling. That smile permeates through the years. Magic partied through the years as athletes do, but managed to never allow his image to get out and be tarnished. Part of this was because the internet didn't exist. Part of this is because Johnson always had a firmer lock on his image, despite James being the one with the marekting company built around him. Johnson had an epic rivalry. James instead embraced two of his rivals in playing with them. Johnson always managed to find the perfect way to play in the clutch, whether it was scoring, passing, rebounding, or defense. James is seen as a quitter who fails in the clutch. Johnson retired with the same team that drafted him and has a statue outside the arena. James abandoned his home-state team and people burned his jerseys.

Of course lost in all this is that Johnson walked into one of the most successful franchises in NBA history, and was partnered with the player who would go on to become the all-time scoring leader in league history. James instead entered a perennial underdog and had such great talent come beside him as Wally Szczerbiak, Ben Wallace, and Mo Williams. It doesn't change or affect James' decisions or how he's percieved, nor should it. But these things should be mentioned in full disclosure. 

All this time, James has been trying to build himself around Jordan, or create his own iconic image. Maybe instead he should have focused on the leader of Showtime, the man whose talents most closely resemble his.

All data courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 7:31 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 9:36 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100: 11-20: The power of forwards



By Matt Moore

This is the eighth 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 | 30-21


Try ranking just the best power forwards in the league in your head. Really. Now go back and look at their numbers. Then go back and rerank them. Then factor in their team success. Then look at their ages and upside. 

The point is, this is not easy, and that's before you try and stick them in among the best players in the league at all the other positions. Power forwards are elite right now in this league. Trying to determine who's better is nearly impossible. But that's what we've tried to do in this list and this section gets to the hardest part. Zach Randolph dominated the playoffs. Tim Duncan is a Hall of Famer. LaMarcus Aldridge was just brilliant. Amar'e Stoudemire was an MVP candidate for a brief time. 

What do you do? 

In between we've got Steve Nash, one of the best point guards ever, Deron Williams who's at the top of his game, Russell Westbrook who everyone loves and hates at the same time, and you know, Melo. 


20. Steve Nash, G, age 37, Phoenix Suns
2011 Stats: 14.7 points, 11.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 49.2 FG%, 20.81 PER, 53.1 AST%
Composite rankings (random order): 25, 16, 18

The guy's 37. Thir-tee-sev-en. And yet last season Steve Nash averaged more assists per 36 minutes than he has in his career. He posted 53 percent of the Suns' assists. Which means if there was a bucket off a pass on the floor, more often than not it was Steve Nash making it. That's crazy production for his age. Nash continues to be a lightning rod as the Suns fall further and further away from contention. His defense has never been good due to a combination of physical limitations and a back condition that has forced him for years to lay flat on his stomach on the sideline. But his offense is showing signs of slowing down, despite all the slinging. Nash finally posted under 50 percent field goal shooting for the first time since he came to Phoenix last year, and shot under 40 percent from three for the first time since 1999. So he's "only" a 49 percent shooter, 39 percent 3-point shooter. But the bigger point is that Nash is starting to slip. 

This is why so many want Nash traded. His time is running out to be effective, though with his conditioning, it's easy to see him playing till he's 40. But for him to be effective as a starter, to hold a shred of "Nashness" in him, he's got to get moved to a contender soon. But if he doesn't, it wouldn't shock anyone to see him make a comeback year next season. 

19. Manu Ginobili, G, age 34, San Antonio Spurs
2011 Stats: 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 43.3 FG%, 21.78 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 20, 15, 20

Manu Ginobili was a legit MVP candidate the first two months of the season. Being a legit MVP candidate for even a week should probably earn you a higher ranking than this, but such is the cost of a perceived slip as the season went on. At his best, Ginobili is a game-changer and one of the most reliable clutch performers in the game. His step-back elbow jumper is still deadly, and if that doesn't get you, the pump-fake will. Ginobili at full-health would probably have made a big difference in the Spurs' round-one loss to Memphis. (But given that he couldn't guard Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, probably not enough of one.)

Ginobili's slide will only continue as age and injury slow him down. He says he has a few more years left in the league. But his craftiness will only take him so far, which is why he isn't higher on this list. But given how many years he's been near the top of this list, that's not a bad career. And in the meantime, he'll keep drawing fouls and hitting big shots as the Spurs continue to try and suck the life out of the remainder of their contending years. 

18. Kevin Love, F, age 22, Minnesota Timberwolves
2011 Stats: 20.1 points, 15.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 47.0 FG%, 24.39 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 15, 24, 13

Hello, power forwards. Kevin Love broke the record for consecutive double-doubles, had the first 30-30 game, showed terrific offensive range, dominated the glass, out-rebounded Dwight Howard and became an All-Star. And he's only the 18th best player on this list, and the fifth best power forward in this section!

Love's biggest liabilities are on the defensive end. He's still learning, so the hope is that he'll improve. Conditioning and health will both be important to that end with his frame, but neither are concerns with Love. With a coach that will hopefully appreciate him and a new system and point guard to work with, it's a good bet that Love will be in the top fifteen by the end of next season. His range makes him a versatile component, he's looking for his first big deal (good luck with that under the new CBA next season), and to boot, he's one of the most likeable players in the league. 

Odds are this is the last time he'll bethis low again. 

17. Tim Duncan, F, age 35, San Antonio Spurs
2011 Stats: 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 blocks, 50.0 FG%, 21.94 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 13, 19, 18

What loathesome thing age is, that robs us of our strength but not our integrity.  Tim Duncan wasn't the same player last year. I mean, he was, but he wasn't. This is the problem. For players of Duncan's greatness, there's no huge cliff they fall off, its'a slow decline. But they're also held to a different standard. And as a result, Duncan slides down this list. Most jarring was the absence of a dominant Duncan performance in the playoffs. The Grizzlies managed to harass, muscle, and frustrate Duncan to the point of limiting his effectiveness. And as Duncan goes, so do the Spurs. 

Duncan logged 76 games last season, missing just six games. The question is if he can have a bounce-back season after having a considerably healthy one in 2010-2011. The Spurs need a vintage Duncan performance all season long, but the reality may be that after so many playoff games early in his career, he may simply not have enough tread left on the tires. Why is he still this high? Because he's Tim Freaking Duncan, and he's earned the right for us to trust in him until the very end. 

16. Deron Williams, G, age 27, New Jersey Nets
2011 Stats: 20.1 points, 10.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 43.9 FG%, 21.19 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 22, 18, 9

Deron Williams, Coach Killer? Didn't see that coming. 

Williams had a good season. He did. 20 points, 10 assists, good PER, solid defense. The Jazz had a pretty decent start before the wheels came off. Then, you know, Williams may or may not have been the driving point behind Jerry Sloan deciding to pack it up after 25 seasons with the Jazz. Then, you know, Williams was traded to the Nets before he could hold the Jazz hostage like Melo did the Nuggets. Then, you know, he was a Net. Which causes trouble. 

Williams turned 27 in June, so he can no longer be considered a "young" point guard. There's only so much room for improvement at this point. And he's still very good, and will fetch a huge price on the market. But you have to wonder if 2010-2011 was a career marker for Williams and if that will make an impact on where he ends up. The good news? He gets into free agency in 2012. Either the Nets will build around him with top talent, or he'll have a chance for a mulligan at 28. 

15. Carmelo Anthony, F, age 27, New York Knicks
2011 Stats: 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 45.5 FG%, 21.82 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 17, 17, 13

You want to rank Carmelo Anthony in the 20-30 range? Fine. 30-40? You're getting out there. 1-10? We're not going to riot. You can spot Melo anywhere, it just depends on where your priorities lie. 

Is Melo's defense lacking? Absolutely. Is he often-times too inefficient to the point that it hurts his effectiveness? Yes. Is his attitude sometimes an issue in terms of the superstar approach? Yes, but it never impacts his play (through everything in Denver, he never missed a game or gave a half-effort). The reality is this. 

Carmelo Anthony still nets you 26 points per game, seven rebounds per game, will hit you a game winner more often than not, and can help win you games. He is not the most effective, most efficient, or most versatile. There is a lot that he needs to improve. But Carmelo Anthony is still an elite player in this league, and he needs to be ranked accordingly. He's here for now. If the Knicks keep building around he and Amar'e and if the two start working together better, he'll be among the best of the best. For now, we leverage his upside, his production, his efficiency, and his record. 

Then we docked him five slots for his reality show.

14. Russell Westbrook, G, age 22, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011 Stats: 21.9 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 44.2 FG%, 23.63 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 16, 16, 11

I'd love to give you an in-depth analysis of Westbrook, but the polar opinions of him rend any attempt apart. 

Westbrook has a higher PER than Deron Williams. He's hyper-aggressive and can take games over. The comparison always made to him is Derrick Rose if he didn't have Kevin Durant needing the ball. But one, he's not as good as Derrick Rose, and two, he does have Kevin Durant needing the ball. Westbrook too often puts his head down and slams into the defender causing a turnover, too often is impatient with the offense and too often trusts his ability to dominate. Thing is, he can dominate more than half the time.

Westbrook's explosiveness and speed is top three in the league. His jumper's improved but hasn't made a phenomenal jump. The big question for next season will be what his role is with James Harden as more of a weapon and playmaker. Is Westbrook just a scoring point who can also provide some buckets, or can he use another weapon to be more efficient. It's a technical and mental adjustment that needs to be made. 

13. LaMarcus Aldridge, F, Portland Trail Blazers
2011 Stats: 21.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals, 50.0 FG%, 21.57 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 12, 14, 14

Aldridge was arguably more important to his team than any of the players 12-10. He was huge in 2011. Aldridge is also the most versatile of any power forward in the league. Yeah, there, I said it. He's tough defensively, he's brilliant in the post, he's got great pick-and-pop ability, is a good rebounder (though if we're saying that, so is Amar'e Stoudemire, who has a 12.7 TRB percentage to Aldridge's 13.5). 

Aldridge was the anchor for the Blazers who kept them afloat among the injury sea they sailed last year. He's always been overlooked for Roy, but he's also never been a problem in the locker room. He plays smart, tough, and efficiently. Oh, and he plays defense. Nice rare quality in power forwards, that. 

12. Zach Randolph, F, Memphis Grizzlies
2011 Stats: 20.1 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 50.3 FG%, 22.67 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 17, 11, 11

Dominates the glass, puts the team on his back, shoots better than 50 percent from the field, creates more possessions, and delivers when his team needs him. That's a franchise player. And as good as Rudy Gay is, that's what Zach Randolph has shown himself to be for Memphis. His performance in the playoffs is what lands him above Aldridge, Love, and Duncan. A stats-only loser for so many years, Randolph not only found the playoffs last season, but owned them. His performance in both Grizzlies' series was out of this world. If making the Finals weren't a prerequisite, Randolph was arguably the playoffs MVP behind Nowitzki (which is probably why Nowitzki won the title). 

Randolph's defense is not good, but just like his athleticism, he manages to hide it with savvy. He brings smart help, and communicates well. Randolph's intangibles are almost as great as his numbers. He's a consumate leader, always picking up guys who fall to the floor, and being the emotional rock for a pretty emotional team. As unlikely as it is, Randolph's as valuable as it gets to any single team. 

He's getting older, so this is probably the last time he'll be this high. But it's been a fun ride for Randolph with the Grizzlies and he deserves the respect. 

11. Amar’e Stoudemire, F, New York Knicks
2011 Stats: 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 blocks, 50.2 FG%, 22.78 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 14, 12, 10

We don't blame you for gawking at this. I scored him a 12, truth be told, and even I am sick just thinking about it. Stoudemire is a pretty solid help defender, except no one will believe that. That's where those 1.9 blocks come from. Again, not good, but solid. But man-up? Bad. Really bad. Not good. At all. Stoudemire will never be confused for a defensive stalwart. His rebounding is sub-par. He's got knee concerns and an eye condition following a pretty horrific injury that required surgery. On his eye. 

But he's at this spot because Stoudemire can kill you from the elbow, and if you crowd him, he's going to the rim. He plays aggressively, efficiently, and can deliver. He lost his former-MVP point guard and still produced 25 points per game, and that's even after Melo came in a-gunning. He produces a world of offense and that still counts. As much as the statistical revolution and advanced analysis emphasizes defense, it tends to overlook offense, especially from bigs. The Knicks will never hurt for inside scoring as long as Stoudemire is on the floor. That shouldn't be overlooked. Neither should his defensive liabilities, but his offense out-performs it enough to land him here.

We think.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Friday 5 with KB: An NBA Hall of Fame edition

By Matt Moore



In this week's edition of the Friday 5we delve further into the idea of an NBA Hall of Fame. Who would Ken take in the inaugural class? Why won't this happen? And by the way, did Kobe pumping up the union really mean anything? 


1. Let's say the NBA didn't figure out how to blow a $930 million media deal, the merchandising, ticket sales, sponsorship money, and various investments, and instead had the money to open their own Hall of Fame. You get six guys, and six guys only to put into the inaugural class. Who goes in? Players, coaches, league personnel, etc.

KB:  Good question. I'd have to go: 1. Michael Jordan; 2. Wilt Chamberlain; 3. Bill Russell; 4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; 5. Oscar Robertson; 6. Magic Johnson. It's tough to leave Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, Shaquille O'Neal, and Hakeem Olajuwon out, but six spots are six spots. Also, tough call not to have Red Auerbach among the first inductees, but the NBA has always been and will always be a players' league.

2. If you were designing said Hall, what would you have its primary mission statement be?

KB: The mission would be simple: To honor, recognize and remember the greatest contributors in the history of NBA basketball.

3. Who leads the coaching exhibit, Red or Phil?

KB: Though Phil passed Red for the most titles, there is no surpassing Auerbach's legacy. Aside from nine championships in 10 years as a coach, there were the titles he orchestraed as GM, and most importantly, his achievements with racial integration at a time of segegation and deep racial divides in America -- and especially, in Boston. Auerbach drafted the first black player in the NBA, hired the first black coach in any American professional sport, and had the first all-black starting lineup in NBA history.

4. What's the biggest reason outside of financials for the league not to do this?

KB: Politics. Does the NBA risk alienating itself from the basketball community by breaking away and declaring its independence from a sport whose various tentacles -- college, international -- are intertwined?

5. Jumping back to reality real quick. What exactly is there for the players to unite around that Kobe's talking about? Isn't it pretty much just "don't spend all your money and get desperate?"

KB: No, there's much more than that. With the various income levels and priorities among the players, it could be easy for a wedge to be driven into the NBPA. So while there's a divergence of opinion about executive director Billy Hunter's strategy not to decertify or disclaim interest, it is in the best interests of the players to stand behind that strategy until it is exhausted as a viable option. The agents pushing for decertification are forgetting that the strategy turned into a dead end for the NFL players. The same fate would likely await the NBPA in federal court under antitrust law. The best strategy for the players is to see the NLRB strategy through to a conclusion and proceed from there depending on whether they win or lose. Don't forget that regardless of which legal strategy the players pursue, this will only be resolved one way: at the bargaining table. A fractured union will suffer a slow, horrible death there.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 2:24 pm
 

Survey: LeBron is most unpopular NBA player

By Matt Moore

From the department of "things which do not surprise us in the slightest" comes news of a survey from Ipsos of over 2,000 U.S. adults which did a ranking of unpopular famous people, barring politicians. The result? 

LeBron James is the most unpopular NBA player and second-most unpopular athlete behind Tiger Woods . 
At the other end of the spectrum, only two of the 100 celebrities asked about were viewed unfavorably by an outright majority of respondents: Paris Hilton (with 60% expressing an unfavorable opinion of her vs. only 12% a favorable one) and Charlie Sheen (52% vs. 22%). The next most unpopular personalities among those rated are: Britney Spears and Kanye West (each of whom is viewed unfavorably by 45%), Arnold Schwarzenegger (44%), Tiger Woods (42%), Kim Kardashian (38%), Mel Gibson (33%), Donald Trump (31%), and LeBron James (29%).

Several of these 10 personalities – Tiger Woods, Charlie Sheen, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears – are more widely disliked by women than they are by men. The others show relatively comparable proportions of male and female detractors.
via Betty White Is America’s Favorite and Most Trusted Personality, and the Most Prone to Driving Brand Purchase | Ipsos.

That's right. The only more unpopular public figures are one of the Hilton sisters, that one guy, Britney, the guy who messed with America's sweetheart multiple years ago (somehow I don't think "Watch the Throne" affected this sample much), the scandal-ridden Governator, the sex addict golfer who can't win a major, Lamar's sister-in-law, Mel with his whole problem, and Trump. Great comany.

Bryant actually came in on the most distrusted list, which isn't a shock, either. Just interesting to see how James has garnered so much revenue for the Heat and the league and yet is so unpopular. Just another indication that people really do love to watch to root against him.  
Category: NBA
Posted on: August 19, 2011 12:44 pm
 

Nene says money won't decide his free agency

By Matt Moore

Nene is arguably the biggest name in free agency. He's a veteran center who's not too old to contribute and yet still mean as all get out in the paint. He's going to be an extremely valuable commodity on the open market, whenever it opens. So naturally, Nene is looking to cash in, right? This is the big final contract before he heads off to build churches in Brazil? That's got to be his biggest priority. Money. 

Well, Nene  says that's not the case. From the Denver Post

 
Whenever the NBA gets going again, Nene will be a free agent, after opting out of the final year of his Nuggets contract ($11.6 million). He reiterated that it's possible he could return to the Nuggets but suggested that one of the reasons he wants to play elsewhere is for a more immediate chance at a championship.

"After nine years, I have goals and I'm a team player," said Nene, who has averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in his career. "I'm very competitive. I want to accomplish everything. It's a big opportunity, and it's the only one in my life to be a top free agent. So I want to enjoy this moment. If people think it's about money, they're wrong. I've saved my money. I could retire today. I don't need to prove points. I like it a lot here."
via Nuggets' Nene stays in shape playing soccer during lockout - The Denver Post.

A lot of players talk about money not being the important thing, but with Nene it's likely true. He's long said that he's not in basketball to make as much money as possible. The only question will be what effect money not being an issue will have on where he ends up. 

If money's not most important, is loyalty? Because that would lead him back to Denver. Denver has the cap space to pay him a max contract, but if that's not his biggest goal, it may be irrelevant.

If money's not important and it is winning, there's a concern from many about another possible destination: Miami. Miami desperately needs a center, a veteran center, and a good veteran center. Nene would make them an even more dangerous team than the Finals participant from this season.

Other candidates if Nene's just looking to pursue a title include Boston (a mean-mug replacement for Perkins) and New York (imagine how many dunks he'd get in that system).  But Nene's been a star in Denver and finally has the spotlight to himself with Melo out. It's a tough decision but a fun one to make. When money's not the only thing that matters, you get to see what your options are a bit 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