Tag Archives: NBA

The WNBA is Not a Lost Cause

By Kevin York

I haven’t written in a while (I’m sorry to all of you that have been walking around with an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach over the past few weeks…ok, the past month…) and imagine my surprise at the topic that finally caused me to sit down and write. It’s not something I ever would’ve guessed. The WNBA. Yes, the Women’s National Basketball Association (that is what it stands for, right? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it completely spelled out). You can all thank Ryan for this.

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The NBA in 2012: The Good, the Bad and the Hopeless

This post continues our 2012-2013 NBA Preview. You can view all our NBA preview posts here.

Many people talk about parity in the NFL and how great it is for the sport. Every year, each team (for the most part) has a shot (some being long shots) at the playoffs. For the most part, I see the truth in that, but Cleveland Browns fans might disagree with me. I don’t buy into this parity talk as much as some people. There are certain teams we know will just be bad. However, I do think the NFL has evolved into a league where a team can turn things around relatively quickly. You don’t see teams laboring at the bottom of the cellar with no hope for years and years (sorry, Cleveland, I’m overlooking you for this post).

Baseball isn’t talked about as much as being a parity driven league because it doesn’t have a salary cap. So teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and all the other wealthy, big market teams can spend at will to build contenders year after year. Yet, we don’t see that happening. The Red Sox were horrible this year and the Cubs are more often horrible than not. And we’ve seen a number of low spending, small market teams contend over the past couple years. Tampa, Oakland, Cincinnati. The Nationals were a team that had been dreadful since re-establishing as a franchise, but had the best record in the bigs this year while not spending exorbitant amounts of money. Teams like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cleveland were teams that were in contention at various points of the year.

In the NBA, we don’t see this type of parity. There are a few really good teams, a few really bad teams and a mess of teams in the middle in a category many would call hopeless. They’re not good enough to contend as built, but aren’t bad enough to get a lottery pick and start to build younger, better pieces. The general thinking is you want to be really good or you want to be really bad (so you can get good in a couple years).

There’s a problem with this thinking though. It’s not that simple to rebuild through the draft anymore. Players coming out of college are less developed than in past years because they’re younger. It takes a little longer for them to adjust to the NBA and reach their true potential than it did rookies ten years ago. Many teams won’t wait around for a player to reach that potential. They give them three years and then move on, so another team ends up getting the benefits from that player’s talent and potential (see: Michael Beasley, Hasheem Thabeet, Adam Morrison, Devin Harris, etc.). Along these same lines of thinking, the job of the NBA general manager is getting more difficult. They need to find players that will contribute in the near term, but they also don’t want to miss out on that guy that develops and emerges as a viable star in his fourth year in the league.

Evidence? Look at the teams that finished near the bottom of the league last year. Charlotte’s been bad for a while. Cleveland’s been bad ever since LeBron left town. Sacramento and Golden State have been consistently poor over the past five years. Detroit, New Jersey and Toronto have been in the bottom third of the league for years as well. Each of these teams have young players they can build around, but how long will it take them to get to the point where those players can contend with the Kevin Durants, Dwight Howards and Dwyane Wades of the league? Or will they ever even get to that point?

It’s a difficult situation to fix because while the NBA has a salary cap, many of the game’s top players are now deciding that they’ll accept less salary in order to play with other great players for a chance at NBA Championships. Who would look at Sacramento or Detroit and decide they want to go play there? How does a team put itself in position to be one of the franchises that people want to go to?

They could go in a different direction than the draft and build the pieces first and then go after the star. However, teams like Houston have tried to do that and failed. Stars want to join stars. So it seems teams will be forced to continue to build through the draft. No easy solution exists to bring the kind of parity we see in football and baseball to basketball.

With that, I’ll move on to making my predictions for the good, the bad and the hopeless this year.

The Good
Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs

The Bad
Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets

The Hopeless
New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets

Not surprisingly, the Hopeless category has the most teams in it…

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york

Happy NBA day! Here are a few stories to keep your eye on this season.

I’d like to tell you the greatest story ever told. “Once upon a time there was a boy named LeBron…”

Last week, I wrote a preview to my NBA preview where I stated my case that ultimately the outcome to the season isn’t murky but rather crystal clear. Essentially, we’re looking at three potential teams left standing when all is said and done.

But, as I stated, there are still plenty of stories to follow throughout the upcoming season. In lieu of a team-by-team rundown, I’m going to highlight a few story-arcs that I’ll be watching and enjoying this season.

The Champions

I think we’re going to have to get used to this.

Three teams to rule them all; unfortunately that’s about it.  OKC, the Lakers, and the Heat are the class of the league and there’s roughly a 100% chance that one of these three will hoist the “Kia Presents the Larry O’Brien Trophy during the Kia Presents the 2013 NBA Post-Game Championship Presentation, sponsored by Adidas… are you in? Ceremony”.

Here’s a rundown of each of those teams in order of my predicted finish.

The Miami Heat:

The Heatles proved last season that they’re the real deal by exercising some demons and changing the way any team that has championship aspirations approaches this season. Who’s going smaller? Anyone? Oh yeah, almost everyone.

They score with abandon, they play defense with abandon, and have we discussed how LeBron James now has a pretty formidable post-game? We haven’t? Well, he has and let me tell you, it’s terrifying.

To go along with this newly discovered post-monster, they also have second and third wheels Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. During the offseason they found time to add outside shooter extraordinaire Ray Allen and former outside shooter extraordinaire Rashard Lewis.

Is their bench still a little weak? Maybe, but the fact remains that they’re the defending league champs and they also happen to reside in the Eastern Conference. This means that for most of the season their opponents will be a glorified D-League. They’re good enough, they’re smart enough, and dog gonnit their playoff competition will be terrible.

The Lakers:

The staff here at The Couchletes recently did an NBA predictions post that may or may not be posted sometime after Kevin gets back from his honeymoon so let me spoil things right now. I picked the Thunder to win the West and lose to the Heat in the finals. Of course, this was before I was woken up from a post-gangnum style slumber to find out that Sam Presti had mortgaged his teams present for its future. This brings us to the Lakers.

The Lakers, thanks to the Thunder are now the frontrunners in the Western Conference. However, there’s a big, BIG “if” and it’s that they’re the frontrunners as long as they stay healthy. Yes, they have four future Hall-of-Famers on the roster but Steve Nash is nearly 40, Kobe’s knees probably need another round of blood spinning, Pau Gasol is in the bad part of his 30s, and Dwight Howard just had back surgery. If one of those four go down come playoff time they’ll have to rely on their bench, which consists of stalwarts like Devin Ebanks. In layman’s terms, they don’t have a bench, like, at all.

The Lakers are the leagues strongest and weakest team, if that’s even possible. Yes, I’m picking them to make it to the finals but with one tweak to Howard’s back or Kobe’s knee, or if age catches up to Steve Nash or Pau and this could all come crashing down. The 2012-2013 Lakers will be operating at a very high level but they’ll be doing it all without a net.

Oklahoma City Thunder

I’ve already touched on the Thunder a bit. They decided they couldn’t turn a profit and retain James Harden so they’ve sent him to Houston. This is a huge risk for the Thunder. It’s a huge risk because they had a 4-year window where they were essentially guaranteed a trip to the finals. The Thunder ownership and front office have decided to forego that window and attempt to be the NBA’s first ever self-sustaining team.

I’m not so sure it’s going to work. Harden was an excellent ball-handler who is virtually unstoppable in the Pick-and-Roll, and one of the leagues most efficient scorers. He also served as a kind of security blanket for the team’s offense whenever Russell Westbrook decided to go off the reservation. They swapped him for future lottery picks, a rookie that someday might be a poor-man’s version of the player they already had and Kevin Martin, an excellent shooter who can’t dribble, defend, and has pretty much been a shell of his former self since the league changed how they call shooting fouls.

So, who likes the Thunder?

I still do. Not as much as I did, but I still like them. Any time you have Kevin Durant you’re going to have a punchers chance of making it. The only issue is that I don’t think they’ll have enough to make it this year. Not without Harden. But like I said in the Lakers section, if something happens to any one of the four fragile super-stars on the Lakeshow, the Thunder will reclaim the title of next in line to lose to the Heat.

Yay them.

The former champions

In a weak Eastern Conference they may have enough. Just don’t ask them to play during the early bird special.

Another fascinating story to watch this year will be how two excellent coaches try to maintain their team’s historically high quality of play for one final go at a championship.

Since I didn’t bring them up during the above section, I’m not expecting the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics to actually make it to the finals. I think they’ll come up just a little too short, but I am expecting them to play some excellent ball nonetheless.

Now, if you held a gun to my head I might say that the Celtics have a chance to slip past the Heat. It’s the nature of the game that sometimes upsets happen. They also have a style of play that lends itself to that very thing happening. They like to play defense, they like to play rough, and they like to play physical. Also, it helps that the Eastern conference is god-awful which will help cover over up the fact that they’ve been a terrible offensive team over the past couple years.

Of course, they could totally prove me wrong. Because yeah, the additions of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will certainly speed up their pace, I just don’t think it’ll be enough. Regardless, watch this iteration of the Celtics. It might be your last chance.

The Spurs on the other hand are actually a much better team, but they play in the West so they’ll have to go through teams like the Lakers, Thunder, Nuggets, Grizzlies and more. They have a hard slog just to make it to the finals so I’m not sure these old dogs have it in them for one final run of thrilling, beautiful, and championship caliber basketball.


Minnesota’s new mascot. “Crunch” the disintegrating meniscus.

Last season’s schedule was a terror on the ligaments and cartilage of some of the leagues brightest stars. Over the span of a few months we saw Ricky Rubio, Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose, and Jeremy Lin all get sidelined with ACL tears or meniscus issues. On top of that Blake Griffin had minor knee surgery during the offseason, Kobe Bryant’s blood-spun joints are getting ever more fragile and we’ll also be witnessing the cartilage free comeback of former all-star Brandon Roy.

A lot of futures rest on these knees (fans, teams, sponsors). It’ll be fascinating to watch how they handle their minutes throughout the 82 game grind. I know as a Timberwolves fan I’ll be holding my breath during every game.

Northwest Division

Get used to these logos. They’re really cool… and really good.

It’s made up of teams in small-markets but I contend that no division in basketball will be as entertaining, and no division will be filled with higher-quality play night after night. In fact, it has the very real potential to field four of the eight western conference playoff teams.

Starting with the Thunder who we’ve already discussed, we’re also going to see some pretty special ball from the Denver Nuggets (a sleeper championship team), Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, and even at times the Portland Trailblazers.

If you love basketball, especially beautiful basketball, watch the Northwest Division. You won’t be disappointed.

The story will go on…and on… and on… and…

Of course, there are many other stories to watch this year but these are the ones I’ll be watching and therefore these are the ones you should be watching. If you have other narratives you’re looking forward to watching this year feel free to share them. I’m always in the mood for a good story.

By Mark Gaspar
Follow Mark on Twitter at @markgaspar

Rivalry Week

This week, The Couchletes will be focusing on rivalries in sports. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, college sports. We’ll cover them all. Why did we choose this week and not align with one of ESPN’s rivalry weeks during college football season. Well, we’re not ESPN for one. And two, it’s a fairly slow week in sports. Wimbledon and MLB’s All Star game, that’s about it. So why not create some sports discussions of our own?

To start the week off, we want to hear from you. What do you think are the best rivalries in sports? Head over to our Facebook page and vote on the polls we’ve posted over there about the best rivalries in sports. Then throughout the week, we’ll publish some of our thoughts here about sports rivalries.

Heat Win, Thunder Lose….Now What?

The NBA Finals are over and it’s been an entertaining month for all of us watching. But now I’m left asking one question – what’s next? I don’t mean ‘next’ literally, as in, what will I watch now that the Finals are over, but rather, what comes next for these two teams.

As much as many people hated them and cheered against them, the Heat proved that they are undoubtedly the NBA’s best team. All the pieces finally came together. LeBron got a look on his face in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and began playing better than we’ve ever seen him. Chris Bosh returned from injury and proved to everyone that although awkward and at times, downright weird, he is a great player that adds a dimension to Miami’s team that they just can’t find elsewhere on their roster. Shane Battier and Mike Miller showed everyone that they can be valuable role players. And Dwyane Wade….well, I guess he proved that, as he’s been saying for two years, indeed, this isn’t his team anymore.

With LeBron playing at this level, Bosh complementing him nicely and Wade playing the role of Scottie Pippen, we have no reason to believe this team won’t be in contention for years to come (likely winning several more titles). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd also mentioned this morning that they shouldn’t have trouble bringing in solid, veteran role players. Those guys want to win a championship AND LeBron is such a good distributor that they know they’ll get their looks at the basket too.

The Thunder, it would seem, will also be in contention for years to come with a solid, young nucleus in place. But I have to ask, is their young nucleus, the right one? They have a lot of good, young players, but do these players mesh together? I think Sam Presti has to ask himself this question after watching the finals.

In game 4, Russell Westbrook played a great game. Everyone talked about how well he played. What those people failed to notice though, is what that game did to them in the greater scheme of things. Westbrook came out in game 5 looking to play the same way. The problem was he wasn’t playing the same way. He wasn’t on like he was in game 4. Yet he kept shooting and shooting and shooting. Ignoring open teammates, making dumb mental mistakes.

If anything, I think these Finals proved that while Westbrook is very good, he’s in it for himself. He wants to score points. He wants to be the guy. He doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Kevin Durant. Westbrook isn’t the guy though. He doesn’t have that in him. He’s too selfish.

If I’m Sam Presti, I have to ask myself, is this guy the point guard that can win us a title? Think long and hard about it, Sam. Would you be better off with a distributor and creator at point guard? A team player? I can’t help but think the Thunder would’ve been better off if they had Rajon Rondo at point guard against the Heat. Rondo keeps teams on their toes (yet often leaves them on their heels) with his unpredictable style. He finds extremely narrow passing lanes, makes his teammates better, yet can still score if teams start to overplay the passing lanes. Westbrook didn’t force the Heat to change their approach. They wanted to prevent Durant from getting the ball (which they did a good job of) and make others beat them. Once they saw Westbrook wasn’t going to pass the ball, they had him where they wanted him. He was getting double teamed and still wouldn’t pass.

Thinking back about the comment Colin Cowherd made about the Heat not having trouble bringing in veteran players, I can’t help but consider how it applies to the Thunder. People see that Westbrook is greedy. They know they won’t get their touches from him. Will they be able to bring in some of the free agents that they need?

Some people hate the Westbrook bashing (see: Jeff Van Gundy), but the player showed it was warranted. Prove me wrong, Russell. Show everyone that you can be a real point guard, a guy that distributes the ball and finds the open man. So far, you haven’t shown that.

Time to Step Down, David Stern

Disclaimer: On our Facebook page today, we said we would write about more than the NBA – and we will – but the NBA just keeps providing us with all these storylines to write about. So, yes, we have another post on the NBA. Apologies to non-NBA fans…

David Stern, I feel like the time has come for you to finally step down as commissioner of the NBA. Over the years we’ve seen your personality. You’re a curmudgeon. It’s what you are, you can’t help that. One can’t change their personality. At times we’ve even appreciated your curmudgeonly attitude, liked it to a degree. But the past few years, it’s reached the point where you just seem angry at the world – and above the world. Superior to all of us common folk. You don’t have time for fans; you certainly don’t have the time to bother yourself with answering media questions. You’re way too important to spend 5 minutes doing a radio interview.

Today, I think you reached the point where it became clear for all to see that you’ve passed your prime. Jim Rome interviewed you for his radio show. He asked you a question about the conspiracy theories that surround the NBA draft. He pushed just a little (which, by Rome standards, didn’t seem like a push at all, seemed more like casual conversation) – which is his job, by the way, and this ensued. It’s worth just going to that link and listening to the clip. You didn’t like Rome’s questioning, so you blurted out, “do you still beat your wife?” What? Seriously? I understand what you were trying to do. If you ask me a dumb question, I’m going to ask you one. But to ask that question? That crossed the line. But you weren’t done. Later in the interview, you essentially insinuated that Rome’s a hack. Not a legitimate journalist, but someone that progressed in their career by blowing things out of proportion and reporting on falsities and rumor. Stern ended the interview by saying he had to go talk with a reputable journalist. He had to go talk with Stephen A. Smith. Needless to say, by the end of the interview, Rome was pissed. And rightfully so. But he actually held it together pretty well. I was impressed.

What you said during that interview was completely inappropriate and uncalled for. You got petty and immature. You embarrassed yourself and by extension, the league and the owners. If one of your owners or players acted like that you would demand an apology from them. So where’s yours? I expect to hear of one soon.

David, part of your job as NBA commissioner is to be an ambassador of the league. During that interview, is that how you acted? You act like you’re above people, like you’re smarter than everyone else in the room and need to prove it. Guess what? The smartest person in the room never has to prove it. The one that has to prove it is the one who knows he’s not. Deep down I think you know the game is passing you by. You hear the media – of the big four commissioners of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB – you’re no longer tops. They love Roger Goodell. Are you jealous? Angry? Bitter?

Don’t get me wrong. You’ve done a great job over the years, but after Jordan retired, for 10+ years your league struggled. You let some things get out of hand. Finally a new crop of young talent is saving you. It’s really your demeanor and ego though that’s killing you. You’re setting a bad standard for the league and serving as a poor mouthpiece. And because of those things, I stand by what I said earlier. I think it’s time for new blood to run the league.

Flopping and Flailing, the NBA’s Problem with Charging and Blocking

Earlier today we got a request on our Facebook page (that’s right, we have a Facebook page, and  we actually have some original conversations over there instead of just syndicating our blog posts to it) for some perspective on an article from SB Nation about flopping in basketball written by professional basketball player Dan Grunfeld. Grunfeld’s piece is titled, Why NBA Players Flop, And What The League Can Do About It. He essentially says that players flop because they’re able to get away with it. As far as what the league can do about it, he provides a number of options ranging from assessing technical fouls to permitting coaches to issue challenges to post game league reviews resulting in fines.

I look at ‘flopping’ somewhat differently. Yes, it’s done in basketball, but I don’t think it’s the pandemic that some make it out to be (I’m looking at you, Jeff Van Gundy). It definitely doesn’t even begin to approach the problem that soccer has with flopping. Those guys are just ridiculous. I feel like about 75% of the time there’s a charging or blocking foul in basketball it’s a legitimate play. Two competitive people getting after it and contact was made where someone fell down. I’m not saying there aren’t flops. There definitely are, but let’s not exaggerate (again, looking at you, Jeff Van Gundy).

Getting back to Grunfeld’s question – why do NBA players flop – I think it’s because they have to. Referees now favor the offensive player so much that the offensive charge is one of the few advantages they have left to play. Think about it. Traveling is so prevalent now that sometimes I feel like over the course of a game players take more steps holding the ball than they do dribbling it. Used to be that refs allowed two steps on a drive to the basket. Now it seems like they allow four or more. Double dribble. Players turn the ball over in their hands every time they dribble the ball now. It’s rarely called, but frequently occurs.

Most important to this particular topic, think about a player driving to the basket. Players are throwing their bodies into the lane and the defenders in their way. Just flailing their bodies, throwing the ball up and counting on getting a blocking foul called. Continuation calls make it even worse. Offensive players do it because they know they get the benefit of the call more often than not. Referees are much more inclined to call a blocking foul than a charge. I’ve seen this so many times this year in the playoffs that I can’t even count that high. Wade, LeBron, Westbrook, Pierce and more. They’re all doing it. So yeah, sometimes a defender will ‘flop’ to try and draw a foul. Why aren’t we criticizing those out of control players the same way we are those that flop? Seems a bit like a double standard to me. Dwyane Wade throwing his body into Brandon Bass and tossing the ball up behind his head is a smart play, but if Shane Battier slides in front of a driving, out of control Paul Pierce people think it’s a dirty or underhanded play? That’s just as smart of a play as Wade’s.

Look at the actual definition of charging and the sentiment behind the rule. It was instituted to keep offensive players in control. The NBA has a breakdown of charging and blocking rules here. You’ll notice there’s no mention of the defender needing to have both feet planted on the ground to draw a charge – a common misconception among fans, players, coaches and media. In this post based on information heard from the NBA’s director of officiating programs and development, it’s stated that referees actually watch a defender’s torso. So a defender actually can be moving when drawing a charge – as long as the torso is in a set defensive position. Before you ask, yes, that is possible.

To eliminate flopping, I think the NBA also needs to crack down on offensive players that are flailing and out of control. Why should someone get rewarded for blindly and wildly charging the lane? Better yet, why should a defender get penalized for attempting to defend that type of poor basketball play? If referees show they won’t allow this abuse of the rules, then defenders won’t feel the need to flop either.

Of course, the NBA would never allow this because it could cut down on the number of tomahawk jam ending drives down the lane. So we’ll have to deal with flailing. And flopping.

‘The Look’ and the Expectations It’s Set

Two days ago we witnessed one of the greatest playoff performances of all time. LeBron James single handedly beat the Boston Celtics. They couldn’t stop him. They couldn’t even contain him. He was able to do whatever he wanted and the most impressive part of the performance is that Boston was playing good defense. They were on him. Hands in his face, bodying him, staying with him step for step. And he was still burning them.

This was a LeBron I don’t think we’ve ever seen. He’s always been a great player, but we’ve never seen him as this unstoppable force. When he stepped foot on the court Thursday he was different. He had a different look to him – ‘The Look.’ The look on his face, which didn’t leave until about midway through the fourth quarter, was sullen, removed and pouty. (Side note: will we see this from him more? Will it rise to the level of The Manning Face?) I’ve seen some describe LeBron’s look Thursday night as emotionless. I didn’t see it as that. To me, it seemed more like an act. “I’m going to have this look on my face the whole game as a statement.” It struck me that way because you could see him make an effort to keep the look on his face. He’d drive the lane and get fouled, face contorting, as always players typically do in that situation. As soon as the whistle blew, you could see him consciously make the effort to put that look back on his face. To me, it didn’t seem emotionless, it seemed more pouty.

I don’t know if that was LeBron’s effort to look intense or if it was the result of being beaten down for the past two days by fans and media (didn’t help him that after Kevin Durant closed out San Antonio some were now saying he jumped past LeBron as best in the league and has undoubtedly been the best player in the playoffs). But either way, it didn’t strike me as genuine. Some players have an intense look to them that is transparent and honest. You can tell that they’re intense in all facets of their lives – Michael Jordan had that, Kobe has that, even Kevin Garnett has that look. LeBron never has. He’s a little more happy go lucky. Not to say he doesn’t take the game seriously – he does – but he likes to have fun while he’s playing. He’s never had that stone cold vibe to him like Michael or Kobe. And that’s fine. Everyone is their own man and succeeds in his own way. Magic Johnson didn’t strike me as being a stone cold killer either and he succeeded without it.

Now, if ‘the look’ was the result of two days of intense criticism and scrutiny, that seems more plausible than the sudden emergence of high intensity, but as I mentioned earlier, it was visible that there was effort to keep ‘the look.’ If it was a beaten down LeBron, he never would’ve come out of that mode and there were moments you could see he did.

Moving beyond the look on LeBron’s face, there was something more important about his performance Thursday night: now we’ve seen he can do it… After that game, I was asking, “where has this been before?” The guy’s always been great, but not dominating at such a high level. What happened? He destroyed one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. The rest of his team was flat and offered little help. Wade has been stymied and frustrated by Boston’s double teams the whole series and he didn’t have a good game. Bosh might as well have not been there. The cast of supporting players filled their roles, but did nothing spectacular. LeBron forced a game 7, the Heat didn’t.

He had some great games in Cleveland, some really great games. He led a cast of misfits to the NBA Finals, but I don’t recall seeing anything like Thursday night from him before. I’m trying to keep perspective and not get caught up in the moment, but I don’t ever recall being as impressed with LeBron as I was Thursday night. Had we seen this side of him before, we could be looking at him as the greatest player ever right now. Should he have broken out ‘the look’ before? Has he been coasting, somewhat wasting this insane amount of talent that emerged Thursday night which we haven’t seen anything like since Jordan? The answer is of course no, LeBron is no coaster, he exerts tons of effort, but after such an astonishing performance, I know there were people asking that.

Heading into tonight’s game 7 I have to wonder what we’ll see from LeBron. He’s now shown us he has it in him to just completely and utterly dominate a game. That also means we’re now going to expect it since we know he can do it. So tonight will we see the return of ‘the look’? Can LeBron give us those performances consistently? Or did ‘the look’ set such astronomical expectations that he can only disappoint? After all, most people have now already put the Heat in the Finals against the Thunder. We’ll see tonight. I, for one, don’t envy the position LeBron is in…

Another Update – Top 10 Coaches in NBA History

Last week I wrote a post giving my thoughts on what a revised NBA Top 50 team would look like. A less publicized distinction that was also part of the NBA’s 50 anniversary celebration was the naming of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA history. I, for one, had no idea that this award was given back in 1996. As a side note, the NBA also recognized the Top 10 Teams in league history.

But back to the Top 10 Coaches list. The men that made that list:

Red Auerbach, Chuck Daly, Bill Fitch, Red Holzman, Phil Jackson, John Kundla, Don Nelson, Jack Ramsey, Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkins

I read that list and the thought that came to mind was, “What the hell?” Bill Fitch has a career winning percentage under .500. He’s lost more games than he’s won! Don Nelson has never won an NBA title. He’s won a lot of games, but he’s also lost a lot… Same goes for Lenny Wilkins, but Lenny’s at least won an NBA title.

I initially wanted to look at this list of the top 10 coaches in league history as of 1996 and consider updating it with coaches that weren’t yet coaching in ’96. Guys like Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers. But as I reviewed the list and thought about it more, I realized I didn’t even agree with the original list. Bill Fitch? Bill Fitch! So instead I decided to revise the list by considering coaches that were eligible to be named to that original list, coaches like Jerry Sloan and K.C. Jones, as well as new coaches that weren’t head coaches as of 1996.

Much like I did with the NBA Top 50 team, I’ll compare current coaches named as one of the Top 10 with potential new coaches that could receive the recognition. The difference with this coaching analysis is that I’ll compare all of the top 10 current coaches with those ‘new’ coaches that I think are eligible to be considered for a spot among the top 10.  The new ones I’m considering are Gregg Popovich, K.C. Jones, Jerry Sloan, Billy Cunningham, Doc Rivers, Tom Heinsohn and Larry Brown.

I decided to compare these 16 coaches against each other using wins, career winning percentage, playoff winning percentage and championships as the basis of the analysis. For coaches that were named to the original team in 1996 and were currently coaching, I’m using their updated stats through the end of the 2012 regular season.

Red Auerbach – 938 wins, .662 winning percentage, .589 playoff winning percentage, 9 NBA Championships

Larry Brown – 1,327 wins, .568 winning percentage, .511 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Billy Cunningham – 454 wins, .698 winning percentage, .629 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Chuck Daly – 638 wins, .593 winning percentage, .595 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

Bill Fitch – 944 wins, .460 winning percentage, .505 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Tom Heinsohn – 427 wins, .619 winning percentage, .588 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

Red Holzman – 696 wins, .535 winning percentage, .547 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

Phil Jackson – 1,155 wins, .704 career winning percentage, .688 playoff winning percentage, 11 NBA Championships

K.C. Jones – 552 wins, .643 career winning percentage, .570 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

John Kundla – 423 wins, .583 career winning percentage, .632 playoff winning percentage, 4 NBA Championships

Don Nelson – 1,335 wins, .557 career winning percentage, .452 playoff winning percentage, 0 NBA Championships

Gregg Popovich – 847 wins, .680 career winning percentage, .611 playoff winning percentage, 4 NBA Championships

Jack Ramsey – 864 wins, .525 career winning percentage, .431 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Pat Riley – 1,210 wins, .636 career winning percentage, .606 playoff winning percentage, 5 NBA Championships

Doc Rivers – 546 wins, .558 career winning percentage, .545 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Jerry Sloan – 1,221 wins, .603 career winning percentage, .485 playoff winning percentage, 0 NBA Championships

Lenny Wilkins – 1,332 wins, .536 career winning percentage, .449 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

After comparing all these coaches, I have to say, this decision was much easier than the Top 50 players decision. I decided on the first nine pretty quickly and then it came down to Red Holzman vs. Jerry Sloan. Ultimately I decided on Jerry Sloan because he’s had such consistent success over such a long period of time.

The argument could be made that some of these coaches owe all of their success to the supreme talent they’ve had on their teams. And that argument has actually been made against coaches like Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach. I don’t buy that. There are a lot of coaches that have had a ton of talent, but haven’t been able to win consistently or an NBA Championship. It’s more difficult than it looks. Just ask Erik Spoelstra.

Anyway, the 10 coaches I think are the best in NBA history are Red Auerbach, Billy Cunningham, Chuck Daly, Tom Heinsohn, Phil Jackson, K.C. Jones, John Kundla, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan.

New NBA Top 50 Team

Just over fifteen years ago, David Stern announced the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History as part of the league’s fiftieth anniversary. This NBA Top 50 team was selected by a group of players, media and team representatives irrespective of position.

For some reason, over the past month I’ve been thinking about what a revised NBA Top 50 team would look like. A team that could include current players. Then a few weeks ago I read an article by Bill Simmons about Paul Pierce, in which he mentioned that Pierce would currently be considered one of the top 50 players in NBA history. So I decided to take a look at what a revised NBA Top 50 team would look like 15 years after the first team was named.

I thought about the current and recently retired players that deserve to be considered for a spot on this new NBA Top 50 team. Kobe, LeBron, Tim Duncan, Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Dwyane Wade, Gary Payton and Dirk Nowitzki all came to mind.

There’s another group of players that could be in someday, but in my mind, just haven’t played long enough or made enough impact to earn a spot on the team yet. Guys like Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams.

So that’s eleven ‘new’ players that could be considered for the new NBA Top 50 team. Doesn’t mean all of them belong on it, but those are probably the best eleven since that initial team was named. But if any of them are going to make it on, then some players have to come off. Tougher than naming those eleven could be naming the bottom eleven off the 1996 NBA Top 50 team.

If I had to choose, I’d go with Tiny Archibald, Paul Arizin, Dave Bing, Billy Cunningham, Walt Frazier, George Gervin, Sam Jones, Jerry Lucas, Earl Monroe, Bill Walton and James Worthy.

Now let’s compare the stats of these 22 players. My thinking is that out of these 22, the top 11 get spots on the NBA Top 50 team. Keep in mind…I have a full time job…so my statistical comparison won’t match the analyses done by ESPN or SI or Bill Simmons. I just don’t have the time to get that deep into the numbers. If this was my full time job, that would be another story. You’ll see that some of the players included in this list don’t have certain stats included. That’s because those particular stats weren’t tabulated during their playing careers. For current players, the stats include their regular season numbers for the 2011-12 season:

Tiny Archibald (G): 13 seasons; 16,481 career points (18.8 ppg); 2,046 career rebounds (2.3 rpg); 6,476 career assists (7.4 apg); 719 career steals (1.1 spg); 81 career blocks (.1 bpg); 18.0 career PER

Paul Arizin (F/G): 10 seasons; 16,266 career points (22.8 ppg); 6,129 career rebounds (8.6 rpg); 1,665 career assists (2.3 apg); 19.7 career PER

Dave Bing (G): 12 seasons; 18,327 points (20.3 ppg); 3,420 career rebounds (3.8 rpg); 5,397 career assists (6.0 apg); 483 career steals (1.3 spg); 89 career blocks (.3 bpg); 17.6 career PER

Kobe Bryant (G): 16 seasons; 29,484 career points (25.4 ppg); 6,142 career rebounds (5.3 rpg); 5,418 career assists (4.7 apg); 1,722 career steals (1.5 spg); 594 career blocks (.5 bpg); 23.4 career PER

Billy Cunningham (F/C): 11 seasons; 16,310 career points (21.1 ppg); 7,981 career rebounds (10.4 rpg); 3,305 career assists (4.3 apg); 390 career steals (1.8 spg); 66 career blocks (.5 bpg); 20.0 career PER

Tim Duncan (F/C): 15 seasons; 22,558 career points (20.3 ppg); 12,533 career rebounds (11.3 rpg); 3,428 career assists (3.1 apg); 822 career steals (.7 spg); 2,469 career blocks (2.2 bpg); 24.7 career PER

Walt Frazier (G): 13 seasons; 15,581 career points (18.9 ppg); 4,830 career rebounds (5.9 rpg); 5,040 career assists (6.1 apg); 681 career steals (1.9 spg); 63 career blocks (.2 bpg); 19.1 career PER

Kevin Garnett (F): 17 seasons; 24,270 career points (19.3 ppg); 13,313 career rebounds (10.6 rpg); 5,065 career assists (4.0 apg); 1,664 career steals (1.3 spg); 1,908 career blocks (1.5 bpg); 23.3 career PER

George Gervin (G/F): 16 seasons; 26,595 career points (25.1 ppg); 5,602 career rebounds (5.3 rpg); 2,798 career assists (2.6 apg); 1,283 career steals (1.2 spg); 1,047 career blocks (1.0 bpg); 21.4 career PER

Allen Iverson (G): 14 seasons; 24,368 career points (26.7 ppg); 3,394 career rebounds (3.7 rpg); 5,624 career assists (6.2 apg); 1,983 career steals (2.2 spg); 164 career blocks (.2 bpg); 20.9 career PER

LeBron James (F/G): 9 seasons; 19,045 career points (27.6 ppg); 4,943 career rebounds (7.2 rpg); 4,751 career assists (6.9 apg); 1,194 career steals (1.7 spg); 582 career blocks (.8 bpg); 27.2 career PER

Sam Jones (G/F): 12 seasons; 15,411 career points (17.7 ppg); 4,305 career rebounds (4.9 rpg); 2,209 career assists (2.5 apg); 18.7 career PER

Jason Kidd (G): 18 seasons; 17,071 career points (13.0 ppg); 8,402 career rebounds (6.4 rpg); 11,842 career assists (9.0 apg); 2,559 career steals (1.9 spg); 425 career blocks (.3 bpg); 18.1 PER

Jerry Lucas (F/C): 11 seasons; 14,053 career points (17.0 ppg); 12,942 career rebounds (15.6 rpg); 2,732 career assists (3.3 apg); 28 career steals (.4 spg); 24 career blocks (.3 bpg); 18.9 career PER

Earl Monroe (G): 13 seasons; 17,454 career points (18.8 ppg); 2,796 career rebounds (3.0 rpg); 3.594 career assists (3.9 apg); 473 career steals (1.0 spg); 121 career blocks (.3 bpg); 17.2 career PER

Steve Nash (G): 16 seasons; 16,649 career points (14.5 ppg); 3,471 career rebounds (3.0 rpg); 9,916 career assists (8.6 apg); 862 career steals (.7 spg); 95 career blocks (.1 bpg); 20.2 career PER

Dirk Nowitzki (F): 14 seasons; 24,134 career points (22.9 ppg); 8,734 career rebounds (8.3 rpg); 2,791 career assists (2.6 apg); 926 career steals (.9 spg); 1,013 career blocks (1.0 bpg); 23.6 career PER

Gary Payton (G): 17 seasons; 21,813 career points (16.3 ppg); 5,269 career rebounds (3.9 rpg); 8,966 career assists (6.7 apg); 2,445 career steals (1.8 spg); 285 career blocks (.2 bpg);18.9 career PER

Paul Pierce (F): 14 seasons; 22,591 career points (22.0 ppg); 6,164 career rebounds (6.0 rpg); 3,935 career assists (3.8 apg); 1,499 career steals (1.5 spg); 638 career blocks (.6 bpg); 20.7 career PER

Dwyane Wade (G): 9 seasons; 14,990 career points (25.2 ppg); 3,020 career rebounds (5.1 rpg); 3,697 career assists (6.2 apg); 1,055 career steals (1.8 spg); 611 bpg (1.0 bpg); 25.7 PER

Bill Walton (C/F): 10 seasons; 6,215 career points (13.3 ppg); 4,923 career rebounds (10.5 rpg); 1,590 career assists (3.4 apg); 380 career steals (.8 spg); 1,034 career blocks (2.2 bpg); 20.0 career PER

James Worthy (F): 12 seasons; 16,320 career points (17.6 ppg); 4,708 career rebounds (5.1 rpg); 2,791 career assists (3.0 apg); 1,041 career steals (1.1 spg); 624 career blocks (.7 bpg); 17.7 career PER

I spent quite a while studying these stats and considering various factors. The original NBA Top 50 team was chosen regardless of position, so I decided to choose the top 11 from this list in the same way. That said, it’s natural for you to want to consider similar position players. How do Bill Walton’s stats look compared to Kevin Garnett? How do Dwyane Wade and Dave Bing compare? But I didn’t do straight up position swaps. I just chose who I felt were the best 11.

So who are the best 11 in my opinion? Those that earn a spot on the team (or keep one)?: Kobe Bryant, Billy Cunningham, Tim Duncan, Walt Frazier, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Jerry Lucas, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade.

Some of those were easy choices – Kobe, Duncan, LeBron. Others took a lot of thought. The last player I chose was Walt Frazier, and I chose him over Steve Nash and George Gervin. Why Jason Kidd over Steve Nash, you may ask. Although Nash has a higher career scoring average and a higher PER, Kidd seems like the more complete player. He doesn’t trail Nash by much in those two statistical categories, and he leads him in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per game.

Jerry Lucas? He was also among the last players chosen. That rebounding average really stood out to me. Nearly 16 boards a game over a career? That’s pretty crazy for a big man. The other big guys on this list don’t come near that. Duncan average 11 and Garnett and Walton each averaged just over 10.

This isn’t a science, it’s all opinion. So what’s yours? Where did I get it right? Where did I screw it up?