Week Old Conversations – On the NBA


Sean Kemp, Andrew Wiggins, Popovich and Heat/Pacers

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solecollector.com

Christian Edwards

Let’s start with this:

Sean Kemp’s Top 10 Dunks

And a little bit of this:

Dominique Wilkins’ Top 10 Dunks

Discuss

David Magruder

Holy shit I forgot how athletic Shawn Kemp was.  Based purely on the eye-test, that sort of raw athleticism: jumping ability, court awareness, ability to look at anyone on the floor and think yeah…I got you, reminds me a lot of what Andrew Wiggins has.

Would Kemp be Wiggins’ ceiling or is it even higher? Or, not that high?

Christian

Ceiling?  Kemp was more of a fuck everyone I’m bigger, stronger and faster than you, whereas Wiggins is a bit more I’m just better at basketball than you are.  

Wiggins doesn’t quite have the same bulk potential in his body type and seems a bit more cerebral to me.  Not sure how that’s going to translate immediately.  But, with the way the game’s going (leaner, longer wings) perhaps he ends up having a similar impact as Kemp comparable to his contemporaries down the road.

More likely though, think dude ends up as a better Demar Derozan.  Multiple AS teams, couple all-NBAs, could be player 1a on a title winner, but never in the conversation for freakiest athlete/scariest dude in the league as Kemp was.  Which is crazy when you consider that dude played at the same time as Young Shaq and Karl Malone.

Kevin Osman

On the dunking awesomeness: A couple things struck me during those dunking videos:

  • Even though they had overlapping playing careers (Wilkins 1982-1999!!; Kemp 1989-2003) Kemp strikes me as much more of a physical specimen.  Just bigger and broader.  Really felt to me like they were from different eras.
  •  Nobody challenges shots anymore! I blame this on two things: Shawn Bradley and YouTube.

Shawn Bradley was like the Mount Shasta of dunking: large, tough to climb, but it ain’t Mount Everest.  Everybody went after Bradley so hard cause they knew it was the easiest 7-foot target they’d every find and he wasn’t going to do anything.  After seeing what happened to that dude, nobody wanted that.

The YouTube thing just takes it to another level.  Now, it’s not even about going after the biggest and baddest, it’s all about posterizing a guy and making him look foolish.  Take the DeAndre Jordan example: 6’11”, 265lb, blows up the internet for a night because he dunked on a Brandon Knight, a guy who is 6’3”, 189lb.

We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of this play, and it still bothers me.  Knight wasn’t even trying to block the shot! He just rotated late and tried to make the right basketball play even though it had a low chance of succeeding.

When you dunk on a guy who is 8 inches shorter, 70lbs lighter, doesn’t have proper position and wasn’t even going for the block, I don’t think you’re allowed to strut around like a peacock and throw out the thizz face.  Let’s see DeAndre do that to Hibbert in the paint, and then all those on-court mating rituals will be warranted.  (With all that said, those memes were fucking hilarious)

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inflexwetrust.com

Stephen Klepfer

I’m going to throw out another name for the Wiggins comparison… Someone with raw athleticism, a shooting stroke you can drool over, the ability to dominate in a variety of ways coupled with a maddening tendency to drift in and out of those same games… I can’t be the only one hoping he’s the next incarnation of Tracy McGrady.

T-mac was my favorite player and is the number one reason I’m even interested in the NBA. It’s a reach right now sure, but not when you consider the fact that T-Mac had a couple of slower years coming into the league with Toronto where he was the 1a player right next to his cousin Vince. Talk about a scary combo to face.

I’m going to come back to the question of coaching although off the top of my head I’m thinking Bill Belicheck and Vinny Del Negro as the two ends of the spectrum.

Christian

Oh man. T-Mac with a smart coach in today’s game would be swell.  I feel like dude’s problem was the same with a lot of the high school guys.

They were the man, got drafted and never really had anyone tell them they couldn’t just do exactly what the fuck they wanted. The only truly successful (dudes that didn’t peak as rotation guys e.g. J.R. Smith, DeShawn Stevenson) high school dudes are big men (Kemp, Dwight, Amare, Chandler, Big Al), ball stopping wings that were just naturally skilled/tenacious enough to make it (Kobe, TMac, Monta Ellis) and God’s Gift to 21st Century Basketball (LBJ)

But, Wiggins’ll come into a game where that shit don’t fly for rookies no mo’.  You gotta play the team game, find your role, and adapt.  Which I think might have been the best thing for T-Mac comin in.

Next questions:
-Does the “Indiana surpassing the Heat” idea take a hit when they lose by 22 to the Bobcats, a team that they’re pretty much built to beat?
-Is Pop the greatest non-Phil coach of our generation in any sport?

midwaymadness.com
midwaymadness.com

Kevin

Isn’t every team built to beat the Bobcats?

To your Pacers question, I’d say “no.”  Every great team takes off nights and gets killed. It was a road game, their 4th game in 5 nights (sound familiar, Christian?), Paul George missed all 9 of his field goal attempts, and Charlotte shot 50% from three.

While this doesn’t help Indiana’s narrative, nothing will truly influence people’s opinions until they meet in the playoffs.  Any NBA analyst saying that the Pacers are better “now” or saying that the Heat are the best will have no problem declaring the best team once the playoff series is decided.  Playoffs is where reputations are sealed, and all the flimsy narratives from the regular season will fall to the wayside at the end of May.

Magruder

Indiana surpassing the Heat absolutely takes a hit with that loss.  Well, not just that loss but look at the past 30 days, they’re 8-5 with a tough game tonight against the Post-All-Star-Break-Best Rockets.  I’m very interested to see how they respond tonight, for if they drop this one, it will be three straight…

LeBron is playing out of his mind again so there’s really no room for error on the Pacers end.

Re the coaches questions, let me throw two wild cards out there: Pat Summitt or Geno Auriemma…in my defense, you did say any sport.

Christian

Very true.  The longevity is crazy.  I do think the number of elite level women’s basketball players is considerably lower than men’s, mostly due to interest in the game, and as such the ability of a top program to recruit and say “these four programs have won the last 30 women’s bball titles and make up half the WNBA” (all stats approximate) is a pretty solid recruiting pitch.

Disclaimer:  I think whatever team has LeBron James should be favored for the title always

Having said that

So much of the aura and respect for the Heat stems from the fact that they’ve won two titles in a row and “when they’re playing like they do when it matters they can’t be beat.”  But we know that to be untrue per the following.

  • LeBron doesn’t have those nonsense games 6&7 in Boston in ‘12, they don’t win the title.
  • LeBron doesn’t hit that crazy layup in overtime of game 1 of Pacers/Heat last year and everything else goes the same, the Pacers go down as Eastern champs in 6, w/a resounding 25 point win at home to go to the finals.
  • Ray Allen doesn’t hit the greatest shot in NBA history (yes I said it stakes, timing, all of it), they don’t have that aura, and we remember LeBron for turning the ball over twice in the last minute and half on possessions where he held the ball for the whole shot clock instead of the whole loses headband-goes off thing.
  • Tim Duncan doesn’t miss a two foot bunny, they might still be playing.

Point being, the Heat as the best is based off their actually winning the title, when in reality, just a few things go differently and we’re talking a completely different game.

If the Pacers win last year, isn’t the conversation about how the Pacers are essentially locks to win again?

Stephen

I agree completely that we create narratives based off of outcome and not based on the process. Winning lends itself to creating whatever story line you want, it’s the entire foundation behind history being written by the victors.

However, you picked what are likely the 4 most visible examples of breaks that went the Heat’s way last season, I feel like we can find all of those same breaks for other teams that didn’t wind up winners.

People are assigned the labels of “Winner” or “Choker” and everything they do is a referendum on that original proclamation. Kobe is talked about as one of the greatest winners ever, even in light of the fact that he went 6/24 in game 7 of his most recent championship.

Talent puts you in position to win championships (See: New England Patriots) but luck, whether its lucky bounces (The rebound coming to bosh who has a clear passing lane to Ray Allen) or injuries (78% of New England being injured by the playoffs vs. 3 Injuries for Seattle) is always going to be a big part of a championship run.

The Heat are the team to beat because of LBJ, but also because Bosh is one of the most versatile big men in the game and Wade is on the Tim Duncan plan. Home court is enormous considering the fact that these two teams could easily go 7, and a home and home between IND and MIA is going to go a long way toward determining who’s favored in it.

In regards to coaching: I want to throw Uncle Tony out there. For those of you non-tennis aficionados (and really, that should be no one) Uncle Tony is Rafa Nadal’s uncle and coach. I find Nadal to be one of the most transfixing athletes out there, and he’s been coached his entire career by Uncle Tony.

Not to mention the fact that as far as coach nicknames go, Uncle Tony is one of the best (Pops, The Zen Master, and Chucky are also at the top of the list.)

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youtube.com

Kevin

As a die-hard Laker fan (after fighting for survival through the Swaggy P Christmas Miracle, I died a very hard death somewhere between December 27th and February 4th) it might surprise you to say that I judge the coaching acumen of Popovich and Phil a bit differently, and see them as equals.

Phil’s the ultimate coach of NBA stars, but he only has the opportunity for success within very limited situations (albeit, situations no other coach could succeed in).  Popvich, on the other hand, I view as the ultimate system coach (albeit, a system in which the greatest power forward of all-time plays a small role).

I don’t think that Phil could get Kawahi Leonard, Gary Neal, and the Really Tall White Dude They Overpaid to perform as well as they did to get to the Finals last season.

Phil’s skill is getting the most out of his best players and getting the others to follow, Popovich’s entire philosophy seems to run around getting his supporting guys in the best place to succeed, and having his best players maximize the value of the supporting cast.  If I have a high-potential roster and want to win a championship this season or next, I’d take Phil, no question.

But if I’m looking for a coach to maximize my likelihood of winning for 10 years? Pop would have to be my call.