Rankings: The 7th Man of the year (oh, and MVP, too)

Let's face it: Part I of the final basket-blogger awards played to script, with Durant (ROY), Scott (COY), and Hedo (MIP). However, today's rankings of 7th Man and MVP promise to be more surprising and--dare we say--interesting.

Still, prepare yourself for lots of charts and numbers; bloggers provided six months of data, after all. How could we not analyze it?

7th Man of the Year

We elected to skip 6th Man--not just because Manu Ginobili was near-unanimous, but since typical candidates are de facto starters--and instead wanted to recognize a true impact reserve. A player who doesn't get starter's minutes (so, no one who played more than 24 mpg) and came off the bench all season (so, no one who started more than 25% of the games he played in).

Here's how basket-bloggers voted:

Honorable mention: Jordan Farmar, Leon Powe, Jannero Pargo.

3. Louis Williams
11.5 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 16.7 PER
Per 36 minutes: 17.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.6 spg
Adjusted plus-minus: -7.68
12 points, named on 15% of ballots

Perfect third guard, although we'll probably end up overpaying him--and starting him.--Phunctional Phalcoholic, We Rite Goode

2. JR Smith
12.3 ppg, 1.7 apg, 40% 3FG, 18.1 PER
Per 36 minutes: 23.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.2 apg
Adjusted plus-minus: -1.99
22 points, 35% of ballots

The Nuggets are in the lottery without his scoring, and yes, passing, off the bench.--Jeremy, Pickaxe and Roll.

INAUGURAL 7TH MAN - Jason Maxiell
7.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 54% FG, 21.6 mpg, 16.7 PER
Per 36 minutes: 13.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Adjusted plus-minus: 4.34
29 points, 46% of ballot

He anchors a very good bench for a team that is, in my view, the 2nd best team in the NBA.--John, Red's Army

He eats babies.--Pradamaster, Bullets Forever

Editorializing for a second, our friend PhDribble wants bloggers to better recognize bench players; he'd be happy to know that 23 different 7th men were nominated, with 11 receiving at least one first-place vote. Not surprisingly, the polling strongly favored reserves on playoff teams, which tend to be deeper and bring more talent off the pine.

Another aside: Had this award been based solely on adjusted plus-minus--basically, how much better was a team with X player on the court--Eduardo Najera (plus 9.25) would have won 7th man in a landslide, as he was among the league leaders. Second and third among 7th men were Tony Allen (plus 5.08) and Kyle Korver (plus 4.80), respectively.

Most Valuable Player

Whether it was wins, points, or lifetime achievement, most basket-bloggers based their MVP choice on established criteria. Then there were the voters who felt that charisma in street clothes (one 9th place vote for Greg Oden) or simply leaving the team (one 10th place vote for Jeff McInnes) were enough to warrant consideration.

You'll see the results below, but one trend we've identified, which is sure to help some runner-up's candidacy next year: Keep your bad haircut. After shaving their heads, Andrew Bogut and Chris Kaman finished tied for just 23rd.

Honorable mention: Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Paul Pierce, Tracy McGrady

10. Manu Ginobili
19.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.5 apg, 61.2% TS, PER 24.3
32 win shares, 10.65 adjusted plus-minus
62 points, 50% of ballots

As he goes, so go the Spurs. No disrespect to Timmy, but it's the truth.--Ben Q. Rock, Third Quarter Collapse

9. Deron Williams

18.8 ppg, 10.5 apg, 59.5% FG, 20.8 PER
31 win shares, 2.06 adjusted plus-minus
66 points, 50% of ballots

Even though as a Nugget fan I hate the Jazz, Deron is just too good to put any lower.--Jeremy, Pickaxe and Roll

8. Dirk Nowitzki
23.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 58.5% TS, 24.6 PER

34 win shares, 8.16 adjusted plus-minus
67 points, 57% of ballots

In many ways Dirk has been much more of an MVP candidate to me this year than last. He's shown unexpected toughness and resiliency and was the reason Dallas topped the 50 win mark once again.--Franchise, RaptorsHQ

7. Amare Stoudemire
25.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 65.6% TS, 27.6 PER

43 win shares, -1.47 adjusted plus-minus
99 points, 67% of ballots

Some questioned his passion and work-ethic in the beginning of the season...Those people have been very quiet.--Ryne, Odenized

6. Tim Duncan
19.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.9 bpg, 24.3 PER

32 win shares, 7.52 adjusted plus-minus
104 points, 72% of ballots

Didn't everyone think he was washed up like 3 years ago?--College Wolf, Twolves Blog

Top five in MVP voting

Let's pause for a second. Not for dramatic emphasis, but to consider how these final five players separated themselves across the season; none dropped below fifth in our rankings, and four--LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Chris Paul--held the top spot at some point.

However, every player who once held first also ranked as low as fourth or fifth at some point, illustrating this year's ultra-competitive MVP race. One week, Dwight Howard was #1 and LeBron James was #3; in the next poll, they'd swapped places. In fact, the most consistent candidate was Kevin Garnett--the only player in this quintet yet to hold #1--as KG never fell below fourth nor rose above second.

We know that, over the course of a season, voters change their ballots based on fluctuations in player and team performance, not to mention factors like dramatic wins or SportsCenter highlights. For example, Caron Butler appeared in just one ranking--10th overall, on Dec. 17th--and we'd bet that was tied to the Wizards' nationally televised victory over Shaq and Wade a few nights before, as much as Butler's play and team record.

So, in offering up these final five MVP candidates, we examine one factor--if recent team performance correlated with voter behavior. In addition to select stats and witty comments, the following players also get a big, distracting chart (The red line represents where the players ranked in MVP voting each round; the blue line represents their team's winning percentage in the two weeks between votes.) Judge for yourself; our back-of-the-envelope analysis is that there's a link, in addition to a bit of a lag.

5. Dwight Howard
20.7 ppg, 14.2 rpg, 59.9% FG, 2.1 bpg
36 win shares, 13.71 adjusted plus-minus
165 points, 94% of ballots

The league's leader in adjusted plus-minus, and by a wide margin. He also hasn't missed a game in his career.--Ben Q. Rock, Third Quarter Collapse

A good supporting cast, but it is Howard who has got Orlando to this point. And Howard who will take the Magic further...--Don, With Malice...

Became a much better player this year, but fizzled down the stretch.--Jeramey, The Bratwurst

4. LeBron James
30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 29.1 PER
43 win shares, 9.29 adjusted plus-minus
272 points, 100% of ballots

If Chris Paul is the glue making the pieces of his team fit, LeBron is the team itself; sans LBJ the Cavs are probably the worst offensive team in the league.--Franchise, RaptorsHQ

Long story short is that they didn't win enough games. That's bogus because they would have won less games than the TWolves without LeBron.--College Wolf, TWolves Blog

As far as MVP voting went, he would have been better off slacking the first half of the season like he did last year.--Brett, Queen City Hoops

He's an unbelievable player, but if you can't get more than 4 games over .500 in the Leastern Conference you can't win the award - that's actually engraved on the trophy. --Tom and Steve W., CelticsBlog

Hard to overlook his stats. Easy to overlook his team. Not quite the MVP.--David, The Dream Shake

3. Kevin Garnett
18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 54% FG, 25.2 PER
36 win shares, 9.68 adjusted plus-minus
291 points, 100% of ballots (nine first place votes)

He's not getting enough love, methinks. Defense is a major, major part of the game, and you can't deny how much he has impacted that end of the floor. I mean, Boston has the third-best defensive efficicency of ALL TIME! How ridiculous is that.--Pradamaster, Bullets Forever

Never before has one man done so much... with so much. Wait, what?--Matt and Corn, Hardwood Paroxysm

HEY BOSTON IS DA GRATEST!!! HATAZ DON NO BOUT DEM CELTICS!!! via Ball Don't Lie--Goathair, The Blowtorch

2. Kobe Bryant
28.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.4 apg, 1.8 spg, 24.2 PER
39 win shares, 10.56 adjusted plus-minus
317 points, 100% of ballots (12 first place votes)

As Tim Legler put it, he is the only player in the NBA who has no weaknesses. He is the only player since MJ who you would want to take the last shot and defend a player who is taking the last shot.--Dave, 20 Second Timeout

His leadership and poise are what set him apart. There are a lot of great leaders, but none would I have over Kobe.--Ryne, Odenized

The man can win games singlehandedly whenever he wants to, AND leap over speeding Aston Martins in a single bound.--Jeff, Courtside at the Score

He's still the best player in the NBA. Just not the most valuable this year. There are worse things in life than #2 in MVP voting...--David, The Dream Shake

(Kobe's kind of our horse in the race, despite voting for Paul; amidst last fall's trading frenzy, we were hoping that he could still pull a Hakeem Olajuwon in L.A.).

1. Chris Paul
21.1 ppg, 11.6 apg, 2.7 spg, 57.6% TS, 28.3 PER
50 win shares, -.06 adjusted plus-minus
334 points, 100% of ballots (15 first place votes)

He's having the best traditional point-guard season of all-time, and he saved basketball in New Orleans. "Value" applies to the community, too.--Ben Q. Rock, Third Quarter Collapse

Try to win 56 games in the West with Mo Peterson as your STARTING teammate in the back court and tell me how it works...--Ricky, Sixers 4 Guidos

By PER, the man just had THE single greatest season in the history of the point guard position. Better than Magic, Oscar, or Stockton in their prime. I just don't see how that can go unrewarded.--Rohan, At the Hive

How do we compare?


Here's one final, crowded chart: A compilation of every poll from across the season. Note how the same players remained in the top five all season, while 13 different players rotated through the bottom five slots.

You can see a full-size version of this graphic here.

If the chart's abbreviations throw you off, check out this spreadsheet, which contains the year-long MVP results, in addition to full voting for today's awards. In tracking players' "full body of work," the spreadsheet also illustrates how cumulative voting (i.e., Dwight Howard gets 9 points for finishing second in the inaugural poll, 10 points for finishing first in the second poll, etc.) would have significantly altered the MVP results: LeBron would be the hands-down winner, while Kobe would've finished fourth and Steve Nash--who wasn't even in the final poll--would've ranked sixth.


A Texas-sized hat-tip to Brew Hoop's Alex--who dreamed up these rankings nearly six months ago--for letting us close out this fantastic regular season. Not to mention, many thanks to the kind voters (listed out below) and to you, the reader...who now knows far more about bloggers' MVP preferences than he ever wished.

Esteemed voters
David (Dream Shake); Ryne (Odenized); Franchise (RaptorsHQ); Spartacus (3 Shades of Blue); College Wolf (TWolves Blog); Matt and Corndogg (Hardwood Paroxysm); David (20 Second Timeout); Brian (Empty the Bench); Ben Q. Rock (Third Quarter Collapse); Don (With Malice); Ryan (HoopsAddict); Green 17 & Steve W. (Celtics Blog); Alex (BrewHoop); Basketbawful (Basketbawful); ticktock6 and mW (Hornets Hype); Dannie (Hoops State of Mind); Carter Blanchard (Free Darko); Rohan (At the Hive); Matt Watson (DetroitBadBoys.com); Tom (Indy Cornrows) Pradamaster (Bullets Forever); Josh (Dinosty); Jeramey (The Bratwurst); Jeff (Courtside at The Score); Wes Cox (Mavs Moneyball); Goathair (The Blowtorch); TruthAboutIt (TruthAboutIt.net); Ricky (Sixers 4 Guidos); Phoenix Stan (Bright Side of the Sun); Matt (BlogABull.com); Brett (Queen City Hoops); John (Red's Army); Andre (Nuggets 1); M. Haubs (The Painted Area); Jeremy (Pickaxe and Roll)

Previous rounds
  1. Brew Hoop
  2. ClipsNation
  3. 3 Shades of Blue
  4. Sixers4Guidos
  5. Pickaxe & Roll
  6. Hardwood Paroxysm
  7. CelticsBlog
  8. TwolvesBlog
  9. Hornets247
  10. Queen City Hoops

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 21:30, ,

End-of-season Basket-Blogger Rankings

The regular season's over, which means the NBA blogger voting has come to a close (for now; you never know if a Playoff MVP needs to be crowned). We Rite Goode managed this final, 11th iteration of the polling, which was last hosted by Queen City Hoops two weeks ago; for those new to the process, votes are compiled from roughly 20-40 blogs each round.

To reveal today: Basket-bloggers' final Rookie of the Year, as well as our collective Coach of the Year and Most Improved Player picks.

(Inspired by the NBA's own staggered reveal--not to mention Neal Pollack's love for this kind of thing--we're going to stretch the results out into multiple posts. Consider yourself warned.)

Let's get to it.

Rookie of the Year

Honorable mention: Jamario Moon, Carl Landry, Joakim Noah

5. Thaddeus Young
8.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 53.9% FG, 16.5 PER
31 points, Named on 46% of ballots

There wasn't much talk about Young when he was drafted out of Georgia Tech but his play was one of the main reasons for Philly's late season success.--Franchise, Raptors HQ

As the second-youngest rookie this season, Young has acted downright grown-up as a starter for the surging Sixers.--Ryne, Odenized

4. Al Thornton
12.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 apg, 12.7 PER
37 points, 57% of ballots

He can probably replace Corey Maggette's production if Maggette opts-out this summer. Can you believe he slipped all the way to 14th?--Ben Q. Rock, Third Quarter Collapse

This guy has big-time scorer written all over him. Great athlete whose game just needs a little polishing.--Dave, 20 Second Timeout

Two Al's in the top five!--Phoenix Stan, Bright Side of the Sun

3. Luis Scola
10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 51.5% FG, 16.1 PER
101.5 points, 97% of ballots

Made a very smooth transition from dominating Europe to not quite dominating the NBA. Fears surrounding his ability to rebound proved to be unfounded.--Jeremy, Pickaxe and Roll

2. Al Horford
10.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 49.9% FG, 14.7 PER
148 points, 100% of ballots

Will be making money while Durant's sitting at home with his Mom watching Days of Our Lives.--Matt and Corndogg, Hardwood Paroxysm

You don't win the award for being the pre-season choice, KD.--Josh, The Dinosty

1. Kevin Durant
20.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 15.8 PER
166 points, 100% of ballots


Hands down; go look at LeBron or KG's numbers as a 19 year old.--TruthAboutIt.net

Why do people think this was a dissapointing season? +20ppg with +.50 TS% ain't that bad. Any star with that supporting cast is going to have a hard time being efficient. And his endgame heroics leave more than enough to be excited about for the future.--Carter Blanchard, Plissken at the Buzzer/FreeDarko

How do we compare?

Coach of the Year

Honorable mention: Mo Cheeks, Phil Jackson, Stan Van Gundy

3. Doc Rivers
Celtics, 2007: 24-58, 28th in offensive rating, 16th in defensive rating
Celtics, 2008: 66-16, 9th in offensive rating, 1st in defensive rating
26 points, 40% of ballots

Ok, we know KG did all the work, but still.--Jerramy, The Bratwurst.

No matter what anyone says, he gets some credit for the greatest "win" turnaround in NBA history. He had very little time to get all the new players on the same page and things running smoothly.--College Wolf, TWolvesBlog

2. Rick Adelman
Rockets, 2007: 52-30, 15th in offensive rating, 3rd in defensive rating
Rockets, 2008: 55-27, 17 in offensive rating, 2nd in defensive rating
39 points, 51% of ballots

Had the Rockets doing things they had no right to be doing.--Don, WithMalice

Twenty-two in a row. Loses Yao (and T-Mac). Continues to win. In the West. With *Rafer* as his PG.--David, The Dream Shake

1. Byron Scott
Hornets, 2007: 39-43, 23rd in offensive rating, 14th in defensive rating
Hornets, 2008: 56-26, 5th in offensive rating, 7th in defensive rating
69 points, 77% of ballots

If you look at Hornets roster and at their record, you should realize there must be a reason for their overachievement.--Ricky, Sixers 4 Guidos

I saw him pull a ballsy move by switching his star PG off Rajon Rondo because Rondo was too quick. Most coaches would defer to the kid's ego. I like that he didn't.--John, Red's Army

How do we compare?

Most Improved Player

Honorable mention: Mike Dunleavy, Jose Calderon, Rajon Rondo

3. Chris Paul
2007: 17.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 8.9 apg, 1.8 spg, 22.0 PER
2008: 21.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 11.6 apg, 2.7 spg, 28.3 PER
18 points, 23% of ballots

Yeah, this is a weird vote. But think about it, he's taken his game from potential All-Star to greatest season in PG history. That's a 6.3 jump in PER; it took Monta Ellis a 3.9 jump to win last year.--Rohan, At the Hive

All-Star to MVP candidate is quite a leap.--Brett, Queen City Hoops

2. Rudy Gay
2007: 10.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 12.4 PER
2008: 20.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 17.5 PER
22 points, 31% of ballots

He's almost doubled his scoring average and would be an All-Star if he played for a contender.--Third Quarter Collapse

1. Hedo Turkoglu
2007: 13.3 ppg, 4.o rpg, 3.2 apg, 14.2 PER
2008: 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, 17.8 PER
69 points, 74% of ballots

Admit it. You weren't expecting a career year from Hedo.--Basketbawful

He's got a special place in my heart as a late-round fantasy pick.--Jeff, Courtside at the Score

He must be on steroids.--Pradamaster, Bullets Forever

How do we compare?

Click here to see how the voting for today's awards shook out; come back tomorrow to see the unveiling of our Seventh Man of the Year...and something called the MVP.

(Update: Part II is here).

Esteemed voters

David (Dream Shake); Ryne (Odenized); Franchise (RaptorsHQ); Spartacus (3 Shades of Blue); College Wolf (TWolves Blog); Matt and Corndogg (Hardwood Paroxysm); David (20 Second Timeout); Brian (Empty the Bench); Ben Q. Rock (Third Quarter Collapse); Don (With Malice); Ryan (HoopsAddict); Green 17 & Steve W. (Celtics Blog); Alex (BrewHoop); Basketbawful (Basketbawful); ticktock6 and mW (Hornets Hype); Dannie (Hoops State of Mind); Carter Blanchard (Free Darko); Rohan (At the Hive); Matt Watson (DetroitBadBoys.com); Tom (Indy Cornrows) Pradamaster (Bullets Forever); Josh (Dinosty); Jeramey (The Bratwurst); Jeff (Courtside at The Score); Wes Cox (Mavs Moneyball); Goathair (The Blowtorch); TruthAboutIt (TruthAboutIt.net); Ricky (Sixers 4 Guidos); Phoenix Stan (Bright Side of the Sun); Matt (BlogABull.com); Brett (Queen City Hoops); John (Red's Army); Andre (Nuggets 1); M. Haubs (The Painted Area); Jeremy (Pickaxe and Roll)

Previous rounds
  1. Brew Hoop
  2. ClipsNation
  3. 3 Shades of Blue
  4. Sixers4Guidos
  5. Pickaxe & Roll
  6. Hardwood Paroxysm
  7. CelticsBlog
  8. TwolvesBlog
  9. Hornets247
  10. Queen City Hoops

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 04:48, ,

From Michael to Eddie: Jordan, five years gone

Emancipation Day will shut down the nation's capital today (well, at least delay our trash collection) but another milestone will pass unnoticed for most D.C. residents--probably for the best, as many wouldn't know whether to celebrate or mourn.

Today's the fifth anniversary of Michael Jordan's final NBA game, an inglorious end for the sport's greatest star: A blowout loss that was further sullied by his adopted Wizards uniform.

The Jordan years were an odd chapter, even for a star-crossed franchise that once employed the NBA's shortest and tallest man (twice).

Years later, it's still unfathomable: The Greatest Of All Time wanted to come here--the Clippers of the East?

Well, no, not really.

But back in January 2000, after the Chicago Bulls refused their legend and the Charlotte Hornets rebuffed the local kid made good, Wizards part-owner Ted Leonsis swooped in and made MJ a $56 million offer he couldn't refuse: A free stake in ownership, equity in Leonsis's holding company, and control over basketball operations. And when MJ needed to scratch his basketball itch a final time, there was only one natural place to play.


Washington is a town of transients, filled with college students and young professionals, with political types who come and go with elections. So we forget the irrational exuberance of eight years ago, when the Wizards first courted Jordan--at the time a basketball Midas, with six straight championships in his six previous full seasons--stirring the city into frothy anticipation.

Sure, some wondered if Jordan would make a good GM--noting that athletic stardom hardly translated to operational excellence--but they were drowned out by the 56-point headlines. "Washington gets a new 'Air' Force," the Post quipped. "Mr. Jordan goes to Washington (to rescue the Wizards)" wrote the AP. Even when the team cratered at 19-63 the following year--and absentee executive Jordan took a few PR hits--D.C. was again electrified for months when MJ started dropping hints of his on-court return.

We won't spend much time summarizing that third act, which is captured quite well--if critically--in "When Nothing Else Matters," by the Post's Michael Leahy, and in Pradamaster's excellent essay at Bullets Forever. Simply, Jordan remained amazing, with his will and shot-fake arsenal enough to win games on his own (although he'd shoot the team to a loss just as frequently). Still, walking into an crackling MCI Center, the great one's presence always infused us with anticipation...even after we saw him flat-footed and clad in Wizards' white-and-blue, like a parody of himself. Some weird Bizarro wearing #23.

However, most memories of the Jordan-errs--an ill-matched collection of mediocre lottery picks and second-tier veterans--are best lost to time. Jordan's own indecision ultimately doomed the team, as he yo-yoed between a sixth-man mentor (trying to "teach the young players to win") and an aging king who wouldn't leave the court (50+ minutes in three games his final six weeks).

Still, when Jordan waved goodbye in Philadelphia, more than three years after becoming a part-owner and two seasons after coming out of retirement, he'd turned the Wizards into box office champs, packing the house at home and selling out every road game. He'd gotten the team on TV and transformed the MCI Center into a destination (and, not insignificantly, boosted Nike's Jordan sales by a few hundred million dollars). Now one of the oldest guards in league history, Jordan had seemingly accomplished everything asked of him in three years as player/GM...except get the Wizards into the playoffs.

And with his stunning exit three weeks later--fired by majority owner Abe Pollin, dividing the Washington Post's own sports section and roiling the town--Jordan never got a chance to try again. Later, the Wizards leaked stories of a dysfunctional relationship with Pollin, of disgruntled players in the locker room. Retroactive spin or long-buried problems...it's hard to say. But the era of Err ended as unexpectedly as it began.


There's still a Jordan in D.C., of course--Eddie, the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference, who was hired weeks after Michael's dismissal. And after the doom-and-gloom predictions of five years ago, it's beyond amazing that a coach--who struggled for years to win a third of his games--has made a far bigger impact on Washington basketball than the GOAT.

We're not the first to notice that in taking the Wizards to the playoffs (four years and counting), Eddie did what Michael could not. But it is striking that the two Jordans have eerily similar winning percentages in D.C., albeit with totally different results--MJ, leading a flawed team that couldn't get over the hump; EJ, steering a squad that can challenge the league's best.

As discussed on Bullets Forever, Coach Jordan may not have had the firepower to win in D.C. if player/GM Jordan hadn't made the franchise relevant and profitable; perhaps MJ's lingering aura even attracted free agent Gilbert Arenas--a future three-time All-Star--and proven GM Ernie Grunfeld. But who could've predicted that those three moves would've paid off? Incompetent, dishonest Abe Pollin??

NBA.com chat, Sept. 9, 2003
Rafael Masakayan - Fairfax, VA: With Michael Jordan no longer with the Wizards, do you expect your attendance to decline? Are lots of people asking for refunds?

Abe Pollin: Good question...While I know that we will not sell out every game next season, I'm confident that our fans will enjoy Eddie Jordan's up-tempo style of coaching, Gilbert Arenas' exciting basketball talent, and the management decisions of Ernie Grunfeld.


Of course, had Arenas not chosen Washington, creating a domino effect that brought Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, we might remember the MJ era as a rare highlight in decades of mediocre Washington basketball--a rare superstar gracing the city. Instead, it's more likely that firing Michael Jordan ranks as a shining moment; certainly, it was a franchise turning point and, given MJ the GM's track record, it's hard to imagine that he could have produced the turnaround that's followed.

In fact, we now know that the NBA--once tied to their incandescent star, and constantly searching for the "next MJ"--was ready to move on, too. Even as Jordan wrapped his final game, the seeds were being planted for his successor.

The very next night, high schooler LeBron James played his first game at MCI Center.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 02:38, ,

Bench those nasty thoughts

Fellow basket-blogger PhDribble has tasked us and others with a bold mission: Do away with "the cult of the starter." Foster conversation about whether stars should come off the bench, or remove any stigma when writing about reserves. Perhaps this will spark a revolution, or at least a TrueHoop link.

We like PhDribble quite a bit--even if Doctor Dribbles is this close to sending a cease-and-desist--and we like going against the conventional wisdom, too. But this is kind of crazy, right? An NBA where coaches ask max-contract stars to give up starting spots? Which cuts the distinctions between starters and reserves? Perhaps we're mere cultists, but the idea struck us as sheer lunacy.

Naturally, we considered it.

Teams have won with this strategy. Ballhype's Jason Gurney points out the Spurs' success with Manu Ginobili; we remembered how the raw Ervin Johnson started and the aging Sam Perkins closed for the great mid-90s Sonics. Teams have lost by ignoring the strategy, too. PhDribble notes how Detroit--with an established core of veterans in 2003--erred by drafting Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, largely to avoid the roster controversy of Melo pushing Tayshaun Prince for a starting spot.

Interestingly, PhDribble contends that some stars don't co-exist well; for example, the Rockets might be better if Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady played as little of the game together as possible. To some extent, that suggestion "feels" right--simply, Yao is slow, T-Mac is fast, and the Rockets could tweak their on-court quintet to maximize each star's skills. Plus, some stats and performance seem to bear the idea out. Houston won ten games in a row even without Yao, as McGrady boosted his scoring average; according to 82games.com, the pair have a lower winning percentage and adjusted +/- this year when playing together than playing apart.

In fact, unlike Deron Williams/Carlos Boozer, or Pau Gasol/Kobe Bryant, Yao/McGrady might be the most incompatible pair of stars in the NBA...which is why we think PhDribble's argument falters. Let's explain.



Looking at the bigger picture, most good NBA coaches can structure a system to feature multiple stars' strengths, such as Mike D'Antoni incorporating Shaq into the Suns or Don Nelson maximizing the Warriors' run n' gun. For their part, unless a player needs the ball in his hands--like an aging and one-legged Chris Webber--the greats can learn to complement one another, like the Celtics' or Wizards' trios. And even if Yao and T-Mac are particularly ill-matched, they still make for a more formidable combo together than apart.

First, the Rockets' +/- stats this year are thrown off by their massive winning streak with Yao injured. Looking back on similar figures from 2006 and 2007, the team clearly was better with both stars on the floor. Plus, Yao and McGrady were each more productive players this year when playing together; without Yao drawing the double team, T-Mac's FG% and 3P% measurably fell even as his shot attempts jumped up, while Yao's own performance slid and his turnovers went up 30% per game as he tried to do more without T-Mac.

PhDribble also proposes Melo and AI as another mismatched set of stars. Again, the +/- this year backs that up, a bit...but it was just the opposite last year. Given that the +/- data isn't conclusive, we'd contend it's the lack of talent around the stars that's kept Denver from clinching a playoff berth.

Frankly, most stars play better when they've got superior players surrounding them, creating more opportunities and allowing the star to do more within a role. Although Manu's devastating off the bench, even he's more productive as a starter than as a sub.

Pecking order

As goathair pointed out, bloggers can try and change perceptions, but there will always be five starters; with starting spots come minutes, as a coach wants his five best players on the floor in hopes of establishing an early lead--he's not looking to inject energy at the five-minute mark unless the team needs it.

And as we'd argued, this hierarchy is key; it incents reserves to fight for more minutes, not accept their place off the bench. Acknowledging such hierarchies, PhDribble wonders if having a pecking order is "necessary or a crutch?"--but we think even talent-laden teams need a rotation.

For example, the 1995-1996 Kentucky Wildcats were an unbelievably loaded college basketball team; the NCAA champs featured eight future NBA players (five starters, three reserves), even after coach Rick Pitino red-shirted one player (future 2nd round draft pick Jared Prickett) and ran off another (future NBA swingman Rodrick Rhodes) to further avoid team infighting. If there was ever a team that could blur the distinctions between starters and reserves, it was this one. And sure--ten guys ended up playing regular minutes, but only five players started 24 or more games, as even Pitino needed to establish a consistent rotation for game-planning purposes.


Having attended last night's Wizards victory, we were reminded yet again--it may not be the United Center circa MJ, but there's nothing like a crowd of thousands chanting your name during introductions.

There's so little stigma associated with being a reserve in the NBA, when you think about it; the average bench player somehow deals with a multiple million-dollar contract, a huge per diem, fancy hotels, and indiscriminate groupies. It's a comfortable life for many players who never scratched their full potential...really, there should be more incentives for starting positions, not fewer.


We do agree on one point, though: There's considerably more greatness coming off the bench than just Manu or Leandro Barbosa. So we'll do our part to help celebrate it.

As some folks know, we're hosting the final edition of this year's blogger NBA awards...and thinking of ways to better recognize the reserves, we've come up with the new "Seventh Man" award, which is exactly how it sounds.

It probably won't make TJ Ford feel better about losing his spot to Jose Calderon, or get John Salmons to stop sulking.

But when de-programming cultists like us...it's a start.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 22:10, ,

My name is Juan Dixon

This is my view of the court, most of the night. As a fifth guard for the Detroit Pistons, I play about 12 minutes a game.

But it wasn't always like this.

As a college star, I used to get a lot of floor burn.
Six years ago this week, I even had my shining moment.

But that was just college, experts said. I wouldn't make it in the NBA; they claimed I was too small, that my jumper was too weak. Guys like Rod Grizzard and Steve Logan were ahead of me on the draft boards.

But one man believed. He plucked me in the draft, thinking I was worthy to sit at his side.
Looking back, my years in D.C. were good ones. The team wasn't great, but expectations were low and the town loved my effort and work ethic. When we finally made the playoffs, I even played a starring role, bringing fans to their feet.

Still, I wanted to get paid. And the Trailblazers obliged, to the tune of $8 million over three years.

My days in Portland were happy, at first; I ended up starting at shooting guard most nights, and Coach McMillan loved my guts and grit.

It didn't last, though. The team was awful, and everyone said that a skinny, short combo guard was part of the problem. So we drafted Brandon Roy and gave more time to Jarrett Jack. I fell out of favor by midseason and got shipped to Canada.

It felt like I'd been elbowed aside.

Toronto was sort of like Portland; things started well, but my time to shine quickly faded. After a year in the T.dot, I got dealt to Detroit; now, I sit behind rookies Arron Affalo and Rodney Stuckey, who sit behind Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

And that takes us back here.

Six years in the League, and I'm officially a journeyman guard.

But I'm not ashamed.

Draft experts said I'd be a second-round pick; the Wizards took me after the lottery. GMs said I was too small to stick in the league; I've outlasted bigger, more-hyped guards like Dajuan Wagner, Qyntel Woods, and Jiri Welsch. And maybe I'm a fifth guard, but it's on a team with a chance for a title. A team that's eyed me for more than a year.

This could be it for me in the NBA, though. My contract's up this summer, and who knows where I'll land next. The bottom of an NBA roster, at best; Europe, most likely.

Still, fans won't soon forget my heart and hustle. My drive in carrying the Terps, my hard work to carve an NBA niche. At least for a day, my praises will be sung.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 20:20, ,

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