Monday, May 17, 2010

Talk Around the Hardwood

Link time!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Celtics Withstand Magic Comeback Attempt

In a pretty ugly game, the Celtics stole home court from the Magic and won 92-88. The Magic didn't execute on both ends for about three fourths of the game, yet only lost by four to the Celtics. Their three point shooters were contained, Dwight had a poor performance and his mounting frustration didn't help. Orlando's offense was derailed, while Boston was able to move the ball around effectively, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce had efficient games.

The biggest plus to this game was that Rondo didn't play huge. He was the reason they'd been winning up to this point and he didn't fill the stat sheet, yet Boston had a commanding lead for most of the game. If the rest of the team can deliver the same, Rondo's big games could be big Celtic wins.

As Doc Rivers said in his post game press conference, this was a defensive game. Offense was not great either way, but the Celtics clearly had the right strategy on team defense: single coverage. No doubling in the post, staying with the shooters and the Magic's inside-out game was no more. The offense did begin to turn up for the Magic in the fourth quarter, but it was too late, the C's executed enough to survive.

The bright spots for the Magic were Vince Carter (circa first half especially) and J.J. Reddick (Gortat was also solid). Carter was aggressive, he didn't settle for jump shots and that's the formula for his success. He must continue with that mentality if the Magic are going to win this series. Reddick never really fills up the stat sheet, but his overall play and defense on Ray Allen proves his value. He's a guy who can shoot the three when called upon, and has acquired an aptitude for the intangibles. Reddick's experience as a shooter also gives him the ability to chase Ray Allen better than others. If Allen remains this hot, Reddick could be the best neutralizer of his outside shooting onslaught.

Here is @misterjpmanahan's thoughts on the game:

I agree with his thoughts on Sheed. If he plays with this type of focus and can withstand the desire to fight Dwight, he'll prove to be a big plus in this series. The big factor is can he be consistent.

@rubthemtogether also chimed in:
The good news for the Magic is this is only one game. The scary part is they played pretty bad, but they only lost narrowly in the end. Game two will be a totally different story if Orlando can execute offensively. One thing to look for is how Boston will respond to which type offense really flows for the Magic (whether it be the outside game, or the post game with Dwight, or both). Single coverage worked today, but will it work for this whole series? Time will answer these questions.

Also, check out this post on the game from NBA Fanhouse.

Photo by: Fernando Medina
Photo from: Yahoo!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Scoring Champ Is Here: Kevin Durant


A few weeks back, I wrote a series of articles about players that I considered to be franchise players. The list was meant for the elite. I wanted only the best players in the league and they had to meet a few criteria in order to make the list. After concluding the series of articles, my friend DVD (yes we call him DVD) told me that there was a player missing. DVD felt that this player's contributions could not be ignored and that the turnaround that he prompted was nothing short of ridiculous. Although I did not bring him out on stage back then, I think it's about time that I did. Ladies and gentleman, make some noise for Kevin Durant…..

As I watch Durant's career from afar, I feel like I'm watching a young 50 Cent. Go back to the summer of 2002, back when 50 kept putting out wildly entertaining mixtapes that had the streets buzzing and anticipating the release of his album. Durant's last two years in the NBA have essentially been the bootleg CDs that he's been selling for cheap to get you to just pay attention. But this year, he released his platinum record Get Wins Or Die Tryin'. KD and the Thunder were enthralled in a wildly entertaining series with the Los Angeles Lakers but were eliminated last week after six tough playoff games. Although the Thunder failed to upset the Lakers, this season was and still is a success as it pertains to the growth of KD and his team. As I watch Durant play though, I can't help but think what he might become. I am fully cognizant that Durant is only in his third NBA season and that a lot can happen in the next few years; but Durant has the potential to be one of the best scoring small forwards in the history of the league.

I wanted to put Durant's season in perspective with some of the all time greats. So what I did was look at the list of top 20 scoring averages of all time and then removed all the guards, power forwards and centers. After that elimination process, we were left with eight players (all of which are small forwards obviously) that represent the standard of excellence as it pertains to scoring from the small forward position. So here are these eight players listed in order of career average:


LEBRON JAMES
Height: 6'8
Weight: 240 lbs.
Nickname: King James
3rd Season Stats
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
31.5
7.0
48.0
33.5
73.8
10.3

Career Numbers
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
27.8
7.0
47.5
32.9
74.2
9.0

Breakdown: LeBron James plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers and is the reigning League MVP. At this point, you have probably heard enough about LeBron James, so I won't spend any more time on him here.

ELGIN BAYLOR
Height: 6'5
Weight: 225 lbs.
3rd Season Stats (no three point line during time Baylor played)
PPG
RPG
FG%
FT%
FTA
34.2
19.8
43.0
78.3
11.8

Career Numbers
PPG
RPG
FG%
FT%
FTA
27.4
13.5
43.1
78.0
8.7

Breakdown: The man that invented "air time". Former NBA players always tell the story about how they used to watch Elgin play when they were kids and that his finishes at the rim were some of the most spectacular they had ever seen. Today we take guys like Josh Smith, Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard for granted; but Elgin Baylor made it cool to dunk over people.

GEORGE GERVIN
Height: 6'7
Weight: 180 lbs.
Nickname: Iceman
3rd Season Stats (ABA)
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
23.4
8.3
47.4
30.9
83.0
5.5



Career numbers:
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
25.1
50.4
47.4
27.1
84.1
6.4

Breakdown: The man they called "Iceman". Gervin was such a smooth and silky scorer; never broke a sweat but you lit you up. His weapon of choice: the finger roll. The man could jump from any spot on the court below the free throw line and turn his shot into a finger roll. Whether he was driving baseline, or coming full steam from the top of the key, Ice would just throw it up finger roll style and convert over the arms of the big men. By the way Ice started his career in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and therefore the stats from his third season are ABA stats.


DOMINIQUE WILKINS
Height: 6'7
Weight:  220 lbs.
Nickname: Human Highlight Film
3rd Season Stats
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
27.4
6.9
45.1
30.9
80.6
7.4

Career Numbers
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
24.8
6.7
46.1
31.9
80.6
6.9

Breakdown: If you think Dwight Howard's dunks are terrifying, try to picture a slightly shorter and skinnier version of him coming down on a fastbreak at full steam wanting nothing more than to posterize you. Nique not only dunked on you; he took away all of your masculinity and ability to talk trash with him. I'm amazed that no one ever broke their hand or arm while trying to block his shot; he just dunked with amazing power and anger.  Keep in mind though, Wilkins was a very good scorer. He slashed to the basket, got out in transition, shot jumpers and got himself to the free throw line. However, you always feared 'Nique when he came down the lane…

RICK BARRY
Height: 6'7
Weight: 205 lbs
3rd Season Stats (ABA)
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
34.0
9.4
51.1
30.0
88.8
13.0

Career Numbers (NBA and ABA combined)
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
24.8
6.7
45.6
29.7
89.3
6.3

Breakdown: Amongst most NBA fans, Rick Barry is known for one of two things:
1. He used to shoot free throws underhanded
2. Father of Brent and Jon Barry.
And yet he was so much more. Rick Barry is the 60's and 70's less athletic version of Kobe Bryant. Might seem blasphemous but yet so true. Barry routinely took tough  midrange contested jump shots that he just kept drilling in the face of his defenders. As he got older, his speed and quickness started to diminish, so he started to drive less to the basket and raced down to the post where he would take contested turnaround shots. Any of this sounding familiar (for good measure, Barry also wore #24)? By the way, don't let the three point shooting percentage fool you, Barry was a great shooter; he averaged about two three point shots per game in the ABA, and the NBA only introduced the three point line in his final season.

CARMELO ANTHONY
Height: 6'8
Weight: 230 lbs.
Nickname: Melo
3rd Season Stats
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
26.5
4.9
48.1
24.3
80.8
8.9

Career Numbers
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
24.7
6.2
45.9
30.8
80.1
7.9

Breakdown: Carmelo Anthony's game is based on his quickness, strength and his ability to make jump shots. His ability to mix all of those up make him an incredible scoring machine from every spot on the floor. Melo can take you down in the box and shoot jumpers all day over you and then switch it up, pump fake and drive right past you for a thunderous finish. In addition, Carmelo can also take you out on the perimeter where he can jab step you silly and then go right past you with his first step. Other than Kobe Bryant, I don't know any other NBA player under seven tall that can just routinely make contested shots off the dribble.

LARRY BIRD
Height: 6'9
Weight: 220 lbs
Nickname: Larry Legend, Basketball Jesus
3rd Season Stats
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
22.9
10.9
50.3
21.2
86.3
4.9

Career Numbers
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
24.3
10.0
49.6
37.6
88.6
5.0

Breakdown: One of the best players to ever play in the history of the league. Larry Legend did it all. He scored, he rebounded, he passed, he shot the lights out and he talked a great game. Bird was such a quality passer that he could create scoring opportunities for himself because players always hesitated to leave their man to help out on Bird. That split second is all that Larry needed. Bird went left, he went right, he attacked the basket, he pulled up from any spot on the floor, he shot it left handed around the basket or even kept you off balance with a scoop shot. He had no shortage of moves and was just an impossible match up. Guarding Bird was the equivalent of trying to hold water in your hands, at some point you just couldn't.

JULIUS ERVING
Height: 6'6
Weight: 200 lbs
Nickname: Dr. J.
3rd Season Stats (ABA)
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
27.4
10.7
51.2
39.5
76.6
7.1

Career Numbers (NBA and ABA combined)
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
24.2
8.5
50.6
29.8
77.7
6.5

Breakdown: Elgin Baylor might have made it cool to dunk on people, but the Doctor made it an art form. With Youtube, NBA TV, NBA archives and videos you can legally purchase from the NBA, you have no reason to not know who Dr. J is. Whether he was rocking the afro or the fade, Erving made it his mission to dunk on people. Mind you, almost everyone in the NBA can dunk; but not all of them can dunk with style.  Dr. J was just one of the most creative dunkers we have ever seen. He literally glided through the air and just found ways to maneuver the ball in his hand while the rest of the defenders fell to the floor (only he and MJ really took advantage of the fact they could grip the ball).

After seeing this list of high scoring forwards, let's see how our featured player fares against them.

KEVIN DURANT
Height:
Weight:
Nickname: Durantula
3rd Season Stats
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
30.1
7.6
47.6
36.5
90.0
10.2

Career Numbers
PPG
RPG
FG%
3PT FG%
FT%
FTA
25.3
5.9
46.2
36.1
88.2
7.7

Breakdown: If I were a mad scientist like Dr. Willy (Mega Man reference for the gamers out there) trying to create an unstoppable perimeter scoring machine; here's what I would want from him:
-Good ball handling
-Good open shooter;
-Decent three point shooter
-Terrific free throw shooter
-Good first step
-Great finisher in traffic
-Willingness to attack the basket and get fouled
-Occasional post ups
-Ability to always get a quality shot off
-Above average jumping ability to dunk on people and shoot over tall defenders
-Score from any spot inside the three point line (midrange game)
-Not be a volume shooter, but instead a quality shooter (take good shots)

Doesn't my scoring machine sound exactly like Kevin Durant? At the tender age of 21, KD is still figuring out the NBA, but he understands where his scoring opportunities come from. Consequently the Durantula is always in a position to get his points without needing a huge amount of shot attempts.

 When looking at some of the best scoring forwards in the history of the league and what they did in their third seasons, KD puts up numbers similar to all the players listed above except for Elgin Baylor. Does this mean that Durant will be the best scoring small forward in the history of the league? Considering that he is only in his third season, I would have to answer no for now. However, the potential is clearly there. I can't foresee the kid slowing down any time soon; and that's a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. Indeed, you'll notice that the third NBA season of all the players mentioned above was a pretty good indicator of how the remainder of their careers would play themselves out.

Phil Jackson has a line that he likes to give to his teams: "the journey is more important than the destination (kind of paraphrasing)". And it's true. So although I am trying to look into the future and see what Durant will be like in the years to come, it's important that we all pay attention to what KD is doing right now. We are blessed to get the chance to see a superstar in the making develop right before our eyes. His album Get Wins or Die Tryin' is no longer in stores sadly. A new batch of CDs should hit stores by November of this year, make sure you secure your copy.

Photo by: Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images
By: ESPN