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NBA Quick Hits 6/22

June 22, 2012

All NBA Team:

The fact that Blake Griffin made the 2nd team over Dirk Nowitzki is borderline atrocious. For anyone who watched the Spurs series you’ll understand what I’m talking about as he had one great half of basketball (1st half in Game 4) and the rest of the time was shutdown by the Spurs D. The same team that Dirk has bounced out of the playoffs numerous times over the years was shutting down the player that beat him out for the All-NBA 2nd Team. It’s even more disappointing because the All-NBA Teams historically have been much more fairly represented than All-Star teams which is more a popularity contest. That possibly changing as Griffin was good this year but to have him on the 2nd team with Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, and Carmelo Anthony on the 3rd team just doesn’t seem right. He’s a fun player to watch but hardly one of the 10 best in the NBA at this point in his young career.

I was excited to see Kevin Love get on the 2nd team this season. Last year I ranted about how he somehow wasn’t on any of the 3 teams despite spectacular numbers (20.2 pts 15.2 reb). Thankfully the voters woke up and realized that when numbers are being put up at historic clips win/loss percentages don’t come into the picture. This year he had a slightly inferior season (26.0 pts 13.3 reb) as he shot more but at a lower efficiency (47% to 45% on FG% and 42% to 37% on 3pt%) while rebounding and assisting less. He deserved this year’s 2nd Team All-NBA selection but it’s funny to me that he went from honorable mention to 2nd Team despite having a worse season and it shows how volume scoring means much more than efficiency to voters. In a similar argument Kobe Bryant earned 1st Team All-NBA again despite shooting only 43% FG and 30% 3pt. It’s the least efficient offensive season he’s had since he was 19 years old in the 1998 season and makes a mockery of the All-NBA Team. To say Kobe is a top 5 player at this point in his career is to blindly ignore that his assist total was the 2nd lowest in his past 13 seasons, was the lowest FG% in his past 14 seasons, was his second highest turnover rate in his 16 season career, was his second lowest block rate in his 16 season career, and the Lakers ended the year with the 6th best record in the NBA which is a solid mark but nothing that is impressive enough to overcome all of these poor stats of his. Kobe is not a top 5 player. I repeat Kobe is not a top 5 player. Why are we still voting him in as such?

Derron Williams:

Is there a late entry into the D-Will sweepstakes? What previously looked like a two team race for the All-Star point guards services in Dallas and New Jersey (Brooklyn technically) could now have a dark horse. The New Orleans Hornets this week traded Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza for the expiring contract of Rashard Lewis. It’s essentially two solid yet slightly overpaid starters for salary cap relief as they will be buying Lewis out for about half his 2012 salary of $23.8 million. That trade not only lowers their payroll for this coming season but completely clears out their cap starting next year onward. When I say completely clears out their cap I mean completely as they currently have only 1 player under contract for the 2013 season in Jason Smith who counts only $2.5 million to the cap. Assuming the cap stays around the $55 million it’s expected to be that would mean they’d have $53 million cap space they could spend! Obviously the will be resigning promising young shooting guard Eric Gordon but even with that extension they should have $40-$45 million left over for free agents. Who by chance becomes eligible for free agency in 2013? Well Dwight Howard of course and before anyone dismisses this as pure fantasy keep in mind that the roster he could be joining in 2013 would include SG Eric Gordon, #1 Overall Pick PF Anthony Davis (best player to come out of the draft in years per experts), and possibly his good friend Derron Williams. This offseason the Hornets will have the ability to sign a max player under their cap and while before it seemed like they would pass on the opportunity because no one would want to sign with them, the addition of Anthony Davis and the ability to sign another max player in 2013 changes all of that. Imagine a scenario where the Hornets have Derron Williams and Eric Gordon in the backcourt and Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard defending the paint. It would be one of the 3 most talented teams in the NBA and I’m not even mentioning the fact that the Hornets also have the #10 pick in this draft and their 2nd rounder as well as the Wizards 2nd rounder in a draft that is considered one of the deepest in years. That is 3 picks to improve their bench and try and find a starter at SF as every other position would be set for years. Derron might be scared away by the Hornets new ownership and shaky fan base but if he gets word that Howard will follow him there in 2013 I could see another “Super Team” being built. It would be a tremendous blow to the Mavs who likely would go to Plan B and try and sign Garnett and Nash to 1 year deals for one more shot at a title.

NBA Finals Game 5:

It’s really a very simple game to breakdown as the Thunder’s defensive game plan has been to pack the paint and force them to make shots from the outside. The strategy worked relatively well in the first 3 games of the series as Mike Miller, Norris Cole, and Mario Chalmers shot only 3 for 14 (21%) from 3 point range with Battier (11-15,. 73%) being the only consistent shooter on the floor. In games 4 & 5 the other shooters broke out and the Miller, Cole, Chalmers trio shot 17 for 27 (63%) ruining the Thunders strategy. After averaging a respectable 95 points a game in the first 3 games the Heat became hot from the outside and as Thunder defenders had to defend the 3 point line more rigidly it opened driving lanes for LeBron and Wade resulting in an offensive explosion as they averaged 112.5 points per game in the final 2 games. So many people will talk about Westbrook’s terrible games, he shot below 42% in games 1, 2, and 5, yet even with Westbrook scoring 43 points on 63% shooting the Thunder still lost in Game 4 so the defense was to blame for this series defeat more than anything else. Harden, Sefolosha, and Durant had no ability to stop James so once he stopped even attempting outside jumpers and once Miami’s role players finally started connecting consistently from the outside the series was over. The Thunder though shouldn’t be disappointed as they were defeated in the 1st round by the Lakers in 2010, the Mavs in the Western Conference Finals in 2011, and now the Heat in the NBA Finals in 2012. They continue to get one step closer to their goal and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they repeated as Western Conference Champs as both Westbrook and Durant continue to improve their overall games and both are legit MVP candidates going forward. Yet the man with 3 MVP trophies clearly outperformed them and now adds a Finals MVP Trophy and a championship ring to his accolades. I’ve never been a huge fan of LeBron’s but I have to admit that his win providing me with some joy as it was getting tiresome to hear how LeBron wasn’t this or wasn’t that with his critics only holding onto one piece of evidence to support their claims. Now that he has his first ring there is no longer any doubt he’s one of the all time greats and the next 5 years or so should determine whether he settles in as a Top 12 player or if he pushes his way up into Top 5 status with the legends like Jordan, Wilt, and Russell. Later I’ll break down LeBron’s case for Top 10 status but I feel like I’ve written enough these past few days and will be signing off.

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