Saturday, January 23, 2010

FU Graph: Perimeter Player Classification

I'm combining my inner nerd again and I have a new graph for my loyal readers. The last one I did was a breakdown of the 30 teams along the spectrum of conventional/unconventional. For this one, I'll be categorizing the different types of perimeter players on offense. If I had more time, a lot more of my posts would have graphs attached to them. PowerPoint is addictive to a nerd like me. I decided to not give definitions because I expect my readers to know the difference. If you don't, then you should reading which names are where. Anyway, peep the graph below.

The first element of the graph that may be noticed is Kobe's name in the merged center of the Venn diagram. Even though Kobe's a scorer by trade, he remains somewhat efficient with his shots and shot selection. I actually gave long consideration to placing Dirk in the middle of the graph as well. As much grief as I give the Big German, he's turned the silkiness of his jumper into a weapon of mass destruction. I've never seen a player so feared when he rarely sets foot in the paint. He's what Rasheed Wallace should have been his entire career since 'Sheed decided to be strictly perimeter-based. That's enough praise for Nowitzki. Moving on.

What I discovered through my research is that there aren't many "pure" shooters in the NBA. Well, at least there aren't many that are worth mentioning. Once a player becomes labeled as solely a shooter, the other facets of his game—if there are any—are rarely developed. Ray Allen is only a shooter because his jumper is that deadly. He's a scorer at heart, and still attacks the basket. Rashard Lewis poses as a scorer, but we don't feel him (we need something realer). In order to ascend offensively, a player must be a threat off the dribble. More options equals more potency.

The third component of the graph is Tony Parker's name outside of the three circles. That's because Parker is a symbol for the point guards that score, but not really. This includes Rondo, Rose, Miller, and even Billups, Paul and Williams to a degree. Yes, they can score, but they aren't considered scorers. Only Billups as "Mr. Big Shot" has a label of shot-maker. And most of those names have a pretty high FG%, but the perimeter jumper isn't their strong suit. But with not being a part of the graph, point guards are able to float among the periphery of it. They're able to morph into whatever their team needs them to be outside of the distributor and floor leader. Nash's name should probably be among them; but I think he's the easiest to classify among the 1-guards.

As with any post, leave comments and disagreements in the appropriate box. These are my interpretations, meant only to inspire Basketball thought. There will be more graphs to follow.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Another One For My Pickup Game Heads

Based on a true story, I took you on a journey through the mind of a Basketball run-stopper in hopes that you will never have to go through that type of pain on the court. Now, I feel like I must explain all the major roles you will see at your local Y, neighborhood blacktop, and campus gym. Some of them you will know from their title, but I guarantee light bulbs will illuminate when reading the description of each character. After the random picture, I re-introduce you to some people you already know.

The Beast...Dog. Everyone knows the guy that is the understood best player on the court. He walks it, he dribbles it, and he lays it up. Among regular people, The Beast is usually a hell of player in high school that plays at the local D-2/Comm. College because of grades. I named these type of hoopers as such because while at Pitt, my crew and I were waiting our turn to get on next. And this J-Rich look-alike (he'll be known as J-Rich in future mentions in this post) says, mid-layup,"I'm a" We were dumbfounded. So ever since then, people who were beasts were beasts, dog; but not better than "The"

The Opportunist. This guy is just an average player at best. But what he's good at is latching on and being a part of a five that has a bunch of really good players on it. This way, he stays on the court with minimal effort, and looks great if he does make a play on such a good team. It's similar to whomever was at center during the Phil/Mike/Scottie Bulls. Just be open and let everyone else do the rest.

The Antawn Jamison. Antawn Jamison is quietly one of the more productive players in the Association. Always, at or near 20 points and t0 boards; he continues to remain efficient as he gets older. His trademark is an array of "flip shots" from awkward angles, leaving younger forwards wondering how he's scoring. Every local gym has an older guy that still dominates as his athleticism dwindles. He doesn't jump very high or run very fast; but he's schooling cats on the court with all sorts of hooks, floaters, and fadeaways. Like Jamison, he rarely ever talks unless a teammate makes a bad play. A true veteran presence for any pickup team's five.

The Mike Miller. For this explanation, I have to start with Tracy McGrady. In Orlando, he bacame great friends with Mike Miller. This made Miller impossible to trade because their star player was so attached to him—similar to Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. The locl courts have a guy that's cool with everybody. He's very likable, despite his game not being reflective of his personality. He may not be terrible, but he's certainly the weak link. Somehow, he finds his way on someone's team because he's a great guy. This results in your team possibly not being as good as it could be. But hey, at least everyone's smiling.

The Rasheed Wallace. Personally, I believe 'Sheed is the most gifted of that class of power forwards that includes Duncan, KG, Webber, etc. For reasons only known to him, he chooses to be unselfish. It's most evident in the fact that though Wallace has a tremendous shooting touch, his post game is so much better. Yet he seems to want to constantly float around the arc, waiting for kick outs. There's a guy that comes to gyms worldwide that can murder in the paint; yet chooses to shoot jumpers most of the time. In addition to that, he also won't exploit mismatches even though teammates implore him to do so. He plays rather standoffish, contributing when it's convenient for him. It's selfishly being unselfish.

The Desmond Mason. This dude can jump out the gym, but his Basketball IQ is lower than Mateen Cleaves scoring average. Anything that isn't a block or a dunk is a skill he doesn't possess in his Basketball repertoire There's nothing much else that needs to be said. He's a living N.E.R.D. album; or a shark—ether in motion or ineffective. The straight-line dribble is about all The Desmond Mason can do on the ground, with a maximum of one switch-of-hands dribble (read: not a "crossover"). I'll never play with one of those.

If you frequent the courts as often as me, then you know there are many more characters you can find there. Leave some in the comments.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Arrogant Scientist

Bringing in 2010 with the re-re-re-resurrection of FU. My first post of the new year will be dedicated to my favorite team—in particular, the coach of that team and what I believe to be his thinking behind some of the roster moves he's made. New year, same random pictures...

Mike D'Antoni, originator of the "Seven Seconds or Less (SSOL)" system that added a 21st-century twist to the fast-paced Basketball of a generation ago, has tried to implement his philosophy with my New York Knicks. But there are a few differences between the Suns' teams that initially ran and the mob that calls Madison Square Garden home. There's no versatile help defender in NYC like Marion; nor a seven-foot jar of nitrous oxide that Amar'e was pre-microfracture. Instead, there are much more Quentin Richardsons—perimeter forwards that float 25 feet from the basket and hoist shots from distance like Antoine Walker did. This is actually a wrinkle D'Antoni didn't have in Phoenix, as there are multiple Knicks that are capable of hitting four threes a game. But the single-most important piece missing from true actualization is something D'Antoni himself refuses to change. And it's been visible in his decisions after leaving Phoenix.

First, let's examine the Suns back then. The signing of Steve Nash gave D'Antoni the ability to perfectly project his genius onto the floor. With Nash's immense IQ and vision, there was a conductor who knew exactly how and where his teammates would be most effective; something previous point guard, Stephon Marbury, either couldn't do or wouldn't do. As with any new idea, it has to breed success. Sixty-two wins in the SSOL's first year garnered an MVP for Nash, and established the hyper-kinetic offense's credibility. The supporting cast changed. Diaw, Bell, Thomas—all names that found oasis in The Desert. Nash was that literal steady hand. With the ball as that bouncing one in sing-alongs, he dribbled and assisted like leading a Tchaikovsky symphony; creating measures of chords at clips of 105-plus points per game.

So what does that extended metaphor have to do with D'Antoni? Well, it seems that he's being arrogant and refuses to draft or sign that life-altering point guard again. For instance, he turned down coaching the Bulls, even though Derrick Rose seems to be the thoroughbred built for SSOL. Then, in New York, he chooses to draft Jordan Hill over the young buck Brandon Jennings. Even drafting Ty Lawson, to a lesser degree, is that lead guard with speed in constant fast forward and championship-tested in college. Instead, D'Antoni entrusted the reigns to Chris Duhon—a structured, rigid guard that can't create for himself or others. He'd rather be stubborn that his system will win out as opposed to investing in this recent crop of 1-guards. Granted, players like Curry, Flynn, Evans, and even Rubio were off the board by the time the Knicks were on the clock; but the selection of Hill proved that D'Antoni believed finding the next Amar'e was easier than cultivating a newer Nash.

The final piece of evidence that supports my theory is the inexplicable benching of Nate Robinson. He's the one player on the Knicks with the improvisation in his Basketball soul, and the natural one-on-one scoring skills. For reasons between him and the Most High, D'Antoni sat Robinson for 14 consecutive games; and the Knicks did play well without him. In the short term, it looked like a wise decision. But the offense suffered as teams adjusted to the lack of dribble penetration. Then, Nate was released, and responded with 40 points in an overtime win on the road against fledgling elite Eastern power Atlanta. Like Napoleon Bonaparte with a jump shot, he shredded the Hawks in their own gym as if he hadn't had game action in a month. D'Antoni couldn't help but swallow his pride; yet I don't see Nate being the maestro in The Garden.

It could all be coincidence. Maybe this is another chemical equation in the SSOL formula. But passing on many of the revolutionary point guards has proven in today's NBA to set back franchises a few years. Just ask those Atlanta Hawks. He's probably forgotten more Basketball than I remember, so I'm pretty sure he knows what he's doing. For the sake of my favorite team, I hope so.

Or maybe it's all for Lebron.