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Posts Tagged ‘James Harden

James Harden sucks at defense, does it have to stay that way?

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“James Harden sucks at defense” became a meme near the end of this season, thanks to a handful of long youtube videos showing his lowlights over the year. On his worst plays Harden isn’t just bad, but an embarrassment, often standing in the middle of nowhere and making his team play 4 on 5 defensively. He was giving no fucks.

However, what’s interesting of course, is Harden on paper should not be a defensive sieve. He’s one of the biggest SGs in the league in length and strength, has adequate lateral mobility and his feel for the game is strong, which should allow him to read defensive plays well. This is compounded by how in Oklahoma City Harden was quickly emerging as one of their better defenders before the trade, enough to defend Lebron James at times in the 2012 Finals.

So what’s going on here? Why is James Harden now the abomination of the league on defense? My guess is it’s energy. In his 3rd OKC season he averaged 31.4 minutes per game, while he’s been at 38 minutes or higher both his Houston seasons. Harden does not strike me as a specimen conditioning wise and it’s no secret he enjoys nightlife, which could play into having less than perfect energy level. What’s more is Harden’s ratio of driving to the rim vs athleticism is as lopsided as any player’s I’ve seen. Harden drives to the rim and free throw line as much as anyone in the league, despite being a good, but not dynamic athlete. His ballhandling and first step help him do this. Most other players who drive as regularly as him, are freaks of nature like Dwyane Wade and Lebron James athletically. This style of play in addition to the minutes played, may cause him to burn energy faster. Compare him to Paul George, who is the anti James Harden in regards to his athleticism and driving. George is one of the best athletes in the game, but is average at driving to the basket because of ballhandling problems. This may leave more of his athletic energy for the defensive end of the floor, where he plays at a defensive player of the year level.

How does one fix this? The first clear cut fix to reduce his minutes. If anything Harden’s less than perfect physical condition and driving heavy style of game, which also makes him a risk to get banged up, make him a candidate to specifically play less than the standard 35-36 minutes, let alone more. With the Spurs leading the way for reducing minutes this year, there’s nothing wrong with Harden playing an effective 32 or 33 per game. Secondly, Houston may want to free up some energy by taking Harden off the ball. Although he’s not used to this, as a great 3 point shooter one would think in time, he could learn to spot up and space the floor. At the least, it’d make him a diversion while players like Lin and Beverly drive to the basket. One could also try playing Harden at small forward more often with two ballhandlers in the backcourt.

It bears mentioning that with the cost of Harden’s defense there may be a reward coming with it. Harden’s offensive production is absolutely enormous, an ultra efficient 25 points a game while being his team’s best playmaker, gave him the 3rd best offensive season on paper this year behind Lebron and Durant. If one reduced his minutes and increased his defensive responsibility, his offensive volume and efficiency could be reduced.

If Harden is not capable of putting up both the offensive statistics he did the last 2 years while playing more defense, it may be simply a matter of talent. We know Harden is a fantastic talent, but we don’t know if he’s a talent on the tier of some of the legends of this era like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul. There may be one tier below that he presides in. Or he could make a big leap from year 5 to year 7-9 and become one of our great stars. How young the 2009 draft trio of Harden, Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry is, has been understated. Some players have hit their peak by their 5th season, but others have not. As a recent example Durant’s 5th season was his 2011-2012 Finals year, but by his regular season in his MVP 7th year, was clearly a different animal. Kevin Garnett in his 5th season in 1999-2000 was a phenomenal player, but by his 9th season in 2003-2004 season, he was spectacular at an even different level. If James Harden and the Rockets commit themselves to maximizing his career, by a season like his 8th or 9th, he could still be the MVP of the league, since his offensive statistics are already better than many MVP seasons.

Written by jr.

May 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Sam Presti’s real devastating blunder: Ibaka over Harden

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English: Serge Ibaka, basketball player from O...

English: Serge Ibaka, basketball player from Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oklahoma City’s James Harden trade which is now turning into one of the most important in NBA history, has been much derided. Two main criticisms are that they didn’t get enough back in Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks, or that they should have just played out the year with Harden to try and win the title, before moving them. I’m not as critical as the former as many because I see Lamb as a future star. The latter is a very valid criticism, the Thunder degraded their title chance in 2013 unnecessarily.

However what I see as the real head scratcher and devastating move for Presti, is the decision to essentially choose Serge Ibaka over James Harden. The team clearly couldn’t keep both on large contracts with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with owners who wanted to stay under the luxury tax, but by trading one it would have worked. The Thunder chose to keep Ibaka and trade Harden. In the long run this is the decision that truly matters.

The justification some gave for this, is that Ibaka compliments Durant and Westbrook more. Ibaka is the defensive heart of the team while Harden was an offensive star like Durant and Westbrook. Ibaka is a big while all three of Durant, Westbrook, Harden are perimeter players taking each other’s minutes and shots.

Using this to take Ibaka over Harden was a huge mistake. What really rules the NBA is star talent. And even before his Houston breakout as a franchise player, it was clear Harden was the special, star talent and Ibaka closer to a role player.

The idea that Ibaka was more desirable because he plays defense, is flawed because star talents make it easier to build defensive teams. First of all, with Durant, Westbrook and Harden on the team, the Thunder could fill out the entire rest of the roster with plus defensive players, if not specialists. Last year in the playoffs the offensively significant, defensive sieve Kevin Martin had a featured role and defensively significant, offensive liability Ronnie Brewer wasn’t playing. Having Harden instead of Ibaka allows the Thunder to put Brewers on the teams instead of Martins.

Also relevant is the concept of energy. When playing with Durant, Westbrook and Harden, everyone else would be depended on to expend energy on the defensive end that they didn’t offensively. Arguably one of the reasons that players like Norris Cole, Iman Shumpert, Avery Bradley have struggled shooting the ball so far in their career, is that they’re giving everything they have defensively. For a player like Reggie Jackson, his defensive energy is likely to be different if he’s depended on as the Thunder’s 3rd option next year, than if he had a Cole-like strict defensive specialist role on a team with Harden on it.

The point is that a team with Westbrook, Durant and Harden wouldn’t have had a problem playing defense, whether it’s because they could fill out the roster with defenders, or because those defenders would have energy. Furthermore all three of those stars are physically superior to their position, giving them the opportunity to play better than average defense as they mature, especially with having each other to take off the pressure of carrying an offense from each other. In addition to this, the Thunder also had other defensive role players like Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins. I have little doubt the Thunder would’ve been good enough defensively to contend year in and year out with Durant, Westbrook and Harden.

The other relevant point is that Serge Ibaka isn’t THAT good at defense. He is not Ben Wallace, he is not Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan on the defensive end. He blocks shots at a great level, but has a disappointing feel for positional rotations and defense that doesn’t show up on the statsheet. I strongly object to Ibaka getting put in the defensive player of the year conversation with other more instincts-friendly players like Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert. I certainly didn’t see Ibaka making a real defensive impact on the game when the Thunder needed it against Memphis this year. Serge Ibaka is a good player, but he is not a great player. What really moves the needle in the NBA is great players.

As for Ibaka playing a big man position being more appealing than three perimeter players, what really matters is how much a player helps a team win, not what position he plays. Harden may not have been able to play as many minutes at SG as Ibaka at PF, but in my opinion, not enough to make up for the difference that Harden is the superior player per minute.

While the hindsight-trades game can get dull, to me the real moment for the Thunder was this. If they had put Ibaka on the trade block on draft night 2012, surely they’d have found suitors. The Sacramento Kings reportedly were shopping the 5th overall pick or upgrades and Ibaka is a perfect fit beside Demarcus Cousins. The Detroit Pistons likewise could’ve paired up Ibaka and Greg Monroe for the 9th pick. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted John Henson 14th, a similar enough prospect to Ibaka that surely they’d have preferred the established version. The natural move for the Thunder was to get a lottery pick for Ibaka and draft a cheap big man in one of Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, Meyers Leonard or John Henson to replace him at PF. Some of those picks would’ve worked out better than others it appears, but Oklahoma City have already proven they’re reliable at drafting, why not lean on it again? Not to mention that even if the worst case scenario of drafting a bust, with Durant, Westbrook and Harden, they’d have gotten over it just fine. Trading their 4th best and most talented player in Ibaka for a cheap big man who could do 80-100% of what he does was the move, not trading one of their star talents.

Ultimately Sam Presti has done a lot right with the Thunder, but the decision to take Ibaka over Harden is crippling. Sometimes it’s as simple as “Team up the best players and figure out the rest later”, seemingly taking Ibaka for positional and fit reasons, is missing the forest from the trees.

Written by jr.

July 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

Analyzing why James Harden, Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson’s star upside was missed in the 2009 draft

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Washington Wizards v/s Denver Nuggets January ...

Washington Wizards v/s Denver Nuggets January 25, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2009 draft has turned into one of the best of this generation. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are blossoming as superstars and franchise players. Ty Lawson is leading the way in Denver not too far behind.

It’s easily forgotten that 2009 at the time had been called one of the worst drafts of this generation, with 1 star in Blake Griffin and little upside after him. Many saw Ricky Rubio as having the 2nd highest chance at a special career, while some supported Demar Derozan, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, as potential surprise stars. Few saw such upside coming for Harden, Curry or Lawson.

The question is, why? What mistakes in evaluation led to not just missing on Harden, Curry and Lawson, but missing on evaluating their maximum potential?

Here’s my analysis of why:

James Harden

Harden had many clear strengths in college, such as size, shooting, passing and ballhandling for a 2 guard. His feel for the game, control and “old man” game stood out as well.

The main reason Harden’s upside got underplayed, is he was regarded as a less than an elite athlete. A few points about this. Although Harden may not be a freak athlete, he’s still a good one. He has a strong first step, especially for his size.

Furthermore, I’ve made the point that athleticism goes as far as it can be used. The usual value of a wing player’s athleticism, is “slashing” or having the explosiveness to attack the basket, scoring points in the paint and at the free throw line and collapsing the defense for others. When a wing player forces his will on the opponent by attacking the basket, I categorize it as physically impacting the game. A few months ago I wrote how Gerald Green despite great athleticism, had less than impressive ability to physically impact the game due to a lack of ballhandling. Because of lacking ballhandling skills, a player like Green could not use his athleticism to physically impact the game at a high level and without that his athleticism is not as valuable. Harden is the antithesis of Green. Although a good and not elite athlete, he adds to that elite ballhandling ability. The combination of good athleticism, elite size and elite ballhandling makes Harden a closer to great or elite talent physically impacting the game than merely judging his athleticism in a vacuum would suggest. Furthermore his college career showcased this. Harden used his first step, size and ballhandling to be a dynamic player attacking the basket in college. Largely a mistake was made assuming the tools allowing Harden to attacking the basket at an elite level in college, wouldn’t be there in the NBA too. Certainly Harden’s skills and IQ were so high that if he had been projected as a dynamic slasher at the next level, he’d have been known as a surefire star.

Stephen Curry

Coming out of college, Curry clearly was a special, special 3 point shooter. What people didn’t know is whether he’d do anything else. The reasons to doubt Curry were long. His athleticism and skinny frame was seen as a weakness limiting his upside. It was unclear whether he could play PG and run an offense at the next level, or whether he’d be stuck at SG. Many expected awful defense. Curry was also a 21 year old Junior coming out of Davidson, older age and small schools usually hurt draft prospects. With Curry the appeal was a guaranteed skill, 3 point shooting. However younger, more physically gifted peers in the draft were seen of players with a higher chance of flaming out, but a higher upside.

A main reason for the Harden miss, is similar for Curry. Curry may not be an elite athlete or very wide, however he is an exceptional ballhandler. When added to at least decent quickness, Curry’s ability to create attack the rim off the dribble is average, not bad. This difference between average and bad slashing, is key considering the rest of Curry’s game is flawless. Aside from all time great shooting and elite ability to create jumpshots off the dribble, Curry’s feel for the game and IQ is elite.

As for the rest of his concerns: In regards to playing PG, Curry became more of a playmaker his final year at Davidson averaging 5.6 assists per game. As a strong ballhandler with an elite feel for the game, while doubts about his position were not unfounded, PG was always his most likely position. Curry is still not a defensive standout, but many offensive stars aren’t and especially at PG, where man-to-man defense is almost dead. Point guards are almost entirely defended with help and team defense, allowing a team to survive Curry’s defensive inadequacies. Curry’s age and college are red herrings to me because talent is talent, regardless of when the player comes out. Furthermore age and college are usually red flags when a player who doesn’t produce early in his career, suddenly starts dominating them once they’re a few years older. Curry was elite as a freshman at Davidson statistically (27.8 PER) and one of the best in the NCAA in his sophomore season (34.7 PER and a dominant March Madness performance), before his junior year (36.4 PER).

Of the misses in this article, I consider Curry’s the most forgivable due to valid questions about whether he’d attack the basket and his position in the NBA.

Ty Lawson

With Lawson it’s quite simple, his height. At under 6 feet this submarined an otherwise perfect resume. Lawson had an elite combination of speed and strength for his height, an elite skill game with a dominant 3pt shooting season his final year at UNC with great ballhandling and passing, along with a silky smooth feel for the game and IQ. Furthermore Lawson was the standout, star player on the a national championship Tar Heel squad. But because of his height, he got labeled as a likely backup PG and sparkplug. The other thing that hurt him, is he was a Junior and set to turn 22 in November of his 2009 draft year.

Lawson’s height prevents him from being an even better player, but considering he aces the rest of the test, he has more than enough to make up for it. I wrote last week about why I consider height to be overrated. The gist is that length has to compete with athleticism and strength for what matters in physical talent alone, but then physical talent has to compete with skill, intelligence and motor as other factors influencing a player’s success. If physical talent is only a slice of a pie for a player’s success, if one sees height as only a slice of that slice, all of a sudden it becomes logical to see why a short player like Lawson can be so good. Lawson’s height is relevant, but when it’s added to his elite skill and strength which allows him to attack the basket and finish, even from a physical talent perspective he comes out well. When added to terrific perimeter skills and feel for the game, Lawson playing like this makes sense. Largely what it comes down to, is isolating any single factor as overwhelming an otherwise near perfect resume, is likely a mistake just because of the amount of factors that go into a player’s success. For example, Rajon Rondo is a star with shooting as a clear weakness. But like height, one can see shooting as only a portion of skill level, while skill level is then a portion of overall talent and success – like Lawson’s situation, Rajon’s weakness as a shooter then becomes a slice of a slice and thus overcome-able. Marc Gasol’s athleticism is likewise only a slice of a slice, with Gasol having other physical talents like strength and length, then that physical talent only being a portion of his success competing with skill and intelligence where he is elite for his position.

As for his production, like Curry, talent is talent. Furthermore Lawson played at a strong level his freshman (21.3 PER) and sophomore (24.8 PER) seasons before his junior (30.5 PER) year and was not a late bloomer, in particular emerging as a star by his sophomore season.

Lawson’s is clearly the most unforgivable evaluation of this group, considering how far he fell compared to the others, that he had the perfect college situation for the spotlight to be on him and especially considering an undersized PG with a poor skill level and feel for the game in Jonny Flynn went 6th overall!  I don’t know entirely how Lawson fell that far, sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders and just accept wild things happen.

As a wrapping note, as I’ve stated before, whenever you hear that this or another draft is terrible and hopeless – just remember Harden, Curry and Lawson and how they were missed. And check out this blog because I’ll be trying to sniff out who the next versions of them are!

Written by jr.

May 10, 2013 at 7:44 pm

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: First MVP Rankings and Power Rankings

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Here is my first installment of the MVP rankings and Power Rankings for this season. Remember this is based on the season we’ve had so far, not predicting what will happen from this point forward:

1. SG James Harden – The Beard activated god mode in his first week with the Rockets. 35.3 pts, 6.3 assists 6.3 rebounds and .642 TS% and a 2-1 record. Hard to believe it’s only been 1 week since the trade, isn’t it? Harden is the story of the first week and cruises to the top spot.

2. SF/PF Lebron James – The Heat have been a wee bit slow out of the gates, but look to emulate Usain Bolt after he trails opponents on the blocks before his long legs give him an advantage to blow them away the rest of the race. Lebron is so good that he can make 23.0 pts, 8.7, 6.3 asts on .621 TS% look like commonplace.

3. PG Chris Paul – Like Lebron, Paul can make a 19.0 pts, 12.3 asts, 4.0 rebs, .604 TS% start to the season look “ho hom” and it’s easy to take him for granted. The Clippers at 2-1 are off to a great start offensively despite so many new names, and will be looking to jump the Lakers for the Pacific division.

4. PG Kyle Lowry – Lowry’s first week with his new team has been nearly as impressive as Harden’s. With 23.7ppg, 7.0 asts, and 7.3 rebs, he is leading the team in all 3 categories. With the improvement in his shooting the last few years added to his athleticism and IQ, Lowry has become a star guard.

5.  SG Kobe Bryant – The Lakers may be 1-3, but Kobe has been spectacular playing off his new teammates, scoring 26.8ppg on 59.7% FG and .710 TS%. Kobe looking spry bodes well for their championship chances this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 am

The Presti Dilemma, or the Perils of Premature Zealotry

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English: James Harden, a player for the Oklaho...

English: James Harden, a player for the Oklahoma City Thunder at ARCO Arena. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new NBA season dawns and it feels like a breath of fresh air. After an off-season of claustrophobic analysis done in a vaccum, we now get to actually see how it all plays out, and of course on the top of everyone’s mind right now is OKC and what will come of the trade of James Harden to the Rockets.

We are now two games in. Two otherworldly games in where James Harden took the favorable prognostications of the most analytically inclined and blew right past them. There is the urge to crow of course, although that runs plenty of risk in terms of prematurely asserting a conclusion based on poor sample size. What I’m more interested is the position and decision making of Sam Presti.

Presti has recently been the darling of the NBA’s GMs and understandably so. He sat on the knee of the Godfather of contemporary NBA team franchise building, Greg Popovich, and since moving to the Oklahoma City Thunder has had nothing but great success. He seems to have it all coming and going, and even if you foresee me quibbling with that diagnosis, I’m not going to say that’s terribly wrong.

What I note though is that Presti is currently, and will be for the foreseeable future, on the virtual hotseat for the decision to trade Harden, and I think that to the extent he made a mistake here, the mistake was made quite a while ago.

As Presti neared the time when a decision about re-signing Harden could be no longer put off, theoretically he had 3 choices:

1) Re-sign Harden to continue playing his current 6th man role.

2) Let Harden go.

3) Re-sign Harden and bump up the man’s primacy at the expense of others (ahem, Russell Westbrook).

In reality, this wasn’t much of a choice. Or rather, the difference between the first two choices is blown up out of proportion, and the risks involved with the third choice are so massive it’d be shocking if any GM would dare be so bold. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

November 2, 2012 at 10:44 pm

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: The 10 Best Points I Can Make About the James Harden Trade

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BOOM! James Harden to the Rockets. Trades like this simply don’t happen often. Harden is 23, has All-NBA talent and was very controllable by the Thunder. Therefore, it’s really fun to talk about.

Here are roughly the 10 most insightful points I could make:

10. The Veto strikes again – Fun game, what happens if David Stern doesn’t block the Chris Paul to the Lakers deal? Paul obviously is on the Lakers, the Clippers either still in NBA hell or peeking their head above with an 7th/8th seed. Does the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum trade still happen, or do one of the Magic, Nuggets or Sixers go “Eff that, I’m not letting the Lakers have a dynasty”. If so, Howard is on another team as well. Either way, both Paul and Howard’s career paths and probably at least 1 title are affected. Then there’s Anthony Davis likely being on a different team than New Orleans. Davis could end up having an iconic career for the Hornets, changing that team and the one that would’ve gotten him if not for the veto. Finally, James Harden ends up on a team that isn’t the Rockets if not for this and if he breaks out to be a franchise star, the veto changes an era for Houston. And the Thunder assuming they trade Harden, get very different pieces for him – these pieces possibly changing the title picture in upcoming years. The Veto had a massive butterfly effect on the league.

9. The brilliance of the Omer Asik signing – The second most important piece on the Rockets now isn’t Jeremy Lin, it’s Omer Asik. Asik looks to be one of the best defensive centers in the league immediately for the Rockets. Getting a true defensive anchor at C is very hard, some teams go decades without one. The brilliant part of this signing is it happened while Houston had gone all in on trading for Dwight Howard. They had the foresight to have a plan B if they didn’t get Dwight and the balls to sign Asik as a backup C again if they had secured Howard. I suspect many teams would’ve been too blinded by the thought of Howard playing center for them, to consider signing Asik at the same time.

8. The Rockets still have huge cap flexibility and assets – As has been noted in a few places, the Rockets’ are looking at max free agent capspace next year. If Chris Paul leaving the Clippers becomes a real possibility, the Rockets will be involved trying to get him. Josh Smith and Al Jefferson are other plausible targets. Capspace is also valuable in a trade – Perhaps Memphis wants to get out of Rudy Gay’s contract next summer. With capspace and young players to trade, the Rockets are an ideal trade partner.

Speaking of young players, aside from Lin, the Rockets do have other enticing pieces like Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Royce White, Donatas Motiejunas, Marcus Morris, Cole Aldrich and Scott Machado. Aside from giving Harden talent to work with, the Rockets just proved building up a store of trade assets is always a good strategy if another star becomes available. Read the rest of this entry »

MVP/Power Rankings Monday – The 10 most likely future NBA MVPs (who haven’t won any yet)

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Kevin Durant waiting for the tip-off in OKC vs...

Kevin Durant is a near cinch for future MVP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The NBA MVP feels the most important of the 4 major sports’. Since the best player in basketball matters more than the rest, so does the all-time rankings of players – and next to championships, MVPs are the most prestigious award they can get. Furthermore the NBA is unique from the other sports in that only the greatest talents even have a shot at the award, while in the NFL, MLB and NHL a very good but not transcendent talent can win an MVP if he breaks out to a spectacular statistical season. The MVP club is a much more exclusive lounge to join in the NBA.

Here are my rankings of who the most likely future MVPs are, among players who haven’t been awarded with one yet

Tier 1 – The frontrunners

1. SF Kevin Durant – A near lock to eventually get an MVP. He’s finished 2nd twice, is the dominant scorer in the league and is a media favorite due to his class and hard work. Most importantly perhaps is that winning an MVP just about requires finishing top 2 in the conference and Durant’s Thunder have the talent to consistently grab 1st and 2nd place finishes in the West for the rest of his prime. It’s much more likely Durant wins 2 or more MVPs than it is he wins 0.

2. PG Chris Paul – With 2nd and 3rd place finishes he’s proven he has the respect of MVP voters due to his transcendent true PG ability. Like Durant on the Clippers with Blake Griffin beside him he has the talent to lead a team strong enough to win an MVP and if the Clippers ever get that high, the narrative of saving that once tortured franchise will play in his favor.

3. C Dwight Howard – Like Durant and Paul he’s a consensus superstar who has 2nd, 4th and 4th MVP finishes. He’s easily the best at his position and the value of dominant two way centers has been recognized. My only concern with him is that after leading 59 W seasons in both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, he still only was rewarded with 4th place finishes both years. Even in the year he finished 2nd many argued Derrick Rose didn’t have the same value to his team enough to beat him. Is it possible Dwight’s lack of dominant scoring talent and polish hurts his chances of getting MVP respect? Perhaps, but he deserves to be ranked top 3 at worst. Read the rest of this entry »

8 thoughts on the Thunder’s elimination

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Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunders at ...

Image via Wikipedia

1. For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder exit the playoffs in a way that leaves us all excited for the future. One of the biggest turnarounds in history last year to get to the 1st round, now they get to the conference finals. They remain precocious as hell, and short of some major blow up in the off-season, I expect they’ll be the favorites to win the Western Conference next year, as well as to be the dominant team in the West going forward.

2. I think people need to keep some perspective though. This was a Thunder team that achieved their record in the regular season largely by beating mediocre teams (they struggled against the elite), and that were very fortunate that instead of having to face the best team in the conference in the second round (as a #4 seed should), they played an 8 seed. And even then, they only beat the 8 seed with the help of home court advantage. It’s wrong to talk about the series with the Dallas Mavericks as if it was the gentleman sweep that a 4-1 victory implies – the Mavs had to turn it on completely and get a bit lucky just to win 2 of 3 home games. However, the fact remains that after getting a fortunate draw, they managed only 1 win when faced with a true contender.

Bottom line is that no one should look at this Thunder team like one that took the playoffs by storm this year.

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Flop and Punishment; Adapt or Suffer

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Image by baldeaglebluff via Flickr

During the game Saturday night, James Harden executed a flop to perfection against Tyson Chandler. He bumped into Chandler, and then when Chandler reacted by putting his arms up, Harden flopped at a point where Chandler’s elbows protruded maximally. Worked like a charm, Chandler got whistled for a technical.

Among the television announcers, Jeff Van Gundy talked about how they need to fine players for such flops, while Mark Jackson said you can’t fine a guy for trying to help his team.

I can’t think of a finer scenario for a meditation on flopping and rule making.

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