A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Karl Malone

The best starting 5 of all time – my picks

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Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan 1997

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Since it’s a long summer, I thought I’d use an entry on my current choice for the best starting lineup I can possibly come up with out of all players in history. If you like visiting basketball message boards, this type of exercise is typically our 2nd favorite thing to do after ranking the “All Time List” numerically.

Now, my choices might surprise you. You may have seen a lot of all time starting lineups with simply the best player of all time at each position – A common list has Magic Johnson at PG, Michael Jordan at SG, Larry Bird at SF, Tim Duncan at PF and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at C. Since there is no way to actually test this, I’m not one to definitively say they’re wrong. But I believe they are. Most players used to having the ball the most on their team offensively, will find themselves far less effective when they have it the 4th or 5th most, roles typically reserved for either spot up shooters or putback scores. The 2011 Heat and their surprisingly stoppable offense were a great example of star redundancy at work. Teams were able to help off whomever of Lebron and Wade didn’t have the ball, bringing those defenders into the paint to guard against the ballhander’s penetration. Ultimately what makes the most effective offenses isn’t just having the most talented on ball players. It’s creating the most efficient shots – Which is a synergy of on ball creation and off ball oppurtunism. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

September 22, 2011 at 4:47 pm

The Accidental Hater

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Image from Chapelle's Show

With Shaquille O’Neal‘s retirement I feel compelled share what unique place Shaq Diesel occupied in my mind.

This won’t be something everyone enjoys because it’s a quite negative place. However, I do think that it represents a side of Shaq’s career that needs to be told along with the good. Is it sour grapes? Call it what you will.

Call me Magic

I was born and raised a Laker fan in Los Angeles. Magic Johnson was the first player I ever knew of. He was the star of the city, and hey, with my last name and my penchant for basketball, how could I now want to call myself “Magic”.

Fast forward to Shaq’s feud with Kobe Bryant. I begin to get more and more irritated. While Kobe’s ball hogging tendencies made me a touch sympathetic to teammates complaining, Shaq’s behavior was so awful that he was the one I felt the frustration toward.

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Dirk vs Aldridge, Hakeem vs Malone in ’95 and where the rubber meets the road in the playoffs

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Dirk Nowitzki playing with the Dallas Mavericks

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Two games into the Dallas-Portland series, Dallas has 2 Ws. Despite Dallas winning 57 games to Portland’s 48 in the regular season, Portland became the popular upset choice with their play after the Gerald Wallace trade and the overall “meh” feeling about the Mavericks roster. So far Dallas has proven the pundits wrong.

Both teams have played similarly. Dirk Nowitzki (30.5ppg) and LaMarcus Aldridge (25.5ppg) have scored a ton, the rest have been limited to ok shooting %s, due to strong defense on both sides. Both games were dead even at the start of the 4th, with a 61-61 tie with 10 minutes left in Game 1 and a 78-76 lead for Dallas with under 9 left in Game 2. Then the gap between Dirk and Aldridge became apparant. In Game 1 Dirk scored 15 points in the last 10 minutes while Aldridge scored 6. In Game 2 Dirk dropped 13 points in the last 9 minutes, Aldridge 3. Dirk assassinated the Blazers in both 4th quarters.

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Written by jr.

April 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

The Case for Dirk Nowitzki

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Dirk Nowitzki

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Dirk Nowitzki has been my choice for MVP for more than a month now. However, we’ve only got about a month to go in the regular season, and Dirk’s not on most people’s short list. He isn’t in the top 3 at either ESPN’s or nba.com’s Award Watches for example. The closest I’ve seen anyone argue for Dirk, was a good SB Nation article saying he deserves more attention than he’s getting, and a Mavs’ blogger saying he’s as deserving as the other candidates. Not all that bold. So I guess I’ll take the leap:

As of now, Dirk Nowitzki is the player most deserving of winning the 2010-11 NBA MVP.

Let’s start out with the basics: The Dirk Nowitzki is the clear superstar on a team with no other all-stars, and he has led the team to the 3rd best record in the league in a year where there are no serious candidates on on the top 2 teams. Right there, Dirk should be on everybody’s mind as a top candidate.

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Jerry Sloan and His Point Guards

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Jerry and Phil

Image by kris247 via Flickr

The news of Jerry Sloan resigning mid-season, essentially immediately after a game, is something so surprising I can’t even think of the last time something in sports surprised me more. Almost a quarter century of tenure and a relationship with ownership perceived to be the most stable in the league – gone over night. And of course, as an analyst, I feel mostly just excitement about seeing something new.

Of course part of that is because of how I view Sloan. I respect the hell out of the man’s ability to consistently achieve success, but the man is also clearly stubborn as hell. John Amaechi said Sloan was “a cruel man” and made clear he thought the man was a homophobe – and it just rings too true for me to dismiss as being entirely without merit. When someone like that quits all of a sudden, he’s doing it because he’s tired of compromise, not because he’s a victim of some great unjustice.

Although with that said, remember that the Jazz drafted Deron over Chris Paul, when pretty much everyone considered Paul the clearly superior prospect, and that undoubtedly had everything to do with Sloan believing in Deron. Rough to put yourself on the line for someone, and then for that person to drive you out.

Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams

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Written by Matt Johnson

February 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Why I Love Sports: Paul Millsap

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Last night’s performance by Paul Millsap pretty much embodies everything about what makes sports great.  You want a drama where the plucky hard-working underdog comes from behind against all odds  to grab victory by the slimmest of margins?  A great game can tell this story better than the best literature.

46 points in as clutch a performance as you’ll ever see.  Here’s the fantastic rally to tie the game in regulation where Millsap miraculously scores 11 points in 30 seconds with three 3-pointers, which people are now comparing with Tracy McGrady’s 13 point outburst a few years back:

People are debating about degree of difficulty here, and they shouldn’t – what McGrady did was harder, the defense was completely focused on him and he still pulled it off.  The focused on him of course because he was an established superstar – and that’s exactly what makes it so much less captivating.

Millsap came into this league a lightly regarded 2nd round pick from Louisiana Tech (ironically the same college Karl Malone came out of), and had to beat the odds to even have an NBA career.  For his first 4 years, the man worked hard and impressed with every opportunity he was given, but he was limited because the Utah Jazz already had star power forward Carlos Boozer.

This off season, Boozer left to join the Chicago Bulls, and I was initially hopeful that this would become Millsap’s break out year.  I was prepared to champion the guy as a candidate for Most Improved Player (and I’ll mention the irony again of ‘improvement’ in the NBA being more about opportunity than actual improvement), but then the Jazz swindled the often-swindled Minnesota Timberwolves out of Al Jefferson.  At that point, my expectation was that Jerry Sloan simply didn’t see Millsap as star material, and I was disappointed but figured he knew better than me.

Of course, he does know better than me, but clearly his opinion of Millsap isn’t what I feared.  Millsap’s getting his greatest opportunity and he’s killing it.  Lead scorer on his team, with ridiculous efficiency, even before this last game.  Now he’s in the top 3 in the league in both PER and Win Shares, and you have to start thinking about him for the accolades reserved for stars.  This isn’t a guy getting great efficiency off of limited usage and small sample size, this is a guy capable of taking over a game.

Now on the other side of things, The Heat have to be concerned.  The worry from the inception of Miami Thrice was that they didn’t really have a big man, which could be a huge problem on defense.  The Heat have proven to be very effective on defense against most teams, but now both Emeka Okafor and Millsap have torn them up.  Both fundamentally sound big men, and neither really considered a star.  I have no qualms about singing Millsap’s praises because his performance was so amazing it doesn’t matter that issues with Miami’s defense helped it happen, but in the long run the most informative part of this game might have been the realization that the Heat have a huge problem right where we feared they’d have one.  They need to make some adjustments ASAP, and if they can acquire a solid defensive big like Erick Dampier, they need to do it.

Written by Matt Johnson

November 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

The Retro Player of the Year Project

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I’ve just finished running a project on the RealGM called the Retro Player of the Year (RPOY).  I think it was one hell of a project, so I want to give y’all a summary of it.

–          The idea behind the RPOY was that the NBA MVP award isn’t good enough. It only factors in the regular season, and really, the award that everyone wants when they do comparisons of players is an all-season Player of the Year award.

–          Now, this isn’t strictly an MVP for all seasons, because that wouldn’t work.  If the guy who has the best regular season is on a mediocre team, he’s not going to contribute as much value to his team in the playoffs as the star of the champion, so you’ve got to be a bit less literal than that.  The need for some fuzziness opens the door to people voting with different philosophies, but really that happens with the MVP any way. And still, we kept a focus where voting had to be based on what a player actually did that year, not what he could conceivably have done in the right circumstances. If a guy has a down year in the middle of his prime, even he was dealing with a moron of a coach and a tyrant of an owner – he suffers in this project.

–          RealGM is a website that has a variety of things on it, but the flagship of the public facing end of it is the basketball message boards.  I strongly believe they have the best basketball message boards on the internet, which is why I’ve been a moderator for them for several years.

–          The voting panel was semi-open.   By that I mean, at the beginning of the project, I let in all established posters from the site who wanted to be included, but afterward I only let in posters who impressed me.  I won’t claim that the members of the panel were necessarily the most prestigious of folks compared to actual MVP voters.  However, there were some powerhouses in this project I feel privileged to have been able to work with, and if you look at the votes, I think you’ll find that there are less “crazy votes” than what you see in a typical MVP vote.

–          The project took about 6 months to complete, starting from the ’08-09 season, and going back to the beginning of the shot clock era, with one digression to evaluate ’09-10 after the Lakers won their second title in a row.

Without further ado:  Here is a site made for the project which displays and tabulates the results, and here is the main message board page for the project.

Now, some results, and some thoughts on all this:

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