Building an NBA Frankenstein

February 2, 2012

By Jack Maidment

I am a big comic book fan. Marvel, DC; I don’t care. If there are super powers and freaky scientific experiments a-happening I am there with lycra-clad bells on.

Every night we see unbelievable athletes in the NBA doing things with their bodies which 99.9% of the rest of us can only experience in the third person.

The average NBA player is an otherworldy specimen of humanity, but some of them are positively mutant. Freakish even.

Blake Griffin’s latest dunk got me thinking: If I was an evil genius (think more Dr Doom/Magneto than Kim Kardashian) hell bent on stealing the attributes of others to create my very own Deadpool, who would I want to pickpocket?

We are basically walking the Space Jam path. Come with me, position by position.

PG.

Fast don’t lie and my mutant has got to be fast. This was a tough decision, but I’m taking Derrick Rose’s Power Speed over Ty Lawson’s Jet Speed (Russell Westbrook was also in the mix too). I want a guy who has gears and nobody can change up and down like Rose.

SG.

Call it quickness or elusiveness, whatever, I want my guy to be slippery, and for that I am abducting Dwyane Wade. Nobody does Now-You-See-Me-Now-You-Don’t like Wade. If he was unavailable I would have no qualms about picking up Steve Nash or Manu Ginobli here.

SF.

Like there was any doubt which small forward I would be stealing from. Whatever LeBron James has I want for my player, but since I’m taking one thing per player, I’m taking LeBron’s mental toughness…. Just checking you were paying attention. I want no part of LeBron’s mental faculties, but I will gladly take his juggernaut-ness. It’s a word. And it roughly translates as wanting people to get the hell out of the way of my evil-genius player because they are scared he will trample them to death. Like this guy.

PF.

I want Blake’s legs and his elevation. As seen here. Here. And here. Best leaper in the game, and I am only stealing from the best.

C.

If this was the 1960s I am calling Wilt, inviting him to a Hollywood starlet’s party, then chloroforming him and stealing his physique but since Chamberlain is off the table, I’m taking Dwight Howard and his strength.

My mutant’s name? LeLake Wightrose

Got better?


Blake Griffin is The Power Forward

November 9, 2010

For almost 15 years Tim Duncan  has been The Archetype, the man who best represents what it means to play the four spot in the NBA.

And as his career fades, albeit gradually, into the history books, the Los Angeles Clipper’s rookie big man and former #1 NBA Draft pick Blake Griffin is firmly placed to grab the gaze and the plaudits afforded to The Best Power Forward in the Game.

Because make no mistake Griffin is the best in the NBA right now and it is not a debate.

8 games. That is all the time he needed to crush any worries about his surgically repaired knee and to impose his authority on to the NBA to the tune of 18 and 11.

If you were the GM of any franchise starting from scratch right now and you could have your pick of any power forward in the game for the next 10 years tell me you don’t take Griffin.

He rebounds, he scores from everywhere, he runs the floor. He even plays defence. Yes, he plays for an awful team, but but the stench of Clipper mediocrity wont last long, not with number 32 on the floor.

Quite simply Blake Griffin is not a power forward.

He is The Power Forward.


NBA Rookie Ratings: Can anyone stop Blake Griffin?

September 5, 2009

blakeby Jack Maidment

Consider this. If Blake Griffin does not win Rookie of the Year this season, the start to his NBA career will be deemed a disappointment. Such is the pressure that accompanies a player deemed measurably better than the rest of the Class of 2009.

Conceivably there are only three reasons that Griffin won’t become the latest recipient of the award currently held by Derrick Rose.

Injury.

Capitulation under the immense pressure placed on the #1 pick leading to a major loss in confidence. The least likely.

Eclipsed by the break out of another. Possible? Certainly.

The problem for Griffin is that he is the sole bearer of expectations for this draft.

We heard all year how weak this class was or rather how one player was on another level to his peers.

Entering the draft as the unanimous #1 effectively sets Griffin up for a fall. Anything other than stellar performances and ‘star’ numbers will see his reputation take a major hit.

The rookie deemed ‘most likely to be an All Star’ will be at the forefront of all critics and coverage, scrutinised every night.

It is for this reason that the race for ROY honours will be closer than predicted. All people are susceptible to feel pressure and any slip by the Clipper could be capitalised on by the player that adapts best to life in the NBA.

Make no mistake, the rest of the guys taken from #2 down are talented enough to represent and there will be many who slap the faces of all the General Managers who passed on them draft night.

Their status as underdogs and their desire to belong and hang with the elite will drive the young players play pushing them to new levels of performance.

Those players taken by teams where they will play immediately, for example Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans, will have ample opportunity to stake their claim to the top spot.

Those drafted to loaded teams will have to capitalise on their chances when they come along.

For the sake of comment and to banish the ‘Griffin plus everyone else’ status surrounding the 2009 class, let us hope that the ROY race is far from a one horse affair.


NBA Draft 2009: Top 10 Largely Picks Itself

May 26, 2009
Stephen Curry fits the Knicks

Stephen Curry fits the Knicks

by Jack Maidment

Why would you pick Blake Griffin with the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft?

The answers are two fold:

1. You get the only player ‘guaranteed’ to make an impact straight away a player destined for All-Star status sooner rather than later.

2. As a struggling franchise you draft the player that will sell the most season tickets through sheer weight of interest.

Now, both of these reasons are obvious and self explanatory. Yet it is with no surprise that we hear that the Clippers are listening to offers for their pick.

Such a rumour has started to grow pace as a result of one man’s actions: Ricky Rubio.

It could be argued that the DNA of this Draft class rests heavily on how the man from Spain decides to handle himself as the Big Night draws closer.

Rumours are rumours and their one constant is that they don’t have to hold an ounce of truth: they will still grow larger and gain more talk time. Whether Rubio will commit to the draft regardless of location could dictate the specifics for, at least, the other players in the top 10.

It is difficult to isolate Rubio because his decision will affect everyone making the first 10 picks largely difficult to predict. However, some should be sure things. Observe:

Barring trades and Clipper Madness, Blake Griffin will go first to Los Angeles. As Ron Burgundy would say, ‘that’s a given’.

If Rubio plays hard ball the Grizzlies will likely take Hasheem Thabeet for two reasons. Firstly, he should compliment Marc Gasol’s post game.

Secondly, Memphis couldn’t accommodate another perimeter player who needs the ball to be successful. They already have OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay to demand the rock and it can only be shared so much.

Ricky Rubio may well look attractive to the Thunder, but the bottom line is: could he play in the same backcourt as Russell Westbrook? No. Westbrook can play at the 2, but both want the ball in their hand. Conflict? Yep.

So who do Oklahoma take? James Harden, the best SG in this class would provide them with a perimeter threat who can go to the hoop and finish. A perfect compliment to Westbrook, Durant and Jeff Green.

The Sacramento Kings could be a viable alternative for Rubio who would get the reigns to the team and would sell tickets. But, whether he would mesh with Kevin Martin, the franchise’s main scorer and ball demander, is a tough question to resolve.

The Washington Wizards will likely take Jordan Hill who will bring toughness and heart to a front line which lacks fire. His offensive game may be far from polished, but the fact that the Wiz will have Arenas, Butler and Jamison, Hill wont be relied on for production anyway. Just clean the glass and hustle.

Hill seems like a lock for Wahington. He just makes sense. The same can not be said for the next two picks.

It would appear that the T-Wolves and the Warriors will take Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings, but which way round does not scream out.

Nellie Ball would suit Jennings more but Monta Ellis might not be too keen. But, to be fair, he might not like the other option any better.

Tyreke is probably a better fit for the Wolves who can persist with Randy Foye at the 1.

It’s a tough call.

If he is still there, the New York Knicks will take the best shooter in the draft, Stephen Curry who should fit perfectly into Mike D’Antoni’s offense. That will be nice.

Toronto picks 9th and they will need to address their lack of backcourt power, probably by taking Demar DeRozan. A real slasher, he should fit nicely with Calderon and compliment the Raptors frontline perfectly.

Ramon Sessions’ contract demands will likely lead the Bucks to draft a PG in the shape of Jonny Flynn.

If Rubio pulls out then everything will change, with Jennings the one to benefit.

If he stays in the draft and Memphis or Oklahoma call his bluff, the landscape will change all over again.

It’s all on Rubio.


Good Times in Los Angeles: Lakers Survive Nuggets, Clippers Get Lucky

May 20, 2009
Jennings is Flashy

Jennings is Flashy

by Jack Maidment

One night. Two major stories.

Firstly, the LA Lakers recovered from an early hole to take game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against a Denver Nuggets team which threatened to steal home court all night long on the back of a lights out shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony.

Secondly, LA’s ‘Other Team’, the Clippers, lucked out and obtained the right to pick first in the eagerly anticipated NBA Draft.

Both events promised shocks and surprises and neither disappointed.

For the most part the Lakers were out played by a fired up Denver team who raced out to an early lead before the Lake Show’s bench dragged themselves back into it.

To be honest I’m not sure how Denver lost this game and George Karl’s face told the story at the final buzzer as his side ended the game 2 points down thanks to a Trevor Ariza steal, Kobe Bryant’s 4th quarter scoring outburst and Derek Fisher’s series of crucial big shots.

But lose they did and despite the hit that their playoff momentum took last night, at least the Nuggets know they can take this Laker team to the edge. A sweep this will not be.

The other half of LA joined the victory celebrations as the Clippers snatched the number 1 pick from the other hopefuls.

Hope for the re-birth of a long moribund franchise has been rekindled as the Clips won the Blake Griffin Sweepstakes.

The speculation now focuses on how the ‘Craziest Franchise in the League™’ can go about ruining the opportunity that chance has bestowed upon them.

It would not be a surprise to wake up and discover that the Clips had traded their first pick for a pack of magic beans. Or Tracy McGrady.

But, sanity prevailing, the Los Angeles Clippers will take Blake Griffin, adding character and ferocity in the paint.

The only other consensus top picks are center Hasheem Thabeet out of Connecticut and Ricky Rubio the Spanish wunderkind point guard.

Barring a spectacular workout by any other prospect, these two will go 2 and 3 with the Memphis Grizzlies likely to take Rubio second given his talent set and the apparent incompatibility of Thabeet with Marc Gasol.

Memphis promises to be a much improved team next year with a nice core of young, exciting players: Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, OJ Mayo. Now that is the definition of promise and potential.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will also rapidly improve after their 3rd pick likely takes the 7-3 Thabeet to bolster its front court with a shot blocking and athletic big man.

Based on starting point, the Thunder should become the new Portland, blessed with young players all of whom have tremendous upsides. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, the hugely underated Jeff Green and Hasheem Thabeet? Yes please.

Outside of Griffin, Rubio and Thabeet, the lottery gets vastly more difficult to call with teams reliant on workouts to determine their guy. However, the player snapping at the top 3 is surely Brandon Jennings, arguably the most exciting player in the draft.

An outstanding playmaker with a penchant for the flashy pass, the Compton native is the exact player that struggling teams need to fill arenas making it highly probable that he will be playing in Sacramento next year.

The League’s worst team slipped as low as they could in the Lottery, but the silver lining could be Jennings. A 6-1 point does not get the nickname ‘Young Money’ by chance. Dude is cash and promises much.

A year playing pro ball in Europe can only have given Jennings the experience that his draft colleagues lack. He is used to a demanding schedule, more practices, more travel.

Griffin may be solid and fierce. Rubio might possess great court vision. Thabeet might have a great upside. But, none of them can match the excitement that Jennings can, and will generate. My tip for fan favourite of the year.

Beyond that, the draft of 2009 is far from as deep as the past two years with GMs having to pray that they can uncover a diamond in the rough. Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans and James Harden will all look to impress and move up.

This class is open and the fact that nobody really knows who to take makes the build up to the big night itself almost as exciting as a Kobe/LeBron Finals. Ok, maybe not.

But it will be fun.

Do Be Do. 


Shaq Means Championship? NBA GMs Look To Change Their Fortunes With Trades

April 15, 2009
Center Seeks New Home, Willing To Travel For Rings.

Center Seeks New Home, Willing To Travel For Rings.

The final day of the season represents two separate things. For those 16 teams in playoff positions it is a last opportunity to try and improve their seeding. For the other teams in the League it is a chance to savour the last competitive encounter of the lengthy season and to look forward to a period of relaxation and the off season improvement that follows.

 

While the players of teams like the Grizzlies and the Warriors go fishing and eventually hit the gym, the front office of each franchise will be busily planning and revising their strategy for constructing a team capable of storming the playoffs next season.

 

Some of the playing personnel will be working out harder than others in the off season, or at least you would suspect they were, given the fluctuating nature of rosters in teams not necessarily happy with their performance.

 

Some players will be cut and asked to look for employment elsewhere, whereas others will be nervously anticipating any trades that could materialise. The nature of the economy dictates that many teams will in all likelihood not be involved in any blockbuster transactions. So, if we were still in the days of the boom, rather than the bust, which players would be looking for new accommodation?

 

Shaq. Despite his aging hulk of a body, the Big Diesel has proven this season that he is still a major force in the paint, replicating some of the form which led the Lakers and the Heat to Championships. If he is healthy he is still one of the best centers in the L without question.

 

It is highly doubtful that a player who likes to deal in rings is at all happy with his early holiday. Missing the post season is simply not Shaq. The acknowledgement that the great experiment in the desert, where Shaq’s Ying did not mesh as hoped to the Sun’s track meet Yang, is over will surely lead to the Big Aristotle leaving Arizona.

 

The rumoured mid season trade to the Cavaliers should have happened simply because Shaq and LeBron on the same team would be just too much fun. Imagine the pre-game introductions. Imagine Shaq reducing the Celtic’s front line to tears. Imagine the fifth ring and the parade.

 

There is no doubt that Cleveland could use a banging inside presence to compliment Big Z’s more cultured/finesse approach on offense, and Cleveland’s contender status would provide a fitting stage for Shaq to bow out as one of the greatest to have ever played the game.

 

While Shaq finishes his career in Cleveland, a young player could make a big step toward post season success by ditching his lowly franchise for a legit contender. Enter Kevin Durant. Despite the fact that the people of Oklahoma would probably riot if the trade were to go through, KD to Houston would catapult the Rockets forward giving them an explosive swingman capable of hitting big shots: something that they are already supposed to have but for injury after injury to T-Mac.

 

Not only would the Rockets have a great 1-2 punch in Yao and Durant instantly, they would also safe guard the future of the franchise with Durant looking likely to cement his position as one of the League’s absolute elite players, possibly taking Kobe Bryant’s mantle when the lock Hall of Fame player decides to retire in the relatively near future. Durant versus LeBron could replace LeBron versus Kobe as the clash of the titans.

 

The trade of Shaq and Durant as illustrated above may be slightly fantastical to say the least, so how about a shade of realism? The Wizards, the worst team in the East and second worst in the League, have a statistically compelling shot at the number 1 draft pick for this year’s draft. Taking Blake Griffin first overall would give the Wiz some much needed power down low and height on the boards. Combine what is considered to be the only lock-star in the draft with Washington’s roster and on paper you have a contender. On paper.

 

Injuries have blighted the Wizards the past few years but one season is all they need to get back toward the top end of the League. Gilbert Arenas, on the back of rest and renewed focus, is easily one of THE elite guards in the NBA. There is perhaps only one guard by the name of Kobe who you would rather have the ball down the stretch.

 

Caron Butler gives scoring and defensive toughness. Antawn Jamison is probably the most under-rated scorer in the entire League. Guaranteed points. Brendan Haywood gives them valuable size and presence in the paint. Add Griffin and a few veteran role players and the Wizards record one of the biggest turnarounds on their way to a deep post season run.

 

One or two trades is all it can take in the NBA for a franchise to transform its fortunes, see Celtics, Boston. And, Cavaliers, Cleveland.  Equally, one or two trades can be enough to cause an otherwise successful franchise to implode, see Suns, Phoenix. And Pistons, Detroit.     

 

Mediocrity is far from good enough in professional sports, so change is in the air regardless of the economy because ultimately the pursuit of trophies does strange things to people. 


NBA Draft 2009: Luck, The Priceless Commodity. Just Ask The Indiana Pacers…

April 2, 2009
Diamond in the Rough

Diamond in the Rough

The Lottery. A place where statistics can only do so much. A team can certainly improve their odds of success by aiming for a truly horrendous regular season record, but without fate smiling on you come draft night a 10 win season is far from a guarantee of your franchise securing one of the top 3 picks.

 

Cast your mind back a year ago when the Chicago Bulls snatched the number 1 pick when statistically they had a pretty pathetic 1.7% chance of doing so. It was the second biggest upset in draft history behind Orlando’s 1.5% number 1 pick in 1993. All of this serves as a reminder that the lottery is named so for a reason. Anything could happen and probably will.

 

Obtaining the top pick is only part of the problem. No player is a guaranteed sure fire thing coming in to the draft and even the most highly praised prospect can fail to make it in the NBA. And herein lays the major obstacle for GMs around the League: how do you establish which players have the long term potential to become stars based on relatively little information which cannot possibly figure out how well equipped a player is to make the step up into the league? There is no crystal ball. Just ask the teams who have seemingly squandered the top pick in the past.

 

People say that ‘you are better lucky than good’ and no where is this more apparent than on draft night. The difficulty in predicting a player’s potential is illustrated by the fact that numerous current All Stars were drafted outside the top 10, some out of the second round and some go un-drafted only later to excel when given the chance.

 

It can go both ways. Top prospects fail and off the radar players make it big. The drafts ability to surprise and fluctuate is illustrated by the number 17th pick in the 2005 draft, Danny Granger. Drafted out of New Mexico College, Granger was far from an elite prospect, always likely to get taken in the lower first round.

 

Yet, 4 years down the line, Granger has become the Pacers go to guy and the man that the franchise is seeking to build around for future success. He is that good. Averaging 25.1 points per game this season, Granger is one of the premier scorers in the league who continues to improve, consistently getting better every year. His stellar play this year has been rewarded with an All Star nod, and it would not be too brave to suggest that this will certainly not be the last.

 

A 6-8, 228 lbs, forward who can play the 2, 3 and even the 4, Granger is the manifestation of versatility, a man who can help his team in any which way, seamlessly moving around the court to fill gaps left by injuries and his team mates inadequacies.

 

In Danny Granger the Pacers have their franchise player and now its about getting him the help that he can lead into the postseason. Indiana will be hoping that they will replicate their good fortune in taking Granger when they enter the draft this year. They may only hold a 0.7% chance of taking the 1st overall pick, but as drafts of previous years have shown, this does not mean they will not luck out or choose wisely lower down the board.

 

This year’s board is far from loaded, with only one prospect, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, an apparently certified star in the making (ESPN labelled him a ‘young Carlos Boozer. But with hops.’). Everyone else in the lottery occupies a GM’s nightmare grey zone: no doubt talented, but unproven, inconsistent, too small etc. Many of these players are as likely to slide to ignominy as they are to succeed.

 

As GMs know, you are better lucky than good.

 

Welcome to lotteryland.