Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: We're Almost at the End Edition

Anthony Davis put up a very interesting NCAA Championship Game box score: 1-10 shooting, 16 rebounds, 6 blocks, 5 assists and 3 steals. Is he good enough to single-handedly transform a bad (read: Bobcats) team?

Omar Bagnied: Anthony Davis's shooting performance last night was an anomaly. His field goal percentage was .644 going into the game, with a couple perfect shooting nights earlier this season. He's a freshman, the stage got to him a little bit. It's good that he got this experience early on.

He's a natural rebounder and shot blocker. Those will carry over into the NBA. He needs to bulk up a little bit. Even though he's 6'10 he's only 220lbs. I'm not buying in to the hype that, in his current physical condition, he'll transform a franchise. He's 'college good', with 'NBA good' potential. If he puts on some muscle and works on his short range shooting this off-season then he has the potential to be an All-Star and contend for the 8-spot (in Charlotte, Washington or New Orleans) next season.

Andrew Snyder: "Anthony Davis, the soon-to-be-former Wildcat star, created new statistics in the minds of the Kansas shooters. These included Maybe Not, You Take It, and Oh, Hell No." -Charlie P. Pierce on Grantland

I think Davis will be a defensive force immediately in the Association and is the consensus #1 pick for a reason. I am pessimistic that his trademark unibrow will also make the trip to the league, and I'm pretty devastated about that.

Jacob Greenberg: I have watched next to no Anthony Davis, so I can't really comment on what that stat line means in the short term. Now, can he single handedly transform a franchise in the long term? No. At the very least, chances aren't that great. Really, only a few players in history have been able to single handedly transform a franchise from a lose to a winner without an already talented supporting cast around them. LeBron's one. MJ's another. But the others? They needed quality teammates before they made the playoffs. Davis seems to be a pretty complete defender, and an elite post defender never hurts. But lots of teams have great post defenders. The Bobcats need more than Anthony Davis to succeed next season -- an owner with a clue, and a roster that makes sense -- but he definitely wouldn't hurt the cause.

Franklin Mieuli: Granted, Monday night was the first time I have ever seen Anthony Davis play. Hell, I only knew him as the unibrow dude. But it was apparent that Kentucky had a vortex in the middle, making any Kansas drive look like a laborious effort. He’s worth tanking for, and can be THE building block of a future championship team.

Eric Gordon and Kyrie Irving are both about to return from long injury spells, and there are reports that Stephen Curry might play again before the year is out. Should these lottery-bound teams shut down their star guards for the rest of the season?

Omar Bagnied: No. This strategy continues to be mentioned as a viable option, and it shouldn't be. These NBA franchises depend on their fans. Without the fans there is no NBA, there is no income. If players are healthy, especially the stars who fans want to see, they should play. The team's record should not be a factor. Some believe it's prudent to sit stars when the team is out of playoff contention. I ask, how is this prudent? Will the team make more money sitting Gordon, Irving and Curry? Many fans won't show up. Washington sitting John Wall would be the decisive factor in my decision to abandon Wizards game. Especially if they're playing another bottom-feeder. Fans across the country feel the same way. And players on playoff teams are just as likely to get injured (if not more so) as those on teams out of contention. Tanking in the name of 'investment' is a pathetic prospect.

Andrew Snyder: In some cases (Steph), "shut it down" as Dirk Nowitzki would say. However I think Gordon and Irving are fine to play as long a they're not risking further injury. Gordon is such a skilled player that he might ruin any hopes for a Hornets tankapalooza. I'd much rather see Davis on the Hornets than any other prospective top-5 team.

Jacob Greenberg: Yes. I am all for shutting down players when it makes no sense to play them, especially when those players are expected to play important roles for the team in the future. I hear Omar's point that fans pay good money to see good players play, and that a team makes no less money to sit their stars. But garbage time doesn't just exist in a game, it also exists in a season. The Hornets, Cavs and Warriors are in garbage time. They have no chance to make the playoffs. It makes no sense to expose your best players -- and most expensive investments -- to unnecessary harm when the playoffs are no longer a possibility.

Now, when this happens -- tanking, for all intents and purposes -- I don't really blame the team. Had the Cavs not tanked hardcore in 2003, they wouldn't have gotten LeBron. It was a calculated gamble that paid off. However, I do think that teams should think about their fans. When teams like the Hornets, Warriors and Cavs do what they do, I think they should email their fans and announce that they are tanking. They could call it other things -- "moving to a period of future asset development and evaluation" -- and legitimize it in a number of ways. But being upfront with fans about rebuilding wouldn't be a bad step towards making tanking a more accepted form of team building.

Franklin Mieuli: Almost nobody in the league has a long-term view. The fan wants to see a win on the night that they go to the game. The players are competitive, and many of them are playing for their next contract. The coach is coaching for his job every night. The owner is some rich guy that doesn’t actually know much about basketball.

But each team has a GM, and it is that guy’s job to think about the short-, medium- and long-term trajectory of the team. Goal number one is to win now, but goal number two is to win later. If you give up on winning now, you must be taking active steps to win later.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying shut them down for the year, IF you are going to give minutes to allow young players to grow. One of the more frustrating things about the Warriors of the past ten years was that, even when getting blown out near the end of a crappy season, the rookies (especially under Don Nelson) remained glued to the bench. But this year, in the absence of Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, and after the trade of Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh, the Warriors often start three rookies. In last night’s loss to Memphis, rookies got 32% of the playing time. These teams should shut their stars down, IF they are willing to give minutes to those that need development.

Miami, Oklahoma City and Chicago have all suffered unexpected defeats (or multiple unexpected defeats) in the last couple weeks. Is this a normal thing, a product of the brutal schedule, a sign that these three teams aren't that far ahead of the pack?

Omar Bagnied: I still think these are the three best teams in the league. Miami is third amongst them on my list, so let's start with them.

OKC beat Miami by 16 with both teams at full strength. Miami then lost to Indiana and Boston by 15 and 19 that same week. The team lacks depth. They won't overtake Chicago for the number 1 spot even if Rose remains on the bench.

Oklahoma City is scary at home. But a team that matches up really well against them, as Jacob pointed out in an earlier post, is Memphis. Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News shares the same sentiment. The wins against Miami, Los Angeles (both) and Chicago these past couple weeks were impressive. They get full credit in my book for Miami, LAL and LAC, because those teams were at full strength. I can't say that their home game against Chicago was representative of what a 7-game championship series would look like. While no doubt impressive, if we were to remove OKC's 1st and 4th leading scorers (Durant and Ibaka), insert Rose and Hamilton in Chicago's lineup and move this game to the Windy City, the victory goes to Chicago. I believe Chicago will hold on to the league's best record and have home-court advantage throughout; with this being the case, both teams at full strength, I give Chicago the edge.

Unlike OKC in the West, Chicago matches up well with all Eastern conference teams. They don't have a losing record against any team in their conference and their record against the 7 playoff teams below them is 14-4 (8-0 vs. the 6-7-8 seeded Atlanta-Philadelphia-New York, with a 4-0 record against 9 seeded Milwaukee).

I do believe fatigue plays a factor this late into the season. But Miami has a depth issue that will come up again when they play Chicago. OKC might not be able to get past Memphis or, more importantly, San Antonio, who they have a losing record to this season. At full strength Chicago's above the rest.

Andrew Snyder: The Bulls have been missing Rose - he's been sort of banged up all year, and if he's not 100% in the playoffs Chicago could be in trouble against Boston, Philly, or Indiana.

Oklahoma City and Miami can't use injuries as an excuse for their recent performances. The Heat looked terrible in a blowout loss against the resurgent Boston Celtics last Sunday on National TV, and have struggled to bring their A game every night over the last month. As a viewer on Sunday, I was legitimately wondering if the Heat were playing a bad April Fools day joke on everyone by pretending not to care about the outcome of the game after they fell behind double digits. However, I'm sure they'll be back in the Finals out of the East, and that LeBron and Wade will soon right the ship and win their first 'ship together.

Truthfully, I haven't seen much of the Thunder recently other than Russell Westbrook dunk highlights but as a young team, I'm sure they're struggling with consistency, defense, and turnovers. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Thunder are shoe-ins for the Western Conference Finals, and could easily lose in the second round if matched up with a veteran team like the Lakers, Mavs, Clippers, or Grizzlies. For me, it remains to be seen til the playoffs of the Thunder have a championship caliber team.

Jacob Greenberg: Eh, it's a long/short season, and these teams play a lot of games. I happen to think that they just suffered some routine losses in a particularly busy part of their schedule. I'm not too worries about any of these teams' future prospects. None are shoe-ins, but they're heavy favorites for sure.

Franklin Mieuli: These are the best three teams in the league, but none of them are THAT far ahead of the pack. I am predicting that at least one, and maybe two, don't make it to their respective Conference Finals. This year the league isn't particularly top heavy, but deep through ~12 teams.

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