If you’ve read my work before, you know that I can get fired up. Yeah, I write a lot of stupid stuff completely in jest, basically hoping to get other people going, but every now and then, I legitimately have to get some things off of my chest. This blog would be one of those times. I don’t know how I can get so worked up every year about the NBA screwing up the All-Star team selections, but it’s become an annual ritual, and it will continue to happen until Adam Silver finally comes to his senses and lets me fix everything about the NBA, including allowing me to pick the All Star teams each year. Continue Reading
Okay, so I just woke up from my postgame nap after getting up at 6:30 this morning to watch TJ Oshie and USA hockey vanquish the Russkies on their home ice, and I’ve decided to get back in the saddle and end my blog’s ridiculous drought of posts. I’m overflowing with patriotism and after watching the NBA’s Rising Stars challenge last night and the rest of NBA All Star Weekend looming, I’m in the perfect mood to write a blog I’ve had on my mind for about a week now.
I was watching Olympics last weekend and I noticed that Norway was stocking up on medals in nordic skiing and gaining the lead in the medal count, and I thought, it’s such bullshit that a country being the best at a stupid fringe sport like cross country skiing gets to rack up tons of medals because of the multiple events in the same sport and multiple entrants in each event for the same country. I think we can all agree that it’s silly that a team sport competition like basketball (or hockey, if we want to be topical) takes about two weeks to determine a winner, and then that gold medal counts as one medal in the count. Lame. Unfair. Team sports absolutely should be worth more, but also there should be more events for basketball, which I guess 3 on 3 is on its way, but 1 on 1 should absolutely be an event, and you could even throw in 3 point shooting and dunk contest. If they can judge triple axels they can judge 360 windmills. Now, on top of adding these extra events, why should the US be limited to one team in basketball? We’re so much better than everybody else, why should we be forced to settle for one gold when we could easily sweep the podium and shut out the Spaniards, Argentinians and Frenchies. So here is my triple Dream Team, if you will, or as I called it in the title: The 3 Headed Monster of USA Basketball.
I should mention that in choosing these teams, I tried to keep the squads young, much like actual Team USA, but I kept the vets that have been playing lately. The other big thing is I assumed everyone is healthy. Obviously Rose, Kobe, Westbrook, etc. are battling injuries right now, but the hope would be that in 2016 they would all be 100% and good to go. This is a fantasy, after all, so I can make that rule. Okay, now, here are the teams.
|Team Red||Team White||Team Blue|
|G||J. Wall||Rondo||K. Irving|
|G||B. Beal||Korver||K. Thompson|
|G/F||L. Stephenson||Iguodala||Jimmy Buckets|
|F||G. Monroe||K. Leonard||Bosh|
|F/C||A. Drummond||D. Jordan||B. Lopez|
Tell me, how is Spain beating any of those teams? I know they would stack their roster while we’re taking the risk of wearing a bit thin, but the beauty of these rosters is that they’re structured with more natural pecking orders of who’s getting the ball in late game situations and I’ve even sprinkled in some specialists. Let’s analyze these teams a bit more.
Probably the most stacked starting lineup, thus, they have a less experienced bench. Even though LeBron is obviously the centerpiece of this team, I don’t think there’s any question that Chris Paul would assume the leadership role. Funny thing about this team is that we don’t have a true power forward in the starting lineup, but both Melo and LeBron are big small forwards, and LeBron can guard all five positions so this doesn’t concern me in the least. Here are a couple lineups I foresee:
Crunch Time: Howard, LeBron, Melo, Harden, Paul (with Stephenson/Harden exchanging defense for offense in certain situations)
Small Ball Sharpshooting: Aldridge, Melo, Parsons, Beal, Paul
Lockdown D/Full Court Press: Howard, LeBron, Stephenson, Wall, Paul
Big Lineup: Howard, Aldridge, LeBron/Melo, Harden, Wall
One thing about this lineup is it is lacking in shooters maybe just a tad, but Melo tends to be very efficient in international play, and LeBron James really covers up so many of a team’s deficiencies that I tend to not worry about much with him involved in any lineup. With this starting lineup, this team probably looks like the A Team, so I’ve given Coach K the reigns after his years of service to USA Basketball, even if he is the evil face of Dook basketball.
We’re getting the old dynamic duo of Phil and Kobe back together! If they can get 5 Larry O’Brien trophies why can’t they get one gold medal, right? Here are some lineups I like:
Crunch Time: Starters. Korver for George for free throws if we’re protecting a slim lead with the ball. Rondo for Westbrook potentially if Russell is being difficult.
Small Ball/Sharpshooting: Love, Leonard, Korver, Kobe, Lillard
Lockdown D/Full Court Press: Hibbert/Jordan, Griffin, 2 of Leonard/George/Iguodala for the 2 and 3 spots, Westbrook (Jordan for pressing, Hibbert ideal for halfcourt)
I could see Kobe and Westbrook clashing a bit at times since they both need the ball so much, but that’s why we have Rondo as a trustworthy caretaker of the offense if we have to give Russell the hook. I think Phil is far more capable of handling Westbrook’s dynamic personality than Scott Brooks anyhow, so I don’t worry too much.
My dark horse squad, the blue team. Can’t go wrong with the Slim Reaper as your go-to guy with the year he’s currently having. And D Wade is coming off the bench a la his magnificent Redeem Team performance. Let’s look at some lineups.
Crunch Time: Starters, but I’d maybe go with Curry at point, and Wade at 2 if we want a little more defense in some games.
Small Ball/Sharpshooting: Bosh, Durant, Thompson, Curry, Irving (my favorite small ball lineup of all of them)
Lock Down D/Full Court Press: Chandler, Davis, Butler, Wade/Thompson, Rose
Big Lineup: Chandler/Lopez, Cousins, Durant, Thompson, Rose/Wade
I don’t see a single downside to this lineup. It’s probably the one that fits together the best with all of its pieces. Popovich is the perfect coach to tinker with those lineups, too. And much like Team Red with LeBron, any weakness you think you might see kind of fades away if you plug in Durant.
So who got snubbed? Deron Williams comes to mind. Josh Smith, maybe. Taj Gibson is a personal favorite that I left off. You can let me know in the comments.
So the final question is, who wins the gold? I think Team Red would be the odds on favorite in Vegas, but I personally would put my money on Team Blue. They’d probably be the best value bet and I just want to roll with Popovich and my guy Derrick Rose. But let me know who you think and vote!
For anyone who plays the game of basketball, you know that having a player on your team that can run an offense, bring the ball up the court, set up teammates for good looks at the basket, and be a vocal leader on the court is essential to team success. Almost always, this comes in the form of your point guard. Sometimes a player from another position will take on this role, or even just for key possessions in big games they will. Think Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, or Larry Bird. None of those guys play point guard, but they acted like the point guard (or the cute little term some people like to coin “point forward”) in big spots. Anyhow, the point is (no pun intended) you need this role fulfilled to win, and when you see teams like Utah, Phoenix, and Boston advancing in the playoffs, you can’t help but notice a lot is due to great point guard play. Since Deron Williams has been one of the best at this position for the last few years, and the fact that he plays well on both ends of the court, it seems like some basketball pundits out there have kind of crowned him as the best point guard in the league almost as default. Well, I disagree. I made a cheap shot text to my buddy, Gabe (who has always been a Williams fan) after Deron missed the game winner in game 3 against the Lakers on Saturday night. He didn’t like that, and then on Monday he challenged me to make a list of my top ten point guards in the league RIGHT NOW! This isn’t based on the future, the past, or anything else. Who do you want leading your team in a big game TONIGHT, if your life depended on the outcome. Here’s the list, in reverse order.
10. Jameer Nelson
Decent facilitator, but is actually a better score-first point guard by my evaluation (only 5.4 apg this year). He has a great jump shot in the mid range and uses his quickness and his perfected spin-move to penetrate well for layups and foul shot opportunities. I haven’t seen him play enough to judge him very much defensively, but I can’t imagine he’s great due to his lack of size and he’s never really mentioned for his great defense. I don’t think Jameer clings to this top ten spot for much longer, as Brandon Jennings looks to be quite the young player on the rise, and I’m not considering Steph Curry or Tyreke Evans PGs in these rankings.
9. Tony Parker
Tony is not a great defender, is only an okay facilitator, and has never been a great jump shooter. But the guy is a gamer, and he still knows how to get his shot in the paint. He’s a great scoring point guard, and in the past, he would have been higher on this list, but for now, he’s #9.
8. Jason Kidd
Kidd is way over the hill. He’s not nearly the defensive player he once was and he doesn’t drive to the basket the way he used to. But to make up for that, he’s added a spot up 3-pointer that he never used to have, and he’s still one of the great playmakers in this league. He knows his role, and will always look to set up his teammates, which he still does quite nicely. He also is one of the best rebounding point guards of all time, and he still is putting up those numbers pretty well.
7. Chauncey Billups
The list of slightly washed up point guards continues with Chauncey Billups. He’s not quite Mr. Big Shot anymore, but he’s still the great leader that he was that took his teams to 7 straight conference finals appearances. Apparently, as we learned this year, he still needs a decent coach behind him for the his team to succeed, since Adrian Dantley was not doing a great job filling in for George Karl. Chauncey is still a good scoring point guard and knows how to be a floor general, and he’s not a defensive liability either. I’ve got him at #7.
6. Russell Westbrook
I’m a big Kevin Durant fan, but Russell Westbrook was by far the best player on the Thunder in their first round playoff loss to the Lakers. Westbrook was unguardable for most of the series, and he showed an explosiveness that is rarely seen at the position (exceeded only by my #5 point guard). He still has to learn how to set up players better, but it should be easier having Durant to pass to. I expect him to be even higher on this list the next time I make it.
5. Derrick Rose
I mentioned in one of my first blog posts that this young man is my favorite player in the league. It’s not even close. So that’s why it pains me to put him this low on the list. But don’t worry, Rose could easily become the best point guard in the league within a few years. He continues to improve his jumper, and his athleticism allows him to get his own shot whenever he wants it. He also will improve as a leader, passer, and defender, but right now, those slight deficiencies leave him at #5.
4. Rajon Rondo
I can’t stand Rondo. He’s such a little female dog. But that kid can flat out play. People are starting to realize that he’s the best current Celtic. I realized that fact last year when the Celtics beat the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. He’s the best defender at his position in the league. His long arms make up for his lack of height, and so he gets a lot of steals. He can score, but he knows he doesn’t have to, and so he’s so good at setting up teammates (only Nash, Paul, and Kidd exceed him in that ability right now). I don’t like him, but I know he’s good. (And I know Derrick Rose will surpass him shortly.)
3. Steve Nash
This guy is unbelievable. At his age, and with his back problems, you just shake your head and wonder. Last Sunday, the performance he had with one eye, shows you his heart. Nash would be #1 on this list if he wasn’t such a horrible defender. Offensively, he’s everything you want: great leader, great passer, can penetrate and get his shot despite ideal quickness, and has one of the best jump shots in the league. He absolutely spoon feeds his teammates sometimes. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before his body won’t allow him to be ranked this high anymore, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen any time soon.
Deron certainly knows how to win. He’s got everything you want in a point guard, and with his size, he’s more eye-appealing at his position than anyone on this list. Which is probably why he was taken one spot higher in the draft than #1 on this list. Deron does, however always seems to be in the shadow of that other player, and now all of a sudden, because his team stinks around him, and he was hurt this year, people just want to take away the title of ‘Best PG in the League’. Well…
1. Chris Paul
I haven’t forgotten you CP3. When you were a rookie, I predicted you would be the best point guard in the league by your third season. You accomplished that by year 2. You should have been MVP of the league in 2008, but Kobe won it because everyone decided he was too good to never have won the award. Next season, CP3 will be healthy again, and he’ll lead the league in assists and steals yet again. He may not have D-Will’s size, but he’s a better all-around point guard, with a worse team around him. He even has a better nickname. (Does D-Will even count? Lame.)
Tell me where I messed up. I can’t wait for John Wall to be on this list next year.