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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Celtics or Lakers?

So the 2008 NBA boils down to two teams: the Lakers and Celtics. Even though they represent the league’s most storied rivalry, the current teams have no bad blood between each other. Well except for the Kobe Bryant-Ray Allen rivalry from a few years ago. But this incarnation of the Lakers and Celtics don’t have the history of the previous rivalries. In fact for the last few seasons neither team was relevant in the NBA landscape. Los Angeles had 3 years of mediocrity following the Shaquille O’Neal trade. And Boston suffered for a decade and a half since Larry Bird retired.

Nevertheless both teams have something to prove. For the Celtic veteran trio of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen a championship would give each of them personal validation after years of playing for bad teams. For the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, a championship would help him shed his image as a malcontent who isn’t good enough to win a title as the centerpiece.

It’s hard to gauge this series because both teams are phoenixical; dead teams that were recently reborn. Boston was rebuilt entirely over the summer, with the acquisitions of Garnett, Allen, House, and Posey. And most of the pieces that were already there like Rondo, Perkins, and Powe were developing young players. Meanwhile the Lakers had their own reconstruction and player emergence. Farmar, Vujacic, Bynum, and Turiaf were all drafted in recent years. And of course they grabbed Pau Gasol in a midseason swap with Memphis. There’s not much to go on recent history for either team.

Each team has something in its favor. The Celtics had the edge going into the playoffs winning 66 games in the regular season, 9 more than the Lakers. But the regular season advantage could be offset by the Gasol trade. And Los Angeles has had a better run in the playoffs, losing only 3 games total to Boston’s 8.

For the last few weeks I’ve been competing in TrueHoop’s Geek Smackdown, and after last year’s poor showing I decided to go strictly with the numbers. My gut is telling me that Gasol has given Los Angeles a Rasheed Wallace-like increase in performance. And that’s nearly cemented in my right brain by the Lakers’ breeze through the playoffs. However my left brain keeps telling me that Boston has the edge. Not only do they own the home court advantage, but they had the superior 2008 season. Even including the playoffs, the Celtics record is still superior to the Lakers. Additionally the Lakers haven’t been much better since the Gasol trade. They won 69.2% of their games before acquiring Gasol, and 69.8% after the deal.

So I’m sticking with my promise and going with the numbers. I’ll be taking the Celtics in 6, and crossing my fingers.

{democracy:21}

109 comments on “Celtics or Lakers?

  1. tastycakes

    I love the Celtics Big 3 — all fatally flawed superstars on their own who have come together like Voltron to do battle with Kobe Bryant for all that is good and holy.

    KG has long been my favorite player, and is one of a handful of guys in the league I’ll root for regardless of uniform.

    Though I resent the Celtics incredibly lucky, unprecedented ascent from the basement, KG deserves a title. He plays ball the way ball should be played, with fire and desire.

    That said, smacking down the hated Spurs gave me a lot of newfound respect for the Lakers. I’ve always been anti-Kobe, and there are players on that team who I find incredibly unlikeable (Vujacic, Walton, Turiaf), but it was satisfying to watch them mercilessly end the Spurs dynasty. I also love their bigs (Gasol and Odom), also two flawed star players who, on their own, could take a team to the playoffs at best, but when surrounded by the right cast, are key pieces of what could be a championship team.

    That’s the best thing about this series: minus Kobe, Fisher, Cassell and Posey, has anyone won a title? A lot of exciting players on the big stage for the first time. Two teams with outstanding benches. It’s going to be fun to watch.

  2. Thomas B.

    Lakers in 5.

    The Celtics will have the same problem with the Lakers that they had with the Hawks. The young guys on the Lakers will run them into the ground.

    The Lakers will be able to nuetralize the Celtics’ role players. Fisher is the best defensive point that Rondo will have seen this postseason (Billups was not %100). Kendricks perkins has not played against a skilled center yet this post season. Gasol will be able to get him in foul trouble, thereby keeping him on the bench.

    Lakers have the advantage on bench depth and experience. Odom will give Pierce fits if he gets that defensive assignment. If it is KG on Odom, Odom can take KG out of the lane with his shooting. With KG out of the paint, the Lakers younger quicker guards can penetrate without a good shot blocker waiting for them. Plus that reduces KG rebounding, which is far more valuable to the Celts than his scoring.

    Kobe is a far better player than anyone the Celts can put on the floor. He will eat anyone they throw at him, plus he is a superb defensive player. Utah and San Antonio are much better defensive teams that the Celts and they could not stop Kobe. Kobe is the best close out , clutch, gotta get a bucket player since MJ. He could possibly be better than MJ when it is all over.

    Lakers have the better coach. I have yet to see Rivers out coach an opponent. The Celts took the Hawks and Covs series soley on the advantage of home court. The Pistons were hobbled and clearly beat themselves with their attitude.

    I only say this series goes 5 because the Celts are strong at home and should take at least one game at home. They could possibly win one on the road to push it to 6 but I doubt it.

  3. caleb

    I would not be surprised to see the Celtics win. They were easily the best team in the league during the regular season; then, in the playoffs, they’ve gotten better each series. Even in the Atlanta series, they actually outscored the Hawks by 12 a game, so the closeness in games was basically a fluke. Then, they basically imposed their will on the Pistons, who are just as good as Utah or San Antonio. And for what it’s worth, they have the home-court advantage.

    …but I voted for the Lakers, in 6 or 7.

    In a close series, Phil Jackson has a huge advantage over Doc Rivers. Both benches are pretty deep, but I think he’ll get the better of the matchups.

    It will be a lot of fun to watch, and Boston wins the first 2 at home, I don’t see LA coming back to win 4 of 5.

  4. caleb

    “He could possibly be better than MJ when it is all over.”

    I think this is ludicrous. Please explain.

  5. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Thomas B – that’s how my gut feels. The Lakers have the deeper team & better matchups. And Doc Rivers is a pretty bad coach. I remember reading somewhere (Bill Simmons?) saying that Rivers does the opposite of adjustment (unjustment?).

    But I can’t shake the superiority the Celtics had during the season. Even despite all that they won 66 games – and their +/- shows that it wasn’t luck.

    This is why I don’t gamble. Because I’m never sure which side to listen to, my heart or my head.

  6. o_boogie

    “Kobe is a far better player than anyone the Celts can put on the floor. He will eat anyone they throw at him, plus he is a superb defensive player. Utah and San Antonio are much better defensive teams that the Celts and they could not stop Kobe. Kobe is the best close out , clutch, gotta get a bucket player since MJ.”

    Allen, Pierce and KG all go through cold stretches or shooting slumps. Kobe is a sure thing, his offense never wavers. Whenever, the lakers hit a cold stretch, Kobe can shoot them right back into a game. Kobe also does an excellent job taking away home court advantage, whenever he hits a ridiculous fadeaway or gets an effortless and-1 he silences the crowd.

    I am not a fan of Doc Rivers and I think Phil Jackson will outcoach him. Doc’s substitution patterns are pretty poor (benching House most of the playoffs to play a terrible Cassell), and this will hurt them in the long run. Jackson will find a way to exploit the C’s defense and will exploit mismatches.

    Pierce is an LA native and has had some of best games in LA, including when he dropped like 50 in the Staples Center and Shaq called him “The Truth”. However, this will not be enough, Lakers in 6.

  7. Owen

    HEre the career numbers of Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/fc/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=bryanko01&y1=2008&p2=piercpa01&y2=2008

    And this season’s numbers

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/fc/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=bryanko01&y1=2008&p2=piercpa01&y2=2008

    Kobe had a better season this year, Pierce was clearly impacted by the arrival of KG. His rebounding numbers are the worst of his career. But looking at the lifetime numbers it’s difficult to see a huge difference between Kobe and Pierce. Almost identical actually, although I would probably give Kobe a tiny edge. But the biggest difference between them would be Shaq in my book

  8. caleb

    Owen,
    I agree that Kobe, good as he is, is wildly overrated… but that’s not a really fair comparison bc lifetime stats include Kobe’s first 3 years when he was a teenager, and a below-average NBA player — Pierce spent those years at Kansas (and maybe one more, since Kobe graduated HS at 17).
    What would the numbers look like for the past, say, 8 or 10 years only? Will that site run a comparison like that?

  9. Thomas B.

    “He could possibly be better than MJ when it is all over.”

    I think this is ludicrous. Please explain.

    Caleb,

    It is fair to question what I said about MJ. He is still the best to ever play the game. I do think Kobe has the potential to surpass MJ and I will offer my reasoning. Keep in mind that I said “possibly” be better. I do not think it is ludicrous to say that a player of Bryant’s talent can not possibly surpass Jordan. He is my explanation:

    1. Kobe is a far better perimeter shooter than MJ. Yes, MJ had a high FG for his career and that is very impressive for a SG, but MJ did much of his work in the paint off penetrations and that high post spin he developed later in his career.

    I’m not saying outside shooting is the indicator of greatness, but Kobe can do just about everything MJ can do on offense, plus he is better outside shooter. Check the numbers on the 3FG%. Offensively, Kobe is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous because of the outside shot. When did MJ drop 81?

    2. Kobe has a great chance to catch MJ scoring numbers. At only 29 Kobe has about 11,000 fewer points than MJ. Kobe can play at a high level for another 4-5 years if he averages 2100 points per game for the next 5 he will trail MJ by fewer that 500 points. Kobe could play until his is 36-37 if he wanted to, if he does he can pass MJ. “But MJ played fewer seasons.” So, everyone has played fewer seasons than Robert Parrish and Mutombo, I don’t see those names on the all time scoring lists.

    3. I think we tend to romanticize MJ’s career. I really do. You would be surprised how many people don’t know just how bad a 3 point shooter MJ was. Do you know why? Everyone remembers the highlights. They recall the playoff game against the Blazers and they say, “Duh, MJ hit all dem threes, he must be good 3 shooter.” We are a highlight reel society that focuses on what we see in Gatorade commercials and Space Jam.

    4. Kobe is just about as strong a defensive player as MJ was. Kobe has lower steal numbers but he is very good defensive player. MJ has more award and all-defensive team selections.

    5. If the Lakers take the title, Kobe will have done it with far less overall talent that MJ did. Without Kobe, this team can’t make the playoffs. The Bulls replaced MJ with Pistol Pete Meyers, won 55 games, and came within a questionable call and a migraine of getting to the conference finals.

    6. I am not even sure if we have seen Kobe at his best yet. He still may not have peaked.

    7. I am a biases Knicks fan who would like nothing more than to see someone dethrone Jordan. There, I admit it.

  10. Thomas B.

    “But looking at the lifetime numbers it’s difficult to see a huge difference between Kobe and Pierce. Almost identical actually, although I would probably give Kobe a tiny edge.”

    I’m sorry, you say “almost identical”. Ok, my left one is almost identical to my right one. And if Kobe is my left one, Paul Pierce aint my right one.

    How many 60+ point games has PP dropped? How many consecutive 40+ games? Scoring titles? MVP’s? How many MVP votes has PP been given? Has PP ever led the NBA in anything? I hate to sound like the Pres of the Kobe club, I’m really not, but PP aint in Kobe’s class. Not as a scorer or distributer, or defensive player. Sometimes the numbers do lie.

  11. David Crockett

    The big reason I favor the Lakers in 6 is the matchups. I just don’t see where the Celts have one clear-cut, no-bout-a-doubt-it matchup advantage. In addition, the Celts can be run on (as Thomas mentioned). And, as much as I hate to concede anything to Big Chief Triangle, Phil Jackson has a huge mismatch over Doc Rivers. (As an aside, how does ‘Sheed get fined for dogging the officials on TV and Phil gets no fine for dogging officials the way he did in his between quarter interview with Craig Sager?)

    Anyhow, the one place the Celts could potentially do damage to LA is on the glass, particularly with the 2nd unit players (e.g., Powe, Big Baby). Otherwise, I don’t see how Boston will be able to run its stuff efficiently. They almost have to get a herculean effort from Pierce or Allen, not unthinkable but hard to bank on.

  12. Ricky

    Winning percentage is a very poor metric when evaluating the merits of a team. Although Boston has the edge in regular season RPI (.567 to the Lakers’ .555), when it comes to opponents’ winning percentage, there is absolutely no contest.

    2007-08 strength of schedule:

    #1 San Antonio — .509
    #4 LA Lakers — .508

    … … …

    #30 Boston — .488

    Let’s not discredit Boston’s exceptional regular season or its success in the playoffs thus far, but to say that Boston has an edge based on win% is a little too much “old school,” also known as “poor analysis.”

    ———————————–

    “Additionally the Lakers haven’t been much better since the Gasol trade. They won 69.2% of their games before acquiring Gasol, and 69.8% after the deal.”

    Don’t forget that they also lost Bynum, who was quickly emerging as a young superstar. It remains to be seen how both of them will work on the floor together, but Bynum’s numbers in only 35 games were more than impressive.

    Gasol had 13 win shares in 27 games, while Bynum had 14 in 35 games, coming in at #5 and #4 on the team, respectively. Let’s put that into perspective: Lamar Odom, at #2 with 27 WS in 77 games, was tied for 18th in the league. To me, the Lakers, with Bynum, may make a run at 70 wins next year.

  13. caleb

    Thomas,

    “He could possibly be better than MJ when it is all over.”

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/j/jordami01.html

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/b/bryanko01.html

    I can’t say I agree but thanks for laying out a case…

    “1. Kobe is a far better perimeter shooter than MJ. Yes, MJ had a high FG for his career and that is very impressive for a SG, but MJ did much of his work in the paint off penetrations and that high post spin he developed later in his career.”

    Isn’t this besides the point? Patrick Ewing was a much better rebounder than Jordan, and yet…

    “Kobe can do just about everything MJ can do on offense, plus he is better outside shooter… Offensively, Kobe is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous because of the outside shot.”

    I’m not buying — even factoring in 3-point shooting, MJ had a higher TS% — his best 4 seasons were over 60%, where Kobe has never broken 58%. Efficiency can be misleading if you’re comparing apples and oranges, but these are a pair of apples — MJ actually had the ball and shot even more than Kobe, if you can believe it. He also did it when defenses had much more leeway (hand-checking, general violence), and league-wide percentages were a couple points lower — so it’s a huge advantage.

    MJ also had a higher lifetime assist rate, although he varied more than Kobe — some seasons far better, others worse than a typical Kobe year.

    He also had a turnover rate more than 25 percent better than Kobe.

    MJ also was a better rebounder — lifetime rate of 9.4 vs. 8.2.

    On defense, I don’t know how old you are to remember — but Jordan was the best perimeter defender in the league for a few years. Pippen had more responsibility but when they turned MJ loose he was dominant. Kobe is good but I don’t think he’s in the same league there.

    None of this is a knock on Kobe — you’re comparing him to the greatest ever.

    “2. Kobe has a great chance to catch MJ scoring numbers. At only 29 Kobe has about 11,000 fewer points than MJ. Kobe can play at a high level for another 4-5 years if he averages 2100 points per game for the next 5 he will trail MJ by fewer that 500 points.”

    Is a player who played very well for 20 years (Karl Malone) “better” than someone who was the best in the league for just a few years? (Moses Malone.) This is a valid philosophical question.

    3. I think we tend to romanticize MJ’s career. I really do. You would be surprised how many people don’t know just how bad a 3 point shooter MJ was… Everyone remembers the highlights.”

    This is true — time skews memory. It sometimes seems like he literally never missed. I still have nightmares. But you can look at the numbers and see he was a fantastic, otherwordly player, even while just an average (at best) 3-point shooter.

    “5. If the Lakers take the title, Kobe will have done it with far less overall talent that MJ did.”

    I dunno. Pippen and Rodman were great, but the rest of the Bulls were minor role players (Kukoc a little more, I guess). That goes double for the Horace Grant Bulls… the centers were almost interchangeable. When they were solid (Cartwright, Dele) the Bulls were unstoppable. When they were worse (Scott Williams, Perdue) there was hope.

    “The Bulls replaced MJ with Pistol Pete Meyers, won 55 games, and came within a questionable call and a migraine of getting to the conference finals.”

    That’s a good example. Still, you should google up an article Dave Berri did, using that year as an example of the law of diminishing returns. (basically, MJ shots redistributed to other good players.) Also, the team outperformed its point differential by quite a bit.

    “6. I am not even sure if we have seen Kobe at his best yet. He still may not have peaked.”

    You never know, but he’s about to turn 30, so I wouldn’t bet on it.

  14. caleb

    2007-08 strength of schedule:

    #1 San Antonio — .509
    #4 LA Lakers — .508
    … … …
    #30 Boston — .488

    The real lesson is that there’s almost no meaningful SOS difference in the NBA. The difference between playing a .509 sked and a .488 sked would be expected to be less than 2 games.

    Boston not only won 66 but had the best point differential in almost a decade, I think… they were obviously best during the regular season.

    One reason it’s harder to explain why they might win, is that their greatest strength is defense — they were far and away the best defensive team in the league, but that’s harder to quantify when you talk matchups.

    Still – I’m picking the Lakers!

    (but rooting for the Celtics. God knows why. May they both burn in hell!)

  15. Owen

    I can’t dive into another Kobe Bryant debate. He isn’t close to the player Jordan was. You can see that very clearly in the statistics.

    This is as tough a series to call as I can remember. But my gut tells me that the Celtics turned a corner against Detroit in winning two at Auburn Hills. I have them winning in 6-7.

    Honestly, I am almost tingling in anticipation, it should be absolutel amazing….

  16. caleb

    FWIW, Chad Ford has updated his mock draft… with the Knicks taking DJ Augustin at #6. Wow.

    Not that his opinion is worth much more than anyone’s, at this point.

  17. Z

    It is far less “ludicrous” to say Kobe is better than Jordan than it is to say Pierce is better than Kobe…

    We’ve heard Owen’s Case Against Kobe Bryant (Owen is the NBA writer’s equivalent to Christopher Hitchens), as outlined in his “I wouldn’t trade David Lee for Kobe” essays of last summer. He’s at it again, despite the fact that Kobe has now led the Lakers to the finals sans Shaq, thereby erasing the last vestige of Kobe hating fodder that could be thrown against him…

    The David Lee argument had some pull, as Lee on a rookie contract is feasibly more valuable than Kobe on his max contract. But Pierce?!? If you were starting a franchise from scratch (my favorite metric for gauging player-to-player comparisons) at what point over the last 10 years would you draft Pierce over Kobe? Even when Kobe was on trial for rape he was a better building block than Pierce. Even their contracts are a wash.

  18. cwod

    Well, Chad Ford did talk to basically the entire league over the few days.

    Six is too high for Augustin.

  19. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “Let’s not discredit Boston’s exceptional regular season or its success in the playoffs thus far, but to say that Boston has an edge based on win% is a little too much “old school,” also known as “poor analysis.””

    Boston was ranked first in OTTER, my ranking system based on Colley’s method. It takes into account each game played and the strength of opponent. I also can account for home court advantage and strength of victory as flavors of OTTER. The Lakers were second, but there was a fairly large margin between them and the Celtics.

  20. caleb

    Mike, how are you doing in the stat-geek challenge? It doesn’t look as though HA has updated the results lately…

  21. Nick

    I picked Lakers in 6-7. I have not liked how the Celtics have looked at the end of so many of their games. They seem to have a real hard time getting of anything resembling an offense and wind up having to force up a shot, 24 second violation, or get bailed out by a whistle all too often.

  22. Thomas B.

    Caleb,

    “Isn’t this besides the point? Patrick Ewing was a much better rebounder than Jordan, and yet… ”

    You cannot compare centers to SG’s, you know better than that. At the same position I am showing you that Kobe does something much better that Jordan ever did. Offensively, Kobe is MJ plus a deadly jumper.

    “I’m not buying — even factoring in 3-point shooting, MJ had a higher TS% — his best 4 seasons were over 60%, where Kobe has never broken 58%. Efficiency can be misleading if you’re comparing apples and oranges, but these are a pair of apples — MJ actually had the ball and shot even more than Kobe, if you can believe it. He also did it when defenses had much more leeway (hand-checking, general violence), and league-wide percentages were a couple points lower — so it’s a huge advantage.”

    Disagree. In Jordan’s first five years in the NBA, defense was not played the way it was in the mid to late 90s with the hand checking and outright murder as you call it. Look at the overall scoring averages in Jordan’s first five years, his most dominant scoring years BTW, the overall scoring was much high than it was by the time Kobe came around. Plus the no handchecking only recently has raised scoring in the NBA.

    Yeah, Jordan has a higher TS% because he ALWAYS went to the paint. I dont blame him, at least he knew he couldnt shoot well from distance. Factoring style of play, the diffrence in TS% is negligible.

    “Is a player who played very well for 20 years (Karl Malone) “better” than someone who was the best in the league for just a few years? (Moses Malone.) This is a valid philosophical question.”

    Of course not. I thought I addressed that with the Robbert Parrish comment. If I bought that I would say the Oscar Robertson is better than Jordan. Oscar damn near averaged a triple double for the season, twice. You dont pick a few good years, it is a body of work. Kobe’s body of work could surpass Jordan’s. We don’t know yet because Kobe is still building the legacy.

    “Pippen and Rodman were great, but the rest of the Bulls were minor role players…”

    No current Laker is Pippen or Rodman. Rodman was the best rebounder and all around defensive big man in the NBA for a time. Pippen was probably the most versitle player. Yeah, the rest was nondescript, but no less so than Vladamir, Farmar, Turiaf, ect. Gasol and Odom are not Pippen and Rodman.

    “On defense, I don’t know how old you are to remember — but Jordan was the best perimeter defender in the league for a few years. Pippen had more responsibility but when they turned MJ loose he was dominant. Kobe is good but I don’t think he’s in the same league there.”

    Point to Caleb. Jordan has the edge there. But I still say Kobe is the more dangerous player on offense. When you have two layers that can score at will, how do you determine which of the two is better? I think Kobe is the more complete scorer by virtue of his lack of an offensive weakness, unlike Jordan who had a clear weakness in his game, though he was able to overcome that weakness.

    “You never know, but he’s about to turn 30, so I wouldn’t bet on it.”

    He keeps himself in fantastic shape and there have been players to do it better after 30, see Steve Nash. What is the reasoning for using 30 as the benchmark anyway? The players that drop after 30 are generally the guys that rely on the otherworldly physical tools, see Vince Carter. Kobe has great physical tools but he is a smart player who is highly skilled., just like Steve Nash.

    “MJ also had a higher lifetime assist rate, although he varied more than Kobe — some seasons far better, others worse than a typical Kobe year.”

    Yes that is true. MJ had a year where he averaged 8 dimes a game. Kobe hasnt equaled that, but I think those years came during the wide open mid-late 80s. The overall scoring averages were higher then and naturally offensive numbers would be better. Heck Patrick dropped 29.7 per during that time, well above his career stats.

    “He also had a turnover rate more than 25 percent better than Kobe.”

    He didnt have to play point once Pippen showed up. MJ played off the ball and once he got it he wasnt likely to pass becuase he was going to get a call on a drive.

    “MJ also was a better rebounder — lifetime rate of 9.4 vs. 8.2.”

    Again, more shots, wide open fast pace, more rebounds to get.

    In some people’s mind no one will ever be as good as Jordan. I accept that but it is possible to be better than the best and that possibility is still there for Kobe.

  23. Ess-dog

    Wow is right. Do you really take Augustin over Westbrook at #6? I like Augustin in a halfcourt style like the Spurs, but for D’Antoni, I think Westbrook would be the better option. I wish he had a better outside shot, but if we keep Steph and Jamal this year, it would give Westbrook a chance to really develop.
    1. I like that Westbrook got it done in the tourney and Augustin did not.
    2. It’s hard to find a pg with that much upside (Westbrook), when it seems Augustin’s weaknesses are apparent already.
    That being said, is 6 too high for Westbrook?
    I do think that there is some truth to the fact that Miami would trade out of the 2 spot to get OJ. But I think the T-wolves will take OJ, so Miami might have to just take OJ second. A backcourt of Wade and Mayo would be deadly.
    Maybe we trade up? Even if we could get to Beasley, then we’d have a logjam at PF.

  24. Z

    Yes! I got the first “thumbs down” rating! I’m officially part of Knickerblogger history…

  25. Thomas B.

    For the record, I think Wilt Chamberlin was better than MJ. Wilt was dominant on the scale that Jordan could never approach. The only player ever to average of 50 per and score 100 in a game. You will never see that done again. Here is a guy that led the NBA in scoring, rebounding, blocks, FG%, and just for fun, assists. If you want to be like Owen and just look at numbers, then MJ pales next to Wilt, ditto for Oscar Robertson.

    But to compare MJ to Wilt is apples to oranges.

    Caleb,

    What would a player have to do to be better than Jordan? 7 titles and be the most dominant player for the era?

  26. cwod

    “I like Augustin in a halfcourt style like the Spurs, but for D’Antoni, I think Westbrook would be the better option.”

    Augustin would be fine for the system, mostly because he thinks he’s Steve Nash. But I think he’s still small for the NBA, and the game against Memphis raised red flags for me. In fact, I think he had a pretty forgettable NCAA tourney.

  27. caleb

    Just a few points…

    “You cannot compare centers to SG’s, you know better than that.’

    My point is that one skill does not make for a better player.

    “Offensively, Kobe is MJ plus a deadly jumper.”

    Not sure how you argue this, after looking at these numbers. Kobe is a similar player in style (and a great player) but not that close in how well he does it. Especially if you take out 3s.

    “In Jordan’s first five years in the NBA, defense was not played the way it was in the mid to late 90s…”

    on the one hand, this is true — I wasn’t thinking that through very clearly. Overall, Jordan played at a faster pace than Kobe.

    But — all the #s I cited are “rate” numbers — rebound rate is the percentage of missed shots that were rebounded. Same for the assist, turnover and scoring #s. Pace doesn’t matter in the comparison. And as far as TOs… if he was playing off the ball so much more, why did he have more assists?

    “Yeah, Jordan has a higher TS% because he ALWAYS went to the paint…Factoring style of play, the diffrence in TS% is negligible.”

    That’s crazy-talk! TS% is designed to account for style of play. If you take better shots, you are playing better. The limitation of TS%, or FG%, would be, “yeah, Player A is extremely efficient, but he wouldn’t be so efficient if he had to shoot a lot.” For purposes of this board, call it the anti-David Lee argument. In this case — Jordan actually had a higher usage rate, and shot more, than Kobe… so his higher efficiency reflects his being a better offensive player.

    “’Is a player who played very well for 20 years (Karl Malone) “better” than someone who was the best in the league for just a few years? (Moses Malone.) This is a valid philosophical question.’”

    Re: the supporting casts, I guess time will tell. No, Gasol & Odom are not nearly at the standard of Rodman & Pippen, but when Jordan played with those guys he won 72 (not 57) and won the 4th of 6 rings, which would have been 8 were it not for baseball.

    Of course not.”

    And I thought I was taking your side! Like I say, it’s just a philosophical point. I think it always makes sense to say, “do you mean ‘better’ for some particular season? Or a ‘better’ career?’

  28. caleb

    p.s. sorry for typo just above — careless cuttign and pasting. I think you can tell what I meant.

  29. Z

    “Maybe we trade up? Even if we could get to Beasley, then we’d have a logjam at PF.”

    In the rare event the Knicks do trade up, David Lee would surely be shipped out. There would be no logjam.

  30. caleb

    “What would a player have to do to be better than Jordan? 7 titles and be the most dominant player for the era?”

    I dunno, there’s no one answer to this. I just think Kobe and MJ are easy to compare because they play the same position, have the same role and even played for the same coach. The numbers give a clear advantage to MJ.

    I am not so far on the Owen-meter but I don’t think Kobe has ever been the best player in the league — this is the first year I think he’s even deserved to be in the discussion. I know I’m in the minority.

  31. o_boogie

    “What would a player have to do to be better than Jordan? 7 titles and be the most dominant player for the era?”

    When I think of Jordan, I of course think about him being the best player in the league, but his clutchness is what made him special to me. It seemed like in every critical situation, if the Bulls were tied or down a bucket at the end of the 4th, Jordan would always find a way to beat the buzzer. Imagine the bad feeling Jazz fans had in game 6 of the 98 finals when Jordan swiped Malone, everyone knew Jordan would hit the shot before it happened. His body of work for making clutch shots at the end of games is lightyears ahead of everyone else except for Bird.

    If someone were to surpass Jordan, it would take more hardware and taking the ability to be “clutch” to the next level, which I am not sure is possible.

  32. Ess-dog

    Ford on Westbrook during drills:

    “Westbrook was another prospect who really helped his cause here. His quickness, explosiveness and ability to change direction were scintillating in workouts. He also shot the ball extremely well in a number of drills, answering the critics who claim he’s not a good shooter. If you compared Westbrook and Augustin head-to-head in just the drills, Westbrook would win hands down. However, it’s his ability to be a floor leader in the game that teams still question.”

  33. xduck_shoex

    “For the record, I think Wilt Chamberlin was better than MJ. Wilt was dominant on the scale that Jordan could never approach. The only player ever to average of 50 per and score 100 in a game. You will never see that done again. Here is a guy that led the NBA in scoring, rebounding, blocks, FG%, and just for fun, assists. If you want to be like Owen and just look at numbers, then MJ pales next to Wilt, ditto for Oscar Robertson. ”

    I disagree with this. If you look at their per-game numbers in a vacuum with no context then perhaps you’re right, but I think there is definitely an argument to be made for Jordan being better than both of those players.

  34. caleb

    It’s hard to compare not just across positions, but across eras… Wilt was dominant but in the 50s and 60s the talent pool was much shallower — more of the good athletes were playing baseball or football, or even boxing… not to mention players from overseas…

  35. Thomas B.

    Caleb,

    Jordan was about the same age when people starting mentioning him in the greatest of all time discussion. Up until about 1990, he was just a better version of D Wilkens. It was around 1992-93 when people started the “greatest” discussion. If you recall people still talked about Magic being the greatest.

    RE: Typo

    oh yeah I get what you are saying.

    On the TS%. I don’t have the best understanding of the TS% so I don’t know how the wide open offense of the 80s impacts TS%. I just figured with less defense and more scoring you should shoot better and have a higher TS%. The 80′s which most remeber as the “showtime” era, highlighted fast breaks and team play. Jordan was built for that kind of play. As a great player he adjusted and still dominated when the style changed in the mid 90′s. I give him that. That is probably the best example of his greatness. The second part is that he refused to give in. Everyttime you thought that this was the year he falls to earth, he stayed on top. We have not seen that kind of dominance since (cringe) the Bill Russell Celtic teams.

    Part of the Jordan legacy is that he refused to be beaten. I don’t recall him being pushed to a game 7 in the finals and from the first title to the last he was only knocked out of the playoffs once (Orlando did it). Second highest scoring average in NBA history, defensive player of the year, MVPs out the ying. Yes but that does not mean he cant be bested and I think Kobe has a shot to do it. That is why I asked what you think it would take. The only thing that could stop Kobe from winning two more MVP (other than a decline in production) is Chris Paul. I mean, give Paul 8 more years at this level and he could be the greatest point ever.

    MJ had weaknesses in his game that Kobe does not have. That is why I think Kobe can be the better player. I dont think Kobe can be as dominant, but dominance is not the benchmark for me. Kobe is flat out a more complete scorer than Jordan. Kobe is deadly from everywhere. Jordan was not.

    These discussions are fun and pointless at the same time because fans clearly value different things. My buddy says Stockton was the best point of all time, I say Isiah was. He points to Stockton’s career stats, I look at Isiah’s rings and his dominance of the position in his prime. Stockton had the higher FG%, Isiah much more skilled and nearly unstoppable on the drive.

    Lets just agree to disagree. It has been fun though.

  36. Thomas B.

    I disagree with this. If you look at their per-game numbers in a vacuum with no context then perhaps you’re right, but I think there is definitely an argument to be made for Jordan being better than both of those players.

    XduckXshoes,

    Yes this is exactly my point. Kobe is in a diffrent era than Jordan so like Jordan and Wilt you have to make era adjustments. MJ played about 8 seasons in the showtime era of score score and score team basketball. That era dies around 1992. Kobe came in during an era of lw scoring and strangle defense. That only recently eased with the new handcheck rules. In response, Kobe puts up Jordan like offensive numbers, 35 ppg. And beats Jordan dropping 81 in a single game.

  37. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    FWIW Kobe scoffed at being compared to Michael Jordan in a recent interview. He basically said it was unfair to compare him to Jordan.

    At Kobe’s current age, Jordan had 3 MVPs, 2 second place finishes, 3 Finals MVPs, 1 Defensive Player of the Year award, and 3 championships. Kobe just has one MVP award and the rings due to Shaq.

    It’s just no contest, Michael was clearly more dominant.

  38. xduck_shoex

    “Yes this is exactly my point. Kobe is in a diffrent era than Jordan so like Jordan and Wilt you have to make era adjustments. MJ played about 8 seasons in the showtime era of score score and score team basketball. That era dies around 1992. Kobe came in during an era of lw scoring and strangle defense. That only recently eased with the new handcheck rules. In response, Kobe puts up Jordan like offensive numbers, 35 ppg. And beats Jordan dropping 81 in a single game.”

    I think you missed my point. My point is that there are ways of comparing players across different eras, and Jordan is head and shoulders above Kobe when you do that and ends up being better than almost every player in League history.

    Here is how I look at it: for almost an entire decade, Jordan was hands down the most dominant player in the game. Statistically he had no peer, he was a lockdown defender whenever he was called on to be one and he was a winner. The same can’t be said of Kobe; there is not a single season of Kobe’s career that you can point to and say that he was hands down the most dominant player in the League, his own coach has said that he slacks off on defense too often and until this year he has not been winning much.

    Or, to sum it up, Jordan was obviously on a level above his peers. Kobe is not. That should be the end of the comparison.

  39. Z

    “It’s just no contest, Michael was clearly more dominant.”

    Okay. But can you also say the same thing about Kobe vs. Paul Pierce, just for the record?

  40. Pukey Peete

    If DJ Augustin goes at #6 I will puke my pants. If OJ at #6 I may still puke my pants.

  41. Dan Panorama

    “Jordan would always find a way to beat the buzzer. Imagine the bad feeling Jazz fans had in game 6 of the 98 finals when Jordan swiped Malone, everyone knew Jordan would hit the shot before it happened.”

    I agree completely. I remember watching that exact game as a kid and everyone in the room didn’t just think, didn’t just know, but explicitly said that Jordan would hit the game winner. I’ve never seen anything like it, to have that kind of certainty that a player will get his team the win singlehandedly, and that’s what separates Jordan from everyone else. Kobe is amazing but he’s never given off that same aura. Also, whether fairly or not, he’ll always have to share the spotlight with Shaq on those dominant Laker teams of old, though if he manages to win one now without him it will help somewhat. Jordan had some of the best players of his time around him during his championship run, but they were always treated more as compliments to him whereas Shaq and Kobe were considered equal partners at best, with most giving Shaq the nod as the more dominant player.

  42. Owen

    Christopher Hitchens? I at least don’t go back on my positions. .

    Mj, Wilt and Magic are, statistically speaking, clearly the top three players of all time IMHO. It’s difficult without the full box score to analyze Wilt’s impact fully, but you can read between the lines. Kobe simply is not that class of player. He may have a similar impact on the public, but the numbers aren;t there.

    The difference with Kobe this year is that he is on a really good team again. There are nine players with a ts% over 55% on the Lakers this year. And Pau has been an absolute beast since arriving in L.A. Winning changes everyything in the NBA.

    In my book, Kobe is a great player, but not all that much better than a number of his contemporaries. What makes the difference for him is his celebrity and star power, and the fact thatr he won three championships playing alongside the dominant player of his era.

    Woud Pierce have won three titles with Shaq? Would Mcgrady? Wade won one with Shaq and actually played better than him that year. We forgot about Wade, but before his injury he was clearly the best shooting guard in the league. He was looking much more than Kobe like the next MJ.

    Its going to be a fascinating two weeks….

  43. Brendan

    Ok, I have to ask- when the GOAT throwdown happens, why is there never more love for Kareem? He’s certainly not better than Jordan, but that doesn’t stop all kinds of other names from being dropped. That these discussions can go on without his name coming up more than once or twice never ceases to surprise me.

  44. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    ““It’s just no contest, Michael was clearly more dominant.”

    Okay. But can you also say the same thing about Kobe vs. Paul Pierce, just for the record?”

    I wouldn’t say Jordan:Kobe::Kobe:Pierce, but I do think Kobe is the better player.

    Pierce is more efficient scoring-wise, and a better rebounder. But Bryant has the edge in assists and points. Otherwise their stats are pretty close. What puts Kobe over the top for me is his defense. Bryant has been on 8 All-Defensive teams to Pierce’s zero. I think that gives him a significant edge.

  45. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Brendan – good point. I wonder if Kareem’s legacy suffers from staying around so long. Most people remember Kareem as the mid-30s center on Magic’s Lakers and not the 6 time MVP prior to Johnson’s arrival.

    I’ve thought about having summertime dicussions, and maybe some GOAT polls is a good idea. I think GCOAT (Greater Center…) could have some interesting points.

  46. DRed

    NBA All-Defensive team isn’t that valid a criterion, in my opinion. It’s a pretty subjective award. I’m not saying Kobe isn’t a better defender than Pierce, I’m just saying his presence on the all-defense team doesn’t really prove anything definitively.

  47. jon abbey

    “I’ve never seen anything like it, to have that kind of certainty that a player will get his team the win singlehandedly, and that’s what separates Jordan from everyone else.”

    clearly Larry Bird was before your time. there’s one famous incident in an endgame situation with Xavier McDaniel guarding him. they came out of the time out, Bird went to the X-Man, pointed to a spot on the court, said “this is the spot I’m going to beat you from”, then an entry pass and a couple of fakes later, did just that.

  48. jrock

    didn’t somebody on espn say that doug collins is one of the most extreme slow pace coaches of all time? i think it was ford. remember MJ played for doug collins till like 1990. so he wasn’t running at a super fast pace

  49. Maurice

    Hey Mike,

    greetings from Germany first of all.

    “…Additionally the Lakers haven’t been much better since the Gasol trade. They won 69.2% of their games before acquiring Gasol, and 69.8% after the deal…”

    I think you missed s.th. there. The fact, that they remained as good after the trade as they were before for me is a proof of their team strengh. You are missing a little piece in the puzzle by forgetting about the ingury of Bynum, who performed exceptional well and left a big whole in the middle. Gasol jumped right in there and fitted into that spot right away.

    So in simply comparing the Lakers before and after the trade, you cannot miss that point. I can’t imagine what would have happenend if Bynum would still be there. Actually, I am not sure, if it really would have been such a huge improvement after all, because then Bynum as well would have to be fitted in that mix with Gasol. I really can’t think of what kind of Laker-Team we do have to expect for next year.

    And for the C’s: Every member of that team does deserve the shot at the ring. Why not. Both teams got s.th. going for themselves and do feature a lot of players that would are deserving this.

    So for me, being a Laker-Fan since ’87 (Germany, remember- no NBA broadcasting before that at all and even rarely now), I am looking for a 7 game series with a double OT in game 7, Bryant scoring 60, Pierce 45 and LA finally edging the C’s after an incredible shot by Fisher.

    Why not have X-mas in June?

    So long,

    Maurice

  50. Dave

    If you include the playoffs and count only the games Gasol played in post trade (he was injured for a bit) …. the Lakers record is 35 and 7 which is about 83% …. 68 regular season wins.

    So they’ve gotten a lot better since Gasol arrived.

    Lakers are going to be a fierce team once Bynum gets healthy.

  51. Ted Nelson

    “Without Kobe, this team can’t make the playoffs.”

    I think this is the general consensus, and I think it’s way off base. They’re a team that’s had 2 All-Star (All-NBA even) caliber players all-season Kobe, & Bynum/Gasol, a borderline all-star in Odom, and a group of good complementary role players: Walton, Fisher, Farmar, Vujacic, Radmonovic, and Evans & Cook/Ariza (injured for most of the season). Yeah, Kobe’s their best player, but that’s as well built a team as there is in the NBA (really got to credit the ex-punching bag Mitch Kupchak and of course Phil). Almost everyone passes the ball well and most of them shoot it well, too. Defensively they were the 7th best during the regular season, and their #2 offense cannot be credited completely to Kobe. I just can’t see how after playing on the #7, 8, and 22 offenses in the league over the past 3 seasons Kobe suddenly makes this team the #2 offense in the league without any help…

    Not only will Bynum return next season, but Ariza has also returned after being out forever (for a total of 10 minutes in the last series). With those two back Kobe has a chance at another threepeat and legitimataly saying he’s as good as MJ.

    Who really knows if Kobe’s as good as MJ or not, but he’s a pretty good player (as are KG and Paul Pierce and Gasol and the rest), and this should be some pretty good basketball.

  52. caleb

    This was such a weird year, 48 wins not making the playoffs — it’s probably true that if Kobe had missed the season, the Lakers would have been on the outside looking in. But that’s a flukey year. With Odom & Gasol and a deep bench, they’re still a 45-win team. Throw in a healthy Bynum next year, and they’re a 55-win team, even without Kobe. The whole gang together — wow.

    Looking ahead to next year, I do think they have one too many “stars” who need the ball a lot — if I were Kupchak, I would explore trading Gasol (or possibly Odom) for a top-5 pick, or a young potential superstar who would gradually develop a bigger role, as Kobe & Gasol/Odom age and start to decline in a couple of years.

    The first half of the season, Bynum surpassed even my really high expectations. Assuming he’s healthy, I don’t think there’s a center in the league next year — besides Duncan and Dwight Howard — that’s better. And that’s at age 20/21, when he should still be in college.

    He could easily be an MVP candidate in a few years. Bynum, Howard & Oden & Bynum will remind people of the last golden age of centers, with Hakeem & David Robinson, Shaq coming into his own, and Ewing just behind.

    That’s leaving out some really good young(ish) guys, like Tyson Chandler and Yao.

    Meanwhile, you still have some older guys playing great, like Duncan and Camby.

    And a few young stars who have truly played center the past few years, even though many people would call them forwards(Stoudemire, Bosh, Okafor, Jermaine O’Neal, Al Horford, Al Jefferson)

    And depth — solid players like Kaman, Dalembert, Okur and Bogut.

    I’ve named more than half the centers in the league, and even then I left out some solid ones.

    Center position in the NBA looks very, very strong (except in MSG!)

  53. caleb

    A follow-up to the Kobe/MJ thread — though not really about them.

    Thomas B. said,

    “MJ had weaknesses in his game that Kobe does not have. That is why I think Kobe can be the better player. I dont think Kobe can be as dominant, but dominance is not the benchmark for me. Kobe is flat out a more complete scorer than Jordan. Kobe is deadly from everywhere. Jordan was not.”

    This touches on something a lot of people take for granted — that being a well-rounded, or complete player, is very important.

    I think it’s overrated, that it’s much more important to be very good at something, anything.
    Who has a more “limited” or “narrow” game than Dwight Howard, or the young Shaq? Yet these are top-5 players. Or Ben Wallace… or Reggie Miller..

  54. Ted Nelson

    Caleb,

    “I do think they have one too many “stars” who need the ball a lot — if I were Kupchak, I would explore trading Gasol (or possibly Odom)”

    I think the beauty of Odom is that he doesn’t need to be shooting to be a valuable offensive player. The same could be said for Gasol. The two of them had comparable assist rates last season to Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson. On the negative side, I could see an argument that you’ll end up with diminishing returns having both Gasol and Bynum in game and that Odom’s no longer quick enough at the 3, but I think Gasol and Bynum might complement each other in the high and low post respectively and they can bring in Ariza as a defensive stopper on quicker wings.

    Kobe, Gasol, and Odom are all pretty much in their prime years (between 27-29 now and 28-30 entering next season), they could very well take home a ring any of the next three years after already winning the west with a shot at a title this season. Long-term is might make sense to pick up a top 5 pick, but there’s also a big risk that you end up with a Darko, Kwame Brown, Skita, Morrison, Felton, Bargnani, even someone who still has potential like Tyrus Thomas or Shaun Livingston, or a decent player like Melo or Bogut or Devin Harris or Okafor or Ben Gordon or Drew Gooden or Mike Dunleavy… do you really give up one of the best bigmen in the world with a much higher chance of ending up with one of those guys than a comparable player? It’s tough to give up the chance to repeat as Western Conference (and maybe NBA) Champs in the hopes of still being a contender in 5-7 years.
    I could see if the peices didn’t fit together or the team wasn’t doing as well as the sum of its parts, but the Lakers pieces seem to fit perfectly and they’ve got roughly a 50/50 chance of winning a championship.

    “Who has a more “limited” or “narrow” game than Dwight Howard, or the young Shaq? Yet these are top-5 players. Or Ben Wallace… or Reggie Miller.”

    Interseting point.

  55. caleb

    Ted,
    re: the Lakers’ & possible trades next year…

    It’s a “problem” every other team should be dying to have. If they stand pat, they’re the favorites to win it all the next few years.

    I’m just saying — there is a law of diminishing returns. With four great players (or very good players), you’re not really maximizing each one’s value. The team could be just as good (or 99% as good) with 3 of those stars, and another strong role player… meanwhile, stashing a future star to emerge just as the others start to decline.

    Imagine if Dumars had taken Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, instead of Darko. And let’s say Pat Riley was willing to swap Beasley for Gasol & Farmar. Or the Knicks offered Bayless/Mayo + Chandler or Balkman. Wouldn’t you think pretty hard about that?

    But sure, But sure, no reason to trade just for the sake of trading. (in general, I would never make a trade just to move someone; only to get someone back that you want. Or sometTHING, like cap space).

  56. Nick

    Caleb – Wasn’t that the thinking on Dumars part when he passed on ‘Melo (along with Prince’s development)? As for the Lakers they could conceivably start Ariza next year and have Odom come off the bench for all three frontcourt players (assuming he agrees to it).

  57. caleb

    “Wasn’t that the thinking on Dumars part when he passed on ‘Melo (along with Prince’s development)?”

    Sure, he just bet on the wrong horse.

    p.s. League-wide, how many teams would take Carmelo over Tayshaun Prince right now — salaries aside? I’d guess about half, maybe 20.

  58. Ted Nelson

    I just don’t think there’s diminishing returns when all 4 “stars” pass well to very well for their positions, and the team’s supporting cast also passes very well. Only Kobe has really shown any pension for being selfish. Plus, this team is already tasting the finals together, so I somehow doubt they start bickering over touches next year.

    “The team could be just as good (or 99% as good) with 3 of those stars, and another strong role player”

    As playing first without Gasol and then without Bynum proved, they’d be good without all those guys (I guess the diminishing returns are as big a worry right now as anything). I just don’t see many players around the league who would be available and would fit better with the Lakers. Kobe and Bynum seem pretty untradable, so I’ll focus on Gasol and Odom. From the high post Gasol is as dangerous a player and as good a passer as anyone in the world, for my money. He rebounds just ok (not a huge problem next to Bynum and Odom) and the other upgrade I could see is maybe defensively (although the Lakers held their own defensively this season), but how many guys are good interior defender and do all (or any) of the things Gasol does offensively nearly as well as he does them? I also don’t think there’s much of an upgrade over Odom out there. A defensive stopper? They already have Ariza (and Kobe). A better outside shooter? Vujacic and Radmonovic. Not too many guys can make plays and rebound as well as Odom.

    The only thing I could maybe see is saying that Odom isn’t going to work at the 3 and rather than rotating Bynum, Gasol, and Odom (along with Turiaf and whoever else) in the frontcourt it’s better to get an amazing PG or even combo-guard.

    “Imagine if Dumars had taken Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, instead of Darko.”

    I don’t think that’s fair, because my accepting a top 5 pick you’re taking the risk that your guy will turn into the Darko.

    Of the 25 top 5 picks taken between 02-06 (excluded this past season’s rookies for being too new in the NBA to judge) at least 5 could be termed complete and utter busts (Skita, Jay Williams, Darko, Shelden Williams, and Adam Morrison). (Williams, of course, was somewhat randomly hurt, could happen to Gasol/Odom as easily as anyone but either way Chicago did end up with nothing for their #2 pick.) (20% chance you take a total bust.) 3 others still have potential, but haven’t been consistent to date (Bargnani, Ty Thomas, Livingston). So there’s a 32% chance you end up with nothing for at least two years, if not forever (which is not completely fair because, for example, the Pistons were able to take Stuckey with the pick they got for Darko…but that’s a bad example because it was after two years anyway).

    I would put 4 more–Felton, Gooden, Marvin Williams, and Bogut–in a category as solid NBA player, starter on most teams, but not a huge difference maker. (48% chance of not getting a sure thing difference maker.)

    I’ll group 6 more (Melo, Ben Gordon, Dunleavy, Okafor, Devin Harris, and Aldridge) as sure thing starters (or difference making rotation players)on all 30 teams (giving some the benifit of the doubt), but worse players than Gasol. Aldridge could end up being about as good as Gasol but I never see him being the passer Gasol is so I put him in this group.(72% chance you get a worse player than Gasol.)

    And I’ll say that 7 top 5 picks have been roughly as good as or better than Gasol (LeBron, Howard, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwayne Wade, Bosh, and Yao). Keep in mind that 3 of those guys were #1 overall and 3 of them came from the amazing 2003 draft. So there’s a 28% chance you get as good or better a player as Gasol, who happens to fit perfectly with the Lakers. (If, for example, Yao is the only guy in the top 5 of your draft who’ll be comparable to or better than Gasol, not only do you need the #1 pick to take him you also have to put him on the team with Bynum…)

    “And let’s say Pat Riley was willing to swap Beasley for Gasol & Farmar. Or the Knicks offered Bayless/Mayo + Chandler or Balkman. Wouldn’t you think pretty hard about that?”

    I wouldn’t do either.

    To trade Gasol for Beasley is already pretty risky (I’d think about it), but I wouldn’t throw in Farmar, too. I doubt I’d even think too hard about the Knicks one. Maybe if they think Mayo/Bayless is going to be a top guard in the league…

  59. Ted Nelson

    “League-wide, how many teams would take Carmelo over Tayshaun Prince right now — salaries aside? I’d guess about half, maybe 20.”

    I wouldn’t.

    “Imagine if Dumars had taken Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, instead of Darko.”

    I hinted at this in my post, but wanted to mention it explicitly: the 2003 draft class was the exception not the rule.

  60. o_boogie

    “Looking ahead to next year, I do think they have one too many “stars” who need the ball a lot — if I were Kupchak, I would explore trading Gasol (or possibly Odom) for a top-5 pick, or a young potential superstar who would gradually develop a bigger role, as Kobe & Gasol/Odom age and start to decline in a couple of years.”

    If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Kobe and Odom have been playing together for a while now and definitely have chemistry. Do you really want a rookie learning the triangle offense when Odom is a sure thing? Phil Jackson equates rookies to whale sh!t at the bottom of the ocean.

    “I’m just saying — there is a law of diminishing returns. With four great players (or very good players), you’re not really maximizing each one’s value. The team could be just as good (or 99% as good) with 3 of those stars, and another strong role player… meanwhile, stashing a future star to emerge just as the others start to decline. ”

    Some of the best dynastys have had 3+ superstars and hardly dimished from each others values. Examples include showtime lakers (magic, kareem, worthy), 80′s celtics (bird, mchale, parrish), 60′s celtics (cousy, russell, heinsohn, sam jones), 70′s knicks (reed, frazier, bradley, monroe, lucas).

    If you make said move it has to be a 100% sure thing. I’d rather win 2 championships and go into rebuilding mode than possibly sacrifice championships to be stuck in playoff purgatory for the next decade.

  61. PeteRoc

    A few points regarding the MJ vs. Kobe argument…many of you keep saying that MJ enjoyed some of his success during the fast pace 80s. This statement is false. MJ’s two highest scoring seasons were 86/87 (37/game) and 87/88 (35/game) when Doug Collins was his coach. He tied his 4th highest in 88/89 (32.5/game) again when Doug Collins was still the coach. Doug Collins is, was, and will always be a slow-it-down coach. If MJ had been coached by Paul Westhead or Doug Moe during those seasons, he would have easily cleared 40/game…and he all the while shot a better field goal percentage in each of those seasons than Kobe’s best season.

    In addition, I discount Kobe’s first three titles (only in terms of the MJ comparison). During those years, Kobe was in the enviable position of being a great player, who opposing teams couldn’t afford to double-team because of Shaq’s presence. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel it was Kobe who carried Shaq during the 4th qtr of big games, but he could often do so while being single covered. For me, the comparisons will be measured for these next few seasons when Kobe will clearly command the most attention on their team.

  62. Nick

    Caleb – You mean he wrong horse was Darko, not Prince instead of Melo. Becuase I don’t think they win the championship with Melo instead of Prince.

  63. caleb

    Yes, Darko… I figured that’s what you meant.

    Carmelo was at Syracuse when the Pistons won, but yeah, I’d take Tayshaun over him even now. Carmelo IS a few years younger, though, and we don’t know how he’ll turn out, so it’s not totally clear cut, IMO.

  64. villainx

    Hey didn’t Jordon basically got shut out in the first round consistently in his early years? And didn’t he get knocked out by the Pistons while with Scottie too? And didn’t he get knocked out by the Pistons while with Scottie and Phil Jackson?

    Not saying necessarily that Jordon isn’t the best player ever. But as dominant as Jordon’s teams were, the rest of the league was pretty down competition wise. Magic/Bird/Isaiah –> Jordon –> Shaq/Duncan. As good as Jordon was, luck may have played a part in cementing his legacy.

  65. Thomas B.

    Xduck_shoesX

    “Or, to sum it up, Jordan was obviously on a level above his peers. Kobe is not. That should be the end of the comparison.”

    Okay then, I guess that makes Wilt Chamberlain the greatest of all time. He was much further ahead of his peers than Jordan ever was. The greatest difference Jordan ever had over the next closest scoring leader was about 8 points. Wilt, with 50.1 ppg nearly doubled the scoring of the next closest person!

    So Kobe isnt as good as Jordan because Kobe has better competition? That makes no sense. Who in the Jordan era is comprable to LBJ? Nobody, that’s who. Hell the Jordan era of dominance did not have a Shaq. Save the “duh what about dat der Hakeem fella.” Next to Shaq? No. No player comprable to T-Mac in that era. The top five players of the Jordan era of dominance likely do not equal the output from the top five of the Kobe era. Why punish Kobe for having more comp than MJ?

    To whomever this applies:

    Jordan aint “clearly more dominant.” It is a subjective viewpoint that could go either way. I know you folks have lost objectivity when many of you wont admit that Kobe is a more complete offensive player than Jordan. It is a hard arguement, I admit that, but Kobe does have the POTENTIAL to surpass MJ. When Kobe’s career is over then you can say he doesnt have a chance to be better than Jordan, but for now, the POTENTIAL is still there.

    Why did I open this can of worms? :-)

  66. jon abbey

    “But as dominant as Jordon’s teams were, the rest of the league was pretty down competition wise. Magic/Bird/Isaiah –> Jordon –> Shaq/Duncan. As good as Jordon was, luck may have played a part in cementing his legacy.”

    Olajuwon was there, not to mention Malone/Stockton, not to mention Barkley, not to mention our man Ewing. one major reason you don’t put these guys in the same class is that Jordan kept them from winning titles, except for the ones Hakeem won while MJ was playing baseball/suspended for gambling.

  67. Owen

    Thomas B – I don’t understand the argument you are making about Kobe being a more complete player. Jordan had better offensive statistics. What exactly about Kobe being a more complete player, which I don’t buy of course, makes up for Jordan’s clear numerical edge?

    Kobe has never posted a 60+ ts%. Jordan did it numerous times taking more shots and with a higher usage rate.

  68. Thomas B.

    I just read PeteRoc’s post….

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

    Doug Collins admitted in an interview that his game plan with Jordan was “give him the ball and get out of the way.” That does not sound like slow it down to me. How can you say that my claim that Jordan had wide open play in the 80′s is false? You admit in your post that 3 of Jordan’s highest scoring years were in…the 80′s! Those early Bulls teams were pure ASS. It was the MJ show, so he did it all. Who else was Collins going to give the ball too? Yes, you can shoot great FG% in the era of NO DEFENSE.

    You discount the Kobe titles due to Shaq. So Shaq would have won without Kobe? Yeah he did a great job in the finals his first trip. Shaq can’t win without a DOMINANT backcourt partner. See loss to Rockets with Nick Anderson and Penny in the backcourt. See the wins with Kobe and Wade. Look, that arguement may hold water for guys like Scott Williams who took three rings with the Bulls, but true contributors like Kobe deserve better than that.

    The Bulls had a similar double team problem. If they doubled MJ would not Hodges and Paxson made them pay? Plus if Kobe drew a benefit from Shaq, who did he draw a benefit from 2 years ago when he dropped 35 per game? The teams were doubling Kwame Brown?

    Yikes.

  69. Thomas B.

    Owen,

    Jordan can’t shoot from distance, Kobe can. Kobe can do everything MJ can do plus take you outside. Can any of you even admit that for a SG, Jordan was a very poor shooter from distance?

    Also Kobe can catch/surpass most of MJ’s offensive stats before his career is done. MJ may have higher averages but some of that is due to Jordan getting 7 years of “defense? What is this defense you speak of?” in the NBA from 1985-1992.

    I don’t get the TS% thing. What does it mean? It means the number of successful shots? Big deal. How exactly does a higher TS% make you a more complete offensive player? All that does is measure shooting efficiency. Why does that matter? I’m not comparing MJ to Starks here. Kobe is some volume chucker like AI.

  70. xduckshoex

    “Okay then, I guess that makes Wilt Chamberlain the greatest of all time. He was much further ahead of his peers than Jordan ever was. The greatest difference Jordan ever had over the next closest scoring leader was about 8 points. Wilt, with 50.1 ppg nearly doubled the scoring of the next closest person!”

    There are so many problems with that. First, why are we only talking about one season? You can argue that Wilt had the single greatest season in NBA history(which I still disagree with) but is that enough to declare his career the greatest career of all time?

    Second, Wilt average 50 ppg for a team that averaged 125 ppg. In Jordan’s 37 ppg season he scored almost as high a percentage of his teams total points as Wilt did in his huge season.

    Third, while Wilt was putting up those huge numbers, how many titles did he win? His team was not even in the playoffs some years.

    It doesn’t matter how good Wilt was in that one season, the argument is that Jordan was hands down the best player in the League for at least a decade, something that can be backed up by his MVP awards, scoring titles, rings, Finals MVP awards and unheard of statistical dominance from the backcourt. Let’s face it, basketball is still a big mans game; since Jordan retired the first time, the only guards to lead the League in PER have been McGrady and Lebron for one season each. Before Jordan, it was Julius Erving in 1980, Jerry West in 1969 and 1970 and that’s it. Kobe has finished third twice, but is usually in the bottom half of the top 10. Great player? Yeah. Dominant? Nope. The only really dominant player of this generation has been Shaq.

    “So Kobe isnt as good as Jordan because Kobe has better competition?”

    What? Where the hell did this come from? Who said Kobe has better competition? Do you really believe that the League is better than it was 20 years ago?

    It seems like you’re operating on a very convenient assumption that Jordan and Kobe are on equal footing, therefore Kobe’s failure to dominate his competition is due to the fact that his competition is superior. I really don’t think that works.

    Finally, who cares about being a complete offensive player? Bonzi Wells is a more complete offensive player than Shaq was in his prime. It just doesn’t matter. I’m pretty sure Mehmet Okur has a more complete offensive game than Wilt Chamberlain had, but I can’t think of any reason that would matter.

  71. Z

    Kobe has had huge playoff games and deserves everyone of his rings. He had some epic battles where it was Kobe against the Kings to make the finals. If he wins this year, Kobe haters (I live in LA but I assure you I have no love for the guy) have to give him credit. He acted like a three-year-old all summer, but when it was time to play, he shut up and carried his team with an MVP performance.

    Questions:

    If Kobe played on the Bulls in the 90′s instead of MJ do they win 6 titles (all else being equal)?

    If MJ played on the Lakers of 2000-2004 do they win 3 titles (Jordan never had a dominant big man clogging the lane)?

    And, one other thing worth noting. The Lakers were pretty sure that they were going to land KG last June. Ironically they lost out on the bidding, and now face him in the finals (but if the deal had gone through it would have cost them Bynum, and denied them the opportunity to acquire Gasol). Good no trade for the Lakers or bad?

  72. villainx

    “Olajuwon was there, not to mention Malone/Stockton, not to mention Barkley, not to mention our man Ewing. one major reason you don’t put these guys in the same class is that Jordan kept them from winning titles, except for the ones Hakeem won while MJ was playing baseball/suspended for gambling.”

    Exactly, like I said, somewhat down competition-wise. I don’t put them in the same class because as players or team-wise, they weren’t on the same level as Jordon and his team. I mean, just looking at the teams that made it to the finals and Eastern finals, the league was in transition. Jordon took advantage of it and obliterated the competition, good for him. He still might be the greatest ever, but his competition was slightly down.

    Interestly, looking at that era, Hakeem’s teams never had to play against the Bulls in the finals. And Ewing’s team played in the conference finals one year and the championship finals the next. Man, if the Knicks at that time had two shots for the championship, I think they would have pulled one out.

  73. caleb

    “Doug Collins admitted in an interview that his game plan with Jordan was “give him the ball and get out of the way.” That does not sound like slow it down to me. How can you say that my claim that Jordan had wide open play in the 80’s is false?”

    You can look it up on basketball reference and see that they did, in fact, play an extremely slow pace. Jordan’s per-game stats would have been higher with any other coach.

    A separate point is that shooting percentages, league-wide, were higher in the 80s — presumably due mostly to tighter reffing. That changed drastically during Jordan’s career, but his efficiency (NOT per-game #s) probably got a slight boost in the 80s.

  74. caleb

    “I don’t get the TS% thing. What does it mean? It means the number of successful shots? Big deal. How exactly does a higher TS% make you a more complete offensive player? All that does is measure shooting efficiency. Why does that matter?”

    “More complete” is subjective. “Better” — not really. By definition, if you take the same number of shots and score more points with them, you are doing better on offense. That’s what TS measures. Jordan’s actually had the ball and shot more, which you might expect would lead to lower percentages — but it didn’t.

    You could argue that Kobe’s #s are held down by the era he’s played in*, but his offensive numbers are clearly worse — by a fair margin. To say otherwise is like claiming the Knicks played a “more complete” game even though they lost, 110-105.

    *The “no-defense” 80s might be “no-defense” compared to the mid-90s, but they look like the Pete Carrill Princeton teams compared to the Wilt/Russell era.

  75. caleb

    “Just looking at the teams that made it to the finals and Eastern finals, the league was in transition. Jordon took advantage of it and obliterated the competition, good for him. He still might be the greatest ever, but his competition was slightly down.”

    You could say this is true for 1992 and ’93, but the ’91 Bulls had to take down Detroit, then a good Laker team… and the ’96-98 Bulls played what might have been the best teams to not win titles — the Jazz, and the Sonics (who AVERAGED 61 wins a season for 6 years).

  76. jon abbey

    “Do you really believe that the League is better than it was 20 years ago?”

    well, I know the level of athleticism is way higher. I tend to think that the level of play is higher also, but tough to say really.

  77. Z

    “Man, if the Knicks at that time had two shots for the championship, I think they would have pulled one out.”

    1994 was their year. They were the runner-up in 1993 and came their closest to ousting Jordan. By 1995 Shaq was too good, and even if Ewing hadn’t missed his finger roll against the Pacers, they still had to go through Shaq, and then run into an extremely hot Rockets team. The Knicks weaknesses were exposed by that point (thus the swift fax from Riley immediately after the playoffs).

  78. jon abbey

    I still think Riley messed up the Finals. not only had he cut his rotation too far down by that point, but up 3-2 and going back to Houston for games 6 and 7, he had the team too much in a “we need to win one” as opposed to “we need to close this out in game 6″ mentality.

  79. W.C.

    >>“Do you really believe that the League is better than it was 20 years ago?”

    well, I know the level of athleticism is way higher. I tend to think that the level of play is higher also, but tough to say really.<<

    I think there are more high level players, but the talent is more diluted because there are so many more teams.

  80. Z-man

    While one could say that Kobe is comparable to Jordan in many ways, Jordan did not have himself to emulate. Even in Kobe’s first game at the garden at age 17, you could see how profoundly Jordan’s brand of basketball influenced his game. Before Jordan, you had to go back to Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson to find players that had the complete package he had, and I don’t think Jordan is old enough to have been directly influenced very much, if at all, by them.

    Kobe is Jordanesque indeed, but in my book, Jordan gets the edge over Kobe mainly due to his unparalelled leadership ability. Bill Russell is the only player who had that ability to a greater degree that Jordan did, but Jordan more than made up for that in unparalleled talent at his position. Jordan had the mental edge over any player of his time. My guess is that he would have had the same edge over Kobe, although I guess we’ll never know. Fun to dream, though.

    Regarding today vs. 20 years ago, there is a premium on athleticism now, but at the expense of fundamentals (probably due to drastically reduced time in college.) Players were less bulked up them, but I believe more polished and graceful.

    I was watching the 87 finals between Lakers and Celts tonite and while I hated both of those teams, it was incredible how compelling that rivalry was for a true b-ball fan. They were so evenly matched both in talent and in time frame of their nucleus.

    Then the 90′s and Jordan came along.

    Alas, will there ever be an east-west rivalry like that again?

  81. villainx

    I’m not that super knowledgeable about basketball but young Jordon also had to suffer through comparisons to older greats, I don’t know, Dr. J?

    Otherwise, Jordon’s will to win and mental edge? Like I said, he didn’t do jack squat until the rest of the league (and the East especially) fell back. Even 91, when Jordon and the Bulls finally broke through, the Pistons/Lakers/Celtics eras were clearly done.

    Kobe’s not going to win the comparison unless he pulls out multiple championships. Which actually might happen. Spurs/Suns/Mavs are good teams but whether their window is still open remains a big question mark. Jazz and Hornets might need a couple of years to make that jump to the next level. And the rest of the West seems to be just trying to get respect. The stars of the West either are getting pretty old or might be too young still. So the Lakers kind of seemed poised for a good run.

  82. PeteRoc

    Thomas B. – I think you should re-read my post. Let me correct a few things you said.

    “Doug Collins admitted in an interview that his game plan with Jordan was “give him the ball and get out of the way.”” That’s not what Doug Collins said. His statement was in reference to an end-of-game play in the 88/89 eastern conference finals against the Pistons, but that’s just semantics.

    The reality is the Bulls (not the entire league) under Doug Collins did play at a slower pace. But you’re right about one point – “Those early Bulls teams were pure ASS.” In my opinion, that makes his statistics and their playoff appearances and eventual successes all the more impressive.

    “You discount the Kobe titles due to Shaq. So Shaq would have won without Kobe?” The answer to this question is no. My follow up question to you is…how many finals MVPs did Shaq win during their 3-peat and how many did Kobe win? In my opinion, the answer substantiates my discount of Kobe (specifially when comparing him to MJ).

    At the end of the day, we both agree the Bulls weren’t very good when MJ got there, but they got consistently better until they eventually won it all. Then they stayed at the top for the remainder of his time wth the Bulls. In this respect, Kobe’s not there yet. It may seem unfair to compare their team’s success, but I agree that Kobe stll has time to cement a legacy way beyond where it is now.

  83. villainx

    By the way, Doc Rivers and Ainge has done a pretty good job with getting good star players and good role players. Rondo and Perkins, that is pretty good for a GM to get them, and for a coach to develop them!

  84. jon abbey

    “I think there are more high level players, but the talent is more diluted because there are so many more teams.”

    22 teams in the eighties, 30 teams now, I think that’s counterbalanced by the fact that now the NBA draws from the entire world instead of just the US.

  85. villainx

    “22 teams in the eighties, 30 teams now, I think that’s counterbalanced by the fact that now the NBA draws from the entire world instead of just the US.”

    that is so far from reality that i don’t know what to say. the team and league is propelled by the top players. the challenge is to funnel the top players and most interesting teams to the top teams, that either it is happening, or the Knicks are still waiting.

    Sure the Knicks did it to themselves for a while. But have mercy. Give the Knickerbloggers fan a chance!

  86. Ted Nelson

    Good point PeteRoc as far as both the pace and Kobe defining his legacy over the next few years (and even the next few days…)

    “But as dominant as Jordon’s teams were, the rest of the league was pretty down competition wise.”

    Jon Abbey hits the nail on the head. I mean Hakeem wasn’t a very good player and the Knicks weren’t the best regular season defensive team ever… Karl Malone and John Stockton, they sucked too… I mean when Kobe and Shaq were winning titles the league was flooded with talent… Tim Duncan, Chris Webber, KG in Minni,… oh, wait, no it wasn’t.

    Really, not winning a title every year early in his career doesn’t mean much, he did win one every year later in his career. We’ll have to wait and see if Kobe can do something similar (he’s been pretty impressive this postseason).

    “Okay then, I guess that makes Wilt Chamberlain the greatest of all time.”

    It wouldn’t me too hard to make that argument.

    “The top five players of the Jordan era of dominance likely do not equal the output from the top five of the Kobe era. Why punish Kobe for having more comp than MJ?”

    I’m not sure there is any basis for your argument. If you could provide a list or some stats maybe I’d agree, but to simply say that the talent level in the golden age of centers and defense wasn’t as high as it is now is not very convincing. What center in the NBA today is 1/2 as dominant a defender as Hakeem was? Marcus Camby is currently considered the game’s dominant bigman… talk about weak compition.

    During Shaq and Kobe’s threepeat I’d say the NBA talent level was as low as its been in the last 20 years, there was a string of terrible drafts and the really dominant guys outside of Shaq were still pretty young and/or in a terribly run organization(Duncan and KG). Right now the talent level is extremely high, but some of the most talented players in the NBA are under 25 (LeBron, Paul, Williams, Wade, Oden?, Howard,…).

    “Exactly, like I said, somewhat down competition-wise. I don’t put them in the same class because as players or team-wise, they weren’t on the same level as Jordon and his team. I mean, just looking at the teams that made it to the finals and Eastern finals, the league was in transition. Jordon took advantage of it and obliterated the competition, good for him. He still might be the greatest ever, but his competition was slightly down.”

    This is a joke, right. The NBA was in a transition from what to what? From one offensive era to another? The 90s were an era of dominant defenses, hardly a transition era.

    “I don’t put them in the same class because as players or team-wise, they weren’t on the same level as Jordon and his team.”

    I think that’s the whole point, they weren’t on the same level as Jordan and his team. We’ll have to see if you can look back and say the same thing about Duncan, KG, etc. in a few years.

    “That does not sound like slow it down to me.”

    That was a faster paced era, but the Bulls were THE slowest team in the league in Collins first two years (86-87 and 87-88), whatever his strategy they were the slowest team in the league. They’d still be like 3rd or 4th in the league in pace today, but there were players on 22 other teams in the late 80s that had more chance to pad their stats than MJ. MJ’s legacy has a lot more to do with the slow-it-down 90s, anyway.

    “Kobe has never posted a 60+ ts%. Jordan did it numerous times taking more shots and with a higher usage rate.”

    Along with the arguments that being well-rounded isn’t necessarily important, I think Owen pretty much closed the book on this one.

    Kobe can shoot from distance, but if he’s a less efficient scorer it doesn’t matter at all. The advantage of taking a 3 is that you get an extra point. If Jordan got more points per shot than Kobe there’s no basis to say he’s a more complete offensive player. As Caleb said:

    “By definition, if you take the same number of shots and score more points with them, you are doing better on offense. That’s what TS measures. Jordan’s actually had the ball and shot more, which you might expect would lead to lower percentages — but it didn’t. You could argue that Kobe’s #s are held down by the era he’s played in*, but his offensive numbers are clearly worse — by a fair margin. To say otherwise is like claiming the Knicks played a “more complete” game even though they lost, 110-105.”

    “You discount the Kobe titles due to Shaq. So Shaq would have won without Kobe?”

    Who knows. The point is more would Kobe have won those titles without Shaq? Shaq was the most dominant inside scorer in the league at the time, does playing with him discount Kobe’s titles more than playing with the best point-forward and maybe the best perimeter defender of the era (Pippen)? I think most people would say yes.

    “The Bulls had a similar double team problem. If they doubled MJ would not Hodges and Paxson made them pay?”

    Did you really just compare those two to Shaq????

    “Plus if Kobe drew a benefit from Shaq, who did he draw a benefit from 2 years ago when he dropped 35 per game?”

    How’d his team do two years ago? The point isn’t whether Shaq takes more attention off Kobe than Kwame (obviously), it’s that basketball is a team game. Kobe nor Jordan wins a championship without a good team around them (neither has even won a championship without Phil Jackson on the sideline). The point is also that while MJ was considered the driver of the Bulls 3peats, Shaq was considered the driver of the Lakers’. If you wish to dispute that go ahead, but it’s hard to deny that it’s the general consensus.

    “that is so far from reality that i don’t know what to say. the team and league is propelled by the top players. the challenge is to funnel the top players and most interesting teams to the top teams, that either it is happening, or the Knicks are still waiting. Sure the Knicks did it to themselves for a while. But have mercy. Give the Knickerbloggers fan a chance!”

    I agree with Jon, what the hell are you talking about? I think Jon’s point is pretty fair.

    Z-man:

    “Kobe is Jordanesque indeed, but in my book, Jordan gets the edge over Kobe mainly due to his unparalelled leadership ability. Bill Russell is the only player who had that ability to a greater degree that Jordan did, but Jordan more than made up for that in unparalleled talent at his position. Jordan had the mental edge over any player of his time.”

    I really like your point about Jordan changing the game and creating the mold, but from everything I’ve read Pippen was their locker-room leader. Jordan was as intense a competitor as anyone, anywhere, ever, but I don’t think Pippen gets enough credit. Just as Kobe has yet to win a title without Shaq, MJ never won one without Pippen.

  87. Ted Nelson

    “They’d still be like 3rd or 4th in the league in pace today”

    I take that back. I was using two different sources of data. According to basketball-reference, the Bulls pace was 95.8 and 95.5 in Collins’ first two season (86-87/87-88), or roughly equivelent to the Lakers 07-08 pace of 95.6

  88. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    The difference between Jordan and Bryant is that by the age Kobe is know, everyone thought Jordan was the most dominant player of the NBA. There was no debate. He was a multiple MVP, DPOY, centerpiece of a multi-championship team, etc. And there were many great players during Jordan’s era. Magic, Bird, Hakeem, Malone, Stockton, Robinson, Isiah. But Jordan was the best.

    But is Kobe the most dominant player of the era? No. For most of his 20s, his era was dominated by Shaq/Duncan/Nash. And now that’s he’s going to enter his 30s, he’s going to have to compete with LeBron, Wade, Howard, and Paul.

  89. TDM

    Off-topic: Westbrook is visiting the Knicks today along with Joe Alexander and JaVale McGee.

    One interesting note, draftexpress came out with their predraft measurements chart. Westbrook and Bayless both measured with shoes approximately 6’3″, however, Bayless’ wingspan is more than 4″ shorter than Westbrook. I don’t think that Westbrook has inordinately long arms, since other prospects like Rose has similar measurements. Augustine is over 3″ shorter than Bayless but has the same wingspan. Has anyone heard anything about Bayless having short arms? Does this matter for a pg? It seems it would limit his defensive abilities. [http://www.draftexpress.com/nba-pre-draft-measurements/?year=2008&sort2=ASC&draft=0&sort=].

  90. Z

    Other news: The Detroit Pistons’ entire roster was put on the trading block by Joe Dumars.

    “You lose sacred-cow status when you lose three straight years.”

  91. caleb

    re: breakup of Pistons, I don’t see much that matters for the Knicks, but it will be interesting to watch. Everyone is talking about Wallace but think about Chauncey Billups — he’s getting older, Stuckey looks ready to step in and Billups still has a lot of value — packaged with a young guy and a pick, he might be their best shot at bringing back a star-quality addition. Denver?

  92. Thomas B.

    XduckshoesX,

    “First, why are we only talking about one season? You can argue that Wilt had the single greatest season in NBA history(which I still disagree with) but is that enough to declare his career the greatest career of all time?”

    No, one season is not enough. I picked one of Wilt’s seasons to show just how much more dominant he was than Jordan in MJ’s best season. But if you want to go career stats then fine…Wilt still wins. Wilt has higher numbers in just about everything over each player’s best ten seasons. Plus to go through all of Wilt’s career highlights would take too long.

    “Second, Wilt average 50 ppg for a team that averaged 125 ppg. In Jordan’s 37 ppg season he scored almost as high a percentage of his teams total points as Wilt did in his huge season.”

    A fair point, to which I have no good counter. I can say that Wilt’s contribution to the team’s stats are higher than Jordan’s in many other areas. See rebounding, blocks, ect. Wilt also led the NBA in assists just to show he could. Has Jordan? Um…no.

    “Third, titles”

    Championships are the tricky thing because those are a result of many factors that don’t quite reflect on the player. The most dominant player in the NBA does not always win the title. Title teams need several players that can work as a team, a coach, a bench, health, timing, even luck.

    I know it is hard to do because we equate titles with greatness, but I think if we are comparing players, not teams, we should look at the individual’s contribution. (of course that is hard to do becuase some players excel because of the teams they played on)

    I advocate throwing titles out of the discussion.

    If titles are the benchmark then can I argue that Robert Horry and Scott Williams, who have multiple titles, are better than Ewing, Malone, Stockton, Barkley, Oscar Robinson, Wilkens, ect? Of course not.

    What if Jordan never won a title? Is he still the greatest? It is a hard thing to agree upon. Jordan makes an excellent case as the greatest of all time becuase when you combine the dominant talent, the clutch performances, the 6 titles, the scoring, the defense, the leadership (which I question. You yell at your teammates and win they call you leader, do the same and lose, they call you a bad teammate), and the fact that he was the first NBA multi-media superstar; then it becomes a tough thing to knock down.

    I do not think Kobe is there yet, but he has the potential to surpass Jordan. He is already are more complete offensive player. ;-)

  93. Thomas B.

    A non Kobe/Mj post.

    With Rasheed Wallace on the market, should the Knicks try to move Randolph to Detriot for Wallace? I think its a no brainer yes, but the question then becomes what else would we have to send to Detriot? Do you throw in Robinson, the 6th pick?

    I would consider sending Randolph/Rose (because Rose is an expiring deal) and the 6th to Indy for O’neal and the 11th. We could pick up Westbrook at 11. He isnt the playmaker that Augustine is right now but a DJ N8 backcourt, while crazy fast, would be a defensive nightmare (in terms of size). Indy might do it becuase they save 8 million in 09/10 by dumoping O’Neal for Randolph. They also move up in the draft, which they seem to want.

    If you can move Randolph, get a defensive player to put down low, and still get a PG prospect then you have done a good job.

  94. caleb

    Randolph for Wallace or O’Neal (with Rose or Robinson as throw-ins) would be great deals for us, but I doubt that that Detroit or Indy would bite. The Indy idea is slightly more feasible — it would save them money and help them move up, so you never know.

    re: Wallace, no way you throw in the #6 pick for a guy who’s 33. I don’t care if we’re a few games better next year or the year after; in 3 years when that pick could be a valuable part of the team, ‘Sheed will be using a walker, or retired!

  95. Thomas B.

    Caleb,

    I agree with you. The only reason I thought to include the 6th (in exchange for the 11th) in the Indy deal is that they are taking on two extra tears of Randolph salary and they want to move up. Also, we can still get a good point at 11, which is what we will need after securing a defensive post guy like O’neal. I think we have to sweeten the pot in a deal to move Randolph that involves a shorter contract coming back. Other than the 6th, our most attractive sweeteners are Lee and the expiring deal of Rose. I dont want to trade Lee for a ? at 6, so include the 6th and ask Isiah to make the pick at 11. He is still on the payroll right?

  96. Ted Nelson

    “I think we have to sweeten the pot in a deal to move Randolph that involves a shorter contract coming back.”

    Agreed, and even though I’m against most trades involving giving up the pick I’d definitely be in favor of moving from 6 to 11 to move Randolph for JO.

    Donnie Walsh should be in a good position to know what Larry Bird thinks about various players as well as what Bird thinks the Pacers need. I would also assume Walsh is in as good a position as anyone to judge whether JO is over the hill or primed for a comeback year.

    As far as the Pistons, Randolph seems to be the anti-Dumars guy but maybe Dumars takes the chance that bringing him into a strong team-first environment will help Zach reach his potential (may be a stretch, but so is any Randolph deal at this point).

    “Also, we can still get a good point at 11, which is what we will need”

    As much as they need a 1, I really think the Knicks need the best player available.

  97. Frank

    Two things from Draftexpress.com:

    “The Indiana Pacers are trying to dangle the #11 pick in hopes of being able to package it with one of their ugly contracts (preferably Jermaine O’Neal). There is talk out of O’Neal’s camp that he anticipates being trade to Cleveland at some point this summer, possibly in a deal involving expiring contracts such as Wally Szczerbiak and Eric Snow. ”

    We really should get into this — if healthy, Jermaine is exactly what we need inside, at least from a defensive perspective. AND he expires after 2010 if I remember correctly. If we can somehow pick him AND the #11 pick for Marbury and Rose or something like that, that would be fantastic.

    “One team that is apparently looking to move up in this draft is Philadelphia, thanks to the plethora of cap space they will enjoy coming July 1st. The Sixers are reportedly realizing that there could be very few quality unrestricted free agents available that they could realistically sign, making their precious cap space essentially useless.

    One trade that is making the rounds would involve the Knicks sending Zach Randolph and the rights to the #6 pick to Philadelphia for a smaller contract, such as Reggie Evans, and the rights to the #16 pick—after July 1st (when Philadelphia’s cap space kicks in). New York would move into position to have significant cap space in the summer of 2010 (possibly to make a run at LeBron James) by unloading the 17.3 million dollars owed to Randolph in 2010/11, and would still be able to keep David Lee around.”

    That would be horrible. I want to get rid of Zach but not this badly. What would we do with Reggie Evans and David Lee in the frontcourt? Curry and Evans? yick.

  98. Frank

    Sorry – also meant to add that it sounds like the Pacers want to SHED salary, not add salary, so I think moving back from 6–>11 and giving them Zach is not so realistic.

  99. caleb

    Marbury for O’Neal would work, salary-wise, straight up — don’t need Rose.

    Randolph & 6 for Evans & 16… hard to say. Depends what we think of the players at #6 and 16. Probably a little steep. Maybe the Sixers could be swayed to throw in a future first, like in 2010.

    Don’t worry about Reggie Evans — the point is to get his shorter contract, not his lumpy body. Even so — he’s been a solid player, one of the top 5 rebounders in the league, even if he doesn’t offer anything else. Not in the age bracket we’re looking for, but he has value and would be easy to re-route.

  100. ess-dog

    caleb, think about the Sixers trade. Would I rather have Reggie Evans and the 16th pick, or Randolph and the 6th pick? We have a lot of time to move Randolph. And if David Lee out-plays him, guess what? David Lee starts and Randolph goes to the bench. If Zach freaks out, we send him home (that’s the worst case scenario.) Best case scenario is that D’antoni comes in, says all jobs are open to competition, and Zach plays really hard to keep his job. You have to try to trade Zach for what he’s worth talentwise – attitude aside. Otherwise, we get screwed no matter what trade we make. Talent wise, the Sixers should want Zach for Evans straight up with salary thrown in.
    Also, Westbrook and Alexander will probably be gone by 11 and 16 at this rate, so trading our pick down is not a great solution to me. I would rather add an extra pick by trading Curry or Crawford to someone that might want them.
    Steph for O’Neal straight up? I’ve got no problem with that one.

  101. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Yeah I wouldn’t swap picks to trade Zach Randolph for Reggie Evans. If you know how Philly fans are, you just need to drop word that the Knicks offered Zach Randolph for Reggie Evans straight up and the Sixers declined. Talk radio will do the rest.

  102. caleb

    “caleb, think about the Sixers trade. Would I rather have Reggie Evans and the 16th pick, or Randolph and the 6th pick?”

    Think of it as Evans + #16 + 90% chance of being under the cap by 2010 vs. Randolph + #6 + 50% chance…

    …and it makes more sense.

    But I did say it was a steep price. You and Mike are probably right that it’s too steep — at least, for now.

    People here hate Randolph so much — myself included — that it’s a hard to gauge his real value around the league. I suspect it is very low, that a straight Randolph-Evans trade would NOT play… but as others haven said, you only need to find one sucker. Maybe Isiah will get a job somewhere.

    fwiw, I don’t think there’s a huge talent dropoff between 6 and 11, or even 6 and 16… but again, it comes down to specific players.

  103. Z

    Plus: the Sixers have 2 first round picks next year (one from the Jazz for Kyle Korver). If we could get one of those, it would be nice because we don’t have our own pick in 2010.

    Randolph + #6 for Evans + #16 + 2009 pick

    Throw in Nate if they want him. Or, better yet, prodigal son Mardy Collins…

  104. Ted Nelson

    I have to think that Randolph is a lot more valuable to the Sixers if they miss out on Elton Brand. Before I dangled the #6 pick I’d try to get a read on their thoughts on signing Brand and how realistic it would be (of course, if they think they can get him they’re probably not going to make the deal either way).

    A lot of it might also come down to what they think of Jason Smith. A Evans/Smith platoon gives you some of what you get from Randolph (rebounding/a bigman who can shoot) at a fraction of the price and without the headaches.

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