The Worst Article of 2008

Long time fans know my least favorite articles are the ones where an author obviously has come to a conclusion and tries to put together facts to support it. In 2004 I railed against Frank Hughes, the next year Charlie Rosen caught my ire, and in 2007 I took a writer from paperbacknovel to task. This year’s KnickerBlogger worst article of 2008 belongs to Bill Simmons piece on D’Antoni/Nash, which was published just before the new year. Simmons begins by bashing D’Antoni:

D’Antoni’s Phoenix teams were wildly entertaining, consistently successful—and always heading home before the Finals. D’Antoni didn’t care that just about every NBA champ since the 1988-89 Pistons had won with defense; once teams slowed the Suns’ tempo and systematically broke them down, their lack of commitment to D always surfaced. Always. They had a fatal flaw. It took us four years to realize it.

Simmons logic is straight out of the internet trolls’ handbook in the chapter titled “Count the Ringz!!1!!” Since 1984, only 8 different coaches have won a title, and like many of his peers Mike D’Antoni isn’t in that select group. Jerry Sloan’s teams were consistently successful for nearly 25 years and he never won a championship. Neither have other respected coaches like George Karl, Don Nelson, Rick Adelman, and both Van Gundys. Winning a championship is a rare event, and failing to do so shouldn’t discredit a coach or style of play.

Additionally Simmons claims “just about every NBA champ since the 1988-89 Pistons had won with defense.” After the Bad Boys won back to back titles, the Bulls won three championship teams by finishing 1st, 1st, and 2nd on offense. Then the Rockets won their first championship due to defense, but the 1995 team with Drexler was 6th on offense and 12th on defensive. Phil Jackson’s threepeat Lakers finished 4th, 2nd, and 2nd on offense. Although some championship teams were stronger on defense, most championship teams are good on both ends of the court and the exceptions generally even out. The 2005 Pistons won with their defense (18th on offense, 2nd on defense), while the 2001 Lakers were an offensive minded team (2nd on offense, 21st on defense). The claim that defense wins championships has been debunked before (namely here and here), and there has not been a defensive trend since 1989.

Simmons proceeds to belittle Steve Nash’s career . He says Nash was a “borderline All-Star” without D’Antoni and says Nash was only “slightly better than Mark Price.” The first is preposterous. Nash started off his career with 4 mediocre seasons, however he became a more productive player by improving his scoring. Nash’s pts/36 went from 11.3 to 16.5 to 18.6. He posted a healthy PER of 19.6 in 2001 at the age of 26. The next year he had a similar season (20.7 PER), became an All Star, and was voted to an All NBA team. This was when he was still in Dallas, before he played for D’Antoni. Nash was a late bloomer, but in Dallas he became a legitimate All Star.

As for the comparison to Price, I’m not sure what to make of it. During his career, Price was voted to 4 All NBA teams and received some consideration for the MVP award. So during his peak he was a pretty good player. However Price’s career ended early. He began to decline at the age of 30 and played his last season at the age of 33. On the other hand Nash has aged well. He won his first MVP at the age of 30, and last year at 33 Nash made the All NBA second team. Considering that Nash is still playing at a high level at the age of 34 (a point that Simmons makes by showing Nash’s numbers this season to be identical to his All Star year in Dallas), it’s clear that Nash’s career has already and will continue to eclipse Price’s. From my perspective Mark Price is to Steve Nash as Shawn Kemp is to Karl Malone.

It’s unfortunate because I understand Simmons’ point. Steve Nash’s assists ballooned under D’Antoni due to the style of play. Nash had the ball in his hand frequently due to the fast paced point guard emphasized offense. So Nash was able to rack up more assists than someone playing for one of the Van Gundys. This is common in just about every sport, but Simmons claims the opposite:

Which brings me to my point, and I swear I have one: Of the four major sports, only in basketball is the historical fate of everyone from borderline All-Star to borderline superstar determined entirely by his situation.

In football, we sometimes see great players trapped on abominable teams (Barry Sanders, Archie Manning) and good players hitting the team lottery (Jim Kelly, Franco Harris), but we can usually tell either way.

You have to wonder what Simmons was on when he wrote that. In the NFL, players are consistently a product of their situation. Kurt Warner is a prime example. When he played for the Rams, Warner was highly effective, twice throwing for more than 4300 yards and 36 TDs. But when placed on a Giants team with a different system, Warner’s play was so bad he lost the starting job. This year in Arizona, Warner was mentioned as a possible MVP candidate. So unlike Simmons’ claim, an NFL player can go from backup to superstar depending on their situation.

But a more appropriate example for Nash might be Tom Brady. In 2007 Brady threw for 50 TDs, nearly twice his career average. Did Brady all of a sudden become more talented? No. Rather the Patriots changed their offense which emphasized his strengths. And you can say the same thing for Nash. D’Antoni’s system increased his stats to the point where a PG in a traditional system might not be able to reach. However Nash still had to perform at a high level to attain those stats. Saying the system turned a regular starter into an MVP is a stretch whether you’re applying that to Steve Nash or Tom Brady.

Arguing D’Antoni’s system was ideal for Nash to win games and put up eye popping numbers seems reasonable. Arguing that Nash’s numbers were inflated by the offense that the team ran is also logical, and that he might not have been the best player in those two seasons is rational. Simmons could have written an article that showed that Nash and D’Antoni were fortunate enough to cross paths having a synergistic effect on each other.

Instead he uses old cliches and false analogies in attempt to assert his opinion. Simmons blames statistics for the problem, and says “stat geeks” as the ones responsible for falling in love with Nash’s inflated numbers. But as this APBRmetrics poll from 2005 showed most numerical analysts didn’t have Nash as a top 3 MVP candidate that year. Ironically if Simmons had a rudimentary understanding of statistics, he would have understood the concept of pace, and could have better articulated his position on Nash. Oh well, maybe next year.

Abbreviated Recap from the Live Chat

Here’s a recap of the chat from draft night. I wanted to capture this moment in time from the point of view of the KnickerBlogger Readers. This was heavily edited from a few thousand lines of chat.

All typos are forgiven.

Pre-Draft

Owen: I think there will be a huge group in here to celebrate the arrival of the Italian Stallion, the real one
dave crockett: Not sure I’m happy about JVG and MJax in the booth. They really don’t do the college game.
KnickerBlogger: We have to come up with a better Danilo nickname
KnickerBlogger: Van Gundy loves rookies!
dave crockett: It’s a crime to not have Hubie at the draft.
KnickerBlogger: I can’t wait until Vitale comes out – he loves 4 year collegiates and hates high schoolers & despises foreigners
Brian Cronin: It is fun, Mike, to see him try to hide it
Brian Cronin: He knows it doesn’t look good to hate foreigners, but he just can’t help it
Owen: Derrick Rose is going number 1
Owen: Just announced it…
dave crockett: Miami just got faced with a choice they didnt necessarily want. Things get really complicated. To pass on Beasley would just be dumb.
Cmac: You can’t pass on Beasley
Owen: What about this Nets trade. Home Run for the Nets. Jefferson is somewhat overrated I think
KnickerBlogger: Owen – I’m surprised you say that
KnickerBlogger: Great TS%
dave crockett: Really? I always thought RJ was a guy who was never overhyped or underrated.
dave crockett: He doesn’t get much ink either way.
Owen: Poor rebounding. I don’t know. His numbers have been up and down
dave crockett: He’s been hurt a lot too. (Arizona bias warning.)
Owen: Perhaps. I don’t know, if that trade gets them Lebron, it is a knockout
Owen: Yeah, he had a few great years. This year though it was scoring and not much else

Hopes and dreams…

KnickerBlogger: OK everyone who do you hope the Knicks get?
Brian Cronin: I’m hoping for Westbrook
Brian Cronin: Honestly, though, I’m mainly just hoping Lee is still a Knick Friday morning.
KnickerBlogger: Looking at the statistical chart I put together (compiling Doerr, Hollinger & HoopsAnalyst)
KnickerBlogger: I have Love Bayless or Mayo. After that a trade down for Speights & Chalmers would be awesome
Cmac: I like the Italian Stallion but I am kind of hoping to get Joe Alexander. I watched some of his games this year and especially against UCONN he was just unstoppable
foilfence: i’m still hoping for a trade
KnickerBlogger: I can do Danny too
KnickerBlogger: We have to come up with a better Danilo nickname

Danilo shown on television…

dave crockett: Fans booing Danilo
dave crockett: ouch
daaarn: ouch
dave crockett: All is did was sit there and look like Matthew Modine.
Cmac: Why all the negativity towards him I think he could be a good player
KnickerBlogger: I’ve read a decent amount of newspapers over the last two weeks – they basically summed up Danilo as unathletic & a friend of D’Antoni – basically they made him sound like he’s only a consideration because his dad and our coach were roomies
Brian Cronin: Worked for the Dodgers with Piazza!
KnickerBlogger: lol
foilfence: yeah seems like being slow is the biggest knock.
Brian Cronin: Hey, has anyone talked about Danilo’s defense at all?
Cmac: Also sounds like a hard working never takes a night off type of player. If we got him that would make 2 on the knicks
Owen: They said his father was the Rodman of the Italian League, which sounds promising to me. But watching him, he really doesn’t look athletic.
tastycakes: if danilo is any good, the boos won’t faze him
tastycakes: i want to see toughness from the italian stallion
Owen: he seemed to be laughing it off earlier
trp: he did seem ok with it
offthemeter: he won’t be laughing if he’s the last one in the green room
Cmac: Maybe italy boo’s mean cheering
KnickerBlogger: I was saying Boo-nilo

ESPN reports that Donnie Walsh has his man & implies it’s a PG…

KnickerBlogger: They said Donnie Walsh “has his man”
Lpmatt: his pg
Lpmatt: russel westbrook i guess
Owen: nice suit though…
trp: i bet its bayless
Jon Abbey: yeah, I heard that also, has to be Bayless or Westbrook
Jon Abbey: the reporter said it was a PG
trp: bayless would be a great pick
Jon Abbey: I like Westbrook, fantastic athlete
trp: and we dont have any perimeter defenders, so westbrook would also be a good pick
KnickerBlogger: Bayless one of the top guards by statistical consensus
Jon Abbey: yeah, Augustin I could live with
Jon Abbey: they’re unwatchable with no PG
offthemeter: augustin got used by rose, granted he’s the 1st pick and his size
trp: but steph is the best pg in the league!
Jon Abbey: anyway, Westbrook continues to be my hope
Lpmatt: i wish theyd trade down and draft joe alexander
cbrooklyn: looks like gallinari folks
Maverick: This is a 2 3 year process, nothing will happen next year, might as well grab as many picks as you can and shed some sallary. I would hate to see them pcik anybody but a PG, Gallinari doesn’t do it for me, it’s not the Weis thing, it’s just he is mechanical
trp: it HAS to be a pg
Owen: Anyone glad Mark Jackson is not our Coach?
tastycakes: yes
Cmac: yes
Maverick: Mark Jackson blows
offthemeter: we need a sprewell type electrifying player back at msg
Owen: I would take Hinrich I think, seems like a good gamble

Bulls Select Derrick Rose…

tastycakes: that should have been the knicks
Owen: Bilas is kind of obsessed with Lopez and the fact he is younger than OJ Mayo
Owen: So true, Derrick Rose should be in New York
daaarn: i blame chicago for giving us isaiah
dave crockett: I still don’t get the Del Negro hire with Flip and Thibideaux still out there
foilfence: beasley looked slightly pissed he didn’t go #1
tastycakes: d. rose seems a little shaky
cbrooklyn: hmmm he does have a starbury air

Miami Selects Michael Beasley…

Owen: Of course
tastycakes: dang heat
dred: Smart pick
trp: it was all a smokescreen
tastycakes: the ‘we don’t want beasley’ thing was totally smokescreen
cbrooklyn: i believe riley was blowin hot air also
offthemeter: minnesota oj or lopez
daaarn: oj’ll be next
trp: agreed tastycakes
dave crockett: I just don’t see what Miami gains for moving Beasley at this point.
dred: I don’t think even McHale would be dumb enough to take Lopez 3rd
Brian Cronin: It’ll be really interesting to see if OJ doesn’t go here
daaarn: crosses fingers for McHale stupidiy
offthemeter: hey i’ll throw in steph
GiantsKnickFan420: miami’s starting center is Blount, unless they put haslem at center and go small
Cmac: No love please no love
offthemeter: were all yelling at the tv
Owen: No way love falls though
tastycakes: knicks won’t take love
GiantsKnickFan420: if we trade lee at 5, love would actaully be a comprable replacement
Caleb: Mayo, Lopez, Gordon… Love could fall, easy.
tastycakes: michael beasley already a ‘great player’ in his own mind
Maverick: Curry+Steph for Marion
Z: 3 more picks ’til we’re on the clock. Excited???
Owen: Yeah absolutely.
KnickerBlogger: David Lee’s mom was the shortest on Family Feud
Maverick: Mayo
Owen: Lol, that family feud thing was really funny. I can’t believe Lee was chosen
GiantsKnickFan420: Mchale is a terrible GM, no matter who he choses
daaarn: mayo
Jon Abbey: I say Love
offthemeter: ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Minnesota Selects OJ Mayo…

dred: Interesting
daaarn: damn, no trade then
tastycakes: family feud – hilarious
dred: Like the glasses
Caleb: hahahaha. He’s McHale’s boy – should tell you something
daaarn: hey they twolves got a new logo
Z: 2 more ’til we’re up…
Owen: So they have Foye Mccants and Mayo now right?
dave crockett: um… McCants BLOWS. I hate him, hate him, hate him.
Z: For a draft with so much build up the first three picks have been pretty un-dramatic
KnickerBlogger: My bet is that Seattle take Love
KnickerBlogger: takes
Owen: He would be a great fit for them I think
Jon Abbey: maybe westbrook
dave crockett: I’ll also add this about Mayo. He was hamstrung by whatever that is that passes as an offense under Tim Floyd at ‘SC.
Caleb: Where’s Jalen Rose when you need him? That was my fave suit of all time
Jon Abbey: lopez would be a good fit too
daaarn: maybe there’s still a trade afoot
Thomas B.: Lopez is in keeping with the Sonic’s never ending search for a center
dave crockett: Pelton says he’d be pretty surprised if the Sonics go for a center.
Caleb: IMO Gallinari or even Speights is est player available now – not that they’re about to get picked

Seattle Picks Russell Westbrook…

Owen: whoa
Cmac: whoa
cbrooklyn: hmmmm
dred: Well
offthemeter: wow
Owen: Interesting
Jon Abbey: yeah, see
offthemeter: shabang
Z: Hmmmm
tastycakes: kind of surprising
Caleb: Chad Ford called it
offthemeter: kazaam
KnickerBlogger: Lemme say that again WHOA!!
Thomas B.: the price of oil hits an all time high
Jon Abbey: stole my boy
dred: Guess we don’t have to worry about him developing now
Owen: They didn’t take a center
offthemeter: whoa
KnickerBlogger: Love still out there
dred: Memphis taking Love?
Owen: Love will go next, no question
GiantsKnickFan420: bayless,love,lopez,gallinari
cbrooklyn: i think its gonna be gallinari
Jon Abbey: westbrook reminds people of rondo
foilfence: so guys, gallinari or bayless?
KnickerBlogger: Ok I’m hoping for Bayless or Galinari
trp: both!
daaarn: bayless or galinari
Cmac: Italy
Jon Abbey: Bayless never looked good when I saw Arizona last year
KnickerBlogger: Actually I’m really hoping for a trade down
offthemeter: bayless is the consensus here in the war room
GiantsKnickFan420: lets see what memphis does 1st
Jon Abbey: so I’m not very high on him
Jon Abbey: but I’ll trust walsh for now
Owen: Btw, talking about running amok, isn’t it amazing how point guard is suddenly the most important position in the NBA? That is why all these guys want to be PG.
Jon Abbey: let’s see what he’s got in mind
cbrooklyn: dont see why we cant just trade steph to italy for gallinari and pick a real center
Caleb: But Donnie has never gambled on an internationale, I don’t think… except Smits
Z: Maybe they drafted him for Walsh in an unannounced trade…
Thomas B.: I like Alexander. How can you not love that nickname: Vannilla sky
T-Mart: suddenly Im a believer in the Rajon Rondo has made Westbrook over-rated style of talent on account fo being surrounded by 3 hall of famers theory
offthemeter: the flying dutchmen
Brian Cronin: Hah – I like that, T-Mart
Jon Abbey: no, rondo is a great player
Jon Abbey: they had budinger also
Jon Abbey: somehow they still couldn’t win games
Jon Abbey: check the play by play of that last game in the finals
Thomas B.: Okay half of you need to leave because I’m liquored and i cant read so fast
Jon Abbey: the whole first quarter is rondo stealing the ball from gasol
offthemeter: people are cracking open the beers now baby
Cmac: Joe Alexander would be great

Memphis Selects Kevin Love…

offthemeter: wow
dave crockett: Love
offthemeter: back to back
offthemeter: ucla
offthemeter: wow
daaarn: i guess it’s bayless then
Owen: Right again…
KnickerBlogger: Weiland – whos your next 3?
weiland: Love, Bayless, Speights
foilfence: would joe alexander be better than wilson chandler?
Brian Cronin: Chad Ford suggests that Seattle wanted Westbrook, Thomas
mjkagan: gallinari is ours
Jon Abbey: might as well give him a shot
Jon Abbey: the crowd is going to boo the fuck out of gallinari
mjkagan: bet we’ll take galli here – d’a’s comments were a smokescreen
GiantsKnickFan420: “i have the tools, i need an engine to run it”-D’antoni. bayless, gordon, agustin are the PGs left

Knicks Select Danilo Galinari!

tastycakes: galinari
daaarn: wtf
offthemeter: we suck
daaarn: boos
offthemeter: oh yes they did
StrongIsland: Italians FTW!
offthemeter: thanks
offthemeter: dantoni
Anthony: of course…
cbrooklyn: hahahahahahahhahaaaa
dave crockett: wow
Owen: Very nice suit….
GiantsKnickFan420: WOW, but i like it!
Caleb: nice. I like it.
mjkagan: called it…
offthemeter: we should have traded down
cbrooklyn: i knew it
dave crockett: really, really surprised
offthemeter: we suck
StrongIsland: EXACTLY…trade down
Thomas B.: Did you catch Sterns Pause? It was like a “What the fuck, I though Isiah was gone.”
StrongIsland: the only other team looking at him was NJ
Jon Abbey: he does have the best chance at being a franchise player of anyone left
Owen: What is that, Prada?
Brian Cronin: The Knicks still can trade down
Maverick: shocking …
offthemeter: can i curse????
Jon Abbey: but this team is going to be tough to watch again

And now reality sets in…

GiantsKnickFan420: the dude is smooth and is touted for his mental toughness, something our current roster has none of
mjkagan: and he can shoot
Caleb: last year I would have assumed it was a mistake. This year I assume he’s right.
daaarn: he had better pan out
Brian Cronin: And Jon is right, he has the best shot at being a top player of all the ones left
StrongIsland: Frederick Weis Redux?
cbrooklyn: i think im willing to give him a chance
Jon Abbey: maybe he’s good
Jon Abbey: but get a fucking PG
Jon Abbey: before the season starts
Owen: His legs look really skinny
daaarn: well that’s not comforting “he wont be a superstar, but he’ll be solid…”
offthemeter: 8th man off the bench
Caleb: Like Jerry West says — you find talent in the draft. You fill needs through trades.
weiland: “not gonna be a superstar” Then why? Bayless just might be..
Thomas B.: Stern: “With the 6th pick the New york Knicks select….(What the hell)..Danilo Gallanari..(idiots).
Caleb: I didn’t see a point guard besides Rose who was more than a hope and a prayer
StrongIsland: 34% give the grade an F
offthemeter: thanks mike dantoni
weiland: Stats aren’t great. I just think the fact that Fran said “not gonna be a superstar” makes it a mistake.
Brian Cronin: Haha…some good commentary on the radio – “Remember, these are fans who can’t even pay for real games, so don’t pay attention to them”
mjkagan: did the fans boo or not?
Brian Cronin: The fans booed like crazy
Caleb: we could trade him for 10 & 21, or 10 and next year’s pick
Cmac: I like the pick
mjkagan: fair enough
Brian Cronin: This is not over yet. And even if it is, then whatever, the guy is a good player.
Caleb: but I don’t really mind keeping him
weiland: hero is Tayshaun Prince? Nice….
mjkagan: Caleb: Who would they take at 10?
T-Mart: well thank god Isiah’s europeon recruitment swing trip paid off!!!!!!!
dave crockett: What worries me most about the Gallinari selection is this? What do these guys really think was the problem with this team? Did they think it was that we don’t have enough scorers? Don’t worry about the defense? I know D’Antoni’s not a big defense guy but Phoenix wasn’t wretched they were middle of the pack on D.

How Does Marion Staying Put Affect the Draft?

As you may or may not have heard, while Shawn Marion and the Heat have not agreed to a new contract as of yet, Marion has announced that he will not opt out of the final year of his contract (I wouldn’t walk away from $17.8 million at his age, either).

With Marion definitely staying put, this apparently may affect Pat Riley’s decisions regarding the draft, specifically what he does with Michael Beasley. Read More

Mocking the Knicks’ Draft Pick

With a week until the NBA draft, I thought I’d go through the mock drafts on the web and see which players the Knicks are thought to take. Additionally I took each of these players & found were other mock drafts thought they would be selected.

NBADraft.net
Anthony Randolph, F

DraftExpress
Eric Gordon, SG

MyNBADraft
Russell Westbrook, PG

HoopsHype
OJ Mayo, PG

RotoExperts
Eric Gordon, SG

Chad Ford Mock 5.0
Russell Westbrook, PG

SBNation
Russell Westbrook, PG

InsideHoops
Danilo Gallinari, SF

NBC Sports
O.J. Mayo, SG

CollegeHoops
Eric Gordon, SG

Associated Content
Danilo Gallinari, SF

HoopsWorld
DJ Augustin, PG

FauxSports
Anthony Randolph, SF

MOCK Anthony Randolph, F Eric Gordon, SG O.J. Mayo, SG Danilo Gallinari, SF Russell Westbrook, PG DJ Augustin, PG
NBADraft.Net 6 7 3 10 11 12
Draft Express 12 6 3 10 7 11
MyNBADraft 10 7 3 8 6 11
HoopsHype 9 7 6 8 11 12
RotoExperts 10 6 2 7 11 8
Chad Ford 12 7 3 10 6 11
SBNation 8 4 3 15 6 11
InsideHoops 8 7 3 6 12 11
NBC Sports 7 3 6 12 10 13
College Hoops 8 6 3 12 10 11
Associated Content 8 7 2 6 11 12
HoopsWorld 10 8 3 13 7 6
FoxSports 6 7 3 10 11 12
AVG 8.8 6.3 3.3 9.8 9.2 10.8

Some thoughts:
Most people think OJ Mayo will be gone before the Knicks draft, but no one had him going past the Knicks. I found it ironic that these mockers would have both Memphis and Seattle passing the Mayo. The Grizzlies do have Mike Miller, but they could easily move him if they wanted. And besides do they see the 28 year old as a cog in their next playoff caliber team? As for the Sonics – I know they have Kevin Durant at SG, which kinda makes sense for the rail thin teenager. But like the folks that created the show Webster – you should really be thinking about what you’re going to do when the kid grows up. He’s going to be a forward sooner or later. You could even consider taking Mayo and trying him at point until everyone grows up. It seems shortsighted to pass on a talented player now, because your franchise player hasn’t filled out yet.

The next lowest player by average is Gordon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Knicks are most likely to take him. In the sampling above, the Knicks are just as likely to take Gordon as they are Westbrook. It’s just that a few mocks have Gordon going as high as 3 (Wolves), but not later than 8. While no one has Westbrook taken prior to the Knicks’ selection, but he falls as far as 12 (Kings).

It seems that Anthony Randolph and Gallinari have slipped on most boards. That report about coach D’Antoni being unimpressed with Gallinari’s video must have been noted by just about every draft expert. These two players are seemingly opposites: one has the athleticism (Randolph), the other the skill (Gallinari). GMs taking either of these will be gambling that their player can gain the opposite.

Oh and on a final note, when researching these I noticed that rotoexperts had team needs listed to each team. For the Knicks the author wrote: “Team Needs: PG, SF, PF”. I’d be curious how KB readers would rate the team’s needs by position, but if I were asked, PF would probably be last on my list. Needless to say if you’re running a fantasy team in my league this year, feel free to follow the advice of rotoexperts.