Category Archives: Offseason
“Trying to compare the Heat to anything that has ever come before is an exercise in futility. You have the best player in the league, who happens to LOVE to pass teamed up with the second-or-third best player, who also is pretty fond of passing to the open man. They may both have had similar styles, but they ended up in those styles due to their teams’ set-ups. How LeBron will act now that he can people to pass to who are good in their own right cannot be predicted with the information we have.
There’s never been anything like it before. Every Heat game is going to be worth watching, especially against the crappy teams, because you don’t know what sort of thing they’ll bring out when they’re way ahead. It wouldn’t surprise me if they have regular season games where Miller shoots 20 3s and scores 30+ points, just because they think it’d be fun to do. This Heat team goes way beyond special into the realm of surreal.”
That reminded me of a Chase Stuart post at PFR in October 2007:
Basketball is all about sharing, about unselfishness, about legends like Bill Russell doing whatever it takes to win. But apparently it’s also about who has the bigger… um, contract.
You see, all we heard these past few days was whether LeBron and D-Wade could co-exist as “Alpha Males”, or that LBJ joining Wade in Miami is supposedly something a true “Alpha Male” (ostensibly referring to Kobe or MJ) would never do… It’s curious that this hyper-macho view of basketball first began to emerge less than two decades ago, though. Like a commenter said yesterday, the Michael Jordan era was so transformative that we may very well have have convinced ourselves that the MJ-Pippen formula (and the Alpha-Beta designations contained therein) is the only way to view the game. Heck, Bill Simmons even wrote a 700-page book that revises the entirety of NBA history to match that ultramasculine theory of basketball.
Yet in those same pages Simmons also extolled the virtues of “The Secret”, which is allegedly about sacrificing numbers, money, and individual glory for team success… Well, isn’t what LeBron did last night the living embodiment of The Secret, leaving millions on the table and turning himself into a hometown villain, all for the sake of winning? If Vince Lombardi was right and “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”, then LeBron made the only rational decision last night. But the dirty secret of commentators like Simmons is that winning by itself is not good enough — you apparently also have to win while simultaneously vanquishing the idea of another male rival sharing your spotlight, because god forbid that another Alpha could possibly question your hoops authority when you’re doing all that winning.
Oh, but I forgot, basketball is the ultimate team game, and it’s all about sacrificing stats and glory for championships, right?
I guess this LeBron situation provides the ultimate opportunity for people to put their money where their cliches have been all these years.
Following up on yesterday’s post about newly-formed “Big Twos”, here are notable “Big Threes” from throughout NBA history, formed by taking at least 1 established star from another team. Just to be clear, this is not a list of the Greatest Big Threes Ever; rather, this is a list of combinations featuring players who had been the biggest focal points of their teams the previous year, and then were put together on one team, with each having to adjust to not being the clear-cut alpha dog anymore. Let’s go to the list: (note that none of these would even come close to matching the 97.3% combined possession rate the proposed LeBron James–Dwyane Wade–Chris Bosh trio had in 2009-10)
1. Michael Jordan, Jerry Stackhouse, & Larry Hughes, 2003 Wizards
Previous Combined %Poss: 89.6% (Jordan – 34.6%; Stackhouse – 32.1%; Hughes – 22.9%)
Previous Team Offensive Rating: 104.8
New Team Offensive Rating: 103.0
New Split of Possessions: 27% (Jordan) – 27% (Stackhouse) – 21% (Hughes)
Comparability to James-Wade-Bosh: Low. We touched on this one yesterday, but it’s tough to remember that Larry Hughes was also added to that Wizards team after being the primary facilitator on a Warriors squad that won just 21 games in 2002. The raw talent was certainly there for this group, but they were in the wrong place at the wrong time — Jordan had peaked 5-10 years earlier, Hughes wouldn’t peak until 2 years later, and Stack was what he always was, a high-volume/low-efficiency gunner.
It probably won’t happen for salary-cap reasons (somebody who’s considered a “max player” will have to take less than max money), but rumors swirled this week that prized free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh would join Dwyane Wade in Miami after an alleged weekend “summit” in which the 3 stars met to discuss their (collective?) futures.
Whether it happens or not, I was wondering how unprecedented this would be in NBA history. We would see a guy who used 35.1% of team possessions when on the court last year (Wade) combine with a guy who used 34.0% (James) and a guy who used 28.1% (Bosh). Has anything like this ever happened outside of an Olympic setting? How would the chemistry work — who would take the big shot? Would they trade it around? Who would be the Alpha Dog? Can you succeed with three Alpha Dogs?
Let’s look to history, starting today with “Big Twos” that were formed (I’ll look at “Big Threes” tomorrow). If Wade and James join forces, it would represent 2 teammates who had combined to use 69.2% of possessions the previous year… Has this ever happened before?
This week, the news Knicks fans have been hoping to hear finally came: David Lee and Nate Robinson re-signed with the club, each inking 1-year deals in the $5-7 million range that (most importantly) will not interfere with the Knicks’ long-awaited free agent pursuit of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or any of the other headliners in the star-studded FA class of 2010.
“Desmond is not ready to be relegated to a cheerleader and relegated to a mentor for the younger players,” [Mason’s agent] said. “Desmond’s got a lot left in the tank.”
Does he? Really?
Well, as you probably know if you’re reading this blog, it’s August 19 and Allen Iverson, the NBA’s 5th-leading scorer in terms of all-time points per game, is still an unrestricted free agent without a job. After playing a career-best 82 games and posting one of his better seasons ever during the 2007-08 campaign, Iverson’s reputation as a player took a huge hit last season when Denver traded him to Detroit for Chauncey Billups, a hometown favorite who quickly became the media’s go-to reason for the Nuggets’ surprise success. Making matters worse for A.I., Denver finally broke their playoff hex come springtime, while the Pistons languished as Iverson created a rift between Richard Hamilton and coach Michael Curry, and then was shut down for good with a back injury as Detroit almost missed the playoffs and were unceremoniously swept by the Cavs in the first round. So if you’re looking at Allen Iverson‘s stock right now, the price is just about as low as it’s ever been in his 13-year career.
Finishing out our series on big-name veterans who switched teams this summer, we turn to Richard Jefferson, acquired by the San Antonio Spurs in a predraft trade for Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas. Jefferson is not quite as old as the other guys we profiled in this series — at 29, he’s still theoretically hanging on to the tail end of his prime — but just as with Shaq, VC, and ‘Sheed, you get the distinct feeling when you look at RJ’s career numbers that his best days have come and gone.
Is that feeling true, though? Is RJ done as a star? Or was he ever even a star in the first place? And what can the Spurs expect to get from him going forward? First, check out Jefferson’s advanced numbers:
Having covered the moves made by the Lakers, Magic, and Cavaliers this offseason, we now turn our attention to the Boston Celtics, whose bid to repeat as champions in 2009 was derailed by a number of late-season injuries, including the especially catastrophic loss of Kevin Garnett for the entire playoffs. In the wake of that injury and the subsequent loss of Leon Powe, Boston was reduced to starting Glen Davis and giving significant minutes to Brian Scalabrine (!!) off the bench in their series loss to Orlando — a series which they managed to extend to 7 games despite the patchwork frontcourt. So when Boston opted not to bring the injured Powe back (and they may not re-sign Davis, either, depending on the offer he draws from another team), it was clear they needed to revamp their big-man situation before the window permanently closed on the mighty triumvirate of Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
Enter Rasheed Wallace…
Not to be outdone by the Magic’s draft-day acquisition of Vince Carter, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled the trigger on a trade of their own on June 26, finalizing a deal for Phoenix’s Shaquille O’Neal. It was a swap that had been bandied about at the trade deadline — but ultimately not completed — and when the Cavs were ousted in an Eastern Conference Finals upset by Orlando, more than a few observers pointed to GM Danny Ferry’s unwillingness to acquire O’Neal in-season as a mistake that possibly cost them the series. But now that the supposed blunder has been rectified, O’Neal is officially a teammate of LeBron James (having come at the relatively low price of Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, cash, and a 2nd-round pick), and he joins a team that won a league-best 66 games a year ago. However, at age 37, how much can the Big Aristotle realistically add to Cleveland’s championship chances?