Building A Champion

Kurt —  July 6, 2007

All the talk in Lakerland, and on this blog, whether it be about trades or free agents, is ultimately about building a champion. Commenter Reed sent along a detailed look at both what is the makeup of championship teams — and how the Lakers look compared to that. I pass along his very good and detailed thoughts.

All signs point to the Lakers attempting to placate Kobe by building an immediate contender. What exactly would this take? Looking back over the championship teams of this decade (Spurs, Heat, Pistons, Lakers) and even beyond that (Bulls, Rockets, Celtics), I believe it is essentially a two-step process: (1 Find 2-3 “stars” whose talents compliment each other, and; 2) Fill out the rotation with veteran role players who understand the nuances of the game, play defense, and whose skills supplement the stars. This seems obvious at first glance, but I think we (and several GM’s) overlook some of what it entails when analyzing roster moves.

To illustrate, listed below are the rotation players for the title teams of this decade. Some teams employed deeper rotations than others (rotation players are those consistently getting non-garbage minutes). In the parentheses I note: 1) the number of years that player has been in the league, and; 2) the age of the player — both at the time the title was won. The data on the three Lakers teams includes the principal role players from all three teams.

2007 Spurs

Duncan (10, 31)
Parker (6, 25)
Ginobili (5, 29)
Bowen (11, 35)
Oberto (2, 22)
Finley (12, 34)
Horry (15, 36)
Elson (4, 31)
Vaughn (10, 32)
Barry (12, 35)

2006 Heat

Shaq (14, 34)
Wade (3, 24)
Haslem (3, 27)
Walker (10, 29)
Williams (8, 30)
Posey (7, 29)
Payton (16, 37)
Mourning (14, 36)

2005 Spurs
Duncan (8, 29)
Parker (4, 23)
Ginobili (3, 27)
Bowen (9, 33)
Horry (13, 34)
Mohammed (7, 28)
Barry (10, 33)

2004 Pistons
Billups (7, 27)
Hamilton (5, 26)
B. Wallace (8, 29)
R. Wallace (9, 29)
Prince (2, 24)
Williamson (9, 30)
Hunter (11, 33)
Campbell (14, 35)

2003 Spurs
Duncan (6, 27)
Robinson (14, 37)
Parker (2, 21)
Ginobili (1, 25)
S. Jackson (3, 25)
Bowen (7, 31)
M. Rose (7, 28)

2000-2002 Lakers

Shaq (9, 29)
Kobe (5, 22)
Fisher (6, 26)
Fox (11, 31)
Horry (10, 30)
George (4, 24)
Shaw (12, 35)
Harper (13, 35)
Rice (10, 32)

Looking at these rosters, a couple common themes emerge:

1. Championship Teams Need 2-3 Stars that Compliment Each Other

We all know that it takes at least two legitimate, all-star players to build a contending team. What is often missed is that between them, these stars need to cover certain basketball skills at a high level and avoid serious redundancies. For example, the 2007 Spurs had three stars: Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. Between them, those three players excelled at every important basketball skill: post offense (Duncan), interior defense and rebounding (Duncan), playmaking (Parker, Ginobili), penetration (Parker, Ginobili), perimeter shooting (Ginobili), perimeter defense (Ginobili), transition offense (Parker), etc. On all of the decade’s title teams, there have been elite players covering the key aspects of the game, with some teams using a concentrated two-star approach, and others a more distributed three- or four-star model. Listed below are the key basketball skills and the star players from each title team filling that need:

• Interior defense: Duncan, Shaq, the Wallaces
• Post scoring and ability to draw double teams: Duncan, Shaq, Rasheed Wallace
• Playmaker capable of creating own shot and distributing: Parker/Ginobili, Kobe, Wade, Billups/Hamilton
• Perimeter shooting: Ginobili, Wade (a little weak), Kobe, Billups/Rasheed
• Perimeter defense: Ginobili, Wade, Kobe, Billups
• Penetration: Parker, Wade, Kobe, Billups

The previous championship teams of this era followed similar models, with 2-4 stars covering these key attributes: Bulls (Jordan, Pippen, Grant/Rodman), Rockets (Hakeem, Drexler), Lakers (Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Scott), and Celtics (Bird, McHale, Parrish, DJ).

The Lakers, as currently constructed, obviously do not have the requisite core of stars in place. They lack both a true second star, and first rate players that accomplish the various key skills. Kobe covers a great deal of ground by himself: perimeter scoring, playmaking, penetration, perimeter defense, and even post scoring. But the second star, Odom, is fairly redundant to Kobe. His main contributions cross over with Kobe’s: penetration and playmaking. He does fill a needed rebounding void, but he is not a skilled perimeter shooter and provides little true interior defense. Jermaine O’Neal and Kevin Garnett would be far, far better second stars. Not only because they are more talented than Odom (only mildly so with O’Neal), but because they better compliment Kobe by doing things he can’t do — namely, interior defense and post scoring.

2.The Role Players Must be Polished Veterans

The main point of this post is to recognize the types of role players that every championship team utilizes to compliment the core of stars. The lion’s share of our discussion has centered on which star to pursue and what price to pay. However, this overlooks the second, but equally as critical, step in building a title team — finding the right veteran role players. The Fisher story and Kurt’s post made us begin to think about what type of role players the Lakers need. I want to go a few steps further. For purposes of this post, I want to examine what role players we should pursue if we can bring in a better second star to compliment Kobe (Garnett or O’Neal). This puts the cart before the horse a little, but I think it is reasonable to assume the Lakers will attempt to placate Kobe by adding a bigger name.

Look back at the list of rotation players from this decade’s title teams, paying particular attention to the experience and age of the role players. What sticks out?

These players are OLD.

The vast majority of them are in their 30’s. They are savvy, polished, wise veterans who understand the nuances of the game. They are not high upside, uber-athletic, teenagers. In fact, most of the players are well on their way down physically.

Interesting observations from the role players on these eight title teams:

• Role players (non-“stars”) under 28 years old: 2007 Spurs (1); 2006 Heat (1); 2005 Spurs (0); 2004 Pistons (1); 2003 Spurs (1); 2000-2002 Lakers (2); Total: 6 out of 32 players.
• Role players over 30 years old: 2007 Spurs (6); 2006 Heat (3); 2005 Spurs (3); 2004 Pistons (3); 2003 Spurs (1); 2000-2002 Lakers (5); Total: 21 out of 32 players.
• Rookie role players: zero from all teams.
• Role players with less than four years experience: 5 out of 32 players.

The overwhelming majority of role players from these teams were over 30 years old and in excess of ten years experience in the league. Players like Horry, Bowen, Finley, Mourning, Fox, Harper, etc. These are players with diminishing athletic ability and low PER’s, but a wealth of experience and knowledge that bring subtle contributions not found in a stat sheet. When placed next to a sufficient core of superstars, these elderly role players are more valuable than their more talented, younger counterparts on other teams. For example, Bruce Bowen — he of the 7.12 PER that screams NDBL — is more valuable to the Spurs than someone like Vince Carter or Rashard Lewis would be. Or, look at it this way — Rick Fox was more valuable to the Lakers than Glen Rice. The flip side: a team made up of such role players, disconnected from the stars, would be simply awful.

What do these aged wonders bring to the table? Why do title teams almost exclusively rely upon them to the exclusion of younger, more talented players? They bring an understanding of the intricacies of the game. They understand proper floor spacing on offense and how to make the extra pass; they make the pass that leads to the assist. They defend the pick and roll. They pick up penetrating guards without fouling. They understand how to set meaningful picks; and how to fight through screens to avoid unnecessary switching and mismatches. They make intelligent cuts and defend the backdoor. They box out and generate offensive tip outs. They understand how to use pump fakes; and how to avoid being tempted by them. They know how to feed the post without picking up the dribble. They stay out of foul trouble and avoid putting the team in the penalty too early. They make open shots and force their opponents to shoot with a hand in the face. They draw charges. They move intelligently without the ball and do not get lost tracking their men through a flurry of screens. They have mastered the concepts of team defense, knowing when to double, when to stay home, and when to sag into the paint. They know when to shoot and when to defer to the superstar. They create perfect spacing on three on one fastbreaks; and are deft at disrupting such attacks. They are not scared of pressure, having been there before. Off the court, they encourage an environment of respect for authority and the coach. They promote unity, good practice habits, and discipline on road trips.

Think back on the glory role players of the Laker title teams. Think about Rick Fox roughing up Peja Stojakovic and cutting to the basket for a pass from Shaq (getting about 2 inches off the ground for an ugly left handed finish). Think about Derek Fisher being perfectly spaced on the perimeter to make an open three pointer after a double team on Shaq or Kobe. Think about Robert Horry frustrating Tim Duncan and Chris Webber with his post defense, despite being physically overmatched. Now, these players were not perfect, of course. They were seriously flawed. But they understood the subtleties of the game, didn’t make mistakes, were calm under pressure, and knew when to get out of Shaq and Kobe’s way. They were consummate role players.

The Current Laker Roster

Where is the current Laker team in this process of building a contender? The Lakers are not positioned to immediately contend. They have neither the right core of stars nor a stable of veteran role players. They are a young, developing, up and coming team. Aside from Kobe, Odom and Walton, their key players are still very raw. Bynum is 19, Kwame 25, Farmar 20, Crittenton 19, Turiaf 24, Radmanovic 26. With Kobe only 28 and Walton and Odom 27, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The team is full of talent, with a dynamic young center, two promising young point guards, two veteran, versatile forwards, and the best player in the league with a few years left in his prime. The team also showed signs of being well ahead of schedule last year, with a 26-13 start (despite missing Odom and Kwame for significant stretches of those early games). With another year or two of growth, especially from Bynum and the point guards, the team might be well positioned to overtake the Western powers as they age (Nash and Duncan are on the wrong side of 30). However, this is likely irrelevant. Kobe refuses to wait; he is convinced his window is fast closing. The fans call for immediate change. Prudent or not, big changes are coming.

The point of this post is that the Lakers are two big steps away from contending. Even if they bring in a Garnett or O’Neal, the stars will be surrounded by young, raw, inexperienced role players. As shown above, this is not how teams win titles. Farmar, Crittenton, Turiaf, and Radmanovic may all have great potential, but none of them understand the intricacies of the game. None of them have been playoff tested. They would be eaten alive by the Spurs cagey veterans in an intense playoff series (see Barbosa against the Spurs). Reflect back on Bynum and Turiaf fouling every guard attacking the lane; Smush taking miscalculated risks for steals; Radmanovic spacily roaming around on offense, destroying triangle spacing; Kwame trying to generate pick and roll after pick and roll on the triangle strong side with Farmar or Evans (can you think of a worse pick and roll duo than Evans/Kwame?); Sasha dribbling around mindlessly; Cook refusing to box out; etc., etc. These players are not ready.

So, if the Lakers are committed to immediately contending and bringing in a second star for Kobe, they must also address their youth and bring in a few older, veteran role players. Whether by the midevel or trade, they need a few Bowen’s, Horry’s, and Fox’s. Fisher has suddenly appeared as one possibility. Does he have anything left? Is Blake ready? What about Posey (a favorite of mine — his defense was key to the Heat defeating the Mavs two years ago)? Who else is out there? Is it worth it to trade away most of our prized young assets both for a second star and older, less talented role players? I propose that if the Lakers are sacrificing the future for Garnett, they must go “all in” and also seek the right mix of elderly supplemental players. It seems hasty to make such a drastic course change, so quickly. But unless Kobe softens, caution is not likely to be the watchword of the summer.

Kurt

Posts

56 responses to Building A Champion

  1. Reed – great analysis. You and Kurt have great basketball minds and are wonderful writers. Thanks!

  2. Fantastic analysis. I think it hits it right on the head. I keep hearing people say all we need is Garnett and we can contend. But as you point out it requires more than that.

  3. Love the analysis–much more insightful than the generic “analysis” regurgitated by “sports writers.”

    If the vets are invaluable, why do so many of them have terrible PER’s? Should not their contributions measure statistically–especially vets playing for good teams where they enjoy the synergy described in your post?

  4. 3 – PER is not the end all of statistics. They don’t completely encompass how good a player is. They are good for a quick snapshot but don’t tell the whole story.

    Reed did a great job explaining the subtle things vets do that fly under the statistical radar. Re-read his analysis and you will see why not everything is shown in PER.

  5. BTW I enjoyed your analysis Reed. Unfortunately I don’t believe those changes can all be made in one year. I don’t think it would be wise to even try and make those changes in one year. I believe going after Garnett is the right thing to do and if possible a nice pick up or two with the MLE and Veterans min.

    No other trades of our core. See how the team does and see what is still lacking and then make the necessary changes the next year. I believe Kobe will be a little bit more patient if we get Garnett.

  6. that was pretty persuasive.

    to me there were two glaring problems with the lakers that may or may not be addressed by Reed’s analysis:
    1. the lakers lacked organization and intensity on defense.
    2. no one besides kobe and lamar could create their own shot. (On top of that, Lamar wasn’t consistent with this aspect of his game.) However, the role players on those championship teams could often create some kind of mismatch with their defender.

  7. Good post Reed. Two other “championship variables”: 1) luck and 2) health.

    Dallas is missing those key vets you speak of, and it cost them a title series in ’06 and gave them a 1st rd. out in ’07.

  8. Good analysis. However, you mean “complement” instead of “compliment.”

  9. Excellent post Reed, truly excellent. This is what seperates real basketball minds like Reed and Kurt from gossipers like Jim Gray and Ric Bucher.

    I agree that even if we make a JO or KG trade, that is not going to be enough because they would not have the necessary role players… but it is step 1.

    Step 2 would be to bring in some vets to play alongside them and let our youth core of Bynum, Farmar, Crittendon, Walton (or who is left after a trade) play behind them and learn.

    If you guys remember, back in 99, Fox Horry and Fisher were all starters with Kobe and Shaq and we could not get it done because they were still young pups. The Lakers then brought in AC Green, Glen Rice and Ron Harper and let Fish Fox and Horry play behind them. The result was a ring. Slowly after that the older players stepped aside as Fish Fox and Horry learned from them, became mature and became ready to do these things themselves.

    If the Lakers do get KG, it would take probably until at least next season to surround them with championship caliber role players, but KG and Kobe and Laker fans would all be on board with a “2-3 year” plan as opposed to the “who knows how long they are thinking” plan we have now.

  10. Reed, JONES was right, you do need your own blog. Great stuff.

    I do think it’s possible to get there fairly soon. I think Kobe/Luke/Lamar should be the core, add a second star like Pau of JO if possible using Bynum/Crittenton/Kwame/future picks as bait, pick up Fisher with part of the MLE and the rest on another cagey vet (can we get Posey AND Fisher? probably a stretch) and we’d conceivably be a second tier team next year with some health, and maybe with a couple smart additions next year and maybe Farmar and Vlad coming into their own more, I could see us being in a position to contend the following year.

  11. Guys like Critterton and Bynum would be top 10 picks if they played 2-3 years in college. It’s unquestioned that the talent is there.

    I believe it’s not in the Lakers’s best interest to try to immediately placate Kobe and destroy the young talent. At the very least, try to grab one or two solid veterans, but let the core young guys have one more year. They are on notice from Kobe the Landlord…

    Does anyone know what Bynum’s been up to this summer? I wonder if he’s working out like a mad man, motivated by Kobe’s comments and finally appreciating his call and talent.

  12. This is all very good.

    One thing you didn’t mention that I think you’re heading towards is that old role players work because the stars draw enough attention to make physical limitations less important. Things like floor spacing and fighting through screens are enough when most of what these guys need to do in terms of creating involves running three feet to catch a pass for an open jumper.

    Oberto is 32, by the way, not 22.

  13. Kurt, I’m going to steal Reed so he can post over at my blog too…hahahaha.

    Great analysis as usual

  14. News
    ====
    Andres Nocioni agreed to a five-year deal to return to the Chicago Bulls, and there is a team option for a sixth year.

    “He’s glad to be back,” George Bass, Nocioni’s agent, said Friday. “We’ve been very aggressively working on it.”

    The deal officially cannot be signed before July 11. Financial terms were not available, but the Chicago Tribune reported it was for approximately $38 million. Nocioni was a restricted free agent who had drawn the attention

    Artest Rumor and More
    ==============
    http://www.hoopsworld.com/article_22617.shtml

  15. Great analysis, Reed. A pleasure to read after so much rumor-mongering this NBA summer.

    There might be a sub-piece to champions. It happens infrequently so it can’t be planned on with certainty: the breakout year player. The 02-03 Spurs spring to mind. It’s hard to remember a time when Tony Parker wasn’t a star, but that’s exactly what he wasn’t in his sophomore season. You know, the year he started for the Spurs and played a huge role in their championship. He was 20-21 at the time.

    Is there a single Lakers fan who wasn’t thinking, “Who is this guy!” during the post-season as Parker was killing the Lakers?

    Now I don’t think you can run a basketball team expecting that sort of thing to happen. You need to run with reasonable expectations, not magic. But the Lakers do have at least 2 players who could fall into the potential breakout category right now. Andrew and Jordan. Though he’s older, Luke could count as a third. Not to emerge as a star in his own right, but to emerge as one of those “cagey vets” we love.

    It’s hard to find myself agreeing with Mitch (somewhat). I don’t think the Lakers are as far off as it looks. Two piecee (as Reed suggested) seems about right. But if just one can come from growth within the organization, adding that vet or two could make more of a difference than it seems now. My bet, from how Mitch has talked, is that this is how they are operating. The Lakers are going to get a solid vet role-player, or two if possible. But I don’t expect a big name. The team is going to gamble for one more year that a youngster is going to fill out the third star role.

    And they should. The Buss family has often rolled the bones as team owners. This is high-risk, high-reward at its finest. The Lakers have two reasonable chances for breakout young stars this coming season. In the NBA, that’s a lot.

    Standing pat may be the most daring move of all for this team.

  16. Well said. I hope that Mitch has the nerve to not make impulsive, Conference re-defining shifts. Those are never cheap and we will mortgage our future for some time. Any team, at least as long as I’ve been watching the game, the last 25 years, has had some time developing, growing up, failing, finally succeeding. If the Lakers are going to compete, Mitch has to lead the organization and not cede real control to the supposed pressure of sports talk, the supposed wishes of fans for a quick fix, and Kobe, if that’s what he wants. It really irritates me that such a fortunate man as Kobe Bryant is about the most petulant person one sees. A guy that fortunate should have a much better attitude. So far Mitch has resisted the temptation to go for the quick fix, to his credit, and I hope he continues to.

  17. Nice work.

    Not to get all old school, but I thought of these guys while reading your post. esp. Michael Cooper.

    Magic
    Kareem
    AC Green
    Scott
    Worthy

    Rambis, Cooper

    Those veterans can’t be measured statistically. (See Robert Horry and regular season) As Reggie Jackson said, they are, “the straw that stirs the drink.”

  18. Reed, great points, but let’s take Kobetalk out of the analysis.

    I basically agree with your emphasis on veteran backup players, but you may be overstating your case. There is no formula–and the times are always changing.

    Just in terms of the Lakers, I can think of championship players who had key roles and were young (Kareem)–even very young (Magic). The playoff game in which Magic played all three postions comes to mind.

    I can think of a very veteran team that didn’t make it to the championship (the last Laker team with SHAQ) in part because they over-relied on the older veterans (Payton over Fisher, not playing Walton against Detroit until it was too late–and having no young backup for Karl Malone).

    The full impact of the salary cap is just beginning to be felt, but it seems to dictate that all teams have players of various maturities and/or a good farm system.

    Though you dwelled on age, you failed to mention how many players on recent championship teams were not born in the USA (including all 3 “stars” from San Antonio). These players could be experienced world champions without ever having played in the NBA.

    A championship bound team often acquires those older role player at the last minute, possibly giving the retrospective analyst a false impression of how old the “team” really was.

    If the Lakers are to be involved, the trade for Garnett depends on Garnett himself–and I’m not privvy to his thoughts. The best bet is next year (when he controls his own destiny) or later this season (when he sees himself in the same treadmill and really wants out). I sense that a trade for Garnett is slow freight.

    I wouldn’t want a deal for Jermaine this year without a contract extension–and then I’d be leery. Consider who his teammates have been. . .

    Nevertheless, I don’t see the Lakers standing pat.

    Since Laker management seems to have that Cheshire cat confidence, I have been speculating about a plan C for this year. If that goes by the board, I’ll look for a D or E.

    So far, it’s Pau Gasol.

    Never be afraid to think outside the box.

  19. warren (philippines) July 6, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    I am amazed as to how particularly descriptive Kurt and Reed are in describing our needs without being particular in person.
    It is indeed an awesome post, something every Laker fan should read on the way to work, in the bathroom or while riding the train.

    I like how Reed emphasized the need for JO or KG as supposed to popular sentiment that we keep Odom. The problem is, the price may be too steep to pay. How many guys in the league right now can demand the double like these 2 could? I can name a handful only. Those with polished post moves that is enough to kill you should you decide to play one-on-one. Best of all, their games complement that of Kobe’s and not duplicate.

    I also agree that Luke is our 1st step to this search for veterans we have. He does not show it in the stat sheets but he is definitely a very effective (not efficient) triangle player.
    Aside from Luke, there is no more. Mitch should be “keen” on looking at the veterans that fit our needs. If not, even the Kobe-KG tandem will not even come close to the glory road of contending championships.

  20. The Golden State Warriors have signed Brandan Wright, the eighth overall selection in last week’s NBA Draft, to a contract, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Mullin announced today.
    Because of this contract, Wright can not be traded for 30 days.
    Could it mean also no KG for the Warriors?!

  21. drrayeye,
    While everyone is commenting on Kurt and Reed, I think your addition to the blog is also very insightful. The salary cap has changed how teams can be built. It means clubs have to add something and subtract something each and every year to develop. The skill is in knowing what to add and what to subtract.

    The Lakers do have two potential breakout players and I submit we should be very careful before trading them. They also drafted well this year. My only problem with trading Kawame and Bynum for Gasol is that we lose rebounding and inside presence for additional scoring – not exactly our weaknesses last year. I do not see that we gain much on the defensive end. Someone please enlighten me on where I am wrong here.

  22. Question >
    Is it true that
    Fisher can not take a max MLE becuase it is 6 yrs long and under the new CBA rules players over 36 are not guaranteed a contract. So any contract fisher signs will only be guaranteed for the first 3 years? Thanks in Advance

  23. I appreciate all the insights. I wish I could have received them before writing, but I guess that is not the point…

    I agree that there are numerous factors in producing a championship and not one guaranteed forumula. You need the right mix of star players, role players, luck, health, chemistry, continuity, coaching, etc., etc. My main point is that if the Lakers choose to bring in immediate, additional star power to contend, they also need to look at bringing in a few veteran role players to do the little things.

    Looking at the Laker roster, this is not the path I would necessarily advocate. Too much has to happen too fast and they have gathered a promising collection of young talent. Even if Garnett and a few strong veterans are acquired, a championship team usually needs a few years together to build chemistry and rapport. But, if we go all in, we need to realize our young players are not ready to go toe to toe with the Spurs. I believe Kobe’s hard line stance will pressure bold changes, but we will see.

    I agree with Skigi that the best path might be to give all we can for Garnett and then make additional moves one year at a time. That more moderate approach makes a lot of sense. It also gives our young players time to grow into the roles we need from them.

    Rob L. has wonderful thoughts on the potential for our own players to break out into the needed third star and/or savvy role players. Walton understands the game and I believe he can contribute like a Fox, Finley, or Horry. Bynum, Farmar, and Crittenton are also loaded with potential and may surprise us soon with impact play. Perhaps irrationally, I am very pro-Bynum and would lament seeing him go for anyone but Garnett. There just aren’t very many big men with his combination of skill, hands, touch, and size. If he can quickly become a finsiher and foul-free shot-blocker, we are in business. But, he hasn’t shown us he is on any kind of expedited path to greatness.

    Drrayeye’s comments, as always, were also right on. The foreign market is increasingly producing hidden stars and polished older veterans. The Spurs have tapped this resource in finding both types of players. He also notes that young players have often driven teams to titles (Magic, Parker, Wade, Kobe, Bird, etc.). In my mind, when a really young player “gets it” and combines athleticism, skill, and veteran know-how — they become “stars,” not role players. That’s why I didn’t include those young studs in my role player analysis. But, that is really just a matter of semantics.

  24. I would much rather see the Lakers sink or swim with their drafted talent (Bynum, Farmar, Turiaf, Crittendon, Walton) than junk it all for KG and some veterans, even if that latter scenario leads to a championship. Even if the wildest dreams come true, what happens in the succeeding years as that team ages? The fact is that buying/trading your way to a championship is extremely unlikely, so I’d rather build for the long term and have multiple shots at a championship down the line, rather than playing for one good shot in the next few years to pacify Kobe.

    This is purely from a fan’s perspective — I enjoy following players and watching them grow over the years into stars.

  25. Age does not affect gauranteed contracts. What does happen is the NBA completely changes the cap value of the contract if any yrs are after the player turns 36. First the NBA assumes a player will retire at 36. Therefore in a contract that has yrs past 36,the NBA treats that post-36 salary as deferred compensation and prorates it to the pre 36 yr salaries. If the player signed an MLE and had yrs after 36 the prorated portion would make the salary over the allowed MLE which is not allowed so the contract has to be reworked and the player ends up w/less money over full contract. As player continues to play,2 yrs before his 36 yr the leagues averages his cap salaries w/the after 36 yrs(which are $0 yrs)and then divies that up and gets a new cap figure for the 2 yrs and the after 36 yrs.
    The purpose is to close a loophole by a team giving a vet a 5yr MLE knowing player will retire after 4 yrs,thus giving him 5yrs of salary for 4yrs of work.
    For a simplified example a team gives a 32 yr old a 6yr/$30mil($5mil/yr for 6 yrs). The NBA assuming the player retires at 36,thus the 5,6 yrs are considered delayed compensation. The first yrs $5mil is 25% of the 4 yrs before 36 total,so 25%x$10mil(5+6yrs)=$2.5mil,thus first yr is now $7.5mil,and so on.If the team didn’t have $7.5mil in cap space/MLE they would have to reduce the money overall so it fits under cap.
    Now if he keeps playing,his 3,4 yrs($7.5mil+$7.5mil) and the 5,6 yrs(0+0) are added,then divided,so the remaining 4 yrs have a cap value of $3.75mil.
    Hope this helps.

  26. Thank you Stephen. That does help, a lot.

  27. Craig W/Reed,

    Thank you for your kind comments.

    I think we all share Reed’s concerns, well expressed. Even the Lakers brain trust probably would agree.

    However, they seem to think that they can have their cake and eat it too: trade for a star and add veterans without destroying the team spirit and the core.

    I’m wondering how they intend to do it.

    Some negotiations (Sac’to, Denver) have been non starters. Others haven’t gone so well. Sometimes they’ve just laughed hard. The Lakers have been shot down by the T’Wolves and are at loggerheads with the Pacers–yet they carry themselves as if a substantial deal has been made.

    I’ve put two and two together and come up with–Pau.

    Given that I’m “way out” there–out of sight in the thick grass of left field–you can ask me: why Pau Gasol? Because his game is most complementary to Kobe and best suited to the triangle. Compared to Garnett, O’Neal, and/or Odom, Pau gets the most points posting up–and his points/rebound numbers are very similar to Garnett and O’neal. Defensively, he holds his own against the big power forwards in the Western Conference. He doesn’t do so well as a defensive center. He’s young (26); he still has his speed and is still affordable: less than $14 Million. Yet he’s an international star with world playoff experience.

    What would make the Grizzlies give up the best player on their team? Andrew Bynum. The Grizzlies have just drafted Conley, but the Trailblazers got Oden. How can a point guard set up his center when his team has no center? Where can one find a true center matched in age to Conley–even next year in the draft?

    Need I say more?

    Since Pau is a power forward at about $14 million–and Odom earns about the same for the Lakers–it would be a salary and position wash with improved chemistry and performance likely for the Lakers–and maybe for the Grizzlies too. I think Odom would love to be a Grizzlie team leader with the young guys–until a championship team trades for him mid season. The Grizzlies are a perfect place for Bynum to mature for the next 3-5 years. Maybe the Lakers can bring Bynum back as a free agent then?

    Since Bynum is a center, he should be traded for the Grizzlies’ acting center–Stromile Swift. We would be replacing our center of the future (Bynum) for a veteran defensive presence in Lakerland (Swift) right now.

    Depending on the need, we’d have Kwame, Stromile, or Ronny at the center position. In a pinch, Pau could also fill in. That’s without re-signing Chris Mihm.

    Wouldn’t that move us in the right direction right now?

    Could that be how the Lakers are thinking? Do they already have a deal?

    I don’t know.

    But if my thinking isn’t outside the box-it’s real close!

  28. Renato Afonso July 7, 2007 at 5:35 am

    Great job Reed.

    We all agree with Reed in what makes a championship team. However, I don’t think you should relate age with veteran savvy directly. Of course, the for most players it’s proportional, but you have a few exceptions to it (see Walton).

    So, we have 2 stars who kinda duplicate themselves (not exactly but fairly close to it), 1 “vet” (walton) and 2 young players with lots of potential and on the verge of having a breakout season.

    While it doesn’t sound championship right away, we all believe that this same team with a couple of “vets” would be a force to be recognized even out west and could be a couple of years away from playing in the finals. And the Lakers fans believe it more than anyone else in the league for one sole reason: these are our players! As Kurt said a few months ago, we recoginze this team as players that either had their breakthrough in LA or were brought in at a very young age. It is hard to think about trading a player when you think about him as one of our own.

    Just check it…

    Jordan (UCLA – drafted by the Lakers)
    Kobe (…)
    Walton (drafted by the Lakers)
    Odom (original team was the Clippers and had a run with Wade before joining us… loves the Lakers)
    Bynum (high risk draft choice by the Lakers)
    Kwame (rejected by the Wizards and trying to find himself with us… We have a soft spot for him, really, hear others talk)
    Mihm (Do you remember seeing him playing in green? I don’t)
    Turiaf (drafted by the Lakers and the whole story afterwards)
    Fisher (he did look better in purple and gold, didn’t he?)
    Cook (not a favorite, but still played only in our colors)

    Evans and Radman are the only ones we don’t really connect with, but we still have faith in them.

    All of this makes those Kobe statements far more difficult to hear/read and if we could get equal value for Kobe, we would all trade him in a second. But since we can’t, it’s hard for us to part with any of those guys right now.

    And that’s we like that Gasol option so much, as it forces us to part with less of our “own”. However, should KG be available, we have an obligation to try going for it (thanks a lot #24).

    PS: Would McHale take LO and Kwame + draft pick for KG? Would HATE to see LO go for all stated above, but Reed is right… And I’m also pro-Bynum and would not like to see him leave for anyone!!!!

  29. warren (philippines) July 7, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I am not pro Bynum but I dont hate the guy. I believe he can be a 15-10-3 guy WHEN he wants it and when he gets it. At age 19, he is still figuring the world out. Read that Kwame story by the Washington Post? I believe thats what Baby Bynum is going through. And worse, he is in LA and beside Kobe!

    With the truckload of injuries last year, Bynum was unexpectedly “exposed” to the world. Suddenly, teams began to notice the “project” we had. He was supposed to be a secret weapon to blow up in 3-4 years time. He was only supposed to play 10-15 minutes of exposure and to not have pressure in his head while Kareem continues to teach the young man about life and basketball.

    Voila! Now, the Lakers can’t seem to do any deal without him being asked of. Whats worse, the Kobe tirade has us tiptoeing to the rest of the league. It will be the customary give us Bynum or no deal stance that everyone will impose on Mitch Kupchak. Life Sucks, I know.

    In light of all these, I know its popular consensus that we only give up our main assets for a KG deal only. Even at KG, some prefer to balk and leave some room for growth instead of paying the steep price. But how about a deal to acquire JO without losing Bynum? Being able to play PF and C allows JO to dominate most of the minutes while Bynum “learns”. He can be on pace to playing the backup role that he is supposed to be doing while waiting for his own time.

    I am suggesting Lamar + Kwame + Crittenton for JO and Foster. The deal essentially gives us the much-needed post presence and interior defense, PF for PF and C for C. The only drawback would be losing Crittenton and I would assume that is better than losing Bynum in the deal.

    Is this any good?

  30. chris henderson July 7, 2007 at 9:09 am

    all this talk about needing smart, hustling veterans, and I don’t see any one talking about Mo Evans.
    I really enjoyed watching him last year, he hustles, runs the wing very well, and when he was healthy, really hit the boards and was active around the rim.
    one of our great deficiencies last year, IMO, was our lack of rebounding, blocking out, fundamentals, it seemed like we were 1 shot and out, especially if Kobe was cold, and we were run out of the game in a stretch like that.
    both Cook and Bynum used to frustrate me to no end, Kwame too, because they’d just watch the shot go up, like spectators, and not get into position for a rebound.
    we need guys like Mo and Ronnie to become our vet role players, (Ronnie is a vet because of his maturity from his life experience), be our Rambis/AC Green/Fox vet kind of guys.
    essentially, what I am saying is, don’t we have these guys on our team already?

  31. I agree with many who say we should essentially stand pat and let our young players develop together. Make a strong push for Garnett, but don’t overpay for others. Make more moderate trades using Kwame’s expiring contract and antother asset or two (one of our point guards?) for a strong third piece. Then let it gel over the next season or two. The problem, again, is that Kobe means business. He (correctly) sees the team is a few years away and what Wade and Lebron are doing out East and does not want to let any more of his prime years slip away. Hopefully he can be talked off the ledge.

    I think many contending team’s failure to bring in a the needed older veterans is more due to focus than cost. Drrayeye notes that older players often come quickly as final additions. This is right. They also are usualy relatively cheap. As we’ve seen with the Spurs, Lakers, Heat, and Bulls title teams, once the requisite core of stars is in place, the critical veterans usually find their own way to the teams for little cost (Finley, Horry, Mourning, Payton, etc.). Many of the veterans who really understand the game are also the type to sacrifice money late in their careers for genuine championship opportunities. I believe that if Garnett were in the fold, we might suddenly find two or three polished role players searching us out. So, trading away our young players is more of an issue in finding additional star power. Once that is done, we can use less drastic means for step 2 — the veteran’s exception, small expiring contracts (Sasha, Evans), redundant role players (Cook, Sasha, Radmanovic), and future draft picks.

    I have mixed feelings on Gasol. He is an elite offensive post player (7th highest PER, ahead of Garnett, Nash, Brand, Amare, Boozer, etc.). He attacks the basket, shoots a high percentage, and is one of the very best passing big men in the game (3.4 assists last year, 4.6 the year before). He would flourish in the triangle. However, as Craig noted, the team is fine offensively and really needs interior defense. I’m not sure Gasol would help us there. In fact, I believe Bynum will quickly develop into a superior defender. I’d probably rather keep Bynum and turn Kwame into a lesser player, but it is an interesting idea.

  32. I love Mo Evans too. He has his limitations, but he hustles, is athletic, and is a fantastic first wing off the bench.

  33. warren (philippines) July 7, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Reed, how about the JO deal I proposed? Well it does not sacrifice our young guns in Bynum and Farmar aside from the recently added Crittenton.

  34. How about keeping Baby Bynum and sending Lamar for Pau?

  35. I would quickly make any deal for Oneal that did not involve both Odom and Bynum, so I like your deal. I think Oneal and Bynum could be a devestating “twiin tower” defensive force at the rim and they can both finish in the paint. It might take Bynum a little while to get there, but Oneal would take a lot of pressure off of him on both ends. Kobe and Walton would be able to take over most of Odom’s duties. Keeping Bynum also gives us something to build around longer term.

    On the flip side, keeping Odom and sending Bynum makes great sense as well (more in the short run and less for the future). While Odom does not work well as a second star to Kobe, he would be an ideal third piece behind him and Oneal. With Oneal manning the paint and Kobe doing his thing, Odom would be able to fill in the cracks with his all around team play — his specialty.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Indy budges by taking only one so long as New Jersey has a Jefferson-Krstic offer on the table.

  36. (29, 35) I would also do the JO trade if you could get Indiana to take one or the other. I would prefer them taking Odom but I think they really want Bynum.

    (31) I disagree about Gasol. I think he is an underrated defensive player. He is not great at guarding one-on-one with stronger PFs but he is an adequate shot blocker and good on help defense. If he plays PF with a good defensive center that will lessen any deficiencies he has at that end. Also playing a zone would help as well. Someone mentioned a Odom and Bynum for Gasol and swift. That is overpaying but I would rather overpay for Gasol than JO. I think Gasol would excel in the triangle because of his ability to play both the high and low post. And his passing ability will also help. Keeping Kwame will allow Gasol to play at his more natural position of PF. A front court of Gasol and Kwame would not be too bad defensively. I’m not too high on Swift but their is only two years left on his contract and he might make a good trading commodity around the trade deadline. Plus at 25 he will just be entering his prime in 3-4 years when Kobe starts to get out of his. A Gasol trade though is probably just wishful thinking.

    There is some speculation on the Lakers trading for Artest. I don’t know how true they are but it would be something like kwame and Crittenton for Artest. I don’t think the rumors have any merit but what do you guys think of trading for Artest?

  37. in short i think with the nba’s shape now its more of an inside-out or hi-low threat that’s needed (now don’t ask me how jordan’s bulls got those championships because that is something i cannot really get)

    on a different note that just goes to show how tough the lakers used to be hehe imagine having glen rice as a third option (or if im not mistaken there was a time they also had mitch richmond)

    i also think that a team should have one of those goofy relax guys in the team, something for the locker room environment i guessi remember mark madsen during the laker championship days, but i think ronny turiaf already fills in pretty nicely there.

  38. This League needs 2 new expansion teams. There is far too much talent out there to have less teams than a league like the NFL that fields 22 starting players.

    Maybe then the 2nd round of the draft would have more significance. And there would be less unfortunate players that get sent over to Europe right out of college.

    St. Louis, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, and Vancouver are some obvious spots for new teams. I would love to see it happen.

  39. Reed stresses the importance of veterans in championship teams. For the Lakers, maybe it’s practical basketball knowledge rather than age–especially upfront.

    Kobe an Luke are the sons of NBA players. Kobe and Luke had direct and regular exposure to NBA players growing up and are basketball junkies. They had “veteran” knowledge their first year in the NBA.

    Growing up in big time LA basketball with gym rat tendencies, Farmar is not far behind.

    Kobe, Luke, and Farmar seem to have an instinctive feel for basketball. They are three of our 5 starters.

    Kwame’s father and several of his brothers are in jail–and he didn’t go to college. Not a lot of NBA players stopped by his town for a little one-on-one while he was in high school. He’s neither a gym rat nor a basketball junkie. He’s had to get his basketball knowledge on the job–and he’s been in two systems trying to learn two positions. Even after years in the NBA, he may have less knowledge of basketball than Kobe, Luke, or Jordan had as rookies.

    As a basketball player, Bynum is where Kwame was five years ago.

    They might have learned a bit from Mihm, who is almost a veteran and has played center in the triangle–but he’s been injured.

    The other Lakers are somewhere in between.

    The Euros:

    Sasha knows something about basketball, but it is european basketball. Played three years in the european league. He has had a hard time learning the triangle.

    Turiaf knows about both european and American basketball, graduated from Gonzaga, and has had playoff world and NCAA experience. It shows.

    Radmanovich has been in the NBA 6 years and qualifies as a veteran–but played his rookie year in the triangle injured.

    Mo Evans played college (Texas with Mihm) and international (where he got his reputation) and the NBA. His background is very similar to Turiaf and he has become a valuable veteran.

    Players with more years (besides Kwame):

    Odom was a known player in high school, was briefly a superstar in college, and left early for the NBA. The Lakers are his third NBA team. Though he is clearly a veteran, he still makes rookie mistakes, suggesting that he never was taught the basics. There are telltale signs. In one game last year, when he couldn’t find anyone to pass to from out of bounds, he just dribbled it out.

    Cook is the son of a player who played in the NBA, had other relatives that played in college, and had four years at the U. of Illinois. He has to know the game mentally. He’s close to being a veteran. Yet, he seems to almost completely lack the hustle and reflex parts of the game–both on rebounds and defense. He is almost the antithesis of Shawn Marion. Maybe Cook would not stand out so badly if his teammates up front understood and played team basketball.

    Now that the Smusher is gone, and except for Crittendon, lack of basketball smarts and/or experience for the Lakers is up front.

    Having a big guy who posts up, understands basketball, has experience, and is quick enough and diligent enough to play team defense: that’s the missing piece that will solidify the team. Pau Gasol might be better than Garnett or Jermaine to provide that chemistry.

  40. Great thoughts from everybody, hadn’t even considered Gasol before. Plus we could play him together with his brother.

    As far as KG goes, wouldn’t the most reasonable course and maybe also the quickest to serious title contention be to wait before trading for him?

    It seems that the market for KG’s contract is getting smaller (Bobcats, Suns) and that KG will also have a great deal of influence regarding possible destinations. So the T’Wolves’ position will probably get weaker over time.

    Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but can’t KG opt out of his contract and become unrestricted after the season? If he becomes available in the next weeks or months at a more reasonable price (=not depleting the Lakers of most of the talent besides Kobe), do a deal closer to the deadline. If KG isn’t traded by then and becomes a free agent, LA would be one of the prime locations for him at a considerably lower figure – assuming that he would not insist on being paid 20mil+ $, which I don’t believe he will. He won’t drop to a Malone-for-the-Lakers financial level, but I could see him taking 10-12mil if the situation is right (and be praised by everybody in the process).

    Also, I’d be interested in what some of your keeper lists would look like and which players you deem expendable. Of course trades will only work if you include meaningful pieces, but just for the sake of argument, which players are worth keeping around and which are not? Mine:

    Keepers: Kobe, Odom, Walton, Bynum, Turiaf, Farmar, Evans

    Not: Kwame (at that price), Vujacic, Cook, Radmanovic

    Can’t really decide on Mihm, might make a good back-up C at the right price when healthy. Jury still out on Crittenton.

  41. Great insighs Drrayeye on why the current Lakers are where they are. I also think Walton, Farmar, Turiaf, and Evans are on the cusp of being the type of role players we need, despite their age. They get it. I disagree a little on Bynum. He showed signs of being leap years ahead of Kwame last year. He has the hands, touch, instinctive moves, etc. that Kwame will never develop. I think his problem is mental and adjusting to the speed of the game. He has the package of skills and size to already be very good. So, I really do expect a sudden break out in the next year or two similar to what we saw from Al Jefferson or J Oneal.

    I love Gasol, and he might be sufficient defensively, but I still can’t see Memphis trading him. He fits in perfectly with Conley, Gay, and Miller and the team is way under the cap. I assume he stays.

    Who are some attainable role players that you have noticed playing the game the right way? Who would fit in well with Kobe and the rest of our core? Here are a few I have thought about:

    1. High-end role players/borderline-stars (would be costly):

    Artest (his defense and toughness are much needed; a top 5 perimeter defender in the league; would really frustrate Nash; I’d give anyone outside of Kobe/Bynum/Odom/Walton).

    Kirilenko (I don’t think he understands the game very well, but he is Marion-light and would do so many little things well to help Kobe/Odom; again, I’d give anyone outside of the core foursome; Utah might unload him for an expiring contract and young player now that getting under the cap next summer is in sight — with Fisher off the books).

    Battier (probably not attainable, but he might be best role player in the league and the premier perimeter/help defender).

    Hughes (very overpriced and frighteningly inefficient on offense, but a long, skilled defender who could be had for cheap)

    2. Middle range role players

    Posey (his defense on Dirk was critical to Miami’s title — and a great 3 point threat).

    Duhon (strong on the ball defense; very fundamentally sound; good shooter; attainable).

    Haslem (Experienced; solid defense, rebounding, and high post shooting; Miami wants to move him for a better playmaker/point guard — I might think about giving one of our point guards for him and Posey).

    Slava Medvedenko (just kidding).

    Luther Head (young, but smart; great shooter and very athletic — Houston needs to unload a point guard for frontcourt help).

    Earl Watson (weak shooter, but strong on the ball defender — nice veteran and defensive presence to help Farmar/Critt).

    3. Lesser, but valuable bit players

    PJ Brown
    Trenton Hassell
    Adrian Griffin
    Chuck Hayes
    Jeff Foster
    Dale Davis
    Dan Gadzuric
    Trent Hassell

  42. In terms of next year, I think we would be a pretty good team if we brought in Fisher and Webber each for half the MLE. And then sign Mihm for a decent price.

    Pretty deep lineup with veteran experience and youth combined.

    PG: Farmar/Fish/Critt
    SG: Kobe/Evans
    SF: Odom/Walton/Vlad
    PF: Webber/Turiaf
    C: Brown/Bynum/Mihm

    I don’t like the huge price the free agents and tradeable players have right now. We would pay too high for anyone at this point. I can’t believe Darko is getting so much hype, it’s pathetic.

  43. I also still like the concept of having two big men on the floor at the same time. Have we ever had Kwame and Bynum on the floor in the same lineup? I think it would be worth trying. The Spurs put Oberto and Duncan out there and it works very nicely (obviously Duncan is a supreme talent, but the concept is similar).

  44. Reed, drrayeye, Craig W., really everyone, thanks for a smart and insightful discussion.

  45. And I’ve said this before, but count me in the camp with Reed in that I don’t think Memphis has any desire to move Gasol. They turned down a better package that we can offer from the Bulls at the trading deadline and they are building a nice team to compliment what he can do. Gasol will be just 27 next season, why would they trade him?

  46. This just in…

    Marco Belinelli is SICK! The dude has 34 points right now in summer league, and the guy is a highlight reel. Wow, and we missed this guy by ONE pick.

  47. 46) I was just about to say something about that. Ended up with 37 points. My jealousy is only growing.

  48. Kurt,

    There are three possible reasons why Memphis could be persuaded to part with Gasol:

    1. The team is up for sale (or a move) and they would like the team salary reduced as low as possible below the cap to give new owners a chance to put their own stamp on the team instantly. Kwame could free up $9 million more for them next year.

    2. It would be to their advantage to finish last again and have poor attendance if they need approval to move the team somewhere else. They also would get a high draft pick–maybe even a #1 draft pick.

    3. The best way to market the team would be towards the long future, and Conley/Bynum would give them instant hype. Bynum as a true center would be a natural foil for Odon.

    There would be no fan outrage if Memphis traded Gasol. Fan support/excitement for the Grizzlies seems to be almost nonexistent-even though they have drafted and traded for some great young players. They can’t attract a star–not even Nocioni as a free agent.

    Only by drafting an entire young team, promoting them, and playing them together will they succeed. I think Bynum/Conley could make waves for them.

  49. 48. I think there is another reason they might trade Gasol. I do not think he will fit in the style of offense that the new coach wants to run. He wants to run up and down the court and I am not sure that Gasol can do that. But I don’t think they will trade him. But I can dream.

    I watched the second half of the Chinese national team Vs. Memphis. Yi didn’t look too bad. He has a lot to improve on, but he looks promising. I also watched a little of Sun Yue. He diffinately has some ability. He is a good passer (9 assists in 25 min) and shows the ability to use both hands on the defensive and offensive end. He had a great block. He might be useful in a couple of years.

  50. I don’t think Memphis wants to trade Gasol. IIRC, their new coach flew to Spain shortly after getting hired to talk to Gasol. Their new coach loves working with talented big men, and there aren’t many more talented than Gasol.

    However, I think that there’s a decent chance that Memphis will trade Gasol. And that’s because Gasol doesn’t want to play on a rebuilding team. He asked to be traded last year, and I think there’s a decent chance he pipes again if Memphis fails in its pursuit of Nocioni (strike 1), Varejao (looks like strike 2), and Navarro (probably strike 3 – Memphis already has 3 point guards).

  51. warren (philippines) July 7, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    I’m beginning to notice that people are finally seeing the “practicality” of acquiring Gasol as supposed to the popular KG. Pau is no KG but based on our needs, he can be that 2nd option and post-up presence needed to balance out.

    If I remember correctly, the 2005 season had Odom playing 3, Kwame at 4 and Mihm at 5. That worked pretty well until our roster of big men is suddenly depleted by injuries. Several people have reluctance to trade Odom for the hopes that he will be an all-star so why trade him? The thing is, until we shift Odom to play the 3, he will never be comfy with his position at 4. He doesn’t pound the ball, he does not play back-to-the-basket. His high basketball IQ enables him to adapt but he will never be the post-up presence we so direly need.

    I still maintain that Indy will be taking the Odom + Kwame + Critt for JO and Foster. I know the deal does not have Bynum but they get more things from this deal as supposed to the Jefferson-Krstic Nets offer.

  52. Reed good work. I was going to be contrary and argue how you can’t go overboard on vets and as I was reviewing past champs looking for examples I was struck by how many from past 25 yrs dominated the paint. They got the rebounds,kept the other team from getting them,closed the lane to penetration and all too often scored inside.(Recently watched a Lakers/76ers “classic” and noticed how often all 5 Lakers had a foot by the lane on D.) Usually it is a big man-or two- who dominates defensively,altho the Jordan/Pippen/Grant/Pippen Bulls D dominated the perimeter to such an extent that other teams were never able to work it inside.
    I think that when putting a team together for a championship run,defensive ability and the ability to work in a team defense concept should be key. Too often GMs,fans and coaches focus on offensive skills and fit.Coaches esp fall into trap of believing a mediocre defender can be taught to play in his defense and the scheme will hide the player’s weakness. Unfortunately that rarely works,and in the playoffs such weaknesses are brutally exploited.

    I have to wonder if the 2 stars thesis is more a function of the past couple CBAs making it virtually impossible to have more than 2 max contracts on a team. Previous era’s teams were certainly much deeper in that era’s talent.Kareem,Worthy and Magic would have all commanded max salaries,Scott and Coop would have wanted at least $7-8mil and Rambis would have been near MLE. Bird and McHale would have been max,Parrish as a good center would have been near that,DJ for his playoff success would have been rewarded sometime and Maxwell,Ainge,etc would have signed MLE type contracts after rookie contracts were up.

    Finally,re the vets. I wonder if recent success of teams full of supporting OLD vets is not a reflection of breakdown in teaching the game to players as they go thru the system towards the NBA. Or could it be something as simple as the last decade either Shaq or Duncan’s coach knew he had a shot at title and simply wanted to surround them w/vet role players they could count on to know their role and not cause problems?

  53. warren (philippines) July 7, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Jefferson + Krstic does not make sense for Indy. If they wanted a high salary star to come (with salary ranging to 4 more years), then they should not trade JO at all. Its like downgrading your all-star to a semi-star that cannot carry a team. Jefferson is good but he is not THAT good. In contract and in production, I tell you, Odom makes more sense. Odom’s contract extends to 2 years only, and he can do more for this team that already has overpaid players.

    And Kwame is way more valuable than Krstic. He defends better and his contract expires after the season ends. The addition of Crittenton will overkill the deal as Sean Williams will not be an enticing addition even if NJ adds him to the deal. Not to mention they wont.

    Until Indiana sees a better deal than Odom, Kwame, Critt for JO and Foster, we are still at the forefront.

  54. warren (philippines) July 7, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    On Gasol, adding Gasol for Bynum and Kwame works for me too. It makes Kobe-Pau combo with Odom hiding behind the curtails of the tandem and averaging 15-10-7 consistently.

    May I just point out that, if we could be the West’s 4th seed, we are pretty much guaranteed to exceed the perennial 1st round exits we’ve been having. Being 4th will also mean facing the 1st seed on the 2nd round. So, whoever is projected to be next year’s Western 1st, thats who we will be facing in the 2nd round. I say its Phoenix. The Spurs have the tendency to slack during the regular season, while Phoenix kinda boosts in the regular season while running out of gas in the all important playoffs.

  55. Though Reed does not want to go that way, his analysis strongly suggests that the Lakers trade Andrew Bynum. Neither Phil nor Kobe would complain. Baby Bynum neither has much b/ball knowledge/experience (my criterion) nor chronological age (Reed’s criterion).

    Including Bynum in a trade to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol may resolve Reed’s contradictory stance.

    Here’s why.

    Assuming Mihm is signed and Kwame isn’t traded, Bynum would be the #3 center and play 5-10 minutes per game with the Lakers next year. That might stunt his growth as an NBA player.

    With Memphis, Andrew would be “the man,” and would play substantial minutes. It would sort of be like sending Andrew to college.

    After 3-5 years with Memphis, Andrew might elect to become a free agent and sign with the Lakers–NBA tested and a veteran according to my criterion and Reed’s rules.

    Sending Bynum away (to the right team) may be the only way to keep him.

  56. More great thoughts (Stephen, Drrayeye, Warren). Arguing about these issues reminds me (fondly) of ditching class in college to argue basketball minutia. I love it. Some final thoughts:

    1. Drrayeye — I think we are basically saying the same thing. Of course role players are not valuable just for their age. Age alone is meaningless. Championship role players are valuable because they do the things I list (defend the pick and roll, proper floor spacing, team defense, etc., etc.). As you note, this understanding comes from practical experience. But, practical experience comes from … experience. From time. From hundreds of games and many years playing organized basketball. Some people get it earlier than others (especially those schooled by strong college coaches or those from strong foreign backgrounds — as you note), but it usually takes time. That is why so many key role players from key championship teams are older (look at the rosters I cite, it’s amazing how many are in their 30′s). But, you make a great point that some figure it out earlier because they receive a deeper exposure to the game earlier in life. Walton, for one, is there (b/c of dad, strong college coach). Farmar and Turiaf also seem well schooled, coming from great college programs, but they are not quite ready. (This shows the value of taking players form strong college programs/coaches. Look at how the Bulls have drafted — their young players have “gotten it” much earlier). If we ship out our youth to immediately contend (via Garnett, Gasol, Oneal), I argue that we also need to bring in a handful of older, savvy role players that have figured out the game. I’m not sure this is the right path to take given how far we are from contending, but if we go for it, we need to keep this in mind.

    2. I don’t think my position on Gasol is contradictory. Regarding Bynum, I recognize he is not ready to help us immediately contend. This is obvious. So, I think: (1) if we can move him for someone that can help us immediately contend with Kobe, then I would do it, and (2) if trading Bynum for someone will not help us immediately contend, it is not worth giving up our best prospect for the future to be the #4 seed and a second round fatality. I agree that trading Kwame and Bynum for Gasol would make us a better team next season that we would be otherwise, but I don’t think it gives us a reasonable chance to contend. Gasol is wonderful offensively, and an ok defender, but he is far from an elite interior defender. Look back at the past champions — each had an elite, top of the tline, defensive force in the paint: (Duncan, Shaq/Mourning, Ben/Rasheed Wallace, Shaq, Rodman/Grant, Olajuwon, etc., etc.). I don’t think we can win a title without a similar defensive force in the lane. Gasol might even be a good paint defender, but he is far from great. If we ship out Kwame and Bynum for him, our offense will improve (not our need), but who will be left to guard Duncan, Amare, Yao, Dirk, and Boozer? Who will defend the Nash/Amare, Parker/Duncan, and Deron/Boozer pick and roll? Gasol isn’t enough on his own and we’d be left with no other strong interior defenders (Odom and Mihm don’t qualify). I have not seen a great deal of Gasol’s game, but what I have seen shows me he is not ready to handle the elite western power players by himself. I don’t think he can handle these players on the block or be a strong pick and roll stopper. He might be okay, but that’s not enough. So, I don’t see the point of trading away Bynum for him. If trading Andrew doesn’t lead to immediate contention, then it’s not worth doing. Oneal and Garnett do provide the top of the line post defense we need. Evne if they are older and not quite as effcient offensively as Gasol.

    3. Conjecturing on Gasol is not very meaningful given we have no word that the teams have ever discussed such a deal. At least we know there were negotiations for Garnett and Oneal. There is nothing suggesting Memphis is talking to anyone about Gasol. And, if the team is up for sale, then trading away their one seat-filler makes little sense.

    4. I like Krstic a lot better than Kwame, but I don’t think Jefferson is a good fit on Indiana. They need a center and point guard if they deal Oneal. They already have Dunleavy at the 3, so I don’t see Jefferson filling a great needl there. That gives me some hope that a Kwame/Bynum/Critt or Odom/Critt deal is possible.

    5. Great thoughts from Stephen on the CBA’s impact. I agree that the CBA and expansion make it very unlikely we will ever see those stacked 80′s Laker and Celtics teams again. Those teams would lose some of their Parish’s, McHale’s, Ainge’s, Scott’s, DJ’s, Worthy’s, etc. today. I also think the CBA has influenced the trend towards older, cheaper role players we see on todays title teams. Because of the salary cap and luxury tax, teams can’t afford to keep promising young players AND 2-3 stars — it’s just too expensive. So they build a core of stars and add cheaper, savvy role players.