Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  February 22, 2008

Some thoughts on how the trade deadline shook out, and other stuff.

• Commenter Drrayeye says he is a “doubting Thomas,” but I think the Kurt Thomas to the Spurs was a deal works for both sides, the Spurs in the short term and Seattle in the long term. Jonesonthenba has a great take on this trade, and in the comments made a great point:

The crazy thing about Kurt Thomas is that Presti got a first round pick for taking in, and then got a first round pick for sending him out. To say that worked out for him would be an understatement.

• The usual brilliant stuff from friend-of-the-site KD over at the Yahoo blog the other day about why the Mavs will be better with Kidd:

I beg of you, dear reader: keep this post in mind when cable TV swoons over an improved Mavericks team over the season’s last two months. The answers to their resurgence won’t come in the singular form of Jason Kidd, and they won’t be articulated with nausea-inducing bluster like “that championship focus,” or some twaddle about “leadership.”

No, the Mavs will be better because they were already a championship-level team to begin with, one that was playing below expectation and limiting the minutes of its best players. That stops, now.

• And I like what Cleveland did yesterday to boost their offense. I’ll let Mike from Knickerblogger explain:

But looking at who they gave up, it’s addition by subtraction. Consider the league average for TS% is typically around 54% (53.7% at this moment), and look at who’s heading out of Cleveland: Drew Gooden (48.7%), Larry Hughes (46.7%), Donyell Marshall (42.7%), Shannon Brown (43.3%), and Cedric Simmons (21.0%). Only Ira Newble (52.2%) has a TS% anywhere near the median….Enter Wally Szczerbiak (TS% 57.3%) and Joe Smith (TS% 51.5%), both of who should provide an offensive boost to Cleveland. Szczerbiak has never had a problem scoring efficiently, and at 30 years of age is still near the top of his game. Suddenly the Cavs look to have the makings of a strong offense: LeBron, Szczerbiak, Gibson, Ilgauskas, Varejao, Smith, Damon Jones, all have TS% above 50%. And although Ben Wallace is shooting poorly (TS% 39.1%) he’ll help the defense as well. With Ilgauskas, Wallace, Varejao, and James the Cavs have enough defense to make up for the guards.

Now, add a little motion to that offense and maybe you’ll have something. Particularly in the East.

• I’m not sure what they are doing in Chicago anymore. Sure, you get rid of Wallace so you can finally play the kids, but at what cost? Larry Hughes? Drew Gooden playing the worst ball of his pro career? I wrote this last time I filled in at TrueHoop, just a few days after Skiles was dumped, but here’s my question for Chicago’s brass: What kind of team are you trying to build? Boylan isn’t the long-term coach, so they need to decide what kind of team they want, bring in a coach to execute it and build toward it. Right now I don’t see that master plan, just a lot of flailing around.

• Lot’s of Kobe for MVP talk. I have a hard time getting into that debate only because the definition of MVP is nebulous and varies from voter to voter. Best player in the league? Best player on a good team? Best player on the best team? Honestly, I think Kobe deserves an MVP, but as much for his “body of work” more than just this year. I think you can make a good case for CP3 or LeBron. KG will get some votes, too. I’d like to see KG get one someday for the same “body of work” reasons. But this may be Kobe’s year.

Of course, with a couple months between now and the end of the season a lot of things can change.

• Ever wonder what guys shoot on the midrange jumper? Well, someone over at APBRmetrics used the NBA HotZones thing and crunched the numbers.

Your top 10: 1. Jose Calderon 56.1% (115-205); 2. Steve Nash 52.9% (83-157); 3. Derek Fisher 519% (97-187); 4. Jason Kapono 517% (74-143); 5. Malik Allen 513% (81-158); 6. Dirk Nowitzki 507% (136-268); 7. Dorell Wright 503% (76-151); 8. Kevin Garnett 500% (94-188); 9. Mo Williams 496% (112-226); 10. Channing Frye 491% (79-161).

Two interesting other numbers: 75. Richard Jefferson 39.4% (113-287); 76. Kobe Bryant 39.2% (133-339).

• Don’t look now, but my Matadors of Cal State Northridge are looking pretty good now. Great pressure defense (defensive rating of 93.3, 29th in the land), a team that shares the ball on offense and presses the pace (75.4 possessions per game, 10th fastest in the nation). Only one NCAA bid coming out of the Big West, so the Matadors have to win the tournament, but they are in a good position. Which means you’re going to be stuck reading more about them.

• If it’s sunny out, my Sunday plans include some Long Beach State baseball.

to Fast Break Thoughts

  1. This was a very exciting trade deadline…..the best i can remember in quite some time.

    It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out with all these moves. I think the Lakers are in the best position since they had a head start.

    I’m hoping Bynum makes it back soon and we can get all the screws tightened down on this march into the playoffs!!


  2. My biggest problem with the Cleveland trade is Wallace. He will pout if he’s not getting 4th qtr/big minutes so that means either Big Z or Varjeo are gonna be out. When the run pick and roll teams can trap the hell out of James because what is Wallace gonna do off the screen, its like Kwame with Kobe. Also, Sczerbiak can’t guard a deadman, much less Ray Allen or Paul Pierce if they play Boston or Tay Prince or Rip Hamilton against Detroit. Yea the move solidifies them as the 3 seed in the East, but beyond that, eh.

    Now as far as the Spurs go. Thomas will be a great addition. He is money with the 15-17 ft jumper and can guard opposing bigs, letting TD come off the weakside and avoid foul trouble. As far as the trade dynamics, I think this is a case of league favortism towardds the Spurs. One day Pop is complaining about the Lakers getting Pau and the next, the ex-Assistant GM is handing them Thomas and (wink wink) giving Barry right back to them. Leaugue (non)favorites like Cuban would never getaway with such blatant back-room dealing but whatever, I still think we can come out of the West.

    They (the mainstream media) will again change the goal post in terms of MVP criteria and find a way to give it to LBJ, book it. That being said, Kobe is having his best season, I could care less, we want that chip


  3. Kurt, KG already has an MVP so I really hope he doesn’t get another for “body of work” reasons. If Shaq only has one, and a guy like Jerry West never even won one, I don’t think KG should get two. I love Nash, but he didn’t deserve 2. I mean, Dirk barely deserved his one. Sorry to nag. My boss pissed me off, and now everyone suffers. ha, ha.


  4. kurt, when you say KG should someday get an MVP for his body of work, do you mean the body of work since his 2004 MVP?


  5. Honestly, I spaced that KG won the award a few years back. Totally forgot. So, I’ll scratch him off the list.


  6. There’s a ton of microanalysis you can do with any of these trades but the bottom line is this: Only the Lakers have definitively gotten better, no questions asked.

    The effect this has is important and tangible: They are playing with more confidence than any other team at present and they expect to win every game. Things look good.

    Kurt, watch out for my UCSB Gauchos. We (finally) have a team this year. It could be upset city, baby, in the Big West Tourney!


  7. 5- 2004 is really the example of why Kobe SHOULD win it this year. For years people knew KG was (one of) the best players in the NBA, but it wasn’t till he had Spree and Cassell around him that his immense talent translated into regular season winning.

    Fast-forward, Kobe has been regarded as the best player, and now with the ‘supporting cast’ around him, he is dominating and winning.

    Alas, some how some way I will be told that LBJ going 46-36 in the (L)East with nobody around him is more impressive (even though Kobe going 45-37, while averaging 36 a game, in the West, wasn’t good enough to get Kobe in the top 3)


  8. Somehow, the MVP has become a self-defining institution that no one can define.

    The award always goes to a top-flight player, but it’s taken on the baggage of Olympic figure skating judging in its political, philosophical, and geographic bias. Or it creaks with the bloated sentimentality of a “lifetime achievement” sympathy Academy Award.

    I do think Kobe will win an MVP or two before his career is through, and I do think historical perspective will raise a dubious eyebrow at Nash’s back to back awards, but really, this award has become much more about the way the spin is blowing than anything that happens on the floor.


  9. jodial,

    Agree with everything you just said. Good analogies with the awards. Like the Oscars, it seems one rarely wins in the year he puts up his best numbers. The window is going to start closing soon on 24 though, so the writers better wise up soon.

    It’s a travesty that Nash has two and Bean has zero.


  10. If anyone but Kobe or even maybe CP3(if Lakers collapse) gets it then it goes to show you this is a league that is always taken back by Kobe but don’t give him the respect he deserves. I have a lot of Kober hating friends and they are coming around saying Kobe deserves the MVP. When they watch him they realize his game isn’t one of 3 years ago.

    The Bulls need a #1 option. Most Bulls fans will agree with me that as good as Deng is he is, he’s a #2. The Bulls might have had just a fluke year last year.

    I like how all the moves at the trading deadline made most teams older. While us on the other hand gave up Kwame(25) for Gasol(27) that is only two years while look at Suns and Mavs traded young for old and the Spurs traded old for old. We are good for short and long term. It’s good to be a Lakers fan.


  11. 6- Go Gauchos!! Don’t get me started. Finally healthy but Williams needs to learn how to recruit. Scratch it make B Shaw coach, bring back the old days.


  12. UCSBShaw,

    Exlied as I am in Portland these days I not only have to hear Blazers fans whine about the Lakers and attend Blazers games to see “NBA basketball”, but I also have to make due watching and rooting for UCLA because the Gauchos are never nationally televised. (Even our bracket buster game this weekend is on ESPN360, whatever the hell that is.)

    At least the Bruins are led by Jerry Pimm protoge Ben Howland, so it’s all in the family.

    Whatever happened to the glory days of Pimm anyway? There was a time long past when our men’s team was consistently better than our women’s team.

    Go Gauchos! And I agree, hire B-Shaw. Who wouldn’t wanna play for B-Shaw?


  13. I can understand being miffed about the fact that Kobe hasn’t won an MVP, but why dump on Steve Nash?


  14. 13-Nobody is dumping on him. I just think NBA fans know the score. It’s not Nash’s fault, in my opinion its the fact that media members relate to him and see him as some sort of underdog. In all reality he shouldn’t have won either of those MVPs, period.


  15. If the Lakers have the best record at the end of the season, Kobe WILL WIN the MVP award no matter what others do. If not, then LBJ will win if Cavs have 50+ win, CP3 if Hornets win division, and Kobe if neither of above happen and the Lakers win the division. KG could win if the Celtics win 60+ win or have the league’s best record, but with his missed games due to injury and the way Celtics are going, that seems unlikely at this point. We’ll know more after they finish this current west coast road trip. Either way, Kobe’s having his best season BY FAR, leading his team right now. I think he definitely deserves to win this year.


  16. Not dumping on Nash, he’s a nice player. It’s just that his back to back awards are a historical fluke.

    The other NBA players to win back to back MVPs are Kareem, Jordan, Magic, Bird, Russell, Wilt, Duncan, and Moses.

    Together, those players totaled 38 championships, and 53 finals appearances.

    Moreover, in the 17 seasons of back to back MVPs, the MVP winner went to the finals 14 times. No player ever won back to back MVPs without winning at least one championship.

    Nash is a really tough opponent. But an all time great on the level of those guys?


  17. 15) Ted Williams was left completely off some MVP ballots the year he hit .406, led the league in HR, and missed the triple crown by 5 RBI. Unfortunatlely, voters let their personal feelings get in the way of their professionalism.


  18. Couldn’t agree more with your thoughts about the Bulls. I go to school just outside of Chicago, am friends with a bunch of die-hard Bulls fans… and the change in fortunes of our respective teams has been stunning, from Kobe to Chicago rumors to now.

    I think that rebuilding teams with tons of draft picks/cap space (Seattle, Memphis, etc.) need to learn from the mistakes of Paxson and the Bulls. Stockpiling young talent is all good and fun, but unless one of those players becomes a bonafide #1 option (Brandon Roy, for example) you need to know when to pull the trigger and maximize the potential of those young guys through a trade. And on top of that, if you’re going to try to make a splash in the free agent market, go after a legit #1 option, not a glorified role player (Ben Wallace).

    It’s really a shame though, because there are so many players on the Bulls (Gordon, Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Noah) that I’d love to see elsewhere, not stuck in this muddy, “flailing” gameplan.


  19. re: the MVP voting – It’s too early to say anything. We have to see how many games the Lakers, Celtics, Hornets and Cavs win, and we have to make sure all the main candidates stay healthy. The voters have dumped on Kobe a lot over the years, but they haven’t yet had the chance to dump on him when he was the clear leader on one of the league’s best teams. Better to wait till that actually happens before getting upset about it.

    I don’t think it’s a done deal that Bones Barry goes back to San Antonio. The Suns still have to fill in a roster spot and badly could use another 3-pt threat, as well as some more veteran championship experience. After Stackgate it might ruffle more than a few feathers if Barry pulls the same deal and goes back to the Spurs (I would expect the Blog Maverick himself to go nuclear if that happens).

    Too early to really say how the Cavs are gonna look this year with all those new guys, but this is for sure: they’re set up to make some good trades this summer or next year if they want to. In that respect, the trades really helped them.


  20. The main reason that the Lakers look so much better to me really involves “chemistry.” Right now, the Lakers are as cohesive as one could imagine because most of them have played together for some time and get along well. They know each other as people, teammates, and players. There are only two newcomers.

    Trevor Ariza still needs to do some learning, but he seems to have fit in well. His defensive success has blended him better than we might expect.

    Pau Gasol seems to have fit in with the Lakers players and fans at all levels almost instantly. As Andrew comes back, there will be opportunities for refinement.

    Players coming together from other trades may need a summer to get things together–a summer they don’t have. One especially wonders about the Cavs.

    I heard that Dr. Jerry Buss got his doctorate in chemistry at USC. It shows.


  21. Oh Drrayeye, you couldn’t resist a subtle jab at young Andrew. Don’t fear, the best young big man in the game will be back by the end of March, and he will help make Pau and the team even better


  22. I think the problem with rebuilding is when it’s done without a real direction, an idea where the franchise is going. In theory, it should have been harder for the lakers to rebuild around Kobe since they never had cap space or pick better than 10. But they had a system (triangle) that demands certain things at each position, and a star already in Kobe. Paxson’s Bulls remind me of LO’s Clipper teams. They accumulated a ton of young talent, but then went and tried to find a system to give it a shape. The Bulls, never bothered to find a system, or an inside scorer for that matter (which every system needs). Then they threw a ton of money at Wallace, but the “small-market” Bulls wouldn’t go into luxury tax territory to bring on Gasol. He may fit better with the Lakes, but he would have fixed a lot of problems for the Bulls. Paxson has been that classic GM that can evaluate talent, but has no clue how to construct a team.
    And speaking of bad GMs, I’m a little annoyed Ferry pulled off that trade. He was doing a fine job of insuring LBJ’s departure for free agency with fine acquisitions of the sort of Hughes and Gooden, neither of whom ever made sense for LBJ sidekicks. This trade more or less reforms the Cavs from last June, with Szczerbiak playing the part of the late Pavlovic, Wallace as the new crazy-haired rebound/defense guy replacing the injured Varejao, with the added bonus of a surprisingly solid Smith. I already was picking the Cavs to win out East, and this just might clinch it for them.


  23. Sorry for the double post…But I didn’t want to be all negative. I wanted to give kudos to Stepanski (sp?) the 76ers new GM. He seems to have an idea of what he wants, which pieces are useful, and where he needs to improve. Which doesn’t mean sell all veteran (like Miller) just for the sake of cap space and draft picks. The youngins’ that come in this league are green enough as it is already. They need time to develop and veterans to help show them how to play, and more importantly how to win. And even more importantly, that nothing is more important than winning today! I think if the Sonics aren’t careful Durant won’t learn that jacking up bad shots is not going to help him win. Unless Presti turns a high number of those draft picks into gold, the Sonics could be out of the playoffs for a lot longer than people are imagining.


  24. I’m a Northridge alum and we only have one notable season to speak of, in which we both beat UCLA and made the tourney. You won’t hear me complaining about more CSUN coverage. 🙂


  25. 24. I actually had a party in my house the night the Matadors qualified, and I had all these other people rooting for my upstart Matadors. Braswell has done an amazing job considering he has the worst facilities in Divisnion I. he gets guys who will play, he deserves a bigger stage, really. This is a fun team to watch and really plays a perfect style — with less talent you should gamble more, and they do.


  26. I don’t ever say all that much positive about Kobe, didn’t think he was playing like the MVP this year… now I totally think he should win it.

    And I’m not sure when or why that shift occurred. Could it be just the team results have been better the last two or three weeks? Maybe. And he does seem to be alternating between “passing Kobe” and “shooteverything Kobe” between alternate possessions instead of entire games.

    Playing through with the injury sure adds into the equation as well. A lot, I guess.

    And like I predicted in the summer, his P.R. tirade did actually help the team a bit. I still saw it as immature, but I don’t know. It also may have been a key point in his leadership.


  27. I find it fascinating that every trade made by a PlayOff contender is intended to help the teams’ half-court offense.


  28. I am watching the Suns-Celtics game and I think its really interesting how they keep talking about how GREAT the Suns (and Shaq) played their first game against the Lakers (9 blocks, killed us on the offensive boards, Shaq played well and did not die, Amare was a beast, etc). They seem to overlook the fact that the Suns LOST. However, this is a good sign for the Lakers because the Suns gave us everything they had and we still beat them (without Bynum). Its a good time to be a Lakers fan.

    Speaking of the resurgent Lakers… Kurt, have you (or anyone else) ever done a piece on the Laker organization’s ability to rebuild so quickly? I think the only time in the history of the organization that we did not have a superstar were the 3 Cedric Ceballos years. We have not be a legit title threat for maybe 9 or 10 of the past 60 years. I think thats remarkable.


  29. The nebulous aspect of the MVP makes it something I do my best to ignore. Kobe not winning one will only effect the barbershop and bar room arguments about his status among the elite if he ends his career without one.


  30. Looking at the MVP awards over the last 7yrs there is one constant…all the winners have had a good relationship with the press.

    I think that about says it all when talking about Kobe’s chances of winning the award. It is not that there is any collusion involved, just that Kobe will always be damned with faint praise by the press because…
    1) He is so good it is easy to tear him down (a common theme for seemingly all of us)
    2) He was a loner early on, then made a big mistake (or had one made on him, whichever what you view Eagle, CO) and became the poster boy for how to drag down our idols.


  31. MVP is meant to be nebulous, it should get fans and everyone talking, otherwise what’d be the fun in it?

    Still, LeBron for MVP is a joke when Jason Kidd has done everything LeBron did a few years back and led the Nets Back-to-Back and still didn’t win it. Nash, on the other hand, led his PHX team in the west and with a better record than Kidd’s Nets, i think, so Nash winning it sits okay with me, although I honestly think Nash and Dirk winning it had more to do with them being international.


  32. Its a busy night in the NBA where you could see New Orleans getting drubbed at home, Utah is losing to the CLippers, GS is losing to Atlanta, Denver lost to the Bulls and Dallas won against Memphis. It sure is a Wild West. Oh and I forgot to mention, the T-Pups nearly humiliated the defending champs last night.


  33. Houston-11 straight wins, smoked NO in NO. They are kinda like the Lakers, they have some young guys nobody knows about (Landry and Brooks) some vets playing good (Alston, Battier) and some wildcards (Bobby Jackson, Scola and Hayes). Of all the teams that will be at the bottom of the bracket, I think they will be the toughest matchup because of there role players and a (potentially) healthy T-Mac/Yao combo


  34. Seeing PHX play a grind it out game and still winning by double digits worries me. Plus they are outrebounding Boston by a double digit margin. Two main keys to winning playoff basketball is defense & rebounding and PHX has been doing a good job on both aspects against the Celtics.

    How will this affect the Lakeshow now that Shaq and the other Suns are starting to gel? Scary scary west.


  35. DJ Strawberry might now be a better flopper than Manu.

    As for the MVP discussion, its a moot point. Kobe may have deserved to win it, but it is really a very subjective thing and the voter themselves have their biases.

    I love the versitility this Laker team has. 108 points a game makes it entertaining to watch too.


  36. Brent Barry is supposed to go back to SA… what does the Popovich Commish say of this?

    Can we nab him instead?


  37. 34 – The Celtics are in serious flux right now after their bizarre losses to the Nuggets and Warriors while they try to work Garnett back into things. If Pierce and Allen don’t blow so many wide open looks tonight the result might have been different. Still way too early to tell anything for sure about the Suns. The next game (Detroit) and the upcoming game in New Orleans should give a clearer indication of what kind of style the Suns are gonna play.


  38. Maybe Phoenix traded to win a championship against Boston. So you completely understand, let me use a Southwest folk story illustration.

    Grasshopper, long ago the Suns had a team of 4 roadrunners and a mustang that no one could stop–except in Texas, where nasty Spur coyotes sometimes inappropriately abused the star Sun roadrunner. The Suns needed a protector, and not only against those Texas coyotes.

    In a championship game, the Suns could be facing a Boston team consisting of two brown tailed hawks, two bunnies, and a great stallion. The Celtics were a team that could stop a team of Roadrunners–even with a great mustang.

    So, the Suns traded one of their roadrunners with jack rabbit moves for a tropical armadillo from Miami who was not even afraid of a stampeding buffalo.

    Now the Suns had three roadrunners, a mustang, and an armadillo. Could they match up with the Celtic hawks, bunnies, and that incredible stallion?

    Well, tonight, the Suns whupped (did I say “whupped”) the Celtics 85-77. In the first quarter, Boston only scored 13. In the second, 17. The stallion and the hawks were tamed–even though they slowed those roadrunners to a crawl.

    Those coyotes and other animals in Texas better beware when that armadillo comes to town.


  39. 34 – The book isnt out yet on these Pheonix Suns. You constantly see Amare getting pretty easy drives and Grant Hill getting easy mid rage jumpers. I wouldnt put too much stock into their performences until they AND the opposing teams have had enough times. As for last night’s game, Boston was simply ice cold. I think midway through the 4th, Pierce and Allen shot a combined 2-20. Allen didnt even get his first shot until late in the 3rd. Boston simply played a pretty bad game.

    Also, its going to be fun to see where Barry will end up. I wonder ifthe league will ammend its rules and make a ‘Stackhouse’ clause taht either prevents players from going back to the team they were traded from for the rest of the season or making them ineligible forthe postseason.


  40. Kurt, I am a CSUN alum and current grad student so bring it on… Ole


  41. Kwame A.,
    The most encouraging thing for Houston fans is McGrady finally showed some lift and a little more explosiveness. Looks like he’s finally over his knee injury as much as he’s going to get this yr. He looked like the old T-Mac,not an old T-Mac.
    During one of past 2 Suns games it was noted how Suns had cleaned up on East. I got curious and looked at Western Playoff contenders and it’s kind of interesting. The Lakers have the fewest games left against the East(4) and the Hornets the most(15). Of the 8 top Western teams only the Mavs have a worse winning % against the East(12-11,52%) than the Lakers(17-9,65%).Overall,the top 8 have won almost 71% of their games against the East.
    The top 3 Pacific Div teams have the fewest games left against East(Lakers 4,Suns,Warriors 6). So is it better for the Lakers to have the vast majority of their remaining games against the West,where a win-or loss-is doubled and no long road trips,or would you rather face weaker Eastern competition?


  42. Anybody see Garnett and Amare going at it last night, those guys don’t seem to like eatchother.


  43. I completely disagree with KD on Kidd. Dallas will be a much worse team. First, Dallas plays isolation offense. Is Johnson going to change the whole entire offense around 1 player? Is Dallas going to be able to run with Kidd? My first thoughts are no to both questions. I’d love to see Dampier become an offensive nightmare, someone pinch me I am dreaming.

    Okay, so Dallas stays in isolation. Kidd is shooting a career worse now. Doesn’t bode too well for Dallas.

    The obvious answer, Dallas will get banged up by LA, Phoenix, San Antonio, etc. They really can’t match up well with these teams’ size.


  44. kwame a.
    They are somewhat similar players, with Amare being the stronger and quicker and Kevin being the more well rounded and the much better defender. Naturally they would be getting in each other’s way.


  45. Lakers, I believe, have the second best record against the west. Furthermore, for some inexplicable reason, our record is worse against the East. So ill keep it in the West where you dont have ridiculous road trips and can gain more in terms of playoff positioning.