Admit it. Every time you look at O.J. Mayo the first thing that comes to mind is Kevin Love. How could he not? The two were dealt for one another in what’s quickly become one of the more lopsided trades in recent history. One might say it’s looking less even by the day. Memphis is doing okay for themselves right now as a legitimate Western Conference bully, but just imagine them with Love’s ridiculous consistency instead of Mayo’s unpredictable temperament. Banging inside with a legitimate defensive center to ease up the load, complimenting a fellow budding superstar in Rudy Gay, and continuing on the Hall of Fame path he’s currently treading, Memphis would be an even greater entity than they are right now. But the past is the past. The draft night trade that put Mayo in Memphis and Love in Minnesota happened. So is life.
When we boil this down, how unfair is it to compare O.J. Mayo with one of the NBA’s best players (who doesn’t even play the same position!) just because they were unwillingly linked a few years ago? Mayo isn’t a terrible basketball player—not in the least. He’s a 23-year-old dynamo, shooting 41% from the three-point line, coming off the bench for a player who can’t hit a layup (and once beat him up on an airplane), and doing it all without public complaint. And is it so naive as to remember the 19-year-old rookie who averaged nearly 20 points per game? The offensive deviant who went from West Virginia to Southern California to the NBA with seamless ease? Mayo may never tip the scales to make the trade for Kevin Love look good in his favor, but there’s still plenty of time for him to close the gap.
In this week’s Power Ranking, I’ll be positioning 11 teams that are currently filling their respective fanbase with a deep, dark case of depression. Most of these are teams we already thought would be terrible, but others are groups that looked to torpedo others before imploding on their own. Highly paid free agents can do that to you, and unrealistic expectations are sometimes a fan’s greatest reason for pain. Read more…
Nate Robinson might be the most talented mascot in NBA history. When he’s on the court, there’s no denying his insane ability to excite a crowd and summon what feels like a spiritual force fighting the good fight. Some (most) nights he’s off, and the team is left naked of his otherworldly powers. But when he’s on—as he most notably was earlier this season against Miami—he’s the center of the basketball universe. He’s undeniable brilliance in the smallest of doses.
Today, NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk posted a clip featuring various NBA players discussing who they think owns the league’s best crossover. Guys like Jason Terry, Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, and Courtney Lee cite both Jamal Crawford and Derrick Rose as being the top two candidates. As I mentioned in this morning’s piece on Deron Williams, both are fine options, and there’s really no placing one above the other. But where this clip gets it wrong is it’s exclusion of what I believe to be one of the league’s four or five most unstoppable sequences.
Chris Paul’s crossover is more devastating to a defense because when it happens, all five defenders are equally in trouble. Once he blows by that first guy he’s infiltrated the core. Instead of focusing on getting to the rim or knocking down a shot for himself, passing lanes have naturally developed and everything breaks down. When it happens—as the relentless torture ensues—opposing coaching staffs are forced to look away. As good as Rose and Crawford are, once they get close to the basket it’s like a shark sniffing blood: they want to score, and defense’s have very tall men who’re paid to stop them. Paul is different though, because the ways he can put two points on the board for his team are unpredictable, smart, and varying. Crawford and Rose have elegant crossovers, but I believe Chris Paul’s is the best.
Take note of the move above. Right now Tony Allen is regarded as the best perimeter defender in basketball. Just LOOK at what Chris Paul does to him. For me, it’s an open and shut case.
Isn’t this nice? Just as the Celtics are left for dead—with Danny Ainge at his desk, knuckles cracked, frantically placing calls all over the country with his heart set on finding a most affordable casket for his beloved Big 3—a mysterious, oft-forgotten adolescent with the borne name Avery Antonio Bradley Jr., pounds an adrenaline-filled syringe deep in their chest, bringing them back to consciousness, and, quite possibly, relevance as a basketball team.
With the game-changing perimeter defender Ainge promised us these last 16 months finally beginning to bloom (we always knew he could act, but ball? Things were beginning to look bleak), all of a sudden the Celtics have a pool full of options. It appears one of them is Doc changing the second unit’s offense to make Bradley more comfortable, but what I suggest is a more radical, pseudo-Wally Pipp situation. Are we discussing the permanent replacement of everyone’s favorite mercurial muskrat, Rajon Rondo? Dear LORD no. What I propose is a bit more creative, and a roster move that could inject exuberance into Boston’s aching extremities. What if the Celtics coupled Rondo with Bradley at the opening tip? What if Ray Allen came off the bench—playing about 5 fewer minutes per game—and became a focal point on the Celtics’ offensively hindered second unit? There are so many obvious negative issues with this scenario, such as a major spacing restriction for Rondo and Pierce’s driving lanes, but let’s forget about those and talk about the big picture positives for a moment. Read more…
Every guard in the NBA has an above average crossover in his offensive arsenal. It may not be on Jamal Crawford or Derrick Rose’s level of brilliance, but everybody has one. All are great, all are effective, all are better than any you could dream of creating.Then there’s that guy everyone is always overlooking, Deron Williams. He takes a gleaming diamond from his back pocket when all the other elite ball-handlers are yanking out lint. Nobody else pulls off the lethal cross from 25 feet, with full intention to jack a shot, like him. It’s combining an unguardable move with the type of shot that makes the home crowd’s mouth go dry. It’s one of a kind. It’s beautiful. It’s Deron Williams.
Monta Ellis is a dazzling basketball player. The type of pound-for-pound, straightforward talent who’s been one of the league’s most potent offensive threats his entire career. Unfortunately, Ellis’ perception belies what makes him so great: Now in his seventh season and younger than LeBron James, more than ever before Golden State’s best player falls victim to two very strong trends firmly entrenched within contemporary American society: statistical analysis and time zone differential. Read more…
Honestly, it’s just so nice to see Steph Curry make us feel sorry for someone else’s ankles. George is lauded as one of the league’s rising perimeter defenders (and his development was surely brought into conversation when Indiana decided to deal Brandon Rush), but so far this season he’s had a rough go of it trying to guard quick little guys he probably shouldn’t be checking—this play included. Curry puts his underrated handle on display here, stepping back between the legs before delivering as scary a jumper as any. Once again, it’s great to see him playing healthy.
Hat tip to both my friends Seif and J.A. Sherman of SB Nation’s Welcome to Loud City for pointing these ridiculous crossovers out. It is so painfully obvious that J.R. Smith is destroying all sorts of lesser competition over in China. Imagine him on this Denver squad right now, maybe a bit matured from the overseas experience, not quite as undisciplined with the shot selection. Would that type of depth swallow the league whole? At the least it’d be mighty entertaining. Regardless, I’m waiting for Smith’s triumphant (?) return to the NBA; whenever that may be, it should go as a celebrated event.