In one of the more fascinating individual match-ups you’ll see all season, Avery Bradley (a top 3 on-ball perimeter defender) guarded James Harden (one of the four or five hardest perimeter players to defend in the league) for much of Friday night’s Rockets/Celtics game. For the most part, Bradley stifled Harden better than anybody yet this year. But as we all know, it’s an offensive player’s league. That’s why this happened. Afterwards it was unanimously decided by me that both players are still elite in the area they’re known for being dominant.
Seven players from the NBA Draft class of 2009 signed extensions this week. Some were surprising, others not so much. Let’s take a look.
Los Angeles Clippers sign Blake Griffin (No. 1 pick) to five-year, $80 million extension
The best player of the ’09 class receives as much money as the rules allow. Seems fair. This was a great move for the Clippers, who locked up a young franchise player capable of bringing in fans and endorsements. Blake is the sole All-Star/All-NBA player from the 2009 class up until now, and he’s clearly shown he can dominate. He still has a long way to go before truly becoming one of the elite—his defense and lack of offensive creativity are problematic—but all signs point up for his development.
Grade: A Read more…
Ah, the Sixth Man of the Year award. Obviously not as special as Most Valuable Player or Defensive Player of the Year, but still, fans seem to have a special affinity with it—the endearing concept of this “spark plug” who comes off the bench and tries to be as electric as possible while the starters sit.
Last year, new Rockets guard James Harden won the award, coming off the bench for 60 out of 62 games, and averaging around 17 points per game. With Harden out of Oklahoma City, it’s fair to say he’ll probably be starting, and many NBA analysts will have to change their pick for a potential winner. The crop of possibilities contain a few previous winners. No winner has repeated since Detlef Schrempf in the 1991-92 season, but it’s hard to pick otherwise, due to the production of some of these previous winners and their roles on their teams. Read more…
Today, in London, England, the United States of America’s basketball team dominated another group of grown men in ways that have since been outlawed by the federal government. The display was savage in a way few basketball games can possibly be described as such.
But, in the end, all wasn’t for naught if you’re a Nigerian citizen/basketball fan. No matter how dark a situation may seem, nine times out of 10 you can find a bright spot if you look long enough. In this case, James Harden getting his groin cut in half wasn’t too hard to catch.Follow @ShakyAnkles
Show of Hands is a feature involving you (the loyal reader) and your valuable opinion. From time to time, questions will be raised in an effort to explore the many various topics our beloved NBA has to offer. Don’t be shy; have a look and place a vote.
Despite seeing several serious bruises on both its front line and backcourt in recent months, the United States Basketball Team will once again be heavy favorites heading into London this summer. (Basketball betting at the Olympics remains a relatively easy task.) One of the major strengths making this so is their wing play. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony could at times find themselves all on one unit, on one perimeter, relentlessly gutting an opposing team until the ever merciless Coach K takes pity and subs in Tyson Chandler.
With these playoffs serving as a quintessential coming out party for James Harden, leaving him off the team will be difficult. Not only has he shown an ability to enter the lane whenever he wants, but he has the rare ability to make others around him better; their professional life easier. At only 22-years-old, Harden was invited to tryout with the big boys this summer, while most others his age were designated to the Select Team. He’s a superstar in the making, soon to sign a max contract.
Making the next “Dream Team” isn’t about paying dues or “deserving” inclusion. It’s taking 12 players who aren’t just the best players in the world, but selfless men willing to sacrifice personal glory for the benefit of their country’s success. With a power house line up like this, it’ll raise the chances of the United States winning bets in online casinos, thus bagging another sure
gold medal. James Harden should be on the team, and it poses this hypothetical question that probably won’t be asked anytime soon: Who would you rather take: Harden or Wade? And while we’re here: right now, who’s the better player?
It’s a question that might seem crazy on the surface, but choosing the youngster might not be so impractical.Follow @ShakyAnkles
Introducing Shaky Ankles’ very first Power Ranking feature—a weekly breakdown of interesting, list worthy NBA related news. This section will undoubtedly be toyed with as the season progresses, but for the most part it should read as a typical Power Ranking, which is something that’s always so much fun to scroll through!
In our inaugural post, we end this week with our Top 8 cases of pessimism vs. top 8 cases of optimism. Pretty self-explanatory: These are issues that inspire hope or reek of failure. Enjoy! Read more…
Keeping up on an ongoing miniseries, here’s in depth, incredibly important analysis on my fantasy basketball draft, which took place on December 17, 2011. A glorious evening it was. For more info on what’s going down here, go check out the initial entry. Due to this taking me a lot longer than expected, analysis must now include up to date production—it’s unfair, but so goes the world of fantasy basketball.
Team A: Tyson Chandler
Team B: Chris Bosh
Team C: Danilo Gallinari
Team D: Luol Deng
Team E: Jrue Holiday
Team F: DeMarcus Cousins
Team G: Andre Iguodala
Team H: James Harden
Team I: Andrea Bargnani
Team J: Kyle Lowry
Team K: Carlos Boozer
Team L: David West
Best Value: Lot of great value picks here, but judging by the dramatic improvement we’re continuing to see from Kyle Lowry, that’s where the selection goes. He’s hovering at the top of the league in assists, knocking down threes, and apart from his two point performance over the weekend (in which we witnessed 18 assists), the scoring has been better than expected. Lowry is headed for his first All-Star team.
Worst Value: Whenever the word “worst” is placed in front of the word “value” in any English born sentence, Carlos Boozer is usually the reason why.
Overall Reaction: As we go deeper and deeper into the draft, two things are valued above all else: consistency and expertise. Tyson Chandler and DeMarcus Cousins are two great examples of players who will take care of rebounding (Tyson should also give a leg up on blocked shots) and field goal percentage while letting other guys on the team fill in for their many weaknesses. We’re also seeing tons of upside with some owners intelligently betting on breakout seasons from the likes of James Harden, Jrue Holiday, and Danilo Gallinari.
Rising: James Harden
It’s so easy to look down on a top three overall draft pick when his numbers don’t immediately make television screens spontaneously combust—to jump on his back before maturation is allowed time to settle in, and stamp “BUST” on his forehead. (All the more easy when a player taken with the subsequent pick goes onto have a historically brilliant rookie year.) People don’t have patience. James Harden, armed with bristling beard action and a buttery jump shot, is all about patience. His game, built on all-around methodical consistency—like Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy—depends on it.
When it comes to long term convenience, he’s 22-years-old and firmly entrenched in one of the brightest situations the league has to offer; an argument can be made that he’s the second most untradeable player in the Thunder organization, behind Kevin Durant. He’s already proven he can take over entire quarters at a time in playoff games, and make plays off the dribble that don’t only benefit himself. Hate to light a horse on fire while it’s writhing on the ground, but Harden’s a better decision maker/incredibly less selfish than Russell Westbrook, and it isn’t crazy to say his future may be an even more rewarding one alongside Durant.
Coming off the bench in all but five games last season, Harden was a respectable role player who’d flash brilliance every now and then, but he wasn’t blowing the hinges off anybody’s doors. His style lacked glamour, existing more as sophisticated style hidden beneath a high IQ basketball player who’s just about ready to tornado the league. A few days ago I wrote that there will never be another Scottie Pippen. I stand by that statement, but right now James Harden is the closest thing the league has.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Thornton, Eric Gordon, Arron Afflalo
After being traded from New Orleans for Carl Landry, in one of the more honorable trades you’ll ever see, Marcus Thornton’s minutes more than doubled. Subsequently, so did his shots, points, steals, assists, and free-throw attempts per game. He went from a decent second round draft pick to one of the game’s most dynamic scorers, post all-star break—and that isn’t an exaggeration (21.3 points with an 18.2 PER).
What keeps the Marcus Thornton fire from burning strong is a big bucket of water named Jimmer Fredette. The situation in Sacramento should be exciting, but there’s only one basketball to play with, and Jimmer should see that ball quite often. With his confidence sitting on a cloud, Thornton will look to shoot more than he should, unless, of course, the free agent signs somewhere else after the lockout. Putting a proven, reliable, unafraid shooting guard like Thornton on a team that could use reliability from the shooting guard position, like, say, Chicago, could cause more than a few ripples. It makes too much sense.
For Eric Gordon, please see here.
An argument could be made that after the Carmelo trade, Arron Afflalo was the guy George Karl looked to with the game on the line, and his penchant to play hard on both ends should keep him on the floor (especially with no Wilson Chandler/Carmelo/JR Smith three-headed monster to deal with).
Since his first playoff series in 2008, Afflalo has seen his minutes grow from 7.0 to 16.5 to 20.0 to last year’s 28.3. He’s a player who’s constantly improving on skills he struggled with early on in his career (a 20% three-point shooter his rookie year, Afflalo finished tied for sixth league-wide from deep last season), with brimming desire and fearlessness gleaming from his eyes whenever advantageous moments present themselves. He was drafted at the end of the first round in 2007, then flipped two years later for a second round pick, placing one of those handy, metaphorical chips on his shoulder that should only grow as his career continues to mature.
Falling: Dorell Wright
Last year Dorell Wright had one of the quietest breakout seasons in recent memory. In his seventh year—the first outside Miami, also known as self-discipline dementia—Wright became a full-time starter for the first time. Naturally, he posted career high averages across the board and led the entire league in both three-point attempts and three-pointers made (!!!). Unfortunately for Wright (and the Warriors organization), he shot a harsh 37%, hardly qualifying as a feared deep threat. By comparison, teammates Steph Curry and Reggie Williams finished with the third and sixth most accurate three-point shooting percentage in the league, relegating Wright to at least the third best deep ball option on his own team (which is, like, sooo not !!! worthy). It was also worse than Keith Bogans. So, yea, there’s that.
When we look closer, maybe Wright didn’t have a breakout season after all. I mean, how many breakout seasons are followed by your team taking a player known for shooting threes and thriving in the same position, two months later in the draft? Many thought the Klay Thompson pick spelled a plane ticket for Monta Ellis, but if Golden State’s management were smart (they are) they’d take Wright, a player who can’t possibly have any better of a year than we just saw, and move him while he’s at the height of his value.
Honorable mention: Kobe Bryant
In the 2011 playoffs, James Harden had one of the quietest breakout performances you’ll ever see. Hidden behind Kevin Durant’s brilliance and the temperamental Russell Westbrook was Oklahoma City’s bearded Manu Ginobili, an aesthetically pleasing warlock. His ability to score was well documented as the reason he was selected No. 3 overall in the 2009 draft. But this wasn’t the reason Sam Presti refused to exchange him for Kendrick Perkins. Harden gets to the line and he shoots the three, but what we saw in the postseason was a playmaking magician. Someone able to open the floor and enable his teammates off the dribble. James Harden is a matchup nightmare, a player who acts like a point forward in a two guard’s body. To think about where he’s headed is to create prolonged anxiety for 29 fan-bases.