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Essay: Grading The 2009 Draft Class Extensions

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

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…

Shook Ankles: Jrue Holiday Puts On A Mini Magic Show

 

The main reasons people use to explain Philadelphia’s success have been youth, athleticism, depth, and camaraderie. Their one flaw? In two words: relative talent. They have no elite player at any position, their leading scorer barely shoots 40% from the field and sees fewer than 30 minutes a game, and their one All-Star plays a style better suited for the third best player on a champion. But so far, the youth, athleticism, depth, and camaraderie have persevered, leading the 76ers to first place in their division. In a team-oriented situation like this, the point guard is crucial, and Philly’s is as trustworthy as any. From last year to now, his usage rate has gone up while his turnover percentage has gone down, and he’s the one player on their roster who could one day develop into a star; their least tradeable asset. How good is Jrue Holiday? His personal statistics aren’t the hottest, but his team’s are. Using that as the barometer to measure how well a point guard is playing, I’d say Holiday may soon erase talent as his team’s major flaw.

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Commentary: A Noiseless Challenger

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Funny how a few wins here, some moderate success there, and you’re a blip on the league’s radar.  After a much maligned yet expected 3-13 start, the Philadelphia 76ers seem to have finally poked their head up and through the soil. Their last two playoff appearances were of the quick and painless first round exit variety; with an unfairly tagged franchise player and a disinterested fan base creating zero hype or excitement. But over the past two months Philadelphia has played the best basketball the city’s seen in 10 years, and people are clawing over one another’s backs for a seat on the bandwagon. Still, without any superstars, the attention given to Sixers basketball pales in comparison to New York, Boston, or Chicago. Very few teams can match their collection of uber-young talent, and in the years ahead, it’ll be interesting to see who their general manager, Ed Stefanski, chooses to keep in development, and who to cut from the herd as useful assets. Since their shocking upset of San Antonio a little over one month ago, Philadelphia has gone 9-4 with a win over Boston and an overtime loss to Oklahoma City to prove just how competitive they’ve been when pitted against the league’s best.

So why is this happening? An obvious answer would be the new coach, Doug Collins, who, in a move that made more than a few heads shake, left a longtime job in broadcasting to commandeer a young, meddling franchise in Philly. Collins, along with Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, is now a front runner for Coach of the Year. Another reason could be the improved play of Elton Brand, who has been a pretty big disappointment since leaving Los Angeles a few years ago. Or maybe it’s the surprisingly consistent and confident play of young guards Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, and Lou Williams. These are all valid explanations, but when it comes down to it, the most solid answer available has been right under everyone’s nose the whole time. A player who defines under the radar, who has just recently taken the task of defensive stopper to heart and adjusted his game accordingly. I’m talking, of course, about Andre Iguodala. Courtesy of CSNPhilly.com’s Dei Lynam:

The question is: when will Iguodala make his first NBA all-defensive team? In his seventh season, he is definitely knocking on that door.

Iguodala is given the toughest defensive assignment nightly and he relishes in studying the play of the Kobes and Carmelos and figuring a way to slow them down.

“I focus on that every night, so it is always there. Playing against those guys you have to play at a high level or you are going to get burnt,” Iguodala said. “I like to play at a high intensity defensively year in and year out.”

It might look like his defense has improved this season, but Iguodala says it has not. He thinks that because he is part of a better team defense and because the Sixers are winning games, his defense is a more common topic of conversation.

His performance this season has been somewhat of a carryover from an integral participation on Team USA this past summer: offensively speaking, it’s been sacrificial. His usage percentage (18.98%) is his lowest since he was 22 and barely puts him above Spencer Hawes on the team’s pecking order.  So are his field goal attempts, down to 11.3 a game from 13.7, last year. His true shooting percentage is sitting at 53.8%, slightly higher than last year’s 53.5% which was a career low. And at just 13.8, his points per 36 minutes are the lowest they’ve been in five years. I realize this makes Iguodala look like a crap sandwich, but he’s doing a great job of helping Philly out in other ways: His assists, assists percentage, and win shares per 48 minutes are all career highs. On defense, Iguodala’s arms are lacrosse sticks, scooping up loose balls and snatching errant passes like its their designed purpose. Last season the Sixers ranked 24th out of 30 teams in defensive rating (giving up 110.3 points per 100 possessions) and today they’re 9th (104.9 per 100); Iguodala and his unmitigated commitment to the defensive end is a major reason why (his defensive rating is the lowest it’s been since his rookie season).

Iguodala is competitive. He is also physically gifted and he knows he has an asset that aids in his defensive prowess. Iguodala has a longer wingspan than most so if he gets beat off the dribble, he uses his quickness, long arms and instincts to recover before he is scored on.

“I know I have intangibles and a God-given physique of a guy who can get beat but still recover,” he said proudly. “I have been beat a lot and still got back to the ball or still contest a shot.”

“I joke with Jodie [Meeks] all the time saying just make them take a tough shot and you don’t have to jump,” Iguodala explained. “And he would say back, ‘you have long arms. I have to jump just to contest a shot.’ I had never taken that into consideration and when he said it. I realized he had a point.”

But Iguodala also says a player doesn’t have to steal the ball or block shots to be a good defender. In a league that is star driven, guys are going to get their numbers, but the harder a defender makes it for that star, the better.

The Sixers, unfortunately for them, are stuck in an Eastern Conference top heavy with more than a couple of championship contenders. Their chances of winning a championship this season are zilch to nil, but what this stretch of fine play does is finally give the city a basketball team they can be proud of.

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