Last night’s Nuggets/Rockets game featured two of the league’s most entertaining teams. And in an underrated point guard matchup, Ty Lawson quickly established the upper hand.
Ty Lawson broke his own big news. Yesterday, the Denver Nuggets and their starting point guard agreed upon a four-year, $48 million deal. With the team going forward with what looks like a roster headed by Lawson, what will happen from now on? And has Lawson even reached his ceiling yet? All very interesting questions. Read more…
I’ve watched this play approximately 25 times, and I’m still not sure what to make of Ty Lawson’s “move.” It was almost like his reputed speed made Ryan Anderson crumple just because they were on a switch. That, or he hurt himself on purpose. Either way it’s one of the season’s more embarrassing defensive plays, and the context of it being in a situation where Orlando absolutely had to have a stop makes it even worse.
There is no simple way to describe this season’s installment of the Denver Nuggets. Their roster is symmetrical tie-dye, a blend of cultures and complimentary skill-sets splashed together with an insane level of athleticism, smarts, chemistry, and camaraderie.
Are they a title contender? In this season, with all the injuries, crazy lineup implementations, and uber-balanced playoff races, why not? A healthy Denver Nuggets squad matches up well with just about every team in the Western Conference. They have scorers, rebounders, facilitators, shot-blockers, and a bench full of guys who believe they should be starting. That’s a scary group.
If you believe crazier things have happened, that Denver could in fact survive what’s shaping up to be the most unpredictable postseason in recent memory, then by definition you agree that they’re contenders. Using this logic, Ty Lawson, in his first season as a full-time starter, is now the most important player on a championship contender. Let that thought sink in for a moment. Read more…
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.
Making statistical projections on a basketball player—using numbers from both the past and present in an attempt to calculate future performance—isn’t just an inexact science, it’s hopeless. People love figuring things out, and can’t seem to accept an unsolvable situation, even as its obviousness kicks them in the teeth. Not to become one with an inner Grady Fuson, but there’s so much more intuitive evaluation that goes into a basketball player than a simple equation can encompass. The 1,000 jump shots a day that could or could not boost a player’s FG% up 40 percent, or continuous up and down the court ball handling drills to the point where a guy’s sneakers need to be replaced every three days are just two of the million variables that weigh on an unpredictable future.
What if Carmelo Anthony spent his entire offseason traveling around Australia, posing for pictures with cuddly Koala Bears? Besides smelling really bad, chances are his game wouldn’t improve in any area, and all the calculations regarding how he’d likely perform in the upcoming season would be rendered useless.
Then there’s the chemical factor. Baseball isn’t like basketball. There’s no one on one match-up that repeats itself over and over again until the game is over. Watching the game of basketball is like dipping your finger in a running river in that you’ll never get the same experience twice. Basketball players feed off one another and a lot of them need to be placed in the correct environment in order to reach their full potential, as opposed to baseball, where a murderer’s row lineup will always hit better than an average one because each piece isn’t entirely dependent on another. (Sure there’s protection, but managers who willingly place men on base are letting the very statistical insurgence this article is all about pass them by—they don’t last too long.)
I do believe advanced statistics are the smartest way to evaluate a player’s current value—there’s no debating it—but something about people trying to predict what’s going to happen down to the decimal point rubs me the wrong way.
Instead, I’ve decided to try my best looking down the road the old fashion way: through subjective gut feelings, supposed basketball knowledge, and, what the hell, a few numbers here and there. This post will look at players who should make immeasurable improvements next season, and players who will fall back to earth, into their limitations. Two players for each position will be selected, one good and one bad.
The list kind of resembles two overrated/underrated starting fives, while also resembling a stock market of sorts—if today you bought a team of random players, whose value would skyrocket and whose would take a generous dip into regression. The players who find themselves on the devalued list are still very talented and important to their respective teams, but I’m predicting this upcoming season won’t be as impressive as their last. Not only will there be a statistical drop off, but the player’s overall impact should slide a bit as well. Read more…
To help you get through hump day, here are two (!) Ty Lawson crossovers guaranteed to impress. They both embarrass well-reputed defenders Rajon Rondo and Rodrigue Beaubois, two guys with Pterodactyl-like wingspans. And the speed involved is just uncanny. Lawson isn’t an elite point guard (yet), but he’s captain of the second tier, and one of the most slept on players in basketball.
Want to teach a group of youngsters how not to play defense? Show them this clip and hope they don’t solely focus in on Deron Williams complete embarrassment of Ty Lawson.
The loss of five Nuggets a couple weeks ago was met with several different reactions: Carmelo Anthony (knife in the back), Chauncey Billups (insult to injury), Renaldo Balkman (happy face), Anthony Carter (…), and Shelden Williams (multiple backflips on a trampoline). A couple weeks ago when the Denver Nuggets pulled off the type of franchise revamping trade that can cause mass revolt, people were upset. Their GM said they got “killed” in the deal, and instead of waiting, calling Anthony’s bluff, and hoping he’d sign a three-year extension for the only professional team he’s every known, Denver shipped Carmelo to New York for some really young, really interesting players. The results for both team so for have been telling. New York is 3-2, with legitimate wins over Miami and New Orleans, but a loss to Cleveland; Denver is 5-1 with their only defeat coming at the hands of a Brandon Roy miracle three-pointer. So what gives? How can the Nuggets keep rolling people over without a true “superstar”?
This quote by Nuggets coach George Karl in an interview on the The Dan Patrick Show:
“You guys must think I’m crazy but I think we’re good. I had one practice with them, and I’m going ‘whoa!’ What always kind of mystifies me about this world of basketball is there’s so many brilliant minds in basketball; there’s so many guys that believe in the zone or believe in the triangle-and-two, or believe in the slow-down offense, or believe in the fast passing game offense — there’s so many ways to build a philosophy and win. But it seems like in the NBA you can only win with super stars. And I don’t believe that. I’ve always coached kind of doing what everybody else does, I do different. When I went to Seattle, nobody trapped and nobody did anything, so we fronted the post, and we double-teamed post-ups, and we doubled 40 or 50 percent of possessions a game and that worked. I just think why can’t you build a team where you don’t have a top-five player, but maybe a top-20 player at every position. That’s kind of what I’m thinking we’re going to be. We might not have an All Star, but at every position and maybe even have a bench that has more versatility and explosiveness than anybody else. So you have six or seven weapons, you might not have a superstar weapon, but you have good weapons. And then play hard, play defense, and be the most unselfish basketball team that you can be, because team wins more often than talent in this league anyways.”
What I really like about this team is their point guard play. With no Carmelo Anthony serving as the team’s offensive focal point, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton are able to play together and really force the issue in transition. In the very first game after becoming a permanent starter, Lawson scored 21 points to go along with five rebounds, seven assists, and six (!) steals. His only two 10 assist games of the year have come in the past two weeks, and brighter things look to be on the horizon.
National pundits are salivating over Denver. At first I figured it to be some manifestation of pity, but after watching the team’s hidden, talented bench pieces (Arron Afflalo) step up and compete alongside the young, more than serviceable newcomers (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler) I was convinced. This trade didn’t make the Denver Nuggets a motionless fringe playoff team, it propelled them in a positive direction. And now, despite having no consistent 20 point scorer and no person on the roster who can close out tight games in the final seconds, the Nuggets are dangerous, unpredictable, and a squad able to run the table in a wide open Western Conference.
As you are likely well aware, the New York Knicks now have Carmelo Anthony in their possession. In bigger and more meaningful news, Isiah Thomas is once again their general manager. What does this all mean? For the Knicks? For the league? For Donnie Walsh’s health insurance?
Let’s start with the obvious: New York received one of the 10 best players in the league. How much they gave up in order to get him has unflatteringly been compared to Minnesota’s Herschel Walker deal. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the Knicks decision to give up two quality NBA players, a 22-year-old wild card who could someday be an All-Star, three draft picks, Anthony Randolph, three million dollars, and Timofey Mozgov (I guess we’ll throw in Eddy Curry’s expiring contract/dead body for technical reasons) for Carmelo, Corey Brewer, a one-legged Chauncey Billups, and three dead bodies is damn near highway robbery.
What else do we know? That whole thing about no team in recent memory winning a title with their best two players masquerading as defensive underachievers should ring a bell. While I personally don’t believe Carmelo deserves the amount of slack he receives for his lack of defensive ability and effort, Amar’e Stoudemire is a completely different beast. When you factor in his knees being one unlucky landing away from certain death, the Knicks aren’t quite ready to battle for a championship. And without Chris Paul or Deron Williams, it isn’t likely they could ever get past Miami, Chicago, or Boston in the next five years. See, the CBA’s future is a tricky thing. Right now nobody knows if there will be franchise tags (think angry NFL stars), the mid-level exception (the general manager’s best friend), if the salary cap could turn hard or how low it’ll drop. Isiah might think he has it figured out, but he doesn’t. As Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward points out, working Carmelo, Amar’e, and a top three point guard into New York could be a financial impossibility:
With about $40 million tied up annually in just two players (Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire), the Knicks have taken themselves out of the Howard/Paul/Williams 2012 free-agent derby.
Perhaps that’s true. We don’t know what the salary cap will be in 2012 (though it figures to be lower), and we don’t know what the sign-and-trade possibilities will be for New York in July 2012 — or whether trade rules will be broadened so that incoming and outgoing salaries won’t have to match quite as closely. The Knicks have certainly made the pursuit of those players more difficult today, but who knows what the CBA will look like in a year or whether any of those players will want to come to New York.
More input on the Knicks getting hosed and their tragic managerial situation, by way of New York Magazine’s Will Leitch:
But the Knicks never needed to trade Gallinari, or Mozgov. If the Knicks would have held their ground, would Chandler/Felton/first-rounder/Curry for Carmelo/Billups worked? (With some salary cap flotsam here or there.) At first blush, you’d say, “Oh, the Nuggets wouldn’t go for that,” but why? What choice did they have? The only reason the Knicks offer looked uncompetitive was because the Nets—knowing Anthony likely would never agree to an extension to make the trade happen—could “offer” to give away Derrick Favors and Devin Harris and four (four!) first-round picks for Carmelo. The Knicks’ side of the trade only looks meager compared to the Nets’ imaginary scenarios. Compared to what teams usually get when their backs are against the wall, when they have to trade a superstar or risk receiving nothing at all, that initial Knicks haul seems low, but not shockingly so. Maybe Walsh blinks and gives up Mozgov then, as a final “Okay, let’s make it happen.” But Gallinari was never supposed to be in this in the first place. It wasn’t Walsh who made Gallinari a part of this: It was Dolan. When you don’t know how to negotiate, you lose ground you never realized you were ceding. When you toss out Gallinari when you absolutely do not have to, it’s just a tiny step to, “Well, you’re not gonna let Mozgov stand in the way of this trade, are you?” At that point, you’ve already lost.
And on the other end of the spectrum, the Denver Nuggets are the ones who find themselves with fixed financial flexibility and optimism: Chris Broussard recently tweeted this about some possible Gallinari movement, and Raymond Felton’s arrival in Denver looks to be a mysterious one, but they got something for nothing; that’s what matters. This from “All Things Nuggets”, The Denver Post’s NBA blog:
In mid-January, Nuggets coach George Karl opened up about Lawson’s growth: “Ty is doing a good job, but Ty’s got to mature too. He has a laid-back mentality that drives me a little crazy at times. My big belief and approach to leadership is that you lead by example, you lead by attitude and you lead by approach. You don’t lead by words. And his laid-back attitude probably stops him from being the leader I’d personally like him to be right now. But I think we can change that.”
And privately, Karl is pretty excited about his point guard situation. Karl is a proud North Carolina alum – he even went back to Chapel Hill during the all-star break – and both Lawson and Felton are Tar Heel point guards. In fact, both won the national title.
“Ray was my tour guide when I visited there,” Lawson said. “He took me around the city, showed me a good time. It will be a little weird being on the same NBA team.”
The ripples of this deal will be known in hindsight, but based on snap judgments, New York remains slightly above average and still won’t get past the first round, and the Nuggets are bunkering down into a smart rebuilding strategy. Time will tell how this one turns out. Maybe, in an ultimate turn of irony, Deron Williams chooses Denver and Chris Paul goes to Phoenix. Wouldn’t that be something.