GM Survey: Where Darko Milicic is underrated and Carmelo Anthony is MVP

17 Comments

Everyone has that buddy that acts perfectly logical and sane, but forces you to reevaluate your friendship after he blurts out something like, “Carlos Boozer is going to win MVP this year!” Well, good news everyone: NBA General Managers are just like you, me, and your friend you can no longer take seriously.

Let’s take a look at some particularly bizarre things that were said in the NBA GM survey released today. Keep in mind that general managers weren’t allowed to vote for their own players or personnel, which makes these answers (and the who-done-it mystery) all the more confounding.

1. Carmelo Anthony: MVP

Let’s try to rationalize this. The MVP award can be all about the narrative, right? Maybe New York comes out and crushes the league during the regular season, and it’s Carmelo Anthony leading the way. The long awaited actualization of immense natural talent — what a story! And ever since LeBron James and Kevin Durant were abducted by aliens, it’s an easy call to make! Look, unless “defense” and “scoring efficiency” cease to exist in the year 2013, let’s go ahead and chalk this up to a GM doing some grade-A trolling.

Likely culprit: Masai Ujiri, Denver Nuggets GM, Master Troll

2. Most underrated player acquisition: Darko Milicic

If by “underrated” this GM means “not rated all because it doesn’t matter” then this is a great pick that makes all kinds of sense. It’s hard to express just how awful Darko Milicic has been throughout his entire career, but I’ll try. Darko posted a PER of 9.0 (average PER is 15), had a true shooting percentage of 45.8 percent, had zero win shares, had a lower defensive rebounding percentage than Andrea Bargnani, and was considered a malcontent through it all. But, other than that, I’m sure he’s on the brink of a breakout in his 10th NBA season. That happens all the time.

Likely Culprit: David Kahn, Minnesota Timberwolves GM, Manna from Heaven Believer

 

3. Best Perimeter Defender: Kobe Bryant

Aren’t reputations fun? Bryant has been playing matador defense for a while now, sending everything to the bigs in the paint behind him. That may be a viable strategy now that Dwight Howard is patrolling the paint, but it’s laughable to suggest that Bryant is the best perimeter defender in the league when there are much quicker players who are really only in the league because defense is their one skill. You think Tony Allen gets playing time for his isolation ability? Or that Thabo Seflosha plays over James Harden because he’s a pure scorer? Bryant can still play a mean center field defensively, but he’s nowhere near the on-ball defender he used to be.

Likely Culprit:  Lon Babby, Phoenix Suns GM, Part-Time Lakers Assistant GM

4. Player you want taking a shot with the game on the line: Chauncey Billups

Behold the power of a nickname! Chauncey Billups, also known as Mr. Big Shot, had gone 3-of-27 with the game on the line from 2006-2011. In that same time frame, Chris Paul was 14-for-31. So while the GM who picked Chuancey Billups may have had the right team, he definitely picked the wrong player. In fact, anyone not named Chauncey with at least 15 attempts would have been a better choice. This is an impressive level of wrong here.

Likely Culprit: Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons GM, Proud Nostalgist

5. The Timberwolves will win the Northwest Division instead of the Thunder or Nuggets

Who needs baby steps when you can take gigantic leaps? This isn’t an indictment on what Minnesota has cooking — many smart people predict Minnesota to make the playoffs and the numbers support it. But are they really better than the Thunder? It’s hard to make that massive jump with Ricky Rubio still making his way back from ACL surgery and Kevin Love sidelined for the beginning of the season. Maybe the GM forgot the Thunder were in this division. After all, Oklahoma City really isn’t in the Northwest.

Likely Culprit: Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets GM, Numbers Fiend

6. The Hawks will win the Southeast Division instead of the Heat

Nevermind that the Heat are the defending champs, added some guy named Ray Allen, and still feature the best player in the league in the prime of his career. That’s all circumstantial, because the Hawks…traded Joe Johnson? You won’t find a bigger Anthony Morrow fan than me (with the possible exception of this GM), but only Harry the Hawk or someone who runs a team that has adopted a vendetta against all things Miami could possibly believe something like…oh. Right.

Likely Culprit: Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics GM, Loyal Feudist (Obviously this was actually Pat Riley, since he can’t vote for his own team. But it’s more fun to think that it’s Ainge, isn’t it?)

Pistons consider shutting down Reggie Jackson for rest of season

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Leave a comment

The Pistons have started Reggie Jackson. They’ve brought him off the bench. They’ve sat him entirely.

No role seems right for the point guard as Detroit has lost four straight and seven of eight.

Now, it seems the Pistons might just shut down Jackson, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury. He’s at least doubtful for tonight’s key game against the Heat.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Fox Sports Detroit:

We’ve been thinking about this, actually for a long time, OK? And he’s been playing at — it’s just hard to put a percentage — but probably at about 80 percent. And as we get into this stretch of games in March where we’re playing a lot, the fatigue is just making it worse.

It wasn’t really fair to him. We were running him out there, putting pressure on him. He’s seeing things he should be able to do, and he just can’t do. He’s not feeling pain, but he just can’t make the plays he wants to make. And we’re trying to put him out there.

We were really struggling, and we just need to have guys who are at full energy and the whole thing. And as much as he wants to, he can’t right now. It’s honestly amazing what he’s done.

To his credit, he fought me on it. He wanted to keep going.

He needs some rest. We don’t know how long it will be. But he needs some rest and to be able to try to get his energy back and see if we can get him at full strength.

He’s been a warrior. He’s tried to fight through it. He’s been frustrated, because he sees openings and things on the court that he just hasn’t been able to get to. I think part of it is a confidence thing.

And I think the thing that we really look forward to, and he looks forward to, is getting a fresh start in the offseason and being able to go through the preparation for a season like he did last year. And not only get right physically, but really get his confidence back to be able to attack and make the plays he’s had.

Jackson hasn’t looked right this season, showing only fleeting moments of quality production. It’s unclear whether that’s his knee, confidence, regression to the mean after a breakout season last year, bad luck or some combination.

But it has the Pistons in dire straights. They’re 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with tonight’s game against eight-place Miami crucial.

Detroit’s offense and defense have hummed better with Ish Smith, but despite the better chemistry he affords, the talent drop from Jackson is also glaring. It’s not as if the Pistons have soared with Smith. And relying on Beno Udrih for backup minutes is its own risk.

Van Gundy is talking a lot about next season when it comes to Jackson, which seems telling. The coach’s compliments seem designed to soften the blow.

The odds are against Detroit making the playoffs, but they might be higher without Jackson. The fact that that’s even considerable is also telling about Jackson’s season.

Joakim Noah says he’s cleared to play, which will allow suspension to begin

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA suspended Joakim Noah 20 games — effective once he’s “physically able to play.”

Noah underwent knee surgery about a month ago, and though it seemed he’d miss the rest of the season, the Knicks said at the time he’d be reevaluated in 3-4 weeks. That gave the team cover to claim his suspension should begin this season.

So, Noah rushed to practice today, and no matter how unlikely he would’ve been to follow this timeline sans suspension, that will seemingly be enough.

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

New York has eight games remaining, which would leave 12 for Noah to serve at the beginning of next season.

Obviously, the more of his suspension Noah serves during this lost season, the better. The Knicks might be a wreck next season too, but at least there’s a chance they’re ready to win (and a chance Noah can contribute). This year is confirmed hopeless.

 

After fun back-to-back wins, Kings deemphasizing veterans

1 Comment

Break up the Kings.

No, really.

After consecutive thrilling wins — a historic comeback against the Clippers on Sunday and another one-point win over the Grizzlies, Sacramento coach Dave Joerger’s former team, yesterday — the Kings announced a changing of the guard.

Joerger, via CSN California:

This was maybe our last stand for the year, as far as you’re probably not going to see all those veterans play together the rest of the season.

Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver and Ty Lawson played major roles against Memphis. Expect their minutes to be cut down the stretch.

The Kings have “fallen” to the NBA’s eight-worst record. It’s unlikely, but a late-game surge could “drop” them to the league’s 10th-worst record.

That’s unviable for a team that put itself on the tanking track and loses its first-round pick (to the Bulls) if it falls outside the top 10. Sacramento must protect itself from bad lottery luck.

It might not require going full Suns, but the Kings should and will emphasize developing their young players — who, not at all incidentally, are less equipped to help the team win.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
6 Comments

Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.