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

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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?)

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.