Is Dwyane Wade becoming underrated?

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NBA General Managers seem to think so.

In the GM survey that was released earlier today, NBA executives were asked who they thought the best shooting guard in the league is. Wade was listed second (behind Kobe Bryant), receiving 23.3% of the vote. This is down from the 40.7% of the vote Wade received last season when he still ranked below Bryant.

What stands out to me here isn’t that Wade ranks below Kobe. They’re two of the best players in the world and there can be a reasonable difference of opinion on who you think is better. People have their preferences and tend to value different things.

What stands out is that with both players one year older — and Wade still in his prime — GM’s seem to think that Wade is losing ground in comparison to Kobe; that Wade’s stock seems to be falling at a rate disproportionate to his game.

Last season wasn’t Wade’s best season as a pro but he was still excellent. His per-36 minute averages were right in line with what he produced the season before even if his per game averages dipped slightly. From an efficiency stand point, he posted a higher PER, assist rate, and a lower turnover rate last year than the season before and did it all while maintaining a usage rate that’s only shade below his career norms.

If his box-score stats suffered, it was more about him pulling back some in order to give LeBron more freedom rather than any real slippage in his game. Wade understood, like everyone else, that the Heat would need LeBron at his best to reach their goals and then adjusted his game to help make it happen. He worked more off the ball, picked his spots, and seemed content to lay-low throughout games for longer stretches and then pounce when his team needed him.

I’m sure playing with LeBron James also hurts the way he’s perceived. Even if Wade isn’t actually doing less, LeBron’s other worldly talent makes it seem like he is. They play such similar styles that one can’t help but think if LeBron is controlling the game from the wing that Wade can’t be. Add in the fact that LeBron is the MVP of the league, Finals MVP, and won an Olympic gold medal over the summer only adds to the divergent opinions towards the Heat’s two best players.

Wade also played the majority of last season dealing with several nagging physical issues. He missed 17 regular season games, including 8 of the Heat’s final 15, with injuries ranging from a dislocated finger to ankle, foot, and knee troubles. Heading into the playoffs and throughout the entire post-season, Wade did not look like his normal self and was only able to conjure up his usual brilliance occasionally.

And maybe that’s really the issue here. The lasting images of Wade coming off of last season are of him not being Dwyane Wade. We have memories of him lacking explosion when going to the rim and settling for more jumpers.We recall his first step not being the same and his finishing ability suffering because of it.

But Dwayne Wade isn’t some broken down has been. He needed surgery on his knee and had it during the off-season. He’s on pace to return on time to start the season fully healthy. When the regular season starts we’re likely to see a different Wade than the one that finished the playoffs gutting through games and getting his knee drained.

There’s a recency bias that exists in sports. Too many times we fall victim to the idea that the most recent best thing is the best thing ever. We end up thinking that the way something just was is the way it will be moving forward. With Dwyane Wade, I think we’re going to see rather quickly that all the GM’s that see him precipitously falling in comparison to his peers got it wrong.

For NBA GM’s, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.

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.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.