Monday, November 24, 2008

Walsh Should be Punished not Praised

Okay, I get the fact that over the past few years (last year especially) the media constantly berated and destroyed the New York Knicks organization over and over and over and over and over…ad nauseam. This fact cannot be denied, nor will I try to.

But glorifying Donnie Walsh for trading away his two top scorers on a winning ball club, for a malcontent who hadn’t played in two weeks (Al Harrington, who, even when he’s good, isn’t Jamal Crawford good), an aging vet (Cat Mobley) and the league’s most abusive offender of the term “talented underachiever” (Tim Thomas)?

While I get the thought process behind the moves, I don’t accept it. Especially not this high praise and undue glorification the media has vomited forth. I don't care if those were Walsh's moves to begin with. They are, from a basketball standpoint, horrific moves.

The thought process is to clear cap space for that magical 2010 season when all the top players in the NBA will be free agents…namely Lebron James. And, even if James skips on the suddenly “tantalizing” New York offer, any number of the other players available will be foaming at the mouth at a chance to play in Madison Square Garden with the run-n-gun fun of Mike D’Antoni.

Well, we can scratch Amare Stoudemire off that list, unless, gasp, the big baby, mans up for his shortcomings and finally realizes how good he had it under Mike D.

But I won’t hold my breath. After all, he’s got Shaq as his mentor.

Anyway, I bring this point up because the Memphis Grizzlies and David Wallace routinely got roasted last season for their shedding of Pau Gasol. And this is why I created WestCoast Slant. Because East Coast teams (I guess technically Memphis is in the East, but they are a west coast team) get all kinds of unfair publicity.

Blogger Brian McCormick has a great little blog just about this. Well worth the read.

I’d like to take this moment to add to his ideas.

First and foremost, the deal that Chris Wallace made gains more and more credibility the more his new team gets burn together. Though only sporting 4 wins so far, this team has kept almost every game close (the Knicks and the Dallas games aside).

And the players the Grizzlies got?

Marc Gasol has a 16.91 PER and is one of the top rookies, shooting 58.8 percent in only 30 minutes of action. A 23-year-old rookie with silky jumper, who is 7-1, 285 and has a high basketball IQ that has translated well to the American game would seem to be promising enough compensation for Pau Gasol but throw in Darrell Arthur and Javaris Crittenton and the trade looks almost lopsided in favor of the Grizzlies.

I went over this a couple of weeks ago, but the point must be made known. In only 23 minutes of play, Arthur is averaging 7 and 7 and his 12.83 PER would be a lot better if he could just get his shot down (seems to be a team-wide problem outside of O.J. Mayo and Gasol). His per 40-minute averages are 12 and 12 with 2 blocks (sound like Al Horford to you?) Remember, Arthur’s only 20.

Crittenton, who hasn’t gotten any burn, is 20 as well. Who knows what the Grizz are planning on doing with him, but don’t be surprised if JCritt starts to show his promise if and/or when Mike Conley or Kyle Lowry is traded. Remember, Critt’s main problems are his decision-making and lack of an outside shot. Those are both fixed with practice and game-time. He’s got all the other tools to be an outstanding player—quickness, athletic ability, good handle, etc.

In fact, the average age of the starting five for the Grizzlies is an absurd 21-years old. And they’ve played well in all of their games accept for the two previously mentioned.

Let’s get off of Wallace’s back please. In fact, the irony of all ironies would be if the Grizzlies sit on their cap space and try to sign Lebron themselves. And, thinking in terms of purely just winning…the Grizzlies have all of the tools necessary for Lebron.

Sure, in 2010, the team would have to pay a huge luxury tax (resign Mayo and Gay and Conley/Lowry), but if they could somehow dump or buyout Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker before then, they could have enough cap space AND the ultimate team set up to sign Lebron...mind you, a young team that would have been playing together for 2 years. That sort of built-in consistency and team camaraderie is hard to find. And Lebron's game "fits in" (understatement of the century) with any sort of basketball.

The Grizzlies are and will be athletic able to run and defend. They have a D'Antoni disciple as a coach for those who believe Mike D will be a big selling point for New York. The Grizzlies already have a deadly marksman and feisty defender at the shooting guard spot (Mayo); an athletic,defensive-minded SF with a shaky handle, who can shoot the 3 and is excellent at finishing (Gay); a bruising big with finesse and the ability to make the right play at the right time (Gasol); and one of the following point guards: a pass-first point with lighting speed (Conley) or adefensive, frenetic energy-hound (Lowry). Once Conley and/or Lowry learns to shoot the 3, all the team would need is a power forward.

Enter the King.

Slam Online has a great breakdown of how Lebron is the perfect power forward:

LeBron still starts games at the three and spends a good deal of time out on the perimeter working off screens 30 feet from the basket and will keep the defense honest with deep jumpers every now and again, but the dynamic backcourt play has allowed LeBron to weave elements into his game that we previously only saw on Team USA–playing the high post and driving from the elbow, posting up deep, sealing off and getting easy buckets, getting more fast-break looks and quick post-ups early in the shot clock before the defense can load up, weak-side and back-door cuts often finished with Alley-Oops, and 1-3 pick-and-rolls with Mo Williams that have been effective both ways. He’s been off-the-charts effective when put at the four, where he spends about half as much time as he does at the three–his per-48 minute stats at the four-spot are (this is not a typo) 50/11/9 on 60 percent shooting, for a PER of an even 50. I’ll take that. The +/- statistics for LeBron at the four are favorable as well–the team’s best five-man unit is the reserve crew that puts West and Gibson in the backcourt, Wally Szczerbiak at the small forward (and Wally’s been terrible), and LeBron and Varejao in the front-court. While the unit doesn’t defend or rebound well enough to be a true option, as a curve ball it’s been devastatingly effective.

The results of LeBron’s new gameplan have been staggering. LeBron’s percentage of shots taken “inside,” which is a good place for LeBron to be because he’s one of the five best players in the NBA at converting from that area and easily the best perimeter player, has gone up from 38 to 45 percent, easily the best mark in the NBA for any perimeter player who takes nearly as many shots as LeBron, and his foul drawing rate has also risen. (He’s even displaying a far more confident free throw stroke.) All of these things have LeBron on pace to finish with career-high marks in points per 48 minutes, field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, assist rate and PER, despite the fact his jumper has been way off to start the season. (Despite LeBron’s second consecutive summer of showing a confident outside stroke, LeBron has started the year shooting what would be an easily career-worst 24 percent from three-point range and 35.7 eFG% on his jump shots–usually he finishes at 40 percent.) LeBron is basically dominating without a jumper right now, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t come around to at least his career-average in the coming weeks.

The whole article can be found at

With his newfound ability to play the ultimate power forward, what team is better set up to compliment Lebron’s unique talents? New York players might have a lot of heart, but none of them mesh well with Lebron's talents (okay, maybe Q Richardson, but he's injury-prone). In fact, of the players left, the only player of real note plays the power foward position (David Lee). Nate Robinson needs the ball. Chris Duhon can't shoot. Wilson Chandler is a poor man's Lebron.

The Nets are a bit more prepared to welcome in Lebron with Devin Harris transforming into a stud point. But they have Yi Jianlian at SF and a glut of power forwards. Plus, without that Brooklyn addy, Lebron ain't going to want to play in Jersey.

So, what about the Grizz? Hey, it might not be sexy in terms of pub, but if Lebron is truly about winning, then the Grizzlies have set up the perfect team. He’d be the elder statesman, and only one of a handful of guys in the league that the egos of Gay and Mayo would actually bend over backwards for.

Grizzlies fans are just waiting to bubble over with excitement for their team. Winning breeds a lot of stuff, including endorsements (as if Lebron needed to go to the Knicks to get any bigger or better endorsements than he already has). Sure the endorsements aren't there. But the spotlight will follow Lebron wherever he goes. And there would be a ton of glory to be had. But, it all comes down to what Lebron is playing the game for. Money or Championships...

I hope to God Lebron spits in the face of the New York Knicks, who have made a travesty out of the NBA. People said Isaiah Thomas was a horrible G.M.

I concur.

But Walsh sacrificing two entire seasons of basketball for cap flexibility holding onto the intangible nature of hope...hope—by no means a guarantee—of signing a major free agent is the ultimate in tanking and should not be encouraged or praised, but in fact punished by the league.

And a guy like Chris Wallace, in a mini-market like Memphis, trading away his best asset for a collection of high-upside, high-talent players who have produced right away—that sort of General managing should garner votes for GM of the year.


31andOnlyFan said...

With all these money hungry and deeply jaded players in the NBA these days - maybe you can do a post on some of the most charitable players on the West? And not just those who do it for the tax break or the PR moments! :)

West Coast Slant said...

Good idea! I'm looking into that.