Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Leftover NBA Thoughts

A few lingering thoughts from the extraordinarily entertaining Bulls / Celtics series:

Joakim Noah
People dislike this man and even derisively refer to him as a woman, I guess because he’s got long hair and wears it in a ponytail.

He is brash, he is exuberant, he has possibly one of the ugliest looking shots I’ve ever seen, he has the aforementioned ponytail, and he screams a lot, much to the annoyance of nearly everyone around him, probably even his teammates. If I rooted for the guy, I’d cringe every time he let out a primal scream after a putback dunk or a block. I’d want him to put a lid on it and just play, but that’s not him, and it’s frustrating and annoying. It is definitely easy to hate him.

But here’s why I don’t. He’s a great team player and he makes his team better. He is never going to be an elite or even functional scoring option on a good team because he has no post moves to speak of and he certainly cannot hit a jumper (from any distance) with any degree of consistency. But as a result, he does not do these things because he is very aware of his limitations, which makes him a smart player. He knows his role as a defensive role player, agitator, rebounder, and garbage point collector. In addition to being a savvy player, he also has the benefit of being 6’11, possessing boundless energy, and surprising quickness and agility, all of which makes him very effective. He’s a perfect player for this young Bulls team because they have several other scoring threats so his scoring is not necessary. In fact, if he had the ability to score, it may create discord amongst the team because he would think he needs more shots. He may develop offensively over time, but because he’s so unselfish now, their present team is better for it.

I’m not a fan of his, because I do not like the screaming, but I do appreciate his value and would be pleased to have him on my team, if I had one to root for, and I don’t.

Rajon Rondo
He’s got some interesting qualities. Every time I see him I think of the video game Street Fighter II because he reminds me of Dhalsim, the Indian dude with the crazy long arms and legs. Is Rondo just straight up African American or is there something else going on there? My friend, Chris, thinks that he looks like a good-looking Alien, not an ugly one like Sam Cassel. He’s on to something.

My wife thinks that his face is very feminine, which is also true and made me think of Jaye Davidson, the guy who played the chick in The Crying Game and the sun god Ra in Stargate that could have been super cool but instead was just kind of cool (I blame James Spader). He shares a lot of similarities with that androgynous person. However, I'm not saying that Rondo could slip on a dress and pass for an attractive female. He’s end up looking like ET when Drew Barrymore dolled him up. I find that I’m digging myself a hole here and I don’t mean to disparage Rondo’s looks, but he just looks a lot different than a lot of other brothers out there.

Nevertheless, he’s a wonderful point guard player who I’ve decided is better than Deron Williams right now even if Williams is much, much, much more of a threat with his jumper than Rondo is with his.

That’s not to say that I don’t love Williams’s game; I do, but Rondo looks like he has a sort of indestructibility, defensive prowess, and cocky, bad-assness to him, sort of like GP did back in the day. Taken a step further, GP had a compound-fracture level broken jumper when he started out in the league, just as Rondo does. Jumpers, like bones, can be mended over time (just look at Tony Parker). Attitude and drive are harder, if not impossible, to acquire. Rondo has these qualities already.

Just for fun, here is my top five list of young (meaning under 25) PGs in the league in descending order of my admiration:

  1. Chris Paul, age 24 (May 6, 1985) – despite a horrid performance by his team in the playoffs he is the best. He controls every single thing on the floor. His team was hurt and overmatched against a hungry, tougher team on a mission, who look to be on their way to the conference finals by the way. We’ll see what happens next year and if Byron Scott will be back. There has got to be a bunch of coaches who are more qualified than Scott, of course, if there is a buyout involved, then there are issues here because the ownership is notoriously cheap. I love Paul’s game and he remains at the top of the list for me.
  2. Derrick Rose, age 20 (October 4, 1988) – he’s got all of the ability in the world to be the best and he’s only 20. Like Rondo, his jumper is suspect, but it’s not broke. He just needs to spend a ton of time this offseason working on it. It will come. One nitpicky thing about him that will likely dissipate with age and experience is his eagerness to defer. As good of a ball handler he is, I’d prefer him to dominate the ball more than he does. I also understand that he’s got Ben Gordon on his team who lives to shoot and does so voluminously, and will probably bitch if he doesn’t get his looks. My point is, too often he’ll bring the ball up the court and pass it to Gordon or someone else and then disappear for the remainder of the possession. Look, I know that point guards are supposed to pass, but the pass that I just described doesn’t doing anything, except allow Gordon to dribble around and launch up a shot. I also understand that this may be what Vinny calls in from the sideline, whatever the reason, it shouldn’t happen with the frequency that we see it. Taking the ball out of Rose’s hands does nothing but benefit the defense. It lets them off of the hook. He should penetrate at least 70% of the time because by doing so he’ll get to the rim or he’ll find an open guy. Every time. In a few years, we’ll see this, he is only a rookie and a very young one at that. The bottom line is this: He’s great right now and will only get better.
  3. Rajon Rondo, age 23 (February 22, 1986) – he’s in the three spot solely based on what I’ve seen out of him during these playoffs. He’s been nothing short of fantastic, but his lack of any sort of offensive perimeter game limits him presently.
  4. Deron Williams, age 24 (June 26, 1984) – I’d love to have him on any team I root for. He’s got great size and strength and plays good defense. It’s just that his top-end is below what the other three have to offer.
  5. Russell Westbrook, age 20 (November 12, 1988) – I can only go on what I’ve read about him and what I saw of him at UCLA since I haven’t seen a single game of his. He was an explosive guy and a terrific defender at UCLA and it seems as though that has carried over to the NBA. As an aside, I just looked at their roster and Shaun Livingston is on their team. That poor dude. He was on his way to becoming a very good point guard in the league if he didn’t suffer that dry-heave inducing leg injury (link). That, and looking exactly like Wallace, doomed him. (images). Upon further review, his birthday isn’t helping matters either… September 11, 1985. On the bright side, he’s got two years to be a member of this exclusive list of mine, so there’s that. But really, is Livingston capable of making a comeback? And if so, will the Sonics have the skinniest 1 and 3 east of Serbia? Neither Durant nor Livingston was able to press 185 off of their chests at the NBA Pre-Draft Combine. I’m pulling for the guy to make it back simply because, in limited time, he looked like he had a great feel for the game. He also seemed like a good dude and the league could always use more legit PGs who can see the floor and make plays. Here’s hoping that he continues to round back into shape and not explode on impact.

Guys that didn’t make my list but whom I’ve heard good things about and will try to watch them even though it’s impossible because they are never on TV:

  1. DJ Augsustin, age 21 (November 10, 1987) – I remember him at Texas, and am surprised that he’s been able to do what he has in the NBA, of course he plays in Charlotte (for now) and that team will never be relevant because it’s very likely that their ownership and management don’t know what they’re doing. Plus, I hate the sanctimonious Larry Brown
  2. O.J. Mayo, age 21 (November 5, 1987) – I’m told that he’s a point guard. I don’t know how that is the case. When he was at USC he didn’t really play the point, but he did have the ball a lot. He’s also got Mike Conley on the team, whose strength is not shooting. If I cared about Memphis in the least I’d put more thought into this. Mayo just seems like he fits the trendy combo guard label than point guard, but does that really matter? All of those combo guards can all thank Chauncey for this, by the way.

Guys that I’m interested in, but probably only because they are from the Seattle area and don’t have the special gifts that the top five have but I’m going to mention them anyway because I am intrigued by them and they are still young and this is my site and I’ll do what I want.

  1. Aaron Brooks, age 24 (January 14, 1985) – He’s incredibly quick, but small, and has a great jumper. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be Jason Terry for years to come (yes, I made that reference because they both are from the same high school in Seattle, but you have to admit, it works).
  2. Rodney Stuckey, age 23 (April 21, 1986) – Not overly impressive, but he’ll get better. He’s physically gifted and has great size. I’m very intrigued by his potential. People ought to settle down with the Dwyane Wade comparisons. Just because he resembles him physically doesn’t mean he’s the same player. He has attributes, but Wade is super duper special. Stuckey can also thank Chauncey (for the combo guard thing and also for the leaving Detroit thing).

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