The Deuce

Starting today’s article off and I just want to say thanks. Thanks to the Phoenix Suns for providing us with the good stuff this early in the season – firing their coach, the Eric Bledsoe tweets, the front office comments – just great work all around, really. The NBA is the best.

Stats

Just a quick note on the lack of stats seen so far in the posts. I really don’t get too excited about early numbers, for obvious Small Sample Size reasons. I know looking at them can be somewhat entertaining, seeing how goofy they are so early, but the whole point of this is to be a bit more measured and pragmatic in the reaction to off court news and on court play, so I won’t be throwing around stats and numbers until they come at least a bit more believable.

Remember, the Lakers were 10-10 last year and Luke Walton was getting Coach of the Year articles written about him into December. You won’t see those kinds of articles here.

Phoenix Suns

I wasn’t planning on writing about the Suns as the week started off, but Eric Bledsoe’s tweet and subsequent ‘I was at the hair salon’ excuse is just too good to pass up. I like how GM Ryan McDonough immediately said he didn’t believe that excuse. I don’t either, but I feel like we should be able to verify this, right? Can a beat writer with the Suns get the geo coordinates of Bledsoe’s phone when that Tweet was sent? Does the Freedom of Information Act cover tweet locations?

Anyway, the Suns firing Head Coach Earl Watson and then the Bledsoe tweet were just two more reasons out of 234,544,234 why you have to love the NBA. This type of stuff doesn’t happen in any other professional sport. Mathematically speaking (technically this isn’t a stat), this is the equivalent of an NFL coach getting fired halfway through the second quarter of the first game of the year. It’s just so beautiful. I love the NBA.

On a slightly more serious note, I mentioned a hypothetical trade involving Eric Bledsoe on Sunday, but that was in the context of Emmanuel Mudiay. I noted after Bledsoe was at the hair salon (who was he at the hair salon with? There had to be witnesses, right? I need answers!), that Kevin Pelton on espn.com (that’s an Insider article) had almost the exact same trade mentioned in his column about potential Bledsoe trades.

Pelton argues that the trade (Mudiay and Kenneth Faried for Bledsoe) could be completed without any draft picks, while I thought it’d take a first round pick from Denver to make it happen. Obviously circumstances have changed, but it made me think, in a world where the tweet didn’t happen, would a first-round pick be necessary?

I don’t think it would be. One thing I’ve noticed is that the market for trades has diminished – think of All-NBA-type players that have been traded, and their returns – Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, Carmelo Anthony for Enes Kanter, Dougie McBuckets, and a 2nd round draft pick. And while Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the Nets pick feels like a lot, it turns out maybe Boston didn’t give up that much – no one really knows when Isaiah will be healthy enough to play, and the Nets seem to be a least a decent bad team and not ‘worst record in the league’ bad’ (more on them in a bit). Each of those had their own special circumstances, of course, but the returns on those trades seem to be a bit less for the team getting multiple assets than was the general consensus before the respective trades were announced.

So while my initial thought was that, because Faried has 2 years left on his deal, the Suns would want a first round back from Denver, I don’t think Denver would need to do that, given the way previous trades have shaken out. And certainly now, after the events of the last few days have transpired, Denver wouldn’t need to throw in a pick, and perhaps might be able to get a 2nd off of Phoenix now that Bledsoe’s trade value has hit its nadir.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out, and how much the circumstances impact Bledsoe’s value, but I also think the general concept of ‘Trade Value’ for all players is higher among league outsiders – even those that follow closely – than the executives actually making the decisions.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are really fun to watch.

I didn’t really expect that coming into the season, and part of what makes them fun may be the combination of Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok, their simple, straightforward and perfect black/white uniform color scheme (seriously, love the Nets uniforms), and the fact they are currently the league’s highest scoring team in terms of points per game, but they have a great combination of fun players. D’Angelo Russell has been fantastic, and I really love the line-ups with Russell, Caris LeVert, Allan Crabbe, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Not just now, but even 2-3 years down the road.

Trevor Booker is a joy to watch rumble around all over the court, and just make plays. I’m not sure what his best skill is, but you notice him when you watch Nets games – much more than Timofey Mozgov even though Mozgov is huge.

Zach Lowe went in-depth on how the Nets got here, and where they are going in this piece over the summer, and it’s worth re-reading now, especially the parts about the culture. Russell got a bad rap coming out of Lakerland, but was there a worse situation for a young player to be in, for two years, during that particular stretch of time?

Think about it – his first year in the league was Kobe’s last. And while the first thing you probably think of when you think of Kobe’s last year was his 60-point final game, he was taking some truly god awful shots all season long. This article was written 3 games into the Lakers season.

One thing that article reminds us of: Byron Scott was the head coach.

So not only was Kobe in the final year of his career and doing whatever tf he wanted, Byron Scott was head coach and just collecting checks during that entire season. The rest of the roster was just weird – look at this line from an espn.com article:

The Lakers played without starters Ronnie Price (broken nose, flu) and Wesley Johnson (hip flexor)

Starters Ronnie Price and Wesley Johnson!

This is without mentioning all the turmoil happening in the Lakers front office during this time. Ramona Shelburne has detailed what was happening with the Buss family drama here.

And then, when D’Angelo finally makes it out, you have Magic Johnson – newly appointed President of Basketball Operations – taking swipes at his leadership style.

This is all to say – I’m really happy D’Angelo made it out, I’m really happy he made it to this team, and he’s been a joy to watch. I hope he develops into the star he should be, and we get to see those perfect Nets uniforms in the playoffs sooner rather than later.

Milwaukee Bucks

I had meant to write about Giannis and the Bucks on Sunday, but International League Pass didn’t put the Bucks/Blazers game up in time for me to get another viewing of the Bucks before writing Sunday night (still having issues with ILP by the way. The Playstation app worked fine for the first week, and even earlier today, then all of a sudden it quit working, telling me I needed a subscription. The support team is telling me its because the app isn’t supported in my region – but then why did it work before? Still waiting on an answer fore that one – I’ll keep you guys in the loop).

I finally got around to watching that game, and saw a few tweets from Haralabos Voulgaris about how dominate Giannis has been so far.

A lot of the criticism/comments I see about Giannis follow the lines of ‘as soon as he learns how to shoot, watch out!’ Haralabob had the following tweets:

https://twitter.com/haralabob/status/922848132752326656

https://twitter.com/haralabob/status/922885388783325184

It got me thinking about something: Because he handles the ball so much, we tend to automatically think of him as a perimeter player, and therefore he needs to develop an outside shot. But the point that Haralabob was making, and I agree with, is that he’s so dominate already without a shot, that all he needs is shooters surrounding him. He’s like a dominate big man from the 90s – he needs space/shooting around him and he’ll be unstoppable. He can score from the paint whenever he wants, so he doesn’t really need to be able to shoot.

He’s like some weird evolution of Shaq, where he can score whenever he wants to in the paint, except that Giannis starts his moves from the perimeter (he also spends a lot of time at the nail, a la Dirk), instead of starting his moves on the block like Shaq. Shaq may not be the perfect example, but the point remains – if you change your thought process/perspective a bit on Giannis and think of him more as a dominate post-player than a perimeter player who is really good at getting into the paint, I think he helps contextualize how unique and amazing he really is.

There’s lots of talk of NBA Unicorns, but the whole point of a unicorn is that they are rare and one of a kind. Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis – they can’t be unicorns because they are all part of the same basic arch-type: 7-footers who can block shots and shoot 3s, with potential for more. Giannis is the real unicorn – there is no one currently like him, and there never has been before.

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