NBA Week 5: Quick Hitters
I took a bit of time off, so there’s a lot I want to cover.
There's no time for frivolous intros -- not that you'll see them on this site -- so here we go!
If you’ve read or listened to any NBA talk in the last week, you’ve no doubt heard that Russel Westbrook is now averaging a triple double.
The talk has mostly been about whether or not he can keep it up, but there’s also been significant talk comparing him to Oscar Robertson.
I personally think it’s a little obsessive-compulsive that we as a sports society are constantly comparing one dude to another, especially across different eras.
Let me throw some breaking news at you: The Big O averaged a triple-double during the 1962-1962 season.
You think that maybe … just maybe … the NBA has changed a little bit in 55 years?
Why can’t we just appreciate both eras?
Oscar Robinson averaged a triple double. That’s dope. Russell Westbrook is currently averaging a triple double through 19 games played so far, and that's also dope. It'll be dope finding out if he can keep it up.
And guess what? If he ends up averaging 30 ppg, 11 apg, and 8 rpg … that will still be dope!
But I understand the optics of people always wanting to compare.
So, if we’re really gonna suspend reality for a second and juxtapose the merits of these dudes, there are two quick points I’d consider:
- During the 1961-62 season, the average shots attempted per game across the entire league was 107.7 (Oscar’s Cincinnati Royals averaged 105.2). Let’s compare that to today. So far this year, the average shots attempted per game is 85.6 (Westbrook’s Thunder are sitting at 88.5). Thus, in Oscar's day, his Royals played at a much quicker pace, averaging 20 more shots a game than the Thunder, meaning 20 less chances for Westbrook to score, assist, or rebound. That’s kinda crazy. Point, Westbrook.
- In his triple-double season, Oscar averaged 44.3 minutes a game and played 79 games. Westbrook has thus far averaged 35.4 andplayed in all 19 of his games. That's also 9 extra minutes for The Big O to accumulate stats. Point: Westbrook.
So, if we must compare the two accomplishments, I'm going with Westbrook as more impressive.
But how about let's just not? Seriously. Sure, let's give a tip of the cap to Oscar because he's the only person who's ever been able to do the 3-2, but these are two completely different eras of time, with major differences in playing style, health management, legal defensive schemes, and about half a million other things.
Let's just enjoy both.
Moving on ...
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been incredible for the Bucks so far this season. Dude leads his team in points (22.8pg), rebounds (8.6pg), steals (2.1pg), blocks (a gaudy 2.1pg), and vowels.
Plus, he's second behind Matthew Dellavedova in assists (5.9pg to 6.3).
I love him -- in a manly-bro way, of course -- as he's everything that's good and happy about the world. If you haven't seen him play, I urge you to check it out.
The way that sleek Greek moves is just so unexpected, like seeing a shark on a mountain top. Dudes that big aren't supposed to play like he does. And yet he does.
The Bucks are a middling 8-8 and are really missing Khris Middleton, who had surgery to repair a severely injured hamstring. It's unclear whether he'll be able to play this year, but for the love of ... what works here? ... fustanellas! ... please let him play!
While I'm handing out recommendations of teams to watch, if you're trying to get an NBA gig, I highly suggest you check out the Houston Rockets.
They really do look at times like Steve Nash's Suns, with James Harden playing the part of Nash. Except Harden doesn't have the physical limitations Nash did.
The Bushy One can back dudes down, dunk over them, and grab rebounds.
This club's just fun to watch. I'd suggest seeing them on a night when the're playing another team that likes to score and thinks defense is boring.
They play Golden State tonight on TNT at 10:30pm edt, but that could be a blowout. They play in Denver tomorrow night on ESPN -- also at 10:30pm edt -- and that might be a better game.
The Portland Trail Blazers have the worst defense in the league to this point and might be lucky to be sitting at 9-10.
Damian Lillard's amazing, CJ McCollum's a stud -- and they have some other nice pieces surrounding them -- but maybe this club overachieved a little last year, and maybe they tweaked their defense a little too much by adding Evan Turner to the roster.
The Blazers badly need to make a trade, but the issue is they'd most like to trade Turner or Allen Crabbe. Both have real value in the NBA in the right situations but are both severely overpaid and wouldn't get much in return.
- Harkless has shown solid potential averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds to start the year shooting 50% from the field; and
- Plumlee weirdly might be invaluable to the team as a release valve when Lillard or McCollum get trapped.
I'm not the only one saying this.
Zach Lowe and others have correctly pointed out that the Blazers could get the most bang for their buck by dealing him, and I think I have a trade partner. McCollum for Boogie Cousins, straight up.
If Sacramento is hesitant, Portland throws in a future first-round pick. Who says no to that?
Keep in mind Sacrament has to trade Cousins or lose him this summer.
Wait, what am I thinking? The Blazers have Jake Layman, who according to the Portland broadcast team, is better than Michael Jordan. And it's hard to blame them with his stats at the moment.
Moving on down to the fertile delta, those Pelicans have arisen from the dead, thanks to the return of an actually competent point guard in Jrue Holiday.
It's a small sample size since he's been back, but it goes to show how drastic an improvement can be, allowing Anthony Davis even one above-average player.
The NBA All-Star game should have a 4-point line.
Think how fun it would be, watching guys pull up from like 33 feet out for four points. It's not like the All-Star game means anything, and people hardly watch it, anyway.
And don't look now, but the Warriors have won 12 games in a row.
Welcome to the Tank Train!
We're deep enough into the season that I'm going to begin alerting teams that they should be thinking about their immediate future.
I don't truly believe anyone other than the Sixers are currently okay with having the worst record in the NBA. In fact, I'd say even they are trying to win more often than they have in the past few years, although that's not saying much.
Rather than actively trying to lose, it now seems they just now have a sort of ambivalence to winning.
Without further ado, here are the teams who should be tanking and why:
- Dallas (3-13) ... Good lord! This team is a mess, largely due to injuries. However, as the existentialists say, it is what it is. The Mavs find themselves with the worst record in the league, playing the Spurs tonight. Mark Cuban is notoriously against throwing in the towel on a season, but honestly, they should be looking to trade Derron Williams -- if anyone wants him, that is -- and Andrew Bogut. Someone may want a grizzled Aussie, but I'm not sure who.
- Philadelphia (4-14) ... Already talked about them above, but they just really could use another Top 5 pick to put around Embiid. That's not to say they don't need to make a trade, though.
- Miami (5-12) ... Pack it in, trade Goran Dragić, and race to the bottom. This team has suddenly found itself with no real identity, and it might need to bottom out not only this year, but next. So, deal Dragić and Hassan Whiteside for future picks, young assets, or other tradable pieces they could turn into future picks or other young assets
- Phoenix (5-13) ... Just not a lot going on here, either. Devin Booker is the real deal -- and there's genuine excitement around him -- but the Suns need more. They should start with a Top 5 pick next summer.
That's all for now. Brooklyn would be on the list, but, incredibly, the Nets don't have the rights to their pick this year or next -- or this past year -- because of the legendary trade they made with the Celtics for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Time for the Cavs and Warriors Loss Watch:
- Cleveland: Either vs Milwaukee on 20 Dec or 21 Dec. Yes, they play one another in back-to-back nights, one in Milwaukee and one in Cleveland. Looks like they're trying to capitalize on a successful NHL scheduling strategy that keeps emotions high on that back-end game.
- Golden State: in LA against the Clippers, who absolutely hate the Warriors.
Time to also update you on my Chucker Award, given out to the dudes who hoist the most shots while completely ignoring their teammates and refusing to pass.
Again, my highly scientific formula here is: field goal attempts + minutes / assists. (Note: a minimum 300 combined FGA and minutes is required):
- Luc Mbah a Moute ... 101.2 (just 5 assists on the year in 430 minutes)
- Jerami Grant ... 88.6 (Why did OKC trade for this guy, again?)
- Pascal Siakam ... 81 (I'd never heard of him, either; plays for Toronto)
- Tyson Chandler ... 78.5 (Wasn't sure he was still alive)
- Enes Kanter ... 67.25 (his name rhymes with only one word in the English language)