Presenting The Grantland Staff Bracket (Round One)

I wish I could claim this idea as my own, but it is indeed borrowed from SI’s Richard Deitsch via Twitter.  It was created solely in jest to poke fun at Grantland’s affinity for making up brackets and polls.  I used a combination of the staff’s quality of writing, quantity of production for Grantland.com ONLY, and my own personal bias in creating the seeds (thus a guy like Wright Thompson gets dinged because he has produced maybe five pieces for Grantland while writing extensively for ESPN).  Admittedly I could have used additional help in creating it.  I was more in a rush to be the first to devise and publish Deitsch’s great idea.

Please scroll below the actual bracket to take part in the first round of voting.  We’ll update the brackets Wednesday morning with the winners of the first round and continue until we get a champion.

Presenting the 2012 Grantland Staff Bracket: 

  FIRST ROUND SECOND ROUND QTRS SEMIS FINALS SEMIS QTRS SECOND ROUND FIRST ROUND  
1 bill simmons               chuck klosterman 1
16 mark titus               carles 16
8 david shoemaker               chris ryan  8
9 jonah keri               robert mays 9
5 brian phillips               shane ryan 5
12 patrice evans               michael kruse 12
4 jay caspian kang               jonathan abrams 4
13 mark lisanti               rany jazayerli 13
6 rembert browne               rafe bartholomew 6
11 michael weinreb               louisa thomas 11
3 bill barnwell               molly lambert 3
14 jonah lehrer               colson whitehead 14
7

10

mark harris

hua hsu

              wesley morris

alex pappademas

7

10

2 charles p pierce               katie baker 2
15 david jacoby               wright thompson 15

1. Bill Simmons vs 16. Mark Titus

Bill Simmons
Mark Titus

8. David Shoemaker vs 9. Jonah Keri

David Shoemaker
Jonah Keri

5. Brian Phillips vs. 12. Patrice Evans

Brian Phillips
Patrice Evans

4. Jay Caspian Kang vs. 13. Mark Lisanti

Jay Caspian Kang
Mark Lisanti

6. Rembert Browne vs. 11. Michael Weinreb

Rembert Browne
Michael Weinreb

3. Bill Barnwell vs. 14. Jonah Lehrer

Bill Barnwell
Jonah Lehrer

7. Hua Hsu vs. 10. Mark Harris

Hua Hsu
Mark Harris

2. Charles Pierce vs 15. David Jacoby

Charlies Pierce
David Jacoby

1. Chuck Klosterman vs. 16. Carles

Chuck Klosterman
Carles

8. Chris Ryan vs. 9. Robert Mays

Chris Ryan
Robert Mays

5. Shane Ryan vs. 12. Michael Kruse

Shane Ryan
Michael Kruse

4. Jonathan Abrams vs. 13. Rany Jazayerli

Jonathan Abrams
Rany Jazayerli

6. Rafe Bartholomew vs. 11. Louisa Thomas

Rafe Bartholomew
Louisa Thomas

3. Molly Lambert vs. 14. Colson Whitehead

Molly Lambert
Colson Whitehead

7. Wesley Morris vs. 10. Alex Pappademas

Wesley Morris
Alex Pappademas

2. Katie Baker vs. 15. Wright Thompson

Katie Baker
Wright Thompson

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Video Of Barack Obama Discussing Jeremy Lin, Among Other Basketball Topics On Bill Simmons’ Podcast

Simmons finally landed the POTUS on his podcast after ESPN shafted him four years ago. It’s a terrific listen, regardless of politics. Check out the entirety of the interview here

We’ve said this once and it’s worth repeating: it is so damn cool to have a president who is a knowledgeable sports fan, regardless of your politics.

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Bill Simmons Announces Details About His New Website

Indulge my inner nerd here for a little bit.  My favorite writer is Bill Simmons and for months it’s been whispered that he’s been making the rounds, recruiting people for a new website he is going to start.  Well the pot finally started swirling earlier this week with the announcement that Deadspin’s Katie Baker would be leaving the site to join Simmons’ project.  In even more astounding news, Simmons revealed to Sports Business Daily that he’s hired pop culture guru Chuck Klosterman to join him as well.  Klosterman is a frequent guest on Simmons’ podcasts and has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, sports, movies, and TV.  From Sports Business Daily:

It still does not have a name and it has not hired a top editor, but Bill Simmons unveiled details of his new project, which will be a new website that will be 70% sports and 30% pop culture. It will launch later this spring. And while it will be fully owned by ESPN, it will not carry the ESPN brand.

“This is something that was really important to me when my contract was up at the end of last year,” Simmons told THE DAILY. “It’s going to have a bunch of quality writers. And it’s going to have the flexibility to have a lot of people come in and write one time a year or a couple of times a year, whatever. I’m hoping that we’re going to have enough quality people coming out of the gate that other people are also going to want to write for it.”

Simmons would not say who he has hired to write for the site, other than Chuck Klosterman and Katie Baker. “We’re going to start with somewhere between 8 to 12 writers that will be on staff fulltime and some freelance people that will be involved on a weekly or bi-weekly basis or a monthly basis,” Simmons said. “A pretty good share of contributors that will be coming in and out.”

Simmons was one of the major inspirations for our site and the prospect of all of these talented writers in one place is extremely exciting for a sports/pop culture nerd like myself.  We love, love, love to read here at Gen Y and can’t wait to see where Simmons’ project goes.

[Sports Business Daily]

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Simmons’ Trade Column Is Published, How Do We Stack Up?

*Here’s the link to his column.  We’re going to re-run our column now for you so you can see how we stack up against him.*

For any of you Bill Simmons fans out there, you might be familiar with his yearly gimmick of valuing the 40-50 players in the NBA who have the most value heading into the trade deadline.  Now for those of you who aren’t, we’ll quote the premise of the column word-for-word so that you get a better idea of what we’re trying to achieve in all of this.  From last year’s Bill Simmons Trade Value Column on ESPN

A quick recap of the rules:  

1. Salaries matter. Over this season and the next two, would you rather pay Gerald Wallace $29.5 million or Antawn Jamison $40 million?  

2. Age matters. Would you rather have Chauncey Billupsfor the next five seasons or Rajon Rondo for the next 12?  

3. Pretend the league passed the following rule: For 24 hours, any player can be traded without cap ramifications but with luxury-tax and every-season-after-this ramifications. If Team A tells Team B, “We’ll trade you Player X for Player Y,” would Team B make the deal?  

4. Concentrate on degrees. I don’t think L.A. or Miami would make a Kobe-Wade swap, but L.A. would at least say, “Wow, Wade is a few years younger, same stats, should we have a meeting about it?” while the Heat would say, “There’s no frickin’ way we’re trading Dwyane Wade for a guy with 1200 games on his odometer.” That counts in the big scheme of things.  

5. The list runs in reverse order. So if Rajon Rondo comes in at No. 15, players 1 through 14 are all players about whom Boston would say, “We hate giving up Rondo, but we definitely have to consider this deal.” And they wouldn’t trade him straight-up for any player listed between Nos. 16 and 40. 

So basically what you need to know is that although this comes off looking like we’re ranking all the players in the NBA in reverse order, that’s not what we’re going for with this idea.  The simplest way to put it is that we’re trying to figure out who the most valuable players are in the NBA on a “pound-for-pound” basis with these factors (among many others) coming into play: talent, age, contract, heart, character, potential.  We’re predicting his column comes out either tomorrow or next Friday, so you’ll be able to compare our results to what Simmons comes up with.  

A full disclosure before you move on, we’re huge Simmons fans and of course we consume all of his content.  We absolutely used his podcast with House last week to help come up with the list, but there are major, major differences.  We created this column because we’d like to check our final results against his and see how we compare.  Additionally, please understand that because a writer like Simmons declares LeBron James the best player in the NBA doesn’t change the fact that he’s the best player in the NBA.  It’s not “stealing his idea” or any other writer’s, for that matter.  We mean him no disrespect and if anything, we’d hope that he’d take it as a compliment that we tried to predict a column he has yet to write. 

Without further ado, the 2011 Generation Y Sports NBA Trade Value Column… 

Honorable Mentions – Guys who just didn’t quite cut it for various reasons.  These players are beloved by their franchises but other NBA teams aren’t exactly fantasizing about them. 

Greg Monroe, Brook Lopez, Darren Collison, Brandon Jennings, Michael Beasley, Tyson Chandler, Amir Johnson, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins. 

Any Team Says Yes – These two guys are our starting point.  They’re different from their counterparts above in that they’re readily available if a team calls and makes the right offer.  These are guys that need to land on playoff contenders. 

50.  (tie)  Gerald Wallace/Stephen Jackson – Two guys that can immediately step in and help a legitimate playoff team.  The Bobcats are probably going to make the playoffs but we know they’re going to get bounced in the first round.  Wouldn’t Stephen Jackson be a perfect fit in Chicago? How about Gerald Wallace in Orlando? The point is, one of these guys needs to go.

Too Soon To Tell – We Just don’t know at this point. 

49.  Derrick Favors – Is he the next Chris Bosh or the next Kwame Brown?  We know less about him than how his teammate Kris Humphries landed Kim Kardashian.  The Nets initial trade offer for Carmelo may have been a coup for the ages or it could have been the Nets selling off a bright future in one of the dumbest trades in NBA history.  I need to see, well, anything from this kid before I can make a realistic evaluation. 

Reliable Big Men – These big men can sometimes surprise you with a 28/13 performance, may sometimes disappoint you with a poor outing, but for the most part, you know what you’re going to get with these guys. 

48.  Paul Millsap – Millsap’s not exactly reliable.  He tends to have two solid games followed by a no-show. You don’t want Millsap being you’re number-one big, but as a compliment to another one, he fits the role quite well. 

47.  David West – West is that typical 20-8 guy.  He’ll produce nightly and may even take over in spurts.  He’s an unrestricted FA next year, so it’ll be interesting to see what New Orleans decides to do.  If they plan on keeping Paul around, they better re-sign his favorite pick-and-roll buddy. 

46.  Al Jefferson – Big Al is finally getting acclimated in Sloan’s offense.  The past five games he has put up at least 20 PTS and shot over 50% from the field.  Against Denver he showed Utah exactly why they traded for him when he had the best game of the season (28 PTS, 10 REB, 12-20 FG, 3 BLK, 0 TO).  Jefferson’s still very young (26) and has some of his best basketball ahead of him. 

45.  Andrew Bogut – The Bucks have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league this season, but don’t blame Andrew Bogut.  Bogut, after coming back from that horrific wrist injury, is averaging nearly 12 boards and 3 blocks a game.  His shooting touch is obviously off, but anytime you have a 26-year-old center cleaning up the paint and glass like that, you’re lucky.  I’m pretty sure the Lakers wish Bynum was more like Bogut. 

Second Or Third Options Pretending To Be Number One Options – For the most part, these guys are on teams lacking a true alpha dog player and have been forced to attempt to shoulder that load.  Their games aren’t complete enough to deserve that recognition, but you admire their work nonetheless.  

44.  Kevin Martin – He’s Lois Scolaat shooting guard—a great scoring threat who has no impact on the defensive end.  He’s averaging a very respectable 23.5 ppg right now, but the Rockets have unfortunately taken a step back this season. 

43.  Danny Granger – There was so much promise for Granger but at this point all we can hope for is that he’s the next Rudy Gay. 

42.  Luis Scola– An absolute offensiveforce.  He was a sight to behold this summer at the World Championships and the Rockets locked him into a fairly savvy contract  (think: Lamar Odom range) where they’ll definitely be getting their money’s worth in the coming years.  If Scola could get paired witha defensive-oriented player at center, that team would be a force to be reckoned with. 

41.  Nene– I think he’s the best center in the West right now.  In a year where Tim Duncan is the only West player who starts at center for his respective team, Nene has a right to complain about being snubbed for the All-Star game.  He’s got an expiring contract and I expect we’ll start to hear a number of whispers about him getting moved before the deadline along with the countless Carmelo rumors. 

Mercenary For Hire – This tier is dedicated to the player that is hogging all of the media attention and that is holding his current team hostage. 

40.  Carmelo Anthony – We’ve been discussing Carmelo Anthony too much for the past six months, I’m going to refrain from doing so anymore. I’m sick of Carmelo Anthony right now!  He only falls this far because at this point the Nuggets would accept any of the guys ahead of him on this list in a trade.  Once he gets his new contract he’ll be back to the top ten. 

Raw Young Talent: Questionable Head On Their Shoulders 

39.  Andrew Bynum – You see a guy like Bynum and you kind of shudder at the thought of having him on your team.  It’s not totally undeserved but again consider that there is a remarkable shortage of talented big men in the NBA.  Bynum is a former All-Star and a huge reason the Lakers have been so successful in the last three years.  Everyone knows the Lakers height is what makes them so challenging which is exactly the reason the Lakers would never move him—even if it is for Carmelo Anthony.  He’d be higher on the list if he didn’t make such mind-boggling career decisions like the one this offseason where he delayed knee surgery for three months so he could tour Europe.  Consider him the Joaquin Phoenix of the NBA.  

38.  DeMarcus Cousins – Cousins may have been the most talented guy in last year’s draft class but questions about his character still abound.  Apparently it’s not even an issue off the court anymore but simply the completely different persona he takes when he steps foot into a game.  If you ever get the chance, sit down and watch a Kings game soon.  There is literally a “DeMarcusCousins face” where you just know you’re getting any one of or a combination of the following: a foul, technical, flagrant, turnover, poor decision.  Withthe lack of talented big men he could easily become a consistent All-Star or just as easily turn into the next Josh Smith, which is to say he’ll still be a consistent All-Star. 

37.  Tyreke Evans – Evans pulled off one the best rookie seasons ever last season when he averaged 20/5/5 and put himself in the company of guys like LeBron and Oscar Roberston.  Many expected him to take a huge leap this season but an ankle injury has prevented any progress from taking place.  There are whispers around the league that he’s not a guy you can win with though.  He plays the infamous hybrid guard position made famous by Gilbert Arenas, meaning that he handles the ball as much as a point guard while taking the amount of shots as a typical shooting guard.  Unfortunately for Evans, no one on that list has ever gone on to be considered one of the best players in the NBA.  Arenas currently owns the worst contract in the league and his modern-day equivalent Monta Ellis is no different.  Evans will need to prove myself and other critics wrong by taking the next step.  Look for him to carve out more of a shooting guard role like Dwyane Wade did if he wants to keep improving. 

Raw Young Talent: Good Head On Their Shoulders 

36.  Serge Ibaka– Ibaka’s stats aren’t impressive, but he makes things happen.  He’s ultra-athletic and is one of the league’s better shot blockers.  He gives the Thunder a much-needed body that’s capable of running with Westbrook and Durant in the open floor and can also adjust and defend in the half-court.  Once Ibaka figures everything out and harnesses his athletic ability, he’ll be a force.  It would be great if the Thunder found a great center to pair alongside him. (Thunder fans are still bitter about not landing Marcus Camby before last year’s deadline. Utter stupidity.) 

35.  StephonCurry – Curry’s a magician offensively but he’s a massive liability defensively.  That obviously limits his potential and is the reason he’s not higher on the list.  Golden State doesn’t have the defenders to hide Curry on D, so maybe if he finds himself on another team he’ll make an even bigger impact.  The Warriors aren’t averse to the idea of dealing him since they want to build around Monta.  I, for one, would like to see him go to another team.  Dallas, perhaps? 

34.  John Wall – Wall’s been a disappointment this year.  He’s maybe the fastest player in the league, judges the passing lanes exceptionally well, and has shown glimpses of brilliance.  His inconsistency is troubling, though.  He’s shooting 40% from the field and is averaging nearly 4 TOsa game. We’ll give him a mulligan because it’s his rookie year and he suffered a severe ankle injury, but I expected more out of him as a rookie. That’s right, John Wall! I’m calling you out! 

Elite Role Players – Guys who could masquerade as number one options.  They’ve taken diminished roles on their teams for the chance to play for NBA titles. 

33.  Tony Parker – The one theme of all these players seems to be that they could survive as number one players on horrible teams but are willing to take diminished roles for the chance to pursue championship opportunities (minus Josh Smith).  When you watch Parker play, he at times comes off as being completely and utterly unstoppable.  He’s got one of the fastest first steps in the NBA and although you’d never let your wife or girlfriend into a room with him, Parker is a championship-proven point guard.  He’ll remind us of that again this post-season.  

32.  Carlos Boozer – He signed for max money this offseason and then promptly got hurt in a very sketchy injury that may or may not have involved a bout of domestic dispute.  We forget that Boozer was on the 2008 Olympic Squad and one of the most consistent double-double guys in the NBA over the years in Utah.  When the Bulls get healthy, watch out.  They’re the second best team out East. 

31.  Lamar Odom – Lamar could make a case that he needs to be higher on this list due to the steal of a contract the Lakers were able to get him to sign.  He’s playing for about $8M this season and next with a team option for a third season after that—which you can be sure the Lakers will pick up.  He can literally play every position on the court and is a force on defense with his long arms and height.  He could have duped a team into giving him max money if he wasn’t so predisposed with living near the beach.  He also loses points for hitching his wagon to the Kardashian train — even if Khloe is the most down to earth of the sisters. 

30.  Josh Smith – Smith is an extremely difficult player to gauge—a player too talented to ignore and yet such an enigma that you’re not sure that you’d want to build a team around him.  He puts up absurd rebound and block numbers.  You find him on Sports Center every other night putting up highlight reel dunks.  He’s on the list of top ten most athletic guys in the NBA and yet, come playoff time he really seems to have no impact.  He’s like the power forward version of JR Smith—easily capable of putting up forty points every night but consistently finding himself in the coach’s doghouse and missing from the “elite players” conversation.  I’m positive that any team in the NBA would jump at the chance to add Josh Smith to their roster, but you just never know what you’re going to get from him.  A basketball pariah, to be sure. 

29.  Chris Bosh – He’s the easiest target to make fun of on the Heat but take a minute and actually watch this guy play basketball.  He is a lights-out mid-range jump shooter and is extremely underrated on the defensive end.  Make fun of him all you want, but you’ll wish he was on your team’s side come playoff time. 

Fading Monuments – Hall of Fame players that are on the decline of their career but are still key to their team’s success. 

28.  Steve Nash – Poor, poor Steve Nash.  Last year he came a rebound away (remember Ron Artest’s fluke offense rebound and put-back in game four?!) from beating the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, and now he’s stuck on a team whose best scorer is Vince Carter.  Nash is still running the show brilliantly, as always, and is keeping the Suns in games they probably shouldn’t be in. All NBA fans should be praying that the Suns deal Nash to a contender.  It’s only right.  

27.  Tim Duncan – It’s hard to find a player that can contribute so little in the box score yet so much on the floor.  That’s why we love Timmy D.  He knows his greatest games are behind him, but he’s still a force around the basket both offensively and defensively.  We can only hope he (or any of the Spurs big three) doesn’t suffer an injury because the Spurs are having a magical season. Without Duncan, the Spurs would struggle to be a top-six team in the west. 

26.  Kevin Garnett – Bill Simmons boasted that Garnett should be considered in the MVP discussion.  Although I think that’s BS (no pun intended), it goes to tell you how important Garnett is to the Celtics’ success.  They havea defensive identity when he’s on the floor.  He’s the floor general. He’ll hit you in the face, knock you to the ground, call you a “cancer patient,” slap your nuts, basically do anything to bother you.  He likes to antagonize people, and to no surprise, the Celtics’ overall defense antagonizes every NBA team in the league. It’s scary how impactful KG still is. 

Pillars Of A Good Franchise – No NBA team can survive without good big men.  These tall players stand as the foundations of their teams and without their front-court heroics, their teams would lose a big piece of their identity. 

25.  Zach Randolph – Randolph is another guy who can make a significant case that he should have made the all-star game.  He’s one of, if not the best, back-to-the-basket scorers in the NBA and is a serious force on the glass.  Randolph falls this far because he’s had a difficult time shaking the reputation he earned as a young player in the league with the infamous Jailblazers squad.  Although many widely agree that Randolph is no longer that type of guy, he still gets no love.  I read a fantastic piece in the New York Times recently that examines the curious nature that Randolph’s career path has taken.  The article talks about how it’s a mistaken assumption to say Randolph’s lack of notoriety now is due to “public amnesty.”  The reality is that it that bad reputation is undeserved in the present day and his time in Memphis should be remembered for his overwhelming play and ability to prove the critics wrong.  With an expiring contract this season, he might be a guy that a contender looks to trade for at the deadline.  He would be a solid addition to a team like Denver, Oklahoma City, or Atlanta that could use additional front court help during the playoffs.  Don’t sleep on him and Rudy Gay teaming up to sneak in as the eight seed out West though. 

24.  Joakim Noah – People have forgotten about Joakim since he went down with a significant thumb injury.  I loveNoah because he is perfectly content being the guy who hustles after rebounds and makes great defensive plays.  He knows exactly what role he needs to play for the Bulls to be successful and he’s never going to break outside of that mold to pad his stats.  It’s why the Bulls never would have moved him in a thousand years for Carmelo. 

23.  Al Horford – By my count there is only one starting center ahead of Horford on this list and that man is Dwight Howard.  In a season where the Hawks star player Joe Johnson went down, Horfordkept them relevant when many experts expected them to fall considerably.  He’s never going to put the team on his back, but the simple fact is that he’s one of the five best centers in the league, even if he really is a power forward. 

The Hybrids – These guys are some of the best two-guards/small forwards that the NBA has to offer.  This tier includes some gritty, savvy veterans while the others are ascending talents. 

22.  Monta Ellis – Monta is a basketball descendant of Allen Iverson.  He’s got the quickest first step in the league, is deadly on fast breaks, and can find his own shot anywhere on the floor. He’s a legitimate threat to drop 40+ on any given night, and that’s why he’s so awesome to watch. In any other year he’d be an All Star. Would Monta be able to fit in on a playoff team as a number-two guy though? That’s the major question. 

21.  Joe Johnson – “Mr. Undeserving $120 Million-Dollar Man.” It’s unfortunate everyone judges Joe based on the colossal contract he received. If people instead sat and watched Atlanta games they would see that he’s playing as well as any shooting guard in the league right now.  Of course, after last year’s playoff debacle, we’ll have to wait and see how he performs in the postseason before he can fully redeem himself. 

20.  Rudy Gay – We always knew Rudy Gay had this quality of play in him.  Standing at 6’9”, blessed with incredible athletic ability, it’s hard to create a better build for a SF.  He’s taking what he learned from the World Championships and carried it over into this season. He’s now averaging career-highs across the board and is leading (along with Zach Randolph) the Memphis Grizzlies to unchartered territory: a potential playoff seeding. 

19.  Paul Pierce – Pierce’s stats are down this year, but he’s playing some of the best basketball of his entire career.  Like Ginobili, he also gets to pick his spots in games.  Remember against LA a few weeks back when Boston needed him to go off? He did just that and outdueled Kobe in the process.  Remember Pierce’s patented mid-range jumper he nailed at MSG to finish off the Knicks? Pierce, as well as the rest of the Big Three, should be applauded for the way they’ve all tinkered their games and also sacrificed offense for the better of the team. Pierce will be a Celtic for life. 

18.  Manu Ginobili – As Sir Charles always says, “GINOBILIIIIIII!!!!!!!” I seriously believe if he were on a team, like, say, Atlanta, he would be putting up 27+ PPG.  He doesn’t have to do that for the Spurs, though.  He gets to pick his spots, and that’s what’s so great about him.  You never know when Manu’s going to go off.  When he does, he’s one of the most unstoppable players in the league. 

17.  Eric Gordon – Eric Gordon’s maybe the most overlooked player in the entire league.  Most people have no idea that he’s averaging over 20 points a game, he’s one of the best two-guard defenders, and he has no problem creating his own shot.  The Blake Griffin-Eric Gordon duo is one to be very scared of in the future. Gordon’s injury eliminated any chance of the Clippers trying to make a miraculous second-half push though unfortunately.  

Forward Thinking – The elite power forwards in the NBA.  They pass, shoot, dunk, rebound and make it extremely difficult for other teams to gameplanagainst their respective squads.  

16.  Lamarcus Aldridge – Greg Oden goes down for the season.  Marcus Camby goes down for the season.  Brandon Roy gets surgery on both knees.  The Blazers should theoretically be out of playoff contention, right?  Not so fast my friends!  Aldridge has proven he is a bona fide superstar and was easily the biggest All-Star snub.  He’s put the team on his back and they currently sit four games over .500.  The only thing keeping him from being higher is that this is the first time we’ve really seen him dominate.  He’s always had the tools and if he keeps this up at a consistent level, he’ll be higher on this list come next year. 

15.  Pau Gasol – Fact: the LA Lakers have made the finals every season Pau Gasol has been on the team.  Fact: Pau Gasol was also an early MVP favorite (he’s fallen off since then; we’re speculating that he’s been playing through a significant injury all season).  Fact: Gasol probably should be higher on this list but alas, he plays second fiddle to Kobe Bryant (even though he might be the best player on the team at this point). 

14.   Amar’e Stoudemire – It’s hard to discount a guy who openly embraced the difficult proposition of saving basketball in New York.  Amar’e did all that and garnered significant MVP attention earlier this season.  Although he won’t win the award, he has a claim to the title of best power forward in the NBA.  He only falls this far due to the max contract and because we never know when his knees are going to go. 

13.  Kevin Love – There are some guys out there in the league who just “get it.”  They understand that great basketball is played as a team, and that there is a certain amount of poetry achieved when the sport is played to near perfection.  Their whole existence in the NBA seems to be consumed by the chance to pursue this beauty on a nightly basis.  Kevin Durant gets it.  Kevin Garnett gets it.  Steve Nash gets it.  And, dear basketball readers, Kevin love gets it.  I know this is one of the most recycled themes in basketball, so all apologies.  How else do you explain it though?  Love had every right to take the path of so many NBA players whose footsteps he is following in by quitting on his team and being a whiny bitch.  He didn’t even start last year for the Timberwolves even though they finished with the second-worst record in the league.  He was clearly the best player on the team and yet head coach Kurt Rambis still kept him out of the starting lineup in a bizarre power struggle that eventually led Bill Simmons to attempt to create a ‘Free Kevin Love’ movement.  And yet, he persevered through it all to become the leading rebounderin the NBA and this past week he earned his first all-star berth.  The reason Loveappears ahead of all these other stud forwards is that this is only his third season in the league and he’s still signed to his rookie contract which will pay him something in the neighborhood of $3M this year.  He still can learn and improvesignificantly on the offensive side of the ball and that will continue to happen as his game matures and he grows to be the leader in Minnesota.  Love might not be as good as the other three players on this list right now, but as far as trade value is concerned, he’s way ahead of these guys. 

Pick Your (PG)oison – This is the tier dedicated to the ultra-talented PGs in the NBA.  You could make a very good case that it’s the most loaded position in the NBA on a talent basis.  These guys set themselves, and their teams, apart. 

12.  Rajon Rondo – The best passer in the NBA. The way he jets around the court while maintaining such great vision is a skill not many in this league possess.  He’s the primary reason the Celtics are having such a superb year – again.  

11.  Deron Williams – Deron has had a somewhat rough year this season, but that should’ve been expected. When you lose Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews from your lineup, and when your team runs such a precise offense predicated around screens, it’s going to take awhile to get back on track.  Fortunately for the Jazz, they have one of the best PG’s in the game running the show.  I suspect Deron and the Jazz will make a late-season push up the Western conference standings. 

10.  Russell Westbrook – There’s not a better all-around athlete at the PG position than Westbrook. My only criticism: He’s not a great passer just yet. Being it’s only his third year in the league, though, the best is yet to come. 

9.  Chris Paul – If you look at the Hornets roster from top to bottom, it’s not too impressive, yet Chris Paul still has this team playing playoff-caliber basketball. Plays aren’t being called for him, he’s not trying to take over games scoring, he’s focused on getting his teammates involved, like a true PG should do, and he’s doing an excellent job of it.  If he can fully overcome his knee injury, the case can easily be made that he’s the best PG in the league – over Derrick Rose. 

Franchise Cornerstones – These guys are going nowhere.  You might make the case that they’re slipping (Kobe), that they’re getting too old (Dirk), or even that they’re cowardly (Wade).  The truth is that you’d die to have them as your franchise player. 

8.  Dwyane Wade – LeBron is the best player in the world right now, but D-Wade is still the leader/anchor/heart and soul of the Heat.  He figured out a long time ago what it takes to win a title and is content being the second guy if it helps his team win (while also being able to take over at any time, if necessary).  

7.  Dirk Nowitzki – If not for a rare injury, Dirk might be the MVP favorite right now.  The Mavswere lost without him.  Before and after the injury you could easily argue no team has been better in the NBA.  Simmons has been calling him the best crunch time scorer in the league right now and we’re not disagreeing.  He finally has the defensive help that the Mavs have been missing for years in Tyson Chandler and the Mavs are the rare team out West that can match the Lakers size on the front line.  If they add a substantial player at the trade deadline, say a certain former teammate and two-time MVP playing in the desert, the Mavs could easily challenge the Lakers for West supremacy.  Cuban has made a career of making huge blockbuster trades, just never at the right time.  If the Mavsowner has any sense of the moment, he will make a deal happen.  All apologies to the Roddy B enthusiasts, but you give him up in .04 seconds for the chance to land Steve Nash and make a run at titles in the next three seasons. 

6.  Kobe Bryant – There’s no one you’d rather have right now leading your team into the playoffs.  He’s wearing down sure, but not by much.  Unlike players from earlier generations, Kobe’s career is going to be extended due to his religious workout regimen and the benefits of modern sports medicine. 

Elliot Ness’ Untouchables – These are guys you would never, ever trade under any circumstance (unless one of them boned the owner’s wife, and even then, they probably wouldn’t be traded). You get the point.  

5.  Blake Griffin – Griffin wins the award for “Player that could’ve been number-two on this list but easily could be off this list next year.” I say this because we only have a one-year sample size to judge him. Granted that sample size has proved he’s a legitimate superstar, but this one year doesn’t eliminate our worries about him suffering another brutal injury. He plays with such ferocity and aggressiveness, he’s a blessing to watch, but he also makes you wonder whether he can stay in the league.  Is he the next Ralph Sampson? For this reason, he’s at the bottom of our upper-tier. Not a bad thing, Blake. 

4.  Dwight Howard – Howard should be number two on this list. The reason’s he’s not is because he’s yet to make the major leap that he should’ve made by now.  He’s putting up gaudy stats, but his team is hardly a threat in the East right now. He practiced with The Dream this off-season, but his team’s actually worse than ever, and part of the blame has to be thrown on Dwight.  Given all that, you don’t trade Dwight (even though there are rumors about him fleeing to LA or NY after his deal ends) ever.  He’s always going to make your team relevant, and he has that potential to make it a perennial championship contender.  He just hasn’t reached that level yet. Hopefully he’ll mature and make that leap that he’s fully capable of making. 

3.  Derrick Rose – I previously wrote that he’s the current MVP right now.  What hasn’t he done? He’s kept the Bulls incontentionin the East despite losing both of his reliable bigs at different times.  Imagine how much better they’re going to be once you combine the Boozer-Noah tandem to compliment Rose’s brilliance?! I firmly believethey’re going to giveevery team in the East troubles.  Sure, they won’t surpass the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics yet, but they’re going to give them a whole lot of trouble.  And it’s because of their franchise PG.  

2.  Kevin Durant – This spot was really tough to fill. It could easily be argued that Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose are having better years than last year’s scoring leader.  The decision came down to these, though: Would the Thunder accept Rose for Durant? No. Would the Thunder accept Dwight Howard for Durant? Maybe. I say maybe because Howard plays center and is a transcendent defender. Given this, though, you don’t trade last year’s scoring leader, and recently signed franchise player, for Howard. Some may disagree, and that’s fine. This top-five list is pretty interchangeable. I’ll end with this: If you offered me Dwight for KD, I’d rather have a fully committed scorer that put this summer’s World Championships team on his shoulders and put on one of the most impressive performances in Olympic history. That’s KD. 

1.  LeBron James – The best player in basketball, hands down. If it weren’t for the pompous debacle he pulled with “The Decision,” he’d end up winning the MVP this season. Just take a look at his former team, the Cleveland Cavilers. They’ve lost a league-record 25-straight games (and counting)! Would the Bulls be that bad if Rose were to leave Chicago? No. Would the Mavericks be that bad if Dirk left the Mavs? No. LeBronJames is a once-in-a-lifetime talent that will go down as one of the best five players of all time barring some unforeseen injury. He’s undoubtedly the number one guy on this list. You can’t get any better than The King. 

Let the debate begin.

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Your Blake Griffin Dunk Of The Night (Bill Simmons Soils His Pants Edition)

Look for the Sports Guy at the :10 mark. He’s in a gray button-down and he’s holding one hand in the air like Rocky.

Here’s what he had to say about this incredible dunk, via his Twitter feed: “Whooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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Bill Simmons and Charles Pierce’s Feud

For everyone following Twitter, you probably ran into Bill Simmons’ interesting tweets today:

“Hey CPP: took you out of TBOB cuz you trashed it without ever mentioning that you used to email me all the time until I told you to eff off.”

“I just thought it was dishonest. You came off like a spurned lover in that piece. But seriously, good luck with your red-hot career.”

So what “piece” was Simmons referring to? He’s referring to the scathing review by CPP (Charles P. Pierce) issued shortly after the hardcover version of TBOB came out. Read it, it’s harsh. For example, he criticized the book for being “overstuffed and self-indulgent.”

Deadspin, the great instigators they are, informed Pierce recently that he wasn’t cited anywhere in the new paperback version of TBOB. Pierce then slammed Simmons by saying:

“My comment would be that it would appear to be a very small moment in a very big book, and that, once again, Bill seems to have a much thinner skin than those work-a-day sportswriters whose efforts he’s made a career out of deriding.”

This comment sparked Simmons to execute his two tweets this afternoon. Well, Pierce shot back to those tweets today with:

“And right back at you, you mendacious, whiny little thin-skinned bag of breeze, you. I’ve been thrown out of better joints than your bibliography.”

Got to love it!

Can’t wait to see what Simmons responds with next!

We’ll update everyone as this feud (surely) continues.

[Deadspin]

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Bill Simmons To Help Announce Heat/Warriors Game

This is kind of an interesting road for Simmons to tread.  He’s made a ton of jokes at announcers expenses over the years (Reggie Miller anyone?) and I think he’s going to find out how difficult it is to sit there during a game and come up with original takes throughout each possession while at the same time making sure not to exaggerate too much.  Should be interesting.  From Sports Media Watch:

“In the tradition of Tony Kornheiser and Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football, ESPN will use ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons on live NBA coverage later this week.

Simmons will serve as a game analyst for Friday’s Heat/Warriors game on ESPN, the network confirmed to Sports Media Watch. The move was first reported by USA Today.

According to the USA Today report, ESPN plans to officially announce the move on Wednesday.

Simmons will work alongside Dan Shulman and Mark Jackson.

ESPN says there are no additional plans to use Simmons on game coverage.”

On a side note, Simmons will then in turn be flying into Dallas on Saturday to do a book signing for the paperback released of The Book of Basketball.  I’ll be in attendance with Eddie so if you’ve got any good questions or comments you want us to throw his way, leave them in the comments section.

[Sports Media Watch]

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Great Sports Writing: “Seeing Red After All These Years”

In honor of last night’s impressive Celtics victory over the Miami Heat, we’re pleased to bring you one of Bill Simmons’ best pieces.  The article features Red Auerbach, the famous architect of generations of Celtics dynasties and one of the most renowned figures in basketball history.  Here’s a little taste before you click over and read the whole thing on ESPN:

Red shakes his head, leans back and puffs on his cigar. He can’t figure out luxury taxes, salary caps, escalating trade kickers … it’s like trying to understand Chinese for him. It was the main reason he scaled back his involvement with the franchise in the early-’90s. “It’s so hard to make a deal because of the cap,” he laments. “Years ago, let’s say I want to trade Mike for Ike — you call someone and say you want to make a trade, you say ‘Give me a big guy, I got a big guy, you got a guard that I can use, let’s make a deal,’ and then see ya, it’s over.”

 Complicated. Everything’s complicated. When Red ran the Celtics in the ’50s and ’60s, he was head coach, director of basketball operations, general manager, team president, head scout … he did everything. That’s why his influence was so sweeping; he was always a step ahead of everyone else. You relied on one guy back then. No assistant coaches, no scouting departments, no front-office assistants. Just one guy running the show.

 “I was doing everything myself, coaching without assistants, trying to see as many college players as I could,” Red recalls. “I would call (friend and de-facto scout) Bones McKinney and say, ‘Any players down South that I can use?’ One year he says, ‘There’s a kid here from North Carolina ATT, Sam Jones, he could help your ballclub.’ I never saw Sam Jones play before we drafted him. Hey, I made my share of mistakes. One time I drafted a kid named Bill Green, helluva player … but he wouldn’t fly! There was no way he could play in the league!”

 He’s being diplomatic. Red didn’t make many mistakes. He traded for Russell, Parish, Archibald and Walton. Drafted Havlicek, McHale, Cowens, Maxwell, Sanders, Ainge, Heinsohn, White, Sharman, Lewis and the Jones boys. Drafted Bird in ’79 with the sixth pick in the entire draft, even though Bird wasn’t eligible to play for another season. Coached nine championship teams and built the foundations for seven others. You could argue, successfully, that Arnold “Red” Auerbach is the greatest winner in the history of sports.” 

This is Simmons at his absolute best and even if you can’t stand him now, you can appreciate the greatness of this article.

[ESPN]

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Female Blogger (Rightfully) Bashes Simmons Latest Column

In Bill Simmons’ latest column he laments the end of all male fantasy football leagues with this line, “I just wish we had better delineation. If women want to play fantasy football, fine. Just start your own leagues. Give us that one day or night when we sit around a table for five hours, fart, burp, drink, eat gross food, bust balls and say inappropriate things. Let us give our teams names like “Premature Pitinos” without wondering if we might offend you. Give us four months of e-mail chains in which we rip on each other — and occasionally flip out and get pissed off — without worrying about offending the opposite sex. I swear, we don’t ask for much. And don’t turn it into a freaking discrimination thing. This isn’t discrimination.” 

One female football blogger took exception to Simmons’ statement and we support her.  We defer now to The Football Girl, “The problem with your theory, like all blanket segregation, is you lump everyone into the same boat.  Let me introduce you to a concept clearly foreign to you: the “football cool” girl. She’s really the same as the utopian fantasy player you’d want in your league, except with breasts and better shoes.  This is the girl that knows her x’s and o’s, is ultra-competitive,  loves beer and nachos, burps, in fact doesn’t even mind a fart or two, and is comfortable with names like Romosexual Tendencies and My Vick in a Box.  I think you’ve met her already. Her name is Erin Andrews, Michelle Beadle, Jemele Hill, Summer Sanders, and a million other “football cool” girls that aren’t famous enough to be graced with your presence.  They all fit in with the guys, especially during football season, and only the most closed-minded men out there wouldn’t want them around.”

Boom!

[ESPN] [The Football Girl]

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Simmons Contradicting Himself

by Matt Corder

I’m a huge fan of Bill Simmons, freely admit it.  However, I’ve been disappointed by his lack of content lately (a mere two pieces of writing since the finals ended) and this morning’s column, although a lot more informed than anything else I’ve read thus far, makes me question why I like the guy so much.  One of the main premise of Simmons’ latest book, The Book of Basketball, is “The Secret.” This “secret” alleges that the key to basketball is that it’s not about basketball, but rather embracing the concept of team play and taking lesser roles.  This isn’t exactly a foreign concept, and in fact I agree with it.  So why this morning’s column then, Bill?  Today Simmons takes swipes at LeBron for hinting he might go to Miami and embrace the secret by taking a lesser role so he can win with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.  Isn’t this what he spent 800 pages arguing was the key to the great teams in the NBA history?  Isn’t this why everyone agrees young players should heed the lessons of Kevin Garnett, who admitted he would have taken less money sooner in his career for the opportunity to win championships?  This latest column is one in a long line of Lebron-bashing columns I’ve read since yesterday’s announcement.  Ready for this to be over. [Bill Simmons for ESPN.com]

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