Dwight Howard Trade Reaction

Hey! By now you probably know that some man who formerly played center for the Orlando Magic is going to play center for the Los Angeles Lakers next season.  Obviously this topic has been dissected on various horrible radio and television programs across the country, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this article!  Where else will you find blatant homerism for the Denver Nuggets in a Dwight Howard trade column?  That’s what I thought.

So, Dwight Howard, LA Laker…but what does it mean?

Los Angeles Lakers:

It’s no secret, so let’s just get this over with first.  The Lakers immediately go from a has-been team to the favorites to win the title this season.  Their starting lineup ranks among the greatest ever assembled and provides perfect balance to each of their stars’ talents.  So many options for them, here are just a few of the possibilities: Nash/Dwight pick-and-rolls, Nash/Gasol pick-and-rolls, Nash being able to dump to Gasol or Dwight after penetrating the lane, Nash throwing alley-oops to Gasol or Dwight, and did I mention they have Kobe Bryant?  Yikes. 

In addition to this, Dwight provides the perfect balance to Nash and Kobe’s deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.  By being able to protect the rim after they get beat, the back court will be able to conserve all their energy towards offense.  It’s also perfect because Dwight never was comfortable being the go-to guy on offense.  He’s more than capable on the offensive end, but he just doesn’t possess the offensive skills of a guy like Shaq or Hakeem.  So long as he doesn’t pull an Andrew Bynum and demand to take 20-30 shots a game, they could conceivably win three or four more titles before Kobe retires.

The Lakers deserve considerable credit for pulling this off while retaining Gasol.  Simply amazing.  It’s worth mentioning the unlikely chain of events that led to this happening:

-Lakers trade Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in three-team deal for Chris Paul

-David Stern pulls a Vince McMahon and vetoes the trade

-Lamar Odom feels the Lakers disrespected him, demands trade

-Lakers trade Lamar Odom to Mavericks for a trade exception

-Lakers refuse to budge on Magic’s demand for both Gasol and Bynum during the season

-Dwight panics at the deadline and refuses to execute his early termination option, sabotaging his free agency chance this summer where he would have signed with Brooklyn

-Ramon Sessions agent convinces him not to execute his player option to stay with the Lakers, ends up getting less money to play for the last-place Bobcats

-Lakers convince division rival Suns to give them Steve Nash using trade exception from Lamar Odom trade and cap space from Sessions’ departure

-Brooklyn panics about opening arena without a superstar, overpays Brook Lopez, sabotages their chances at trading for Dwight

-Magic panic and take what on paper seems like the worst offer that the public is aware of, trading their second consecutive franchise center to the Lakers

This is your sad reminder that this could only happen to the Los Angeles Lakers.  I will now slam my head against the monitor for the next two hours.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly hit a home run.  They dumped their two biggest salaries from last season by amnestying Brand and then trading Iguodala.  Iguodala is a great player who fits a very specific need (more on him later), but he doesn’t justify his superstar salary and never wanted to be “the guy” on his team.  In addition to that they gain the second best center in the league and a player who is desperate for a shot at being “the guy.”  Jason Richardson is also a great fit with franchise centers, as the last couple years in Orlando have proven.  While Bynum has a lot of maturity issues, there are several reasons to believe this is going to work out really well for them. 

First, Bynum is from New Jersey and thus an east coast guy.  The move back east should please him, given that he will be closer to family.  Second, Doug Collins is a great, great coach with a ton of experience at getting immature players to buy into his system, most especially on defense.  Finally, Philly has one of the best young rosters in the game right now which is perfectly constructed to take advantage of his skill set.  They’ll be a salty team for the second consecutive year.

Philly isn’t going to win a title, but there’s no reason to think they can’t assume Atlanta’s old role as the team that you can count on to lose in the second round of the playoffs.

Orlando Magic

Most writers are (rightfully) bashing the way Orlando handled this Dwight trade.  By every account, they accepted the worst possible deal. Houston was willing to give up every asset they had and take on every bad Magic contract simply for the chance to rent Dwight for a season.  Sadly, even the Nets paltry offer would have made more sense. The Magic arguably got the three worst players in this deal with Afflalo, Harrington, and Vucevic and their haul of draft picks is in no way impressive. 

The recipe on trading away franchise players has always been to dump salary, get young players, and receive a nice collection of draft picks in return. Somehow, in a trade in which they gave up the best player, they made out the worst of the four teams involved.  This could only happen in the NBA.

However, I’ll offer one brief defense for their new GM,  Rob Hennigan.  The only proven way to win a championship in the NBA is to have a top ten talent.  There are only two ways to acquire a top ten talent.  Either you have to draft one and hold onto him as long as possible or you have to be one of the fortunate teams in a big market city who are able to sway free agents into signing there.  Orlando is not a big market city.

As much success as the Nuggets have had since the Carmelo trade, perfecting the blueprint for how to successfully trade away your franchise superstar, they will never win a title.  Sure they’ll compete and maybe even make a conference championship, but a title is out of the question. It makes sense that a team would rather risk futility for the chance at being great again rather than remain in the trap of mediocrity for the next ten years.

The only way Orlando can win a title is to go into absolute Charlotte Bobcats tank mode and hope that they’re fortunate enough to draft the next Dwight Howard.  It’s a frustrating business model that makes absolutely no sense, but that’s the modern day NBA.  A small market team needs to literally and figuratively win the lottery so that they can get the next Kevin Durant or Dwight Howard.

Denver Nuggets

I still have no idea how Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri pulled this off, but it’s worth mentioning that I memorized how to spell his name because of how impressed I am.  Every move he’s made since taking over the team has worked out in the Nuggets favor, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he should now be considered one of the five best GMs in the sport.  Consider: the Nuggets dumped two large and undesirable contracts and somehow got a superior player in return. That just doesn’t happen in professional basketball, well not since Isiah Thomas retired from the front office.

The best part is that Iguodala perfectly fits into the Nuggets system.  As Kelly Dwyer remarked on Ball Don’t Lie this morning, “Andre Iguodala is just about the most Denver Nuggets player in the NBA.” PERFECT.  There is no better way of explaining it.  Iguodala is an elite transition player, among the five best finishers in basketball according to the advanced stats.  It just so happens that the Nuggets love to push the ball in the open court.  Get used to seeing Lawson to Iguodala fast break highlights this year. George Karl has to be smirking somewhere right now imagining the possibilities.

In addition to his elite transition game, Iguodala also brings in a much desired defensive presence that the Nuggets lacked last year.  He’s one of the five best isolation defenders in the NBA and is the perfect candidate to match up with division foe Kevin Durant.  Denver just didn’t have a lock down defender that they could throw on the other team’s “guy” last year and there is perhaps no one better suited for that task than Iguodala.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that LeBron James might be the only better defender in the game.

It’s a great fit for team and player and Iguodala was always more content with being the number two or three option.  It’s no secret that Ty Lawson wants this to be his team and with Iguodala and Gallinari running the wings, the Nuggets will be a tough out for any team in the playoffs next year, assuming they stay healthy.  What’s disappointing though is that they’ll still fail to crack the West’s elite with the static top three of LA, OKC, and San Antonio.  None of those teams will want to face Denver though.

Nuggets fans can’t help but hope that this trade for AI from Philly works out better than the last one.  There is a lot of optimism to believe it will.

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Saying Goodbye To The Tim Tebow Era In Denver

By now you know that Tim Tebow is the newest member of the New York Jets, shipped their this afternoon for a 4th rounder, a 6th rounder, a hope and a prayer.  The last couple of days have been extremely difficult for me as a fan of the Broncos, so much so that I refused to write a piece about the actual trade…until now.  After way too much reading and reflection, I’ve finally been able to isolate just what it was about Tim Tebow that converted me, the most skeptical, number-driven sports fan that I know.  It was the most improbable of relationships, and like 99% of all improbable relationships, it’s now over.

I wish that I could claim that my conversion to Tim happened the second Josh McDaniels traded up to take him three rounds early back in 2010.  That’s not the case though.  I defended Kyle Orton to the death and even wondered whether Brady Quinn might be a sneakily awesome possibility at starter.  The real person I was rooting for was Andrew Luck though and that my beloved franchise would intentionally tank the season last year for the right to draft him.  Six games and 46 minutes into the season last year, all was going as planned.  Then this happened:

I was watching that game live and I confess that I was livid. How dare this Tebow guy come in and ruin the Broncos chance at the greatest QB prospect since Elway himself!  I was begging for the Broncos to quit when Tebow of course delivered on one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.  Rather than celebrate it, I mostly pouted to my fiancee about how the Broncos were ruining their future and had no shot at Luck anymore.  A drubbing the following week at the hands of the Lions confirmed my suspicions.

And then a funny thing happened.  The Broncos spent the week between Detroit and Oakland, their next opponent, conducting the biggest experiment in the history of the NFL—they actually tailored the offense to Tebow’s strengths.  You’re never going to believe this….but it worked.

Of all the improbable comebacks, miraculous fourth quarters, and game-winning drives, the not-even-close biggest miracle that Tim Tebow accomplished last year was getting an actual NFL franchise led by a respected NFL head coach to dare to think outside the box.  It is quite possible you will never see anything like it again.  This was number one I fell in love with Tebow.  That, and beating the living piss out of the Raiders.

You know what else happened over the next few weeks.  Tebow and the Broncos went on an improbable win streak where nearly all the games were decided by the QB on the final drive of the game.  America was swept with Tebowmania.  ESPN started devoting entire hour-long episodes to Tebow-related material only.  Skip Bayless ran to his defense.  Colin Cowherd blasted him.  The fans were kind of just left shaking our heads wondering what in the hell happened.

These past couple days I was sad. What frustrated me though was that I was unable to pinpoint exactly what I was so emotional about.  I will certainly not miss defending Tim Tebow every week.  During the season I resigned myself to telling friends that you just simply couldn’t understand how pleasurable it was to have Tebow as your quarterback.  It was all exhausting because, well, look at him when he’s on the field at any point not in the final two minutes of the football game.  I will not miss the missed receivers, the looping throws that sail out of bounds, or every NFL defender taunting him in order to get their face on SportsCenter.  It got old.

There was something about it all that I really, really, really enjoyed though.

I have no idea how I connected these events, but it happened yesterday as I left work.  The first event was somehow remembering a random column I read during the NFL season last year.  I don’t remember the writer nor do I remember the site.  I think it was theclassical.org, but to be honest I’m really not sure and a quick search through their archives yielded no results.  More to the point though, that column was the collection of thoughts of a Patriots fan and what that team has done to him as fan.  On the outside, it appears awesome to be a Patriots fan, or so it seems.  The writer then launched into a story describing how ugly he feels as a fan now.  Because of the 2007 Patriots and their success leading up to that year, he said he is now never satisfied by the Patriots exploits on the field.  He explains that no win is ever satisfying enough, no Tom Brady performance is ever perfect enough.  In fact it had gotten so bad he actually yearned for the days of their first Super Bowl back in 2002.

The reason was simple.  The Patriots weren’t expected to win that year.  In fact, they were expected to be blown out by one of the greatest offenses ever assembled in the St Louis Rams’ “greatest show on turf.”  Instead Bill Belichick orchestrated one of the greatest upsets of all time and America was introduced to Tom Brady.  He’d go on to have an argument as the best quarterback ever to play the game.  The writer argued that 2002 was the pinnacle of being a Patriots fan and that nothing would ever compare.

—-

It all actually makes a ton of sense when you think about it.  The best things in sports are those that are unexpected.  Nobody really cares who the Patriots beat in their next two Super Bowl victories.  They’ll always remember them beating the Rams though.  They’ll also always remember when they lost to the Giants, perhaps the greatest upset in NFL history. 

It’s why we remember the United States upsetting the Soviets in the semi-finals, but can’t remember who we went on to defeat in the gold-medal game.  It’s why Villanova defeating Georgetown is a must-have in any March Madness compilation. 

It’s why I’m going to really, really, really miss Tim Tebow as the quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

Think about what the Denver Broncos accomplished last year under Tebow.  They went 7-4 down the stretch in the regular season.  They won the majority of those games on their last possession of the game.  They backdoored their way into the playoffs.  They upset the heavily favored Steelers in the first round.  They won that game against the Steelers on the first play of overtime.  It is literally impossible to write a worse script for a movie.  While this was going on, nearly every team had players taunting the Broncos, nearly every outlet had outspoken critics mocking the Broncos, and almost everyone in this country had an opinion about what was going on.

Despite all of that, the Broncos won anyway.

—-

Before this past MLB postseason began, I recall a number of Cardinals fans remarking that this year’s squad was by far their favorite team of all-time.  This was at a time when it was still uncertain whether they would make the playoffs or not.  They didn’t yet know that the Braves would complete an all-time historic collapse and lose their Wild Card slot to a St. Louis team playing with way too much pride.  They had yet to come within a single strike of losing the World Series…twice.  And how can you not agree with that assessment?

I found myself multiple times this year calling Tim Tebow and the Broncos the most fun I’d had as a sports fan ever.  I often compared it with the memorable Colorado Rockies run to the World Series back in 2007.  That year the Rockies famously won 14 of their last 15 games and went 20-8 in September to clinch a one-game playoff where they then defeated the San Diego Padres in extra innings.  It was only appropriate that the win came in the bottom of 13th off future HOFer Trevor Hoffman when the Rockies trailed by two to start the inning.  They then breezed through the playoffs before eventually losing to the far superior Boston Red Sox.

Those two seasons are my all-time favorite as a sports fan.  Neither ended with a championship.  Both left me absolutely grateful for sports and the emotions they are capable of producing in me.

—-

Now Broncos fans are left with Peyton Manning and to be quite honest, it’s depressing.  As they all mentioned in the press conference yesterday, it’s Super Bowl or bust now.  There is no learning curve or witnessing of player growth.  There will be no moments where Peyton endears himself to the fans of Denver.  He’ll always be a Colt, forever synonymous with the blue horseshoe.  We expect to win eleven games next year and if we miss the playoffs all hell is going to break loose. 

There will be nothing satisfying about having Peyton as our quarterback.  I’m going to get angry about not beating opponents by enough points.  I’m going to get mad when we inevitably lose two rounds too soon in the playoffs next year.  I’m going to be livid if Peyton’s neck decides to give out earlier than planned.

Guys, sports are rough.

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Examining The Best Possible Dwight Howard Trades

Obviously some of these are far-fetched, but desperate times call for desperate measures!  Dwight has made it clear he’s had enough with the cougars who prowl the stands during Orlando’s games.  Orlando needs to act fast to complete a deal or else risk becoming the next Cleveland or Toronto.  And don’t even try to woo us with your fancy pants reasoning that it might be better for Orlando to actually let him walk, because of the new ramifications of the CBA and salary cap.  A no fun zone, this is not! 

For this column we examined trades for every single team in the NBA.  Don’t worry, we won’t waste your time by showing you how a potential deal between the Bobcats and Magic would break down.  We’ve instead narrowed it to teams that Dwight would actually re-sign with or those who would likely risk trading away everything for the potential to convince him to stay in the next three months.  One last note: all trades are 100% verified in the ESPN trade machine which we’ve linked individually to show you (note, they’ll show you how the trades would affect each team’s projected win total as well).

From least interesting to most interesting, we present this year’s candidates on the NBA’s version of the Bachelor…

Potential Suitor: Boston Celtics

The Trade: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, Brandon Bass, and JaJuan Johnson

Analysis: This isn’t very likely to happen, but because of ESPN and Bill Simmons’ obsession of pretending like the Celtics are always in the mix for every player ever, we included it anyway.  Rondo and Allen are definitely serviceable assets that any team would be more than happy to land.  The reason this trade doesn’t happen though is that Dwight would never sign an extension here, given that the only potential remaining teammates left that are worth a damn would be Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  But they have like 114 years on this earth between the two of them.

Potential Suitor: LA Lakers

The Trade: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson for Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Troy Murphy, and Andrew Goudelock

Analysis: Before breaking it down any further, you’re going to notice a trend among these trades in that the Magic are going to try to pair Turkoglu and his horrific contract if they do decide to ditch Dwight.  It makes a ton of sense, especially paired with their demand for expiring contracts, young talent, and stars in return.  On paper, this trade works for both teams.  The Lakers get the reincarnation of Shaq as well as a serviceable point guard who isn’t an AIG-sized liability every time he steps on the floor.  The Magic get a ton of talent in return that can’t leave in the next couple years, as well as an expiring deal in Murphy and some young talent in Goudelock.  Everybody wins.  Of course this won’t happen because Jim Buss has a man-crush on Andrew Bynum that would leave Vinne and Pauly D jealous.  Organizational success be damned.

Potential Suitor: Golden State Warriors

The Trade: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis for David Lee, Monta Ellis, Kwame Brown, Ekpe Udoh, and Brandon Rush

Analysis: If the Magic do decide to move Howard, this might be the only deal among all of these that actually gets offered.  They’d be getting the whole package of dumping bad contracts, getting pseudo stars with reasonable contracts, acquiring young talent, as well as taking on expiring deals.  I have no idea why Golden State is willing to risk their next five years for the chance to sell Dwight in just three month’s time, but hey, I guess we could always entertain the idea that they’re masking a tank job and praying for Anthony Davis in the lottery this summer.

Potential Suitor: New Jersey Nets (Soon To Be Brooklyn)

The trade: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Mehmet Okur, Kris Humphries, Anthony Morrow, Brook Lopez, and MarShon Brooks

Analysis: This trade is only interesting in that it pairs Dwight with Deron Williams combined with the move to Brooklyn next year.  While the prospect of Jay-Z dropping lyrics about Dwight/Deron alley-oops is a little appealing, I really don’t feel like the Nets have enough to offer.

Potential Suitor: Houston Rockets

The Trade: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Jordan Hill, Courtney Lee, and Goran Dragic

Analysis: I never, never, never discount Houston GM Daryl Morey when it comes to the opportunity to trade for a franchise superstar.  He knows better than any other executive that it takes a top-ten player to win titles in this league and has basically assembled an organization that allows him to quickly execute a trade at any time.  Houston is the basketball stat nerd’s wet dream.  They win with a ton of under-valued, forgotten players and they’re of course all signed for next-to-nothing money.  Watch out for the Rockets to sweep in quietly and steal Howard.

Potential Suitor: Miami Heat

The Trade: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Chris Bosh, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Dexter Pitman and Norris Cole

Analysis: The numbers actually work on this one, just saying…

Potential Suitor: Chicago Bulls

The Trade: Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis for Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and either Omer Asik or Taj Gibson

Analysis: Of all the teams that have the potential to make a trade for Dwight work, Chicago should be the one begging hardest to make it happen.  They also just so happen to have more than enough assets to leave Orlando satisfied.  They’d still retain either Asik or Gibson to run alongside Dwight in the front court.  And, oh yeah, they’d freaking ease the burden of Derrick Rose who appears like he might only have two or three years left in his body if he continues at this rate.  This deal has been rumored to potentially get nixed because Dwight and Rose are both Adidas clients and the shoe company has let them both know they can’t maximize revenues playing in the same market.  We say: that’s f—-ing weak.  Make this happen, please.

Potential Suitor: OKC Thunder

The Trade: Dwight Howard for Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook, and Thabo Sefolosha

Analysis: I could spend hours trying to convince you why this makes way too much sense.  Obviously Orlando gets a true superstar in return as well as some useful players.  But the big bonus is OKC gets rid of the constant criticism surrounding KD and Westbrook in the fourth quarter.  They also can then throw out this lineup in crunch time: Eric Maynor, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Dwight Howard.  That’s game over, folks.

Potential Suitor: New York Knicks

The Trade: Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Carmelo Anthony and either Tyson Chandler or Amare Stoudemire

This would be an Antarica-sized ice cold move by the Knicks.  After being organizationally irrelevant for the past decade or so, would they really turn their back on two of the three players who begged to come make them matter again?  Of course!  This team is run by James Dolan, after all, only the single worst NBA owner not named Donald Sterling.  I cannot imagine the chaos this would create on the internet and ESPN HQ in Bristol.  But the great thing is, it actually does make sense, when you think about it.  You can go to war with Jeremy Lin/Amare or Tyson/Dwight.  Also: Jeremy Lin and Dwight would probably go down as the first or second best pick-and-roll combination of all-time, if only because of the amount of hype they’d produce by invading the market in Asia.  I’d also sadly take some sort of sick satisfaction in Carmelo having to go in exile in Orlando for the next four years after the mess he put Denver through last year.  I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s entirely true.  For anyone who would eventually like to witness the internet explode, this is the trade to root for.

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What In The World Happened To Pau Gasol?

Like I said earlier, these posts will be a bit shorter than I normally devote to a topic like this, so I apologize if the argument comes off as being too brief.  But seriously, what happened to Pau Gasol?  This was a player who, before last season’s shocking exit to the Mavs, had made the NBA Finals every year since joining the Lakers.  A guy who was a perennial candidate for first half MVP honors.  A beast who probably should have won the 2009-2010 NBA Finals MVP over Kobe Bryant.

Now he just seems to be an above average power foward.  And for some reason that seems like the biggest slap in the face ever, considering what he’s accomplished in his career.  What makes it all the more confounding is that there appear to be no rumors of injury or a changing of his role on the team.

For anyone who has watched the Lakers since last year’s playoffs though, there is something noticeably different about him.  He’s not quite as aggressive around the hoop.  He’s not quite as deadly with his jumpshot.  He’s not quite as…Pau Gasolish.

The slight difference has taken the Lakers from the annual favorite to win the Western Conference to a middle-of-the-pack playoff contender who nobody expects to really threaten for the title.  I have no idea if his confidence was actually broken by an alleged affair between his fiancee and former teammate Shannon Brown last year.  It’s funny to joke about, but it doesn’t really offer anything in the way of tangible analysis.

Here are the undisputable facts:

-Pau Gasol was one of the most consistently productive players in the game from a basic stats standpoint.  Between 2008-2011 he averaged 18.9, 18.9, 18.3, and 18.8 points per game, respectively.  He is now averaging a career low 15.9 despite the loss of teammate Lamar Odom, a player who took away minutes and shot attempts from him at power forward.  During last year’s playoffs he averaged a pedestrian 13.1 when he had averaged 16.9, 18.3, and 19.6 during the 2008-2010 postseasons, respectively.

-To get more advanced stats-y on you, consider his PER, an all encompassing stat created by ESPN’s John Hollinger.  It’s way too complex to even begin to describe, but basically it measures every aspect of a player’s game and spits out a number.  The higher the number, the better player you are.  During his time with the Lakers, Pau Gasol’s PER was the following from 2008-2011, respectively: 24.06, 22.2, 22.86, 23.28.  Now?  It’s 17.89 through this young season, a considerable drop.   While he obviously has time to improve upon this, I must note that Gasol is usually notorious for fast starts to the season with drop offs in production as the year goes on.

-He’s posting a five-year low true shooting percentage of 56.3.  This measures every shot a player takes on the floor, including free throws, while adjusting for the different point values of a three pointer or a free throw attempt.  From 2008-2011 with the Lakers he shot 63.9, 61.7, 59.3, 58.9, respectively

-Another telling stat is that his percent of field goals assisted has increased dramatically this year.  This stat indicates exactly what it says: it counts the percentage of converted field goals that came as the result of an assist (as opposed to say, an isolation basket).  From 2009-2011 it was 57.4%, 57.1%, and 57.5%, respectively.  This year it’s 66.7%.  What this indicates to me is either that Mike Brown’s offense is asking him to do something incredibly different than Phil Jackson’s (likely).  From a more cynical standpoint though, this might indicate that Gasol is losing or lost the ability to score in a one-on-one situation, a.k.a. he cant create shots for himself anymore.

-A stat that backs up my claim to his being less agressive is his offensive rebounding percentage which has also experienced a remarkable drop off this season.  From 2009-2011 his numbers were 10%, 11.4%, and 10.3%, respectively.  This year it’s 7.2%.  Again, this might be explained by the head coaching change and that Mike Brown seems to emphasize getting back and playing good defense.  It’s still a 25% reduction in offensive rebounding percentage though.

So, whether you believe the whole locker room scandal story or not, what’s indisputable is that Pau Gasol’s production has dropped off considerably since last year’s miserable playoff run.  Is it time for the Lakers to ship him off elsewhere?  Is he playing with injury?  Is Mike Brown under direct orders from management to build this team through Bynum thereby directly affecting Gasol’s production?

We don’t know the answer.

I say trade him and Bynum for Dwight Howard right now though, then get Deron Williams in free agency.

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Why Blake Griffin Is Extremely Disappointing

I know that sounds like an insane statement to make about a player who is averaging nearly 22/12 right now as a second third year player.  After consuming far too many Clippers games this year though, it’s exactly how I feel.  Hear me out on this one.

Before December 12, 2011 the Los Angeles Clippers were still one of the NBA’s “up and coming” teams.  They boasted one of the best young cores in the league and we were all curious to see what the young bunch could achieve in just their second full year together.  There was no way they could compete for a title, but sneaking into the playoffs as a seven or eight seed would have been a gigantic success.  There were literally no expectations except that Blake Griffin stay healthy and somehow outdo himself with more alley-oop dunks, if only to let us know that the NBA was indeed back.  But then on that fateful afternoon, s—- got real. 

The Clippers traded for Chris Paul, only the best point guard in the game, and went from media darlings to title contenders overnight.  Maybe they didn’t know it at the time, but the team was like a child who was forced to grow up way too soon.  They went from having their only requirement be occasional entertainment to a national demand for instant success.

Perhaps it was indicative of his immaturity that Blake Griffin remarked to DeAndre Jordan that it was going to be “Lob City” after learning of the trade, rather than say something to the effect of how legitimate their status as a contender would soon be.  I know that’s a reach of epic proportions, but Blake’s play on the court this year doesn’t indicate otherwise.

The reason Blake Griffin is a disappointment is 100% related to my basketball snobbery, so let me make that clear before we move on for the rest of this short post.  There are higher expectations for him as a player now that are directly correlated to his playing with Chris Paul.  And he has failed in every regard.

An apt comparison is easily made to Dwight Howard only a few seasons ago.  They’re actually remarkably similar basketball players, if you think about it.  Both are freakishly athletic big men who rely more on their ability to jump out of the building and out-athlete people rather than develop a more comprehensive offensive game that could produce more consistent results.  The mean way of saying it is that neither can score unless it was a wide open dunk or an alley-oop.  While Dwight has made slow progress in this regard, it is clear that Blake didn’t get better at anything else this past summer.  He doesn’t have a go-to post move yet.  However his biggest failure is his inability to hit jump shots.

I don’t want to go too in depth about this, so go read about his failure on pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul in this fantastic piece.  The gist of the post is that Blake too often rolls to hit a jumper (a la David West with Chris Paul back in the day), rather than roll to the basket where he is a more effective finisher (a la Tyson Chandler back in the day).  Whether this is a result of defensive measures by opposing teams or because Blake tried to work on a mid-range game is unknown at this time.  What is known is that Blake is a horribly inefficient shooter from that range and it’s killing the Clippers.  It’s frustrating to watch such an athletic big man settle for those long shots rather than work to humiliate opponents from down low.

It’s for this reason that an SB Nation writer actually floated the possibility of a Blake Griffin for Dwight Howard trade yesterday.  And he makes a damn solid point.  Blake is not consistent enough to be a reliable postseason presence at this point of his career.  Many of his points come on junk points such as fast breaks and putbacks where the defense is lazy.  Those points disappear once the games start to matter in the playoffs.  He’s also not a consistent enough defender and relies way too heavily on DeAndre Jordan to bail him out during games.  On the other hand, Dwight Howard is the best defensive presence in the game and a much more reliable post scorer. 

It’s sad that we’d even consider it, and it’s through no fault of Griffin’s, but the Clippers actually have a real shot at a championship now with Dwight instead of Griffin.  Can they afford to wait around for Blake’s game to mature?  Or should they make the smart basketball move and make the trade to contend for titles the next five years until Chris Paul’s knees give out?

As much as I love watching Blake Griffin dunk a basketball, I say the Clippers have to make that trade before the Lakers finally give up on Bynum on Gasol and do it themselves.

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