How Much Better Can the Miami Heat Get?

Since their recent NBA championship last month, the Miami Heat have gone from the “Big Three,” to the “Big Five” with last Wednesday’s signing of veteran guard Ray Allen (a future hall-of-famer) and forward Rashard Lewis (a former all-star).  Allen rejected the Celtics two-year deal worth twelve million and accepted the Heat’s three-year deal of nine million.  Similarly, Lewis was traded from Washington to New Orleans (who wrote him a 13.7 million dollar amnesty check to never play for the franchise), and then signed as a free agent by the Heat for two years worth 2.8 million.  Although Allen and Lewis are near the end of their sixteen (Allen) and fourteen (Lewis) year NBA careers, the Heat are bringing back EVERY piece of their championship puzzle next season. 

Barring any dramatic setback with Dwayne Wade (presently recovering from his knee surgery last week) and LeBron James (who is playing in the Summer Olympics), the Heat have a very legitimate chance to repeat as NBA champions.  With Allen and Lewis both signed for multi-year deals a dynasty could be in the making and the NBA could have its first three-peat champion since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in 2002.

The move by the Heat is similar to what the 2003-04 Lakers did, who added Karl Malone and Gary Payton to their roster prior to the season.  The two vets helped lead them to the NBA Finals before losing to the Detroit Pistons in five games.  The Lakers that season had two great superstars in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.  The Heat in comparison have three quality superstars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.  Malone was in the final season of his nineteen year career and came up short on trying to win an NBA championship.  Payton  played three more seasons after his one with the Lakers and won his championship ring with the Miami Heat in 2006. 

Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen likely will not start for the Heat this coming season as Mario Chalmers and, possibly, Shane Battier (if the Heat go small) will likely get the nod since they are a bit younger.  If Eric Spoelstra thought his every move was dissected last season, he’ll be under the microscope even more with the addition of these two former all-stars.  Anything less than a sixty-win season and an NBA championship will be disappointing to Heat fans in South Florida. 

It’s encouraging to see professional athletes like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis accepting lesser roles and money to play for a championship team.  And I’m not sure why players get a bad rap for taking less money to win these days. Why is it acceptable to stage a holdout and demand more money or a trade, but less acceptable to go to a good team for less money? Isn’t winning what it’s all about?  With Allen already having one ring, look for his experience and leadership to help lead the Heat to another title run deep into June.  If the Heat can stay injury free, I think the superstars in Miami are on the verge of a dynasty that we haven’t seen in, oh, about fifteen years or so.

By: Craig Emmert

Top 10 All-Time #1 NBA Draft Pick Busts

With the NBA Draft completed this past Thursday, the pressure now rests on Anthony Davis not to be the next Kwame Brown or Michael Olowokandi.  Every so often a stud player enters the NBA draft and is supposed to be the next franchise player, but because of lack of work ethic, confidence, ability, or injuries he never turns out to be. Some NBA drafts have more talent in them than others, so some number one overall picks don’t look as bad if their draft class is bad.  Here is WhereToWatch.com’s top-ten number one overall pick busts from NBA Draft history.  Feel free to argue about who is on this list, because their have been a great number of top overall picks that have been garbage.  Enjoy!
 
#10- Andrea Bargnani (2006 by Toronto Raptors)
- Notable Players Selected After: #2- LaMarcus Aldridge, #6- Brandon Roy, #21- Rajon Rondo
 
Bargnani has decent numbers through six NBA seasons (15.4 points and 4.9 rebounds) and is considered the go-to player for the Toronto Raptors.  Based on the weak draft class of 2006 with really Rajon Rondo as the only superstar, Bargnani sort of makes our list as a kind of defacto number ten.  Bargnani has been a solid player and the average fan probably wouldn’t have known he was a number one overall pick unless reading it in a blog, like this one.  Nonetheless, he hasn’t had the career that you would expect from a number one draft pick.  
 
#9- Joe Smith (1995 by Golden State)
- Notable Players Selected After: #2- Antonio McDyess, #3- Jerry Stackhouse, #4-Rasheed Wallace, #5- Kevin Garnett, #21- Michael Finley
 
Based on his stats, Smith wasn’t a bad NBA player, but he sure hasn’t performed like a number one overall pick.  He makes this list based on the studs drafted after him.  Smith played sixteen NBA seasons and has played in 1,032 games which ranks him 96th all-time.  He’s scored 11,208 points in his career, an average of 10.9 points per game.  He also averaged 6.4 rebounds over his NBA career.  With Garnett a sure Hall of Famer to be and much superstar quality careers from Wallace, Stackhouse and Finley, Smith was just too much of an average Joe to be a number one pick.
 
#8- Andrew Bogut (2005 by Milwaukee Bucks)
- Notable Players Selected After: #3- Deron Williams, #4- Chris Paul, #10- Andrew Bynum, #17- Danny Granger
 
Bogut has had a solid NBA career thus far, minus the injuries he has suffered on multiple occasions, but nothing spectacular from what you would expect from a number one overall pick.  He was put on injury reserve the last fifteen games of his second year in the league due to spraining his left foot.  He missed the last eleven games of the 2009-2010 season after braking his arm after slam dunk. Finally, this past season, he fractured his ankle early in the season and played just twelve games.  Call it bad luck if you want, but his career is now on a downward slide.  So far through seven seasons, he has averaged 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.  His numbers are just too average for a number one pick.
 
#7- Greg Oden (2007 by Portland Trailbalzers)
- Notable Players Selected After: #2- Kevin Durant, #3- Al Horford, #48- Marc Gasol

Greg Oden, the top pick in the 2007 Draft, hasn’t panned out the way Portland hoped. It may have something to do with the fact that he’s actually 47 years old.

Oden again is one of those unfortunate players that has had multiple injuries  and has never recovered.  He missed his entire rookie season (2007-2008) and had microfracture surgery to his right knee.  During the first season he played, which is considered his rookie year, he injured his foot against the Lakers and didn’t score a point.  That same season, he chipped his left knee cap and missed three weeks as well but did score a career high 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks. In December of the 2009-2010 season, Oden was taken off the court in a stretcher after he fractured his left patella tendon.  He hasn’t played in a game since and has already announced he will not play in the 2012-2013 season to rehab his injuries.  In his two seasons with Portland, he averaged 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. 
 
#6- John Lucas (1976 by Houston Rockets)
- Notable Players Selected After: #6- Adrian Dantley, #8- Robert Parish, #23 Alex English, #29- Dennis Johnson (all Hall of Famers)
 
Lucas didn’t have a bad pro career in that he averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 assists per game over fourteen seasons.  Lucas makes our list as biggest number one pick busts because four players drafted after him ended up being future Hall of Famers.  After the 1986 season in Houston, Lucas admitted to having a cocaine and alcohol problem and enlisted himself in a rehab program to stay in the NBA, and after completing the program had one of his best seasons as a pro averaging a career high 17.5 points per game during the 1986-1987 season. He later coached in the NBA with San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.  Lucas was also an All-American tennis player while at the University of Maryland and got ranked as high as 579 in the world in December of 1979. 
 
#5- Kent Benson (1977 by Milwaukee Bucks)
-Notable Players Selected After: #3- Marques Johnson, #5- Walter Davis, #7- Bernard King
 
Benson’s college career is much more note worthy than his pro career in that he is most remembered as one of Indiana’s star players during their 1976 perfect season.  During his senior year at Indiana, he was Big Ten Player of the Year and an All-American for the second straight season.  His best seasons during his eleven-year pro career was during the 1980-81 through 1981-82 seasons when he averaged career highs in points (15.7) and rebounds (8.7) with the Detroit Pistons.  His most famous moment as a pro may have came during the first two minutes of his first pro game when future Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar punched him in the face and broke his jaw.
 
#4- LaRue Martin (1972 by Portland Trailblazers)
- Notable Players Selected After: #2- Bob McAdoo, #12 Julius Erving (both Hallof Famers)
 
Martin gained notoriety for his stellar play against Bill Walton while he was in college at Loyola University of Chicago.  The Trailblazers were so impressed with the 6-11 center that they made him the first pick in the 1972 NBA draft.  He averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game for his short four year career, with his career high of 7.0 points per game coming in 1974-1975 season which is the year Portland drafted Bill Walton.  To make Martin the total bust he was, he retired only four seasons into his career, which happened to be the year before the Trailblazers won the NBA championship.  
 
 
#3- Pervis Ellison (1989 by Sacramento Kings)
- Notable Players Selected After: #4- Glen Rice, #14- Tim Hardaway, #17- Shawn Kemp, #26- Vlade Divac
 
“Never Nervous Pervis” was hampered with the injury bug much of his pro career after he was a four-year starter at Louisville.  An injury kept him out of service 48 games his rookie season after which he was traded from Sacramento to Washington where he had his highlight season of his eleven year career by averaging 20.0 points and 11.2 rebounds per game earning him Most Improved Player in the NBA during the 1991-1992 season.  Injuries to both knees and a broken toe caused by moving furniture are some highlighted injuries that slowed “Out of Service Pervis” (his other nickname) during his NBA career.
 
#2- Kwame Brown (2001 by Washington Wizards)
- Notable Players Selected After: #2- Tyson Chandler, #3- Pau Gasol, #10- Joe  Johnson, #- 19- Zach Randolph, #- 25- Gerald Wallace, #28- Tony Parker
 
If there are any high school players ready to play in the NBA, they can blame Mr. Brown as one of the reasons high school players now have to play at least one year of college basketball.  After skipping school and heading straight to the pros, Brown has only averaged double figures just once in his eleven-year career, it came during his third year at 10.9 points per game.  Fans can blame Michael Jordan if they want for selecting Brown with the number one pick, but I personally can’t blame the greatest player ever on making a bad basketball executive decision.  For MJ’s sake, let’s hope he got it right with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this time around.
 

The number one pick in 1998, Michael Olowokandi (8.3 pts, 6.8 reb) never lived up to his top draft pick status.

#1- Michael Olowokandi (1998 by Los Angeles Clippers)
- Notable Players Selected After: #2- Antawn Jamison, #5- Vince Carter, #9- Dirk Nowitzki, #10- Paul Pierce, #32- Rashard Lewis
 
Olowokandi makes the top spot on our list based on the number of players drafted after him who have had great careers in the NBA.  Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce were both selected after him and are both future Hall of Famers.   While Olowokandi, who played nine years in the league, went on to average only 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.  His career high in scoring came in his fifth season when he averaged 12.3 points per game but only played in 36 games due to a hernia and knee injury.  His career dropped off drastically after that season, never averaging more than 6.5 points per game and never playing more than 62 games in a season.  Without a doubt, the Candy Man is the biggest bust in number one draft pick history. 

By: Craig Emmert

NBA Flopping Problem: Eliminating the Charge is not the Answer

One of the big topics in NBA basketball this season has been the issue of ”flopping.”  A true “flop” is when the defender is barely touched (or sometimes not touched at all) and goes flying backwards like he was just drop-kicked.  The ref calls an offensive foul and the defender is rewarded for his acting ability.  Notably, it usually happens in drive to the hoop or a post-up situation where a larger offensive player is backing down a smaller defender.  Both fans and NBA officials alike are in favor of doing away with flopping, and I have no doubt that this coming off-season rules will be changed.  One suggestion, which is becoming increasingly more popular based on the opinion of popular analysts such as PTI’s Mike Wilbon, is that the charge should be abolished.  This radical idea would be disastrous for basketball and should be stopped in it’s tracks. 

The Cavaliers Anderson Varejao is widely regarded as the NBA's most notorious flopping offender.

Anyone who has ever played organized basketball knows what a charge is.  It’s when a defender stands stationary in front of the ball handler and waits for the offensive player to make contact.  The defender is then knocked to the ground and, if performed properly, an offensive foul is called on the defense receives the ball.  It’s purpose is to prevent offensive players from running defenders over.  Those that argue for doing away with the charge say that, if the charge is eliminated, players would never flop since they couldn’t be rewarded for it.  Notwithstanding that this solution ignores the problem of offensive players that flop–e.g., offensive players who act like they were shot when they were barely touched–eliminating the charge would encourage offensive players to play out of control, would result in more injuries, and would provide a ridiculous advantage to players with size. 

Imagine LeBron getting a full head of steam and running straight to the basket knowing that he could not be penalized for bowling over anyone in his way.  He’d be more unstoppable than he already is.  Dwight Howard is already virtually impossible to guard when he gets the ball in the paint.  Without charges, every time Dwight Howard received the ball in the paint, scorekeepers would just go ahead and put two in the books.  Every time.  Joakim Noah–the most erratic, high-energy, and uncoordinated player in the NBA–could put on 30 pounds and go wild.  Coach Tom Thibodeau would simply get him the ball and just say, “go.”  Noah would go from “out-of-control big man who thinks he’s a guard” to an All-NBA center.

To anyone who wants to abolish the charge rule, I have to question whether they have played basketball in the last decade.  The only thing that stops an offensive player from going straight through a defender is the fact that the charge makes it illegal.  The beauty of a good defender is that offensive players have to work hard to get around them.  But what if they didn’t have to go around them?  No more jab-step blow-by’s, it would simply be blow-throughs.  Behind the back and around the defender? Why bother?  Just run through his chest and wait for the blocking call, or take it on in for an easy two. 

I get the counterargument–flopping is ridiculous and charges aren’t necessary to play “good” defense. In fact, some notable players have made a pretty good career without taking charges.  Kobe Bryant hasn’t intentionally taken a charge in years, yet is a perennial staple on the NBA All-Defensive team.  But, I’m guessing that if it came down to it, Kobe would vote for the charge to remain a foul.  Kobe plays tough, solid defense on the perimeter, but he would be the first to admit that, if a 6’8″ 250 pound monster was charging down the lane, he would step out of the way to avoid the charge.  In fact, Kobe has admitted that.  Besides the fact that this brand of defense might be viewed by some as cowardly, it only strengthens the argument for the charge.  What if that 6’8″ guy could run over Kobe whenever he wanted and would never receive a foul for it? Kobe’s “health first, team second” attitude would take over.  He would be ole’ing more than a Spaniard in Pampelona in mid July.  He wouldn’t just be stepping out the way in the paint, he would be stepping out of the way at the top of the key, the wing, hell he’d probably just stay on the offensive end.  So much for the All-Defensive team.

Manu Ginobili is more of an "offensive flopper" in the sense that he acts like he's mauled every time he goes to the hoop.

Maybe I’m sensitive to this topic since I was an undersized big man in college.  6’4″ and 225 pounds might be large in the real world, but it’s PG size in the basketball world.  After graduating two seven footers, guess who got to play in the post?  Yep, battling 6’8″ 260 pound guys every night.  Have you ever tried to fight for position on the block with a 260 pounder?  I doubt Mike Wilbon has.  Now, imagine if that guy were allowed to use his body without the threat of a charge being called.  After two quarters of relentless power-dribble back-downs, Wilbon would simply let him have the spot.  Wilbon would have swept, mopped, and buffed the spot that the 260-pound beast was trying to get to, and would be down there serving cookies just to make sure it was to his liking.  Pure brute back-down moves would be all it took to score, no true basketball skills necessary. That’s not what the NBA should be about.  The biggest and strongest players have enough advantage as it is. 

Look, I’m as big of a flop-hater as the next guy.  I agree, it’s ridiculous.  Some of these players should quit and move to Hollywood.  And it’s happening on the offensive end too.  With all of the heads and arms that are flopping and flailing, you would’ve thought they were in a boxing match with Tim Bradley . . . er, Manny Pacquiao.  The flop should definitely be done away with, and there are legitimate ways to do it, but eliminating the charge is not one of them.

By: Todd Davis

Tim Duncan: The Best, Quiet Big Man Ever

As the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder battle each other out for a spot in the NBA Finals, one cannot help but wonder if Tim Duncan can make it to the NBA finals another time in his quiet, yet spectacular, fifteen-year NBA career.  Year in and year out this big man has made his mark on the league for the last fourteen post seasons.  The Spurs have never missed the playoffs in Duncan’s entire career and have only been eliminated twice in the first round during that span. 

Since the 1997-1998 NBA season (Duncan’s rookie year) until now, many future Hall of Fame centers/power forwards have been in the NBA and have taken the spotlight away from Duncan’s superior play.  Some notable players include, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Amare Stoudemire, and Dirk Nowitski.  These players all play for large market NBA teams unlike Duncan, who plays in San Antonio.  With the help of Duncan and countless other players who have played great under the radar, the Spurs have a .702 winning percentage since Duncan came into the league, which happens to be the best fifteen year run in NBA history.  In a Sports Illustrated article entitled, 21 Shades of Gray, by Chris Ballard, he notes that no team in the four major pro sports have a “better winning percentage over the last 15 years than the Spurs.”  Not the Yankees, not the Lakers, not the Red Wings, and not the Patriots. The small-market San Antonio Spurs.  And there’s no doubt that the bulk of that winning percentage is because of one player.  Based on Duncan’s small market status, let’s allow his stats to show us why he might just be the best big man of his generation. 

Duncan began his career with thirteen straight All-NBA and All-Defensive team selections, which is six more than anyone else in league history.  Compared to the five players mentioned above, only Shaq ties Duncan with NBA titles won at four.  Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire have yet to win an NBA title.  In other comparisons with Shaq, Duncan pretty much beats Shaq in major NBA career accomplishments with two MVP awards to Shaq’s one, nine All-NBA first teams to Shaq’s eight, and eight All-NBA Defensive first teams to Shaq’s zero.  Given the large market of the Lakers, one would think Shaq had the better career, but Duncan’s stats unanimously evidence his superiority over Shaq.  By season’s end Duncan will be 17th on the NBA’s all-time rebounding list with over 12,546 rebounds.  Kevin Garnett is the only active NBA player that has more rebounds than Duncan.  Timmy is also 9th all-time in blocked shots, not to mention the NBA’s active leader in the category.

While veraging 16.8 points, 9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in the 2012 playoffs, Tim Duncan has once again quietly led the Spurs to the brink of the NBA finals.

Duncan’s individual accolades are very impressive, some of the best ever in fact, but I believe it is his team accomplishments that push him over the top as being one of the best the game has ever seen.  The .702 winning percentage and four NBA titles as mentioned earlier speaks well of the Spurs organization and its leader since 1996, Greg Popovich.  Much of Duncan’s success as a player can be attributed to having the same head coach with the same system for his entire career.  Not many NBA players nowadays can have the privilege of saying that.  But, unlike most other players that are constantly looking for the next best thing, the quiet Duncan has never threatened to leave for greener pastures or disclosed any dissatisifaction with his coach or organization.  Duncan also had David Robinson, a great mentor to learn from during his first six years in the NBA.  Too many young stars with so much talent, such as LeBron games or Kevin Durant, have to carry the load of a franchise on their shoulders without the tutelage of another veteran star player at their side to begin their career.

As you watch the remainder of the Western Conference Finals this week, realize how quietly impressive Tim Duncan and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs have been over the past fifteen seasons.  Although most people will be rooting for the loud and exciting Oklahoma City Thunder, don’t be surprised if quiet Timmy & Co. go all the way again.

By: Craig Emmert

Fashion and the NBA: Can You See Me Now?

So last weekend as I watched the Heat give the Knicks a nice little beating, I couldn’t help but notice Amare Stoudemire’s goggles, glasses. . .or whatever they actually are.  He wears them every game and I have to say I love them!

Stoudemire rocking some specs that could probably pass on the red carpet.
After undergoing eye surgery in 2009, Amare vowed to wear goggles for the rest of his career. It didn’t stop him from being fashionable, however.
Amare sitting with fashion icon Anna Wintour at the Tommy Hilfiger Spring 2011 Fashion Show

Amare, pictured here with Anna Wintour, is very involved in the fashion industry.

Some people may say they’re lame, others call him a loser for wanting to protect himself, but who cares!  I actually think he has found a way to bring his love of fashion to the court.  While wearing a uniform, Amare fashionably distinguishes himself from the rest of his team.  Everyone knows that Amare sets himself apart in the fashion world.  He sits front row at shows.  He hangs out with my personal fashion idol, Anna Wintour.  He’s even collaborating on a men’s fashion line with Rachel Roy.  Why shouldn’t he set himself apart on the court, too?

Horace Grant, you could've been so much more....

Horace Grant wearing the less-than-flattering Rec Specs.

Even if you hate the fact that Amare and a few other NBA players wear them, you do have to admit that these glasses are by far the most stylish of all.  Does anyone remember the ridiculous swimming goggles Horace Grant used to wear back in the day?  (I’m told they’re called “Rec Specs.”)  My point exactly.

Boys, don’t be afraid to wear eyewear and make a fashion statement while playing basketball. Protect yourselves and put on some sexy sport glasses…girls like guys who are a little nerdy, a little fashion-forward, and don’t like being poked in the eye.  Just saying.

By: Talia Playne