Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The NBA Love/Hate

Greetings! In reading a post by Grantland's Zach Lowe (seen here), I was inspired to think about my "favorite" players. I get this question all the time, and while I have a few clear-cut guys that I always use, I wanted to ponder on a full squad of "my guys". They aren't necessarily the best players in the league (although some of them are), but these are my guys. For reference, I built the roster in a legitimate positional way, even to the bench, and I'm blatantly ripping off Matthew Berry (out of love) with the title of this post. So with 2,500 words to come, Let's go!

  • PG - Chris Paul - I absolutely love Chris Paul. It isn't because he's the best point guard in the league (which he is), but rather for the type of game he plays. He's the epitome of the point guard that I've always talked about because he is the perfect balance of pass-first with a touch of scoring ability. His vision and understanding are at an elite level, and he's also hyper-competitive with a type of win-at-all-costs persona that I really enjoy. Plus, he can become the primary scorer down the stretch and score in a wildly efficient way as a career 47/36/86 shooter. He's the best.
  • SG - JJ Redick - This one goes back to college, because, as a Duke supporter, I saw a ton of Redick, and have always enjoyed him. He handled himself incredibly as probably the most hated college basketball player of all-time, and he's still the most staggering shooter I've ever seen as a freshman in college (or even a high school senior making BOMBS at the McDonald's game). Kills himself on defense despite being physically limited, perfect shooting stroke, and he's even created a dribble game after getting to the league. I have a soft spot for JJ.
  • SF - Jared Dudley - This one will probably surprise everyone, but I have a full-on man-crush on Jared Dudley. From the off-court hilarity (he's a legendary Twitter follow), to the on-court beast mode, I really, really enjoy his work. He has a really, really high basketball IQ, he's transitioned himself into a perimeter player (by request) and done it smoothly even without high-end athleticism, and he defends like crazy. Remember when he was grabbing double-doubles in college as a power forward? I do, and now he's starting at the 2 in Phoenix. Big-ups.
  • PF - Tim Duncan - My favorite basketball player of All-Time. Not Jordan. Not Lebron. Not even Magic or Larry (who I love). Tim is the definition of "my guy". He's the reason that the Spurs are my de facto #2 team, and if you try to argue against him as the greatest power forward of all-time, I may come across the table at you. The "Big Fundamental" personifies everything I love about basketball. He shoots 18-footers off the glass, his defensive positioning is legendarily good, all reports have him as one of the best locker room guys ever with everyone wanting to play alongside him, and oh, by the way, his numbers are ridiculous, too. How about career averages of 20.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, with 51% shooting for sixteen years?! He even gets a little bump in my "love" list because he's so shockingly underrated (even now) that it makes me want to scream about it even more. You never hear any controversy around Duncan, and all the guy wants to do is play hard, win titles, and go home. I could go on all day, but Timmy D!
  • C - Al Horford - I've seen more of Al Horford than I care to admit. He gets the benefit (for this list, anyway) of being on my favorite team, and as such, my appreciation of him is even higher. He's Duncan-like in that he's the type of fundamentals/no flash guy that I like who stays out of the limelight. He'll never be as good as Duncan (or close, really), but there's something to be said for 16 points and 10 board with great positional defense, and that's what he's going to give you. Big Al is the rock of this current Hawks team, and one of the best 25 players in the league right now... even if no one talks about him.
  • G - Kyle Lowry - For some reason, I have always loved Kyle Lowry. It started at Villanova, when he was the 3rd guard on that awesome guard-led team with Randy Foye and Allen Ray, and it's continued ever since. He's an absolute monster on the defensive end, with his stocky frame bringing raw power, and he can smother opposing ball-handlers like few other players. Offensively, I could do without some of his shot-jacking (lol), but it's a pleasure to watch him attack the rim at 6-feet-tall (if that), and he plays really, really hard.
  • G - Ricky Rubio - My favorite guy to watch with the ball in his hands with the exception of Paul. I know that he can't shoot (at all!), but Rubio is one of the best passers that I've ever seen at any level, and as a whore for passers, he climbs my list. Add in a touch of flash and that outrageous court vision and he'll be a staple on this list whether he can shoot or not. Also, he's a really, really good defender with incredibly long arms, and that helps too.
  • G - Lou Williams - This is an outrageous homer pick, but I don't care. Lou Williams played his high school ball about 5 miles from my house, and I played against him in middle school followed by watching him play probably 30-40 times in high school. The guy just gets buckets. I, admittedly, had doubts about his game translating to the next level, but he's silenced them. He's one of the most efficient scorers in the entire league, routinely putting up PER ratings of 18+ despite being a 3rd-guard. He gets to the line in sneaky ways, can get his shot whenever he wants it, and is the picture of a guy who would've been underrated by traditional stats, but now is properly rated when you factor in efficiency. Did I mention that I'm a homer?
  • F - Kenneth Faried - Energy. I saw Faried play at Morehead State, and it was absolutely startling to watch him fly up and down the court. Needless to say, that hasn't changed. He's an elite rebounder despite being maybe 6'8, and he shoots an absurdly high percentage because of the shots that he takes (and doesn't take). Energy guys are underrated perpetually, and he's the cream of the crop when it comes to that type of player in the league right now. Plus, he has great hair.
  • F - Shane Battier - All you need to know is that I wore #31 in middle school/high school for the express purpose of emulating Battier. He's one of the smartest defensive players I've ever seen, and he's always the right place and making the right play. On offense, he never forces anything, but can be lethal as a shooter and again, makes the right play. He's certainly not the player athletically that he used to be, so he's declined a bit, but he was in the running for my "starting lineup'. Oh, and he was good enough on offense to be the National Player of the Year in college averaging 20 points a game in the ACC. 
  • F - Taj Gibson - I've been flag-waving for Taj Gibson since before they even signed Carlos Boozer. He's the reason that that move made no sense at all, and it still doesn't. He's a great defender, who's versatile enough to challenge some small forwards, while physical enough to guard centers in a pinch. Plus, he's so smart on the defensive end that he allows the other guys (namely Boozer when they play together) to roam and be terrible in peace. He'll never be an all-star player, but he's the type of guy that every single coach in the league wants.
  • C - Omer Asik - I wish Asik hadn't gotten more popular... at least for this list. He's one of the best defensive players in the entire league, period. His positioning is on par with a Duncan or Marc Gasol, he is athletic enough to fly around and block shots, and his rebound rate is 4th in the entire league (behind Reggie Evans and the injured Kevin Love & Andy Varejao). No casual fan would want to watch Asik play because he's hideous to watch on offense at times, but his defense more than makes up for it, and he's the type of guy you can get on a bargain because people don't value defense like they should. I love him.
  • Mike Conley - Even though he went to Ohio State, I've had a man-crush on Conley forever. Pass-first point guard who can really defend, he's left-handed (a plus), and ferocious at the rim. 
  • Jarrett Jack - Underrated guard who's finally getting his due this season in Golden State. Loved him on the 2004 Georgia Tech team that went to the Final Four and he's so physical that he just overwhelms other small guards. 
  • Kirk Hinrich - I'm his last fan. Love you, Kirk!
  • Ray Allen - Any guy who does that pre-game shooting routine and gets his jumper to look like that deserves a spot on my squad.
  • Joe Johnson - It STILL isn't his fault that Atlanta gave him that second contract. He has his flaws (ball-stopper, etc.), but was one of the elite 2-guards in the league for a half-decade.
  • Kyle Korver - Similar to Ray Allen. Gets a bad wrap on the defensive end, but he's surprisingly solid and does everything right. Plus, the jumper speaks for itself.
  • Kevin Durant - Held him off the team because he's so unfathomably good that everyone knows already, but I love his game. Effortless scorer who carries himself the right way on and off the court. 
  • Lebron James - It's too easy to include him, but I've loved his game since high school. Some of the best court vision I've ever seen and he's a plus-plus defender even when he doesn't have to be.
  • Chandler Parsons - Really, really fun to watch him play. Good passer, really skilled and incredibly long.
  • Luol Deng - Kills himself every night at 40+ minutes. Does everything right. No flash, but solid as ever.
  • Kawhi Leonard - No frills. Elite defense. He rebounds the ball at a huge level for a small forward, and never kills you on offense. Plus, Pop loves him.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - See Deng, Luol. His motor is absurd.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge - The superstar that no one ever talks about. He's unguardable.
  • Nick Collison - Does every bit of the dirty work for OKC, and never says a word about never touching the ball. Been with that franchise forever, and he's a perfect end-of-the-rotation player.
  • Marc Gasol - Great passer. Perfect team defender. Still underrated even at this point.
  • Zaza Pachulia - This one doesn't even make sense, but I love him unconditionally.
Okay, Okay... while we're here.... let's do a quick "most hated" list!!!
  • Russell Westbrook - The funny thing is... I've actually come around a little bit on Westbrook and he still finds his way here. I've always been against the shoot-first point guard and that's the epitome of what he is. Add in the ridiculousness of his demeanor and actions (just watch his behavior with Thabo from Thursday night) and I'm all set with Russ. That said, he's still a very, very good basketball player.
  • Tyreke Evans - He's got a hideous jump shot, he's a ball-stopper, and he's a guy who should be an elite defender, but instead, he's average at best on that end. Any questions?  
  • Monta Ellis - Has some of the worst shot selection imaginable. It's pretty much that simple, but when you also don't try on defense and your team is always better when you're off the court, it's a sign.
  • Greivis Vasquez - I've always hated Vasquez. He's actually made himself into a solid NBA player (which I was wrong about), but his disposition is absurdly ridiculous... always. Also, he's painfully slow of foot, and again, has bad shot selection despite being a good passer.
  • Rodney Stuckey - He's a shooter who can't shoot. He's not a point guard but he's not big enough to really play the 2 effectively (on D especially). Oh, and he helped stage that mutiny in Detroit. Fantastic!
  • Willie Green - This one is kinda funny. Willie Green just doesn't do anything well, and I can't fathom how he still has an NBA job, but yet, he has one every year. It's dumb-founding. Also, another bad shot selection guy. 
  • Jordan Crawford - He may be the king of bad shot selection (are we sensing a theme yet?!). Also, he's one of the worst defensive players in the entire league.  
  • Evan Turner - If I forgot who Evan Turner was and I just saw him play basketball, I wouldn't hate him. That said, I can't un-see that 35-foot game-winner against Michigan in the Big 10 tournament or the fact that he masquerades as a good player, when he's really just a do-everything guy who is solid, but won't ever be great.
  • Josh Smith - I could write 2,000 words on this, but you don't need me to. He has the worst shot selection of any non-guard in the entire league, and he's the best overall player on this list. He is so tremendous when he actually does the things that he should do, and because of that, it makes him even more maddening. As I typed this, he just took another contested 18-footer and he's probably making a sour face and screaming at Larry Drew as if it was his fault. Oh, and he wants to be a "max" guy. Sigh.
  • Boris Diaw - I know. It's not his fault that Billy Knight wanted him to play point guard. Yes, the 300-pound Diaw started his career PLAYING THE POINT in Atlanta before literally playing center in Phoenix and San Antonio. You can't make this stuff. I'll always hate him, though. 
  • Roy Hibbert - He's somehow shooting 41% this season at 7-foot-2, but I hated him even before that. He's scarily slow, and still has stamina issues despite being in the league for more than a half-decade. All accounts have him as a good guy, and he's certainly not a bad player, but I'll never enjoy him. 
There you have it! A small window into my basketball mind... 

1 comment:

D-Row said...

Incredible post, once again, from Atlanta's most underrated and under appreciated sports writer! Anyone who reads his blog on a regular basis certainly would agree that , not only should he make a handsome living sharing his unmatched knowledge and wisdom, but should be on ESPN's short list for job openings.
Now, having played a blatant game of "Daddy Ball", I would would now just like to express my pride in the author of this blog site, not only for his obvious talent, but for the outstanding man that he is, on and off the computer!
Big Ups B-Rad,