THON MAKER AND THE NBA 1 YEAR RULE

Commentary:

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Thon Maker could set either make the 1 year rule stricter or obsolete. Photo courtesy of tipofthetower.com

Reports from all over the sports media and the Internet were flying in. High School phenom Thon Maker is declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft.

Maker has graduated High School in 2015 and is 19, currently playing in a Canadian prep league as a “post-grad”.

Maker, who made waves as a 7 footer, who’s highly touted due to the level of skills he had, rarely to be seen from 7 footers. He is forgoing college and would go straight to the NBA, the first High Schooler to probably do so since the NBA invoked the 1 year rule. And while some guys like Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay took the China path to their NBA careers, Maker is setting a new precedent. This is different. Maker made the cut as a 19 year old, but technically still playing in High School as a post grad, which would test the NBA rules of eligibility.

This will test the NBA mettle when it comes to these rules. Both sides of the argument make sense. Some of these kids have shown great games and ability, but vs high school competition. And with the few current crops of top high school recruits failing to make a mark in their colleges, it’s easy to say why the 1 year NBA rule makes sense. If some of them can’t even show flashes in the college scene, they aren’t ready for the pro’s.

Depending on the NBA’s ruling, there could now be a loophole. The 1 year rule brings the kids to college or international pro competition if players decide to go that route. That exposes them to better competition to test their skills, and in a way learn how to be a pro by experiencing travelling, self reliance, among other things. Thon Maker, if granted permission to enter the draft, would set a new set of way to not just avoid the 1 year rule, but this is to hide what flaws and holes they have in their game and mental aspects by not being exposed to better competition and to situations the mimic the professional life of a basketball player.

And Thon is an interesting prospect. The kid has legitimate ball handling skills that would make any big man back pedaling their way just trying to defend him. He’s got quick and nimble feet for a 7 footer. Put it this way, he’s a 7 feet, but he plays like a Small Forward, capable of slashing, shooting and putting the ball on the floor. He has dominated in the high school scene, and is one of the top recruits in the nation. But that’s the thing, he dominates, in high school. He has the skill, and his size and uniqueness intrigues everybody, but how would he fare well versus better competition, let alone in the pros? While people can make the argument that Thon is one of a kind, he is still raw and hasn’t in a way been tested against better, bigger and faster opponents. And the potential for him to make a name in the college scene is high, his pro potential is up in the air.

And this is what the NBA faces if they allow Thon Maker to go this route. It may work for Maker, but will it work to the other highly touted High School players who may not have the ability to take it to the next level, but can hide it thru the same process, be drafted high, paid high and never materialize as a good pro. Would the NBA allow this to happen?

If they don’t, then what then would they consider “being eligible”? And if they do, why would they just not allow High School players to get drafted then?

In all scenario, Thon Maker wins.

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BETRAYAL, NOT BEING A MILLENNIAL, IS WHY MARKIEFF MORRIS IS ACTING OUT.

Opinion:

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Stabbed in the back. Photo courtesy of NBA.com

Yeah, the format would be different today. I’ll be ranting more than blogging this time. 

In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver suggested that Suns F Markieff Morris’ troubles with the organization are a generational thing.

Here’s a quote from his interview regarding Morris setback with the Suns.

“I’m not sure it’s just the NBA,” Sarver said. “My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks, and Markieff Morris is the perfect example. He had a setback with his brother in the offseason and he can’t seem to recover from it.

“I’m not sure if it’s the technology or the instant gratification of being online. But the other thing is, I’m not a fan of social media. I tell my kids it’s like Fantasy Land. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations. We’ve had a number of setbacks this year that have taken their toll on us, and we haven’t been resilient. Therefore, it’s up to our entire organization to step up their game.”

So, let me get this straight? Markieff’s problems started because his brother Marcus has been traded to Detroit. That all their life, they have been playing together, and now they have been separated. That, along with his generation that grew up in the 2000s is indeed one of the perfect examples of an entitled millennial. After all, Markieff is a pro, and before he even got into the NBA, he must have known for sure that trades happen, and that there’s no certainty in the NBA except getting salaries despite playing or not.

Robert Sarver has a point, a great point if that’s the case, except it isn’t. Has he forgotten that the Morris twins took a paycut to stay together? They signed (yes, it’s THEY) a 4 year / $52 million deal that they divided amongst themselves, with Markieff making more. But to them it didn’t matter.

“It didn’t matter if it was me getting $5 million and Mook (Marcus) getting $8 million,” Markieff said. “We told them it didn’t matter. If they just put $13 (million) a year for the Morris twins, that would’ve been great. They wouldn’t even have to say our names.

“We’re $52 million players.”
(Per AZ Central.com)

Of course it didn’t matter who made how much. I mean, they share the same bank account. It all goes to the Morris twins, that’s all that mattered. What it mattered is they played together, they stayed together.

They could have signed somewhere else, both of them, for more money , especially Markieff, who has been the better twin before the extensions was negotiated. Also, with the way he’s playing, had he waited and reached Restricted Free Agency, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that he could make $52 million in 4 years, on his own. But in order to remain in the same team, for their entire career (or atleast the next 4 years) they sacrificed earnings. Of course, Phoenix happily obliged. Why not? They get lower market value for a player who’s supposed to make more, saving them not just cap room, but literally saving Robert Sarver in salary expenses.

And then the Detroit trade happened, in which Marcus was traded out of nowhere, which infuriated Markieff. After that, he requested a trade, he wanted out of Phoenix. I mean, can you blame him? It may not be a professional thing to do, but with the deal they made with Phoenix, can you really blame him for wanting out of an organization who played not just him, but his brother.

Is it still millennial privileges as to why he was upset that his brother is now all of a sudden playing in the East?  Is it really as simple as the Internet culture?

Robert Sarver, you can’t be more wrong about this. Your team betrayed your players, and you blame it on entitlement? All the twins wanted was to play together, to the point that they were willing to sacrifice money. Heck, they could probably sacrificed more than that just to wear the same jersey, to live in the same city. You think it’s his generation’s ideals that’s causing the flare ups, completely ignoring the fact that your team STABBED the twins in the back. This just proves that silently, your Phoenix Suns is poorly ran. Giving a massive contract to a declining Tyson Chandler is one thing, completely reneging on a deal in place, where the players took the back end of the deal, is another. Yes, your team may have done a favor by taking Marcus in the first place, but you can’t blame it being a millennial when one of your players felt betrayed because your team made a deal and didn’t come thru.

Gladly, Markieff responded well.

“I’m from Philly. I’ve been through adversity my whole life. That’s what I’ve got to say about that.”

 

LET’S PLAY THE “TRADE DWIGHT HOWARD” GAME.

Commentary:

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Who wants Dwight? Troy Taormina, USA TODAY Sports

This will be the first time in Up and In where I will be speaking in first person, and I’ll make sure this is going to be fun.

I love NBA trades. I love talking about it, I love reading about it. I love coming up with ideas about trading someone to somebody. With Dwight Howard being in the center of trade rumors, it got my armchair GM blood pumping.

In an article by Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops (link right here), it was mentioned that Houston Rockets’ Center Dwight Howard is unhappy about being the second fiddle to James Harden. Also on a piece on ESPN (linked here), it was stated that Howard is also unhappy about the losing. With these circling around, rumors have been heavy about Howard asking for a trade, in which was denied by him, according to sources (according to the same ESPN article), but could be a free agent this summer by declining his Player Option.

So far, Howard is averaging 12.3 points per game this season, on a Rockets team that has been all but disappointing so far, . Those twelve points are coming in on 8.3 shots per game, ties his career low that he posted during his rookie year, so the idea that he’s unhappy being the second fiddle has a ton of merit.

Here’s the problem with Dwight though, at 30 years old, with a huge salary and a player option for next year, it could be really difficult to find a trade partner for Houston to unload Howard. Now, add to it that he can opt out this year, the task has gotten into ultra hard mode, as chances are teams who would trade for him might end up just having him for half a season. But regardless, we have a player who’s being rumored that wants out and could be traded, why not find a trade that could work?

Two trade proposals have been mentioned by known NBA writers. Let’s dissect them and see if it makes sense.

Miami Heat:

In the same article, Chris Sheridan suggested Miami is the good place to trade Dwight Howard. He mentioned that he could be the alpha dog in that team, and Miami would have the pieces to entice Houston for a switch. He had two proposed ideas.

This.

Howard-Miami1

And this.

Howard-Miami2.jpg

Basically, the two main pieces that would move would be Howard and Hassan Whiteside, a player who Miami is also having problems with trying to keep him. But here’s the concern, both trades involve rookie Justise Winslow and Luol Deng.

Now, set aside for a second the idea that Dwight Howard is a better Center option than Whiteside (both can impact the game defensively, both can’t hit Free Throws, both kill spacing), but Miami would have to give up both their Small Forwards in this deal. If this pushes thru, they’d end up having Gerald Green at the 3, a decent player in that spot, but no where close as good a defender as Winslow or even Deng in his declined state. Does Miami trust Howard’s defensive impact that much that they would be okay giving up both their reliable SF’s?t

Also, with Wade and Bosh on the team, does Miami really need an alpha dog in the middle? Hassan holds his own defensively, which is what Howard’s main strength coming in, so why give up Winslow for basically close the the same player?

Washington Wizards:

Another trade idea that surfaced was from Bill Simmons. In his Twitter account, he suggested that the Washington Wizards should go for Dwight, in exchange for Marcin Gortat, Nene’s expiring contract and a 1st round pick. Now while this makes sense, as the Wiz needs an upgrade in defense, the risk would be Howard staying. Unlike Miami, the Wizards are not a guarantee to make the Finals even with Dwight in the lineup, and the chances of him opting out and leaving for better pastures could be likely. Basically, this could end up with Washington paying Houston a 1st round pick for a Dwight Howard rental.

And, if we want to go more deeper, it would also face problems if he stays. If he picks up his Player Option, then there goes the chance on Kevin Durant going home.

Dwight Howard would be a welcoming upgrade for the Wizards. But unless they win the Championship this year, it’s highly unlikely he stays.

So, we broke down the media suggested trades. There could be more out there I haven’t read, but let’s just do that two for now. Now, are there other trade scenarios? Something that could make sense? Something that could work for both teams?

Well, maybe I got a few ideas…

New York Knicks:

This could be very interesting here. A package of Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams and Kevin Seraphin will work salary wise to get Dwight Howard. The Knicks may need to add a first round pick here, but they could easily leverage Houston into the deal due to Howard’s contract length and opt out ability.

This works for the Rockets as they get a Center who may not be as good as Dwight, but a solid player all around,  a better FT shooter and a guy who would not ask for a lot of touches of the ball (perfect for a James Harden ISO heavy system).

The Knicks, meanwhile, would be a good place for Howard to be the alpha dog, even with Carmelo Anthony in the team. What also makes this enticing is that rookie Kristaps Porzingis is the perfect big man tandem for Dwight, as he is a three point shooting threat, stretching the floor for Howard to be able to work down low.

For Houston, an unhappy Howard that possibly would move on after this year, Robin Lopez and a 1st round pick would not be a bad return.

As for New York, a Howard – Porzingis – Anthony – Afflalo core could make noise in the East, a lot of noise. Yeah, that looks like a team right there.

Phoenix Suns:

This works exactly like how it would with New York. Phoenix could trade Tyson Chandler, Mirza Teletovic and a 1st round pick (Phoenix has their own and Cleveland’s via Boston, which is protected 11-30, so yeah, that’s going to convey).

Houston gets a stretch 4 they’re looking for in Teletovic, and a replacement defensive specialist big in Tyson Chandler. Only concern here is Chandler is locked up for 3 more years after this season, and he’s on the wrong side of 30. But then again, with the cap rising, $13 million a year for 3 more years should not be that much of a burden.

Howard could be the alpha in Phoenix and there’s enough shooting in that squad to provide him a lane he can make work on. He would have PG’s who can get him the ball too with the Suns. Those touches he’s been wanting to have in Houston this year, that’s coming in Phoenix. And there’s plenty of help with Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe to form a core trio that could definitely contend for a post season berth.

But as with most of these trades, the problem relies on Howard and his Player Option. Would Phoenix be willing to pay a 1st round pick knowing that Dwight can leave at the end of the year?

Boston Celtics:

The package would be David Lee’s expiring contract, Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and a first round pick that’s not Brooklyn’s 2016 (hell no).

This is going to be a very good trade for Houston. They get a draft pick, a young player who could be really good moving forward, a player who plays a the same position as the player leaving, and an expiring contract to free up room to be able to sign players next year, which also happens to be a good player on his own too. That’s going to be a very good haul for Dwight.

So why do this for the Celtics? Well, Dwight is looking to be the man, the Celtics need a man. Perfect match, assuming Dwight would be willing to BE the man. Kelly Olynyk and even to some extent Amir Johnson can hit three’s, which gives Howard a lot of breathing room down low. He can get most of the shots, and Brad Stevens has shown he can put players in situations where they would be successful, he can surely come up with a system than benefits Howard’s inside presence.

Also, just for a second, look at this potential lineup.

Smart – Bradley – Crowder – Johnson – Howard.

That’s a heck of a defensive lineup. Howard can still make a tremendous impact defensively, patrolling the lane, cleaning up the boards and altering shots, and he will be surrounded with 3 excellent perimeter defenders and running mate on the front court who’s also good enough to help protect the rim.

This is somewhat personal to me. I thought Dwight Howard is not someone you build around with. Very limited offensively, doesn’t show up in the 4th quarter, and could easily become a whining diva in the locker room. But the more I think about this, the more I’m being convinced this is going to be good for my Celtics (yes, I called them MY Celtics, now you know).

Los Angeles Lakers:

Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams for Dwight Howard, Marcus Thornton, and a 2nd round pick. You know, just to piss him off for acting out too much. But hey, if he just waits half a year more, Kobe will retire, and no one will torment him. He’ll finally be the man in LA.

(this part is satire, alright?)

In any case. Houston is facing a tough situation with Dwight. He’s not happy, and he could leave next year. Maybe it’s time to consider moving him, regardless if he asks for a trade or not.

 

KEVIN MCHALE GETS THE BLAME FOR ROCKETS EARLY MELTDOWN.

Commentary:

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers

Sacked. Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets have fired Head Coach Kevin McHale last Wednesday after a dismal 5-7 start, and losing 4 straight prior to being relieved.

Coming from a year after reaching the Western Conference Finals, which also included a mega comeback in the 2nd round vs the Clippers after being down 3-1 in the series, the Rockets have struggled to compile wins this early in the season.

For a team that prioritizes shooting nothing but lay ups and three’s they are 29th in both statistical categories. James Harden, who had a sensational MVP type season, has been dropping the points, but on a very inefficient 37% from the field, while shooting a career low 26% from three, and taking 9 shots per game from beyond the arc. Trevor Ariza has not shot the 3 ball good as well, shooting at 31%, regressed from being a 40% and 35% shooter from distance the last couple of years respectively. The Rockets are 27th in Offensive Rating, which is due to the struggles from the field to score. Being 8th in Turnovers suggest that they are also struggling to find rhythm on their sets.

Defensively, they leave nothing to be desired. 27th in Defensive Efficiency, 27th in Points per Game Allowed, 27th in Opponent FG% 22nd in 3PT FG% allowed. They have been atrocious defensively, and is much more evident against the Boston Celtics, ironically, Kevin McHale’s last game as Houston’s head coach, where they refused to track back and stop Celtics’ fast breaks. They are 23rd in Rebounding, partly due to the fact that they allow opponents baskets at an easy rate.

The players themselves look dejected, disinterested and just flat out quit in their 4 game losing streak. Someone had to take the fall, especially when expectations are higher due their previous results. Kevin McHale is the guy, basically being blamed for his players’ lack of will, shooting slump and not having any leadership on the floor. Now granted, not everyone has said the McHale is one of the top coaches in the league, but to fire him after just 10 games, not to mention the fact that he brought the Rockets into the West finals suggest that there could be panic going on in the management, and something has to be shaken up.

Unfortunately, it seems like it’s easier to fire a coach than to fix the team, which actually doesn’t need fixing, but just need a jump start.

KRISTAPS PORZINGIS’ DENIED OF A BUZZER BEATING GAME WINNER.

Commentary:

New York Knicks rookie big man Kristaps Porzingis has been impressive so far. But what he did last night has gotten the optimism level a little more higher in the Big Apple.

Unfortunately, Porzingis’ buzzer beater came off .01 second late, making the basket no good. The Knicks eventually lost the game against the Charlotte Hornets, due to basket being waived off, but even though it was rough, there’s a couple of things to take positive in that buzzer beater that never was.

Porzingis, as mentioned in the video, was able to read the defense and react. Not everyone in the NBA can do that, let alone a 20 year old rookie. This shows good basketball IQ and good feel for the game. For a young player to have that feel for the game early on, it would make the game easier for him as he continues to grow within the next few year. With this shot, it also boost the confidence level  and mental toughness in Porzingis. To know that he can make the big shots will only help his development in being a very good player, and a mentally tough one that won’t break during crunch time.

He’s still on a learning curve, but so far, it has been a pretty sight.

If only the pass was good. The Knicks have to remember that he’s 7’3″, and not pass it to his hip.

Video courtesy of YouTube user NBAHighlights2

DISRESPECT IS THE FUEL THE WARRIORS NEEDED TO MAKE THE REPEAT.

Commentary:

The title defense starts tonight. Photo courtesy of isporstweb.com

The title defense starts tonight. Photo courtesy of isporstweb.com

It’s the start of the season, which means it’s the first day of the title defense of the Golden State Warriors.

But all throughout the off season, the Dubs have been disrespected, mostly by rival teams and players as to how their title run was nothing more than just luck. Comments are coming in and out from the league as to how the path was easily paved for the Dubs to get into the Championship, and the most common of criticisms are the fact that their Finals opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers, are dismantled with injuries. One more complain is that they did not play the San Antonio Spurs in the Playoffs, who lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, another team who has some beef with the Warriors. It even goes as far as saying Stephen Curry should not be the MVP.

It is easy to make the case that the Warriors had luck in that tournament on their way to receiving their Championship rings tonight, but to dismiss that it’s all luck is absurd.

The Warriors are the best team in the league last year, all out. They won their conference by 11 games. They are first in Offensive Efficiency, first in Defensive Efficiency, #1 in Effective FG%, first in Pace, and had a historical Points Differential, beating teams on an average 10.7 points, and Net Rating at 12 per 100 possessions, which is “the best regular season mark in any team for this century” (that quote is from New York Post article from Tim Bontempts). And that’s doing it with the reigning MVP Stephen Curry sitting out a lot of 4th quarters.

Last year’s Warriors are a historical best team, and while it’s easy to say they had luck winning it all last year, the numbers also suggest that they could easily win any series against any team you put against them. They’re not just good, they were an all time great team.

And while most championship teams can suffer from the champagne hangover, the league is not helping themselves by disrespecting these Warriors. The Warriors already knew the minute they won in Game 6 that they would need to validate their win. This is practically the same Warriors team that was historic last year, giving them more motivation is probably not the best of ideas. They’re coming in healthy, they are coming in trying to validate the win, and now, they’re coming in to prove the doubters they are wrong. And that’s a very dangerous team to mess with.

The title defense begins tonight, and expect the Warriors to come out swinging. And if the repeat isn’t good enough motivation to play good for now, proving everyone wrong should fill that fuel tank up.

NBA GM SURVEYS CALL FOR CAVS WINNING THE NBA TITLE

Commentary:

Heavy Favorites. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

Heavy Favorites. Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

NBA.com has released an article in which they have surveyed every GM in the league and asked them who they think will win the NBA Championship this season. (full link to article at end of commentary)
More than half of them seems to believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers will take the crown this year, polling at 53.6%. The San Antonio Spurs are coming in second at 25%, then the Golden State Warriors at 17.9% and rounding up the top four will be the Oklahoma City Thunder at 4%.

It’s hard to argue about their reasoning as to why. The Cavs went to Game 6 in the Finals, all while missing two All-Stars against a full forced, all healthy Warriors team. While it’s not a fad that the Warriors won the title, as they have been the best team all season, posting historical numbers. it’s also easy to see as to why a lot of people think Cleveland would have the best shot of winning it this year, despite a the Warriors having the same winning core, and a great retooling business did by the Spurs.

Above all else, the Cavs still sport arguably the best player in the game at the moment. With Kevin Love being back ,they’ll be very deep in the front court rotation, and could offer anything match-up wise. Adding Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson doesn’t really move the needle as much, but it’s enough to give Cleveland a boost in the bench, with the two players still capable of putting good production.  We’re also facing what could be contract years for Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson (unless he signs a new deal), both would be playing for a big payday, so both are expected to give it all on the court.

There’s also little competition in the East to get thru. Miami is looking like the prime player to take out the Cavs from the East, with Chicago not far behind, but they will have an easier route to the Finals than the Thunder, Warriors or Spurs, who all could potentially have to go through one or both to get to the Championship.

There’s now big expectations for the Cavs, but as long as their big three, who had a very good first season together and now coming into their second, stays healthy, them being a favorite to win it all is a no brainer.

(NBA.com survey link)
http://www.nba.com/news/features/john_schuhmann/nba-com-2015-16-gm-survey/