Court Vision: Blake Griffin gets treated like a Kia by ‘Young Hollywood’
• Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports finds that Blake Griffin, playground dunker extraordinaire, is also capable of being a dunk prop. Video of a 5-foot-10 gentleman named “Young Hollywood” leaping over Griffin to complete a through-the-legs slam is above, via YouTube user Ballislife West.
• Meanwhile, Larry Sanders gets dunked on by a young child.
• Bethlehem Shoals embraces the new-look Pistons in a piece for GQ.com.
They’re a monkey wrench unto themselves, unto others, and unto all of us who spend a lot of our time watching basketball. They’re also easily one of the NBA’s must-watch teams for next year, even if the end result is mediocrity with long bouts of rot. The Pistons will spend all season trying to make sense of themselves, with key players whose very approach to the game is a microcosm of that inner war.
The best part? They won’t let it go to their heads.
• Rahat Huq of the Rockets-themed Red94 weighs in on a number of topics, including the current perception of Houston point guard Jeremy Lin.
Has anyone in the league, of late, become more underrated than Jeremy Lin? I have people in my Twitter mentions talking about him like he’s Matt Maloney or something. Now, he certainly had a disappointing postseason, but I don’t think his year went as poorly as people are making it out to have gone.
• David Aldridge of NBA.com writes that two of the usual suspects — the Rockets and Nets — had the best 2013 offseasons, but he also places two semi-surprises, the Pacers and the Cavaliers, above other consensus winners like the Clippers and Warriors.
After getting next to no production from their bench against Miami, the Pacers shook that group up. The 33-year-old Scola takes Hansbrough’s role as the top power forward off the bench and Watson replaces backup point Augustin. Indiana figures to get a boost next season with the return of Danny Granger, which should allow it to bring Lance Stephenson off the bench. Otherwise, Indiana’s window is now wide open, with Roy Hibbert emerging in the playoffs after a horrid start to the season and Paul George looking like a max-player superstar for long stretches. And Coach Frank Vogel insisted during the playoffs that he was serious about putting in a zone defense for next season. Doing so could make what was already one of the league’s top two or three defenses almost impregnable (if it takes to Mavs-circa-2011 type flow).
GM Chris Grant continued to methodically re-stock the Cavs’ shelves with versatile ingredients, starting with Jack, whose scoring and savvy should be a boon to Kyrie Irving’s development (and get Irving off the ball on occasion). Whether starting or coming off the bench, Jack will be a stabilizing force. Taking Bennett first will obviously be dissected for a while, but his scoring chops are undeniable. Brown should certainly get more defensively out of this bunch than Byron Scott could manage, and a playoff run in the East is a distinct possibility. With young talent at every position, the Cavs are clearly ready to make a run at the well-known small forward with championship experience who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and who could be the final piece to their puzzle. I am speaking, of course, of Trevor Ariza.
• Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on the Thunder’s offseason and how it fits into their window going forward.
Every team perceives its window for winning differently. What the Thunder are trying to do flies in the face of the CBA’s goal — which is to shrink that window for everyone. Presti is trying to find a way to have his championship shot now and keep the window open longer than the rules want to allow.
Say what you want about trading Harden and letting Martin walk in free agency. By staying under the tax line as long as they have, the Thunder will have the opportunity to push above it at some point in the next three years — when other teams now competing with them for supremacy in the West presumably will be forced to pull back. That’s the plan, anyway — one that I have a hard time assailing.
• Julien Rodger at A Substitute for War wonders whether the Wizards made a wise investment in giving a five-year, $80 million extension to John Wall when other point guards like Brandon Jennings and Jeff Teague were signed for significantly less money.
Most of where Wall getting paid twice as much comes from, is he’s deemed to have star potential that Jennings and Teague lack. Wall was an undisputed #1 pick and #1 high school recruit and is one of the most physically gifted point guards of all time, with a perfect combination of athleticism and size. But many mistakes in the NBA have been made ignoring how much of innate talent exists outside the realm of physical talents. It’d be a fair argument to say Jennings and Teague’s superior shooting results throughout their careers, comes from having better shooting talent. It’s true that Wall can improve his outside shooting from this point, however so can Jennings and Teague. Jennings hit 37.5% of his 3s and Teague 35.9%, to Wall’s 26.7%. While Wall’s improvement at his best case scenario may make him a 3 point shooter in the mid 30 %s, the best case scenario for Jennings and Teague’s shooting is that they break the 40% mark. In other words, Wall can improve from awful 3 point shooting to average, but Jennings and Teague plausibly can make as relevant an improvement from good 3 point shooting, to great/elite. That’s not to mention that in midrange shooting as well, it’s as plausible Jennings and Teague become league leaders at the position, as it is Wall becomes respectable.
• Ricky O’Donnell at SB Nation runs down some of the interesting names up for rookie extensions, including Derrick Favors, Paul George, Larry Sanders and Eric Bledsoe.
• It was big news when Lionel Hollins didn’t return as coach of the Grizzlies following the franchise-best season. But what about his replacement, Dave Joerger? Steve Aschburner of NBA.com digs in.
“There are certainly groups out there who feel like last year was a fluke,” Joerger said. “A lot of people in the NBA are like, ‘Hey, the Clippers were up 2-0 on you. Blake Griffin got hurt or you guys don’t get out of that series. You play Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook goes down, you don’t have to see him. … Then San Antonio beats you 4-0.’
“There are large groups of people out there who believe that. So for us, we have to look at it as, ‘Let’s prove it wasn’t a fluke.’ “
• Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Sixers, the only team without a head coach right now, are proceeding to a second round of interviews.
• Here at The Point Forward, Rob Mahoney generally approved of the Sixers’ slash-and-burn rebuilding effort. Tom Ziller of SBNation.com, though, writes that Philadelphia might just be a great example of some NBA teams overvaluing draft picks.
Look at what Philadelphia paid for basically two picks, one which had manifested as Nerlens Noel, and the other of which will likely fall between No. 10 and No. 18 in 2014. The Sixers paid … a 23-year-old All-Star point guard on a reasonable multi-year contract. You pray you can draft a player who will be a 23-year-old All-Star. And the Sixers, because of that team’s plan to improve, decided to go with the prayers rather than the proven entity. (There’s also an issue of Holiday perhaps not being as good as he seems, but that’s another discussion entirely.) There’s no better example of how high the price of draft picks has gotten than the Sixers’ draft day shenanigans.