Tag:Andre Iguodala
Posted on: February 20, 2012 12:42 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 1:05 pm
 

Eye on Basketball Midseason Awards

LeBron James is having one of the best seasons of his career and is the midseason NBA MVP. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore
 

The 2012 NBA All-Star break begins this week as this season continues to fly by on a shortened lockout schedule. Already we've seen an incredible year, even in the midst of some ugly, ugly, ugly basketball. The Heat look better than ever, the Bulls are still dominant through injury, the Sixers are impressively complete. The Dwight Howard saga drags on. The Lakers and Celtics are struggling to find their dominant gear. The Thunder are blistering offensively, the Timberwolves surprising and of course, Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lin all the time. 

With that, here are the 2012 NBA Midseason Awards, based on where we stand on February 20th, 2012. 

Eastern Conference Most Valuable Player: LeBron James


When CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel wrote that LeBron was different this year, he was spot-on. James has talked about how he spent the summer re-discovering his love of basketball, getting away from all the criticism, and getting back to the person he wants to be. He and the Heat have admitted that the resounding backlash to "The Decision" played a large part in their mental approach to last season. In short, James is not comfortable being bitter, angry, resentful. He's at his best when driven by a simple love of the game. That's the dichotomy with James. He is inarguably the single most arrogant and out-of-touch player in the Association, and yet he does possess a genuine love of basketball. It's always playing at his home. It's something he lights up when he gets to talk about instead of storylines. Basketball came easily to James athletically, but it's also something he works obsessively at. History teaches that you have to hate your opponent, have to be driven by anger and resentment. James is simply not built that way. In reality, he may be too goofy, too fun-loving to ever reach the kind of iconic play that is necessary to be considered one of the best, to have the killer instinct that so many criticize him for lacking, which he himself has admitted he may lack.

None of this changes the fact that there are only three things which can stop James from earning his third MVP this season, should he continue to play as he has for the first half of the year. The first is largely the same reason he failed to win it last season: vengeance. Voters showed their disapproval of James by not truly considering him for the award. Whether it was a distaste for the arrogance of James' approach to leaving Cleveland on national television, a disgust at the preseason championship comments at the presser with the smoke and fireworks, or disappointment with James seeking to team up with two great players instead of winning on his own (an element neither Carmelo Anthony nor Chris Paul have received criticism for), James was shut out, when by most measures, he simply played better than Derrick Rose. Rose was a phenomenal player last season and a wonderful story, well-worthy of the award. However, James was better. Those sentiments have cooled this season, but if voters decide to maintain their teeth-grinding disapproval of James, that could cost him. The second is simple injury. James has only missed a small handful of games, but that can always derail a player's path. And the third is the most likely impediment: minutes.

The Heat did not take the tactic of prioritizing homecourt last season. It wouldn't have mattered, the Bulls were simply better in every way during the course of the regular season. But the Heat were clearly more focused on being healthy for the playoffs than capturing homecourt. And it's likely to be the same this year. The Heat have managed to handle the compact schedule well, outside of some Dwyane Wade bumps and bruises as to be expected. But when March rolls around, this team will start looking for rest, and that means James could sit out several games. The Heat will happily trade in April wins, provided they have a top four seed, for rest. James could lose momentum in that case as he watches from the sideline and another worthy candidate pushes his way to the finish line.

What makes James worthy of the award this year? Pick one. The Heat are the best team in the East, and you may claim that Dwyane Wade is still the focal point of the offense, metrics be damned, and that's fine, but James' overall work on both ends of the floor still takes the notch. Without resorting to statistics, you see James take over games as if he's a one-man army. He's seemingly everywhere, interrupting passes, working in the post, snatching rebounds, blocking shots, lobbing to Wade, dishing to Chalmers, attacking the rim over and over again. It's awe-inspiring basketball. You don't need metrics to see he's the best player in the game this season. This is all factoring in the fact he's taken a step back defensively. He's turned it on the past five or six games, but this hasn't been a season of his usual defensive dominance... and he's still been this good overall.

But if you want them, they bear it out as well. James is enjoying a career high (tied) in points per 36 minutes, rebounds per game and 36 minutes, field goal percentage, True Shooting percentage (factoring 3-point shooting and free throws), and of course PER. The confusion with PER most often is that it somehow measures value, that it establishes how good a player is. Instead, it's just what it's defined as. Player Efficiency Rating. It establishes who produces the most per minute, considering how many possessions they use in doing so. And right now, James is doing the most of any player in history in that department.



So that's fun.

James may not win MVP this year, for a variety of reasons. But there is absolutely no question at this season's halfway mark, that he's the best player in the league, and most valuable.

Western Conference Most Valuable Player: Kevin Durant

If you prefer the classic mold of the MVP, AKA a scoring machine, Kevin Durant fits pretty well. He's a jump-shooter shooting 52 percent from the field. Think about that. The league average is 36 percent. Durant is hitting 15 more shots for every 100 attempts from the hardest place on the floor to knock them down. That's ridiculous. That's just absurd. He is the best pure-scoring machine in the league. Kobe Bryant may topple him for the scoring crown, but he'll need five to six more attempts to do so. The cherry on Durant's Sunday has to be his 51-point explosion Sunday night. He managed 51 points on 28 shots.

And really quietly, Durant's become an elite defender. He's allowing just 26 percent from the field in ISO situations according to Synergy Sports. Defense was a huge weakness in Durant's game over the past few seasons and he's really hit his stride this season. The Thunder aren't even that great defensively, Durant has just been individually incredible.

For him to catch James, he would need for the Thunder to continue their impressive winning percentage. He would need to top the league in scoring, and for his impressive uptick in rebounding rates to continue. It's a tall order, but there's no question he's within range. Durant has become the most impressive offensive force in the league.

He is 23 years of age.

Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving

Ricky Rubio is dazzling. He's a phenom. He changes the course of games and wows you with the eyes. No rookie has impressed more than Rubio, who has silenced all his critics, of which I was very much one, regarding his ability translate his game to the NBA level. Rubio is honestly poetry in motion, and the feel he has for the game is joy-inspiring more than awe-inspiring. It is such a fluid and spectacular range of abilities, it makes the Timberwolves so much fun to watch.

And Kyre Irving is a better player.

It's not really close.

Get past the fact that Irving has been shooting at historic levels, that his overall production is in line with some of the all-time greats in this league in their first years. Irving has a mastery of the game that Rubio does not, even after so many more years of playing professionally. Irving can run an offense more completely and calmly, and is a superb crunch time scorer (Rubio is brilliant in that area in his own right). But if you want numbers, it's simple. Rubio's a 38 percent shooter. Irving is a 48 percent shooter. You can talk about how you would prefer your point guard pass than score, but Irving's numbers are truncated by a lack of talent on the Cavaliers, while Rubio has Kevin Love, Michael Beasley (a scorer for all his faults), an emerging Nikolai Pekovic and Derrick Williams.

Rubio would be a fine choice. He's the most exciting rookie. Maybe even the most impactful rookie.

Kyrie Irving is the Rookie of the Year, halfway through. This one will be tight to the finish.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Iguodala

I know. It's always Dwight Howard! It has to be Dwight Howard! But here's the thing. Howard's effort hasn't been as consistent this season. Whether it's the trade talk, the lockout schedule effect, coaching, whatever, it hasn't been there. His rebound rate is there, it's the highest of his career. He actually is allowing fewer points per possession than he did last year, but if we consider the lockout effects on all shooting percentages, Howard has slipped from the 96th percentile to the 77th percentile in rank on points per possession. Howard is maybe the most impactful defensive player in the league. But his performance hasn't been worthy of the award this year.

Iguodala, on the other hand, is the star defender on the league's best defense (Philly is tops in defensive efficiency, points per 100 possessions), and is most often given the toughest assignment night in and night out in this league. He is tasked with stopping the best perimeter threat on offense each game, and in doing so, has limited opponents to 35 percent shooting. He is able to body up larger opponents, stick with smaller ones, switch, shift, deter, block, steal, cajole, harass and otherwise make his opponent's life miserable and has done so for the majority of the season.

A close second on this list is Luol Deng, who actually has better marks via Synergy. But a combination of Deng's missed time due to injury, and the Bulls' reliance on help defense under Tom Thibodeau's system barely, and I mean barely, gives Iguodala the edge here. Dwight Howard will wind up winning this award, but ask yourself, is it more difficult to shut down perimeter elite scorers in this league or to stop the awful, horrible batch of big men currently roaming the lanes?

6th Man of the Year: James Harden

Harden should be starting. By any and all accounts, he is a much better player than Thabo Seofolosha, or Daequan Cook, or whoever you want to start at two-guard for the best offense in the land. Harden should be the starter, he plays starters minutes, he finishes like a starter, he's close with the starters, he's a star in his own right. And yet, he's much better off the bench. He provides the Thunder with not only a scorer off the pine, but an offensive creator, maybe his best asset. Harden can run the offense, he facilitates, and can make a play go even off-ball. He's a capable if not excellent defender, and his decision making and effort is often times the difference in close wins and losses for OKC.

This award has been wrapped up for a good long time.

Coach of the Year: Doug Collins

The Philadelphia 76ers have the third seed in the East as of this writing, with signature wins over the Lakers, Bulls, Magic, and just about everyone not from South Beach. Doug Collins has managed to turn a team without a central star, without an Isolation scoring threat, without a dominant big man or an all-world point guard (no offense to the brilliant Jrue Holiday) into a powerhouse that overwhelms teams with defense, savvy, bench scoring, team play, and fortitude.

The players genuinely love to play for Collins and he's gotten through to them to a man. Spencer Hawes is playing well, for crying out loud. Elton Brand is producing. Iguodala is having the best overall season of his career by the eye test. They have the best defense, the best bench, the best record in a tough division. Collins has done an incredible job and is every bit deserving of this award as much for his process as the results it has garnered.

Most Improved Player: Jeremy Lin

What were you expecting? Usually second-year players are exempt in my eyes. They're supposed to develop and improve in their second season. But Lin is a special case. Lost in the Linsanity and all the great storylines surround him is the fact he has talked a lot about what the D-League did for him. This league too often doesn't allow players to develop, simply shreds them through and only the strong survive. Lin is a testament to the idea that players can develop, can improve, can learn this game and get better to the point of success. He's improved the most simply by making himself relevant, let alone raising New York from the dead for 15 percent of the season.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 8:31 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 8:36 pm
 

Iguodala matches Wizards' dimes by himself

By Matt Moore

Andre Iguodala had nine assists in the first half vs. the Wizards

The Wizards had nine assists in the first half vs. the Sixers.

Iguodala out-assisted the entire Wizards team in the first half Monday night. He also had 2 points, 2 rebounds, a block and a steal as the Sixers lead by 30. Iguodala is cementing himself as one of the top wings in the league, which lead to my saying he was a dark horse non-star MVP candidate

The question is whether that is more impressive for Iguodala or sad for the Wizards. Six of one-half, half-a-dime of the other?
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:49 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 3:29 pm
 

Quarterly Report Awards: LeBron leads MVP

James leads the pack of first-quarter MVP candidates (Getty Images)


This lockout-shortened NBA season is already a quarter over for most teams, stunningly. It has been a crazy whirlwind under the compacted schedule, and we're seeing older teams like the Mavericks, Lakers, and Celtics struggle through it. Meanwhile, deep, younger teams like the Nuggets and Sixers are thriving, and yet the same powers that were expected to be at the top are, even with Miami fallen off a bit. So to get a fix on where we are this season, we thought we'd hand out some awards, roundtable-style. 

1. Who's your MVP?

Royce Young: LeBron James. The Heat lost their first game without Dwyane Wade this weekend, but still, they're 5-1 without him and that's pretty much because LeBron is still the best player in the world.

Matt Moore: I don't want to say LeBron James, because it seems too obvious, but I'm going to say LeBron James, because it's so obvious. No one takes over those first 46 minutes like he does, and without them, you don't get to the time where he has so many question marks.

Ben Golliver: We’ve exhausted the ways to explain LeBron James’ individual brilliance in recent years, but the modifications that he’s made to his game – slashing his three-point attempts, improving his mid-range shot, getting to the free throw line more than he did last season – plus ridiculous numbers (29.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, 56.4 percent shooting) make this James’ best season to date. Give it to him so we don’t have to listen to arguments in 5-8 years about how many times he was snubbed, like we’re been hearing from droning Kobe Bryant fans since 2006.

2. If star power wasn't a factor, just straight out "who helps their team the most," who's your MVP?

Royce Young: Still LeBron. I think it became pretty obvious last season how valuable he is to a roster when the Cavs went from a contender to the longest losing streak in NBA history just with the subtraction of LeBron.

Matt Moore: I think it's a tie between Gerald Wallace and Andre Iguodala. Both of those guys do such a phenomenal job in every facet of the game for their teams, and the wins and losses often correspond to how they come out. They're so active with and without the ball and make so many plays for their teams, they have a ridiculous level of impact on their teams, even if James is a superior player.

Ben Golliver: James’ PER ranking is 8 full points above the nearest competition (35 to Bryant’s 27) and he’s carried the Heat in Dwyane Wade’s absence due to injury, so his claim to “helping his team most” to date is essentially indisputable.

3. Is ROY a two-man race already?

Royce Young: Not yet. Ricky Rubio is the first quarter ROY, and Kyrie Irving is right there with him, but don't count out Kemba Walker and even Brandon Knight, who had quietly been playing well in Detroit early on.

Matt Moore: Rubio is drawing comments from people who say he is unlike anything they've ever seen and Irving is statistically dominant in nearly every category. If there were an award for Rookie to wind up making the most impact on wins and losses, I'd go with Kawhi Leonard, who will be making life very unhappy for some team in the playoffs.

Ben Golliver: We’ve definitely got the Ricky Rubio vs. Kyrie Irving two-headed monster that we expected, but the twist is that both the Timberwolves (11th in West) and the Cavaliers (9th in East) are fringe-y playoff teams rather than conference basement dwellers. Team performance could easily be the deciding factor.

4. If James Harden was starting like he should, who would be your sixth man of the year?

Royce Young: It's a close race between Al Harrington and Lou Williams. Both impact their teams greatly when they step onto the floor.

Matt Moore: Al Harrington. Harrington's ability to score anywhere on the floor combined with his active defense make him the prime candidate and it's not close.

Ben Golliver: Mo Williams of the Clippers has dealt with some injuries but has put up 14.5 points and 3.9 assists while shooting the ball extremely well (53.8 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from deep) during the season’s first month.

5. Who wins "worst coaching performance?"

Royce Young: Paul Westphal. Getting fired kind of seals your fate by default, doesn't it? But Westphal, who is a good basketball mind, just couldn't connect with his young team and lost them. That's not doing a good job.

Matt Moore: It pains me to say this because I think he's limited by his roster and will work out in the long-run for the Pistons, but Lawrence Frank has disappointed. Signing veterans with limite upside and impact isn't his fault, but relying on them is. The pieces are there for the Pistons to come together, but it simply hasn't so far this year.

Ben Golliver: I’ll give it to Flip Saunders of the Washington Wizards, if only because he was blown off so blatantly by referee Danny Crawford during this argument. He should have already been fired.

6. If we were giving an award for "strategic adjustment" by a team, who wins?

Royce Young: Rick Adelman has done the best job of any coach so far this season. The Wolves are finally organized offensively and he smartly managed the Rubio starting situation. He gave him time to ease in and made the move to start him before it became a nagging issue that was a constant topic of discussion.

Matt Moore: I'm going with Doug Collins' use of his bench. Deploying them as units and then integrating based on what's working in-game has been genius. Honorable mention to George Karl's two-point-guard lineup.

Ben Golliver: Completely disregarding defense was getting played out, so props to Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks for switching it up and completely disregarding offense.

7. Who has the best defense in the league, team and player?

Royce Young: The Bulls have easily been the best defense. Teams are having trouble cracking 80 on them for crying out loud. At home, they've held four teams to under 70. Best player, I'm giving credit to Andre Iguodala who had been terrific defending the perimeter so far this year.

Matt Moore: Chicago has the best team defense, but the Sixers' more basic, very stable set is a strong candidate as well. Dwight's the obvious pick, but with the Magic's overall defense not as hot, how about the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan? A block machine. He still overreaches on help at times, but overall he's been nearly dominant down low.

Ben Golliver: I think we’re at the same place we were last year: Chicago has proven itself to be the NBA’s best defense while Magic center Dwight Howard (16.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks per game) is in a category all his own when it comes to individual accomplishments and impact.

Andre Iguodala has helped the Sixers to a surprisingly strong start. (Getty Images)
8. What wins "best storyline" for you?

Royce Young: The 76ers and Pacers quiet rise to contendership. Both teams don't really have any starpower and might not be able to sustain this success through the year, but they're playing well right now and positioning for a high seed in the East.

Matt Moore: The Knicks, Celtics, and Lakers falling apart like a flan in a cupboard. Nothing is more scinitllating that star-studded teams in big markets collapsing.

Ben Golliver: The Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz being so much better than the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets, the teams who made blockbuster moves for Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams at least year’s deadline.

9. Best free agent signing, first-quarter?

Royce Young: David West. He's given the Pacers exactly what they needed. An extra scoring option and someone to rely upon late in games for a big basket.

Matt Moore: Marc Gasol. Cheap out as he was re-signed, but Gasol has been even better than last year and looks like the franchise center he's being paid to be. Memphis made out huge with that deal.

Ben Golliver: Among the teams with the top records in the league, the Pacers adding David West – solidifying them as a likely top-4 team in the East – and the Clippers nabbing the amnestied Chauncey Billups – giving them a foul-drawing machine and a stand-in replacement when Chris Paul gets injured, both merit acknowledgement.

10. Who is the best team in the league?

Royce Young: Chicago. The Bulls are a bit boring -- especially when Derrick Rose doesn't play -- but you can't ignore how they're just hammering on people right now. Scoring against Chicago is a full on chore and with Luol Deng playing great, Carlos Boozer looking better and of course having Rose ready to carry the load when needed, the Bulls appear to have the total package.

Matt Moore: The Miami Heat. I know what the records say. I know how good Chicago and the Thunder have looked. But the Heat at their best are a better team than they were last year. OKC doesn't look as good, and Chicago is the same. Look me in the eye and tell me you're confident either of those teams can knock off the Heat if it's best vs. best. Chicago or OKC can both win the championship this season. The Heat are still the best team.

Ben Golliver: The Bulls are No. 2 in defense, No. 6 on offense and No. 1 in rebounding; their closest competition, the Thunder, are ranked No. 5, No. 14 and No. 16 in those categories. So far, this one isn’t as close as the records might indicate. I think Orlando – riding Howard and their point generating machine of an offense -- is a strong dark horse.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:01 pm
 

Report: First 2012 Team USA roster set?

Posted by Ben Golliver

team-usa

A recent report indicated that USA Basketball is set to announce its preliminary roster for the 2012 London Olympics. The roster reportedly will include members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team and the 2010 Turkey World Championships team.

Initially, the report indicated that the preliminary roster would be made up of 18 players, however SheridanHoops.com reports that the roster is now 19 players deep with the addition of Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Here's how the reported roster shakes out by position.

Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade
Small Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Lamar Odom
Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love
Centers: Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard 

A few interesting things to note from this roster.

First, veteran point guard Billups is included rather than the younger and more talented Rajon Rondo, who withdrew from the 2010 team after it became clear he was going to be left off of the final roster. Billups is 35 and figures to be one of the seven players cut from what will be the final 12-man roster. What does Rondo's exclusion mean for his Team USA future?

Second, positional versatility and two-way play was clearly valued in this selection process. The inclusion of both Iguodala and Odom over Rudy Gay is a mild surprise but both players complement the likes of James, Durant and Anthony a bit better. Both will also have a tough time squeezing into the final 12. The only way Iguodala gets there is if someone else is injured; Odom, a standout for the 2010 team, could be one of the toughest cuts.

Third, the reported addition of Aldridge creates an intriguing frontcourt logjam, akin to the dilemma that faces Western Conference All-Star team voters. Aldridge, Griffin, Love, Odom and Chandler figure to be in competition for the final two roster spots, with the top-10 seemingly secure. Griffin would seem to be the odds-on favorite for one of those two spots given his combination of on-court skills and immense international marketing potential. If so, the battle for the final spot between the other four talented big men will be heated. 

Aldridge can swing between the four and five better than any of the other candidates, but he also has the least Team USA experience, having backed out on the 2010 World Championships team. Aldridge's coach with the Blazers, Nate McMillan, happens to be a Team USA assistant, so that could help.

Love is the best rebounder of the group but his athleticism, even though it's much improved, is not on the same level as the rest of Team USA. Chandler boasts a championship pedigree with the Dallas Mavericks and is the pure defender and long, active big men that could be the centerpiece of an aggressive defensive unit. Odom's versatility and perimeter game creates mismatch opportunities but the wings are likely too crowded on this team to properly utilize his capabilities. 

Spain, the reigning European champs, bring both Pau and Marc Gasol to the table. Howard plus any of Team USA's starting power forwards should still have an interior advantage, but choosing the reserve big men will be critical in the event of foul trouble.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 7:23 pm
 

Sixers re-sign Thaddeus Young

By Matt Moore  

You can't blame the Sixers, they got their guy. The Sixers have been making noise about intending to match any offer for forward Thaddeus Young in restricted free agency, and instead of letting it get to that point, the Sixers signed Young on Friday to a five-year, $43 million deal, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

And it's a steal.

Young blossomed under coach Doug Collins. Last season he pulled in 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is a terrific rate for a bench combo forward. His stellar 18.4 PER is a reflection of his increased efficiency on the floor, and his career high 54 percent field goal percentage was as much a reflection of his move away from perimeter play to attacking the rim as anything. In short, a player who once very strongly considered himself a small forward has evolved into a true combo forward. 

The only question is, what are the Sixers really planning on with this signing? They currently have Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Craig Brackins, Elton Brand, and Marreese Speights at forward. It's not that Young will have a hard time getting minutes. He won't. It's that the Sixers have made a significant committment to a number of players at forward and have yet to set out a plan for how to build a team around them. Maybe the answer is for Young to become a true (undersized) power forward alongside Iguodala and Turner. Perhaps they just love the production off the bench. But it's an $8 million per year investment for a team that still seems to be struggling with its identity.

Young needs improvement but at least has the years ahead of him to work into it. His rebounding isn't stellar but it's quality for his position. He's the quintessential combo forward, but that comes with a price, especially when you lack range as Young does. He shot 33 percent from 10-15 feet and 34 percent from mid-range last season. If Young's going to be a stretch four, he's going to have to improve. The Sixers giving him this deal with their current roster situation means he's going to have to develop them sooner rather than later. 

Again, there's no way to fault them for the deal. Young is 23 and on potential alone would warrant that kind of deal on the open market. The question is not whether it was a good signing. The question is what the signing means.  
Posted on: October 19, 2011 9:58 am
 

New Sixers owners plan to drop ticket prices

By Matt Moore

When billionaire Joshua Harris purchased a theoretical basketball team (considering they don't actually play basketball right now), it brought some questions about the league's claims about the dismal state of affairs. After all, if Harris is investing so much in a new team along with owners in Atlanta, Detroit, and less recently Golden State, are things really that bad? Whether it's a reaction those questions or a gesture of goodwill from the new ownership, Sixers fans are about to reap the rewards. 

From Philly.com:
1. The Sixers announced lower single-game ticket prices for the upcoming season. Over 8,800 seats will be significantly reduced for single-game tickets during the 2011-12 season. The new single-game structure results in 51 percent of seating being recuded. Certain lower-level seats that were $54 last season will be $29 this upcoming season.

"We are committed to providing our fans with the most entertaining in-game experience in the NBA, and also one of the most affordable," Aron said. "At the Sixers, we want to be on the side of the fan, so in these tough economic times when family budgets are strained, we decided to dramatically lower ticket prices."
via 76ers new ownership takes stage | Philadelphia Inquirer | 10/18/2011. 

It's a good thing regardless of intent for the owners to do this. The fans have been put out more by the lockout than anyone who isn't employed by the NBA. They're the ones struggling with the economy but still wanting to give their money to teams. It's a good way to start your relationship with the city. Now we'll just have to say whether some changes to the team can make the Sixers an even better bargain. 

(HT: SLAM)
Posted on: August 17, 2011 5:26 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 10:57 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 21-30: Celtics trio

Posted by Ben Golliver

Rankings by EOB Staff.

rondo-pierce-garnett

This is the seventh segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31

Asking Boston Celtics fans and observers to rank the team's players top-to-bottom is a bit like asking a mother to rank her children. With Rajon Rondo ascending and the Big 3 maintaining, simply ranking the team's four All-Stars is a task in and of itself. That job takes on an added degree of difficulty when they face off against their competition around the league.

Three Celtics All-Stars -- Rondo and forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- made our top-30, but none made our top-20, a decision that speaks to the team's balance at the top but also the role that age has played in recent years. Once a perennial top-10 selection, Garnett has slipped a notch, although he still leads the way for the Celtics on this list. 

Without further ado, let's dig in.

30. Andre Iguodala, F, age 27, Philadelphia 76ers

2011 Stats: 14.1 points, 6.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 44.5 FG%, 17.30 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 27, 36, 36

After playing all but six games in his first six NBA seasons, injuries marred Iguodala’s 2010-2011 campaign, keeping him out of 15 games and limiting his minutes per game to the fewest he’s played since his rookie year. As a result, his numbers took a predictable hit pretty much across the board.  Iguodala’s reputation as a two-way player is well-earned; his size, strength, quickness and instincts are an exceedingly rare combination.

Persistent trade rumors swirled throughout the season, too, owing to Iguodala’s long-term, eight figure per year contract and his tweener franchise guy status: he’s paid to be “the man” but not quite transformative enough to pull it off. Until he is moved to a contender with an established top dog, Iguodala will continue to impress outsiders and let down those who expect him to deliver a team to playoff success.

29. Joakim Noah, C, age 26, Chicago Bulls

2011 Stats: 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 52.5 FG%, 18.83 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 33, 32, 30

Perhaps Noah gets a friendly bump up in these rankings by virtue of playing in the vicinity of the Derrick Rose superstar glow, but he has done plenty to carve out a strong reputation for himself. It starts with doing the things most NBA players don’t like to do: crash the boards relentlessly on both ends, cover ground (while talking) on defense, hit the floor for loose balls, make the extra big-to-big pass and exercise restraint when it comes to shot selection.

Given his age, Noah should be a perennial double-double guy for the next 3-5 seasons. That, plus more than a block and a steal per game and 50+ percent shooting is excellent production from the center position.  

28. Tony Parker, G, age 29, San Antonio Spurs

2011 Stats: 17.5 points, 6.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 51.9 FG%, 20.44 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 26, 31, 30

San Antonio’s early playoff exit might have caused you to forget that the Spurs were the league’s second most efficient offense during the regular season. Parker’s well-rounded game – basketball intelligence, shooting, decision-making, pick-and-roll skills, drive-and-kick skills, open court skills – served as the engine in that machine. The elite newer-age point guards boast size/strength combinations that Parker can’t match, but he currently inhabits a pleasant nexus between “savvy veteran” and “not yet tailing off physically”, so he gives as good as he gets against just about anyone at his position.

The Spurs will never be able to replace Tim Duncan, but they were wise to ride with Parker into the foreseeable future.

27. Paul Pierce, F, age 33, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 49.7 FG%, 19.76 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 38, 23, 22

The passing of the Eastern Conference torch from Boston to Miami went down in particularly cruel fashion, with Heat forward LeBron James unleashing a whirlwind to usher the Celtics into the past. Not being athletic enough to keep up with Miami is no real sin, though, as that label applies to 99 percent of the league. Pierce is slower, more ground-bound, less decisive and less explosive than James, but he’s still an elite producer at his position, upping his numbers in most categories last season. He can score in a variety of ways, shoots with range, gets to the line and cashes in his free throw opportunities, and is a hard-working defender.

With three years left on his contract, it’s certainly possible the Captain becomes a burden on the books. For now, he’s steady and solid as always, the same All-Star with the track record for winning, even if his team has finally been overtaken.

26. Nene Hilario, C, age 28, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 14.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.1 steals, 61.5%, 20.49 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 27, 29, 23

Arguably the biggest prize in this year’s free agent crop, Nene has gotten overlooked to a degree in a crowded Denver frontcourt that always took a backseat to whatever Carmelo Anthony was doing. Now that Anthony is in the Big Apple, Nene’s uber-efficient scoring around the rim, high-energy play and overall athleticism look even better, especially if one considers what will be left of the Nuggets should he decide to find a new home.

25. Andrew Bynum, C, age 23, Los Angeles Lakers

2011 Stats: 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.4 assists, 57.4 FG%, 21.14 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 28, 22, 28

Nobody in the NBA causes more people to slap their foreheads than Bynum: he’s yet to approach his potential on the court, has a lengthy injury history and has repeatedly resorted to some of the dirtiest play seen anywhere in the modern NBA. For all his faults and immaturity, he has shown the ability to be the best center in the NBA not named Dwight Howard by simply overpowering defenders and playing over the top of them, finishing at the rim with an emphatic dunk or a soft touch. He doesn’t have ideal mobility but he is still a legit paint presence defensively, even able to control games at times. The progress he’s made in expanding his offensive repertoire gives hope for the future, as does his expressed desire to carry more of the load.

Bynum will likely see his ceiling stunted a bit by the final chapter of Kobe Bryant’s career, but that shouldn’t prevent him from being a perennial All-Star and top-10 player eventually. Only the injuries offer a legitimate roadblock to greatness.

24. Al Horford, C, age 25, Atlanta Hawks

2011 Stats: 15.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, .8 steals, 55.7%, 20.79 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 24, 24, 29

Horford is an interesting contrast with Bynum, in that he seems to have figured life out and come to terms with what he will be as an NBA player. An excellent defender whose offensive production doesn’t get enough run, Horford should be the centerpiece for the Hawks for years to come. He’s managed to improve his scoring numbers during all four seasons in the NBA while keeping his rebounding numbers near the magical double-digit mark. Horford is smart, consistent, has a winning mindset and provides zero distractions off the court. He can pass too.

At 25, he’s probably getting pretty close to his peak productivity and isn’t – and may never be -- a game-changing No. 1 option on offense.  Still, he provides stability and plenty to work around even if he is never able to carry the team out of the massive shadow cast by Joe Johnson’s contract.

23. Chris Bosh, F, age 27, Miami Heat

2011 Stats: 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 49.6 FG%, 19.44 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 19, 25, 28

The planet Earth sure learned a lot about Bosh this season. Indeed, he probably faced a greater increase in scrutiny than any other NBA player, when he bounced out of Toronto to team up with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in South Beach. Bosh’s game is predicated on outside/inside offensive versatility. He is equally able to knock down a jumper, get to the free throw line, finish a play above the rim and create a bit off the bounce. He’s more sinewy than beefy and that’s earned him plenty of criticism because he doesn’t hold the paint on defense and lacks a true nose for rebounding and dirty work.

Bosh wore goofy outfits, was rightfully cast as a third wheel, got tattooed, got married, and broke down crying in his first year with the Heat. Who knows what the sequel holds?

22. Rajon Rondo, G, age 25, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 10.6 points, 11.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals, 47.5 FG%, 17.11 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 19, 21, 25

Rondo may very well be the most magical point guard since Magic Johnson, his knack for fitting passes into tight spaces is uncanny and his vision is peerless. At his best, he conducts games rather than simply playing in them, weaving together his teammates in such a way that open shots result. His eye-popping wingspan is matched only by his gambler’s instinct, making Rondo an excellent on-ball and off-ball defender. Of course there’s the whole business about his shooting, which remains troublesome and limiting, but he compensates with a warrior’s spirit and a full understanding of his own limitations. He is the future.

21. Kevin Garnett, F, age 35, Boston Celtics

2011 Stats: 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks, 52.8 FG%, 20.67

Composite rankings (random order): 23, 21, 21

Over the past two years, a crop of younger power forwards have surpassed Garnett, whose prep-to-pros jump and heavy minutes as a franchise guy earlier in his career have taken their toll. His body doesn’t allow 82 nights of top-shelf performance a season -- it would be next to impossible to manage that at 35 -- but he’s still the most feared and hated player in the NBA. His length and understanding of positioning create endless problems for his opponents and his basketball intelligence and leadership making the game easier for his teammates. His trusty jumper has kept him an offensive force and he can be paired with all sorts of lineups – big and small – thanks to his face-up game, passing skills and mobility. While Garnett is no longer a player capable of carrying a team to a title, he’s still the last guy you want to play against.

Posted on: August 15, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: August 17, 2011 5:56 pm
 

The EOB Elite 100, 40-31: Middle men

Posted by Royce Young



This is the seventh segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41

Once you break the top 50, you start getting good players. Former All-Stars, solid veterans and some up-and-comers. But the top 40, that's when you start breaking into some legit talent. Last season's Sixth Man Lamar Odom. A young stud Eric Gordon. A new champion in Tyson Chandler. Talents like Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis and Marc Gasol. It's not a list full of superstars, but there's no denying these guys are good. With a bunch of guys that easily could make a leap at any moment.

As such, we march on towards No. 1 with 40-31.

40. Gerald Wallace, SF, age 29, Portland Trail Blazers
2011 stats: 15.7 ppg, 8.0 apg, 2.4 apg, 45.4 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 16.28 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 48, 33, 48


Hard to figure Gerald Wallace sometimes. I'm not sure he's ever really truly found a place in this league. Not in the sense of fitting on a roster, but just in where he lines up with other good players. He's not just a defender. But he's not that great of an offensive player. He's not a star you build around. But he's someone you pay almost like he is.

Wallace is an elite defender, frustrating players like Kevin Durant and LeBron James often, but he also has lit up the scoreboard. His outside touch is a bit erratic and he mainly gets it done by out working other players. He's relentless on the glass, attacks mercilessly in the paint and goes hard at his opponent non-stop. He has the talent, but has never possessed the polish. Still, he's certainly on of the NBA's top 50 players.


39. Monta Ellis, PG, age 24, Golden State Warriors
2011 stats: 24.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.5 rpg, 2.1 spg, 45.1 FG%, 36.1 3P%, 18.69 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 35, 48, 42

Oh, Moped Ellis. Such a talented, gifted scorer. But for many a reason, such a frustrating player. He's never seen a shot past the halfcourt line he didn't like. Efficiency isn't exactly his calling card, nor is his defense. He gambles on both ends, plays almost in his own world and takes too much responsibility offensively.

But man, once he gets going, he gets going. He doesn't exactly play under a defined position (Point guard? Shooting guard? I think Ellis would place himself just as "baller guard.") but wherever he ends up on a given night he's a threat to go for 40. It might come on 31 shots, but he can carry a team on his own. I wouldn't exactly say he's the type of player that should be better, but there's no denying his talent. He's probably about the best player he can be, or at least the player he wants to be. Above average, gifted in specific areas but nothing premier.

38. Danny Granger, SF, age 28, Indiana Pacers
2011 stats: 20.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, 42.5 FG%, 38.6 3P%, 17.89 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 47, 36, 37

At a time, it looked like Indiana might have stumbled onto a true building block star. Granger was a low first rounder but broke out in 2008-09 averaging 25.8 a game. He was efficient, shot high percentages and as a result, got himself a nice little contract extension from Larry Bird.

It's not fair to say he regressed or anything -- he's been good the past two years -- but he hasn't exactly continued his trend upward toward a star player. He made one All-Star team in 2009 but since then has just been kind of in that group of "Oh yeah him, he's not a bad player." He definitely didn't step up for the Pacers in the postseason last year against the Bulls, fading into oblivion in the fourth quarter of virtually every game. Granger's a quality scorer and certainly a top 40 player. But it's become pretty obvious that he's not an alpha player.

37. Andrew Bogut, C, age 26, Milwaukee Bucks
2011 stats: 12.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.6 bpg, 49.5 FG%, 44.2 FT%
Composite rankings (random order):
46, 35, 30

Injuries just aren't fair. Not that Bogut would otherwise be an elite center, but injuries have certainly hurt him (get it?). His 2009-10 season was off to an excellent start, as were his team, but a nasty elbow injury sidelined him for the last 13 games and the playoffs. Plus that injury greatly affected him last year.

Bogut is consistently in the top five in blocked shots each year, passes the ball well and plays his position solidly. He's never been a star type of player which is what you might expect from someone drafted No. 1 overall, but Bogut's been good. Not great, but good. He's averaged a double-double for three consecutive season -- injuries be damned -- and still turned in a decent 2010-11 despite playing with one arm. If he gets everything back to full strength, he's one of the East's top three big men. But until then, he's just an above average center.

36. Eric Gordon, SG, age 22, Los Angeles Clippers
2011 stats: 22.3 ppg, 4.4 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 45.0 FG%, 36.4 3P%, 18.56 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 40, 40, 27

Honestly, 37 feels a tad low for Gordon. Last season was derailed a bit by a wrist injury for him because before it, he was off to a pretty torrid scoring pace. Remember: He's just 22. With Blake Griffin as the featured player and someone defenses are forced to focus on constantly, Gordon is clear to bomb away from deep, where he shot a solid 36.4 percent.

But don't think that's all he is. He's really one of the game's most underrated slashers and finishers. He's great with both hands and with his stocky, strong frame, he takes contact extremely well in the paint. I don't know if Gordon will ever be an elite scorer per se, but he's certainly a threat to average around 25 a game for multiple seasons.

35. Rudy Gay, SF, age 24, Memphis Grizzlies
2011 stats: 19.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 47.1 FG%, 39.6 3P%, 17.88 PER
Composite rankings: 39, 34, 33


So he was overpaid last summer. And then he got hurt. And then the Grizzlies played really, really good without him. But don't think for a second Rudy Gay isn't a pretty darn good player. He's sort of Kevin Durant lite -- long, athletic and has a pretty good outside touch. The biggest issue has always been consistency. He'll score an effortless 30 one night and then disappear the next with 12 on 4-13 shooting. There's going to be a question of how he'll respond from a major injury, but he's young and is still a centerpiece for the Grizzlies. He sits at 39 now, but there's no reason that next summer he could leap 20 spots.

34. Tyson Chandler, C, age 28, Dallas Mavericks
2011 stats: 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 65.4 FG%, 18.45 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 26, 38, 39

Players like Chandler have taught us that there's a premium on defense. Before the NBA Finals, he was probably a fringe top 60 guy. But after completely shutting off the paint for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for six games as his Mavs put away a title, his stock skyrocketed. He's no longer just the guy that catches oops and tries to shake the goal around just a little too much on a routine dunk. He's a true defensive enforcer and not just because he blocks shots. He's aggressive, smart and understands help defense as well as any big man in the league.

Chandler's not, nor has he ever been, a big offensive player. He's going to score off of oops, putbacks and easy hoops under the basket. But he's a double-double guy, a defensive stopper and someone that can impact the game -- or a championship series -- in a major way.

33. Lamar Odom, PF, age 31, Los Angeles Lakers
2011 stats: 14.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, 53.0 FG%, 38.2 3P%, 19.50 PER
Composite rankings: 31, 31, 40


Being ranked as the 34th best overall player in today's NBA is a pretty good deal. But for Lamar Odom, that's just horribly disappointing. And that's not to say HE'S disappointing. He just won a well deserved Sixth Man of the Year trophy. But a player with his skillset, he athletic ability and his talent should easily be in the top 20. Probably the top 10.

Odom really is a one-of-a-kind. He can easily slide into three, four positions and sometimes all five positions effortlessly, plays defense, handles the ball, passes, shoots, rebounds, scores -- he's got the total package. Which is pretty stinking rare for a dude 6-10. When he was taken fourth overall in 1999 by the Clippers, people saw him as the next evolution in basketball. A point forward with the ability to do it all. And no doubt, he's always been good. But not quite as good as he should've been.

The fact he's known more for a stupid reality show than his basketball ability kind of says it all. If this were a list ranking the top 100 most gifted players in the NBA, it would be hard to keep Odom out of the top 10. But he's never really lived up to his own talent which is why he settles in at 34. Not a bad place to be, unless, well, you're Lamar Odom.

32. Kevin Martin, SG, age 28, Houston Rockets
2011 stats: 23.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 43.6 FG%, 8.4 FTA per game, 21.46 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 29, 59, 20

Who wants a guy that can routinely score 29 points on 14 shots? What's that, everyone? Martin has kind of become the overlooked scoring star, which started early in his time with the Kings. He's more the guy with the weird shot and skinny frame that puts up 25 a night without much resistance. Martin is that player who hits a 3 in the second half against your team and you look at the box score and see he has 32 and you think, "What the heck, I remember him scoring like twice."

Martin never quite graduated to that next level star though. Maybe it's a fault of his own, maybe it's just a lack of overall respect for what he does and how he does it. But it's hard to make a name for yourself when your calling card is 18 points on eight shots over 30 points on 22. It shouldn't be how things work, but that's just kind of the way it is.

31. Marc Gasol, C, age 26, Memphis Grizzlies
2011 stats: 11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 52.7 FG%, 16.88 PER
Composite rankings (random order): 41, 32, 26

Here's how you know Marc Gasol has gone from forgotten little brother to a top NBA big man: It's a legit question to ask if he's better than Pau. And not just in a whispered way. It's truly a toss up now.

With him and Zach Randolph tag-teaming inside for the Grizzlies, Memphis went on an improbable run not just into the playoffs, but well into May before bowing out in seven games to Oklahoma City. Gasol's numbers won't blow you away -- 11.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game -- but it's more about what you see. You see a gifted center that is developing into a go-to option on the block. You see a center who has played just three seasons and is only 26 getting better game-by-game. You see a center that could potentially be All-Star material soon.

I don't really know where to place Gasol's ceiling (15 points, 10 rebounds?) and while he's probably not as good as brother Pau -- and may not ever be -- the fact we're even wondering tells you enough about why he's in the top 35.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com