Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Harris, Ariza, and NCAA tournament

Because no one wants to read the preview of a team we already played and because you can all recite my hoops previews verbatim at this point, I'm skipping the Northwestern preview. Hopefully we don't suck like we did last time we played them.

I've no doubt raised some eyebrows around these parts with my thoughts on Manny Harris and his NBA prospects. It should be noted, however, that when it comes to thinking about NBA personnel and style of play, I largely favor the FreeDarko way of thinking: This is to say, I believe the NBA is increasingly moving toward hyper-athletic tweeners and a blurred sense of definite positions, giving way to a uniform, flowing attack (see: Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trailblazers, etc.). And in that regard, I think that DeShawn Sims projects much better to the NBA (a tweener, SF/PF that can shoot from the outside, play the post, rebound) than Harris, who is a fairly rigid and somewhat unassuming shooting guard.

I bring all of this up because Bethlehem Shoals, one of the FreeDarko writers and recent FanHouse blogger wrote a piece on Trevor Ariza that really hit me when thinking about Harris. Basically, Shoals talks about Ariza's move from LA to Houston and his subsequent position as The Go-To Guy. Says Shoals,

In Houston, with Tracy McGrady off in the woods trying to walk, Ariza assumed the mantle of go-to guy. That meant firing threes at will, and not just from that one spot; revealing plainly to the world the limits of his ball-handling; and making us realize the difference between a slasher and a guy who creates his own shot.

Man, I can't think of a better description of Harris than this: A guy who has been forced into the superstar role because there's not much else on the roster and whose deficiencies are plain as day (poor decision making, can't drive left, lack of strength getting to the bucket, subpar outside shooting). Regardless of whether or not you think I'm crazy on the topic or not, I suggest reading the piece. And everything Bethlehem Shoals/FreeDarko produces. Best basketball writing around.

Meanwhile, UMHoops has an interview up with NBADraft.net president Aran Smith that covers Harris and Sims' pro potential. Consume.

96 Team Tournament
So Sports by Brooks recently said that a 96-team NCAA tournament was a "done deal". The internet freaked out.

Let me make this as clear as possible: This is not true. Relax. They cite a few different unnamed sources inside ESPN that said that this was over and done with and everyone else in the America was just going to have to deal with it. And Michael Wilbon had insider information that Rich Rodriguez was going to be ousted three months ago.

The SportBusiness Journal writes:

Greg Shaheen, the NCAA’s senior vice president for basketball and business strategies, is leading the RFP process.

“There continues to be dialogue with a number of entities that are interested in submitting a proposal,” he said, but no time frame has been established. Shaheen has said that the NCAA is doing due diligence to explore alternative tournament formats, but it is not leaning in any direction.

However, industry sources indicated that the NCAA has until Aug. 31 to exercise its right, though it hopes to conclude the process much earlier.

Now, of course anyone inside the NCAA isn't going to go off spouting about the change until it actually occurs, but I'll believe this over unnamed sources inside a company that's attempting to put in multi-billion dollar bid to get a stranglehold on one of the most profitable sporting events in the world--to boot, the NCAA could opt out of this contract and still not expand. I'm not suggesting that I the NCAA won't expand or that it won't in the future. But the idea that this is a done deal right now is borderline ridiculous. Not to mention that SbB is basically the TMZ of sports reporting, a slightly more reputable Deadspin.

No thanks. Like Wilbon, come back to me when something actually happens. Until then, it's all just static.


Lankownia said...

Joe Dumars agrees with your hybrid-centric assessment apparently. It's not working out for him.

People have been talking about the demise of size and traditional roles for years; Yet the biggest toughest frontlines are the ones that continue to win titles. Lakers have Gasol and Bynum, Magic have Howard, Celtics have Garnett and Perkins and keep trying to add more size. If anyone was to take the hybrid approach, you'd think it would be the Cavs with Lebron, but they have Illgauskas, Varejao and they added Shaq to it.

The Hawks are a decent example of the uniform/flexible attack you mention, but the Blazers, before injury forced their hand, were as traditional as a roster gets in terms of positional roles, especially with big lug centers in Oden and Przybilla.

I don't think Harris OR Sims are going to be NBA players, but Harris at least has one NBA skill (driving ability) while Harris has none. His offensive skills might be passable on the right team, but he can't defend 3s on the perimeter or handle NBA 4s inside. The athleticism just isn't there for him to play in the NBA. He has average SF size with an unexceptional PF's game. His only plus is above average jump shooting FOR A PF, but he's not on the same level as Steve Novak, Ryan Anderson types.

Chris Gaerig said...

A few good points here. The idea of a more fluid attack does not necessarily do away with size (look at the Lakers). Pau Gasol is far from a traditional NBA center. Garnett is a C/PF with a strong emphasis on the latter. Saying that a team needs big men is a given, but it's what those big men do that makes them unique and effective. For example, Shaq's presence on the Cavs has made their offense markedly less effective and changed what was otherwise a wild and unpredictable offense led by the greatest of all tweeners, Lebron.

I was with Joe Dumars for a long time, but a) he most certainly is not centered on hybrid players and b) his downfall came not from said players.

To wit, the only real hybrid he ever took a chance on and failed with was Darko. Now the common refrain... "But they could've had Melo or Bosh". Sure, they could've, but they didn't need Melo (or Bosh, frankly), and it wasn't like Darko was an out-of-the-blue pick. He was the 2a to Lebron's 1 and Melo's 2b. He's a bust. It happens. The only other tweener the team had of late was Sheed, who was a massive success and largely responsible for the Pistons' title. But that also doesn't (dis)prove Dumars' alliances. (Austin Daye is a tweener but we haven't seen enough of him. That said, he appears to be the best prospect on the team.)

Dumars' main mistakes were the Rip contract and the Ben Gordon contract, both of which were way too long for far too much money. The Pistons had a good core to go after some good free agents, but they ended up wasting all their money on an underachieving, high-volume shooting guard (Gordon) instead of going after a dynamic wing player or hybrid big man--though Villanueva is probably the best pickup the team's made since Sheed.

It's an uphill battle for both Harris and Sims, but Harris' ability to "drive" is significantly hindered by his slight build and inability to drive left. I mean, if that's his one NBA-level quality, he has no chance of making it there. Sims on the other hand, has a really well-rounded game and, as his mid-range and long-range game continue to develop--and all signs this year point toward that being a real possibility--he could easily be a functioning NBA player. Not starter or star, necessarily, but definitely an NBA talent.

Lankownia said...

I guess a lot of this depends on your definition of a tweener. To me, its a players whose deficiences don't allow him to fit in a tradional position. Gordon and Villanueva are tweeners (because they play one position on offense that they can't defend on the other end). Lebron and KG aren't - they're just so damn good they can handle other positions besides their natural one. It's beside the point though...

The concept that Dumars seems to be going after (and I think you're advancing) is having a versatile offensive threat at every position. (i.e. Everyone needs to be able to score: drive or shoot, preferably both.) Thats what Dumars said after he aquired Villanueva and Daye. It seems Joe is overcompensating for the lone flaw of the Pistons teams of the last decade (reliable scoring, particularly from Ben Wallace).

Count me as a sceptic. I think the Lakers/Cavs model of finding 2 or 3 elite go-to scorers and surrounding them with complementary pieces is a model that can and will continue to work. The center who bricks his free throws but blocks shots (Wallace, Oden, Oneal) will still be more relevant to title contention than finding "stretch 4s". And Bruce Bowen types will get rings more often than Eddie House/Ben Gordon/Villanueva types.

Chris Gaerig said...

But unfortunately, that's not the Lakers' strategy. Odom, Gasol, Kobe, Ariza (when he was there), and Artest are all tweeners. Your definition of tweener is not really correct. In fact, a tweener is someone who's skills dictate a certain type of play while their size may dictate otherwise. The most effective ones are basically oversized, athletic players (e.g., Lebron playing small forward instead of power forward, Garnett playing power forward instead of center, Odom playing small forward instead of power forward).

Tweener is not a derogatory term and people who use it as such are usually part of the old guard (pound the ball down low, be bigger and stronger than your opponent, etc.). Meanwhile, teams like OKC and Atl are quietly becoming beasts in the league by drafting and trading for as many versatile, athletic players they can.

Sure, Dumars is going for players that can score, rebound, shoot at every position. That's what makes a good basketball team. But he is in no way modeling the Pistons like the athletic young teams in the league. And hell, if dude was actually looking to get a versatile offensive threat at every position, he wouldn't have signed Ben Wallace.

Lankownia said...

Tweener has historically been a pejorative. Hybrid has positive connotation. I don't see what makes Kobe a hybrid. He's a SG with SG size.

I love the direction OKC and Atl are taking from a fan's perspective but they're not close to being serious title contenders. (You can make a case for ATL, but its very weak...)

Versatility does not "make a good basketball team". It helps, but you can win titles with a traditional lineup and roles. Consider the Spurs, who, besides playing Horry at PF in crunch time, had conventional lineups most of the time and the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. Every team has SOME versatility.

I guess ultimately, I think what you describe as "old guard" is still reality, no matter how much people want to spin "the game has changed". Lebron is no more of a tweener/hybrid than Magic. The Hawks aren't any more versatile than Jordan's Bulls. The game is still about maximizing talent, desire (especially on defense), and players who know they're roles and don't do stupid things. Same as it ever was...

Anonymous said...

this back and forth makes way too much sense to be on the internet. my monitor just exploded.

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