Examining and Analyzing Sports the Way They Should Be

We all know about the major strides that Stephen Curry has made for the Warriors this season. The Davidson guard has emerged as one of if not the best guard in the NBA. Oh and the Warriors have the best record in the Western Conference.


But what about Steph’s younger brother Seth.


Seth is now in his second full D-League season playing with the Erie Bayhawks. After playing one year at Liberty University and two at Duke University, Little Seth went undrafted.


Thinking the Warriors might be able to find the same magic in Seth as they did in older brother Steph, they signed him to a contract in October of 2013. But that experiment didn’t last long, as Seth was cut before the start of the season.


After one 10-day stint with the Cavs last year, Set was cut again and has not made it back to the NBA since. His current career stat line is as followed: 2 games, 13 minutes, 3 points, 2 steals, and 1 rebound. Not exactly MVP numbers.


But this season Seth has torn up the D-League. He has emerged as one of the best players in the entire league.


He is second in scoring average per game at 23.1 ppg. He is shooting a crazy 48.3 percent from three and 90.8 percent from the line. He was a D-League All Star this season representing his Erie Bayhawks and competed in the three point shootout per well.


But it seems like Seth might not get a chance to compete at the NBA level.


According to NBA.com Development League stats projections, Seth’s D-League numbers translate to 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game all while shooting 41 percent from the filed and 36 percent from three.


While of course those numbers are inflated and Curry would never play enough minutes to average 12 points per game, Curry can likely still make an impact at the highest level.


One issue Curry has faced is his size. He truly a shooting guard and not a pure point guard. And while positions were only created for a novice to follow the game, Curry does not have the handling ability to create offense for his teammates. He is an NBA ready shooter and could hypothetically provide a team with solid floor spacing.


The other issue Curry has seen is his defense. Back in college Curry was not a very impactful defender. He struggled defending pick-and-rolls and couldn’t defend bigger point guards.


Since graduating he has improved his defense, but his size is still an issue.


But with the NBA season only 6 weeks away (thank you Denver Nuggets players for that handy reminder) Curry deserves an opportunity to try and impact an NBA game.


Hey Philly, you guys are in need of some solid guard play. The Knicks could use shooting, guard play, and of course a new owner. The Nuggets are experimenting with different guards and could provide Curry some playing time.


Frankly, it likely won’t happen. But it probably should.


-Ben Pickman 

Tags

John Stockton is widely regard as one of the best point guards ever. The Utah Jazz legend played the entirety of his 19 year NBA career in Salt Lake City after being selected in the first round of the legendary 1984 NBA draft.


His son David Stockton has not seen the same kind of success as his father. David, a Gonzaga graduate much like his father, was a good college player but was not special. He went undrafted in the 2014 draft before playing for the Suns in the 2014 NBA Summer League. He signed with the Wizards in September but last only 4 days on the Wizards roster.


He sepnt most of the season playing surprisingly well for the Reno Bighorns. Stockton averaged, 17 points, 8 assists, and 3 rebounds in 27 minutes of play for Reno while shooting 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from threee.


These solid numbers caught the eyes of the Sacramento Kings who signed Stockton to a 10-day contract on February 10th.


Stockton has not made the immediate impact his father made.


7 Minutes, 1 point, 2 rebounds, 1 assists, two turnovers. That could very well be the career total of David Stockton. The Kings have played four games since Stockton signed onto the squad and even though all four games were not relatively close and Darren Collison in the lineup, Stockton cannot seem to see the floor.


He likely won’t.


Stockton is facing the harsh reality of living up to his father’s legacy and its become clear very fast, he likely never will.


-Ben Pickman 

Tags

Muggsy Bogues is one of the best little guards of all time. At a massive five feet three inches, Bogues was not for putting on a show on the floor, using his body to slither through gaps when traveling toward the rim. The 14- year vet had 39 more blocks than I will ever have in the NBA and 39 more blocks than anyone could have expected when he first entered the NBA. 


Since retiring from the NBA Bogues has continue to gain fame because of his petit frame. He has appeared in numerous movies and commercial. And because I watched Space Jam last night, one of Bogues’ finest acting appearances, I went back and ranked the five best Muggsy Bogues film moments. 


5. AT&T Commercial 


Back in 1994 AT&T was not the multinational telecommunication company it is now. It was just starting to acquire smaller companies and expand its brand en route to being named a top 15 company of the 1998 Fortune 500 list. But in this ad, AT&T seems to really being emphasizing the small in small business. The best part of the commercial comes in the final ten seconds when Bogues enters the phone booth and takes the phone from the taller actor who cannot fit because well, he is too damm tall. The taller actor then says, “I can’t believe this guy,” but guess what tall sir, believe it. Muggsy Bogues did.


4. NBA 2k15 Commercial



This is a perfect of example of how Muggsy has remained relevant. This ad is for NBA 2k15. Not NBA 1994. Bogues plays an elf. What else needs to be said. Elf’s of course are known for being Santa’s petit helpers, and in this ad that’s all he does. Bringing the children to Santa and then moving to the side, allowing Santa to talk to his vistors. Bogues doesn’t speak in the advertisement, but after Santa says that the child who wants to play in the NBA is a little small, “but that hasn’t stopped anyone before,” Muggsy’s smile goes away. 


3. Space Jam Appearance #1 


This is a line from Bogues most famous acting appearance in the great American classic Space Jam. He gets points for talking about some psychosomatic deal. I don’t think many people who watch Space Jam, a movie that is 65 percent Looney Tunes, 30 % Michael Jordan, and 5% everyone else know what a phychosomatic deal is but it didn’t stop the Hornets guard. He then talks about the alignment of the moon, stars, and planet. God, he is smart. I want Muggsy to teach me astronomy and psychology in school!!!!


2. Space Jam Appearance #2


Another clip from Space Jam. All that needs to be said here is Muggsy has his priorities straight. Way to show yo mamma some love, Mugs!!! I love you too Mom!!!!


1. Curb Your Enthusiasm 



This is by far the Muggsy Bogues acting appearance. Larry David and Richard Lewis are talking about the size of their junk, and well Muggsy and his 5 foot 3 inch body walks in and goes to the bathroom. To keep this Space Jam PG, just know to never eye anypart of Muggsy Bogues in a bathroom or he will make you have a near heart attack. David clearly was unaware of that idea, and well has a mini-heart attack.


-Ben Pickman. 



Tags

Zoran Dragic is in the NBA for one reason. He is genetically related to Goran Dragic.


That’s it.


Simply put, Zoran Dragic is not an NBA caliber guard. Yet last offseason that didn’t stop the Phoenix Suns from signing the Slovenian guard to a two-year contract. The Suns thought process in signing Zoran was simple: if we sign Zoran, Goran will feel happier and if Goran feels happier he will stay in Phoenix for a long time.


Well, that plan didn’t work and this afternoon the Suns traded the Dragic brothers to the Miami Heat. The Dragic Brothers remain a package deal and the Heat must keep Zoran until Goran re-ups his contract.


Memo to NBA teams: This is never a good strategy.


The Knicks tried this two seasons ago with J.R. Smith. In early September of 2014, te Knicks signed J.R. Smith’s younger brother Chris Smith. Chris Smith played in only two games during his Knick tenure and was waiver on New Year’s Eve 2013.


Upon being waiver, J.R sent out multiple tweets on how he felt betrayed by Knicks management and how upset he was. The Knicks were lucky J.R. resigned and that Chris Smith was only playing on a non-guaranteed one year deal.


The Suns have Zoran Dragic on their books next year. He has played in six games this season and has six total points. And his salary for next season is more than 2 million. That’s not an ideal ratio.


But the Heat have no choice but to keep him if they want to make his older brother happy. And they do want to make his brother happy.


Don’t be surprised if the Warriors superstar point guard Stephen Curry makes the Warriors sign Seth Curry to a mega-contract to insure his happiness. Blake Griffin might plead with Doc Rivers to sign his brother Taylor Griffin. If the Cavs want LeBron to stay for the next ten years they might even have to sign LeBron’s son to a contract. Boy that would be interesting.


NBA team’s just don’t understand that signing a core-players brother isn’t a good idea. But hey, if they did understand that then we wouldn’t get to watch Zoran Dragic.


-Ben Pickman 

Tags

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt invited the coaches and athletic directors from Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University to the White House. The group discussed ways to improve the game of football and make it safer for players. In the early twentieth century football was vastly different, but equally dangerous, as the modern game. In 1905 alone at least 18 players died of football related injuries. In an era in which competitors did not wear proper padding or protective equipment, players were often kicked in the head or stomach causing internal injuries or concussions to the brain. Football was more akin to rugby than it is to the game millions of people watch today. Today, more than a hundred years after Roosevelt decided the game should feature a forward pass to reduce injuries and recommended the implementation of helmets, the game is still a violent one.


This has led to a question many parents struggle to answer. Should you let your own children play football? While this is a simple yes-or-no question, no matter which decision you make, there are many internal and external factors that affect one’s judgment. Factors such as social pressure and a possible major financial gain are often-cited reasons for allowing children to play football. Parents’ heuristic biases as well as the positive developmental benefits that children can obtain through playing football are factors that impact parents’ judgment. The obligations of a parent and the trade-offs of seeing your child succeed and flourish in the short term or long term also come into play. All of these factors make the decision of whether or not to let your children play football a complex one.


First, consider some statistics that are crucial to think about when making this decision. In recent years, countless studies have published data pertaining to head and brain injuries as a result of football concussions. Some of the noteworthy statistics are as follows:


-Per the Southwest Athletic Trainers Association (SATA), 15.8% of football players who sustain a concussion severe enough to cause loss of consciousness return to play the same day.


-The SATA also reported that 50% of Second Impact Syndrome Incidents—brain injury caused from a premature return to activity after suffering an initial concussion—result in death.


-75% of people who play tackle football at any level obtain a concussion.


Recently, the narrative on head injuries in football has changed. Getting your “bell rung” never used to be considered a big deal, but the research on Second Impact Syndrome changed all that. Former New York Giants linebacker (1976-88) Harry Carson said on letting his grandchild play football. “ I want him to be intelligent. I want him to be brilliant; I want him to be able to use his brain and not his brawn.” Carson and many other former players feel on a daily basis the effects of playing football. Their constant physical pain, as well as knowledge of statistics like the ones above, are the reasons for their thoughts on not allowing their offspring to play football.


Just this past September, Isaiah Langston, a 17 year old football player from North Carolina, collapsed on the field and died shortly after. A few days after the Langston episode, Demario Harris Jr., another high school football player, collapsed and died after a football game. It was later determined he was playing with a brain hemorrhage and had sustained an undiagnosed concussion. There are countless additional stories similar to that of Langston and Harris Jr. For many parents, medical statistics coupled with tragic anecdotes like those of Langston and Harris Jr. are the reasons they would never allow their children to play football and be put at such risk. For people like Carson the data outweighs any heuristic bias he may have.


Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Hardy Nickerson

There are some who hold the opposite belief. Former NFL linebacker Hardy Nickerson still believes the benefits of playing football trump the long term medical risks. Nickerson is a spokesman for USA Football, a national organization that promotes youth football. It is not surprising that when asked to comment on letting children play the game he spoke of the benefits: perseverance, teamwork and resiliency, to name a few. USA Football’s website states that “by playing this sport, young athletes learn football’s timeless qualities of leadership, responsibility, perseverance, and teamwork.” It goes on to add that, “football introduces young players to new social groups” and that “research shows athletes tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and lower levels of depression. To children, though, the game is about fun, friendships and camaraderie. It’s about achieving success of learning from failure then lining right back up to try again.” One of the main reasons why parents allow their children to play is the developmental benefits that their children may obtain by playing. These benefits such as confidence, hard work, and resilience are all qualities that not only improve one’s play on the field, but also the child’s social life and academic success.


USA Football omits data pertaining to concussions and chooses not to talk about the quantitatively established risks of playing football at any level. There is no mention of Second Impact Syndrome, of the correlation between head injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain, and the impact of physical wear and tear on one’s body, all of which contribute to shortening one’s life span. Rather, USA Football tends to rely on conjecture to make their argument. USA Football does not present medical statistics, but rather relies on statements that present the game in a positive light. This is a form of both selectivity bias and advocacy bias. USA Football chooses to cite research about higher levels of self-esteem rather than research about concussions. Additionally, all of the benefits they bring up can be obtained from playing football, but they can also be obtained from playing other sports such as baseball, basketball, tennis, or soccer.


The decision to allow children to play football is ultimately the parents’. A complicated decision to allow their loved ones to play a dangerous game is full of conflicting internal and external factors. In Drew Westen’s book, The Political Brain, Westen writes, “The political brain is an emotional brain. It is not a dispassionate calculating machine, objectively searching for the right facts, figures, and policies to make a reasoned decision.” While Westen specifically focuses on politics, there are similarities to football in that both can be viewed as a competition between different parties each trying to best the other. Westen’s remarks raise an issue that many are hesitant to admit. We are not objective calculating machines. Even though people may use statistics to make their decisions, the statistics they cite may be used to reinforce their prior opinions which were formed because of biases in the first place. The search for data is not an objective one and often our own biases affect our decision making processes.


Questions about letting their children do something they enjoy strongly plays on the emotional heart strings of parents. As Westen writes, “when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins” Of course, parents care about their children’s health and care about their children’s well being. When they see their children having fun, gaining confidence, exhibiting hard work and toughness, all qualities Nickerson cited, they have a hard time thinking about the possible long term effect that playing football might have. They see the benefits in front of them and forget that 75 percent of people that play tackle football obtain a concussion, and overlook the effects that having a concussion might have on school, development, and the child’s future well-being. For many parents, “emotions have much more power to affect reason” than reason does to affect emotion. This leads to a dilemma for parents. Parents can allow their children to play football and, in turn, see their children benefit developmentally, thrive socially, and possibly financially ( as we will discuss later) and take the risk of potential detrimental medical consequences. Or, on the other hand, they may prohibit them from playing, realizing that their denying permission might hinder their children from fully developing socially, decrease the possibilities of future financial success, limit their being socially accepted, but know that their children will not face any possible medical repercussions later in their lives because of football.


Former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Steve Young

Steve Young made seven Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers. He is widely acknowledged as one of the best quarterbacks ever. Young, now retired, was asked by PBS.org about letting his children play football. He said, “As long as I know the assumption of the risk and I understand it, I can make what can be a rational decision.” He adds, “I would [let his children] – [if they were] well coached, well protected. For other reasons... It’s just there is all kinds of other challenges. But young kids, well coached, protected, proper attention to the issues, yeah, I’d let my son play for sure.” A few things jump out about Young’s reasoning for allowing his son to play. One, he assumes that just because he knows the risks and understands them, it means he can make a rational decision. This is, of course, not true. In his mind it may be rational, but his personal biases influence what he comprehends and understands. His own experiences playing football affect his opinions on his children playing football and that is problematic when thinking about if it is truly rational. More importantly, he uses the phrase, “For other reasons” when rationalizing why he would let his children play football. One can logically assume these other reasons might be gaining confidence, learning how to work as a team, learning hard work, being resilient and also in the particular case of Young watching his son enjoy the game that was integral to his own success. As a result, he over-estimates the benefits of football because he himself achieved great success at the highest level. Young has his own thoughts and principles about the game, which make his decision to allow his children to play football seem like the proper decision.


Robert Nozick, a 20th century philosopher once wrote, “Principles constitute a form of binding. We bind ourselves to act as the principles mandate.” To Young, his principles and his “reasons” for allowing his children to play football are not based on statistics. That is why Young’s seemingly rational logic is not necessarily rational. Rather, Young’s decision making process is cluttered with heuristic bias and benefits that Young deems are worth obtaining through football, despite the possible long-term medical risk. Nozick writes, “Rationality in belief and action depends upon some self-consciousness in judging the process by which we come to have our reasons.” Young’s decision seems rational to himself, because his self-conscious decision making process is based on his reasoning. But its irrationality comes from the fact that Young minimizes the possible long term medical effects and emphasizes the emotional benefits. In Al Gore’s book, “ The Assault on Reason”, Gore writes that, “If a subsequent experience is even superficially similar to a traumatic memory it can wield incredible power over emotions and can trigger the same fear responses evoked by the original trauma.” This concept is true of a non-traumatic experience as well. A future positive experience similar to a previous positive memory can lead to power over emotions and can make the new experiences feel even better. Young feels strongly about his children playing, because it was such a positive experience for him.


Another factor that influences parents’ decisions when deciding whether to allow their children to play football is the ability to see the physical benefits of them playing football in the present and not see the onset of possible long-term health risks. Parents watch their children enjoy themselves on the field, notice that they are more confident with friends, working harder in school, and have higher self-esteem. Yet, they cannot detect that their child’s brain is slowly being impacted as a result of the many collisions to the head their child is taking by playing for their favorite team. As Daniel Kahneman, a professor of Psychology at Princeton University writes in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, “we often fail to allow for the possibility that evidence that should be critical to our judgment is missing—what we see is all there is.”


The biggest conundrum in the discussion of risk versus reward comes when considering the possible financial gain a child, and consequently a family, might have when the child plays football.


In 2013, there were approximately 27,000 football scholarships given out by Division I programs. While not every scholarship equals the full cost of tuition, most cover all if not almost all costs the student-athlete might incur to attend the university. In 2011, Dr. Patrick Rishe, a professor of economics and business at Walker University in St. Louis, calculated the net value of attending schools in the AP Top 25, such as USC, the University of Oklahoma, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Alabama, and University of Oregon on a football scholarship. After calculating either in-state or out of state costs for a student to attend the four year institution and adding that to a mid-level career salary, plus the value of a four year college degree, he determined that the value of the football scholarship from those schools exceeded $2 million. Of course, that assumes the student-athletes graduate. However, even in the case of many who do not graduate. but instead chose to go to the NFL, they make millions anyway.


This potential financial benefit often leads parents to allow their children to play football despite the inherent long term health risks. “The combination of loss aversion and narrow framing is a costly curse.” This narrow-framing choice tends to lead to brain damage when the student-athlete is in their 40’s or 50’s. Kahneman writes early in his book, “As we shall see, it [System 1] sometimes answers easier questions than the one it was asked, and it has little understanding of logic and statistics.” An easier question our instinctual mind might answer is does football have benefits, whereas the question we should really ask is whether our children should play football.


For many parents the social pressure of whether to let their children play leads to biased decisions. Consider the town of Massillon, Ohio where every Friday night in the fall 16,000 people file into Paul Brown Tiger Stadium to watch Massillon Washington High School’s football team. The town’s population is a mere 32,149 people which means half the town shows up to the game. To further emphasize how important the football program is to the town’s people, Massillon Washington High School is now looking for a new head football coach and is currently interviewing assistant coaches employed at the Ohio State University, Youngstown State, and Liberty State University. For many parents in Massillon, having their son play high school football is the socially-approved norm and there is social pressure on parents to let their children play. There is an inherent heuristic bias. As a parent, if you played high school football and remember the positive memories of playing in front of the town, your own experiences will lead to bias in judgment, “and the prevalence of bias in human judgment is a large issue.” The median household income in Massillon is a mere $36,000. As a result, the lure of playing football and making millions of dollars is even more attractive for both the child and their parents. Football can serve as a way to advance for many people in Massillon which is another factor when considering the social and economic pressure parents face when making this decision.


As a result of these several factors impacting parents’ judgments, it is hard to have an unbiased opinion when deciding whether to let your children play football. There is inherent social pressure, the possibility of major financial gain and immediate developmental benefits. However, the growing body of medical research looms large over the parents who choose to make this decision and the heuristic biases of the parents come into play. Either way, football is still the most popular spectator sport in the United States and its games are the most watched TV programs. Football games make up 49 of the top 50 most watched shows every year and the Super Bowl has more viewers than any other show in TV history. However, as more parents seriously question the different factors involved in allowing their child to play football, don’t be surprised if these numbers change. 


-Ben Pickman

Sources used:

Zezima, Katie. "How Teddy Roosevelt Helped save Football." Washington Post. May 29, 2014. Accessed December 25, 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/05/29/teddy-roosevelt-helped-save-football-with-a-white-house-meeting-in-1905/.


Harry Carson, interviewed by Michal Kirk, PBS.org, Pbs.org, September 4th, 2013.


Ann-Gooden, Stacy. "3 Football Deaths in a Week: Would You Let Your Kid Play?" BabyCenter Blog. October 14, 2014. Accessed December 23, 2014. http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/10052014should-parents-think-twice-about-allowing-kids-to-play-football/.


Meredith, Janis. "7 Ways Sports Can Teach Your Child to Give | Youth Football | USA Football | Football's National Governing Body." 7 Ways Sports Can Teach Your Child to Give | Youth Football | USA Football | Football's National Governing Body. May 14, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014. http://usafootball.com/blogs/benefits-of-football/post/8628/7-ways-sports-can-teach-your-child-to-give-.


Ann C. McKee, “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Athletes: Progressive Tauopathy following Repetitive Head Injury,” J Neuropoathol Exp Neurol. 68, n. 7 (2009): 709-710.


Drew Westen, The Political Brain, (New York: Public Affairs, 2007) , xv.


Al Gore, The Assault on Reason ( New York: Penguin Press, 2007), 28.


Steve Young, interviewed by Jim Gilmore, PBS.org, PBS.org, March 27, 2013.


Robert Nozick, The Nature of Rationality, ( New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1993) , 10.


Daniel, Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011), 87.


Rishe, Patrick. "Value of College Football Scholarship Exceeds $2 Million for College Football's Top 25." Forbes. August 21, 2011. Accessed December 25, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/prishe/2011/08/21/value-of-college-football-scholarship-exceeds-2-million-for-college-footballs-top-25/5/.


"Massillon, Ohio." (OH) Profile: Population, Maps, Real Estate, Averages, Homes, Statistics, Relocation, Travel, Jobs, Hospitals, Schools, Crime, Moving, Houses, News, Sex Offenders. Accessed January 6, 2015. http://www.city-data.com/city/Massillon-Ohio.html#b. 



Tags

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting who will win the Eastern Conference’s 8th seed is like completing an 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle while wearing a blindfold. It’s nearly impossible. While the only difference between the 8th seed and 9th seed is that the 8th seed will take their trip to Puerto Rico a week after the nine seed, thank the Atlanta Hawks for that, every team wants to make the playoffs. For the sake of this discussion we will assume that the Miami Heat will make the playoffs as the seven seed and that the top six teams in the Eastern Conference right now will all make the playoffs. That leaves us with five team’s all currently within three games of the eight seed.


Legit Shots to Make the Dance:


Charlotte Hornets:


Even with all the Lance Stephenson fireworks and trade rumors, Lance and his Hornets have snuck into the playoff picture. Al Jefferson has missed time with injury and now Kemba Walker is hurt. That doesn’t bode well for the Hornets who have already gone through a tumultuous season. Last year the Hornets were a top five defense. Even with the slow footed Al Jefferson manning the paint, the Hornets stopped opposing team’s at the rim. This season, the Hornets defense has taken steps back and has regressed. Playoffstatus.com projects the Hornets to make the 8th seed with a 23% chance, but because of the injury bug the Hornets can easily miss the postseason.


Detroit Pistons:


Detroit’s season is straight out of the Six Flag roller coaster design handbook. It shoots down, then spins and juts up, then goes back down. Right now though we have know idea where the Pistons season is going to end. The Pistons have now lost their last four games and after kicking Josh Smith to the street and improving drastically, the Pistons have fallen back to reality. Brandon Jennings had been playing great basketball since the Pistons cut Smith, but recently tore his Achilles. The Pistons now have D.J. Augustin and Spencer Dinwiddle running the team. That alone could come back to bite the Pistons in the butt. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have been playing incredible basketball since the Pistons discarded Smith, but this team will only go as far as Augustin and Dinwiddle can take them. If these two guards play quality basketball for the remainder of the season, then the elite play by Monroe and Drummond will lead them to the playoffs.


Brooklyn Nets:


Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett. The Nets should make the playoffs. There roster is the best team on paper. But that paper might have been printed back in 2006. The Nets actually play solid defense but saying their offense is stagnant is an understatement. The Nets have no offensive flow. Besides for Mason Plumlee, no player on the roster wants to do the dirty work- set a screen or crash the boards- and as a result they struggle. There is now turmoil involving Head Coach Lionel Hollins and his job security. The Nets could use the All-Star break more than any other team out here. If they have a nice relaxing All-Star break, don’t be surprised if the Nets play five-hundred basketball post All-Star break and sneak into the playoffs.


How Are They Still in the Discussion


Indiana Pacers


Somehow the Pacers are only three games out of the playoff picture. They lost the aforementioned Lance Stephenson in Free Agency and lost Paul George to a gruesome injury shortly afterward in International play. But their somehow in the playoff mix. The Pacers leading scorer is George Hill with 13.6 a game. David West, C.J. Miles, and Rodney Stuckey are not far behind. They have seven players who average in double figures and three more players that average between nine and ten points. Thanks to Frank Vogel, their defense is still stellar but their offense is in the bottom three in the NBA. The Pacers are only 9-12 at home and if they finish the season with a losing record at home, it will be the first time in more than 15 years the Fieldhouse crowd has seen more losses than wins. The Pacers likely do not have enough offensive fire power to make the playoffs, but because of their stellar defense and coaching, it wouldn’t be a total surprise. Oh, and if Paul George does play post-All Star break, they will make the playoffs.


New York Knicks


Just Kidding. Oh wait, they are only 10 games out of the eight seed. Too bad they only have nine wins. Next.

Boston Celtics


Memo to Brad Stevens: Management does not want you to make the playoffs. They are trying to lose. They are trying to make the lottery. They are trying to stockpile picks. The Celtics have more first round picks in the upcoming draft than wins, just joking but not my much. Brad Stevens is a perfect coach for the Celtics. He gets his players to play really hard every night. Every game the Celtics play 45 good minutes, until their lack of playmakers comes back to bite them. They struggle at the end of quarters, but they have a ton of quality young players and if they draft well in the next few seasons, they can contend sooner than later. The Celtics will not make the playoffs and if they do, Danny Ainge will likely fire Brad Stevens for ruining his master tanking plan.


-Ben Pickman

Tags

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

He’s not the most prolific player in the league. He’s not a glamorous. He won’t make many highlight reels, but rookie Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic is developing into quiet an NBA player.


The 16th overall pick in the 2014 pick was not expected to contribute much to the Nuggets this season who are known around the league for having a mediocre, yet extremely crowded frontcourt. The Nuggets opened the season with Darrell Arthur, Nurkic, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, Timofey Mozgov, and Javale McGee all fighting for the same minutes.


That’s part of the reason why Nurkic doesn’t play as much as many think he should. He averages only 16 minutes per game in the Nuggets log jammed frontcourt but on a per minute basis Nurkic is one of the best bigmen in the entire league.


Per 36 minutes Nurkic is averaging 14.9 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. Those are monster numbers except for when you consider that he fouls more than seven times per 36 minutes so he would theoretically foul out of every game.


Per 100 possessions with Nurkic on the court the Nugs’ are more than 10 points better than with the Bosnian bruiser off the floor.


"I like the fact that he’s kind of oblivious to everything that goes on," Shaw said in praise of his rookie center. "He’s our most physical player."


Added Shaw: "He’s fearless. He comes from a region of the world where I’m sure he’s used to, he’s prepared for whatever he has to face. He doesn’t complain about anything. He gets out there. He plays the way he knows how to play. He doesn’t back down from anyone and we need more guys like that on our team, to be honest."


Any frontcourt pair the Nuggets can think of is better with Nurkic than without Nurkic and any and every NBA fan has to love this clip from earlier in the season of Nurkic stopping Kobe from scoring twice on one possession and then taunting him.


Hopefully Nurkic makes the rising stars challenge and gets to showcase his abilities on a big stage this February, but if not expect the Bosnian center to continue improving and talking great Bosnian strides as the Nuggets continue building toward the future.


-Ben Pickman 

Tags

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Utah Jazz have 16 wins, their frontcourt is one of the most underrated intriguing stories in the Western Conference. Full of young talent the Jazz’s frontcourt features three talented seven footers, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Rudy Gobert.


While Favors and Kanter start at the four and five, Gobert is the most intriguing player on the Jazz. In only his second year Gobert has become one of, if not the best defensive player in the entire league.


Rudy Gobert is from France and is like the Eiffel Tower of the NBA. Whenever he is on the floor, everyone in the arena knows where he is. He is impossible to miss. With a 7 foot 8 ½ inch wingspan and a 9 foot 7 inch standing reach, Gobert is one of the mammoth’s of the NBA and he uses his massive wingspan and reach to disrupt everything in sight.


Gobert is the by far the best rim defender in the league. Opponents shoot a league low 37 percent at the rim with Gobert manning the paint. Gobert holding opponents to 37 percent is remarkable compared to some of the other elite rim defenders in the league such as Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol who hold opposing players to 50 percent, 49.1 percent, and 48.6 percent shooting at the rim respectively.


Gobert averages a block more per 48 minutes than any other player, who has played in more than 25 games, in the NBA this season. And while the French center is only averaging 21.6 minutes per game that factors in his slow start to the season.


After averaging only 16 minutes per game in the month of November, Gobert averaged 22 per game in December and 29.5 per game so far in January. Not surprisingly the uptake in minutes has led to the best month of Gobert’s young career. He is currently averaging 9.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.


While his defensive has been superb all season, Gobert’s increased offensive production might be the main cause of his minutes increase. After scoring only 2.3 points per game last sheet and shooting under 50 percent, Gobert has increased his shooting percentage to 63 percent on the season and in the eight games he has started is shooting 67 percent from the field.


Gobert merely needs to play the Tyson Chandler role on offense. He needs to set solid screens and become an elite roller to the basket and lob-catcher. Chandler has made his money on the defensive end of the floor patrolling the rim as well as being a good screen setter and lethal pick-and-roll player even without any post-up capabilities.


Gobert is 22 so he’s not exactly a baby, but his offensive improvement has come as a shock to many. After being drafted in 2013 by the Denver Nuggets, Gobert was traded on draft night to the Utah Jazz for Erick Green and cash. Green, a second round pick in 2013, did not immediately make the Nuggets roster instead playing for Montepaschi Seina, an Italian basketball club. This season Green has spent most of the year on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Nuggets D-League team. It’s safe to say the Jazz won that trade.


The French center role is only expanding and with it, he will only progress. Look for Gobert to tower over the other rising stars in the NBA during All-Star weekend when he will likely play for the International team in the Rising Stars challenge.


He doesn’t have the name cache as Tim Duncan, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, and DeMarcus Cousins, but Gobert is right their with them in defensive real plus minus and is patrolling the rim better than anyone. The man who can almost dunk the ball without dunking is truly a specimen and sooner rather than later will help the Jazz come back to NBA relevancy.


-Ben Pickman


Tags

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While Stephen Curry has been elevating his game from All-Star to Superstar taking the league by storm, drawing praise and cheers from any and everyone around the NBA. Another Warriors point guard has made an almost most shocking leap to NBA relevancy.

Justin Holiday was supposed to be the last guy on the bench. Holiday, 25, is the younger brother of the New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday and after leaving Washington to go to the NBA after the 2011 college season, he has bounced around the NBA circuit, signing onto team’s during the summer before eventually settling with the Idaho Stampede last season.

Holiday made the Warriors this year as their last guard and after barely getting off the bench early on, he played just more than 24 minutes combined in the Warriors first ten games this season (The four games he played in the Warriors won by at least 18,) he has salvaged a backup guard role and is starting to make an impact on a nightly basis.

Holiday has seemingly surpassed the veteran Brazilian guard Leandro Barbosa for the combo guard minutes and recently has played quality second team minutes for the Warriors.

"I love having (Barbosa) on the team; he's the first guy off the bench to cheer for his teammates," coach Steve Kerr said to reporters earlier in the week. "Right now, it's just Justin's time. I've given him the chance and he's made the most of it."

Holiday has played double digit minutes in seven of the past eight games, the outlier being last night against the Pacers where he played only 8 minutes. He scored 18 points and had three assists and three rebounds against the Sacramento Kings on December 22. The next night he had 11 points and 4 rebounds against the Lakers.

In the Warriors win over the Thunder earlier in the week, Holiday made 4-of-6 shots and finished the game with 12 points.

The former Washington guard is gaining confidence every night, “On the offensive end, I just want to stay confident. I’m always confident when I take my shot. I want to be aggressive. With Steph and Klay and Andre playing with those guys makes everything easier,” Holiday told reporters.

In 2012, when Holiday played 9 games with the Sixers he shot only 25 percent from three and 33 percent from the field. In a slightly larger sample of 19 games, Holiday has shot 41 percent from three and 43 percent from the field. He also has already surpassed his rebounding and assist totals from his last time in the NBA.

Holiday seems to have etched out his role for the Warriors playing sparing second team minutes in close games but in the second or beginning of the fourth quarter of games the Warriors have double-digit leads in, Holiday has relieved Curry and Thompson and done a good job.

The Warriors have been rumored to be interested in Ray Allen, but the improvement of Holiday have made Warriors management less eager to attract the veteran sharp-shooter.

While Allen of course is a proven commodity, allowing Holiday to continue developing might actually be a better approach as the more athletic combo guard is active and excited to just be on the floor.

Holiday accepts that he may not play every night, but is happy to just have a job and be comfortable helping the Warriors any way he can. 


-Ben Pickman

Tags

In 2012 Kyle O’Quinn was one of the Cinderella superstars of the NCAA Tournament. O’Quinn led his 15th seeded Norfolk State team to a stunning victory over second seeded Missouri Tigers. O’Quinn finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds in the Spartans huge win and even though O’Quinn and his teammates fell to Florida in the second round of the tournament, O’Quinn made a name for himself.


After being selected 49th overall by the Magic, O’Quinn carved out some playing time thanks to his energy, hustle, and drive. He emerged as a solid rebounded and a good passer. Last season O’Quinn started 19 games and averaged 17 minutes, 6 points and 5 rebounds per game, all while shooting more than 50 percent from the floor.


This season O’Quinn has continued to show his improvement. At this juncture in the season, O’Quinn is 9th in the NBA in PER (Player Efficiency Rating), a statistical to track a players per minute contribution.


While O’Quinn is only playing 19 minutes per game, two more than last season, he has increased his scoring average to 10.1 and his rebound total to 5.1 per contest. With O’Quinn off the court the Magic’s plus/minus is -5.9. Not surprisingly, the Magic are much better defensively with O’Quinn on the floor.


O’Quinn’s size and strength make him a formidable defender, think a poor-man’s Draymond Green. The Magic are better defensively from 5-9 feet, 10-14 feet, and 15-19 feet with O’Quinn on the floor.


The Magic are also better offensively with him on the floor, while they shoot similar percentages, the Magic score a much higher percentage of shots as a result of an assist which is a testament to the floor spacing that O’Quinn helps to provide the Magic with.


The Magic currently sit in the 9 seed of the Eastern Conference at 9-16 seem destined to be back in the lottery come June. But with a young core of Victor Oladipo, Elfred Peyton, Aaron Gordon, and Nikolai Vucevic coupled with the steady play of O’Quinn look for the Magic’s continuous improvement.


-Ben Pickman 

Tags