Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Your On the Clock...

Every Tuesday at AOL Fanhouse, two NBA columnists debate different questions pertaining to all things under the hoops umbrella. Despite my many requests and emails, one question has gone unanswered. Hence, KC Sports Rant is bringing you, the reader, into to the action. Here is the question that is up for debate:

In a draft where the skill and age of all players being drafted is equal, what position do you draft with the first overall pick?

A couple of caveats before you answer. The needs of your team are irrelevant – suppose you are two-deep at every position with average players, as many NBA teams are. Second, assume that playing time will not be a foreseeable problem – your draftee will start for the team from day one. Essentially the question can boil down to this: given the conditions above, would you pick a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward or center?

This journalist (yeah I said it… journalist) is going with the latter. With the first pick in this fake draft, KC Sports Rant selects… a center!

First, we have to recognize the other positions. The forward spots can be easily dismissed. In the NBA today, the difference between small and power forward is becoming quite obscured (see Odom, Lamar and Lewis, Rashard). Shooting guards are essential to any team and many times are the best player on the floor – just look at what Joe Johnson and Michael Redd do for their teams. The point guard came in a close second because someone has to quarterback the team. However, some of the better point guards like Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas and Mo Williams contribute more scoring than they do distributing.

And now to our pick: the center. The name of the game in the NBA is winning, championships in particular. And centers are keystones of any successful franchise.

First, let’s take a look at recent NBA champions. With Andrew Bynum out, Pau Gasol filled in at the five-spot for the recently crowned Lakers. Sure, Gasol isn’t a typical center as he can shoot pretty well. However, he is a clean seven feet, hordes rebounds and is excellent at finishing around the rim. Los Angeles’ opponent, the Orlando Magic, without a doubt rely heavily on their young big man Dwight Howard. Take Dwight away from Orlando and they are not even sniffing the finals.

The San Antonio Spurs are another team that reaps the benefits of an excellent big man. Tim Duncan, arguably the best big of his generation, has been solely responsible for keeping the Spurs relevant after the retirement of Hall of Famer David Robinson. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli were instrumental in San Antonio’s three recent championships, but they were second fiddle to the Big Fundamental. And for those of you arguing that Duncan is a power forward, swing by his player profile (

Eastern conference contenders Miami and Detroit leaned heavily on their dominant big men in championship runs. Yes, Shaq was Dwayne Wade’s sidekick but you can’t deny his four championship rings. The Pistons had the benefit of Rasheed Wallace’s ability to stretch the floor, but the guy can bang inside with anybody. And with Ben Wallace as the power forward, Sheed won the ring as a center.

The point is, if you take Gasol, Howard, Duncan, O’Neal and Wallace off those championship teams, most likely the squads aren’t finishing their season with a ring (or in Howard’s case an Eastern Conference championship).

And what about the centers in the rest of the NBA?

Yao Ming’s health is Houston’s singular excuse for not having a recent championship. Newly acquired Emeka Okafor has New Orleans thinking they will be back in the Finals discussion. Spencer Hawes and Andrew Bogut have two perennially losing teams not needing any further presence in the paint. The Golden State Warriors are a terrific example of this debate as they are overloaded with guards and swing players. Andris Biedrins alone is responsible for giving Golden State a presence on the defensive glass.

The most recent and tangible example of drafting big occurred on draft night in 2007. With the first pick, Portland took Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. Certainly Durant showed much sooner that he belongs in the NBA, but what is Oklahoma City’s biggest weakness? They have no interior game at all. The Blazers went with Oden because it is much easier to fill the roster with quality perimeter personnel when you have good big men. Oden has a long way to go, but the physical transition to center from college is much more difficult than small forward.

This discussion is not to take away from the other four players on the floor at all. Everyone contributing regularly is probably the most important aspect of basketball. The Boston Celtics won a title by relying on an unprecedented team effort with Kendrick Perkins as the center.

However, in the situation presented earlier is a certain scenario where the center is valued above everyone else. If the talent on the draft board is equally distributed among the positions, grabbing a big man for you team is the first building block in developing success in the NBA.

Dr. Murphy out

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where Oh Where Should Randolph Play?

Until Friday the Golden State Warriors’ offseason had been a quiet one. Albeit for drafting Stephen Curry and a couple Amar’e Stoudemire trade rumors, Oakland’s finest have coasted under the radar for most of the summer.

But that was all forgotten when guard/forward Stephen Jackson announced his desire to be traded, seeking greener pastures and another championship opportunity (he nabbed a ring in ’03 with the Spurs). Dispute Jackson’s quality as a basketball player all you want, but in the waning months before the NBA season this is big news.

This big news is precisely the inspiration for the following words, although they stray from Jackson a bit.

With the concept that Jackson wants to be on a contender – and possibly vice versa – Warrior fans have flooded chats, message boards and comment sections with ideas to get Jack out of the Bay. The crux of many trade ideas have the Warriors seeking a low-post presence with some playoff pedigree, while moving star-in-the-making forward Anthony Randolph to small forward.

The nation of Golden State fans have suggested, among others, Udonis Haslem, Jason Maxiell, Kenyon Martin and even Michael Beasley.

I digress, for the sole purpose of this rambling is to solidly dispute that Randolph – on whom Golden State’s hopes and dreams hinge – should ever move out of the paint to start at small forward. At least not any time soon.

First and foremost, he can’t shoot from beyond the arc. One of the tenants of Don Nelson’s small-ball ideology is that every skill player he has on the floor can shoot the 3. Just look at the current roster, featuring 3-point aces Anthony Morrow and Kelenna Azubuike, accompanied by CJ Watson, Devean George, Curry and Jackson (for now). Of course Randolph is all of 20 years old so developing a triple is not out of the question. However, Nellie loves mismatches, and if Randolph was a 3-point threat, it might be best served at power forward to draw out opposing big men. I seem to remember Nelson being quite successful with a power forward named Dirk Nowitzki who lived beyond the arc.

Furthermore, what does Randolph do best? To be exact it is a blend of shot blocking, rebounding and hustle points like put-backs. Now, if that skill set is moved out on the perimeter to guard small forwards, Randolph is now between 15 and 20 feet away from the area of the floor he is most effective. The tenacious defending of the rim? Gone. Flying above the opposition to slam home errant shots? Gone. Moving him outside the paint removes Randolph from the place he is at his best.

Ironically, Randolph’s speed is the final reason he should stay at the four. One of the reasons everyone is wowed by what he does is that the quickness and skills come in a lanky 6’11” package. But that exact package gives him an edge over other power forwards. Let us pretend the Warriors are facing the Houston Rockets. At small forward, Trevor Ariza will have a significantly easier time dealing with Randolph than teammate and power forward Luis Scola. It is Randolph’s perimeter quickness that gives him an advantage against interior players.

For sure, it will be interesting to see where his development takes him – at all of 20 years old the sky is seemingly the limit. But for the foreseeable future, at least, Randolph seems much better suited exploiting the physical advantages he has against the bigger bodies of the NBA.

Dr. Murphy out…

Friday, August 21, 2009

Who's your second favorite?

ESPN’s Truehoop recently ran an article in which they polled a network of blogs on who their second favorite team in the NBA is. All of the blogs polled are dedicated to a single organization and ESPN wanted to know who they watch when their team isn’t on.

While KC Sports Media Rant is slightly miffed at our exclusion from the poll, we might as well chime in anyways.

It should be noted that The Rant’s hoop squad of choice is the Golden State Warriors – who received an overwhelming response as a second favorite team of choice to many of the blogs.

But undoubtedly when the Dubs aren’t running the floor we tune our NBA League Pass to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The primary – and obvious – reason is the great collection of young talent. Year after year losing squads are handed lottery picks and continually blow them. A case in point is the Milwaukee Bucks who in back to back drafts took Yi Jianlain (publicly didn’t want to play there) and Joe Alexander (freak athlete, no basketball skill). But that is not the case for OKC.

The Thunder have capitalized on early picks in their recent drafts. They took Kevin Durant with the second pick in 2007 and also swung a trade for versatile glue-guy Jeff Green. The next year they scooped up UCLA product Russell Westbrook, who since has silenced all doubters about his point guard ability. Just 2 months ago Oklahoma City landed James Harden – a good decision maker, passer, and scorer. Throw in young guards Thabo Sefalosha and Kyle Weaver and you won’t find another younger backcourt with more upside anywhere in the league.

Certainly there are some missing pieces, like a post scorer and paint defender or two, but keep in mind OKC has plenty of money under the cap to play with in the coming famed free agency of 2010.

So knowing we can’t always watch our Warriors firsthand, the Thunder are the second team of choice at this blog. They don’t always grace national TV, but The Rant jumps at the chance to see Oklahoma’s young talent develop right before our eyes.

Dr. Murphy out…

***This week’s trivia – drop your guesses/answers in the comments section

Only three players in NBA history have averaged 2 steals and 2 blocks for an entire season. The first 2 were David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Who is the third? (it is an active player - think Eastern Conference and expansion draft)

***Last week’s answer: David Robinson was the 4th player to ever record a triple double when he put up 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 blocks against the Detroit Pistons in 1994.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dr. Murphy uses Twatter.

First of all, I would like to apologize to Dr. Murphy. Through out the entire month of July I fell completely off the horse with this whole posting thing. Luckily the good Dr had the sense to keep the blog alive and made some ridiculously sick posts.

So, the trading deadline came and went, the royals did nothing. Do you know what the result of doing nothing is? It is the exact product that you had before. The Royals are still losing at an impressive rate and Kansas City has once again turned to football as their savior. For those of you who don't know, baseball season officially ends in July and the city ceases to care. (BTW while I am writing this the Los Royals are losing 7 - 1 to the A's in the top of the 4th. For those who aren't delusional like me, baseball is hopeless.)

But, as sure as fat kids eat cake, hope springs eternal is KC when Chiefs training camp starts. This year seems different to me though, primarily because Todd Haley is a bad ass and kicks pussy ass wide receivers off of the field. The Chiefs have become a no bullshit and ass kicking team. Scott Pioli is the mastermind and Todd Haley is the task master, and Todd loves it. He made Glenn Dorsey's fat ass sit out for 3(?) days and he doesn't take shit from anybody. None of the weak shit from coaches of the past is here. No fucking crying by an old man and no more pussy ass "players coaches".

New England has been the only organization to figure out that sports are a business and that's how they should be run. I like that the attitude has been brought to KC. To succeed and win you need to fill you business/team with reliable, talented and interchangeable parts. If one fails, you replace it with the next in line. It may take time to build your business but once its done you win and reap the benefits consistently. Sports are a business and business is cut throat. You either perform or you are gone. I like that.

"No more pussies on the team", should be the motto for the chiefs. Permanently.

*ESPN rumor central has the chiefs as one of the few teams looking at Vick.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Dr. Demands a Recount!

Far be it from me to just be blatantly pissed about something, but this cannot stand. As the NBA Las Vegas Summer League came to a close last week Clippers forward Blake Griffin was named the camp’s MVP. I’ve talked about at length about the kind of disrespect the Warriors get, and this is just another example.

Without a doubt everything that happens in Summer League should be taken with a giant grain of salt. The games are unorganized and helter skelter, with many of the teams’ rosters filled with guys who may never see a second of action in the NBA. Thus being named MVP of something so elementary is not necessarily that big of an honor. However, Anthony Randolph took the league by force, thanks largely to a brutal summer workout routine, and has nothing to show for it. The numbers were there, the voters were not.

In looking at both Randolph and Griffin’s performances, how could it not have been the former? Golden State’s roster was littered with far more Summer League All Stars than the Clippers and Randolph still managed to lead the league with 26.8 points per game on 60 percent shooting – much greater than Griffin’s 19.2 points on 50 percent shooting. In slightly less minutes Randolph bested Griffin in free throw percentage (74 to 45), blocks and steals. He also had fewer turnovers. In the big picture, Randolph led Golden State to a 4-1 record while LA finished 2-3.

The only statistical category that Griffin “won” was rebounding, outgrabbing Randolph 10 to 8. But surely a 2 rebound differential doesn’t automatically garner MVP honors.

But the Clippers are hot right now. They nabbed a very, very good player by picking number 1 overall. They are also in a bigger market in LA, recently unloaded Zach Randolph’s monster deal, and have been involved in Allen Iverson talks.

In the grand scheme of things, this MVP award is not what will be remembered from Summer League. It will be recalled for Randolph’s development and posting of 3 consecutive 20-10 games preceding a 42 point outing. It also marked Blake Griffin’s first steps towards becoming the savior of the Clippers that everyone thinks he will be. But this tiny little MVP trophy matters to Golden State’s fans, who after enduring a brutal decade and a half of false hopes can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Murphy out

***This week’s trivia - drop your guesses/answers in the comments section

Since the tracking of steals and blocks as a statistic 4 players in NBA history have netted a quadruple-double including Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon. The 4th player got it in February of 1994; who was it?

***Last week’s answer: Kenyon Martin was the last American-born college senior to be selected #1 overall in the NBA draft. The Nets picked him in 2000 out of the University of Cincinnati.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Madden Curse 2.0

Since the dawn of modern technology, one thing that has been synonymous with sports is video games. Short of actually making a pro roster, this is the closest fans can get to playing and managing a team in their sport of choice. From the Tecmo Bowl to Tiger Woods, sports addicts can find a way to virtually participate in pro sports.

Everybody under the sun has heard of the Madden Curse – lying in its wake are standout footballers such as Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Shaun Alexander and Marshall Faulk. However, there is another curse that has kept a much lower profile but has been equally as harmful to the cover athletes and their teams.

Said curse is linked to NBA games and their cover stars. Both the NBA Live and NBA 2K game franchises have indirectly led their spokesmen (and their teams) to disappointing seasons after their likeness was dawned on the games’ package. The following is a simple breakdown of the curse divided between the two games since their 2005 installments.

After winning a championship and Defensive Player of the Year with Detroit in 2004, Ben Wallace was featured on NBA 2K5. The curse effect was not immediate (he repeated as DPOY in 05) but nonetheless he has met injury woes and has yet to return to the finals. Big Ben was recently traded to the Suns, who are in the process of paying him to go away.

Shaquille O’Neal received back-to-back covers for NBA 2K6 and 2K7. Certainly well deserved as he brought a championship to Miami. However, the next season he was plagued by injuries, fouls and a diminished role. In addition, his run of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances ended and he was shipped to Phoenix. As a Sun in 2009 he failed to make the playoffs for the first time since he played in Orlando.

The NBA 2K8 and 2K9 athletes, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett, had the curse strike their teams as much as the individuals. After a cover-worthy season the Hornets emerged as contenders in the West. However, they came up short. Paul finished second in MVP voting and the Hornets fell just shy of a Finals appearance. Since then New Orleans has been exposed as a team that relies solely on its two stars who have little to no help anywhere else in the lineup. Garnett’s case mirrors that of Chris Paul. He adorned the 2K9 cover after bringing Boston a championship. The next season though Garnett missed the entirety of the Playoffs as Boston failed to contend with the Orlando Magic.

The NBA video game curse does not stop with 2K Sports as the EA franchise NBA Live has seen a similar effect.

NBA Live 05 cover athlete Carmelo Anthony has never been hurt by the curse statistically, yet it was only the beginning of 5 years of consecutive first round playoff exits for the Nuggets (that they finally shook with the addition of Chauncey Billups – who has never been on either games cover). It was also followed by some controversy as Anthony was cited for marijuana possession, threatened Baltimore resident’s in a video, and was involved in an on-court fight with the Knicks.

The next 3 editions of the Live series (06, 07, and 08) brought up a classic Madden-esque scenario. After winning the championship and the cover, Dwyane Wade missed 62 games over the next 2 seasons while the Heat posted only 59 wins during that time. 07 cover athlete Tracy McGrady has missed 84 games since being featured (that number doesn’t include him missing the entirety of this year’s Playoffs).

Gilbert Arenas is undeniably the pinnacle of the NBA video game curse. He made the Live 08 cover in the summer of 2007 and has hardly picked up a basketball since. Nagging knee injuries and multiple surgeries have limited Agent Zero to a whopping 15 games since being on the cover of Live 08.

It will be interesting to see where the curse goes from here. Tony parker was only slightly affected as the cover of Live 09 (slight injury woes, 1st round playoff exit). The question begs, what will become of our upcoming ballers? Kobe (2K10) and the Lakers look locked in to repeat with Captain Ron onboard, yet have not come to terms with a new contract for X-factor Lamar Odom. Dwight Howard (Live 10) has the toughest road ahead of him; despite acquiring Vince Carter, the Magic will return next season without Hedo Turkoglu who arguably was their best player in this season’s unexpected Playoff run.

***Don’t forget about Trivia!! Drop your answer in the comments section.

Who was the last American-born college senior to be selected #1 overall in the NBA draft?

***last week’s answer: after playing together at North Carolina, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter were selected 4th and 5th overall by the Raptors and the Warriors, then immediately traded for each other.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Revisiting the Media Debate, with Some Free Agency Sprinkles

Happy New NBA Fiscal Year!

Believe it or not the new NBA season has begun. David Stern and his crew are currently working on establishing the new salary cap figure which will dictate the exact monetary terms of soon-to-be-signed contracts. July 8th is the date to watch as all of the free agent rumors will begin to take some form of reality.

First, let’s circle back quickly to add to the previous discussion about how local media measures up to the national guys. The main issue is that one is not necessarily better or worse all the time. The heavy hitters like ESPN and TNT sometimes miss the green in reporting on less successful teams because they simply don’t see them that much. On other side of the coin, while the smaller local reporters are in constant contact with hometown franchises, their information isn’t always accurate as it is sometimes influenced by over-speculation and tainted with misinformation from agents. It’s sort of like David vs. Goliath – except Goliath isn’t even paying attention and David is getting duped by other shady biblical figures.

The main point to take from the entire issue is that the burden falls on readers and fans to seek out complete and accurate information on the organizations they follow. Which can be very difficult seeing as the average fan is on the outside looking in.

In other NBA media news – maybe a little late on this – Stephen A. Smith is no longer with ESPN. It was noticeable at the NBA draft, where Smith was absent from his usual duties of interviewing the green-room draftees after they were selected. As of May 1, 2009 he was officially “let go,” with the LA Times reporting that “[ESPN] decided to move in different directions.”

And on to off-season news and notes. I know this is the only site you use for breaking NBA news so be sure to check back throughout the summer for the latest in NBA player movement.

-the big name right now in free agency is Hedo Turkoglu. Orlando acquired Vince Carter, essentially paying for Turk’s ticket out of town. Portland thought they had bagged him when he suddenly skipped town for what is supposedly a much bigger contract in Toronto.

-the Piston’s are looking to retool. Rasheed Wallace is pretty much out the door and Detroit has reached verbal agreements with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

-the Lakers and Rockets have swapped forwards with Artest coming to terms with LA and Ariza on his way to Houston. Next up for the Lakers is to re-ink Lamar Odom.

-Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver hosed Utah’s salary cap by not opting out of their contracts. The Jazz still can match any offer to Paul Millsap, but now they have much less cash to work with.

-the Celtics have not made a qualifying offer to Leon Powe and are reportedly chasing Rasheed Wallace (who is also being courted by new Magic G/F Vince Carter).

-other free agency chatter from all over the web has David Lee looking at the Blazers, Grant Hill heading home to Orlando and Allen Iverson possibly ending up in Memphis. Other big names to watch are Anderson Varejao, Shawn Marion, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby.

***Gonna give some NBA trivia a try – with every article I will post a new question as well as the answer to the previous article’s question. Drop your answer in the comments section to prove how smart (or not-smart) you are. Here ya go…

In the 1998 draft the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors drafted 4th and 5th overall and after the selections immediately swapped the players. Who were those two players? (Hint: they were college teammates)

Dr. Murphy out