Erick's Mailbag: Answering the NBA Questions

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Erick's Mailbag: Answering the NBA Questions

What up Erick?

Are you getting pumped for the start of the NBA season? I’ve got a question for you—do you think the Magic can get to the number-two spot in the East this year? I think they could do it if Mo and LeBron don't click and the Pistons show their age. I'm telling you, I would keep an eye on the Magic this year. They are the Portland of the East, and Portland would definitely have the number-two spot if they were in the East. Let me know what you think, I'd be interested to know.

—Dave Morrison, NBA Community Coordinator of Bleacher Report


Bold statements, Dave, and thanks for the question.

While the Cavs, Pistons, and even the Celtics are question marks due to new faces coming in, old faces not being shipped out, and older guys inhabiting each roster, the Magic have as many uncertainties as either of those teams.

For starters, the Magic won’t have any post threat against a good defense until Dwight Howard develops more to his arsenal besides putbacks and the occasional quick hook. And while Howard is a capable shot blocker, his court awareness—especially on the defensive end—is very much subpar.

Furthermore, can the Magic succeed with Howard as unrefined as he is defensively, and with Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis manning the other power forward spot? Opponents with post threats can execute at will against the Magic down low.

To their credit, Orlando has great offensive spacing, some versatility with Turkoglu, Lewis, Mickael Pietrus, Keith Bogans, Courtney Lee, and Brian Cook on the wings, and the best rebounder in the game.

If Howard can put on his superman cape and evolve both his court awareness and post moves, if Hedo Turkoglu can pick up where he left off last season, and if the Magic can coax a little bit more production out of Rashard Lewis than they received last year, then the Magic can perhaps find a way to sneak into the Conference Finals.

However, without an advanced point guard or any power in the front court aside from Howard, Orlando will have trouble winning the power basketball games they can expect from Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.

As for the Blazers, they still have a lot of stock in a lot of young players, and teams with youth often don’t have the maturity to excel for an entire season. That was one reason for their drop off in the second half last season.

But the Blazers are talented, disciplined, and smart. While a number-two seed in the East would be too much to expect, a fifth or sixth seed wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility—not only the Eastern, but even this year’s Western Conference.



Erick, are you going to be doing a top 50 players list? Could you also go into more detail about Dwyane Wade and tell me more about him? He is my favorite player.

—Tom Brefe 

Sure thing, Tom.

With the exception of LeBron James, Wade is perhaps the strongest non-power forward/center finisher in the game today. That—combined with a fervent desire to break down defenses, to get to the rim, and to dominate opponents—gives him a power and a competitive drive unstoppable by lesser competition.

Wade can also make plays for others, is an aggressive defender, is an exceptional midrange jump shooter, and has an inconsistent, but respectable long-range jumper.

In fact, before Wade suffered his severe shoulder injury in 2006-07, he was a better shooter and defender than LeBron, and his ability to take over endgames was reminiscent of Jordan. It isn’t a stretch to believe that had Wade stayed healthy, he, and not LeBron, would position himself as heir to Kobe Bryant’s throne.

As Wade’s shoulder heals, and he develops more confidence using it, he should regain confidence barreling into defenders shoulder first, which will allow him to put maximum physical pressure on defenses to take his contact and still make a play. He’ll also become less turnover-prone, as he learns to reuse his off-hand to handle the ball, take contact, and make passes.

Wade’s a true superstar, and when healthy, one of the game’s finest.

As for your list:

1) Kobe Bryant
2) Tim Duncan
3) LeBron James
4) Chris Paul
5) Dwayne Wade
6) Paul Pierce
7) Deron Williams
8) Manu Ginobili
9) Kevin Garnett
10) Yao Ming
11) Elton Brand
12) Steve Nash
13) Dwight Howard
14) Shane Battier
15) Tracy McGrady
16) Rasheed Wallace
17) Tyson Chandler
18) David West
19) Carmelo Anthony
20) Brandon Roy
21) Joe Johnson
22) Tony Parker
23) Chauncey Billups
24) Andre Miller
25) Amare Stoudemire
26) Rip Hamilton
27) Ray Allen
28) Pau Gasol
29) Chris Bosh
30) Hedo Turkoglu
31) Bruce Bowen
32) Caron Butler
33) Carlos Boozer
34) Ron Artest
35) Zydrunas Ilgauskas
36) Dirk Nowitzki
37) Allen Iverson
38) Baron Davis
39) Gilbert Arenas
40) Andre Iguodala
41) Shawn Marion
42) Shaquille O'Neal
43) Richard Jefferson
44) Rajon Rondo
45) Jose Calderon
46) Monta Ellis
47) Andrew Bynum
48) Al Jefferson
49) Corey Maggette
50) Lamar Odom



As I read through your descriptions of players I can't help but notice the similarities in your observations as Charley Rosen's. Do you employ the same methodology as he when analyzing players? Mainly, looking through game tape and scrutinizing every facet of each player's game?

—Gus Bagsit

Living in Brooklyn, reading the New York dailies, listening to sports radio, and watching ESPN, I sincerely believe that the majority of basketball “analysts” either know, or offer, very little to the intense basketball fan.

Analysis is often consisted of little more than number-crunching. Role players (and roles themselves) are trivialized, hyperbole and overreaction reign supreme, and a player’s hype and name-value are often worth just as much as his game.

What exactly makes some players that much better than others? Why do winning teams win? Why do losing teams lose? Often these factors are relegated to which teams simply have the most talented players—although history has proven that it takes more than a collection of talented players to make an exceptional team.

The only professional “analysts” I’ve come across that actually look for specifics in terms of players and games—the only media members who actually come off as people who actively watch basketball games—are Charley Rosen, Jeff Van Gundy, Hubie Brown, and Doug Collins.  Unsurprisingly, they are all ex-coaches.

Rosen, in particular, breaks down every aspect of a game in his writing—not only what players do, but what their roles are, how they carry out those roles, what their performances mean for their teams, and what that team can expect in the future because of trends he notices.

Whereas most “experts” gloss it over, He and Van Gundy pay extra attention to the defensive side of the ball—not just which teams play generally good defense, but what specific defenses teams are playing.

Maybe a player can’t show on a pick-and-roll. Maybe a team has no good post defenders. Maybe a player is often out of position gambling for steals and forces his team to make emergency defensive rotations to compensate. These are factors which greatly limit a team’s ability to defend sufficiently, and subsequently to prevail deep in the playoffs.

And whereas Rosen’s opinions are often radical, for the most part they’re backed up with detailed analysis underlining his points. Of course, many of his points I disagree with—but his expertise as a coach lends him credibility, and his methodology is much more sound than simply looking at a stat sheet.

Analyzing a game is the best way of seeing exactly what teams are all about. I don’t watch gametape (I don’t even have a DVR), I don’t scout teams before they play, I don’t even have NBA League Pass. But every NBA game watched is a learning tool, and I try to watch as many games as possible. I take notes as to what teams try to do, how they adapt to their opponents, where, how, and why they succeed, and where, how, and why they fail.

Also, being that the NBA is chock-full of drama, each and every basketball game is chance to see truths about a player’s human nature in action. Which players rise up when the moment calls for it? Which shrink away? Which players are true leaders, and which are natural cowards. In shorthand, which players are winners and which are losers.

Basketball is a beautiful sport, and the NBA is the most intense basketball on the planet. Scrutinizing every aspect of every game isn’t just the best way to enjoy the games and the personalities involved—it’s the only way.

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