Thoughts on the NBA: Around The League and Back

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IJune 17, 2009

Congratulations to the Lakers. With a fourth title, Kobe firmly thrusts himself into the pantheon as the third-greatest guard in NBA history. He has no chance of climbing higher, or dropping lower really. He'll finish as a Top-15 (maybe 10) all-time player, the fourth-best Laker, and nothing short of a legend.

I wonder if LA will retire #8 or #24.

And seriously...enough with the stats that Kobe matches, will match, or even surpass His Airness. It's not happening. Ever. I wrote about this a couple years ago and most of it still stands. But to compare the two just check out their shooting numbers:

Jordan's career FG percent .497
Kobe's career FG percent .455

Kobe misses around 10 percent more shots than MJ did. And while .042 may not seem like a huge discrepancy, the difference between MJ and Kobe is the same as the separation between Kobe and Pavlovic. And Bryant plays in an era where defensive contact is minimal (i.e. the refs are extremely whistle happy). Jordan was brutalized by the Bad Boy Pistons along with Riley's Heat and Knick squads.

So Jordan > Kobe. And for the record Kobe > Sasha Pavlovic. Glad we're clear on that.

Moving on.

Phil Jackson winds up with the most rings and will probably retire back to his Branch Davidian-esque compound in the wilderness. It's the perfect time for him to leave; he finally passes Red Auerbach, his hip continues to deteriorate, and it appears very, very, very sadly that Tex Winter won't be around the game anytime soon.

While he was ever a strong in-game coach but a master of motivational methods and hilarious interviews, Phil will be missed. Hopefully he'll put an engagement ring on Jeanie's finger someday.

As for the future Lakers coach (whether this offseason or in 2010)...one of the favorites is Kurt Rambis, who turned down the Kings job to hold out for this chance. It would be an incredibly risky move since Rambis has extremely limited head coaching experience and the Lakers tend to favor guys with experience.

Jim Cleamons and Brian Shaw are also possibilities. As for coaches with experience the name that jumps out is Avery Johnson, who I think would be a great pick if only because I could listen to his voice on a regular basis. A dark horse candidate is Coach K (again), who would receive Kobe's full approval. He came close to playing for Duke after high school and embraced Coach K during the 2008 Olympics.

Funny enough, a championship could be a really bad thing for the Lakers long term. In order to keep the team together would mean overpaying for Odom and Ariza, neither of whom deserve more than the MLE (Mid Level Exception.) It will be interesting to see how much the Lakers will be willing to overpaying. Because Kupchak is such a horrible GM, the Lakers are already over the salary cap (hello Bynum!), so spending $20 million a year on those two would really be $40 million.

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Even Dr. Buss probably doesn't want to spend so recklessly. If Kupchak is smart he'll cut ties with both (Odom because he sucks, Ariza because he'll be overpaid) and pay a high price for Ron Artest, giving the Lakers a tremendous trio of legitimate All-Stars, two of whom are excellent defenders. Yes, Kobe would keep Artest in line. And possibly vice-versa.

But that trio would trump any trio in the lead. That's how you create a dynasty. Elite talent.

Most likely though, the Lakers will probably sign Odom and Ariza at a slight discount and look to trade away one or two of their bad contracts—probably Vujacic. Fisher comes off the books after next year, which gives the Lakers one more season of a mediocre PG duo.

Assuming the Lakers will continue to run the Triple Post Offense next season there are two attributes to look for in a point guard:
- high basketball IQ (which explains why the Smush Parker Experiment failed)
- long-range shooter

Everything else is secondary.

Fish excels in the system because it plays to his strengths. And since Farmar isn't the answer, LA should look really hard at drafting a future PG. Luckily for them there's one with those exact qualities...and he's about 10 miles away from Staples.

Darren Collison should be the pick. The Lakers should trade up if they have to (and they probably will have to since PGs will go fast).

I love watching Collison at UCLA. His stock was really high following his junior year but last season slipped following the arrival of Jrue Holliday and the Bruins' uneven play. Ben Howland runs a very slow and uninteresting offense, so Collison's strengths weren't on display much in 2008-2009. To me he's a real gem and worth a low first-round pick.

Bottom line, the Lakers team isn't great and could use multiple improvements. They don't have to settle for one championship and there's too much volatility and not enough talent to simply do nothing.

Speaking of championships...the Clippers. David Stern rewarded Donald Sterling by giving the Clippers the top pick in this month's draft. Blake Griffin should be and will be the selection. His downside is a Carlos Boozer who won't betray blind people and have his mansion remodeled with purple shag carpets by Prince. Yes, Carlos did both those things.

Griffin possesses tremendous inside game and an outstanding work ethic. He's like a Bizarro Olowokandi and should develop into a perennial All-Star.

As for the rest of the Clippers...sigh. Unless LA can pull off some miracle trade, it's better off throwing away this year to look toward 2010-2011. Hopefully Baron Davis will stay away from Ruby Tuesdays and Zach Randolph will not accumulate several more DUIs. At least Gordon and Griffin will form a fun tandem.

And around the league we go

* Danny Ferry and Mike Brown should both be fired. The Cavaliers had the third-highest payroll in the league this season with LeBron, Mo Williams and piles of crap. That team is so horrifically bungled. Hopefully James will go to the Knicks in 2010 because Gotham is doing some very interesting things...

* My crystal ball says Chris Paul will not stay in New Orleans through his contract. He'll probably stay through next season but eventually something will happen. It's like the Amare thing but slower.

It's building...and when it happens every team should give up the farm for him. He's well on his way as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I saw him in person last year...astounding is probably the best description.

I'd have to think about this but if there was a league-wide draft I might take him with the first overall pick. Over LeBron, Kobe, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, all of them. Okay I probably wouldn't but on an average team he averaged 22 points/5 rebounds/11 assists/3 steals while shooting 50 percent. He might join Kobe in the pantheon one day too.

* Speaking of LeBron, I worry about the mileage he's putting on. 80+ games, 40+ minutes and all the work for Team USA. He's a freak and all but even freaks have limits.

Physically there's no question he has the skills to surpass MJ and Magic, but will he ever develop a post game and refine his jump shot? Personally I think he'll eventually surpass Kobe but remain behind His Airness and Earvin. Those guys won a combined 11 championships and 9 Finals MVPs. And of course, Michael never lost in the Finals.

LeBron already has two losses in the Conference Finals (same as Kobe), so his margin for error is slim to reach the top.

* I hope Larry Brown gets fired by the Bobcats so he can stop wasting his genius on a bad team. Actually he should coach a really bad team and come back to college to lead USC.

* Golden State is an ABA team. Moped Ellis, Biedrins, Maggette, Stephen Jackson, Turiaf, Brandon Wright, Anthony Randolph and possibly an elite PG from the draft. 150 points will be scored multiple times by that reckless Don Nelson crew. ESPN should show this team 50 times next season.

* The Bulls are building one hell of a baseball team with a bunch of guys who can do a lot of things. Too bad that doesn't lead anywhere in the NBA. Trade for better parts Paxson.

* The fact Marko Jaric married and knocked up Adriana Lima is more proof that life isn't fair. Not that I deserve her or anything but neither does Marko.

* Looks like the Spurs era is over, which is a shame. They played phenomenal team basketball and were a pleasure to watch for anyone who appreciates the game.

Duncan still has some time left but regardless he's obviously already in the pantheon. 2 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 4-0 in the championship round and one hideous tattoo. Who represented the NBA better?

* Amare Stoudemire is going to get traded. It's not Jon and Kate bad between him and the Suns, but yea it's not going to work. He's probably gone to the Wizards. I can't believe how badly Sarver screwed up the Suns over the years. It's actually worse than the Clippers in a lot of ways...

Looking back, all in all it was an okay season. Refs were as horrible as ever. ABC coverage has improved immensely in the past few years. Shaq dancing at the All-Star Game was funny. The playoffs extend themselves way too long.

Anyway, time to gear up for the draft. Looking forward to ridiculing whoever picks Jordan Hill.

Sports on a Schtick is an SJ contributor/writer

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