Category Archives: Sports

Lost in the Pop Culture Wilderness: The End of the “Grantland” Era

ESPN announced Friday that they were completely closing or “suspending” the Grantland site. This news comes on the heels of months of the site slowly losing the voices that had built it into one of only a handful of places I, and I can only assume others (though not enough for ESPN) visited on a daily basis.

First ESPN let Bill Simmons go, then slowly the writer’s who Simmons had recruited began to have their contracts expire and to depart for other media outlets. To me, the most personal and impacting arm of Grantland has always been their feeds of podcasts (The Grantland Sports and Grantland Pop Culture podcast feeds.)

After losing the BS report last spring, the next major departure was Wesley Morris, who took a job at the New York Times. He and Alex Pappademas’ “Do You Like Prince Movies?” wrapped up in September. Wesley and Alex looked at movies, often opining about smaller indie movies that I would have little exposure to without their voices. Each week they ended the show with a “jam of the week” which challenged listeners to expand their Spotify playlists.

Losing “Do You Like Prince Movies?” left a hole in my weekly listening calendar, but the announcement that Chris Ryan and Juliet Litman (along with Sean Fennessey and Mallory Rubin) to work for Simmons pulled three more shows from the Grantland slate.

All respects to Ms. Litman, whose “Food News” podcast I have enjoyed, the biggest loss here was the combination of Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald on the “Hollywood Prospectus” podcast. Over the last four years, Ryan and Greenwald have become defining voices in the television arena. Their opinions have shaped what I personally feel about the television which we watch.

There has come to be something comforting about hearing the opening, Chris Ryan coming in hot with his characteristic introduction “And on the other line. . . he’s (witty recent reference), it’s Andy Greenwald!”

And that’s the real shame here. The closing of Grantland doesn’t feel like the loss of a website, a column, or a podcast. These people, these voices who we’ve listened to and grown attached to for the past four years feel like the loss of friends who’ve come to be a part of our lives, joining us in our ear holes every week. The Grantland “G” symbol has grown to symbolize the kind of excellence that can be counted on, and the kind personalities who you can trust. The friendly conversational tones of the podcasts developed relationships with the listeners. The inside jokes that you learned, things that started in the first years of the podcast that would be referenced in the last made you feel connected in a way that few programs can or even try to do.

But now, Grantland is gone. ESPN has lost Bill Barnwell, Andy Greenwalk, Chris Ryan, Robert Mays, Rembert Brown, Juliet Litman, Sean Fennesey, Bill Simmons, Alex Pappademas, Wesley Morris, et al. Whether they will retain Jonah Keri, Kirk Goldsberry, and some of the other more sports oriented writers remains to be seen. They’ve also recently lost a litany of other voices– Colin Cowherd who was fired over the summer, Doug Gottlieb who defected to CBS, and Jim Rome who left their TV station for Show Time, and several others.

ESPN built a business based on connection to sports and relationships with their stars. In the wake of the closing of Grantland, I’m left wondering if investing in ESPN is worth my energy and time. With the increased competition in the sports channel marketplace, it raises questions of whether ESPN’s long held dominance is coming to an end in the foreseeable future.

How did the Cavs get so Bad?

A few weeks ago before the finals started a took a look at how the Warriors got so good. Really, another way of stating what I was examining was how the Warriors got so deep. So today, I want to look at the other team– and while I am not above the sensationalist headline, what I am really examining is how the Cavs got so thin or perhaps a better word even than that, how they got so depleted.

I’m going to break down all the talent that’s missing from this team– either from injuries, trades, bad draft choices, or  poor signings that are clogging cap space and roster spots for players who aren’t getting any minutes.

Kyrie Irving: Picked #1 overall in 2011, Irving quickly earned himself a reputation for his offensive play, garnering Rookie of the Year, All Star appearances (and MVPs), and Team USA invites. This year, playing alongside Lebron he scored 21 with almost 5 assists per game– down just a scotch from his highest career average scoring of 22.5. Through it all, Kyrie battled a litany of nagging and minor injuries, but persevered and overcame. He played well, even when banged up through the playoffs, then stepped wrong, banged his knee off Klay Thompson’s knee and was done– out for the rest of the Finals.

This one hurts a lot, because not only does it take away a second scorer from the Cavaliers, it was also through the time since Lebron’s first departure the only draft pick they had gotten right. This was the only All Star they had chosen with those picks between then and now, and now Kyrie can only watch from the sidelines as others get his minutes.

Kevin Love: Acquired in a three team trade in which the Cavaliers sent out Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggans, and a pick in the upcoming draft for Kevin Love. “My Cousin Kevin” was a monster in Minnesota, averaging 26 and 12 in his best year there, while also anchoring the USA Basketball’s 2012 Olympics run where he lead the team in rebounding, and was 5th in scoring on a crowded roster (behind Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant). When the Cavs acquired him last summer, he looked like a top 10 talent in the League.

Then there were rough patches– he didn’t “fit” in Cleveland (mostly because he, Lebron, and Tristan Thompson all play the same position). Or maybe it was just poor coaching– a lot of people are retroactively making Blatt a genius for figuring out how to win some games in the Finals, but I can’t let the fact that he had three of the 25 most talent players on the planet on his team through the entire season and struggled to find places for them or ways to keep them all involved.

Then of course, int he first round series with Boston, Love was injured– out for the playoffs with a shoulder injury on a dirty play made by Kelly Olynyk.  Lets be clear about a few things–

1. The Olynyk play was a dirty play.

2. The Cavaliers have absolutely nothing to complain about it.

The way in which the Cavaliers empower Matthew Dellavedova to dive for other player’s knee, they cannot complain that one of theirs got injured on a play designed to injure opponents. Leg locking Taj Gibson from the floor isn’t a basketball play— the play is dead, the ball is no where near there, and its only intent is to try to trip Taj Gibson and injure him. Then the Al Horford play– watch the tape on it again. Then watch it a few more times. There’s a clear point where Dellavedova’s momentum is stalling and the play is pretty clearly over and he makes a second effort to dive at Horford’s knee.

Look– if those are the kinds of plays that Cleveland wants to have be allowable in the NBA, then they have to expect that sometimes their players will be the ones injured by them. Personally I think there are too many injuries as it is, and think that Dellevedova should have been suspended 1 game for the first incident and two games for the second– we have to send a clear message to everyone that GOING FOR THE KNEES is NOT AN ACCEPTABLE STRATEGY.

Unless you want more years with more star players sidelined by injuries, some of which are completely preventable by simply making basketball plays instead of wrestling moves on the court.

The Assets Cleveland Gave Up to Get Kevin Love: Look, I know its hard to count these assets against them, but the fact of the matter is– the Cavaliers rolled the dice for a single guaranteed year of Kevin Love and between the playoff ending injury and the all around inability to make line-ups with Love work that move was a whiff. If they can resign Love in the off season this could flip, but as it stands now its not looking like it was a good gamble.

The 2015 pick that they gave up isn’t a high pick, and it has no effect on the team this year. But keep in mind, low first round picks are often how teams generate talent that lets them extend runs. The Heat’s whiffing on theirs lead to the collapse in last year’s Finals. Also, Jimmy Butler was picked 30th overall, Draymond Green was a second round pick. If the Cavs hope to form a dynasty losing this asset may come back to bite them int eh future.

Andrew Wiggins: Could the Cavs use a hyper athletic 6′ 8″ wing capable of scoring 17 per game?  I know this is a false dichotomy because they decided that rather than slot Lebron in for heavy minutes at the power forward (the spot he is best at) they would get Kevin Love and Lebron would go back to being a small forward so they gave up Wiggins to get Love. Also the Rookie of the Year might not have progressed as fast without the opportunity to play as heavy and hold the ball as much with Lebron and Kyrie on the floor.

On the other hand– what is a better way for a young, talented player to cut his teeth in the NBA than playing the starting small forward in a line-up that includes two phenomenal play makers to pass him the ball?

Regardless, this is a piece the Cavsa could have had for these Finals that is missing.

Anthony Bennett: Bennett was basically a throw in alongside Wiggins and the pick in the Love trade, and his play hasn’t justified his being anything more than that. Having Bennett on the bench wouldn’t make the Cavs any better/ deeper in these Finals.  But the Cavs spent a number one overall pick on Bennett just two drafts ago.

Here’s a list of players they could have taken instead: Victor Oladipo, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, Giannis Antentokounmpo, Dennis Schroder, Rudy Gobert.

Look– none of these guys are world beaters. Had any of them been the #1 overall pick they probably would have been seen as busts. But none of them are so toxic of assets that they would have necessitated being thrown in along with another #1 overall pick, plus a future pick and then not be able to earn playing time there. Bennett is probably the worst #1 overall selection of all time and its not even close.

A lot of these guys weren’t realistic to take that high– Schroder and Gobert went in the 20s. Nerlens had injury questions and also would be a bad fit alongside Tristan Thompson. Carter-Williams is a point guard, and drafting a point guard with the #1 overall pick just two years after drafting Kyrie was probably untenable at the time.  But lets be clear about this– any of these guys would have been better fit and duplication be damned.

Cater-Williams may not be a starting PG in this league– but he’s athletic, he can score if not shoot, and he can defend. On this year’s Cavs roster he would have been a backup and a spark plug off a bench unit that is deeply lacking that. And when Kyrie went down, he’d be far and away better than the other options available to them currently.

Oladipo may not be capable of being the best player on a good team, but he’s a young, tall, athletic shooting guard. He could guard Klay or Steph because he’s fast and a good defender. He’s shooting 43% from the field and 33% from three on an abysmal Magic team where he has to make his own shots constantly– if you don’t think slotting into a starting line-up like what the Cavs would be able to field would improve those percentages you are simply not thinking about this stuff right.

Giannis is one of the craziest athletes in the league. He might be able to carry a team on his own. He’s a building block– and at the time they wasted this pick the Cavs can’t have known they were getting Lebron. Why not roll the dice on a developmental project with infinite upside like the Greek Freak? Pair him with Kyrie?  Imagine being able to turn loose his length and athleticism against the Warriors now?

The hypothetical situations for this pick go on and on, but the fact remains- the Cavs took the best 2013 Draft Asset and turned it into absolutely nothing. Even if they still wanted to do the Love trade, had this been a real player they could have gotten away with not sending him– a future first plus Wiggins would have been enough because lets face it, Minnesota doesn’t value Bennett as anything.

Dion Waiters: I’d talk about Waiters here, except this one worked out for the Cavs. True they could have had Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, or Andre Drummond– but Waiters retained enough value while on the Cavs that they were able to get THREE assets back for him (JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, plus a pick). Lillard would have duplicated Kyrie, Barnes has been above average but not stellar– so Drummond is the only real upgrade they could have had here. I’ll give them a pass on this one.

Mozgov: Amazingly, the Cavs gave up next to nothing to get Mozgov– the free pick they got from OKC for Dion, plus a pick from Memphis they had from a previous trade. They fleeced the Knicks in that Dion trade, and flipped a bad asset into a valuable big. Of course, had they used the Dion pick on Andre Drummond they wouldn’t have needed a Mozgov, but those two trades really are the core of the Cavs line-up right now bringing in 3/7 players who are actually playing minutes for them in this series.

Tristan Thompson: Until literally this playoffs Thompson would be listed as a bust and a missed opportunity (the Cavs could have for instance drafted a Kyrie/Klay Thompson back-court in the same draft). He’s turned out to be a good asset for the Cavs, coming up big in the payoffs and the Finals. But, if the Cavs knew what they had with him, and already being locked into paying him 5 million this year– why did they throw so many resources at the positions he plays?

Even assuming you slot Lebron as a 3, they still signed Anderson Varejao, traded for Love, traded for Mozgov, and took on Brendan Haywood. That’s four guys that the Cavs picked up with Thompson already on the roster, totaling about 32 million in cap space.  That’s a lot of assets to throw at the Front Court– grow to almost 38 million for two spots when you add in Thompson’s deal. And at the end of the day, two of those players are playing (Mozgov and Thompson.)

Anderson Varejao: I know I just ranted about how the Cavs wasted so much on the back court, but I do have to admit part of that was that Varejao (signed to a 9 million dollar multi-year contract this summer) got injured and is out for the season. They don’t trade for Mozgov if Varejao is still playing.

Then again– Varejao has a huge history of injury. When they signed him going into the season everyone couched all the analysis with “if healthy”. And he turned out not to be healthy. Now the Cavs are on the hook for his 9 million, plus Mozgov’s 5 million.  Imagine if they had rolled into the season trusting their roster– trusting that Thompson and Love could handle splitting minutes at the five, or that if they could not they could find an answer in season. They could have still gotten Mozgov in the exact same trade, and would have had another 9 million open to use elsewhere.

Maybe this is just hindsight vision. I know that Lebron’s relationship with Varejao complicates things and pushed them into signing him. But Lebron’s agent also reps Thompson– and the Cavs could have told him, “hey– we trust your guy Tristan to get it done and we are going to give him every chance to succeed” and I think Lebron would have bought in.

Brendan Haywood: Taking on Haywood for 2.5 million is just egregious– his career high in points was 10.6, 8 years ago, and he hadn’t averaged five per game since 09/10, and he plays at a position which you already have Love, Thompson, and Varejao to play.

What other kind of players are making about the same money as Haywood this year?

Ignoring players on Rookie deals (even those coming up for extensions who might have been available to the Cavs for a trade like Reggie Jackson) here are some possibilities:

CJ Watson– a good backup point guard. Maybe they don’t have Delly emerge if he’s here, but this guy has done it on good teams in the past. For such a minimal investment he’d be a big time player in this series now backing Delly up and letting that guy get some rest.

Kent Bazemore– mostly a deep bench guy, but he’d surely be worth a look with the Cavs as thin as they are now he could surely be worth a few minutes?  He played a lot more for the Hawks than Haywood did for the Cavs this year.

If you instead take back the trade to bring him in, plus the Varejao signing you suddenly have 11 million in cap space which is enough to get a real live NBA player.

I’ve ranted for 2,000 words here– I could keep going, harping on signing guys like Shawn Marion (915K), Mike Miller (2.7 mil), and Kendrick Perkins (200K) with no intention of playing them, but the fact remains pretty obvious– if you aren’t using your line-up you are at a disadvantage, which is why the Cavs are having to deal with cramps for two of their current starters.

There is an alternate universe where the Cavs would be rolling out Kyrie Irving, Victor Oladipo, Giannis, Lebron James, and Mozgov as the starters with Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, JR, and Shumpert off the bench– a rotation that would be 9 deep even after the Kyrie injury (with James Jones, 10 counting Dellavedova, 11 if they spent the 9 million of Varejao money on anyone who could play) instead of barely 7 deep.

How did the Warriors Get So Good?

A quick look back at how Golden State amassed the talent and depth that have fueled them to the NBA Finals. . .

Stephen Curry: Drafted by the Warriors 7th overall in 2009. . . while two of the 6 players drafted ahead of him were Blake Griffin (1st) and James Harden (3rd), Curry was passed for Hasheem Thabeet, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, and Johnny Flynn. Flynn hasn’t played in the NBA since 2012. Thabeet is playing in the D-League this year.  Evans and Rubio are capable starters, but as the MVP Curry has far outplayed his draft position and is the asset around which the Warrior’s team is built.

Klay Thompson: Drafted by the Warriors 11th overall in 2011. The 2011 draft was bad. Really, really bad. Only 3 All Stars in the whole draft class—Kyrie Irving (1st), Klay Thompson (11th), and Jimmy Butler (30th). While getting Thompson at 11 is a value, his contributions are pretty in line with what you would expect from a lottery pick. (Not the ridiculous feat of finding an All Star at 30 that the Bulls pulled off, but a good selection.) Needless to say the teams who drafted Derrick Williams, Jimmer Fredette, Bismack Biyombo, and Jan Vesely are regretting their selections for sure.

Harrison Barnes: Drafted but the Warriors 7th overall in 2012. Another top 10 pick. Barnes has been largely considered a bust due to his draft spot. He came out one of the starts of Game 5 against the Rockets due to his high level of talent and his commitment to staying ready. While Barnes hasn’t lived up to the hype which had some projecting him even higher in the draft had he not gone back to UNC for a sophomore season, this is the kind of depth that other top teams lack.

Draymond Green: Drafted by the Warriors 35th overall in 2012. Green’s freshman year at Michigan State he averaged 3 points. By his senior year he averaged 16. His rookie year he managed just 3 points and 13 minutes, which he’s increased steadily—earning more time and points ever season so far. More importantly, his defense has improved to the level of all NBA caliber. Nailing second round picks to provide cheap players with high upside. Of course, Green’s 3 year 2.6 million dollar contract is up after this year and the Warriors will have to decide if and how much to pay him, but for this season he’s only counting on the cap for less than a million dollars.

Andrew Bogut: In March of 2012 (just before the draft that landed the Warriors both Barnes and Green) the Warriors shipped out Monta Ellis, the previous star of the team for Andrew Bogut (a few more pieces on each side, but this was the core of the trade). This freed up more playing time for Curry and Thompson (Ellis is a combo guard and the three could not have coexisted and both Curry and Thompson develop into All Stars with him there.) Bogut, a former #1 overall pick was available mostly due to his injury issues which derailed almost all of his time in Milwaukee. Bogut was signed to a huge extension, and has missed time since coming to Golden State. But suddenly, this year he is healthy in the playoffs and providing an anchor against bigger teams. The lesson here is that NBA teams need good luck with injuries, and to succeed on calculated risks and have those risks payoff at the right time.

Shaun Livingston: Signed last year for 3 years 16 million. A former top 4 pick, Livinsgton (from my own stomping grounds of Central, IL) tragically blew out his knee his rookie year with the Clippers. Livingston bounced around the league, eventually coming to prominence with the Nets during their playoff run last year. That Jason Kidd coached Nets team shows the blueprint for using this type of player—Livingston is tall for a point guard, able to switch the one-four or one-three pick and rolls with Green and Barnes and remain a capable defender. He doesn’t need the ball, but can score and assist when needed as in his 18 point outing in Game 1 against Houston. While he’s not asked to play a lot of minutes in the playoffs, he can capably backup both Curry and Thompson. I’d say the take-away here is hitting on veteran signings. Livingston probably could have gotten more than 5 million a year, but chose the Warriors for a chance to compete in the playoffs.

Leandro Barbosa: Another veteran signing. Barbosa’s contract is only for less than a million on the cap hit. While he’s not the player he was during his Phoenix heyday playing in the 7 Seconds or Less offense, Barbosa is still shooting 38% from 3. Minimum salary players who are able to contribute, even with a single skill like defense (or in this case the 3 ball) make good teams into great teams (think James Posey on the 2008 Celtics, or Boris Diaw on last year’s Spurs).

Andre Iguodala: Signed to 4 years 48 million in 2013. The Iguodala signing was seen at the time as a means of going “All In” as well as a giving up on Harrison Barnes. At 31, Iguodala is reduced from the crazy athletic defensive monster he was in Philly. He’s still an above average defender, and having his role readjusted to the bench this year under Steve Kerr. Iggy will be even more important going into the Finals where he will share duties guarding Lebron James. Having the fire power to throw multiple, capable defenders against your opponent’s best player is important so that foul trouble doesn’t spell instant doom for your squad. (The Warriors will likely use a combination of Barnes, Iguodala, Thompson, and Green on Lebron.)

Marreese Speights: Signed 3 years 10 million dollars in 2013. Another low dollar contributor, Speights has been out since midway through the Grizzlies series. With a cap hit in the 3 million dollar range, Speights has a high PER and provides good in limited minutes. He should be back with a long break before the Finals start, and like Barbosa he falls into the category of veteran who a single good game from can swing the Championship.

David Lee: Sign and trade with Knick; 6 years, 79 million dollars. The Lee sign and trade wouldn’t even be legal in today’s NBA.  Lee’s playing only 8 minutes a game in the playoffs, and has scored 15 or more points only 4 times all season (all in the regular season). This is not what you want from your highest paid player, and next year when David Lee becomes “David Lee’s expiring contract” he will most likely be traded—after all the Warriors are going to have to pay Green to keep him and his production and defense outweigh the potential offense Lee provides. But this is still a former All-Star. And he’s still capable of scoring more than 15 points in a game if called on. If the right combination of foul trouble or injuries come up, Lee might be an X Factor going forward for the 4-7 games he has left as a Warrior.

It’s only by nailing the other players on this list in low cost signings and draft choices that the Warriors are able to be this deep with what is one of the worst contracts in the league still on their books.

Festus Ezili: Drafted 30th overall by the Warriors in 2012. 2012 is the draft that keeps on giving for the Warriors.  Golden State actually had 3 second round picks that year (Atlanta, Brooklyn, and San Antonio) and not their own (which was traded as part of the David Lee sign and trade.) Ezili’s spent time on assignment to the D League for the Warriors, but he proved in Game Five tonight that he can come up big when needed. At 6’11” he has been competent in backing up Bogut this year, including against the punishing run of bigs the Warriors have faced (Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, and Dwight Howard in consecutive rounds). He will likely backup Bogut for any minutes that Mozgov is on the floor in the finals (that Bogut isn’t in for.)  Of course, much of that series may be decided with Tristan Thompson at the five and Lebron at the four for the Cavs, so Ezili may not see much run. Still, this is yet another contributor on a low cost contract (rookie scale).

It seems the answer is clear—get one really good player with a lucky lottery pick/bad teams picking before you (Curry), draft really well in the second round (Green, Ezili), and get at least something out of your first round picks (Thompson, Barnes), while filling in with quality low cost veterans (Livingston, Speights, Barbosa), and splurge on expensive missing pieces when your cap will allow (Bogut, Iguodala)—should be a simple formula to replicate for other GMs out there, right? We’ll leave out the “swing and miss on gigantic contracts for one way players who get hurt a lot (Lee)” since I think most GMs would rather succeed because of their most expensive players, not in spite of them.

Mother, Daughter, and the Bold Scout

Maba stared into the eyes of Dread Anna. He stood nearly on tip-paws, trying to bring himself to her height, his lip quivering as he stared into the eyes of the greatest hero and worst villain both in the history of the Peshga tribe, no in all the history of the Parua.

Maba knew he had a choice to make– he could walk away now, could stay safe from the ire of Dread Dead Anna, but he knew that if he did, the Peshga Tribe was doomed. Silently he prayed to Padaga for courage, then spoke, channeling the bold forebears who had come before him, from the first mouse who pulled the thorn from Padaga’s foot don to the strongest and bravest of the gigants.

Then he opened his mouth and spoke. “You won’t leave me here in the Sill. You won’t hop off on your own business or go on ahead to the story circle. You would never abandon the Peshga tribe in a time of true need, and–”

Annika snatched the younger Parua by the nape of his neck, hefting him off the ground by an inch, the muscles in the thin hand straining as she pulled him close, “What makes you think I’d consider this a time of true need? Mercenaries? Rezgari mercenaries I suppose?”

Maba nodded.

“You mean to tell me Old One Eye, that salty Pitr whose built his career robbing caravans and guarding them in turns means suddenly to make a brazen assault instead? Him who prefers to be bought out of any assault he has been bought into? It was the Rezgari double cross, after all.”

“Old One Eye is out. The Rezgari have a new leader.” Maba peeled her fingers apart, restoring himself to his feet, steeling his courage against his fears, “You haven’t heard?”

“No. Who is this new leader then?”

Maba looked once more into the eyes of the famed Peshga heroine, “She came upon the Rezgari on the edges of the wastes two years back, or so the story is told. She put Old One Eye’s head on a pike, poked out the eye that remained. The Rezgari answer to her now, and to her lieutenant, formerly of the Pingara, a human man known as the Bane of Backalore.”

Annie’s eyes narrowed at the name. “Someone has brought the Bane to heel?” Maba nodded. “This woman, who killed One Eye, cowed the Bane, and rules the Rezgari then, who is she?”

“No one knows her true name. But she is called the Gray Queen.”

Even Mitzia shuddered as the scout uttered the words.

Coach Rank: December Update

No movement at the top 7 spots this update– these guys can coach and I haven’t split enough hairs to unseat anyone until number 8.

1. Greg Popovich San Antonio Spurs

2. Tom Thibodeau Chicago Bulls

3. Doc Rivers Los Angeles Micro-Softs

4. Rick Carlisle Dallas Mavericks

5. Jeff Hornacek Phoenix Suns

6. Mike Budenholzer Atlanta Hawks

7. Kevin McHale Houston Rockets

8. Frank Vogel Indiana Pacers

9. Brad Stevens Boston Celtics– This swap is mostly related to the instructive power of just how destructive a force Lance Stephenson is. Neither team is going anywhere this year, and Stevens might be set to drop out of the top 10, but I will have to see how things go and how his system works without Rondo manning the helm.

10. Terry Stots Portland Trailblazers

11. Jason Kidd Milwaukee Bucks– Kidd’s chances of getting these Bucks to the playoffs took a huge hit when he lost Jabari for the year.  I still have him listed as “might be up,” but the top 10 us a hard nut to crack.

12. Dwayne Casey Toronto Raptors

13. Dave Joerger Memphis Grizzlies– listed as “probably up”, but despite the fantastic job he’s doing climbing the ranks at the top is slow work. I have a lot of respect for the system he is running and the way he has the Grizz playing, but the work that Dwayne Casy and Jason Kidd are doing in Toronto and Milwaukee, holds Joerger out of the top 12 for at least another ranking.

14. Steve Kerr Golden State Warriors– A lot of ink has been spilled over how good a job Kerr is doing withe the Warriors. To be fair, he also has the most talented roster in the Western Conference by a long shot, but his coaching has definitely made a difference for a few extra wins. He makes a huge leap for this edition, and has the potential to do more, but like Joeger and Kidd, Kerr will find that the top of these rankings are clogged with coaching royalty which will be very hard to unseat.

15. Stan Van Gundy Detroit Pistons– Van Gundy moves up mostly due to the incompetence (and firings) of those (now) behind him than anything stellar he is doing in Detroit. I will need to see a lot more from him in terms of positive coaching to get above the mid-way mark.

16. Steve Clifford Charlotte Hornets– If his drop comes as a surprise to anyone, you need only mention the name Lance to understand why. Controlling talented but troubled players is a coaches purview, and Clifford’s failings there have led to a pre-season playoff pick’s steep decline.

17. Brian Shaw Denver Nuggets– He was listed as probably down for much of the intervening time, but ended up sliding only two spots. Shaw simply cannot seem to make a jumbled Denver roster full of talent fit, ad its beginning to become obvious that its a coaching deficiency as well as a roster construction problem.

18. Lionel Hollins Brooklyn Nets– We can see Lionel Hollins skills in how he is doing with the Nets compared to Kidd last year, and how Dave Joeger is doing with the Girzzlies two teams where rosters from previous regimes are essentially intact.  Joeger has the Grizz playing like the Leagues best, something Hollins couldn’t do even with a more in his prime Zac Randolph, while Hollins’ system simply cannot get as much play from the collection of former superstars current wheeling their walkers onto the floor for the Nets that Kidd did a year ago.

19. Flip Saunders Minnesota Timberwolves

20. Monty Williams New Orleans Pelicans

20. Michael Malone Sacramento Kings(Final Ranking) before his untimely firing, Malone was ranked 20th with a score of “probably up” for the December update.  How many coaches was he going to move ahead of?  Probably at least Monty Williams, Flip Saunders, Lionel Hollins and Brian Shaw (with SVG also moving up).  That means that a coach who was at worst, the 16th best coach in the league was fired before the likes of Byron Scott.  I get that record matters, but Malone (fired with his MVP candidate sidelined with an uncommon illness) will get another chance and will be a better coach than quit a few of those still employed in these rankings. Despite what the Bulls have done the last two years, its just not reasonable to expect a coach to win while his MVP caliber player is out for long stretches.

21. Scott Brooks Oklahoma City Thunder

22. Erik Spoelstra Miami Heat

23. Quinn Snyder Utah Jazz– I’ve liked what I’ve seen from the Jazz.  After years of stalled developments, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, and Gordan Heyward finally look like average NBA rookies. This might be a compare and contrast of how bad Ty Corbin was, but I think the former Spurs assistant knows what he’s doing as a coach, and I’ve moved him ahead of other tanktastic coaches in Vaughn and Brown.

24. Jacque Vaughn Orlando Magic

25.Brett Brown Philadelphia 76ers

26. Randy Wittmann Washington Wizards

27. David Blatt Cleveland Cavaliers

28. Derek Fisher New York Knicks

Blatt moves up a few spots by virtue of Fisher and Scott showing how bad they are as coaches. Cleveland finally seems to be getting their act together, however I am not certain that Lebron James isn’t the head coach of that team yet.

29. Byron Scott Los Angeles Lakers– Scott is saved from the bottom spot by the entrance of new head coach Ty Corbin.  I’ve watched about as much Lakers as I can stomach the last few weeks.  Its not just that Kobe dominates the ball, its that the entire system the Lakers run seems to be designed to have players (Kobe, Swaggy P, et al) take turns dominating the ball, and opening players up for inefficient shots. Add in some explosive Kobe vs. the rest of the squad stuff (“these guys ain’t got shit for me”) and you have the makings of a bad coach.

30. Ty Corbin– Corbin was a bad coach in Utah, who failed to develop a string of promising players, or to put together anything resembling a decent system. He can still redeem himself, but in this place he seems like an ownership patsy, whose basically a place holder for when they decide to put in a real coach next year.

Coach Rank: Week 1 Update

With between 4 and 6 games in the book at the end of the night, it’s time to kick off our first Coach Rank of the regular Season!

Quick reminder of our starting rules. . .

1. Rookie coaches started at the bottom, raked alphabetically– they will have to prove their way up from their and sort out.

2. No points for adequately achieving or under achieving with super talented rosters (the Vinny Del Negro Principle)

3. Having no system on either side of the ball is unacceptable.

4. Rankings are cumulative and incremental. Coaches can move up or down, sometimes even by several spots, but one good/bad week/month doesn’t always override the body of work from the rest of the season and previous years.

Pre-season rankings can be found here:

 

1. Greg Popovich San Antonio Spurs — To lose the spot Pop is going to have to, you know, do something bad.

2. Tom Thibodeau Chicago Bulls

3. Doc Rivers Los Angeles Micro-Softs

Our first spot swap of the season! There’s no shame in losing to Boogie and the Kings or to Golden State. This swap is based on the incredible degree of difficulty for what Thibs has Chicago doing right now.

To tick off the accomplishments– 1. 5-1 record with the one loss being in overtime to Lebron, 2. A rotation that includes four new additions, 3. Missing at least one starter in every game, 4. Took one of the worst offensive teams from last year, reinvented the offense around a combination of post play, ball motion and cuts, and three point shots that is averaging over 100 per game.

That said, the Bulls defense and rebounding have slipped, so if those trends continue, Thibs could start to slip in these rankings.

4. Rick Carlisle Dallas Mavericks– holding steady, Carlisle reincorporated Tyson Chandler and folded in Chandler Parsons who has joined Monta at 17 points per game to round out a big three with Dirk.

5. Jeff Hornacek Phoenix Suns– Hornacek has folded in Isiah Thomas pretty well to make that three guard set work.

6. Mike Budenholzer Atlanta Hawks– the Hawks woes aren’t all Budenholzer’s fault, their three losses are all to playoff teams from last year.

7. Kevin McHale Houston Rockets– has the Rockets singing with some addition by subtraction in letting Parsons and Lin walk. Keeping post contract Ariza engaged and transforming a poor defensive team from last year into the second best in the league (for now) have McHale on the biggest jump here. (11 last week).

8. Brad Stevens Boston Celtics– the Celtics are reinventing into a Spurs style offense, and are looking good on that end, if abysmal on the other.

9. Frank Vogel Indiana Pacers– the Captain of a sinking ship this year; how engaged the Pacers stay as the losses mount will say a lot.

10. Terry Stots Portland Trailblazers

11. Jason Kidd Milwaukee Bucks– going to need to watch the Bucks more closely to see what’s going on here, Kidd has most slipped due to other’s good work and it will take time to evaluate his performance with this young roster.

12. Dwayne Casey Toronto Raptors

13. Steve Clifford Charlotte Hornets

14. Dave Joerger Memphis Grizzlies– The Grizzlies are looking dominant this year as well, and Joeger has them determined not to start off poorly as they did due to injuries last year.

15. Brian Shaw Denver Nuggets

16. Lionel Hollins Brooklyn Nets

17. Stan Van Gundy Detroit Pistons

18. Flip Saunders Minnesota Timberwolves

19. Monty Williams New Orleans Pelicans

20. Michael Malone Sacramento Kings

Williams and Malone both had some proving to do coming into this season. The Kings are off to a hot start, and Malone has the team working through their talented big man Cousins and improving despite losing Thomas. Williams’ Pelicans are putting out maximum effort right now, and new acquisition Omir Asik has looked to be a dominant pairing with Anthony Davis on the glass. Bother will bear closer watching as the season goes on.

21. Erik Spoelstra Miami Heat– I have to admit that losing Lebron and still coming out strong, reinvented around different pieces and the development of Norris Cole into a legitimate NBA player has me rethinking my stance on Spoelstra. Will need to see more for me to permanently flip on him though– after all, had Spoelstra been able to develop any of the late first round picks he had over the past four years, Lebron may have seen the possibility of getting past ‘Not two. . . ‘ in Miami instead of bolting for younger supporting players.

22. Scott Brooks Oklahoma City Thunder

23. Jacque Vaughn Orlando Magic

24.Brett Brown Philadelphia 76ers

25. Randy Wittmann Washington Wizards

26. Byron Scott Los Angeles Lakers– It is rapidly beginning to look like Scott was hired because he was a poor choice for a coach. No one expected the Lakers to win, but Scott’s attitudes towards the modern game shows he may be stuck in the past.

26. Steve Kerr Golden State Warriors

28. Derek Fisher New York Knicks

29. Quinn Snyder Utah Jazz

30. David Blatt Cleveland Cavaliers– the Cavs are going to figure things out eventually, but a 1-3 start with the team ranking in the bottom third of the league in basically every category (19th in points scored, 23rd in points allowed, 22nd in rebounds, and 30th in assists) despite having a four time MVP and two more All-Stars has Blatt as not only the worst of the rookies, but the worst in the league right now.

NBA Preview: Western Conference Playoff Predictions

I didn’t get through my entire regular season preview before things kicked off tonight, but i I will try to finish these up (10 teams left) in the first month of the season– a few games down won’t be significant, right?

Anyways, to get my predictions on the record here–

Western Conference Seeding:

1. San Antonio

2. Golden State

3. Oklahoma City

4. Memphis Grizzlies

5. Portland Trailblazers

6. Houston Rockets

7. LA Clippers

8. Dallas Mavericks

1st round:

Spurs handle the Mavs; OKC Survives Houston; Clippers upset Golden State; Grizzlies take out Portland

2nd Round: Grizzlies upset the Spur; OKC Demolishes the Clippers

Conference Finals: Grizzlies beat the Thunder when Scott Brooks puts on a show of awful coaching

Which leaves us with NBA Finals– Bulls over Grizz in the battle of the Gasols and four of the best big men in the league.