Superlatives – James Harden and John Wall were named NBA Western and Eastern Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, March 2. Harden’s week:
Harden led the Rockets to a 2-1 week behind averages of 27.0 points (tied for third in the conference), 7.7 assists (fifth in the conference) and 2.0 steals. He tallied 22 first-quarter points en route to a game-high 43 on Feb. 25, during a 129-103 win over the Kings. Harden closed the week by posting a 20-point, 12-assist, three-steal effort during a 118-110 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Also, Kevin McHale joined Eric Spolestra as the NBA Coaches of the Month for February.
McHale guided the Rockets to an 8-2 record in February, and the highest winning percentage (.800) in the Western Conference. The Rockets opened the month with six consecutive wins, and their average margin of victory in those games was 13.2 points. Houston, which averaged 111.9 points on the month, topped the century mark in each of its eight wins.
Not a bad haul for the hottest team in the league since New Year.
Tank the tanking – Nate Wolters, starting shooting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. Henry Sims, starting center for the Philadelphia 76ers. Kent Bazemore, starting shooting guard for the LA Lakers. Now that you understand the shameless levels of tanking certain teams are currently subjecting on their fanbases, and taking into account former-GM Bryan Colangelo’s recent revelation that he tried to tank games, you can understand why Daryl Morey is open to exploring ways to change the NBA draft.
“We have to get rid of the marginal incentive to lose,” Morey said Friday at the annual Sloan Conference on sports analytics at MIT.
“It’s bad right now,” Morey said. “I think last year, at the end of the season, I counted like two-thirds of the teams weren’t trying to win.”
One of the solutions Morey discussed specifically was the draft wheel. It’s an interesting proposal, but it feels a little too impractical. If you look at the NBA 30 years ago (the length of time the wheel would take to run its course), it’s barely the same game that it is today. And if the NBA has real aspirations of expanding into Europe, how will those teams be worked into the wheel? It just doesn’t make sense.
The draft lottery doesn’t have to be scratched, just altered. Why not give every team that misses the playoffs the same chances at the top pick? Fringe playoff teams may choose to pass on a few wins near the end of the season to avoid being first round cannon fodder, and it would make trading protected lottery picks even more tricky, but it would at least avoid game-plans like the one Sam Hinkie is currently deploying in Philadelphia. And could you imagine how exciting the actual draft lottery would be? 14 teams all with the same chance at the number one pick no matter how many games they lost that season. It would be the biggest TV night of the year for half of the league. The league could even increase the financial reward for playoff teams to encourage owners to push for the playoffs even if a title is unlikely.
Adam Silver is known as a forward thinker – it’s one of the reasons league officials were so excited about his promotion- and if he wants to make a positive mark on his league, then taking away a team’s incentives to lose would be a great place to start. It is incredibly disappointing that in a year where LeBron and Durant are finally realizing their version of Bird vs. Magic, so much emphasis is being placed on not just losing, but intentional losing. Something has to change.
One-and-Done – Apparently, Kevin McHale has the ear of Adam Silver. When Silver needed a trusted voice on the matter of one-and-done college players, he turned to McHale.
“You can bring up Kevin Garnett, you can bring up Kobe (Bryant),” McHale said. “(But) those guys in their first few years, they struggled a little bit. Everybody does (struggle). I agree, there are exceptions to every rule. But I just think that overall, it would help the college game. It would help the pro game. I think you’d see more of a carryover when you see guys in college for three years. I think they’d be more mature, mentally and physically, to come in and handle the NBA grind. That’s just my opinion.
I agree with McHale. For every Moses Malone there are three Kwame Brown’s. Not every kid that comes into the NBA is going to have the 30-year old powerlifter-body that LeBron had. Most 18 year-old’s need to develop their bodies and game before they can survive the grind of the NBA.
But where I disagree with McHale is that the NBA should care about the college game. Besides competing for ratings with the NCAA for much of the NBA schedule, the Association is missing out on a chance to develop their own talent. College basketball is often called the minor leagues for future NBA players. But with a minor league system already in place, why does the league allow another institution to cut into their market? As with most things, Mark Cuban is way ahead of the game.
“I think what will end up happening — and this is my opinion, not that of the league — is if the colleges don’t change from the one-and-done, we’ll go after the one,” Cuban said. “The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there’s absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he’s not going to class [and] he’s actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.”
“You don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to pretend. A major college has to pretend that they’re treating them like a student-athlete, and it’s a big lie and we all know it’s a big lie. At least at most schools, not all. … But we can put more of an emphasis on their education. We can plan it out, have tutors. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn’t allow schools to do that would really put the individual first”
I’m a big proponent of the idea that college sports, but especially college basketball, are a scam built on the backs of teenagers to make individuals and universities rich without properly reimbursing the athletes. It’s why Jalen Rose and the rest of the Fab Five refused to wear Wolverine warmups before games – Nike, the university, the coaching staff and school officials – everyone but the players were getting a cut of the money that wasn’t there before they showed up. And it’s why I think Cuban might be onto something.
The NBA should be doing everything in its power to draw high-school kids towards the D-League, especially if it wants to raise the age restriction for draftees. It is incredibly hypocritical of the league to tell generally poor young men that they aren’t ready to make a living in their field and must spend 2-3 years of their short careers plying their trade for free. Simply raising the standard salary of D-League players or allowing for negotiated contracts for players drafted into the D-League would not only attract young talent, but it would introduce players to the pro-game at a more reasonable pace and give the NBA greater control over the future of its talent. It would allow players access to pro-style coaching, give them a professional environment without all the pressure of saving a franchise as high lottery pick and put a little money in their pocket while they mature into NBA-ready talent.
The hypocrisy of the NCAA has been laid many times before. The NBA should be doing what it can to strengthen their own league, not helping college basketball.
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Tonight Rockets became 7th team to reach 40-win mark this season. Starting Tuesday with Miami, 5 of next 7 games against teams w/ 40+ wins.
— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) March 2, 2014
Coming into tonight, Harden had faced 81 post-up possessions per Synergy, conceding .481 points per possession (97th percentile) 24.1 FG%.
— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) March 2, 2014