Category Archives: Positions

1.  Let’s put this one on the table at the outset… I have a man-crush on Chris Paul.  And I ain’t ashamed to say it.

2.  I’m all types of confused after watching the Knicks a bunch recently.  When they traded for Carmelo, every article I read about the trade said that they DID NOT TRADE Landry Fields.  Yet, I’ve watched a whole bunch of Knicks games since the trade and haven’t seen him do a single thing.  I mean, there’s a guy on the court wearing a Fields jersey, running around and sweating, but that guy doesn’t attack the rim, doesn’t crash the boards, and doesn’t even play good defense.  It’s really quite baffling.  It’s like something got into the guy’s head, and took away his mojo.  Reminds me of whatever-it-is-that-happened-to-LeBron-in-the-middle-of-last-year’s-series-against-Boston.  I hope Delonte West had nothing to do with this.

3.  The evidence is in, and it’s quite clear: knees are overrated.  Yup.  DeJuan Blair has no ACL in either knee, yet is an effective player on the #1 seeded team out West.  Brandon Roy has fallen from superstar status to a bench player because of crippling knee injuries, yet, there he was the other day, carrying his team to victory.  And, all season, I’ve been listening to The Sports Guy on his podcast talk about how unimaginably big Chris Paul’s knee brace is when seen in person, and how Paul’s shelf-life as a star PG is limited.  All CP3 has done is lead the overmatched Hornets to a 2-2 tie against the two-time defending champions.

4.  Have I mentioned yet how amazing Chris Paul is?

5.  One of the most misused terms is “role player,” and the problem with the term is used is clearly illustrated by this year’s New York Knicks.  People refer to Carmelo, Amar’e, Chauncey, and a bunch of “role players.”  But that’s inaccurate; there are hardly any true role players on the roster.  I guess Douglas could be a player whose role is to come off the bench, harass the opponent’s PG, and knock down some 3’s.  But when he’s asked to lead the offense at the PG – as he often is – he’s not in that role. What role has Landry Fields been filling?  Early in the season, he did a bunch of things — including grab more rebounds per game than any other guard in the league.  Recently, he hasn’t filled any role.  There’s nobody whose role is to control the paint and the glass – this is theoretically what Turiaf does, but he doesn’t actually do it.  Shawne Williams is a 6’9″ forward who attempts more than 3 three-point shots per game, and pulls down fewer than 4 rebounds per game. I guess that’s a “role,” but it’s not a role that winning teams bother to fill.

To make the point clearer, think of the great Bulls teams.  Dennis Rodman was a role player — a phenomenal one, but a role player — whose job was to rebound and play defense.  Steve Kerr couldn’t rebound or play defense, but that was fine because his role was to shoot.  Bill Cartwright wasn’t much of an outside shooter, but that was fine because his role was to operate near the rim.

Basically, there’s a difference between guys who are role players and guys who just aren’t that good.  Two superstars and the right mix of role players can be a very good team.  Two superstars and a bunch of guys who just aren’t that good isn’t going very far.

 

 

 

2 Comments:

  • ZackNovakJr.

    Thinking about role players is interesting. Boston got it right when it found Rondo and Perkins to complement their 3 stars. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem that Miami has found what it needs. I think of role players as guys who are useful because they do one or two things really well, but don’t have enough other skills to become stars. The key is putting a role player in a position to succeed – a situation where he is asked to do what he is good at and not asked to do what he is not good at. The Pistons asked Ben Wallace to rebound a play D – that worked and Wallace was great. Team USA asked him to score – that didn’t and Wallace looked like a guy who would have had trouble in the NBDL. Now thinking about Landry Fields, I don’t see what his one or two things that he does really well are. He’s ok at everything, but great at nothing. I think he was just lucky to fall into a situation on pre-Carmelo Knicks where his hustle and team play were valued and his skills were secondary. Carmelo changed the vibe on the Knicks. Team play isn’t the priority anymore, the individual is what’s valued now. The Knicks are about getting Carmelo his shots and A’mare his, and then worrying about the team after that. In this new environment, where Fields best skills are no longer valued, he’s lost and thus no longer a useful role player. If Fields can find a team that needs a hustle player or “glue” guy, he may still make it in the NBA.

  • Tweener

    Good stuff, Novak. I generally agree with you, up to your comment that, on the current Knicks “team play isn’t the priority, the individual is what’s valued now.” I don’t think we can test that statement until we see what the Knicks look like after surrounding Carmelo and Amar’e with the right kinds of role players (e.g. a center who rebounds and blocks shots on D, and operates down low on offense, a shooting guard who can shoot, and a healthy point guard who creates good shots for his ‘mates).

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As all 3 of my devoted readers know, I have blogged frequently about how LeBron’s teammates in Cleveland were good enough to win a title with, and a bit less frequently about the flaws with the current Miami Heat roster (give me time, we’re only 25% through the season).  After all that blogging, I knew, as I watched the Heat put a beating on the Cavs last week, that I had some ‘splanin’ to do.  So, let me ‘splain…

In this posting, I talked about the importance of having players in the appropriate “slot” on their rosters, and said that the fortunes of a few teams in today’s NBA make more sense when seen through that prism.  (Apologies to those who were eagerly awaiting this follow-up; I said I’d elaborate on the point in my “next posting,” and then my next posting wound up being about Jim Boeheim.  Sorry.)

The Heat and the Cavs are two clear illustrations of what I’m trying to say.  I’ll start with the Cavs, who looked dreadful — not because they don’t have good players on the team, but because each player is playing one or two “slots” ahead of where he belongs.

To quickly go down the roster: Mo Williams is not capable of being the best player on a good NBA team.  But he’s perfectly adequate to be the second best player on a contender.  (Some people scoff at this, I know.  But they’re wrong.  Mo Williams is comparable to Jason Richardson, Vince Carter, and Roy Hibbert, each of whom is the second-best player on a playoff contending team.)  If Antawn Jamison is your second-best player, you’re in bad shape, but you could scrape by with him as your third-best.  Anderson Varejao was one of the best fourth-best-players in the league, and J.J. Hickson is a capable fifth-best player.  But, as the third and fourth best guys on a team, they are average at best.  Guys on the Cavs’ bench, like Daniel Gibson and Ramon Sessions, can play quality minutes on a good team, but can’t be expected to get an otherwise-deficient team over the hump.

Basically, the Cavs are one superstar away from having the pieces in place to be a competitor.  In other words, they were good enough to win with LeBron.  To be fair, I think they needed an upgrade in the third-best player slot, bumping Jamison to fourth and Varejao to fifth, in order to be dominant.  But, as far as holes on a roster go, a team that only needs an upgrade in the 3rd slot to be dominant is right in the mix of things.  So… just because they got pounded by the Heat, and looked hapless in the process, doesn’t prove that LeBron’s supporting cast in Cleveland wasn’t good enough to win with.

Then there’s the Heat, one of the most interesting experiments with an NBA roster that I can remember.  It’s not clear who the #1 guy is, because they have two #1 guys. Having LeBron and Wade in the top two “slots” on your roster has a chance to work simply because of the combined talent; they might  just be talented enough to overcome the fact that neither of them is really suited to be a “second” guy on any team.  And Bosh might one day become a capable “third” guy, but he has no track record of doing that.  All he’s ever been is the best guy on a terrible team.

After that, it gets ugly, especially with their current injuries.  Mario Chalmers is not good enough to be the fourth best guy on a championship team.  Joel Anthony, well, he’s not even a rotation player on a championship team!

The key here is Mike Miller.  In terms of talent, he’s clearly good enough to be the “fourth” guy on a championship team.  And, because he’s such a good spot-up shooter — capable of making a big impact while having the ball in his hands for only one or two seconds per possession if his teammates are creating good looks for him — his game is suited to be the fourth best guy on a very good team.

But there’s no guarantee that Miller will make this team much better.  For starters, he can’t do anything to change the fact that only one of the “top 3” guys on the team is in the “slot” where he belongs.  And, getting back to the earlier point about having guys on the floor who fill traditional roles on a basketball team (which I blogged about here), it’s not clear to me that a lineup of James, Wade, Bosh, and Miller is capable of greatness.  Sure, they’re talented enough to consistently beat about 85% of the teams in the league.  But what about teams with an excellent point guard and big man?  I just don’t see how that lineup stops Parker and Duncan, CP3 and West, Rose and Boozer, or Rondo and KG with any regularity.

More on that over the next few weeks, I’m sure.

2 Comments:

  • your momma

    The knicks beat down reminded me of another NY beat down – when the Jets talked trash to the Patriots and got their butts handed to them – similar to the Knicks and the Heat. Did people forget that Lebron is the best regular season player in the NBA – I know Knicks fans will know that after the game. The knicks put up a good fight for the first half but the cream always rises to the top. I think Big Z had at least three blocks and D. Wade who is maybe 6’4″ got a big block on your premiere big man. Landry fields is a letter shy of what Cubans refer to as ropa vieja. Keep balling and keep your heads up Knicks fans – hopefully as much as all of you don’t want to admit it – you need Melo to become a top tier team.

  • TeesteBon

    Just popping in to say nice site.

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