Tag Archives: Memphis Grizzlies

Everyone’s wrong but me.

Yup. It’s true. Everyone’s wrong but me.  That’s why the number of people who read this blog has increased from 3 people to 4 people.  Because I’m really crushing it over here.  Cru shing it.

As the kids say… HOLLA! (The kids still say that, right?)

Back to the matter at hand.

To be clear, it’s not that other people are wrong about everything and I’m right about everything. If that were the case, I’d probably have more than 4 readers, and maybe even an advertiser or 2.

It’s just that other people are wrong about one particular thing, and it’s an important thing.  So, congrats to all 4 of you – you’re about to learn something that nobody else knows!

Every time I hear people speculate about which free agents are going where, I hear some version of this argument: “Big markets don’t have an advantage over small markets. Superstars can play in Oklahoma City and still make the same money they’d make in bigger markets, like New York or L.A.”  The “thinking” behind this argument – to the extent that “thinking” is the proper way to describe it – is that with the explosion of social media, and the easy access to NBA games for fans across the country, there’s no difference between being in a tiny market and a huge market, when measuring the earning potential of star free agents.

Certainly, social media and the easy access to NBA games for fans across the country have reduced the advantage big markets have over small markets, in terms of advertising money a star player can make.  But, here’s the thing that only I – and now the 4 of you – seem to realize…

Since this fundamental change in the social media / cable television landscape, the extent to which superstars have been in small markets, as opposed to big markets, is a statistical fluke.  If this statistical fluke ever corrects itself, and superstars wind up in big markets at least as often as we’d expect them to if they were randomly assigned to teams, I think there’s a whole new level of popularity the game can reach.  It follows that there’s a whole new level of advertising dollars available to star players, if those star players begin gravitating to big markets rather than small markets.

To dig into that a bit, let’s look at data from the previous 5 seasons.  The classifications of “big market” teams and “small market” teams can be a bit fluid.  For purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on both the population of the city in which the team plays, and also the team’s historical pedigree.  So, even if Phoenix and Philadelphia have close to the same population, let’s say that the Sixers’ history over generations – with long-time fans of many ages, as well as more fans dispersed across the country –  makes them more of a “big market” team with an established fan base than the Suns. The Sixers had Wilt, and the Suns had Larry Nance.  With all due respect to Larry Nance, Wilt’s numbers were much more impressive. (I’m talking about his numbers ON the court. What were you thinking about?)

From there, it’s not so controversial to say we’ll look at these four teams as our big market teams: Knicks (largest city), Lakers (2nd largest city), Bulls (3rd largest city), and Sixers (6th largest city), and we’ll look at these five teams as our small market teams: Cavaliers (51st largest city), Thunder (27th, with only a few years in OKC), Blazers (26th largest city), and Grizzlies (25th largest city, with a pedigree of being an expansion team which was born during the 1990’s in Vancouver, and subsequently moved to Memphis).  This is not an exact classification of the 4 biggest market teams and the 4 smallest market teams, but it’s probably quite close, and it allows for a discussion that isn’t skewed by the overwhelming recent success of the Warriors and Spurs – neither of which is a clear “big market” or “small market” team. [Population statistics here, if you don’t believe me.]

How have those teams done during the previous 5 playoffs?

Knicks: won 0 playoff series

Sixers: won 1 playoff series, in ‘18.

Bulls: won 1 playoff series, in ‘15

Lakers: won 0 playoff series

Cavaliers: won 3 in ‘18, 3 in ‘17, 4 in ‘16, 3 in ’15 – total of 13

Thunder: won 2 in ‘16, and 2 in ’14 – total of 4

Blazers: won 1 in ‘16, and 1 in ’14 – total of 2

Grizzlies: won 1 in ‘15. [Last 5 playoff brackets available here, if you don’t believe me: ’18, ‘17, ‘16, ’15, ’14.]

That’s a total of 2 playoff wins in the past 5 seasons for the big-market teams and 20 playoff wins in the past 5 seasons for the small-market teams.  The Cavaliers skew the numbers, but even if we drop them and also the “winningest” big-market team from the discussion, that’s 1 win for the big guys and 7 for the little guys.

The point is simple: playoff wins recently have been heavily skewed towards small market teams. If talent was randomly assigned each year to the 30 teams, the big-market teams would have done much better over the previous 5 years than they actually did. So, when people tell you that “because of social media, a player can be as popular in OKC as in NY,” they don’t know what they’re talking about.  We can’t know that to be true until we see the Knicks and Lakers start winning as much as the Thunder and Cavs have been winning.  I humbly submit that if Russ and PG were on the Knicks instead of the Thunder, they’d be selling a whole lot more sneakers, and they’d be much more valuable to Nike than they have been so far. By being more valuable to Nike, they would get paid more by Nike, and, just like that, would be making more money in a big market than they were able to make in a small market.  Ya know – the thing everyone else says doesn’t happen.

So, in conclusion… Mr. Durant, sir… If you happen to be reading this blog post, please take notice!  There’s a whole new level to your popularity that hasn’t been tapped into yet.  If you come to New York, you can help your legacy, raise your profile, elevate the popularity of your league, and make a whole lot more money than you can make anywhere else.

I can’t quite guarantee it, but I assure that all 4 readers of this blog will be more than happy to buy themselves new KD sneakers if you come to NY. Just give us a chance to show you!

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The rant developing deep in my soul continues to take shape.  It now has some words, but no sentences yet.  Lots of numbers, though.  Lots and lots of numbers.

For starters, some numbers about the Miami Heat… The Heat were were well positioned to compete for a championship before LeBron signed.  Last year, they finished 47-35, good for 5th in the East, carried almost entirely by Dwyane Wade.  Their second-leading scorer was – I kid you not – Michael Beasley, at 14.8 ppg.  Their third-leading scorer was – I couldn’t make this up if I tried – Jermaine O’Neal, at 13.6 ppg.  (Complete stats here, in case you’re interested.)

Yes, Jermaine O’Neal.  The same Jermaine O’Neal, who, as the 5th guy in the Celtics starting 5, constituted their weakest link.  He was the third leading scorer on the Heat last year.  Yet, they were 47-35, because Dwyane Wade is Just That Damn Good.

The Heat team of last year, though, is not the team that LeBron joined.  No.  He joined a significantly better version.  See, before LeBron signed with the Heat, they had already signed Chris Bosh.  Bosh had just completed five straight seasons of averaging more than 22 ppg, and two straight seasons of averaging more than 10 rpg.  (Stats here.)

In other words, a team that was 47-35 had retained its superstar, Wade, and had upgraded from Michael Beasley to Chris Bosh – a legitimate star (I’ve knocked him before, but he’s probably one of the top 30 players in the game, and is, unquestionably, significantly better than Michael Beasley).  They were clearly on their way to a 50-win season.  That’s before LeBron came on board.

Generally, this point of a discussion about LeBron is about the time when LeBron defenders say something like “Well, all championship teams have multiple great players.  Magic had Kareem and Worthy, Bird had McHale and Dennis Johnson.  Michael had Scottie.  LeBron isn’t getting more help than those guys got.”

This is line of thinking is, um… what’s the word???? Oh, yeah… ASSININE.  That’s the one.

Let’s get specific.  We’ll start with Magic, and the notion that the help he got from Kareem and Worthy was the same as the help LeBron is getting from Wade and Bosh.  Kareem, whose greatness is undeniable, was injured during the 1979-80 Finals, and Magic, then a rookie, turned in one of the legendary performances in NBA history, going for 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists.  (Details here, in case you want them.)  I’m not saying that Magic carried the team that season, I’m just pointing out that one of his defining games came without Kareem.  By the time Magic won his fifth title in the ’87-88 season, the tall dude lumbering around the court in a jersey that said “Abdul-Jabbar” on the back averaged less than 15 points and played less than 29 minutes per game.  (Kareem’s stats here.)

As for Worthy, Magic had already won two titles before Worthy got drafted.  You’re familiar with the legendary North Carolina team that won the ’82 NCAA Championship with Jordan, Perkins, and Worthy, right?  Well, that was the season Magic won his second NBA title.  So don’t waste my time with the “Magic had Worthy” nonsense.

Now let’s talk about Bird.  Yes, he had McHale.  You know how many points and rebounds McHale averaged in 1980-81, the year of Bird’s first championship?  Guess.  What do you think, 15 and 8?  Lower.  12 and 6?  Lower.  10 and 4?  Yup.  (Check here, if you want details.)  On the ’83-’84 championship team, Bird averaged more than 5 points per game more than the next highest scorer on the team (Robert Parish), AND he had 182 assists more than the next best passer on the team (Dennis Johnson).  (Go look here, if you want.)

Translation, for those who aren’t interested in numbers: Bird carried a much larger share of the burden for the Celtics than LeBron carries for the Heat.  It’s not even close.

That brings us to Michael.  Actually, we’ll save that for tomorrow.  The contrast between what Michael did and what LeBron is doing is so stark that it deserves its own post.

For now, to close this portion of the statistical analysis, I simply note that, while it’s true that Magic and Larry had multiple great teammates, it’s also true that there were fewer teams back then, diluting the talent in the league.  The talent around Magic and Larry only seems comparable to the talent around LeBron if someone looks at them all in a vacuum.  But when one looks at the talent around those guys relative to the talent on the other best teams, it becomes clear that the Celtics and Lakers were not ready to compete for a title without Larry and Magic.

Back then, Raptors were an extinct species of dinosaur, not a mediocre team in Toronto.  Wolves, Grizzlies, and Bobcats were running around the jungle, but they weren’t diluting the talent pool in the NBA.  The Hornets, Magic, and Heat weren’t around yet, either.

In today’s game, where Dwayne Wade and a bunch of spare parts is good enough to win 47 games, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together is a championship contender, and, with the right role players, possibly even one of the top favorites.  Without LeBron.

No more for now.  Tomorrow, MJ.







1 Comment:

  • Jones

    Great post- really enjoyed the information, compares & contrasts to the old greats- especially ShowTime Magic. The extra link of Laker history was the best I’ve ever read.

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