I’ve already had much to say about The Answer, and want to move onto other topics soon. After all, he is a 34-year-old who is unlikely to have an impact on the championship race.
But, now that he’s signed, it’s worth reflecting on what the process we just witnessed tells us about the NBA. As I see it, it illustrates two things that I believe to be true about the league: (1) that lots of players get overrated, and (2) too many teams are overly cautious about their personnel moves.
Regarding the first point, it was almost surreal to watch basketball commentators debate the merits of signing him. This discussion was particularly crazy. ESPN’s “panel of experts” debated six questions about the Iverson signing. One of those questions was whether Iverson should start, and, if he should start now, “what about when Lou Williams returns?”
Forgive my ignorance, but who the hell is Lou Williams? Apparently, he was a second round pick in 2005. Last year, his fourth season in the league, he averaged 12.8 points and 3 assists. That’s mediocre at best. Yet, at least some “experts” think that this guy is worth starting over AI. Most teams in the league thought that they had no spot in their starting lineups for AI, which leads to point number 2: Too many teams are overly cautious about their personnel moves.
At any moment, there are approximately 6 – 10 teams that have a legitimate chance to contend immediately. Right now, the list includes Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta, the Lakers, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, and San Antonio. For the sake of argument, let’s expand it to include Miami and Portland. That’s 11 teams.
And, at any moment, there are approximately 4-6 teams that have a legitimate reason to think that they’re going to become contenders within the next 2 or 3 years, either because they have great young talent or because they expect to have lots of salary cap space soon. Right now, the teams with multiple exciting young players include Chicago, Oklahoma City, and the Clippers. As I already blogged, I’m not sold on Brandon Jennings, but for now let’s assume that he’s the Second Coming, and include Milwaukee on the list. Even though I have trouble thinking of the Knicks or the Nets as teams that should be excited about their futures, let’s include them on the list because of the money they will have to spend on free agents. That’s 6 teams.
Between those two lists, 17 teams are covered. There are 30 teams in the league, meaning that 13 of them are not on either list. With the exception of Philly, those teams all chose to stay the course rather than role the dice on a guy like THE ANSWER.
Granted, there is reason to worry about the influence that Iverson has on a team, and reason to question whether he’ll “get with the program.” I get it. I think we can all agree that he has had a Hall of Fame caliber career, and that he can sometimes be a disruptive force on a team. I acknowledge this. But, I think we can also agree that there are plenty of guys in the league who can be a disruptive force on a team, and that teams are generally willing to sign them if the potential positives are likely to outweigh the potential negatives. Maybe it’s a close call, but to think that nearly all of the teams in the league decided they’re better off without him strikes me as ridiculous.