By: Sean Golonka
Before you jump all over me for copying Zach Lowe, I’d just like to say that I give full credit to Lowe for the inspiration for this. His weekly “10 things I like and don’t like” column is one of my favorite reads, and Lowe is without a doubt one of the best sports writers out there.
With that being said, this piece is distinctly different from anything that Lowe has ever written under the guise of that column.
Lowe, in his column, writes about NBA things that he likes and does not like. I, however, am full of passion. And so, this is going to be a piece about NBA things that I love and hate, rather than like and not like.
Now, there are a couple of explanations for why my column will differ in such a way from Lowe’s. Perhaps my emotions about the NBA run deeper than Lowe’s, which is why I love and hate certain NBA things, while Lowe simply likes and does not like them. Or perhaps the 41-year-old Lowe has been worn down by the many hardships of life, leading to him being somewhat dispassionate compared to my youthful and spry self.
Either way, it’s 10 things time:
- Jimmy Butler, the teammate
On September 19th, weeks before the NBA season even began, Jimmy Butler requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Before he was finally traded to the Philadelphia 76ers on November 12th, almost two months after his initial request, his relationship devolved into absolute madness.
I’m sure you’ve heard or read about most of what happened, but without diving too far into Butler’s defiance of Glen Taylor and Tom Thibodeau or his demasculinization of Karl-Anthony Towns, just know that Butler has been a truly horrible teammate.
Sure, the drama and humor provided by the Butler situation is appreciated by all NBA fans, including myself, but if this guy really cares about winning and nothing else, he sure doesn’t show it.
Butler has sat out of games randomly this season for reasons as absurd as “general soreness,” and with Butler seemingly more concerned with screwing the T-Wolves over than actually helping them win games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the fiasco continue in Philly.
The Sixers are already dealing with two stars whose styles of play don’t entirely coexist and getting rid of two generally good glue guys for a vicious star, who could add fire to the already flammable situation, might backfire badly for a team looking to contend in the East.
Still though, I do look forward to the inevitable story about Jimmy Butler bullying Markelle Fultz off the team, after the former number one pick misses five straight free throws in practice.
- Carmelo Anthony, the teammate
People really, really love to hate on Carmelo Anthony. I mean they hate him so much that they don’t even think he should be in the NBA. And with the Melo-era coming to a close in Houston, it is easy to see why.
The former college national champion has never won anything significant in the NBA. He played subpar basketball in his last year in New York, in his one year in OKC, and in his ten games with Houston this year.
This year though, Anthony is putting up 13.4 and 5.4 on 51.3% true shooting, while Gordon Hayward is averaging 9.9 and 5.5 with 49.5% true shooting. So maybe this isn’t the best comparison because Hayward is deserving of a lot of criticism right now.
But Carmelo Anthony certainly doesn’t deserve to be the scapegoat for the Rockets’ problems, when Harden, Paul, Capela, and everyone else is struggling mightily, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
- The greatest system player ever
Move over Tom Brady, the real greatest system player in professional sports is a man named Stephen Curry.
Through 12 games, Curry was averaging a league-high 29.5 points a game to go along with six dimes and 52/49/92 shooting splits. But after going down with a left adductor strain, Quinn Cook got the start on Sunday night against the Nets.
And Cook responded to the opportunity with pure ferocity, putting up 27 points and 5 assists on 69/60/100 shooting, to go along with a +/- of +16. Honestly, Cook looked as good Curry does on an average night.
Beyond Cook playing like the Chef, we’ve seen Curry’s team win championships in three out of the last four years, despite Curry not winning a single Finals MVP in any of those chips. Looking at all the evidence, I couldn’t help but ask: is Steph Curry simply the greatest system player ever?
He obviously has a great system that is suited to use someone with his strengths well. He’s got a great coach. He’s surrounded by elite shooters. He’s playing alongside an arguably better player in Kevin Durant. So, where would Steph Curry be without the Warriors’ system?
(Please, don’t freak out. Obviously Quinn Cook could never take over a game like Steph and drop over 50 in three quarters. But, it is still clear that Steph is not the best Curry brother, as Seth actually leads the NBA with a spectacular net rating of 18.5)
- Myles Turner is slowing down the Pacers
Right now, the Pacers are playing tremendous basketball. Victor Oladipo looks like he might be the best guard in the East. The team is 8-6 and playing elite defense.
And yet, they are faced with a conundrum, Sabonis or Turner? Fortunately, the answer is quite clear, even if they are reluctant to realize it because of the $80 million they just handed Myles Turner.
This year, Turner is averaging 10.9 points (the lowest since his rookie year) and 4.8 boards (the lowest of his career), as well as 48.4% shooting (the second lowest of his career). Turner is also slowing the offense even more than usual with his pace rating coming in at 424th of all 433 NBA players to have at least stepped on the court this season.
Meanwhile, Sabonis looks fantastic. Sure, his defense might not be quite as good, but Sabonis is averaging 14 and 9, as well as a couple of assists, with elite 68% shooting from the floor. And Sabonis is cooking defenders in the post with beautiful footwork and up-and-unders.
The Pacers simply can’t justify playing these two bigs at the same time for lengthy stretches, and that means Sabonis should definitely be getting more minutes than Turner, instead of Turner playing about three more minutes a game.
- Sharpshooting Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez isn’t exactly a notorious three point shooter. He made three 3’s through the first eight seasons of his career. And the last two seasons, as he’s picked up shooting from beyond the arc, he still shot under 35 percent from deep.
This year, Lopez has looked Lillard-esque at times. Sure, he isn’t consistently scoring at a high level. But, he has had some spectacular performances this year.
He shot 5-11 from three in a game against the Sixers, 6-10 from three against the Blazers, 6-12 from three against the Clippers, and, most recently, 8-13 from deep against the Nuggets. And in that Nuggets game, Lopez was making some truly absurd threes, including a couple that came a couple steps past the logo.
With all those performances together, Lopez is now shooting 41 percent from three-point land on the season, which makes the Giannis-led Bucks an even more dangerous threat out East.
- John Wall, a fake hustler
This is one of the most frustrating things in all of professional basketball.
John Wall is a speed demon. He’s the prince to LeBron’s king in terms of chase down blocks. He’s an unstoppable force of nature on the break. He could literally run right through you, if he wanted. No one can match him in both speed and ferocity, though Russell Westbrook comes close. Wall is capable of literally becoming lightning.
And yet, he ranks third to last in the league in average speed on the court, right next to the lumbering Marc Gasol and stagnant Timberwolf Jeff Teague. This isn’t a new trend, as he ranked bottom six in the same stat last year. But, it’s something that needs to stop.
Wall’s lack of movement is not an insignificant part of the Wizards’ problems. And even though he ranks near the top in defelections, that is really only because he sits in passing lanes barely moving.
His laziness is even more apparent when compared to his less athletic teammate Bradley Beal. Beal is top 10 in charges drawn, while Wall rarely moves in the way of defenders. Beal is almost a whole contest ahead of Wall in contested shots a game. Even when it comes to box outs a game, Beal has six times as many as Wall.
Wall has the speed to be a far more active defender, but Scott Brooks, or perhaps a new coach, needs to light a fire under Wall to become that player.
- Dwyane Wade with the clamps (holding players to 2.2/7.4 29.9%)
Dwyane Wade made three different All-Defensive Second Teams between 2005 and 2010. In recent years though, the future Hall-of-Fame shooting guard has seen a decline in his defense, as his effort and legs have waned.
This year though, Wade has one of the most surprising stats of the season. As the primary defender, Wade is holding opposing shooters to an insane 2.2 makes on 7.4 shots per game, which equated to a 29.9% shooting percentage.
Some of that is no doubtedly luck, but the 36-year-old is doing a nice job of pressuring shooters and forcing not-so-clean shots. And no matter how it’s getting done, the stat is just very shocking alone.
Another theory, Wade’s opponents simply don’t want to embarrass the legendary guard by making it rain on him in his final season in the league.
- Pascal Siakam deserves your attention
Even if you’re casual fan, I’m sure Pascal Siakam is beginning to enter your radar in some sort of way. And even if you don’t know who Siakam is, you’ll know who he is now because he needs to get some attention in this column.
The 6-9, 24-year-old Raptors big, who before the season was rightfully getting some Draymond Green comparisons, is currently putting up 13 and 7 on 63% shooting, and he’s top five in the league with an average +/- of over 10.
But Siakam provides so much more outside the box score. He’s an efficient passer. He’s a prolific defender, who can occasionally wreak some havoc in the passing lanes. And he’s even good for an open three about every other game.
The budding star just won Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 20 points on 72% shooting and helping the Raptors stay atop the East with a 12-1 record. So look out NBA fans because Pascal Siakam is going to keep making headlines all year long,
- The Dallas-Dennis love affair
Luka Doncic is very unsurprisingly quite amazing. The former Euroleague MVP is averaging 20.3-6.5-4.5 with 49/40/76 splits. He is playing tremendous basketball for a rookie.
But unfortunately someone is spoiling it for him, at least to a certain degree. Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavs number nine pick in 2017, is unsurprisingly getting a great deal of minutes because the team isn’t exactly overflowing with talent. But Smith is putting up deceptive numbers, while playing bad team basketball.
Yeah, 15-3-4 with above 41% shooting from deep is impressive, if you’re merely watching box scores. But, the Mavs are getting outscored by about five points-per-game with DSJ on the floor, which is worse than every Mavs player besides the injured Harrison Barnes.
Smith plays hero ball that is detrimental to Doncic’s and the Mavs’ progress as a team. And he is very reckless, with an assist to turnover ratio barely above one.
All this means that something needs to change. And while the second year player is still obviously very talented, some more lineups with Doncic and without Smith need to be run out by this Mavs team.
- City appreciation
Bold take (?), the NBA City Edition jerseys are the best set of alternate uniforms the league has ever introduced.
There are of course a couple duds in the bunch, like the Sixers and Knicks’ ugly ones. But, this is a smash hit. Paying homage to the cities in which the teams are based is a wonderful idea that was executed beautifully with the Nets’ homage to Biggie and the Bulls’ inclusion of the Chicago stars.
And most importantly, a lot of the jerseys are just pure fire. The Wolves’ city jerseys are sexy and flashy. The Nuggets are clean and are begging to be bought (by me). And the Heat’s Miami Vice jerseys and court are one of the greatest things to happen in NBA history. The hot pink, cyan, and black just blend together so magnificently.