Thursday, May 24, 2007

Random NBA Lottery Thoughts

-Unsurprisingly, one of the main themes of the reaction to the lottery is how one of the league great fan bases - the Celtics' - was snakebitten again, but it shouldn't overshadow the fact that another great fan base, in Portland, has now been completely revitalized. Not only are they compiling an impressive base of young talent, but with guys like Roy, Aldridge and now Oden/Durant, the specter of the "Jail Blazers" is finally gone, and the unique bond between players and fans that's historically existed in Portland may well get restored.

-I respect the passion and the pain coming out of Boston, but really, the odds that the C's would end up with Duncan or Oden/Durant were relatively small in the first place. I know that failing to win the Duncan lottery was a big blow, but I don't think it's "doomed" the franchise nearly as much as gross front-office mismanagement has.

-Again, I respect the passion and the pain, but this kind of stuff from Bob Ryan is on the far side of insufferable. With the introduction of the C-word, Celtics fans have officially become the new Red Sox fans.

-With the chatter that Portland might not automatically take Oden, you start to realize that how the 1-2 picks end up going could really have major repercussions on how the entire offseason transpires. Take a look:

If Portland takes Oden...
For the Blazers, you'd have to think that Zach Randolph is a goner, and that they'll be prime players in the hunt for Rashard Lewis.

Meanwhile, if Seattle gets Durant, you'd have to think Rashard is gone - hopefully, from the Supes' perspective, in a sign-and-trade (for Z-Bo, maybe?).

If Portland takes Durant...
Here's where things get a little more interesting. From the Blazers' perspective, you'd no longer be after Rashard, and would probably keep Zach. This is kind of what it could come down to for Portland: do you want Oden and Rashard, or Durant and Randolph? Personally, I think I prefer the former.

If the Sonics were to get Oden, I think you'd actually want to try to go younger - maybe keep Rashard and look to deal Ray Allen for that reason? Then, you'd also have a nice chip in Robert Swift (I'm high on the young 7-footer). I'd at least try to see if he and Oden could play together, but in this smallball era, you'd probably want to deal Swift, and he'd probably bring back a quality piece or two in return, esp. b/c Seattle could afford to trade big-for-small at that point.

-I have to go on the record and say that I'm not a big believer in Yi Jianlian. While I'm impressed by his skills and athleticism as a seven-footer, I was really underwhelmed by his performance for China in the World Championships last year.

Check out China's team stats from the Worlds. Yi averaged 6.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 18 mpg - I know that those stats are not necessarily indicative of anything, but it was more than that. Yi just lacked a certain assertiveness. Team China has some of the worst guards in the history of the universe, and desperately needed someone on the perimeter to take charge as a complement to Yao, but Yi just kind of passively drifted through the tournament, occasionally making a play but never really becoming a factor at all. The real age matters so much in evaluating this kid: if he's 19, I like him as a prospect; if he's actually 22, not so much at all.

-I have to say that I really found Jerry West's comments about the lottery being "grossly unfair" to be fairly rich. As much as I respect The Logo as a talent evaluator, the bottom line is that the single biggest thing he did to build the recent Lakers three-peat was to pick up the phone in 1996 when Shaquille O'Neal's agent called to say that Shaq wanted to come to L.A (and ultimately accepted less money than Orlando offered). Was that particularly "fair" to the Magic, or the 27 other teams in the league, for that matter? I'm just saying. Merely being in L.A. put Jerry on the right side of fortune much more often than not.

-The worst thing about the lottery results to a non-partisan is that the Western Conference continues to get stronger and stronger. Even thought the East has won 2 of the last 3 titles, for most of the past decade, in my opinion, the most anticipated playoff matchup of the year has been in the Western Conference playoffs rather than the NBA Finals:

My Highly Subjective List of Most Anticipated/Best Marquee Playoff Matchups in Recent Years
2007: San Antonio-Phoenix, West Semis
2006: San Antonio-Dallas, West Semis
2005: Hard to say: SA-Det (Finals), Det-Mia (East Finals), SA-Pho (West Finals) were all close, with none being huge standouts
2004: L.A. Lakers-San Antonio, West Semis
2003: Prob L.A. Lakers-San Antonio, West Semis
2002: L.A. Lakers-Sacramento, West Finals
2001: L.A. Lakers-San Antonio, West Finals (though Finals matchup was somewhat compelling with Iverson in there, even though Philly was overmatched)
2000: L.A. Lakers-Portland, West Finals
1999: Hard to say, but prob "None" is the best answer in this lockout year....
1998: Chicago-Utah, NBA Finals

-For those of you who like to peddle in NBA conspiracy theories, please remember this last week. The league not only made a wildly unpopular decision which helped lead to a Spurs-Jazz TV ratings disaster, instead of rigging things for a Suns-Warriors series, but they also missed out on a golden opportunity to revitalize the Boston Celtics. Freeze-dried ping-pong balls apparently don't work. The NBA is not rigged.