Saturday, December 11, 2010

15 comments Bill Simmons Was Right, Yet Insists On Being Wrong

I have laid off Bill Simmons lately because he hasn't annoyed me as much as he used to. His columns have not been overly terrible and when he talks about the NBA, (which is what he is doing lately) generally he knows what he is talking about. In fact, I would call him an expert on the NBA and I am sure he would as well (which isn't saying much since Bill believes himself to be an expert on nearly anything he gives an opinion on).

Let's get this out of the way...Bill Simmons was right about the Greg Oden v. Kevin Durant "battle" in the 2007 Draft. He chose the right side. Durant was the right pick, there's no doubt at this point. Bill just can't be satisfied with only being right, he has to include a new chapter in his "Book of Basketball" paperback edition as one of his useless "what if" discussions about the Durant v. Oden pick.

So while acknowledging Bill was right about the Durant v. Oden argument, he gets off track a little bit in this posted excerpt on ESPN.com from his paperback version concerning the Durant v. Oden chapter of the book and this annoys me.

What if Portland had taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden?


Would Barack Obama had been elected President? Would the polar ice caps stop melting? How would this affect the war on terror? More importantly than any of these issues, Bill has updated his Hall of Fame pyramid, so please shell out more money to find out what kind of backhanded compliments he gives Kobe Bryant in this version of his book.

Here's what we knew about Oden heading into the 2007 Draft: owned Ewing-like potential as a rebounder and shotblocker

Here's what I know about Greg Oden going into the 2007 Draft: Bill Simmons watched maybe 2-3 of the games he played in. I just feel like this is true and I will show it is true based on statements about Oden's performance at Ohio State.

… struggled with a broken wrist during his freshman year at Ohio State

This is especially relevant given his history of knee problems in the NBA...wait, no it isn't. What it is relevant in discussing is whether Oden is just injury-prone or not, which he obviously is, but I wouldn't say a broken wrist necessary should be a concern to NBA GM's as far as future injuries are concerned.

… only played one "Wow!" game (the '07 NCAA Championship: 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks in defeat against Florida's Joakim Noah and Al Horford)

First off, this isn't true at all. I will show you that in just a minute. Second, assuming this is true isn't it a sign of a good player that in the biggest game of his entire career to that point he played the absolute best? Shouldn't this be an omen of positive things if Oden can go up against two lottery picks and solid NBA players and more than hold his own? I would think normally if a player played his absolute best on the biggest stage of his career, Bill Simmons would see this only as a positive. If Oden became a great NBA player, then this great game in the National Championship would show his potential in the NBA. Basically, some of Bill's analysis depends on the outcome. He wants us to believe Oden NEVER showed the ability to be the #1 overall pick, which is untrue.

Regardless, it isn't true this was the only "Wow" game of Oden's college career.

Here are some other "Wow" games that eluded Bill's apparent inability to do a search for Oden's Ohio State 2006-2007 season statistics:

December 30 against Coppin State: 18 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks.

January 13 against Tennessee: 24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks.

January 20 against Iowa: 29 points, 10 points, and 2 blocks.

January 24 against Northwestern: 17 points, 17 rebounds, 1 block.

February 3 against Michigan State: 16 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks.

March 9 against Michigan: 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks.

March 10 against Purdue: 17 points, 19 rebounds, 4 blocks.

There were other good games during the season where Oden posted a double-double. Remember, he was a freshman center. Freshmen centers aren't exactly known as a group of individuals who progress at a rapid rate out of high school. Sometimes it takes 1-2 years for a center in college to start putting up numbers like this and Oden did it immediately. Really, the only thing holding him back from being even better was the fact he committed fouls at a really alarming pace...which is another problem with freshmen centers.

So while acknowledging the best game of Oden's season may have been the Florida game, that was also the biggest game of his career at that point, and Oden had more "Wow" games (whatever the fuck those are) during the 2006-2007 season. Bill Simmons is incorrect in saying otherwise.

openly admitted that he didn't love basketball and once wanted to become a dentist …

Which naturally led to this lack of love for basketball turning into debilitating knee injuries that affected his career. See, Oden's knee knew he didn't like to play basketball so it just quit on him. Is that the explanation?

frightened everyone in Portland with a jittery pre-draft workout …

If there is anyone who doesn't trust a pre-draft workout then it is Bill Simmons. How many times did he joke about Yi Jianlian dribbling around chairs before the 2008 draft? I guess Portland wasn't scared enough of his pre-draft workout to back off drafting Oden, so the workout couldn't have been that bad.

looked and walked like a thirty-six-year-old man.

This isn't really a fact, but is based more on Simmons' perception of how Oden walked. He is turning his perception into fact. Oden performed fairly well during the brief time he was actually able to play in the NBA over the past three seasons. How old he looks really doesn't have much to do with anything. How he walks, probably could maybe predict future back problems, but this is still more of an observation than a fact.

Meanwhile, Durant lived and breathed basketball, became a national phenomenon during his only Texas season, crushed his Portland workout and had no conceivable offensive ceiling.

Which we know now. At that time, maybe this wasn't so much known. Who is to say Durant had the strength to score on NBA defenders? That was a question about Durant coming out of Texas. Every scouting report asked the question of whether he could bulk up or not. We know now that Durant had no conceivable offensive ceiling but at the time there were questions about whether about how adding muscle would affect his game. Obviously it didn't hurt him at all.

Throw in Portland's tortured history with fragile centers

Which is completely and utterly irrelevant, no matter who tries to tell you differently. Does this mean the Trail Blazers should never draft a center? Centers sometimes have injuries when they are younger. Oden's injury was a wrist injury, which wasn't indicative of knee problems in the future.

and, as the years pass, it's becoming harder to fathom that the Blazers willingly decided, "Screw the sure thing, let's take the big guy with uneven legs who played one great college game."

This is the revisionist history of this whole thing. Oden had more than one great college game. To insinuate that Oden was a player who had one good game and then skyrocketed up the draft board based on that one good game could not be more incorrect. Oden had plenty of good games at Ohio State.

Because we love revising history over time, owner Paul Allen and then-general manager Kevin Pritchard have been protected by the "Come on, anyone would have taken Oden, you always take a franchise center, it's not their fault he keeps getting injured" defense.

If anyone knows anything about revising history in this current discussion it is Bill Simmons. Yes, he was right about the Durant v. Oden argument, but he is wrong to suggest Oden wasn't a dominant college player. It's not enough for him to be right, Bill Simmons has to let everyone know they should have known he was right in 2007, when there were no obvious signs that Greg Oden's body would break down like it has.

That presumes Oden was considered a sure thing -- like Kareem, Ewing or Hakeem -- and ignores those six months everyone spent wondering about him before the 2007 Draft.

This script could easily be reversed and if Durant went first and averaged 8 points per game his first three years in the NBA then we would be saying we should have known a player who dominated on an above average (yet underachieving) Texas team would struggle scoring in the NBA because he didn't have the upper body strength.

I don't see how anyone could have wondered about Oden. He had a freak wrist injury that affected his play and he still dominated in college.

Like me, Boston GM Danny Ainge liked Durant as the top pick for one reason: Durant was the sure thing, not Oden. If you followed Durant in college (and Ainge fell head over heels for him, as did I), you knew about his work ethic, leadership, character and scoring DNA.

After reading this, let's see what Doc Rivers had to say on November of this year on this same issue...here's a key quote from Doc Rivers:

Had the Celtics landed the No. 1 pick, Rivers said, Oden would have been the choice.

"Even though everybody changes now, we were all for Oden, and I think 98 percent of the league,'' Rivers said. "But now I hear it all over our staff, I hear it everywhere, ‘Oh, no, we were Durant guys.' I don't believe that. I think we would have drafted Oden.''

Sounds like Rivers was under the impression Ainge didn't like Oden better. Bill could possibly be full of shit. If you follow college basketball, you would know Durant was a decent leader on that Texas team, but this also doesn't predict future NBA success. You would also know that a question about Durant was his work ethic in the weight room. That was pretty much THE question. So he had great work ethic on the court, but there is more to just that when it comes to playing in the NBA.

I thought Durant was a genetic freak: like Tracy McGrady crossed with Plastic Man, someone God created to make baskets and get to the line. Oden left you hoping he stayed healthy, hoping basketball would become more important to him, hoping his spotty college year wasn't an aberration,

"Spotty college year?" This is the biggest crock of shit I have read in a while. It's just a lie.

As a freshman, Greg Oden averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks in 29 minutes per game.

As a senior, Patrick Ewing averaged 14.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks in 31 minutes per game.

As a junior, Shaquille O' Neal averaged 24.1 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 5.2 blocks in 32 minutes per game.

As a senior, Tim Duncan averaged 20.8 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks in 37 minutes per game.

As a junior, Hakeem Olajuwon averaged 16.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.6 blocks in 34 minutes per game.

I'm not cherry picking either. Pick nearly any great center and then see what his college statistics were and compare them to Greg Oden's freshman year. They are scary comparable and if you project Oden to his junior/senior year he is very close to being on track with these players.

Oden's one year college career was not at all spotty. The numbers put up were on pace with college statistics other great college and NBA centers put up. Bill Simmons is just outright lying when he says Oden's college career was spotty.

How was that any different than the Bowie/Jordan dilemma 23 years earlier?

I am kind of tired of the Jordan/Bowie comparison, though it is a really easy one to make. Greg Oden is an injury prone center that was taken in front of a much, much better player, but he wasn't Sam Bowie in college. He was projecting to be better than Bowie was at Kentucky.

As a junior, Bowie averaged 10.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks in 29 minutes. His best season was his sophomore year where he averaged 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks, which was much more Oden-like. Concerning the year each player had coming into the NBA Draft, it appears Oden was a much better prospect. Of course Kevin Durant looked (in terms of statistics accumulated) like a better prospect coming out of college than Michael Jordan did.

So what if the Blazers picked Durant instead of Oden? They become the fledgling Western Conference juggernaut of the 2010s (not Oklahoma City); Portland becomes a legitimate 2010 destination for LeBron;

I can't imagine LeBron playing with Kevin Durant in any capacity. Maybe I am just not very good at these "what-if" scenarios.

any successfully unconventional decision would be called "a Pritchard";

It wouldn't be called "a Casserly" after the Texans GM who took Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young in 2006? That pre-dated the Durant v. Oden 2007 draft discussion.

Instead, we have to start bracing for the 2029 or 2030 Draft, when Portland wins another lottery and finds itself stressing between Sure Thing Potential Superstar Scorer X over Possibly Fragile Franchise Center X as everyone else wonders, "Wait a second, we're doing this again?"

Here's the problem...that problem is that Oden had a wrist injury. Contrary to however Bill Simmons describes Oden's walk or anything, Oden had no knee problems until he entered the NBA. So he wasn't a possibly fragile franchise center, he was a center that put up great college numbers despite having a wrist injury during his freshman year.

One of these generations, the Blazers will get it right.

I can't argue with the conclusion. Durant over Oden was the best call in retrospect. Bill's attempt to paint Greg Oden as a college center that wasn't dominant is completely false though. Oden was a great college center, especially for a freshman.

15 comments:

Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

-the bowie/oden comparison is a bunch of horseshit. oden averaged 15-10 as a freshman and led his team to the national title game despite playing the whole year with a wrist injury. bowie had a history of major knee problems at kentucky and even when he was healthy as a fifth year senior he couldn't even average a double-double. during that draft michael jordan, who had won two straight naismith awards, was described as a "can't miss prospect" and a dr. j-like entertainer, whereas in 2007 oden was the consensus number - there isn't a single GM in the league that wouldn't have taken oden number one; simmons makes it seem like durant was the top guy from day one and that oden shot up draft boards after the national title game, but in reality oden was the projected top pick from day one.

(and by the way i'm calling bullshit on his assertion that danny ainge had durant number one. doc rivers has said that the celtics would have taken oden number one had they won the lottery. bill is just trying to pretend his celtics are just so much better and smarter than everyone else)

-oden had one good game? false. bill only saw him play one game and decided that none of his other awesome games counted because bill never watched them. oden was a fucking first team all american and led his team to 29 wins!!!! one good game my ass

-at the time durant had serious questions about whether he would be able to bulk up enough to play in the nba - there were legit fears that he would just be another rashard lewis. obviously that never actually happened, but it's bullshit for bill to pretend that durant was considered the slam dunk and oden was all upside - oden was considered the surefire number one pick by everyone in the league.

-how the hell was oden injury prone in college? he had a fluke wrist injury (and still put up crazy stats), and somehow that is supposed to be an omen that he would have knee problems later? i hate this kind of revisionist history

Martin said...

Bill does revisionist stuff all the time, which is one of the things that drives me nuts about him, but even more so on his podcasts. He recently asserted that auctioning was a more true test of talent then drafting fantasy teams...because it's less fluky.

This assertion was made not ten minutes after describing how the team that had won the previous years Fantasy baseball league he was in had been won by a guy who had gotten Ben Zobrist and some pitcher for a buck each at the end of their draft. So "drafting" Jamall Charles with the last pick in a FF draft is fluky, but grabbing two guys on a $1 flyer who end up being major cornerstones of a Championship team is skill.

Gregg Oden only had one good game at college....except for all those other good games he had.

Bengoodfella said...

Arjun, Oden was one of a few great players on that OSU team but he was probably the best of them...or that's what we thought. I believe Bowie did have an injury problem in college and Oden's wrist injury really had nothing to do with his knees or any of the injuries that have affected him in the NBA.

I can't remember if there was a GM that had Durant #1 overall. Maybe it was groupthink or something like that, but every scouting report I read when doing this post said Oden was "can't miss."

Doc Rivers last month on Oden v. Durant:

Had the Celtics landed the No. 1 pick, Rivers said, Oden would have been the choice.

"Even though everybody changes now, we were all for Oden, and I think 98 percent of the league,'' Rivers said. "But now I hear it all over our staff, I hear it everywhere, ‘Oh, no, we were Durant guys.' I don't believe that. I think we would have drafted Oden.''

So Bill is full of shit, I am posting this in the original post. He is lying a/b Rivers saying he would have taken Durant.

Here's the whole article:

Had the Celtics landed the No. 1 pick, Rivers said, Oden would have been the choice.

http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/Doc-Rivers-won-t-engage-in-revisionist-Greg-Oden?urn=nba-287534

Martin, that's ridiculous. Please tell me he didn't say that. I don't see the difference that much in auctioning and drafting.

Oden only had like 50% of his games as being defined as "good" his freshman year. That's just shitty in Bill's world.

Fred Trigger said...

Yeah, everyone in New England was pissed when the C's didnt get the number one pick, because everyone wanted Oden. Even Tommy Heinson wanted Oden and said as much after the draft. I'm sure if someone were to do some digging, they could find all the articles dooming the celtics because they couldnt get Oden (or Durant, for that matter). I remember that as the year the celtics kept telling Paul Pierce to keep resting his knee, even though he was clear to play, so they would have a better chance at drafting Oden.

Bengoodfella said...

Fred, I can't believe the Celts would have taken anyone other than Oden. We have to remember Oden was a pretty solid #1 overall pick. Durant's star was seen by those in the league, but all of the comparisons to Bill Russell makes me think the Celts would have taken Oden.

I remember that year vividly because Pierce was "injured" and still the Celts couldn't get the #1 overall pick. It's all speculation of course, but I just don't know if there was proof Ainge would have taken Durant.

Speaking of Bill Simmons, here's some good old fashioned Ray Allen bashing from when the Celts got him. I would bet Bill doesn't want anyone recalling his comments about Ray Allen being "broken down" by the age of 34.

Dylan said...

What bothers me about the Celtics in general, besides Bill Simmons' bias, is Paul Pierce's growing fame and support around the country (especially by Simmons). If we remember back to the days before Garnett and Allen, Pierce was, at a best, a whiny superstar incapable of carrying his own team. But now that he has won a championship and his team is a consistent contender in large part to the other pieces around him (which now includes a 4th, Rondo), he seems like a sure-fire HOFer. It just goes to show how teammates alter our view of players. Its bascially impossible to accurately judge someone's talent unless they've been in a situation with AND without talent.

Fred Trigger said...

Dylan, thats not entirely true. I remember the C's getting to the semifinals (I think they wound up losing to either the nets or the 76'rs) riding the backs of Pierce and (can you believe he was considered a superstar at the time) Walker. If they had some kind of a big man, who knows what would've happened. They still refer to them as the "bombs away squad" and for good reason. I think Pierce had every right to whine. Look at the team they put around him. He didnt have much to work with for a long time.

Dylan said...

Fred,

You are right in that he did lead the Celtics to the semi's against the Nets and did have success in the NBA. I'm not arguing that he wasn't a very good NBA player. My point is that we would never have considered him a Hall of Fame player had Garnett, Allen and Rondo not come over to help. So my question is (and I don't have an answer), is that fair? It's not like Pierce himself got any better, just his teammates.

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, I think it is fair. What would Michael Jordan have turned into if Scottie Pippen and the other Bulls players weren't around him? I think great players need help around them. Look at Kobe in LA before Gasol got there. I'm not saying a player like Kobe or Pierce can be judged with and w/o help around him only, but I think it does help to see a player in both situations.

I think teammates are crucial to the overall perception of a player. Success always makes a player seem better and failure always seems to focus on the negative aspects of a player.

Look at the NFL. Peyton Manning was a well-oiled machine who could run a play well simply b/c of his great execution until he lost his best receivers and now he is "predictable."

Fred Trigger said...

Look at Miami. They have 2 superstars,
yet they don't look to be going anywhere fast. What brought about this collaboration anyway? I thought both blogs were excellent.

Bengoodfella said...

Fred, I am not disagreeing with you, but I think that's a little different. Wade and James don't have their games complement each other at all. They pretty much have very similar games if you ask me.

I do think if Miami gets going then Wade/James will be looked at differently as compared to if they didn't play well.

Dylan, had the idea and I thought it was a good one because I can't write as much as I used to anymore.

Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

by the way, i know oden didn't have a great showing in his personal workout with the blazers. however if bill wants to play the oden card then he can't leave out that in the predraft workouts oden, who was completely healthy for the first time in a year, completely blew everyone away with his david robinson-like combination of strength and athleticism (he even beat durant in a lot of the strength and agility drills), while durant couldn't even bench 200 lbs. and looked like he hadnt been to the weight room in 6 months. again, i agree that these workouts are stupid and irrelevant, both the predraft camp and the individual and team workouts, but if simmons is going to point out durant's good workout then he has to be consistent and mention oden's spectacular showing in the predraft camp

Bengoodfella said...

Arjun, Bill has no need to mention that because it doesn't fit his point. He is right about Durant/Oden. Durant's a better player, but not because Oden didn't have a good workout with the Blazers nor because he had a mediocre college career. It is because Durant is awesome and Oden has been injured. Bill is creating more reasons for this that just may not exist.

Nunyer said...

This blog just consumed a solid two days of my internet time. Good stuff.

I'll apologize in advance for just rambling about Simmons... what I am saying has probably been dropped in these comment sections before.

I think I am on the same page as Bengoodfella. Bill can write good stuff, he just doesn't do it much anymore. I still am a casual reader of his, and really, I've always enjoyed his column because of his irrevent pop-culture shtick and not so much in spite of it. I've always thought of him as an opinion columnist paid to get hits and not somebody I turn to for analysis.

The problem is that he has been buying stock in his own bullshit for the last couple years. Fans sending fawning emails, a seven figure 1040 form and a man-cave with a half dozen plasmas would probably do that to anybody to a certain degree... But it's gotten real, real out of hand with Simmons.

I think my final straw was when he was stumping for the T'wolves GM job awhile back. It seemed like such a shameless publicity stunt to hawk his book... then all of sudden it wasn't. He actually seemed to be taking this serious (of course, because he sniffed another book, but whatever). The man was so wrapped up in his myopic little fanbase, he really thought an NBA owner would consider hiring him. Christ in a biplane, the man could be the greatest sports general manager yet to get hired, but after pissing directly in the mouths of about 70% of all NBA general managers during his espn.com writing history, how could he possibly ever get anything accomplished? I would think a pretty significant chunk of the phone calls he would make to fellow teams is going to end in some combination of "fuck" and "off".

Remember back in the day when "The lesson as always? I'm an idiot." was one of his favorite taglines? He was having fun and not particularly caring if it all made sense... Now the success and fans have convinced him that what he is shoveling doesn't stink.

I suppose there is a cautionary tale in here somewhere, as I really don't believe the guy is a raving egomaniac at heart. Much like the hangers-on posse element and their "yes men" talk that Bill blames for corrupting athletes, Simmons needs to take a step back from his rabid fans.

Nunyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.