Tuesday, May 10, 2011

11 comments Yay! More Bleacher Report!

Earlier this week, Bengoodfella recounted the woes of Bleacher Report's editing and logic capabilities. And rightfully so, might I add. The critique forced me to officially peruse Bleacher Report and analyze for myself the full breadth of their erring ways. As BGF said, this is not a personal reflection of Bleacher Report or its writers. It's just that when I encounter the website, my psyche emulates Switzerland: devoid of opinion and mildly interested observer.

And then I read this article, which compelled me to launch a verbal offensive against "Mike B." and his "what if" premise. As JR will surely address in his blog, BS Book of Basketball, the "what if" game is a swirling black hole that strangles basketball minds into unending oblivion. Mr. B does just that, attacking the Los Angeles Clippers draft history while imagining the glory of a Garnett/Bryant dynasty.

Obviously this is not my typical style, but my critical blogging mind requires me to proceed.

When it comes to the NBA draft, the Los Angeles Clippers have specialized in making draft mistakes. Sure, they've drafted stars like Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon within the last few years, but before that, they made all the wrong moves.

Not to mention Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu or DeAndre Jordan. But we'll forget about them because of convenience.

I'm not one to claim that the Clippers past draft history is not poor, but it's no worse than any other team. Every team's history is littered with draft errors. It's the nature of the beast. Most teams that have exited the draft lottery cycle simply landed one huge star via draft or free agency. Now that the Clippers have Griffin, their options will multiply quite quickly.

The Clippers passed on a countless number of superstars like Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen and Dirk Nowitzki and then drafted flops like Benoit Benjamin, Michael Olowokandi and Darius Miles.

I'm pretty sure that every team that passed up Dirk, Malone or Pippen wished they hadn't. And the Clippers are clearly not the most egregious violators of the draft swing and a miss. May I remind you of Sam Bowie and Greg Oden? I'm pretty sure the Blazers are more pissed. Yet that's exactly the point. The Blazers have regrouped, landed other quality (not necessarily superstar) picks and intelligently dumped problem players while increasing cap space. Big time draft misses always handicap a team and leave them in an extended limbo. You can't let go because of the players' potential and money invested. But the team's better judgment knows it should part ways sooner rather than later. This is the exact process that the Clippers have now moved out of. They have multiple trade assets, a young roster and a star to build around.

The Clippers used the No. 2 overall pick in the 1995 draft to select Alabama forward Antonio McDyess before trading him to the Denver Nuggets for Rodney Rogers and slam dunk champ Brent Barry. Looking back, the Clippers definitely shouldn't have chosen McDyess or made that trade. What they should have done is drafted a skinny, 6'11 high school kid by the name of Kevin Garnett, who was selected fifth overall that year by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Yes, they should have drafted a skinny kid who was the first to come out of high school since 1975. That seems like a safe option. Clearly in hindsight all ended well for Garnett's career. But to criticize after the fact in such an alarming fashion is both unfair and unwarranted. As much as I hate Donald Sterling and his unparalleled ability to run a franchise into the ground, this is something for which we cannot belittle his franchise.

Then, in 1996, the Clippers drafted Memphis big man Lorenzen Wright seventh overall, passing up the likes of All-Stars Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal and Peja Stojakovic. But the main star the Clippers overlooked that year was another high school phenom, 6'6" guard Kobe Bryant.

And the same issues arise once again. Why didn't the 12 other teams in front of the Hornets draft Bryant? Why were the Lakers the only team to orchestrate a trade for him? Maybe Mike B. doesn't it realize it, but these teams cannot exactly predict the future careers of every draft prospect. Not to mention that Kobe was another unproven high schooler.

But what if the Clippers had drafted Bryant and Garnett? Yes, imagine Bryant playing for Los Angeles' "other" team instead of the Lakers. And imagine Garnett never suiting up for the T-Wolves or Celtics, but for one of the league's most laughed-at franchises of all time. With those two well-known stars in the lineup, the Clippers certainly wouldn't have been laughed at anymore, at least not by anybody in their right mind.

So we're playing the what if game? Let me throw out a couple of those. What if Michael Jordan is drafted by Portland with the #2 overall pick instead of Sam Bowie, and the Bulls take Bowie? Do the Bulls win six titles? Does Phil Jackson go down as the greatest coach ever? Does Karl Malone actually win a title? Does Patrick Ewing win a title? Does Sam Bowie shove Byron Russel for a step-back jumper to clinch the NBA Finals in 1998? What if the Magic pass on Shaq? Does Shaq like his new team instead? Does he never leave to go to the Lakers? Does Kobe ever emerge as a great player now that he doesn't have Shaq to guide his development?What if every draft had not happened as it did but instead was reordered in a magical way to support the whims of Los Angeles Clippers fans?

Let's say Bryant and Garnett spend years playing together and Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who has a reputation of being cheap, goes out and spends the money to acquire a solid supporting cast.

Right, let's just throw out decades of historical evidence of Donald Sterling's actions to add support to the Clippers' make-believe dynasty.

Bryant and Garnett would have surely put the Clippers on the map if the two had joined forces. The team would have gone from the league's biggest joke to a perennial title contender and possibly a dynasty.

Or how about we do this with any combination of superstars of the past 30 years? What would happen? Who knows!!!

But of course, Kobe and KG never became Clippers, although they could have and should have been.

And I probably should have showered once in the past two days, but I'm a sit-in-the-basement/scream-at-my-mom for food blogger so I didn't. As much as I'd love to warp history to my greatest convenience, it's a futile exercise not worthy of my time. Nor anyone else's who read this article.


Pat said...

Hey I love the completely random hypothetical reordering of picks that uniquely benefit my team without changing any draft orders. As a Knick fan, just think. If the Knicks JUST happened to win the lottery in 2003 they could have taken LeBron James, and then just think if they had taken the clearly superior Andrew Bynum over Channing Frye in 2005 how much better it would be now. But wait, there's more! If Isiah Thomas had just had the foresight to win the 2003 lottery and then to take Andrew Bynum (I mean High School Centers are guaranteed gold), then he would have never made the Eddy Curry trade. That meant the Knicks, silly them, would have been able to draft LaMarcus Aldridge and, because LeBron James would have admirably filled the hole we later tried to fill with Ranaldo Balkman, we could have taken Rajon Rondo as well. Much like Mike B. with the Clippers, I CANNOT imagine how the Knicks could have let this opportunity to get away from them. Clearly this hypothetical is ridiculous because we live in a real world where decisions can't be retroactively made with 20/20 hindsight to completely alter the norms of reality. I mean, we all know Isiah still would have made the Eddy Curry trade.

Rich said...

But what if the Clippers had drafted Bryant and Garnett?

Here's the other stupid thing. Who is to say that Kobe becomes the Kobe he is now if he's drafted by the Clippers? Considering how much he's pouted as a Laker, is there anyone alive who thinks Kobe would be okay playing for Donald Sterling, a pretty racist person?

So basically:

1) There's no indication that he becomes the Kobe we all know and "love" if he gets drafted by the Clippers.

2) There's no indication he would have stayed past his first contract.

When it comes to Garnett, this becomes really stupid. First, they drafted Antonio McDyess who, for the first six years of his career, as good as Garnett. So would have adding Garnett to a team that used the pick on McDyess really have been improved?

Secondly, the Clippers traded away McDyess. So guess what, odds are they would have traded away Garnett too.

Garnett's rookie season wasn't even all that great, so what are the odds that the Clippers go with a guard anyway? Maybe they see Garnett as a future center and draft Wright to compliment him?

The article really should be called "what if the Clippers had kept Antonio McDyess." If they keep McDyess, they don't get Brent Barry and going into the 1996 draft they (going against my last point) likely go against drafting Wright because of the gaping hole at guard.

Even then, if they do draft Garnett, why would they have been open to trading McDyess, but not Garnett?

Lets make a giant leap of faith and say the Clippers keep Garnett, do they go for Bryant in 96? The answer is probably no.

Charlotte got kind of lucky getting the 12th pick despite being a 41-41 team. They didn't need an "immediate help" player, they had the chance to draft based on potential. The Clippers were a 29 win team in the 95-96 season, they weren't going to draft a guy who wouldn't realistically help the team for 4-5 years.

So basically, the odds of the Clippers drafting, not trading and resigning two HS players when drafting HS players was something only teams that wanted to develop players is incredibly, incredibly stupid.

In fact, Garnett and Bryant were two of the three HS players taken in those two drafts, with Jermaine O'Neal (those poor Blazers) being the third. A guy who never panned out with his original team and then left for Indiana and became one of the most overrated players in the history of the NBA.

So ya, drafting 2/3rds of the HS players available in two drafts, both with top 10 picks in the late 90s... No, just no.

ivn said...

Steve Nash's speed, strength, and defense were doubted by scouts. Jermaine O'Neal was considered a project. No one was sure Peja would ever leave Europe. There was a reason guys were drafted outside the lottery; the Clippers would have been torn to shreds at the time if they used a top 10 pick on one of them. This is like saying, "the Wizards should have picked Tony Parker #1 in 2001!"

Bengoodfella said...

Pat, I'm pretty sure you just put together an All-Star team. This is why I don't like "what if" scenarios, because you can get any situation you want. It becomes silly at a certain point. I can't believe the Knicks didn't have the foresight to make all of those moves. Come on, can't they tell the future?

Yes, Isiah would have still made the Eddy Curry trade probably.

Rich, that's a good point. Part of what made Kobe so great is he had that drive. Would playing for Sterling sap that from him and turn that drive into being a malcontent or turn it into something else that is not quite as productive?

I think the Clippers would have traded Garnett for a shit sandwich or something like that after a couple of seasons. The benefit he had of playing in Minnesota his first couple years is he was given time to mature. I remember the drafting of Garnett was a somewhat mystery and a risk because there was no telling how it would turn out since players went to college back then.

I also can't see Garnett and Kobe on the same team. I don't know. It just didn't seem like it would work for me. Of course Kobe co-existed with Shaq so anything is possible I guess. I think that's almost too much intensity on one team. Can you see Kobe directing Garnett around the court?

Being from around Charlotte, a lot of people were happy they got Divac because the Hornets were a team looking to win now and having Kobe on the team as an investment was seen as a huge risk, when the Hornets could get a quality center in Divac and win now. Charlotte did go 54-28 that year, so you see they were sort of looking to win THEN and not later.

Ivn, I think you are pretty much right. There's a reason these guys don't get drafted earlier. Garnett, besides being one of the first HS players ever to come out, weighed like 10 ounces and there was a question on whether he would put on some weight to be effective in the NBA. I remember watching an NBA show in Garnett's rookie season with Ahmad Rashad interviewing Garnett over lunch. Garnett had 5,000 calories in front of him because the Timberwolves wanted to make sure he was big enough to play PF.

At that time, even a little bit today, these players fall in the draft for reasons. The reason may look more stupid over time, but at the time they may have appeared more valid.

JR Ewing Theory said...

Thanks for the shout out. There is one "W/if?" in TBOB I feel strongly about, but for the most part those are actually harmless fun. You know, like Simmons' career.

If only this B/R guy could do as good a job with W/ifs? as Simmons does. Or half as good. Or one-third as good. Or (see where I'm going with this?)...

Anonymous said...

This piece is so pointless. Every single team in every major sport has passed on future hall of fame players for guys who flamed out in a few years or had no significant impact at all. There is nothing unique to the Clipper experience here. Every team can look back at previous drafts and say "crap, we should have taken that other player instead."

And the idea that the owner would suddenly change his money-spending style is also pretty crazy. I mean we can also say, hey imagine if the Pittsburgh Pirates paid megabucks to retain the services of Barry Bonds when his contract ended after 1992? And what if that one move kept them in contention so they could then make some deadline deals for players like Randy Johnson or Mark McGwire or Roger Clemens? And then surely more free agents would have wanted to come join the party, so come on down Ken Griffey Jr and Bernie Williams and Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza! Oh and the commissioner would have incorporated the DH rule into the NL as well just so that Edgar Martinez could join this dynasty team as too. And then with all these great players on the team they wouldn't have room on the 2001 roster for non-superstars like Bronson Arroyo or Jason Kendall, so they could have traded them away for that rookie named Albert Pujols. Oh and their dominance would have also lured Ichiro from Japan to Pittsburgh instead of Seattle. See, the Pittsburgh Pirates would have never had one losing season, let alone 20 in a row, if they just paid the money to keep Barry Bonds in uniform after 1992. And we would never again have to watch rallies end with a pitcher swinging helplessly at a fastball down the middle because the DH would exist in the NL. If only they knew.

We'll see if the Brewers understand this guaranteed chain reaction once Prince Fielder's contract ends this year. They don't know it yet, but they could be facing 20+ losing years in a row if they let him go elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Clearly the Jets screwed up by drafting Pennington at 18 when Tom Brady was sitting right there in 2000

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I like the part you wrote that said, "there is nothing unique to the Clipper experience here." It is true and what makes it an irrelevant post. Every team has stories like this. Seriously, everyone single team. Imagine the Hornets didn't trade Bryant and then through a miracle ended up with Chris Paul anyway a few years later. What a team that would be!

I completely forgot to talk about the part where all of a sudden Donald Sterling sees the error of his ways and changes his entire personality. It's like "A Christmas Carol" in that Sterling sees what he has done to his players because Kobe is on the team. All of a sudden, the world is an open book and anything is possible for the Clippers.

Your scenario for the Pirates is good and why I don't like "what-if" scenarios. Because if not done well, it just turns into a clusterfuck of a fantasy. It essentially will mean nothing because so many things have changed there isn't a bit of realism in it.

Anon, if the Jets could only predict the future. The entire NFL passed on Tom Brady so you could take "the Jets" out of that sentence and put "Team X" and it would still have the same meaning. The Jets really blew that one though, huh?

Anonymous said...

Of all people Ben I would have thought you could detect sarcasm

Murray said...

I hate those arguements you can do that with any sports draft. Look at the 1998 Draft you don't think those top 5 teams wish they drafted Pierce or Dirk.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I was agreeing with you! I didn't mean to make it sound like I wasn't. I detected the sarcasm and just wrote what I thought to be a sarcastic post agreeing...and it didn't sound that way. Sorry. I was trying to agree with your sarcasm. I failed.

Murray, I think they are a waste of time too. Think the Sonics want the Olden Polynice-Scottie Pippen trade back? Oh yeah, they do.