The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
The Nets pawned their future at a discount like a mother selling her adult son’s comic book collection just so they could make a series of moves that either look terrible in hindsight, or completely absurd in the moment. They moved from Jersey to Brooklyn hoping to reinvent themselves like a teenage performance artist, and all they got were some early playoff exits, the mockery of the basketball world and one of the least likable teams in the NBA. All of this is to say that, facing what is almost certainly a losing season, things are finally looking up for the Nets. They’ll be relying on Jarrett Jack as their starting point guard this year, and while it’s hard to claim he’s a clear upgrade on Deron Williams as a basketball player, he’s infinitely more charismatic. Wallach here details not just how he can have an impact as a player – pass more and take less bad mid-range shots, basically – but how his leadership could influence the team. As a whole, the piece does a better job balancing analysis and readability than you often see this side of Zach Lowe, and is worth a read.
People are pretty high on Myles Turner, as Alex Kennedy’s great profile on him at Basketball Insiders showed. But as Giacubeno points out, Turner is still a rookie, which could be a problem for a Pacers team with aspirations of returning to the playoffs and a Flatman-thin frontcourt. Recent addition Jordan Hill really is a serviceable big man – Giacubeno overstates his off-court issues a bit – but he also had a worse defensive rating than Enes Kanter last year, per NBA.com (being on the awful Lakers certainly didn’t help that). Not the end of the world, but also not the guy you want playing center with Paul George at the 4. After that, you’re left hoping Ian Mahinmi can bump up his career average of .4 blocks per game if given more minutes.
This article is from a couple days ago, but if we’re doing a tour of the Eastern Conference’s Outer Rim, it seems unfair to skip Detroit, even if it does mean putting the name revken in a byline. The piece is also illuminating, if a bit of a stat dump; the different eras of last years Pistons are broken out by lineup and overall shooting percentage, pointing to an upward trend in accuracy and frequency as the year went along. Which makes sense! Remember how exciting it was when they went on that run after waiving Josh Smith last season? Remember how every year it feels like Detroit is finally going to break through this malaise they’ve been stuck in for more than half a decade? I’m admittedly a sucker for Andre Drummond, but I’m definitely ready to get the hype train going again.
We’re counting this as an article about the Hornets, because Big Al Jefferson has his picture at the top. He does not, however, have a particularly versatile offensive game, which according to Mares’s piece, is bad news for the Hornets. It’s not hard to see why having big men who can score in multiple ways is good for the team; there is a real advantage to being able to surprise opponents and shift players around the floor. It is interesting though to think that a big part of what is defining the small ball revolution is an expectation for big men to be not just giant humans, but basketball players. If you think back, great players have often been defined by their versatility – just ask everyone who got hit with one of Kobe Bryant’s post up fadeaways. Also interesting: unless I’m reading the numbers wrong, Meyers Leonard was the most efficient high-frequency spot-up AND roll big man in the league last year. Maybe things are less dark than they seem in Rip City.
While it costs us our theme and an article about John Wall embracing his outsider status over at Bullets Forever, we have to leave the East for this last article. Ellington has done something wonderful with this piece, diving deeply into the lives of the operations staff in Sacramento and examining the ways they’ve grown intertwined with the Kings. It’s a lovely reminder of how important sports can be to a city, and a reminder of how cruel it is to tear a team away from a small market like Sacramento or Seattle. The fact that all these people were able to find meaning in their work because the team stayed in town is the best argument for public funding of arenas you’ll ever see. Of course, the jobs would still be there if the billionaire owners funded the arenas themselves, but if the team, and the jobs it provides, were going to leave otherwise, it just might be worth it. The real solution would be more community-owned teams like the Packers, but something tells me that’s a bit of an uphill battle.