The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
The NBA Draft can do really cruel things to a player. Look at Jonny Flynn, the former Syracuse star whose legacy consists mostly of being selected one pick before Stephen Curry in 2009. Flynn washed out of the league after playing only 163 games across three seasons, and will spend the rest of his life as a cross between a punch line and a cautionary tale, even though David Kahn and a bad hip played as much of a role in his failure as his own ability. So while Anthony Bennett is staring down the barrel of a similar fate after his recent buyout by the Wolves, it’s worth mentioning, as Highkin does, that it’s not really his fault. Highkin in part blames the state of the D-League, and wonders if a stronger minor league would have given Bennett the time he needed to refine his game. So while he has without a doubt underperformed his draft spot, remember that may say more about the franchise that selected him than it does his ability. If he can overcome the health issues that have plagued him and land on a team that will give him a chance, he’s still got a chance to be remembered as more than a draft bust.
+ Bonus: Did you read Jonathan Abrams’s Grantland profile of Jonny Flynn a couple years back? It’s a little heartbreaking, and well worth your time. One of Abrams’s best.
Did Sports Illustrated buy The Cauldron? Good for them if so, because articles like this one, from Jared Dubin, are a great addition to their content portfolio. The six players highlighted in the piece all stand on the edge of greatness, or at least national attention, if they manage to expand, adjust or in the case of Hassan Whiteside, reliably sustain, their skill set in the coming season. The piece is focused on individuals, but you can see the state of the whole league in the skills Dubin highlights for each player. According to him, a more consistent shot, especially from beyond the arc, is the key for two-thirds of the players discussed. In his view, the surest step towards becoming a star is being a three-point threat, and given the state of the league it’s hard to disagree. His dalliance with the rising tide of anti-Giannis backlash notwithstanding, it’s a great read.
It is, apparently, Scottie Pippen week over at SB Nation’s Blog a Bull, a tribute to the patron saint of sidekicks. O’Donnell’s piece is the introduction to the week’s theme, and it reads like a psalm, a mix of heartfelt gratitude and reverential praise. The awe a young Bulls fan must have felt watching those teams comes through in O’Donnell’s prose, as does the significance he had in every single one of their championships. Pippen’s legacy in hardcore basketball circles is beginning to lean towards that Mike Conley-esque space of being called underappreciated by so many people it can’t be true anymore, but in the week of his 50th birthday, who cares? It’s a time to celebrate the man, and if this article is any indication, it’s safe to say that Blog a Bull will do a wonderful job doing so.
The premise of this article is a little wonky; the Eastern Conference is enough of a mess that almost any team could surprise us this year. That said, Reeve Jr. keeps it interesting by going farther with his projections than many would expect. He grounds all his hypothesizing in roster breakdowns and past performance, so while some of his conclusions seem optimistic, – “don’t expect to see the Heat win any less than 50 games in 2015-16” is counting on big contributions from rookies and great health, for example – at least he gives you his reasoning. He leaves off one of the most interesting potential surprises though. After ranking just outside the top 10 defensively last year and adding a new offensive hub in Jahlil Okafor, isn’t there a world where the Sixers push for the eighth seed this season? Hinkie would have a fire sale to strip the roster of spare parts as soon as they got close of course, but it seems shockingly feasible that they’ll pull it off.
Things have been chaotic in Phoenix ever since they accidentally won 48 games two years ago. From oddball signings to disgruntled stars demanding trades, they’ve been playing a difficult hand as they attempt to break into the playoffs. While signing Tyson Chandler this offseason was partially an attempt to coax LaMarcus Aldridge to the team, it also promises to bring a stabilizing presence to Phoenix, both in the locker room and on the court. Cooper here breaks down the on-court impact, using a range of video clips covering everything from pick-and-roll defense to rebounding prowess. It’s an incredibly thorough overview, and the analysis that goes with it does a great job of calling out specific moments and key movements in the clips. If you’re a Phoenix fan, it’s a great preview of what to expect from your new center. If you’re not, there’s a good chance you’ll learn something new about how the game is played.