The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Chris Herring doesn’t get a ton of love in this space, mostly because his work is so self-evidently great. This piece deserves some extra shine, however, for discussing some of basketball’s overlooked subtleties and how they impact the game. Most fans don’t think about who takes the free throws after a tech, let alone consider that it might be a decision made not by the coach, but among teammates. The idea that those extra points might mean enough to some players that they’d put their stat line ahead of the team’s success is jarring, as is the idea that a center would take jump balls because of traditional roles rather than aptitude. At the same time, it’s a reminder of these larger-than-life figures’ humanity, and the personal concerns that motivate them.
Discovery is one of the most profound joys we experience as human beings; the excitement of the new combined with the promise of future enjoyment is hard to match. That’s what makes this piece from Dancing With Noah so thrilling; there are not many writers who can combine statistical analysis with colorful, evocative writing as effortlessly as Fenrich does here. It’s like Free Darko and Zach Lowe spent some time getting to know each other over drinks and nine months later, Fenrich popped out. His elucidation of Steph Curry’s incredible play drives home how transcendent the Warriors point guard has been in the first four games of the season. Curry is surpassing even his own lofty standards, scoring more points on more attempts in fewer minutes per game, and somehow increasing his efficiency at the same time. It’s been a staggering display, one that has some folks claiming he’s the best player in the world. Right now, it’s hard to disagree.
Those bemoaning the death of Grantland would do well to pay attention to Vice Sports. While being a Vice property tarnishes the site to some degree, the consistent quality of their content, both in terms of analysis and the depth of the prose itself, speaks to the editorial staff’s dedication and hard work. Every bit of that effort is on display in O’Connell’s piece, which has the economy of phrase and evocative language that only comes from great writers working with great editors. His vision of Kawhi is a fascinating one, a talent who was not born but made, adding the next piece to his game with a methodical rigor befitting the most mechanically beautiful team in the league. Whether the credit for that work belongs to the Spurs organization or Leonard himself is unknowable, and O’Connell blessedly doesn’t try to answer the question, content to focus on the future instead of the past.
Nate Duncan is the Kawhi Leonard of NBA writing, an ascendant star who has worked his ass off, adding various elements to his game over time – podcasting, statistical expertise, salary cap mastery – until he’s begun to approach the top of his game. So it’s excellent to see him appearing at The Cauldron this season, a rapidly growing site that will benefit from his talents. His piece on the Cavs future roster demonstrates just how deep his knowledge of the league’s salary cap is, breaking down a wide variety of potential paths Cleveland could take to improve or maintain its roster. He’s probably right that the Cavaliers won’t make a major move; the repeater tax scared off even Mikhail Prokhorov, whose net worth is more than two times that of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, according to Forbes. That would give Cleveland few opportunities to improve the roster, but given how stacked the team is now, that may not be a huge issue. And it does nothing to diminish the appeal of watching Gilbert pay through the nose to keep his team competitive, especially if you believe the hype about his company Quicken Loans, for which the arena is named, being a predatory lender that contributed to subprime mortgage crisis and the spread of blight in Detroit.
A perfectly executed hook shot is one of the most beautiful motions in basketball, rivaling a Steph Curry jumper in its grace and precision. Why then, Sennhauser asks, do we see them so rarely in today’s NBA? We saw Giannis use his Mr. Fantastic arms to dunk a skyhook over the Miles Plumlee last season, but otherwise the hook today is, as Sennhauser puts it “a glorified shot put.” The baby hook still gets the job done; according to his piece, Nikola Vucevic, one of the Association’s best offensive bigs, shot nearly 62 percent on hooks last year. But like a diet soda or Soyrizo breakfast taco, it just tastes off somehow, lacking the character that made the original so wonderful in the first place.