The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
Counting stats and playing somewhat off the radar in Minnesota have shrouded something about Andrew Wiggins’ play two years into his career: it hasn’t been great. He’s been a capable scorer, but an otherwise ho-hum offensive player and below-average defender at his position. Tom Thibodeau’s arrival to the Wolves bench has raised expectations up and down the roster, and Wiggins should be no exception. With a better shot, more athleticism and length than Jimmy Butler, the former No. 1 pick has the tools to thrive under Thibs. Coughlin postulates that Wiggins’ lackluster results on defense boil down to a cautious mentality that keeps the shooting guard from getting beat, but keeps him from using his superior size and speed to make a greater impact.
NBA watchers have been clamoring for an end to hack-a-strategies, by way of either a rules change or modest improvements at the charity stripe from a handful of the league’s worst free throw shooters. For those willing to accept that it’s not as simple as “more practice” for the DeAndres and Dwights of the game, some out-of-the-box suggestions have gained traction. Andre Drummond won’t be shooting granny style, but he is currently working with the Pistons’ coaching staff to practice his free throws with virtual reality technology. In what sounds like a combination of physical form practice and the popular sports psychologist mental practice of visualization, Detroit’s center says he’s been making breakthroughs in the digital realm.
The hope that Chris Bosh can overcome his recurring blood clots and return to the court (professionally) is dimmer now that he’s failed a physical and the Heat have acknowledged it as a medical dead end. Bosh hasn’t changed his optimistic tune — he appears to believe an alternative approach to blood thinners and regimented play is still out there — but his condition is rightfully worrying NBA fans. Tinsley is a tad patronizing in this letter to an intelligent individual, perfectly capable of making an intelligent career choice. I can’t help but worry just the same. Bosh has long been one of the personalities unbound by baller stereotypes, a free-thinker with plenty of interests outside of the game. But if his underrated play as champion for the Heat hasn’t convinced people he’s a committed competitor, this episode has proved as much. I agree with Tinsley that the big man has already cinched his Hall of Fame spot, and that any real presence of a mortal threat on the court should keep him off it.
Josh Smith’s nosedive from star to scrub is as drastic as anyone in the game right now. The tension of his unique skill set and team-killing weaknesses came to a head when Stan Van Gundy stunningly waived his huge contract with Detroit outright. Since then, he’s hung around with playoff teams in Houston and Los Angeles and failed to regain an important role. Now he’s an unsigned free agent late in the summer, and he opens up to Charania about his situation. He does cast some minor blame on the unceremonious boot from the Pistons in warping the perception of him, which he must not have noticed was already pretty sour before Detroit cut him. But he also acknowledges a need for individual improvement and a willingness to contribute and play a role well within an organization. Unless he’s looking for a big payday, I find it surprising that no one has taken a flyer on him this late in the summer.
If you read between the lines — as Windisch has done here — you’ll see that the J.R. Smith contract stalemate with the Cavaliers is not just about a negotiation. The balance of power between ownership, labor and fans’ perception of it all is on display as well.