Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bob Myers: 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year

By Justin Taylor

Before this year I predicted that Stephen Curry would be healthy, the Warriors would be on pace for 56 wins without Anrew Bogut, Brandon Rush or a jump in production from Klay Thompson.  I knew that David Lee would be having a career year, that Andris Biedrins was going to have a resurgence and the #LOLakers offseason moves were going to backfire on biblical level.  There was no doubt that this team was going to be in a battle with the #FlopCityClippers for Pacific Division supremacy.  You know what else you should know that I know? That I’m completely full of shit and anyone who makes a single one of those statements is too!

I actually did call for 48 wins (followed by a capital IF HEALTHY) marking up the schedule and trying my absolute best not to be a homer or influenced by our catastrophic track record. Got to the bottom, tallied up win/loss results and was shocked at the number but had to publish it before I had to start over. I knew I overshot the mark because there were more questions surrounding the roster then answers. There were 300 or 400 reasons why they’d fall short but to exceed it that meant Bogut and Curry were All Stars, Thompson was the Most Improved Player, Harrison Barnes was Rookie of the Year and Rush was 6th Man of the Year.

Everyone wanted to be optimistic but they had an inexperienced coach, too much youth and brittle ankles. Mark Jackson may be squarely in the conversation for Coach of the Year at the moment and the crowd at Oracle might be chanting MVLee but if we’re handing out accolades for this team we need to start with the guy that made them all look good.

Bob Myers: 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year

With the Warriors flexing between the fourth and fifth spots in the Western Conference the flood of articles about Mark Jackson as a COY candidate is no surprise. I’m not disputing he’s a deserving pick (right now) I’m just saying that if that’s the case Myers has to be the top candidate for the league’s best general manager. Great talent makes a great NBA coach, not the other way around. If Bob Myers name was actually Gary St. Jean I’ve got a feeling the only thing Jackson would be a candidate for would be a seat next to Reggie Miller or Jeff Van Gundy. Here are ten reasons why Myers should be the frontrunner for the Executive of the Year award.

1. Traded Dorrell Wright for Jarret Jack: When the trade happened the thinking was just, “Now we’ve got a point guard when Steph Curry gets hurt and can take him off the ball when he’s healthy.” Turns out Jarrett Jack has been a godsend off the bench and nobody around this team will be surprised when his name gets mentioned for 6th Man of the Year. His skills, poise and toughness has spread throughout the whole team and his crunch time prowess has allowed Curry to run off screens in the Baby-Faced Assassin role instead of wondering whether or not he should be getting someone else a look.

2. Signed Carl Landry: Am I the only one who remembers the conversations in July about needing the likes of Jordan Hill, JJ Hickson or Kenyon Martin to back up David Lee? I think I just saw all three of those guys on an episode of VH1’s Where Are They Now series. Landry meanwhile is getting his minutes alongside Lee instead of behind him and he’s also in the mix with Jack for the 6th man award. Factor in that Myers got both of these guys for next to nothing and it gives a couple of moves that were already great the potential to be legendary among Warriors fans like me. These guys are bringing the type of toughness and swagger that Baron Davis brought and used to kick off the We Believe movement.

3. The Tank Express: The foundation for this draft class was poured in the aftermath of the Monta Ellis trade. Many fans griped about trading the one guy who showed up and played with pride every night for one who was always injured. I always liked the deal for the number of assets it provided. Obviously Myers felt the same. He knew where the tank train was headed and plowed full steam ahead.

4. Harrison Barnes: Dorrell Wright was an afterthought as soon as this kid hit the floor in a Warriors uniform. I saw a potential 10 year starter in this league which is a lot in and of itself. He’s already shown that he’s got the potential to mix in a couple of All Star appearances along the way too.  He was seen mostly as a spot up shooter coming out of college yet he’s already the teams biggest penetration threat and most athletic finisher at the rim. His stats won’t blow anyone away, yet, but many have felt his contributions.

5. Festus Ezeli: First, a question: Who would you rather have, Stephen Jackson or Richard Jefferson and Ezeli? He has some serious Adonal Foyle potential right down to the butterfingers and the number 31. I wonder if he knew he was going to bring this comparison upon himself when he chose his number. Most of Foyle’s critics (myself included) aren’t really Adonal haters at all. We hated Saint Jean for taking him ahead of Tracy McGrady; refresh your memory of how bad that draft was after TMac; and we wanted to hate Chris Mullin for signing him to a ridiculous contract. Had Foyle been taken with the 10th pick (where the immortal Danny Fortson was taken), let alone the 30th, had he been signed for backup center money to be a backup center we would have loved him the same way we’re going to love Festus; hard fouls, dropped passes and all.

6. Draymond Green: When your second round pick gets called the steal of the draft many times over you’ve done your job well. Green will never make an All Star team but he is a glue guy that happily does the dirty work that wins games. Mark my words: It may not be for the Warriors but Draymond Green will win a championship somewhere, someday.  When his second round pick status grants him free agency a year early I guarantee that almost every contender will come sniffing around.

7. Brandon Rush Signing: There is one Myers coup that was quickly forgotten after Rush’s knee exploded. He held out and signed him to a bargain of a deal. Before the season began Rush was a 6th Man of the Year candidate. You could literally see the former agent playing chess during the free agency period when every team Rush visited had limited cap space and Warriors fans worried he’d be gone.

8. Stephen Curry Long Term Deal: The hometown discount deal doesn’t exist in sports anymore if it ever did. This was a “We’re-All-Scared-As-Hell-Of-That-Ankle” deal. Even Curry was so afraid he’d get hurt again he signed at a discount. See where Curry’s deal ranks among the other guards in the league:

1)Chris Paul: $17.8 million 2)Deron Williams: $17.2 million 3)Derrick Rose: $16.4 million 4)Manu Ginobili $14.1 million 5)Russell Westbrook $13.7 million 6)Tony Parker $12.5 million 7)Ben Gordon $12.4 million 8)Rajon Rondo $11 million 9)Jose Calderon $10.5 million 10)Steve Nash $8.9 million

Curry’s deal will start at $9.9 million next season and will climb to $12.1 by the 2016-17 season. For comparison’s sake: Deron Williams will make $18.5 million next season and his salary will climb to $22.3 million in the 2016-17 season. Ben Gordon will make $13.2 million next season. Curry’s deal is manageable on a bad day and an absolute steal on a good day to the point where it makes him even ore of an asset unlike someone like Calderon who can only be traded because his contract is expiring.

9. Kent Bazemore and Jeremy Tyler: Dominic McGuire’s position was filled with Brandon Rush, Barnes and Green but the guy could guard four positions, which is a rare feat in the NBA. When he wasn’t resigned and Bazemore was signed for similar money after a great Summer League I didn’t know what to think. We still don’t know what Bazemore is as an NBA player but there is little doubt that he keeps the bench entertained, enthusiastic and engaged so who am I to question Myers at this point?

I hope Tyler gets to experience great success as the star of a championship caliber squad in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, my tune may change next season when Carl Landry signs for more money elsewhere and we need a back up power forward. That is the reason that the approach Myers is taking with him is the right one. Make him feel like a part of the big team while making sure his reps are coming in the D League.

10. Who the hell else is a candidate for EOY?:

Mitch Kupchak, #LOLakers: As far as I’m concerned Kupchak deserves some kind of award for the unintentional comedy he’s blessed us with this year. He was the only one that could make this NBA season even more fun for everyone and he came through in a major way.

Gary Sacks, Los Angeles Clippers: It would be a shame if this guy won the award because he went out and got Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill to occupy the minutes behind Caron Butler. If he does win I think the trophy should be immediately confiscated and given to its rightful owner, Chris Paul.

Billy King, Brooklyn Nets: I had to include him in this conversation because anytime your coach wins the coach of the month award for the first two months of the season and you have an opportunity to fire him in month three you have to do it.

Pat Riley, Miami Heat: I have to say that it actually bothers me to see this guy get recognition for putting together a team whose players conspired years in advance to assemble it for him. If I actually cared about this award and he won it I’d want somebody to shoot me.

Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder: I think he forfeited his chance at the award when he traded Harden even if the team didn’t skip a beat. Still, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Kevin Durant wasn’t proudly hoisting this trophy in April.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The 2012 Warriors Consistency Awards

By Justin Taylor

The only consistency we’ve been able to count on through the years is that the Warriors will be out of contention for anything by Christmas (except for last year when opening night was December 25th).  It seems like yesterday that I was so thankful for the Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers for making me feel like I wasn’t alone in this cruel NBA universe.  The Warriors have something special brewing for 2013 and I am ecstatic to see a winning record to go along with a losing one from the #LOLakers.  The national media still hasn’t quite caught up with the #DubNation Bandwagon but at least the stories coming out of Kobe Land are entertaining.

None of this could be possible if everyone weren’t playing a role and contributing in one way or another.  Winning in the first half of the season counts for nothing if you can’t keep it up but that doesn’t mean we can’t honor the players and storylines that made 2012 so enjoyable.
So without further ado…

The Consistency Awards:

Big Boy Pants Award

David Lee is having his first true All Star caliber season.  No more jokes about his lone All Star appearance being as a replacement for a crappy Eastern Conference even if he does only make it as an alternate this year, promise.  Without his nightly contributions and (for the first time) meaningful stats we wouldn’t be in this position right now.  He gets the Big Boy Pants Award because I’m sure Kobe would take Lee over Gasol in a heartbeat right now.

For years I’ve referred to David Lee’s numbers as empty calorie stat lines because he always putting up big stats on terrible teams.  As long as the Warriors continue to win on nights he gets his clockwork double doubles I will be putting a moratorium on any jokes involving his rebound numbers coming off missed free throws and battles with teammates for loose balls.

The NBA JAMS Award

Steph Curry resembles a character from NBA JAMS at times.  If your watching closely you can actually see the vapor trails on his 28 foot three point attempts and hear the announcer yelling HE’S ON FIIIRE!  Other then that he’s only one of the best shooters in the league.

The Inconsistently Consistent Award

Klay Thompson is leading the league in three point shots taken and is shooting a respectable 37% after a horrible start to the season.  His defense and rebounding are an upgrade over Monta Ellis pretty much by default but his predecessor did look to set up his teammates at least some of the time.  Thompson on the other hand hasn’t taken his eyes off the rim all season, literally.  When he’s giving a halftime or post game interview he’s still staring at the hoop.  If you’re looking for the most consistent aspect of his game it is still the lack of emotion, enthusiasm and facial expressions in general.

The 6th Man Award

Jarrett Jack is such a good 6th man/closer that nobody really cares if Steph Curry isn’t a true point guard when the game is on the line.  I would call him the front runner for the NBA version of this award in April and so does SI/Grantland NBA writer Zach Lowe.  If you look at advanced stats you’ll see that almost every single five man unit that involves the new Captain Jack is better off for it.  He’s also hilarious…

The Rock Formation Award

Carl Landry (along with Jack) are anchoring a bench whose only competition for the title for the title of Best Second Unit in the NBA is #FlopCity.  He is giving us what New York can only hope Amare Stoudemire is going to give them off the bench.  Having zero drop off when the bench comes in is a luxury that few teams have but is now an advantage for the Warriors every single night.

The Blue Collar Award

Draymond Green doesn’t anything spectacular and the untrained eye probably sees those ugly jump shots and writes him off completely.  His stat line isn’t pretty but his marks in the +/- category every night are damn near sexy.  He lives in the trenches, embraces the team concept and makes sure his defensive assignment feels his presence even if the box score doesn’t notice it.  He’s a true Warrior and already a fan favorite.

The Adonal Foyle Award

Festus Ezeli’s token starts followed by 14 minutes of playing time have become something of a joke.  Like Adonal Foyle and Jeremy Tyler before him he can’t catch a pass in the lane to save his life but he is definitely a defensive presence and makes damn sure he gets his money’s worth when he fouls an opponent attacking the rim. 

The Rookie Award

Harrison Barnes has proven time and time again that; wait for it; he’s a rookie.  He’s still got a ways to go but is already better than Dorrell Wright and If nothing else he provided what was probably the best single Warriors highlight reel play since the We Believe season.  I think @SherwoodStrauss put it best when he tweeted: Harrison Barnes leads the team in, “Nice, do more of that!”

The Back From the Dead Award

Andris Biedrins is showing a pulse on the court!  He has been inhaling rebounds at a record pace and if he weren’t averaging damn near 15 fouls per 48 minutes (in all honesty it’s only nine but it feels like more) he’d probably be getting more opportunities.  Nobody even cares that he’s still playing hot potato every time someone mistakenly throws him the ball.  Just happy he’s breathing again!

The Surf City USA Award

Jeremy Tyler’s jersey has been stapled to the bench all year except for the nights he takes his talents to Santa Cruz.  If we have to watch someone fumbling passes in the lane it might as well be a guy with potential to be a contributing center someday.

The Bill Simmons Chemist Award / Animaniacs Award

Kent Bazemore’s ridiculous 12th man enthusiasm has spread throughout the whole bench.  His reaction to damn near every good play is almost as entertaining as the play itself.  You can’t underestimate the value of a bench that is completely enthusiastic and engaged from tip off to the closing buzzer.  This undrafted rookie has been the catalyst for this phenomenon and that’s why the team only ships him to Santa Cruz for one night at a time. 

The Road Warriors Award / Who the Hell Are These Guys Award

The Warriors are 9-1 coming off of a loss so far this season.  In years past every single loss had major snowball potential but this year not even Klay Thompson’s terrible body language and inconsistent play can bring them down for more than a game at a time.  I’m sure that if I wasn’t so lazy and actually researched some of this stuff I’d find that this is a streak that has never happened in my lifetime as a Warriors fan.  Even if some of these wins and stats have a little bit of luck baked in and some of these narrow margins of victory inevitably start going the other way, this is definitely something to build on.  They won 12 games in the month of December for the first time since 1960 for god’s sake!

The other aspect of this season that doesn’t seem real is the team’s 11-6 record away from Oracle.  Those numbers shouldn’t need any added perspective but just in case you need another qualifier for how amazing their road record is coming into 2013: San Antonio is the only team in the league with more road wins (12) and only the best teams in the league are even close to that win percentage.

The “I WANT WINNERS” Coaching Award

When Mark Jackson and Mike Malone came in last year all you could do was laugh at their attempts to make this roster into a team with a defense first mentality.  I’ve taken a lot of shots at Coach Jackson for being Mike Singletary (sans pants dropping and big loud speeches) who is known as a “great leader of men.”  Now that he has a roster with capable defenders I have to give credit where credit is due.  The offensive scheme still leaves a lot to be desired (to put it lightly) but throwing the Titanic in reverse, getting it off of the iceberg and plugging that gaping hole in the ship was a monumental task that has gotten done in less time then anyone thought possible.

The Tortured Warriors Fan Award

Every long time Warriors fan deserves an award for the shit they’ve been through over the years.  After many lifetimes of blindly following this team into the wood chipper year after year I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t waiting for the other shoe to drop on this run we’re on.  They’ve gotten a few lucky wins, they’ve played down to the competition at times (see four losses to Orlando and Excramento), they’re only 2-4 in the division and are playing .500 ball in the conference.  For the first time since the We Believe squad and 1994 before that I’m actually watching games without yelling at the TV and going to Oracle without heckling my own team. 

(Full Disclosure: I used to openly root for the visiting team to destroy the likes of Joe Smith and Antawn Jamison because there is nothing I hate more then an overpaid, entitled and SOFT player in a Warriors uniform.  Since I had good seats and Oracle was a lot quieter back then I know they heard me and I know those dirty looks they shot into the stands were meant for me.)

Anyways, I’ll always fear for an epic collapse from this team but all we wanted while Andrew Bogut recovered was stay around .500 and get the young kids some seasoning in game situations.  Instead we’re off to our best start in over 20 years and we haven’t found the ceiling yet.  All three of our rookies have the talent and the work ethic to continue improving and Bogut at 50% will upgrade the starting center spot if only for 20 minutes a night (A 20/18/13 center minutes between Bogut/Biedrins/Ezeli would keep a fresh, capable big man on the floor at all times); We’ve seen the worst of Klay Thompson this year so once he settles into a role other than all out gunner and improves his shot selection a bit that’s another sure fire upgrade to this lineup; also, even though Steph Curry has been great he can still cut down on his turnovers and increase his assists by cutting down on the careless turnovers and lazy passes. 

All in all there is still a long way to go on the upswing with this team.  Long story short: 2012 was a great year and moving into the year 2013 #WeStillBelieve but this time around #WeBelong!