Why Your Favorite NBA team isn’t good Part Deux: “The Zen Master can’t even save you”
It’s the time of the year when NBA training camps are a thing again. In the world of twitter, video recorded everything and Instagram the NBA hype machine is the loudest its been since June and it’s easy to see why. There are a number of storylines shaping up in the league, especially around teams like the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks, teams with large numbers of bandwagon fans. These stories aren’t really stories because these teams won’t be very good this season. Here is why.
Team: Miami Heat
Why They Suck: Lebron’s departure, management’s inability/unwillingness to draft and develop players.
“Of COURSE I’m sitting out next game Rio!”
Don’t get me wrong here while the Miami heat are much worse off for not having Lebron, I do believe that they will have a winning record and make the playoffs, but their championship chances are slim to none in the same division as Lebron’s new team Cleveland, and a tenacious Chicago Bulls team that can beat the Miami Heat in its current incarnation with or without oft-injured former MVP Derrick Rose. The Heat did manage to make the finals every year during Lebron’s tenure there but failed along the way to acquire and develop young players that would be able to lift the heavy burden from Lebron and the collection of aging veterans the team had.
Yes a team’s chances of finding viable rotation NBA players diminish once they’re out of the lottery, and The Heat were always out of the lottery, but there were quality players available every year since Lebron was signed, The Heat just really didn’t care. Here’s a list of who the Heat passed on during the time Lebron was there.
2011: The Heat drafted: Bojan Bogdanovic – who the hell is Bojan Bogdanovic?
Who they passed on:
Chandler Parsons – a borderline all-star slowly creeping into the “where does he rank among the best players in the league?” discussion. At 6’11”, he can handle the rock, shoot the 3, run, pass and occasionally defend. He may not be good enough to have swung this year’s finals but he’s close.
Kyle Singler – probably not a starter, but the heat could have used his shooting and young legs.
Shelvin Mack – like Singler he’s probably not a starter, but he definitely could have added solid ball handling and shooting to a team that needed to give Lebron a rest, especially as starting point guard Mario Chalmers lost his shooting stroke (and judging from his demeanor, at least 2 of his girlfriends) in the playoffs last year.
Isaiah Thomas – “Not That” Isaiah Thomas was the last person selected in that year’s draft. The diminutive point guard probably wouldn’t have gotten a chance to show out on a good team like Miami as he did on a crappy, discombobulated Sacramento team where he was given the opportunity to take shots and run the team with impunity, but, let’s say he did for the sake of this article. He would have added tons of heart and irrational swagger to a team that severely lacked ANY heart and swagger during last year’s finals.
2012: The Heat Traded 27 pick Arnett Moultrie, Drafted Justin Hamilton with the 45th pick.
Who they passed on:
Festus Ezeli – Fairly athletic big who proved himself to be a reliable space eater/rebounder his rookie year in Golden State before he got hurt his entire sophomore year. They could have used him against the Pacers.
Draymond Green – The unheralded forward is proving himself to be a useful cog in Golden State’s attack with his versatility on defense, willingness to rebound, shooting ability, and general scrappiness.
Doron Lamb – I don’t know if he’s good but he played on 10th Year Seniors favorite College basketball team (Go Big Blue!). He can shoot, The Heat needed shooters.
Mike Scott- A power forward who’s proved himself useful in Atlanta, he probably would have worked out better than Justin Hamilton.
Look, it was easy for The Heat to take such a lazy, uninspired approach to scouting and developing players when they had Lebron and could get away with it with the excuses: “we have Lebron, we’re trying to win now“, “hey, we’re Miami, people want to play here”, and everyone’s favorite “We don’t get good draft picks”. Lebron returning to the armpit of America and taking the entire 2005 all-NBA team with him to play with young guns like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters shows us that the luster of playing in the Miami isn’t enough to stop The Heat from losing players like the great James Jones to a rat hole like Cleveland, especially when you’re playing with a cast of decomposing corpses like Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis.
It’s so easy to lean back on the “we’re too good we don’t get draft picks” excuses but the Spurs manage to turn low draft picks into useful NBA players every year. The Rockets have damn near turned making starters of 2nd round picks into an art form. And the Pacers have managed to dig up quality players like Paul George, Danny Granger (ironically now washed up and playing for The Heat) and Lance Stephenson with low draft picks. For the Heat to succeed they need to start pretending like they care about developing young talent and stop signing old washed up veterans.
Team: The New York Knicks
Why They suck: James Dolan, Subpar Roster
The Knicks are trying to shake the bad Karma of years of Steph Marbury Rolls Royce rides, sexual harassment lawsuits, and repeated dickery from dickhead owner James Dolan so they brought in the Zenmaster Phil Jackson (see what I did there?). Given that they are still the Knicks and they are still owned by James Dolan he probably can’t save them.
The Knicks may have reason to be optimistic because of the recent hiring of team president Jackson and Head Coach Derek Fisher, but remember that Jackson has absolutely zero experience in any capacity as an NBA executive and Fisher was a backup guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder just four months ago. Fish, like Jackson, has never done this before.
We may not know what we’re getting in Fisher, but in Jackson the Knicks have a team president who would like to present himself as some sort of basketball genius because of his notable use of the Triangle offense. However no other coach has ever deployed the offense with any success. Phil “made it work” on teams that happened to have the most stacked rosters of any era including teams that featured Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, four of the 50 greatest players ever. These greats were paired with smart, versatile and straight up talented supporting players like Steve Kerr, Robert Horry, Pau Gasol (who probably deserved the MVP over Kobe in 2010), Lamar Kardashian Odom and Dennis Rodman. Phil Could have ran the “Puke” offense Woody Harrelson made famous in “Semi Pro” and still won 10 championships with these squads.
This Knicks squad is decidedly less talented that Phil’s old Lakers squads. There is no Shaq, just Samuel Dalembert, no Horace Grant, just Quincy Acy. They do have Carmelo Anthony, one of the best scorers in the league right now playing with other versatile, talented players who would look right at home on Phil’s old Lakers and Bulls squads like Tim Hardaway Jr., Cleanthony Early, Iman Shumpert and Jason Smith, but they aren’t ridiculously loaded like all the other great triangle teams were.
The more talented role players are point guards Pablo Prigioni and Jose Calderon whose creativeness with the ball will be rendered redundant by the Triangle offense which takes the ability to freelance from shot-creator types like these in favor of ironclad uniformity of movement. The creativeness of the Knicks’ point guards will count for naught in the scheme Phil wants to employ.
While we’re talking about the Triangle, let’s mention that the offense is predicated on precise spacing, post ups and quick ball movement, but Anthony and J.R. Smith, two of the Knicks best scorers really aren’t into that. Last year Anthony got 7.8% of his shots from assists (meaning he dribbled before he shot 92.2 percent of the time) while J.R. Smith shot 50.3% of his shots from 3. These guys do not give a crap . Don’t be shocked if these guys don’t buy into the triangle.
The Knicks are a team with an inferior scheme, inferior players, highly unproven coaching and management, and an idiot of an owner. I do believe that Phil Jackson will get the Knicks turned around at some point assuming Dolan doesn’t get in his way (and that’s a HUGE leap to make). But all the Amare Stoudamire wine baths in the world can’t save this lot.