A couple of random musings from a night spent shuffling between NBA games:
1) If I had a ballot, Andre Iguodala would be my #2 for Defensive Player of the Year behind Dwight Howard. I don’t think I’ve watched more than three or four Grizzlies games this season, and I can’t wait for the playoffs to watch more of Tony Allen, but what Iguodala does on a nightly basis is mesmerizing. Miscast as a top offensive option in Allen Iverson’s wake, he fits in perfectly on this Sixers squad, playing a Lamar Odom-type point forward to facilitate the offense in tandem with Jrue Holiday. The other side of the court is where AI2 truly shines, and proves his worth. He’ll guard all three perimeter positions, matching up as well on Monta Ellis as he does on Paul Pierce. His unique blend of size, speed, and freakishly long arms have disrupted opposing offenses from the first game of the season. Add in his electricity in transition after causing turnovers, and Dwight is the only player in the league I’d rather have on my team when my opponent has the ball.
2) Russell Westbrook would be Derrick Rose if he had a team to run himself. But Russ, you’re playing point guard next to the most efficient, best scorer in the league — you’re not doing the Thunder any favors dominating the ball the way you have recently. Give other teams a second offensive option to worry about, drawing attention away from Kevin Durant. Run pick-and-rolls with Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison all day long, allowing Durant to drift free away from the action. Just make sure he finishes the possession more than you do. If you can slow it down just a tick, stay a little bit more under control, it’ll do wonders for your decision-making. When (not if, when) that happens, whether it’s this year or next, you’re going to shake up the West playoffs and jump into the Chris Paul/Deron Williams conversation as one of the great true point guards in the league.
3) A restructuring of max contracts in the next CBA will not salvage the financial health of the league. Teams just have to be smarter, and stop giving above-value contracts to undeserving players in the first place, at every level of the salary structure. The good teams don’t do this, the championship teams don’t do this, the smart teams don’t do this. Orlando crippled itself with Rashard Lewis’s 6-year, $118M contract, then panicked when he proved to be nothing more than a nice, 16 ppg player, trading him for the cocky, ineffective Gilbert Arenas, who came south with 4 years and over $80 million still due him. Now, it’s looking more and more likely that they will lose Dwight Howard in the summer of 2012 because the Magic threw away any cap room with which to surround Howard with a good supporting cast. Teams fell in love with paying very good players like stars, average players like good ones, and bench guys like average starters, especially this past offseason. Travis Outlaw for 5/$35M. Joe Johnson for 6/$119M. John Salmons and Drew Gooden for a combined 5/$64M. Phoenix let Amare Stoudemire go to New York because they weren’t willing to go to 5 years and $100M for a top-15 player, yet in his wake ponied up over $81M to Channing Frye, Josh Childress, and Hakim Warrick. The top teams, the perennial contenders, somehow manage to avoid these albatrosses, allowing themselves flexibility and roster maneuverability to extend their championship window. When Toronto decided they needed a shot-blocking reserve forward/center, they ponied up $34M for Amir Johnson on the first day of free agency in 2010. When Chicago decided they needed a shot-blocking reserve forward/center, they waited for the flashy names to drop off the board, then picked up veteran Kurt Thomas for $1.3M. Thomas has anchored the league’s best defensive reserve unit, and helped fill in admirably, keeping the Bulls afloat when Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah went down. Good teams make smart decisions, bad teams make dumb ones, and it hurts the league to regulate stupidity and bail teams out for poor management.