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Just The Sports: 2008-02-03

Just The Sports

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Phoenix Suns's Plan

In a statement released after finalizing the trading of forward Shawn Marion and guard Marcus Banks for washed-up center Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr confirmed what many have suspected upon learning of this trade, which is that the Phoenix Suns are unequivocally, categorically, without a doubt tired of winning basketball games and plan to lose many more than they did before the trade.

"Without a doubt, putting together a losing formula to tank this team's season is what this trade is all about," Kerr stated. "People think it's fun to win and everything is better for a franchise when its winning, but the truth is winning gets boring and we of the Phoenix Suns were about to die of it. This way, things will be way more entertaining around the team since there's no way the team with Shaquille O'Neal will ever be able to count on a sure victory for the rest of the reason. Pretty much it's subtraction by addition."

The trade for Shaquille O'Neal is not the first time Steve Kerr has attempted to put an end to the winning ways of the Phoenix Suns, who currently have the NBA's third-best winning percentage and are the most efficient offensive team in the league. His first go at putting a worse product on the court was signing the oft-injured Grant Hill. "Oh yeah, that was a real mistake," Kerr admitted. I thought no way is this guy going to contribute, he probably won't even play in twenty games. Boy, was I wrong. Little did I know that I was signing the guy who would end up being the fifth-best offensive player on my team.

"With Shaq, though, there is no way I can go wrong and my plan will finally come to fruition. I mean, seriously, he doesn't even fit into this team at all and his presence will totally wreck the team's chemistry we had with Shawn Marion, one of the premier players in the NBA. Shaq is old, he's been in decline since his first season with the Miami Heat, he has an arthritic hip, he's not fit enough to play in our fast-paced style, and he will dominate a lot of our possessions. Let the losses start coming in baby."

O'Neal clearly understands his role and does not think it will even take that much effort by him to give Kerr and the Phoenix Suns what they want. "This is pretty much what I've been doing over the last couple of seasons. I can't even remember the last time I was productive over an extended period of time so I should help the Suns lose without a problem. My teammates just have to remember to pass me the ball like I was still in my prime and it should be rough sailing from there."


Monday, February 04, 2008

Durant, Love, And Beasley

With the NBA changing their draft age criteria so as to make eligible only those players who are 19 and one year removed from high school, the college basketball landscape has seen and will continue to see better and more dominant freshmen excel for their respective colleges. Since last year's season was the first that the new draft rule was in place, and it was still a new and unique experience for college basketball observers, perhaps too much praise was heaped upon last year's freshman class, not realizing that as long as the rule is in place, the freshmen play is not an anomaly, but will actually become commonplace. One of the players who benefited from college basketball aficionados was former Texas freshman Kevin Durant, upon whom all sorts of praise, accolades, and hyperbolic comments were heaped. As UCLA freshman Kevin Love and Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley have shown this season, Durant may not have been one of the greatest freshmen to ever play college basketball, but only the first in line of many great college basketball freshmen to come.

The first thing that separates Durant from Kevin Love is the number of shots each is inclined to take during the game. Durant dominated the ball on the offensive level to the point where referring to him as a black hole would not have been off base in describing his style of play. Surely, the Nike's NBA Fun Police, who just wanted people to pass the ball, would have taken umbrage with the fact Durant took 30% of his team's field goal attempts and only possessed a 5.1 assist rate during his freshman season. However, Love tries to fit in with his teammates on the offensive level, has a current 11.0 assist rate, and has only taken 17.5% of UCLA's field goal attempts. In fact, nine out of twenty-two games in which Love has played, he attempted less then ten field goals; Durant only had one such game in his thirty-five games last season. Since he is more discriminate about how many shots he takes, Love is a superior offensive efficient player. He has a 69.9% true shooting percentage on 1.40 points per shot attempt on the way to averaging 17.8 points per game; Durant's respective numbers were 59.4 TS% and 1.19 points per shot attempt and 25.8 points per game. Love is also a much better rebounder than Durant, who received too much credit in that facet of the game. Love's rebound rate is 27.3 while Durant's was only 18.2 last year.

Michael Beasley comes closer than Love to approximating how much Durant dominated the ball during his one season of college basketball and probably would have received a visit from Nike's NBA Fun Police, but even he has only attempted 26% of Kansas State's field goals. Even so, he is still better at making his shots count more with his 63.1 TS% and 1.26 points per shot attempt and 24.7 points per game. This is mostly because he does not love the three-point line as much as Durant did and does not fall victim to as much inconsistency. Like Love, Beasley is also a more proficient rebounder than Durant, which becomes obvious after comparing Beasley's 24.0 rebound rate to Durant's 18.2. At the very least, Beasley has been as equally good if not a little better than Kevin Durant was in college.

As easy as it may be to become overly excited about the prowess of current freshmen, that excitement should be tempered by the knowledge that each year one will be able to observe another class of freshmen that can put up the same staggering numbers.