All posts by Noam Schiller

Houston Signs Erick Dampier

After months of nail biting suspense that was almost too hard to endure, Erick Dampier has finally agreed to sign a deal with the Houston Rockets. Praise the lord, let the people rejoice.

I guess this kind of makes sense for Damp – the Rockets could offer him the most money (approximately 2 million, if reports are true), and he gets to play for a squad that could contend given a best case scenario turnout from it’s roster.

But what to make of Houston’s involvement in this deal?

The immediate response is “well, they need depth behind Yao”. With the gargantuan Chinaman working under a minutes limit that tops out at no second ends of back-to-backs and no more than half of the games he participates in, logic dictates that other bodies fill in the frontcourt void. However, a swift look at Houston’s roster finds a plethora of other bodies who are just as capable of that as Dampier.

Brad Miller was signed this offseason, and while you don’t want him to be your primary center, he’s capable of playing half a game. Chuck Hayes is only 6’6”, but he’s the largest 6’6” guy you’ll find, and he started at center all of last season. He can definitely give you spot duty. Luis Scola was signed to a massive, 47 million dollar extension this summer, and should never ever play less than 30 minutes a game. You have two promising youngsters in rookie Patrick Patterson and second year man Jordan Hill, who may not be ready to help a contender yet, but who are big and have potential. And Jared Jefferies is, I guess, alive.

All in all, you have 8 guys competing for 96 frontcourt minutes. EIGHT! There are teams that don’t have 8 legitamite rotation guys on their entire roster, let alone at two positions.

Now, I’m not knocking the Damp signing. He will immediately become the team’s best defensive big man (Synergy had him ranked 97th in the league at defending post up plays, and 53rdat defending the roll man in the pick and roll), and best non-Yao shotblocker. After watching the Rockets get killed inside in their first two games of the season, and in the perennially size-driven Western conference, a team who has only two “true” centers (if such a thing exists anymore) could certainly use Damp.

However, this move has me feeling that something is up. I may be rating Daryl Morey too highly here, but the man has shown that he knows what he’s doing, and between the frontcourt logjam, the Knicks’ picks he got for Tracy McGrady (you may laugh), and the depth he has throughout the rest of the roster, this looks like a set up for something big. The big Rocket trade everyone has been waiting for may have gotten closer.

30 Teams, 30 Haikus, No Point

If you are like me, you’ve spent the last 24 hours pacing your house while mumbling “basketballbasketballbasketballbasketballbasketball” to yourself, and plan on doing so for the next 70 minutes. So, in a complete waste of time with no point whatsoever, I give you 30 haikus for 30 NBA teams, so you can pass 5 more minutes until we finally get to watch the NBA again. And just for fun – I won’t tell you what haiku is about what team (though you might very easily realize that they’re ordered alphabetically).


We gave JJ cash

Now let’s hope he earns it. Hah!

I made myself laugh.


If you are real old

And your surname is O’neal

The Celtics want you.


Crash and Captain Jack

Are just good enough. For what?



’08 Jazz are back

Starring D-Rose as D-Will

So hope Bull fans.


Cavs fans all hoping

That Eyenga is messiah

Or this year will suck.


Dirk will still get his

Twenty four and eight a night

Who helps? Mahimni?


Melo to New York.

Or the Bulls. Nets. Rockets. Clips?!

Lebron all over.


It can not get worse

But will not get much better.

Don’t say McGrady.


Bye bye Nellieball

We’ll all miss the happy days

Of Monta at 4.


As stars demand trades

Daryl Morey lurks. Waiting.

Who wants Jordan Hill?


Forget legal stuff

Darren Collison is here.

Zach is going down.


Impressive young core

And Blake Griffin hitting town.

High hopes. Déjà vu.


If Kobe wants six

And Phil wants one more three peat

Please give Pau the ball.


Rudy Gay will get

Durant cash. Or is it the

Other way around?


Lebron Wade and Bosh.

Axis of evil? Maybe.

Awesome nonetheless.


Bogut is so good.

Luc Longley would be so proud.

Aussie centers rule.


When you watch Darko

Try not to look at the bench.

Kevin Love is there.


Anthony Morrow

Has a jumpshot that can make

Kendrick Perkins smile.


Chris Paul is the star

But look out for Lil Buckets.

Won’t be Lil for long.


Melo. Paul. Tony.

Dreams are fun until you wake

And start Bill Walker.


KD is da man

And Russell fits as Robin

But who’s number 3?


By now, we know this:

Dwight will win DPOY

But fate goes with Meer.


Iggy and Douggie

Will try to squeeze out playoffs.

Jrue is spelled with J.


And for this year’s trick

Steve Nash will turn Turkoglu

Into a 4. Ball.


Rudy Rudy Rud.

Lots of fuss for a backup.

But that hair. Hot damn.


Blazers in 09,

Durantula’s boys last year.

Now Kings? Not yet. Soon.


No fear, aging Spurs.

George Hill will win MVP.

Yes, I am sober.


At least the fans will

Have fun booing Bosh. Sorry

Nothing to see here.


Al will quickly make

Jazz fans forget about Booze.

Insert Mormon joke.


Matt Moore loves JaVale

And John Wall will gun for ROY.

Oops. Wrong word. No guns.

Eastern Conference Preview

celtics adidas

It starts with the Celtics. Most things do.

Sure, if you take a look at that roster, they seem more likely to sit you on their lap and tell you war stories than actually play basketball. But for this team, the war never ends. Maybe it gets put on hold from December to April. Maybe. If Kevin Garnett will let them again. But he won’t let them again.

And this team is so much deeper than they once were. Perk is injured? Enter O’Neal. Sheed finally bowed out? Enter the other O’Neal. Tony Allen went to play behind O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay? Delonte West is a far superior player. Avery Bradley hailed from Texas to shore up the back court with some younger blood. Heck, even Brian Scalabrine was replaced with a perfectly fitting lunatic of a red head – only one who can actually play basketball. Von Wafer hardly made the team, but can light it up the second he steps on the court. On nights when Semih Erden looks like more than a goofy Turk off the bench and Marquis Daniels looks more than … well … I honestly don’t know what that dude looks like (Ed note: Lil Wayne), this team could be a legit 15 deep.

And yet, barring a complete renaissance of Kevin Garnett’s unwillingness to tank the regular season, they will finish no higher than third in the conference.

You have the Heat, who could quite possibly, no exaggeration, play the best basketball ever. You know, having the two best players in the league together with a top 3 guy at his position does that for you.

You have the Magic, who could quite possibly, no exaggeration, play better. You know, having the best big man in the league to go with an incredibly deep roster tailor made for his many many strengths, and one of the game’s best coaches to boot does that for you.

The Bucks were probably the funnest team in the league last season outside of Oklahoma – and they got better. With Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Bulls had the a young inside/outside nucleus that GMs dream of at night – and got better. And those silly Hawks may have just spent $120 million just so they can stay the same – but what exactly isn’t there to love about the Hawks? The way they’ve improved internally every year since 2008? The two budding All-Stars (Josh Smith will be henceforth referred to one until he is rightfully selected to the game) who man the front court and who seem poised to be featured more prominently under a new coach?

And those six teams – those fascinating, mouth-watering, head-spinning, bombastic-adjective-inducing contenders for the Eastern Conference Finals – are just for all you little bandwagoners. The next nine teams will play lesser basketball as far as quality goes, but I assure you, every time they send ten laced up feet to step on the court will be a masterful symphony of basketball.

We have been awarded with the privilege of yet again watching Mike D’Antoni coach a group that matters. Of holding Darren Collison’s hand as we collectively squint our eyes at the sunlight present outside of Chris Paul’s shadow. Of staring at disbelief as Gerald Wallace anchors a league-best defense while somehow ignoring that his starting point guard is D.J. Augustin and his starting center is a pack of junior mints. Of trying to figure out how the hell Jrue Holiday can be so good when he can’t even spell his name. Of enjoying both Avery Johnson’s work and the fact that other people have to listen to his voice. Of John Freaking Wall. Of finally figuring out what the hell a J.J. Hickson is. Of watching a group of over-their-head youngsters and probably-want-to-be-somewhere-else veterans looking up to an Italian to lead them while simultaneously trying not to be the worst defensive squad ever. Of something related to the Pistons (seriously, anything interesting about the Pistons?).

Sure, this league has four, maybe five serious contenders for the championship. It might even be just 1. This entire conference could be rendered irrelevant once that familiar torrent of purple and gold confetti rains down, inside a basketball arena, on some warm night in June. But as you sit here, reading what some schmuck thinks about 15 groups of grown men throwing orange objects into 10 feet hoops, trying to burn those last few hours before you feel complete yet again, you also realize that you while pure logic dictates what should probably happen, pure logic doesn’t know the half of it. Because nobody ever does.

Nobody predicts Brandon Jennings scoring 55 in his seventh NBA game before the box score is printed in tomorrow’s paper. Nobody sees Larry Brown making the playoffs again when you thought he was just there for one last pay check. Nobody gambles in advance on Josh Smith suddenly deciding that he doesn’t feel like being crazy anymore. Nobody calls the Boston Celtics winning the East – again – after a season which saw their most famous fan on the web all but publicly disowning them. Nobody saw the Eastern Conference of 2009-2010 coming, and nobody sees the 2010-2011 equivalent. You think you’ve seen it all, but only until you open your eyes again.

Call me sappy. Call this a final cry of joy before the Lakers inevitably threepeat and my favorite league inevitably locks out its future. I don’t care. This conference is 50% of the NBA, and that 50% is back in business Tuesday night, with the other half following suit approximately 150 minutes later. And we have no idea what’s going to happen. We think Carmelo will join the East soon, but we might find out that Baron Davis moved instead. And it’s the best.

I’ve been starving since mid-June, and tonight night I get to eat again. In the wise words of Tas Melas (or somebody who looks extremely like him) – ball.

Crazy Prediction Time

Kevin Durant will win MVP. The Lakers and the Heat will meet in the Finals. The Sixth Man of the Year award will go to a volume scoring guard.

Predictions are fun, but when the entire NBA world is making the same ones, it gets kind of dull.

Not here.

Without further ado, I present you the Noam Schiller Crazy Predictions for 2010-2011 — where nothing is orthodox, everything is surprising, and I hope you forget this come April.


The Pacers Will Make the Playoffs

I know. The Pacers? The team that has done nothing but stagnate in the least interesting way possible since 2007? The team who will be starting Josh McRoberts and one of the Brandon Rush/James Posey/Mike Dunleavey trifecta? Seriously, the Pacers?!


The Pacers.

Danny Granger is a beast, and while he isn’t a franchise player by any means, he also isn’t nearly as bad as he was last season. Darren Collison showed while filling in for Chris Paul that he is more than just a per-minute wonder, and he can flourish in Jim O’Brien’s up-tempo system. And Roy Hibbert – oh, Roy Hibbert. Three years in, he should have the stupid high foul thing behind him, leaving only a deft touch and a strong high post game to go with a 7’2” frame. I see a great season from Roy, and he is my preseason pick for Most Improved Player. (Yeah, I know all the red flags – poor rebounder, too slow for the modern Al Horford-esque center, yada yada yada. These are my crazy predictions and you’ll have to tolerate my leaps of faith). And if they can swing a deal for another player who is actually worthy of starting (they have the expiring deals), then why not?

Most of all – the East gets quite murky once you get past the top 6 (Miami, Orlando, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee). The Knicks are probably the best of the remaining bunch, but they’re far from a lock. Besides that? Anybody but the Raptors could make some noise of varying degree – with noise being a Playoff push of under 40 wins.

Somebody will eventually be the least worst team.

This league has surprise, come out of nowhere, “they didn’t change their roster, why are they so good?” teams every season. I think this year, it’s Indy.

Jeff Green and/or Aaron Brooks Will Be Traded

These two players are in very similar situations and thus are paired together here. Both are young, supposedly on the rise, and have proven that they can be a major part of a good team. But both also have concerns regarding how good they can be for a full-blown contender, both have reputations far exceeding their actual pedigree, and both are up for extensions.

Sam Presti and Daryl Morey have each shown a knack for maximizing assets. As such, I think at least one of these very asset-y players finds a new team before the season ends.

bill walker knicks

Bill Walker Will Take Over as the Starting SG for the Knicks

Toney Douglas? Landry Fields? Wilson Chandler?


D’Antoni needs shooters. D’Antoni needs scorers. D’Antoni needs athletes. D’Antoni needs Bill Walker. Don’t ask me to be rational, it’s just the way things are.

The Spurs Will Turn Heads

I don’t think people realize just how much of a difference a healthy Tony Parker makes. He basically carried the team offensively in 2008-09. He’s a former Finals MVP, for Christ’s sake, regardless of how valid you thought that choice was. Sure, last season was bad, but plantar fascitis does that to you. Now he’s fine, and playing for a contract. He’ll be back at full strength.

Pair that with Duncan still being Duncan (he’s clearly not the same defensively any more, but on offense he’s still a beast, and he will get more rest with the new depth up front), a strong year from Manu (just a hunch from me), the fact that George Hill is a future Hall of Famer and Tiago Splitter finally coming over, and the Spurs will be Spurs-y once more, at least for one more year.

By the Playoffs, Miami’s Starting Center Will Be Tyson Chandler or Nazr Mohammed

I refuse to believe that the Heat looked at Erick Dampier and said “no thanks.” What makes more sense to me is the theory that Damp didn’t want to play for the minimum, since he was cut, not bought out.

Well, Nazr and Chandler could be bought out.

No, the Bobcats and Mavs won’t just give them away – but they are two centers with expiring contracts on teams with trigger-happy front offices. I think one of them gets traded to an also-ran, tests the free agent market, and settles on South Beach.

Andray Blatche will Continue to Toy with My Emotions

On some nights, he will look like this league’s best player. On some nights, he’ll look like what Gilbert Arenas left in his shoes.

I will be sucked in monthly, only to disgustedly throw in the towel after a contested 22-footer.

sad greg oden

Greg Oden Will Finally Transform into Gregorious

No commentary here.

I believe.

Carry on.

Hakim Warrick Won’t Replace Amar’e — But He’ll Do Surprisingly Well

Nobody will ask Hakim to defend. Just set picks for Steve Nash, and either roll for the dunk or pop for the mid-range shot. He is fully capable of doing both. For his entire career, he’s been around 19 and 8 per 40 minutes. He won’t get 40 minutes, but he’ll get 25 to 30, and extended usage, which is enough for me to see a 15 and 7 sort of season.

Carmelo Will Be Moved — And Chauncey Billups Will Follow

There is absolutely no point in keeping Chauncey on a bad team, further killing his aging value. Might as well just give the keys to Ty Lawson (although I would much rather keep Ty as my sixth man rather than my starting point guard), and let Chauncey get on with his life.

For a franchise in luxury tax troubles, I see the end for the hometown hero.

The Season Will Be a Blast

The Heat. The Lakers. The Celtics. The Thunder. The Magic. Tyreke. Rose. Blake Griffin. John Freaking Wall. This may be the last season we have in a while, but it will be one to remember.

But I’m sure you already knew that.

And Just for the Record …

MVP: Dwight Howard
DPOY: Dwight Howard
MIP: Roy Hibbert
6th Man:
Manu Ginobili
: John Wall
NBA Champs
: Heat over Lakers

2010-11 Eastern Conference Predictions

Rank Team W L
1 Miami 67 15
2 Orlando 60 22
3 Boston 53 29
4 Milwaukee 51 31
5 Chicago 47 35
6 Atlanta 42 40
7 New York 42 40
8 Indiana 39 43
9 Charlotte 37 45
10 New Jersey 34 48
11 Philadelphia 32 50
12 Washington 28 54
13 Detroit 22 60
14 Cleveland 19 63
15 Toronto 13 69

2010-11 Western Conference Predictions

Rank Team W L
1 Lakers 57 25
2 San Antonio 54 28
3 Utah 53 29
4 Portland 52 30
5 Oklahoma City 52 30
6 Dallas 51 31
7 Phoenix 47 35
8 Houston 45 37
9 New Orleans 42 40
10 Denver 40 42
11 Memphis 38 44
12 Sacramento 35 47
13 LA Clippers 30 52
14 Golden State 24 58
15 Minnesota 17 65

Building Around a Point Guard

Yes, I’m about a week late with this. But this is a point I found worth retaliating to, so you’ll just have to let me jog your memory.

While manning the fort at Truehoop last week (and doing a great job), everybody’s favorite suicidal Wolves fan, Zach Harper, posted this gem:

Ultimately, size still matters most in this league. The Lakers and Celtics had huge frontcourts with a lot of versatility in their recent title seasons. Duncan is probably the best power forward of all time (unless he’s a center, a power center, or a center-forward) and had David Robinson alongside him for a pair of titles. Shaq was still Shaq for his four rings.

You can have a point guard, and even the best point guard, but as Jazz and Hornets fans can see, it doesn’t always get you where you want to go. It seems to me building around the best point guards can be a fun thing to give your fans, but I don’t know it will ever be what they truly want.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Zach make this point, and it’s definitely a valid one.

In the 31 NBA Finals since Dennis Johnson carried the Sonics to the title in 1979, only 4 point guards have won Finals MVP. Two of them – Isiah Thomas and Chauncey Billups – were members of two of the most outlier-istic, ensemble cast champions. The third, Tony Parker, clearly wasn’t the best player on the ’07 Spurs, nor the player around whom the Spurs were built. The fourth was Magic Johnson, widely considered the best point guard in history – and even he shared the spotlight with an all-time great in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Of course, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. A very solid counter argument can be made against Zach’s thesis, one which was unsurprisingly led by Hornets 24/7’s Joe Gerrity.

Quotation marks, attack!

First off, most great point guards of the past 20 years haven’t been that historically great. Of those that arguably have been (Paul, Williams, Stockton, Kidd, Payton, Nash), two have been in the league for less time than it took MJ to win a title, [edit- and three made the finals]. As for Nash, he took some tough breaks against the Spurs, and his defense is awful. That’s all I have to say about him.

Of the three best point guards in the past twenty years that have finished playing, two have been painfully close to winning titles. Stockton was Jordan-ed for God’s sake!

It’s also hard to include Chris Paul and Deron Williams in the category of great point guards of the past two decades not to win titles because their teams have thus far been almost entirely unwilling to spend over the luxury tax line. If you’re looking for the reason Paul and Williams aren’t contending, that may be the more likely culprit.

On another note, there really hasn’t been a player on par with the pure basketball skills of Chris Paul since Isiah, who was also the last point guard to lead his team to a title. Sure, some people are going to claim Williams, Stockton, or Jason Kidd are up there, but get real. If you’re going to choose the best player of that bunch (when healthy) it’s going to be Paul.

All very strong points, which I wish I would have thought of first so I could take credit for them.

So which one is it? Are point guards really a bad choice for your foundation? Or is this just a confusing spot on the ever so complicated NBA map?

I agree with Zach that there is a basic flaw behind building your team around a point guard, and that’s defense. While I question the blind following behind the worn out “defense wins championships” mantra, there is a certain amount of defensive proficiency a squad must have to compete on the highest levels. And no matter how good your point guard is defensively, it’s hard to build an elite defensive squad around the shortest guy on your team. You know, the whole “interior” part of “interior defense.” Thus, recent champions always seem to have strong defensive front courts – the two Laker incarnations of the 2000s had Shaq and Bynum/Pau/Odom, the Celtics had Garnett and Perkins with a staunch defensive unit around them, the Pistons had the Wallaces, Duncan is Duncan, Hakeem was Hakeem. The outliers here are the ’06 Heat – which had an older Shaq, and frankly, are an outlier any which way you look at them – and the Bulls dynasties, but they did have three of the best defenders in history, even if none of them was your typical big, so that helps quite a bit.

Of course, no matter who you build your team around, you need to have a good defense. Good defense is rarely achievable through only one guy, no matter what position he plays. And of course, I don’t want to ignore the mini-D’Antoni in my head, who reminds me that offense can win championships. Whether mini-D’Antoni speaks the truth is debatable – I will forever contend that the SSOL Suns could have won the title if not for a few bad breaks (like Joe Johnson breaking his face, Amar’e breaking his knee, Robert Horry breaking the ethic code, etc.), and that team was clearly built around a point guard.

Also, as Joe Gerrity noted, many of the era’s best point guards were struck by bad circumstance. The “Jordan-ed” part is key, to my eyes. Much like a large gravitational object that bends the trajectory of light itself, so does Jordon to the annals of NBA history. Between the players whose legacies suffered the consequences – next to names like Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone – are two of the game’s best point men ever.

But the main factor that requires a side dish of a grain of salt for the anti-point guard argument is the realization that, regardless of position, there aren’t that many players who can lead you to a title. Every year, there is only one winner and 29 losers. Every year, this is one NBA player who wins Finals MVP, and 449-ish who don’t. This is pretty basic stuff, really – it kind of comes within the definition of sports – but we don’t give it nearly enough weight.

To drive that point home, let’s take a statistical stroll.

Take all NBA players and divide them into 5 positions. Now, allot a “lead guy on a title team” to one position, every year, at random. The odds of that player being a point guard are, obviously, 1 out of 5. The odds of him not being a point guard, 4 out of 5.

Assuming statistical consistency in these odds, I’ve assembled a chart which plots the chances of a certain number of point guard led title teams over a period of certain length. Of course, this chart assumes that every title team has only one alpha dog, but as a statistical footing, it is sound.

Odds of certain number of point guard led teams in an X-year period

The results are fairly interesting. There is about a 10% chance that, in a given decade, we will have no point guard-led title team. Over a 20-year period, that drops to just around 1% – a long shot by all means, but not impossible.

Let’s look at actual data, and see how it holds up. Compiled below is a list of NBA title teams since 1980, and the player around whom they were built:

2009-2010 Lakers: Kobe Bryant, SG

2008 Celtics: Kevin Garnett, PF

1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 Spurs: Tim Duncan, PF-C

2006 Heat: Dwyane Wade, SG

2004 Pistons: Ben Wallace, C (admittedly a shaky choice, but meant more than Chauncey)

2000-2002 Lakers: Shaq, C

1991-1993, 1996-1998: Jordan, SG

1994-1995 Rockets: Hakeem, C

1989-1990 Pistons: Isiah, PG (again, part of an ensemble, but was above the others)

1983 Sixers: Moses Malone, C (I’m sorry Doc)

1980s Lakers: Magic, PG, Kareem, C (split for the sake of the discussion)

1980s Celtics: Bird, SF

Summed up, we have 31 title “teams.” If we split the Magic/Kareem category so we give Magic 3 titles and Kareem 2 (reasonable, given Kareem’s age), and give Duncan 2 PFs and 2 Cs (in line with David Robinson’s years), we have:

  • 5 point guards (2 Isiah, 3 Magic)
  • 9 shooting guards (6 MJ, 2 Kobe, Wade)
  • 1 small forward
  • 5 power forwards
  • 11 centers

Quite the interesting spread. Unsurprisingly, big men take it by a huge margin, and the MJ/Kobe duo give shooting guard second place. Point guards get 5 out of 31. In our chart, 5 out of 30 got 17% odds. So I’m inclined to say this is not a statistical oddity. In fact, by glossing over this info, one would be inclined to say the cursed position is in fact small forward. Thank god we’re abolishing it for the positional revolution.

A point I must make, though, is how many of these teams were multiple champions. Whether it skews the statistics or not depends on your view – for example, I chose to credit MJ with 6 and Wade with 1, but some might say that for this specific exercise they should carry the same weight. One might also say that given how dominant some of these dynasties are, we should also count strong runner ups – thus adding the Stockton-Malone Jazz and the Payton-Kemp Sonics – or maybe add prevalent sidekicks (Pippen’s 6 would look nice in that lonely small forward spot).

These, however, are judgement calls. I’m looking for a main theme.

In this main theme, I found this a fun and educating exercise. I must warn you – do not put more stock into this than what it’s worth. This is the work of an excel sheet, 12th grade statistics, and a basketball fan. It’s not like I’m Hollinger or anything.

But I think this can teach us a few important lessons:

  • Winning a title in the NBA is hard, no matter how you build your team.
  • Winning with a point guard as your main player is not impossible. In recent history, it has happened less than with big men or shooting guards, but it is within “statistical oddity” range.
  • If you do choose to build around your point guard, it never hurts to have one of the best centers of all time or a historical defensive squad backing him up.
  • Small forwards suck, ergo, Lebron sucks, ergo, Skip Bayless was right. May god help us.