Tag Archives: Hawks

Breaking Down the Back-Up PGs in the Playoffs

This article is a guest post from Michael Pina, creator of the all-everything NBA blog Shaky Ankles. His work has been featured on Hardwood Paroxysm and linked to The Point Forward, Ball Don’t Lie and True Hoop. Follow him on Twitter @ShakyAnkles.

On the New York Times’ Off the Dribble blog today, Rob Mahoney eloquently explained why depth is so important in the NBA playoffs. The triple-overtime Game 4 between Oklahoma City and Memphis showed this. The younger, fresher Thunder prevailed that night and blew out the Grizzlies in Game 5 as players like Zach Randolph, who played 56 minutes on Tuesday, looked a step slow.

And it’s not just fatigue. In a league of stars who sometimes cancel each other out, it is how the bench performs that can be the deciding factor, as Mahoney notes.

The Hawks have struggled in part because Marvin Williams, the eighth man in the rotation, hasn’t been able to provide quality minutes. The Bulls, on the other hand, played Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, and Ronnie Brewer together for the entire fourth quarter in Game 5, during which those reserves (along with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng) outscored the Hawks by 11 in a game the Bulls won by 12.

Along these lines, one of the most critical factors in every team’s in-game consistency is how it performs when its floor general heads to the bench. In a sport that’s played up above, high in the blue, the shortest guys are becoming increasingly vital. They dictate tempo — making basketball’s big men look like statues as they scurry around the court — control the pace and judge the flow. So in the playoffs, it’s the back-up point guards who’re responsible for either building on his team’s advantageous play or turning the ship around and surging a comeback.

Neither is an easy task — both are unglamorous — but these guys are the last backups standing. For the most part, they may not be as talented or physically capable of breaking down defenses as their team’s starter, but they have a commendable mindset not everybody is born with. Nobody wants to be a reserve piece (especially Big Baby). The position is allergic to endorsements, creates little national exposure and reeks of uncomfortable inferiority. But right now, at this time of year, whoever’s able to give his team the most quality minutes will end up with newfound respect, elevating themselves from blanketed aid to crucial puzzle piece.

Here is a breakdown of all the back-up point guards left in this year’s postseason.

Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford isn’t your prototypical point guard and back-up floor general isn’t his role. But due to Hinrich’s injury, he’s had more responsibility thrown on his lap. I won’t get into too much detail with Crawford because you’re probably well familiar with his resume and basketball makeup, but he’s Atlanta’s second best scorer and, apologies to Barea, the most capable backcourt bench player when it comes to creating his own opportunities. He likes to shoot a whole bunch, and when Teague’s on the bench the team’s solid cohesion melts. Still he is without a doubt the most talented player of the group — but also the least capable at running the point guard position. It just isn’t in his DNA.

JJ Barea

Apart from Dirk Nowitzki’s overall annihilation of Pau Gasol, an argument can be made that JJ Barea’s dominance of Steve Blake, and the Lakers as a team, was the key difference maker in the series. He penetrated at will, made the pick and roll look like a series of unanswerable questions from a quantum theory exam, and in the end, was the unfortunate victim of an Andrew Bynum forearm.

In a recent SI feature, Bynum was depicted as a person who loves solving mechanical problems from the inside out: Fixing computers, watches, and clocks by taking them apart and then rebuilding the parts from scratch. For four games the troublesome irritant that is Barea was unsolvable, so the Lakers center resorted to resolving things like a frustrated five-year-old, breaking the Mavericks energy source and walking away.

Both J.J. Barea and Blake both played this season alongside two guys  who’ll go down as top 20 all-time players, but Barea was the only one who acted like he’s worthy. He makes the smart decision, doesn’t play scared, and when the moment presents itself he beats it to a bloody pulp.

Barea is tiny—listed at a most charitable six feet—yet attempts most of his shots at the rim., like a less athletic, Puerto Rican Allen Iverson. Watching the unbelievable aspects of his game remind me of an outrageous sequence in a daring action movie. When he drives to the hoop holding neither fear nor hesitation, eyes go wide and thumbs immediately rewind their DVR.

Earlier this season in a game against Boston, Kevin Garnett got into a small skirmish with Barea. There was brief shoving before the two were separated, and after the game Celtics captain Paul Pierce said it wasn’t anything to overreact about; both guys were their team’s inspirational spark plugs. Pierce’s decision to compare Garnett (one of the greatest players of all time) with a Northeastern graduate who averages 20 minutes a game was an attestation to how much respect Barea has around the league. Defensively he’s so in-your-face feisty that opposing guards have no choice but to back him down in the post and take advantage of the sizeable advantage. This is usually combated with an egregious flop, forcing the referee to blow a whistle. Just like that, Barea has the ball back in his hands.

Mario Chalmers

A player best known for making a national championship saving three, Chalmers was likely given a single instruction after the Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh: Work on your shot. Playing alongside a decision maker of James’ ability, Chalmers’ role isn’t that of a normal backup point guard. He doesn’t bring the ball up the floor or initiate the team’s offense, instead hovering around the three-point line and finding open space to catch and release.

In the Heat’s Game 3 loss, Chalmers had perhaps his finest statistical performance, going 7-9 from the floor (including 2-4 from deep) for 17 points. In the series clinching Game 6 win over Philadelphia, he attempted a season-high 12 long balls, making six of them and finishing with 20 points (another high for the year).

As a peripheral member of the most talked about team in basketball, Chalmers comes across as a figurative little sibling who yaps behind a chain fence of older, tougher brothers who’ve been around the block. When Chalmer’s shot isn’t falling he’s useless. When it is, Miami’s very difficult to beat.

Eric Maynor

When I was a student at the University of Delaware, the basketball team was an atrocious sight to see. Nobody cared how they did, knew when/where games were played, or could identify a single coach or player if they were standing behind them in a dining hall; the buzz they created hummed softer than a flickering mosquito zapper. Attention to the team was minimal…unless, of course, VCU’s Eric Maynor was in town.

Apart from the games that I covered for both the school and local paper, the only Fighting Blue Hen basketball games I took in were those memorable Maynor performances. He was the Colonial Athletic Association’s Chris Paul, dicing up opponents, throwing smooth yet innovative passes to teammates who weren’t ready to catch them, and launching his head coach into a higher paying job. Maynor was a sight to see in person, and ever since, I’ve respected and admired the way he runs a basketball team.

After being VCU’s go-to offensive option in college, he’s adjusted in the NBA, taking smart shots within the offense’s flow, rarely making the unnecessary highlight worthy pass, and accepting a role that offers just 15 minutes of action a night. In light of Westbrook’s increasing volatility, those minutes could, and probably should, increase since Maynor is the essentially the Cool Hand Luke yin to Russell Westbrook’s hot tempered, mercurial yang.

Greivis Vasquez

Before we get into Greivis, here’s a hypothetical, somewhat timely, relatable question for you: If you’re Memphis GM Chris Wallace, would you trade Vasquez and Marc Gasol to the Lakers for big brother Pau? Because that’s what that one-sided destructive deal from 2007 has become. Just curious.

On the court, Vasquez is an unafraid rookie who offers a change-of-pace scorer’s mentality whose audaciousness borders on stupidity when compared to Mike Conley’s sometime tentative approach to the position. As Kevin McHale repeats each time he calls a Memphis Grizzlies game, this is both good and bad news for Lionel Hollins. On one hand it’s nice to have a young, athletic player show a willingness to score baskets and create off the dribble, but on the other hand it must be excruciating to watch him play the game at such an unrestrained level in such important spots. Bad decision after bad decision will lower a player’s confidence, and while the big guys down low are Memphis’ clear strength and advantage, Vasquez’s contributions are imperative if the Grizzlies want to advance. (As was put on display during the triple overtime loss.)

So far in this postseason, Vasquez’s points, rebounds, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and assists per 36 minutes have been better than Conley’s. As mentioned earlier he’s 6’6”, which allows him to see the floor a little better than your average point guard. It’s up to Vasquez to take the information his eyes are transmitting to his brain and make the right choice. Memphis might depend on it.

C.J. Watson

By taking the league’s MVP out of the game each time he enters, Watson’s backup role is probably the hardest, and most internally confusing of any in the league. His job is to run the offense, make smart passes, keep his man in front of him, ease the tempo, and, more often than not, hold Chicago’s lead.

But sometimes Watson’s mind gets nostalgic, going back to his days as the D-League’s Derrick Rose when he held gross averages of 26, 5, and 5. Watson comes into each game after watching the real Rose writhe through complex defenses with an ease that would draw the envy of every point guard in the world. There’s no doubt Watson has moments where he asks himself, why not him? Why can’t he do it? And so he scampers away from his role, veers out of his lane, and flails in a desperate attempt to prove himself as a relative Derrick Rose equal. Who wouldn’t? And thanks to Carlos Boozer’s expected disappearing act, Chicago’s relying on Rose even more than they did in the regular season. The result is less time for Watson and less opportunity on the national stage.

When Watson was on the court during the regular season, he would look over towards the bench and through the corner of his eye notice Rose at the scorer’s table. His response a majority of the time would be to take a bad shot—a three-pointer with 18 seconds left on the shot clock or a head-down bull rush to the basket without initiating the offense—knowing he was about to get the hook. Watson’s career has been a constant wave of doubt.

His entrance into the league was a 22-day visit in Charlotte followed by a prompt dismissal. He then clung onto the Golden State Warriors for dear life with two 10-day contracts, playing well enough to stay on board. In his last four games Watson’s played 33 minutes of basketball. As far as normal rotation players go, Watson’s the Whitey Bulger of these playoffs; unseen, a man who’s vanished.

Marvin Williams Goes Biblical on the Knicks

Some highlights are just beautiful. This is one of those.

Of course, the true beauty is in Marvin Williams receiving the ball just as his man poorly gambles for a steal and catching two rotating Knicks defenders all primed for a poster. As far as vicious, leaning, one-handed tomahawks over two guys go, this clip rates as worth your time on that alone.

But the wonderful, little Joe Johnson dribbling clinic before the pass to Marvin and — way, way more importantly — the reaction of Josh Smith on the sidelines is what takes this from “dope dunk I’ll forget in three days” to “one of the more memorable scenes of this year’s NBA season.”

Toss in a little Marvin Gaye and it gets even better.

Unless you’re Ronny Turiaf or Amar’e, I mean.

A Walk Around The Block – Jamal Crawford

Free agency is basically over so teams looking to improve must resort to the trading block. That’s why our A Walk Around The Block series will take a look at different aspects of the trading block, from players likely to move and teams that might make moves to reasons why these trades may happen and some fun trade proposals of our own. Today we look at the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford.

Jamal Crawford Danilo Gallinari

Boasting a career average of 15.5 points per game and zero playoff games per year, Jamal’s misery was finally alleviated when he was traded to the Hawks in the summer of 2009. After years of doubt and with his fifth different team, Jamal finally gave us every reason to believe that so far, he has simply been a victim of circumstance, finally playing for a team with higher aspirations than “let’s not lose all of our games, K?”

The Hawks asked Jamal to come off the bench every night and do what he’s good at (take the ball, shoot a lot, make a decent percentage), not what he’s bad at (virtually everything else). The result was Jamal taking the ball, shooting a lot and making those shots at the best percentage of his career.

How convenient.

Last season, Jamal posted a career high true shooting percentage (57.3%) to go with the best FG% and 3PT% since his second year in the league (45% and 38.2%, respectively). Fully embracing the sixth man role for which he is tailor made, he showed that he can be a major contributor to a playoff squad, and was rewarded with the Sixth Man of the Year award.

How wonderful — a much maligned player finally gets the monkey off his back, mere seconds before the Oxford dictionary officially inserted his picture next to the definition of “selfish high usage scorer on teams that go nowhere.” A real-life Hollywood film.

Or was it?

Other than the record attributed to his team, how different was 09-10 Jamal from 03-09 Jamal? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Jamal had the least assists per 40 minutes in his career at 3.9, beating his previous mark of 4.6. His assist ratio was similarly low at 14.7. This, despite a career-high usage rate of 24.4. His turnover rate was a career best at 8.5, though from a per-minute stand point he was only slightly under career averages (1.7 in 31.1 minutes last year, 2.1 in 32.4 minutes for his career). His rebounding was right around those career averages as well, at 2.5 a night, meaning that his shockingly bad rebounding rate remained just that (4.8. Come on, Jamal, jump). And let’s just not discuss defense, because you know where this is going.

So basically, Jamal was pretty much the same as always, only sharing the ball less and scoring more efficiently. Much more efficiently, to be sure, but not the sort of incredible turnaround it would seem at first glance.

The truth is, despite the great story that was Jamal’s 09-10 campaign, he’s still pretty much the same guy. He is a player with a limited skill set who can be very good in situations where that skill set is needed and just as detrimental when that skill set is not needed and/or when he is asked to do things that skill set does not include.

And that skill set is one of a high-volume shooter. How effective he is as one is arguable, but whether you play him as one or not, that’s the only thing he can do at an above average level. That’s what he does. He is at his best when shooting a high-volume of shots. When the volume of his shooting is high. He requires a high shooting volume. Shooting. Volume. High.

And in Atlanta, Jamal was free to shoot that high volume he loves so much. Whether the Hawks planned this in advance or just caught a lucky break with Mike Woodson’s isolation heavy offense, Jamal isoed and isoed and took long jumper after long jumper and made more than he ever did before. The lack of assists can easily be dismissed as “they didn’t ask him to pass, they asked him to score. He’s just filling his role.” And the career-best shooting is hailed as “he’s a new player.”.

Well, he isn’t. The incomparable Kelly Dwyer said it best:

Now, before we start to treat Jamal as this league’s ultimate martyr, understand that a whole lot of Crawford’s 2010-11 run screamed “fluke.” Sure, he was acting and playing as he always has, but his success rate at doing what he’s always done   was way, way higher that it’s ever been in his 10-year career. Because the shots go in, and because he’s working his way toward those shots in the same way you’ve seen him try it for a decade, it’s hard to notice that these makes seem a bit disproportionate given his past.

So it’s more than likely, at age 30 (and hitting 31 in March), that Jamal will slunk back down to earth slightly in 2010-11. The guy’s been right around 41 percent shooting (35 percent from deep) his entire career, so for him to make 45 percent and 38 percent last year sends all sorts of warning signals to fans that know that  shooting percentages, ahead of just about everything else, are the flukiest stats to behold. Beware the guys that see those numbers jump up for a year. And welcome, with open arms, those who saw their percentages dip unexpectedly the year before. Because they’ll bounce back.

So yes, Jamal’s turnaround last season was a joy to behold. Nobody can be mad at a guy who finally gets it – Zach Randolph and Josh Smith had me bouncing in my seat all season – but please note that it wasn’t as turnaround-y as it was an extremely fortunate set of circumstances.

While the optimist in me wants to believe that from now and until he retires, we’ll see the 09-10 Jamal, it must be said that if those shooting percentages drop back the way statistics dictate, the new saint-like Jamal could be short lived.

jamal crawford

Will He Be Traded? Should He Be Traded?

Much like Carmelo Anthony, Crawford has asked the Hawks to trade him so he can get an extension before the frightening 2011 free agency period (Crawford has one year left on his deal for $10 million). The main difference here (besides the caliber of the player) is that Crawford is reportedly all for staying with Atlanta long term – he just wasn’t offered the chance.

This means that even if, to the naked eye, trading for Jamal poses some Meloesque risks (giving up assets for someone who could bolt), chances are, if you offer Jamal money to stay, he will stay. (Does not apply to Minnesota.) Throw in Jamal’s value as an expiring deal, and trading for him makes sense.

Of course, if you’re Atlanta, trading him makes even more sense. Though locking in your core has it’s value, the Hawks already signed Joe Johnson (their third best player, by the way) to a ridiculous $120 million extension. Combine that with Josh Smith’s eight-figure deal, Al Horford’s upcoming extension, Marvin Williams’ remaining $32 million over four years and Atlanta’s history of reluctance to spend, and you have quite a financial pickle. Especially while remembering that Crawford’s current yearly salary of $10 million a year is way too much for what he can give you.

Atlanta’s situation is tricky basketball wise, as well.

Though they have established themselves as a top four team in the East the past two seasons, they are now in danger of being knocked back to first round fodder by the still strong Magic and Celtics, the new-look Heat, and the ever improving Bulls and Bucks. The roster still has major holes – no big man depth, a corpse starting at point guard, stuff like that. By drafting Jordan Crawford, the Hawks have what they hope is an adequate replacement for Jamal in the “scorer named J. Crawford coming off the bench” role. To improve the rest of their roster, Jamal is pretty much their only asset.

And if we’re already looking for reasons why Jamal can be redundant, let’s throw out new coach Larry Drew. Mike Woodson’s Hawks were famous leaguewide for playing the most iso-ball this side of Lebron James. The main beneficiaries were Joe Johnson and Crawford, who were given the ball and told to score.

Drew, however, is promising a balanced offense with more ball movement and less standing around watching. Whether this actually happens remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that the Hawks would be better off letting Horford and Smith create some offense (if not all of it) with their great post and passing skills than watching various shooting guards go one on one.

Mix all of these together, and you have a plethora of reasons Jamal’s Atlanta stay should end. Considering Jamal’s successful 09-10 season and entire career so far have been, as we said, greatly affected by circumstances, perhaps the abundance of now negative circumstances should be a strong hint.

The Asking Price

As it always is with Jamal, every zig has a zag, this one being that Jamal is still an integral part of this Hawks squad. This means that even if the Hawks are intent on moving him rather than paying him, they would (should?) expect to get back pieces to bolster their rotation. No Jamal Crawford for Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton, thank you very much.

However, we then zig back to the Hawks’ payroll. As much as they’d want to get back rotation players for Jamal, they probably don’t want to be paying them big money in the long term. Not extending a 30 year old shooting guard to acquire another 34 year old point guard with 3 years on his deal isn’t what Atlanta is looking for.

In a perfect situation, the Hawks can move Jamal for a combination of cap relief and cheap-yet-legit rotation players. Teams that are under the cap and can thus absorb more salary than they give back could have an advantage here, but since most of those teams are in the midst of rebuilding processes, it’s probably too much to ask for.

The Fits

As has already been mentioned, Crawford is very effective when inserted into the right niche. It’s highly unlikely that he will be as good as he was last year, but he can still help a team in need of a perimeter creator off the bench. This means that any potential suitor must have that need for a deal to make any sense at all.

Of course, even then, the team must be willing to invest in a aging shoot-first guard with one good year on his resume. Seeing how Jamal is reportedly sick of Atlanta because they won’t pay him, one must assume that he will treat any team he goes to the same way. So teams looking to acquire a one-year rental will probably get a very angry one-year rental. And when Jamal is angry, he kills your team from the inside. All of this creates an absurd situation where the Sixth Man of the Year has very few good fits.

There is one team for whom Jamal is a very good fit as far as style of play, although him moving there is as unrealistic as it gets: the Orlando Magic.

While I am a true believer in Jameer Nelson and I despise the voices that cry out “Orlando needs a true clutch player,” I do think they could use another player who can create his own shot from the outside. Vince Carter was brought in last season to fill just that role, and while, again, I think the massive criticism against him has been too harsh, it’s hard to state that he’s delivered.

Jamal can fill that roll for Orlando.

On the other hand, this is a pretty bad fit for several reasons. First, if the Magic bring in Jamal, they must move either Vince or JJ Reddick. And I wouldn’t move Reddick for Crawford (he’s too good an all-around player and too young to move for an aging one-trick pony), and I doubt Atlanta wants Vince.

Even if Vince is moved, that’s still a lot of players vying for back court minutes. Jameer and Chris Duhon have point guard locked up, and small forward is so stuffed with the likes of Pietrus, Q-Rich, and occasional spot duty by Ryan Anderson and Rashard Lewis, that either Pietrus or Q could see minutes at shooting guard as well. And of course, Atlanta would probably rather not help a division rival.

So while the fit makes sense on some levels, it probably doesn’t pan out.

Looking through other teams, the Mavs always seem to have a need for a high usage two-guard as well, but with Jason Terry and Caron Butler on board, I don’t think Jamal will be worth the price they will have to pay. Last year’s Bucks could have used Jamal’s scoring, but he’s not as good a fit as trade acquisition Corey Maggette since he doesn’t get to the line as much, and I don’t think you want those two on the same team again. Chicago needs shooters, but not of the high-volume, questionable-efficiency kind.

The best fit I see for Jamal is the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Bobcats are desperate for offense, and could play Jamal at point while letting Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw run the offense. It’s not ideal, but since the team’s starting point guard is DJ Augustin, they aren’t getting much play-making from that position any way (although I’m a big fan of the Shaun Livingston signing as a back-up point). They can also offer Atlanta the big man they need – either Erick Dampier or Nazr Mohammed. If Larry Brown, for whatever reason, talks himself into taking Mike Bibby, they might be able to dump his dead weight deal as well.

All in all, though, you can see that the options aren’t great, which should tell you how even though Jamal supposedly turned it around, he still has many problems to his game (again, basically everything that isn’t high volume shooting).

Final Verdict

Atlanta seems to have good reason both to keep Jamal and to move him. Conversely, despite his fine play last season, any team acquiring Jamal will be taking a major risk while doing so.

Usually, situations like these mean that the player is staying put. But Jamal is, as always, a special case.

With Atlanta probably knowing that he is the piece they can best utilize to acquire new, key components, and with Crawford coming off such a strong season, there may be one or two teams that can talk themselves into bringing him off the bench for 30 minutes and 14 shots a night. Then again, the Hawks could also talk themselves into paying Jamal more than he is worth to stay on their squad.

Either way, I doubt Jamal doesn’t get paid.

Despite the progress made in evaluating players, scoring is still the stat that is overrated the most, and a strong scorer like Jamal will always find a suitor. Whether he can live up to that billing for another year is yet to be seen.


Josh Smith and Defensive Recognition

There has been somewhat of a dust-up about the post-season awards voting process this year among media members. Long-story short, a few people were flabbergasted that LeBron didn’t win the MVP unanimously and couldn’t believe that up to seven writers/analysts/mascots (I’m actually not 100% who receives official ballots, honestly) voted for someone else. Two voters even had the stones to put LeBron third on their ballots.

“AN OUTRAGE,” screamed various fictional people I’m caricaturizing, who protested outside the NBA offices in New York burning effigies of Karl Malone, David Robinson and Stephen Nash. (They being past MVP winners who some think didn’t deserve their awards, you see.) About those who misguidedly voted for someone other than the King, critics have claimed incompetence (old writers don’t follow the league well enough to know any better), bias (at least one — and I believe two — of the people who voted for Dwight as MVP were from the Orlando area) and immaturity (one writer decided LeBron didn’t deserve the MVP for sitting out a few games late in the year). There is also obviously a level of bitterness from smaller writers who think themselves more qualified to vote than the bigger, older dogs who, in their eyes, spend more time filling out their TGIFridays comment cards than their awards ballots.

The whole thing has essentially been one huge, insider circle-jerk that the average basketball fan couldn’t care less about. (Matt Moore breaks it down further — and well — here if you do care.) I mean, LeBron, while not named MVP unanimously (something that I don’t believe has ever happened), did win by about 600 votes. That’s a lot. And no egregious mistakes were made in regards to the other awards either.

In the midst of all this shouting, however, there is an issue. And Bethlehem Shoals, as he is wont to do, wrote a banger today on the whole post-season award hullaballo that brings up some related issues of actual interest.

(Full disclosure: My man-crush on Josh Smith certainly makes me less than objective here. I pretty much thought the guy sucked until like 8 months ago and now he’s one of my favorite five players to watch in the league, so we’re still in that “don’t you dare say anything bad about my dude” phase of our relationship. No homosexual, naturally. Do the kids still say that? I sure hope not. It’s really offensive to gay people, I reckon. Again, no homo. Wait? Dammit…)

Shoals talks about how it’s pretty dumb that Smoove, this year’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, did not even make the 1st-Team All-Defensive … team. (No redundancy.) Worse still, is the fact that he has been, as Shoals put it, “twice screwed by process,” as he was also oddly absent from this year’s All-Star team despite being the best player on an overachieving team that sent two others to Dallas (Joe Johnson and Al Horford).

Defensive Player of the Year … is the big enchilada. It was always fated to go to Dwight Howard — just as LeBron James had the MVP coming his way, except somehow it was okay if Smith or Gerald Wallace got some first-place votes. And yet Smith coming on in second spoke volumes. Whoever voted on the thing, it said to the public “dude is now among the premier defenders in the league.” For a public only so interested in these things, it was a nice hook. The boy has become a man. The Hawks are in the building.

And then, yesterday’s [All-Defensive Team] announcements, and with it, all that crumbling. Simply put, no amount of “who votes on what and why” can explain away Smith on the second team.

For the All-Star team, speculation, squeeze-outs, and self-interest are part of the game. But it’s okay, since justice will never be served. In these two cases of defensive awards, we have two ballots seeking to determine who defends better than others. The average fan could care less what ballot actually goes where, and why irregularities may be proof of corruption. The All-Star Game is inherently messed-up, a combination of irrational fan voting and coaches trying to pick up the pieces as best they can. Perfection is out of the question.

All-Stars, though, don’t need attention. All-Star Weekend is an event. The defensive awards? They need to be making a push for relevance.The way not to do that? Send conflicting signals whose only recourse is the the kind of explanatory inside basketball (who is the voter, why do they err) that casual fans have zero interest in.

It would be like if the MVP didn’t make the first-time All-NBA. Both would be cheapened.

Good stuff.

I’ve been saying all year that it was going to be awesome when Josh Smith makes 3rd-Team All-NBA without having even been an All-Star this year. Deron Williams pulled off that very feat in 2007-08, and I — being the pretentious, indie-snob-type of dude that I am — always enjoy when that happens. It earns the guy his “respect first, then money … basic shit” merit badge and basically turns them into an NBA version of In Bruges or Sean Price.

Heads know.

Most don’t.

Obviously, maintaining that below-the-surface superiority status is probably less appealing to guys like Deron and Josh. For them, these awards and All-Star appearances are career development. They can literally lead to millions of dollars. Smoove and DWill aint starving, so I’m not going to go on a hunger strike to ensure they receive their due props, but it goes to show that, yes, the voting process may actually have some flaws and there indeed may be real-world ramifications for real people, so the league should at least broach the topic of improving the process.

Because, at this point, I’m pretty sure Josh Smith won’t be making 3rd-Team All-NBA. And that’s a shame.

I would love to hear you try — and fail — to list 15 other guys who played better this season.

Kyler Korver

Kyle Korver also clearly got screwed over by All-Defensive Team voters. Make loud noises.