Tag Archives: John Wallace

Full Disclosure: I Still Think John Wallace Will Play in an NBA All-Star Game One Day

Did you hear there’s a Draft tonight? I know, I almost missed it too. No one has been talking about it but, apparently, executives from thirty teams are going to sit around making phone calls all night in Madison Square Garden and decide the future of their franchises while a bunch of young men in funny-looking suits put on ugly hats that transform them into instant millionaires. It’s supposed to be wild.

Honestly, until all the trading went down, I wasn’t even all that excited for the NBA Draft for probably the first time in my entire life. I mean, it’s always a great event and watching it is one of my favorite things to do each year so I was looking forward to it in the same sense that it’s always cool when Christmas comes along, but I just really don’t have an informed enough opinion on most of the guys people are talking about as lottery picks to have gotten all that fired up.

To be completely truthful, I could barely pick any of Tyreke Evans, James Johnson and JRue Holiday (who might have the best draft-day name since D’Brickashaw Ferguson) out of a lineup. And if I haven’t actually watched you play in a basketball game five or six times, I really can’t pretend to know what the hell I’m talking about when I discuss your pro potential.

Eagerly trying to read up on all these guys can help, but it often just make things worse by bringing faux-knowledge into the equation. I try to check out as much info as possible and subsequently end up trying to sound intelligent when out drinking by saying things like “I like Johnny Flynn a lot but I think his size might mean he’s a bench player at best” or “I’m pretty concerned about Dejuan Blair’s MRI,” but all the scuttlebutt, innuendo and flat-out misinformed descriptions that are out there about how these kids actually play the game means that even doing your homework isn’t going to propel you into some new stratosphere of insight if you didn’t actually watch the games. (Wait, someone is seriously trying to get me to believe that Gerald Henderson is going to be the next Latrell Sprewell? Hmmm. Considering that I have actually watched Gerald play at Duke for three years and I have also seen this, you, sir, are either peddling misinformation or just lying to me.)

Essentially what I’m saying is that I have no clue which of the players in this year’s Draft will be any good. Partly, it’s because I really don’t watch much NCAA basketball anymore. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that every time I go into an evening thinking “Nice, UNC/Duke is on tonight,” I later find out that the Jazz are playing Denver or the Heat are playing the Suns, and I end up watching that instead. The quality of play is just so much higher and Dwyane Wade literally does something in every game he plays that would be the ACC highlight of the year if he did it while playing for Clemson. Still, if college hoops were played during the NBA offseason, I would watch every game. But rarely does my desire to watch even a great match up like UConn vs. Syracuse supersede the feeling that I would be missing too much if I chose to watch that over Deron vs. Melo.

On top of my lack of first-hand knowledge about this year’s draft crop, I also know that I have been waaaay off about a lot of players even back when I did watch a ton of NCAA hoops. I thought Boozer would be mediocre at best, for example. I absolutely adored Ron Mercer. I thought John Wallace would be a beast. I saw Rashad McCants making a few All-Star teams. I was a huge Maurice Ager fan. I even sort of liked Hilton Armstrong quite a bit for some reason. (On the other hand, I have actually gotten a few things right: I couldn’t believe Vince Carter didn’t go #1, I’m still baffled as to why Josh Howard fell to #30, I loved Shane Battier and I was one of the few people who had any inkling that Dwyane Wade would be a superstar — although I admittedly had absolutely zero idea he would be this good).

Despite all this, there is one definite opinion I have about the 2009 Draft, however: I would take Ricky Rubio over Blake Griffin.

It’s impossible to dismiss Blake’s incredible numbers or look past how easily he dominated the college ranks last season. His ability to rebound will definitely translate to the pro level. He might even be an NBA All-Star some day. That is all true. I know all that.

I just think Rubio has the potential to be legendary.

Like everyone else, I haven’t seen him play all that much, of course. But who would you want if I told you that you could either have (a) a guy whose upside is a pre-alcoholic Vin Baker, or (b) a potentially beloved 6’4″ teenager with floppy hair who has the chance to be the next great white point guard?

From a purely on-the-court basketball standpoint, I can see why Griffin is so appealing — he’s a can’t-miss talent who has zero potential to not be very good. And generally, my belief on how a GM should approach a draft is to be risk-averse. The upside argument for taking guys like Tyrus Thomas who can’t necessarily do anything great on a basketball court over guys like LaMarcus Aldridge who have proven skills that apply to any level of basketball has always puzzled me. I would take LaMarcus over Tyrus thirteen times out of ten.

But if this Spanish kid can figure out how to pass the ball with as much flair, presence and effectiveness as he has done internationally, the Rubio phenomenon — both on the court and off the court — could reach giant heights. We’re talking about a taller, goofier-looking Steve Nash-type of fan-love. Something like that not only makes your team instantly relevant Leaguewide and featured nightly to casual Sportscenter viewers, but it gives you the franchise foundation point guard that it is becoming increasingly clear that the best teams in this League now all need. (Yes, I know that Orlando and Los Angeles both made the Finals without marquee PGs, but the Lakers are a special case because of the triangle and Orlando had a lot of other things working in its favor this post-season. The Cavs are obviously another team without a great PG, but (a) look what happened to them, and (b) any team with LeBron is always going to be an anomaly.)

Ultimately, the NBA is an increasingly perimeter-based League, so I’m taking the potentially transcendent PG over the certainly sound big guy.

Take Rubio over Griffin. I’m certain that this is how it should be. Write it down. Take a picture. Book it. Ricky Rubio will have a better career than Blake Griffin. It’s a certainty.

Just remember that this is merely the opinion of a guy who would have taken John Wallace over Ray Allen in 1996 — and remember that all the other “expert analysis” out there is coming from people whose perspectives have been equally flawed in the past.

They just won’t tell you about it.

john wallace

John Wallace: Future NBA All-Star

The Millsap Doctrine aka I’m Awesome and You Should All Really Give Me a Standing Ovation

Being a total narcissist, I always maintain an affinity for any player that I thought was going to be really good before that opinion became mainstream.

When this happened with dudes like Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and Josh Howard, for instance, it was indeed self-affirming and gave me that nice Campbell’s soup, warm-and-fuzzy feeling. But the real crack-level, unwarranted ego boost comes from the pleasure I get from watching the less-heralded players that I thought were gonna be sick like Rajon Rondo, Bruce Bowen, Devin Harris, Trevor Ariza or Roger Mason, Jr. In those cases, it’s like a GM pulling Manu or Gilbert in the second round, so you latch on even more and they sort of forever become “your boys.”

(As a side note, one very convenient aspect of this whole phenomenon is that confirmation bias allows you to feel even more clairvoyant since it’s always easy to forget about didn’t-pan-out guys like John Wallace, Rashad McCants and Tony Allen — although Luol Deng annoying remains an ever-lasting Macbeth red spot who just sits there being mediocre, staring at me with his disapproving eyes of failure. And just for the record, my current low-profile crew is Thaddeus Young, Julian Wright, Brandon Bass, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Linas Kleiza in case you wanna scold me with mockery/send me a congratulatory email in two years.)

But for me, no one has exemplified this concept as much as Paul Millsap is doing right now.

(The Salt Lake Tribune/Trent Nelson)

(The Salt Lake Tribune/Trent Nelson)

See, I’m a Pacers fan. But for each of the past four seasons, I’ve been forced to sort of “adopt” a second team simply cause following Indy is so infinitely depressing that a dude needs something uplifting to counteract the sadness. It’s not that I’m really rooting for this second team or anything. It’s just that I wind up watching close to half their games and really familiarizing myself with their style.

Last year was CP3 and the Hornets. The year before was Utah. (Been going with the Spurs this year, although the emergence of Danny Granger has lessened the need for a major side project somewhat.)

Even two years ago, it was evident that Millsap was much more than simply a bench specialist. I found myself always wishing Sloan would adapt his philosophy and flip up his lineups a little more so he could run out an AK-47, Millsap, Boozer front line (no dig on Sloan, just saying he’s rigid). Still, even in 18 minutes per game as a rookie, Millsap proved an elite rebounder, an above-solid defender and a capable scorer. Mostly, he was relying on putbacks and dump-offs from Deron Williams’ penetration, but even in those instances he showed that he had some savvy elusiveness and crafty agility that helped him get buckets. The occasional half-hook or or drop-step/seal-off only furthered my interest and sold me on his future.

Anyway, the real point here is that Kevin Pelton has a post today on Basketball Prospectus talking about how Millsap is the quintessential example of a player whose career statistics showed that he was gonna be a beast if simply given the minutes. He’s calling it the Millsap Doctrine, basing it on some discussions/analysis among himself, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and John Hollinger of ESPN, and stating essentially that:

Last year, the Jazz played nearly as well with Millsap at power forward as with Boozer on the floor, the latter holding an advantage of about two points per 100 possessions. Utah scored better with Boozer, but defended better with Millsap.

The Jazz’s differential this season with Millsap in the lineup–+6.2 points per 100 possessions–is very impressive considering the other injuries that have plagued the team. Based on that, it’s hard to argue Utah has suffered any drop-off by moving Millsap into Boozer’s spot.

Obviously, Utah’s injury-plagued 2008-09 season is tough to handicap statistically.

But Pelton also sums up just about everything you need to know about how Millsap is playing this season in one paragraph.

On Saturday night, Paul Millsap did not record a double-double, and its absence was the story. The Utah Jazz forward had a relatively short 22-minute night in his team’s easy 17-point win over the Detroit Pistons. The lack of run snapped a 19-game double-double streak, the longest in the NBA since 2006. In 21 starts in place of All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer–who will miss at least another month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week–Millsap has averaged 18.0 points and 11.5 rebounds, earning some All-Star talk of his own.

Utah’s season is clearly not going as planned with the early season ankle injury that Deron is only now recovering from and, now, the prolonged absence of Boozer. But the team is still 23-15 (and 6-2 in its last eight games) while playing in the League’s second toughest division. How the Jazz fair in the second half of the season will likely hinge on two things: (1) Boozer’s ability to return healthy, and (2) Millsap’s ability to prove he can keep this up now that teams are ready for him.

Whether or not that happens, the Jazz probably will fall short of their preseason Finals hopes. Then, Boozer will opt out of his deal this summer and become a free agent. Rhetorically, he’s prepared to re-sign in Utah for the right price, but with Millsap also being a restricted free agent, many people are starting to think they should just let Boozer and his higher pricetag walk regardless and see what a team of Millsap and Deron can do for the next four to five seasons.

While that seems a fiscally logical position (presuming you can get Millsap at $10 million a year whereas Booz will run more like $15 million per), I’ll just direct you to Andrew Thell at Empty the Bench, who detailed Utah’s Power Forward Conundrum better than I’m prepared to do.

Ordinarily having two power forwards as efficient and productive as Millsap and Boozer is more of a luxury than a problem. And once Boozer returns from arthroscopic knee surgery, it will be a luxury for Jerry Sloan for the remainder of this season. However, with both players slated to become free agents this offseason and with each passing game serving to inflate Millsap’s pending contract, the Jazz may be forced to pick between the two of them.

Boozer will make roughly $11.5 million this season, and although he has a player option for next year at $12.6 million he has made it clear that he intends to opt out. Meanwhile, Millsap is Utah’s cheapest player this year at just under $800,000, but it’s the final year of his extremely affordable rookie contract and he will be a restricted free agent this summer, one who is sure to garner plenty of interest.

Assuming GM Kevin O’Conner and Co. can’t retain both, who should they keep?

Spoiler alert: He picks Paul.

Funny part is that, my Millsap love notwithstanding, I’d probably still pay Carlos if I was Utah. Then again, (1) I’m not a state full of dry Mormons, and (2) this might just be my subconscious holding out hope for a future forward rotation of Granger, Ariza and Millsap in Indianapolis.