Carter & Swift NBA (Part 2): The 76ers, The New York Teams, The Harden Trade

If you’re starting your reading here at Part 2, well, what do you think you’re doing? Go read Part 1 and come back. If you need a refresher of where Part 1 left off, the two are discussing Philly’s chances. Bynum is a huge add, but Iggy’s defense will be missed on the perimeter. And… action!

Reed Swift:
Couldn’t agree with you more. Bynum’s knees are still more fragile than Wade’s female organs, his psyche is about as bipolar as Rasheed Wallace and, in the end, he’s never been relied upon like he will be now. People don’t understand the distinct difference between being a very solid top three option, and being THE guy. The responsibility is 100 percent different. Now, instead of Kobe taking the tough shots, those tough mments are  on you Drew. Instead of Kobe taking the tough questions after a tough loss, you have to man up and stand at the podium, taking them all like a man. Think you can take games off now? Sorry, the scrutiny is now here.

Can’t agree more with you on Iggy. Though Turner may add some dimensions offensively having a bigger role, and J-Rich could hit a couple 3’s, Iggy was Philly. Gritty, tough, hard-nosed. I think Philly got more versatile as a WHOLE team, but I actually think they lose toughness, even though they add Bynum. I think a lot of people forget just how mentally weak Bynum is.

Before we move on to the Wild Wild West, I think we have to mention the two teams from the burroughs real quick. The Knicks. The Nets.

I have two simple, basic thoughts. As for the Knicks, until Melo and Amare begin to do the little things, they aren’t going anywhere. I don’t care how many solid veteran role players you bring in. Kidd, Camby, Thomas, Rasheed, etc. Don’t care. In the league, your stars have to lead. If Melo and Amare somehow discover that, then we can sit down over a whiskey and start to talk about the Knicks. The talent is there, but the mindset still isn’t.

Oh the Nets. Let me preface this by saying that I actually think they made very solid moves. Johnson horribly overpaid, but what better SG could they have gotten? Clearly the Russian Mob has deep pockets, so the tax penalty isn’t a huge deal. Crash Wallace had to be resigned, especially after you traded away a Top 5 pick, and he’s not a bad alternative to guard the Bron/Melo/Pierce types of the east. We all know about Deron. One of the best PG’s in the game. Humphries….man he gives you 10 and 10 a night, not bad considering he won’t ever get plays called for him, but defensively he’s Amare-bad. Lopez was a good resigning. Centers are hard to come by.

As for their bench, I actually think they did some nice things. I think Watson is a darn good backup point, and Taylor can really, really D up. Marshon Brooks is perfectly suited for a 6th man role, and if you haven’t seen……hold on….sit down….I’m going to say it….Andray Blatche is in the best shape he’s ever been in. What in God’s name got into this man??? It’s preseason I know I know, but he looks lean as lean can be. IF, and I mean an IF the size of Ron Artest’s suspension file down at the league office…he can find a way to compliment Humphries’ rugged game with some scoring and playmaking…you have yourself a big piece off the bench. These two teams have potential….but I think they need a lot, and I mean a lot, of gelling and stars falling into place for things to happen.

Kelvin Carter
Let’s make this easy. Knicks. If Melo and Amare ever figure out how to both be offensively aggressive and hold each other accountable at the other end simultaneously…. I’ll down your glass of whiskey and raise you a championship cigar. I have always thought that talent-wise Melo is one of the best three players in the game, it has always been his mentality and attitude that have gotten in the way. I pray he figures it out one day because if he does, and Amare does the same, that Knicks squad becomes extremely dangerous. One of the best defensive bigs anchoring the paint, athletes on the wing, and Felton is a million times better than Lin (anyone that wants to argue with me can go fall down the stairs). Everything I’m saying should come as no surprise, everyone knows that they have all the talent to make noise in June, it’s just a question of when will they turn the “what ifs” into concrete goals. The Knicks will be the 3 seed this year with a very good regular season but I see their immaturity being put under the spotlight in a second round matchup with the Celtics.

Nets. The Brooklyn HOVA’s. Deron Williams is easily one of the best point guards in the league and he anchors that squad. Good start. Joe Johnson looks stoned half the time he’s playing but as long as D-Will controls the game he can just do what he does best: shoot the rock. Gerald Wallace can lock up and crash the boards as a dynamic 3-4, while Kim Kardashian’s experimental husband is actually much better than people give him credit for. Never been a big fan of Lopez, or his Jew-fro for that matter, but he is probably the second best offensive center in the East which is more than most other teams can say for their own center. They have pieces, they have a decent coach, they have a Russian mob boss as an owner that could buy the league out, but in the end the Nets are a sideshow. This honeymoon phase in Brooklyn could be full of highlights, maybe a first round win, but will not have nearly enough substance to materialize into anything in the next couple years. 48-34, 5 seed, first round they’re bounced.

Touche. The only thing I have to add is a complete agreement about Felton over Lin. I’ll just go ahead and say this now. Harden may help him, but I see Lin being an absolute FLOP this year. Check back in February.

West time. I’m gonna start off with the team that made the news over the weekend. The Oklahoma City traded their most important player. Wait you say. They traded Kevin Durant???  No folks. They didn’t trade their best player. But they did trade their most important. James Harden. 19.3 on 11.3 shots a game. That is the key. You had a 3rd option, who was CONTENT being the 3rd option. His problem was never with his role, but rather that he wanted to be recognized as one of the best 2’s in the game and paid like it. (Mind you, Eric Gordon got the max 3 months ago).

James Harden is an efficient pick and roll animal. Why is this so important to OKC? Their other two players are two of the worst ball-stoppers in the league. They don’t play with a point guard. Russ is an undersized, uber-athletic two, while Durant is George Gervin reincarnated. Pair those two with Sefalosha, and you have three perimeter players who can’t make a play for anyone else. Just really that simple. Ibaka can’t throw the ball in the ocean, and Perkins…well…Perkins belongs at the Y with Coach Carter….and Coach Carter probably wouldn’t even pick his lumbering ass. What folks fail to realize though is how stagnant OKC’s offense gets when Harden isn’t involved. Harden got them easy buckets, free throws, and sped the tempo up. The only tempo increases now will come via a Russ fastbreak, which in reality is a flaw for him because it causes him to go overboard.

They added some nice pieces in Thabeet (laugh but they do develop players well, I think they’ll get something out of him), and PJ3 ( I can NOT believe he fell that far. Great value). Maynor is back to man the 2nd unit, and Collison is always a stud backup big.

Here’s where the difference again is. Kevin Martin vs. James Harden. Listen folks, Kevin Martin can score. He’ll be able to til he’s 60. The problem is that he’s a volume shooter when scoring, something that won’t be available to him in OKC, and his defense is A T T R O C I O U S. Trust me, Kim defends her goods better than Kevin Martin defends his man, and we all know how often Kim’s giving it up like a donation at Salvation Army.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. OKC is going to be playing LA. We’ll discuss SA and DEN in a minute, but it’s coming down to Kobe and Co. v. Durant and Co., and know what that now means? Kevin Martin is defending Kobe Bryant….yes. This is where Presti just completely dropped the ball. Sure, they still have Sefolosha, but that plays right into LA’s hands, as Nash can guard Thabo, and Kobe can take Russ. Nash is no longer a defensive liability. This trade was a true disaster for OKC in my eyes. Don’t give me Jeremy Lamb. He won’t contribute to winning titles for atleast 2-3 years. You have a 23-year-old stud, who again, LOVES PLAYING the 6th man role, never quabbles about shots, and you move him over $4 million dollars? Mind-boggling. Harden took the ball out of Russ’s hands, which is always the best solution for OKC. Martin won’t do that. I see OKC really struggling out of the gate, and being taken to 7 in the WCSemis before getting bounced in the WCF. Presti sealed this team’s fate before it even happened.

This is the team I have been waiting to talk about. I’ll be honest Reed, you nailed the Harden piece on the head.

James Harden was easily OKC’s most important player, the third best player but still the most important. He was able to wear many hats for the Thunder; when KD and Russ struggle he manages to put up 30+, when KD is rolling and Russ is running the point like a 3rd grader hopped up on Ritalin he distributes, when both are playing well he locks down the other team’s best player, I could go on. Harden was the perfect complement to that team, a third option who knew he was the third option and was completely fine with it.

Enter Kevin Martin. Think the Thunder had a hard time finding shots for just KD and Russ? If Kevin Martin gets fewer than 15 shots a game he is pretty much worthless. This is one time where the saying, “there aren’t enough basketballs on the court” is 100 percent true.

Some positives: they still have a beast defender in Ibaka, Maynor coming back, PJ3 showing promise early, great young core, and a bench full of good role players. This team did make it to the Finals last year. Even without Harden, they deserve their due.

Now. I’m not going to hold my tongue any longer, I don’t care if every OKC fan in the world thinks I’m high on bath salts when I say this. The reason the Thunder did not win a ring last year, the reason they will not win one this year, and the reason they might not get one for awhile, is Kevin Durant. He is so talented, one of the most effortless scorers in the game. A 6’11” nightmare matchup for anyone and everyone, a very likable personality, and a late game motor that warrants the “clutch” nametag that is tossed around so casually today.

BUT, its not enough. Kevin Durant averaged 30 a game in the Finals, one game Russ even chipped in with 40+, and he got beat in 5. That says something. What it says to me is that his impact on the game is not nearly as meaningful as his numbers would indicate. I’ve seen games where KD scores 40+ and they lose by double digits. I’ve seen games where he shoots 5-25 from the field and they win by 20. Granted, there have been numerous times where he’s seized the game by the throat and ended it himself, but overall I don’t think that his game is impactful enough to rely on him to carry a team to a championship. With Harden, I thought they could do it. Without Harden, the responsibility of KD to play defense, rebound, be vocal, and distribute will increase tremendously and he’s not up to that task. Yet. One day he will be but that time is not now.

I see the Russ-KD pseudo-feud escalating in the media this year, I see management getting questioned about the Harden trade whenever struggle sets in, and I see the Thunder regressing drastically from what they did last year. 50-32, 2-3 seed, possibly bounced in the second round and definitely in the WCF. Sam Presti put the West firmly in the hands of Kobe Bryant, something he will regret doing come playoff time. I’ll let you take it from there.

One thought on “Carter & Swift NBA (Part 2): The 76ers, The New York Teams, The Harden Trade

  1. Pingback: Carter & Swift NBA (Part 3): Kevin Durant Wait Your Turn, This is Between Kobe & LeBron | christopherobrien

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