Monday, January 7, 2008

Roster Redundancy or just a Poor Evaluation?

I saw this last night on The Fanhouse, but was unsure what exactly I could say that would top what Bethlehem Shoals had already stated. It seems that Ira Winderman, a great beat writer to be sure, evaluated some of the teams that were seen as disappointments to this point in the season for the Sun-Sentinel. Here's what he had to say about the Memphis Grizzlies:

Grizzlies: Hopes were particularly high in the offseason with the addition of Marc Iavaroni as coach, Chris Wallace as general manager, Darko Milicic as free agent and Mike Conley Jr. as first-round pick.

But for all the talent on Memphis' roster, the lottery already beckons.

In many ways, this is one of the most redundant rosters in the NBA, with two soft power players in Pau Gasol and Milicic, perimeter players with a preference for the jumper in Mike Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro and Casey Jacobsen, erratic athletes in Rudy Gay, Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick, and oodles of point guards in Conley, Kyle Lowry and Damon Stoudamire.

It was easy to be seduced by the names in the offseason. Only the pieces don't fit, which means Iavaroni will have to wait until Wallace can get things in order.

Now here's what Shoals had to say in response to that:

I just don't see how this counts as "redundancy." Maybe "incomplete," since there's no dominant, powerful seven-footer on the roster. But is this really any worse than any other team in the NBA not named Phoenix? If he were to correctly identify Gay as a "slashing swingman with star qualities," and Gasol as "All-Star adjusting to a new coach", suddenly this doesn't looks so bad. The problem is that he's been inconsistent and Darko has been a letdown -- not that they're both international players of a certain height.

After sleeping on the subject, I realized that a lot more could be said about this. Let's go beyond the two obvious names that Shoals correctly pointed out in Rudy and Pau, and explore the rest of the evaluation.

Darko might have a repuatation for being soft coming into his time with the Grizzlies, but anyone who has seen him play defense in the low-post this season would have to disagree with that label, as he has played extremely well against the best big men more often than not, most notably against Tim Duncan and Yao Ming. He's not an emotional player, preferring to get his block or rebound and head down to the other end of the floor, rather than screaming to the rafters or beating his chest, but that doesn't make him any softer than anyone else. Foul trouble and injuries have limited his effectiveness, which has contributed to the perception that he's been a letdown in Memphis.

Mike Miller is a perimeter player with a preference for a jumper, but he's also the second leading rebounder on the team at 7.1 rpg -- not too shabby for a shooting guard the last time I checked.

Casey Jacobsen certainly has the reputation for being a gunner -- one that was developed through his collegiate career at Stanford and hasn't left him since. However, since spending some time overseas, he appears to have learned a new trick or two. CJ's role on this team has been that of a hustling defender who only shoots occasionally. While he's certainly not a lockdown defender, he has done exactly what the coaching staff has asked him to do, despite the "concerns" of the fanbase who have questioned why he gets more playing time than young scoring forward Hakim Warrick.

Since when is having 3 point guards a bad thing either?

I agree with his assessment of Stro and Hakim as erratic athletes and Navarro as a perimeter-based jump shooter (although he is willing to drive into the lane), but people who don't do anything other than watch ESPN could probably come to those conclusions.

Also, he sees the Grizzlies as a disappointment, while others who have followed the team closely believe that they are "right on schedule", myself included. This team was far more different from the 50-win surprise team than most people could tell at first view. I agree that some elements of this team seem redundant at a glance and that there are obvious needs that should be addressed, such as a starting SG capable of playing great defense (ex: Raja Bell). But beyond that, I think that Winderman was off-target in his evaluation, as did Bethlehem Shoals.

I understand that Winderman cannot be expected to be an expert on every team in the league, but before making such sweeping generalizations he might want to do a little more research next time. Relying on reputations and stereotypes causes fans around the league to lose respect for your opinion and your credibility. You're better than that Ira. As someone who has been reading you for quite some time, I know that better than anyone. For that matter -- just shoot off an email and ask a team's beat writer or even a team-centric blogger what they think about the team. We're always willing to answer questions about our favorite team. Every now and then, we even take off our glasses that are tinted Beale Street Blue, too.


Tim said...

Totally agree, I really hate how so many people that dont watch the team say Darko is still a bust. They only check box scores and dont see huge numbers so they assume he had a bad night. I know he should put up some better numbers especially in the rebounding aspect but what ive seen him do defensivly against the other true bigs in the league has impressed me greatly. The way he plays agasint Duncan has been great in my views.

ChipC3 said...

What Darko is able to do right now doesn't show up in box scores. His thumb injury will probably bother him all season and will make it difficult for Darko to grab rebounds, catch passes and pick up loose balls. However he is providing a toughness in the paint the team has sorely lacked since the early years of Lorenzen Wright.

Darko has not been any more dissappointing than any player working through an injury. At 22 his upside is still incredible since his minutes were muted early in his career and his injury is slowing him down this season. What is encouraging is how the team continues to go to him early in the game to try and get his confidence back up.

AussieGfan said...

Agree completely. He's been good there's only been two problems (well maybe three). Foul trouble, the injuries, and those nights when he goes 1/10 and that hook won't fall. But he's been pretty impressive defensively, we just need to see more of him on the floor.

The other bad thing though is like Pau he plays internationally, and feels the tiredness of that alot, so it's one thing to have single impressive games (defensively) and another to be consistantly solid night in and night out on a .600+ team. But here's hoping.

One other thing, Miller's slashing game is very underrated. And is the biggest reason for his excellent fg percentage, rather then the jumpers which are also pretty solid.

He's 74-111 of shots taken near the hoop. .666 percent at the rim is competitive with any other player in the league. Even Dwight (.644).