Monday, February 25, 2008

Mark Cuban Speaks the Truth

Count Dallas owner Mark Cuban among those NBA observers who don't mind the so-called madness going on in Memphis.

He just questions the method sometimes used by Griz owner Michael Heisley, who Cuban communicates with as a friend. Asked to elaborate on his critical comments regarding the Grizzlies' decision to unload Pau Gasol for essentially draft picks and salary-cap relief, Cuban reiterated that the Griz could have received more for the skilled 7-footer.

"I don't know who gave it to him, but Michael Heisley got bad information," Cuban said. "That's all I can say."

As for Heisley's decision to move toward youth and fiscal responsibility, Cuban offered no argument against the Grizzlies' mode of rebuilding."It's smart," Cuban said. "You go from never winning to winning some, and then it's not enough. So you realize that being in the middle is the worst place to be in the NBA. You can't get the big draft picks. The curse of the NBA is multiple years of 40-win teams. There's nothing you can really do with that.

"Donald Sterling (the Los Angeles Clippers owner) once told me that there are only so many generational players. The only way you're going to get generational players is by being a bad team. Cleveland was bad when they got LeBron (James). Portland was bad when they got Greg Oden. Miami was bad when they got Dwyane Wade. You've got to be bad and hope the ping pong balls fall your way. ... Memphis is a basketball town. The media will kill them over and over. But the ping pong balls fall the right way and, boom, you're back."

This appeared in the print version of The Commercial Appeal and it shows why Mark Cuban is perhaps the best owner in professional sports. He gets it. He understands that it takes a special player to build a foundation of competing in the NBA at the highest levels. Memphis simply has never had that "generational" type player on their team. In fact, it is the entire reason behind the Pau Gasol trade. Chris Wallace is trying to put the Memphis Grizzlies in position to get a generational type player via draft, trade, or free agency.

I always look back on that almost 2 year old article by Dennis Gallagher on titled Blueprint for an NBA Championship Team. He makes it easy to understand. It breaks down building a contender into a 3 step process. Remember I said easy to understand not easy to execute. Here it is again:

  1. Acquire a championship superstar: Gallagher defines this as a player that was 1st team All NBA or 1st team All Defense (in the prior 4 seasons). It is not a secret that top level talent wins in the NBA. The notion that Detroit bucked the superstar trend is simply an under appreciation for the impact Ben Wallace had on the game defensively. He was Defensive Player of the Year 4 out 5 seasons. Acquiring a high level player is a must as every NBA champion has had a 1st Team All NBA or 1st Team All Defense type of player. So it is best that an NBA GM hedges his bets when starting the rebuilding process and acquire as many young players as possible with the potential to reach one of these teams and to make sure his team is in position to acquire one if they ever hit the open market.

  2. Add a championship sidekick (or two): Every NBA champion has included a top 10 player or a top 10 defender as a sidekick and over half (57%) have included two players with previous All NBA or All Defense selection. With the way the Western Conference is stacking up, I think it is a safe bet that two will be the norm for a few years.

  3. Make sure either the superstar or sidekick can defend: No team has won an NBA title without a top 10 quality defender. I think every Grizzlies fan can agree that defensive ability is essential to success and lack of it is a recipe for failure.

Is this the NBA gospel? Maybe not but I think it is very hard to argue with it. I think it is something to be considered this summer when GM Chris Wallace is making decisions. If the ultimate goal is to have a parade on Beale Street then somethings can't be ignored. Priority #1 has to be to getting a special offensive talent or a defensive presence this summer.

Coach Marc Iavaroni agrees. "We are going to make some changes and get some firepower," Iavaroni said. "That is what we wanted with the (salary cap) flexibility and that is why we feel confident moving forward. We know what we need or at least we are finding out more so." I think Iavaroni really wants to see if Rudy Gay has what it takes to get his game to the next level. The level in which he impacts the game. With just 27 games remaining, Gay has got to show he has the tenacity to really get after it. Preferably on both ends but either offense or defense would be sufficient.

The 2008 NBA draft allows us an opportunity to get a generational talent. This is not a sure thing as we saw in 2007. Usually there is one generational talent in a draft. A good draft has two and a great draft has three or more. The last great draft was in 2003 and unfortunately Stu Jackson traded our shot for Otis Thorpe. Since coming to Memphis there have been only ten generational level talents drafted in the first round: Yao Ming (2002), Amare Stoudemire (2002), LeBron James (2003), Carmelo Anthony (2003), Chris Bosh (2003), Dwayne Wade (2003), Dwight Howard (2004), Chris Paul (2005), Greg Oden (2007), and Kevin Durant (2007).

So it is not a matter of having a high lottery pick, most likely a team needs the #1 pick in the right draft for this route to work. The chances of getting a generational talent with a #3 or #4 pick is not good. However, the team can stock pile very good players in hopes of combining them to trade for a generational talent when they come on the market. In 2008, I am guessing that there is one generational talent in Michael Beasley. At best there is another one lurking like in the 2005 with Chris Paul but I doubt anyone predicts who that may be before the 2008-09 season begins.

The cap room Chris Wallace attained also must be used to attempt to bring in a generation talent. The good thing about free agency is that it is all on the Grizzlies staff to identify and convince the right player to take our money. Currently Philadelphia, Golden State(if Baron Davis opts out), the Clippers (if Elton Brand and Corey Maggette opt out), Miami (if Shawn Marion opts out), Sacramento (if Ron Artest opts out), and Washington (if Gilbert Arenas opts out) stand as our main competition for free agents. Once everything shakes out it will probably be only Memphis, Philly and Sacramento as the major free agency players.

The 2008 NBA Free Agent class is filled with young players that are 3 years or more away from hitting their prime. Josh Smith(22), Monta Ellis(22), Andis Biedrens(21), and Luol Deng(22) have all shown flashes of being able to be either great players or great defenders. It is a matter of projecting which players have the ability to blossom even further with an expanded role and more leadership responsibility. The Grizz have some assets to offer teams in a sign and trade for restricted free agents including the ability to provide a huge trade exception.

Needless to say, Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni have a busy off season ahead of them. It will be this off season that defines their stay in Memphis. If they make good decisions this summer than the Gasol trade will become a distant memory. However, draft unwisely or hold on to your cap space like a miser and it mights just be them in the FedEx Forum this fall...alone.

BallHype: hype it up!


Ronan said...

Good players play on good teams...yeah Cuban gets it alright.

The grizzlies were still in with a chance of a "generation" pick this draft with Gasol still there...he doesnt make a difference to the win/loss column apparently...All "generation" picks tend to want to play for a contender when free agency comes around if they are even available by then (If James leaves cleveland do you really think he is coming to memphis rather than Brooklyn?). They like big markets. Besides finishing last in the league does not guarantee the first will guarantee drafting in the top 4, where you could have gotten generation players in some drafts, assuming you had the right evaluator of talent.....Anybody trust Wallace with that pick?

ChipC3 said...

I trust Wallace more than Barone or Heisley!

Actually I completely trust Wallace with the picks, I just don't believe he has access to the safe to recruit FA's here.

August West said...

I've been going back and forth on the Pau trade since it happened... I felt much better after Wallace gave his explanation to the season ticket holders (thanks for transcribing that by the way!), but there's still something missing...

It feels like this happened: the guys sitting the room making the call had studied the possibilities, and came up with a million talking points and reasons why it made sense, but they failed to step back and see the bigger picture: it's a scketchy at best idea...

Seriously, we couldn't unload Miller, Cardinal and a few others for peanuts and cap space? Then we'd have a lottery pick, 2 young studs (Rudy and Conely), a great no.2 guy in Pau (becuase I think that's where Pau is best and why he'll be great in LA) and free agency money to add a star!

The only thing I'll give them in Pau's off-season/international schedule was obvious trouble.

I trust Wallace to make the right picks, but I also believe most of our losing has to do with a 1st year coach learning the ropes and two kids running the point. It takes time to learn how to win. Heinsley didn't give them that time because he wants out.

Any thoughts?

August West said...

Also, be leary of taking advice from anyone who wears black jeans. Even if he is a billionare.

Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

I think it is ridiculous to say Ben Wallace is a generational player in the sense that Mark Cuban was using the term. Detroit is the exception.

We had a defensive specialist which helped to get us to the playoffs and we traded him and we haven't been the same since. I am speaking of Shane Battier of whom one blogger in Houston compared to Bruce Bowen today.


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