You should never force yourself to finish something important because of an artificially imposed deadline. Just ask Justin Timberlake's last album. So even if February's trade deadline passed without my annual "Who has the NBA's highest trade value?" extravaganza — my single favorite column to write every year — what seemed like laziness was really just veteran savvy. See, this column is like a pizza: You can't yank it out from the oven before it's ready.
For a variety of reasons, this year's edition needed to keep baking for an extra eight weeks. For instance, what about Derrick Rose, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard and (gulp) a limping Rajon Rondo? Where do you rank those guys when three of them aren't playing and the fourth one isn't the guy he used to be, only he might be soon, only he might not, only he might? And what about LeBron James and Kevin Durant (four years younger, on the rise) for the top spot? You know how Decade 2 of Albert Pujols has been decidedly different from Decade 1? What if that happened with LeBron? Wasn't Durant a slightly safer bet for the next 10 years with his prime looming, more 50-40-90 seasons coming, and maybe even an identity-transforming, billy goat–like goatee in the works?
I battled back and forth, delayed the piece, then told myself, "I'm gonna need a sign from God here like, say, Miami winning 27 straight games or something."1 The rest was history. Now we're ready. But first, an important announcement. We replaced the official theme song of the NBA Trade Value Column
after an inspired four-year run. Feel free to enjoy it one last time — especially that epic showdown between the bearded violinist who's dressed like a pirate and the guitarist who looks like a cross between a WNBA coach, a blackjack dealer and William H. Macy in Shameless. It's like the Dominique-Bird duel from 1988 of unironically bad YouTube clips. Jumping in its place as the official trade value theme song
That's my hometown. You can't break Boston. People have been trying for 350 years. It's not happening. We will mourn the fallen, raise money for the victims and come back more defiant than ever. For anyone who thinks the marathon has been ruined or irrevocably altered — you're wrong. Too many people will do whatever it takes to rebuild that race, improve it, protect it, make it better than it was. I bet more people run next year's race than ever before. It's our own little holiday, the most sacred of days. Everyone from Boston has watched the race near the finish line at least once. Everyone has gone to that 11 a.m. Red Sox game. Everyone has a family member who ran the race and at least one or two good friends who pulled off the 26.2 miles. So when someone tries to blow that day up in the most evil way possible, you pull yourself back together, try to process the senselessness, slowly feel yourself getting pissed off, and then sing the national anthem at the top of your lungs and send a message to everyone else. I'm proud of you, Boston.
And on that note, it's time to talk trade value, guys. If you can't remember the rules, revive your brain with the sidebar to the right. If you want a refresher on 2013's best contracts and worst contracts, as well as the mechanics behind what makes a player undervalued or overpaid, please reread my Grantland pieces from earlier this year. Here's who got bounced from 2012's top 50.
Roy Hibbert (no. 49 last year) signed a max deal and inexplicably turned into a poor man's Dikembe Mutombo the original JWoww (Josh Smith, no. 48) is dying to annihilate your favorite team's salary cap next season, although he's also weirdly underrated (I know, I'm confused, too) Evan Turner (no. 46) will either haunt Philly on his next team or just plain haunt his next team (I'm leaning toward the latter) Eric Gordon (no. 45) hasn't had a happy basketball experience since high school (it's true) Paul Millsap (no. 43) needs a new team Danilo Gallinari (no. 42) needs a new ACL Anderson Varejao (no. 40) played only 81 more Cleveland games than LeBron did these past three years (not a misprint) sadly, being known for having the NBA's fastest car might go down as Marcin Gortat's (no. 39) career highlight Steve Nash (no. 36) doesn't keep getting injured, he's old (there's a difference)2 I think I was drunk when Linsanity (no. 34) made last year's list if it's any consolation, Derrick Williams (no. 31) isn't one of David Kahn's two worst lottery picks ever Andrew Bynum's (no. 21) new nickname should be "the Lemon" even if we're begrudgingly bumping Pau Gasol (no. 17) because he's been woefully misused for two solid years, I'm still the chairman of the "I Would ABSOLUTELY Trade for Pau This Summer and He Will ABSOLUTELY Haunt the Lakers Next Season" committee and we'll cover no. 25, no. 24 and no. 9 on last year's list a little later.
On to our toughest 2013 omissions from "least tough" to "toughest" 3
Goran Dragic: Congratulations, Robert Sarver: Now that we're finally jettisoning the Maloofs, you're the new worst NBA owner alive! Well done, my friend! Your team has the league's best training staff and the league's worst everything else. Just sell already. You'll get big bucks. Probably north of $600 million. You know what sucks about professional sports? Guys like Frank McCourt and Sarver can stumble into a valuable franchise, screw fans over for years and years, then sell for a colossal profit and prevail in the end. What a shame. That's a terrific basketball city and Phoenix deserves better. Anyway, Dragic saved the Suns from getting shut out of any mention in this column, and if that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.
Tony Allen: T.A. would have cracked the top 50 if he weren't an expiring contract — he's recovered from last year's knee problem and back to being the League's Best One-On-One Perimeter Defender Not Named LeBron. Memphis lost in seven to the Clippers last spring for two reasons. First, Rudy Gay didn't just shit the bed in that series; he whipped his feces at the ceiling fan so it sprayed all over the arena. And second, Tony Allen wasn't healthy and couldn't bother Chris Paul at all. This spring? He'll be bothering Chris Paul.
From a basketball standpoint, that's the best subplot of Round 1: Those 45 to 50 crunch-time possessions over seven games (and yes, it's going seven) when Vinny Del Negro stares vacantly toward the floor with a gaze that says, "Look, Chris, you know we don't have plays, you're just gonna have to do something here" and then it turns into another mano-a-mano battle between Chris and Tony. Think of them as two perfectly matched super lightweights ready to kick the living basketball crap out of each other; they may as well be Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios. I'm fired up. Don't sleep on this series.
Shane Battier: Stealing this point from Jalen: Battier's career is starting to feel a little Big Shot Rob-ish.
Manu Ginobili (no. 25 last year): The thought of Barkley retiring the "JAH-NO-BLEEEEEEEEEEE!" scream sooner than later is just plain depressing. This hurts. I can't lie. But Father Time is undefeated, and well
2011 (age 33): 30.3 MPG, 17.4 PPG, 12.7 FGA, 5.1 FTA, 43-35-87%, 2 missed games
2012 (age 34): 23.3 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 8.4 FGA, 3.0 FTA, 53-41-87%, 32 missed games
2013 (age 35): 23.2 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 9.0 FGA, 3.4 FTA, 43-35-80%, 22 missed games
(A San Antonio reader summed it up best: "When Manu comes back, he's our backup point guard. That's how we use him now." Regardless, a phenomenal run by an incredibly entertaining player. I'm standing and applauding right now. You're right, I'm not actually doing that. But that was a bueno run.)
Evan Fournier: The captain of this year's Bill Simmons All-Stars for "The Guys I Inexplicably Like Much More Than I Should Probably Like Them," joining Shavlik Randolph (check out his per-minutes); Alec Burks (puzzlingly buried by the wildly incompetent Ty Corbin); Donatas Motiejunas (I bet he sneaks into the top 50 next year); Terrence Ross (I just like him); Kyle Singler (destined for a second life as a Spurs role player); Brandan Wright (figured out how to game the flaw in Hollinger's PER system — he always gives you 14 good minutes, but if you play him 40 minutes, he'll still give you 14 good minutes and the other 26 will be atrocious); Kosta Koufos (although it's an explicable likability in his case); Wayne Ellington (did we ever figure out why Memphis salary-dumped him right before the Rudy Gay salary dump?); Jimmer Fredette (I still think he'll be heard from someday on a good team, à la J.J. Redick, even if there's a 65 percent chance this point will be thrown back in my face on Twitter five years from now); Shaun Livingston (a masterful comeback as a fun-to-play-with veteran on a likably crappy Cavs team); Patrick Beverley (not to be confused with Rich Peverley); Reggie Jackson (looming as an under-the-radar playoff X factor off OKC's bench); and one of the Morris twins (can't remember which one). Please don't confuse this team with the Jordan Crawford All-Stars (for players who make me want to swallow my own tongue).
Mike Conley Jr.: Assumed a Tony Parker–like level of offensive responsibility for a legitimate 2013 Finals contender4 but that's the same reason nobody thinks Memphis can win the title. So I don't know what that means. More importantly, where does Conley rank among the greatest athletes who tried to keep the "Jr." going in their names? I have Cal Ripken Jr. first, Ken Griffey Jr. second, Roy Jones Jr. third, Mike Conley Jr. fourth and Keith Closs Jr. last.
Avery Bradley: A destructive defender who will cost just $6 million over the next two years, only his shooting tailed off because he stopped making 3s (31.7 percent) and misses getting easy baskets from Rondo (they played beautifully together). There's also an excellent chance that Bradley's pestering/relentless/brazen defense affects his offense. On Monday's B.S. Report, Zach Lowe compared Bradley's one-sidedness to Kobe Bryant, who eschewed defense altogether this season to save energy for his mammoth offensive responsibilities. If Kobe plays like a baseball DH, then Bradley is a slick-fielding shortstop who saves a ton of runs but hits .239 (at least this year, anyway). When he's making corner 3s, he's suddenly Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel. Maybe next year. By the way, if "pickpocketing" were an NBA stat, Bradley would lead the league. Check this out.
Jeremy Lamb, One Year of Kevin Martin and Two Non-Impact First-Round Picks: Just kidding.
J.R. Smith, David West, Jarrett Jack: Three unrestricted free agents who killed it for playoff teams, made a slew of late-game plays, played with real fearlessness, probably earned themselves gaudier paydays this summer5 and (in J.R'.s case) broke the NBA's total tattoo record (for J.R.: 100 and counting). They made honorable mention only because we don't know about their next contracts yet. Would you pay J.R. Smith $12 million a year to be the second-best scorer on your team? Holy schnikes, I think you would! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??
(Semi-related: J.R. Smith had the season I expected O.J. Mayo to have in Dallas. There's a 23 percent chance they switched bodies in October Freaky Friday style, which leads me to two thoughts: One, why hasn't there been a body-switching sports movie yet? (What, you're saying it already happened, and it was called Thunderstruck? You're wrong. That movie never happened. I don't care if there are YouTube clips. It never happened.) And two, which two real-life NBA guys would be the funniest swaps for that movie? My nominees: either Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins and Steve Nash, or Chris Kaman and anybody.)
Kawhi Leonard, Gordon Hayward, Danny Green, Ryan Anderson: New post-lockout NBA reality no. 1: Defenses have become so sophisticated that you can't consistently score against good teams without nailing 3s. Nine of our top-10 teams in made 3s made the playoffs (sorry, Portland). Our four best teams (Miami, Oklahoma City, New York and San Antonio) rank second, third, fourth and fifth in 3-point percentage. These aren't coincidences. The smartest teams figured out how to game the system, and here's the reality: Three points are more than two points. Check out the 2003 Finals to see how much basketball has changed in 10 years. It's mildly incredible.6
New post-lockout NBA reality no. 2: You definitely shouldn't pay $8 million a year for non-impact perimeter players (Caron Butler alert!); you probably shouldn't pay $13 million a year for Luol Deng or Andre Iguodala (sorry, fellas); and you DEFINITELY shouldn't pay Rudy Gay $18 million a year unless you're forced to at gunpoint. There's too much available cheap perimeter labor for defense and 3s. Why pay Rudy Gay $18 million when you can pay Jimmy Butler $1.5 million? Why? WHYYYYYYY????? The one exception: Anderson, if only because I don't mind spending $8 million a year on someone who takes SEVEN 3s a game and makes 39 percent of them. He's an expensive luxury, but not prohibitively expensive.
Anyway, looking through the four drafts from 2008 to 2011: Anderson went 21st. Leonard went 15th. Hayward: ninth. Butler: 30th. Earl Clark: 14th. Chase Budinger: 44th. Klay Thompson: 11th. Chandler Parsons: 38th. Paul George: 10th. Wayne Ellington: 28th. Lance Stephenson: 40th. Danny Green: 46th. Nic Batum: 25th. Brandon Rush (out for the year, but still): 13th. I just listed 14 guys who could help anyone's 2013 playoff rotation if they were healthy; all make 3s except for Stephenson, and NONE were drafted in the top eight. Meanwhile, you have Toronto shelling out $23.1 million next year just for Gay and Landry Fields. Maybe it should use its fancy camera technology to capture the motions of a smart GM.
Kevin Garnett: Prediction: KG retires after the season. I'm on the record. And if he's on the way out, could someone send him a box of deer antler spray before this Knicks-Celtics series and force him to use it, please? Thanks.7
Zach Randolph: The obvious signs of decline: Z-Bo was a 20-12 guy in 2011 (and shot 50 percent), and he's a 15-11 guy right now (and shooting 46 percent). Less obvious: He's not the same crunch-time force anymore. Check out Z-Bo's numbers in 2011; he was as good as anyone late. In 2013? You can't even find him in the top 50 for anything other than rebounds. Throw in Z-Bo's salary ($17.8 million in 2014, $16.5 million in 2015) and he's suddenly an honorable mention guy.8 If 2011 Z-Bo shows up for Round 1 this weekend, the Clippers don't have a chance. But if 2013 Z-Bo shows up? They have a chance.
Quick Z-Bo story: We taped a mini–B.S. Report with him during All-Star Weekend. He showed up with an oversize kid who looked about 13, only he was taller than me.9 I asked if that was his son and Z-Bo said, "Yeah, that's Little Z-Bo." When we finished the podcast, he said, "Come on, Little Z-Bo, we gotta go." And they left. Here's my point: Either we need a reality show with Z-Bo and Little Z-Bo or, at the very least, we need a music video along the lines of this one:
Brandon Jennings: Anyone thinking of overpaying Jennings this summer will ignore his crunch-time numbers (abysmal) and shot selection (dubious), and concentrate on things like "he's fun to watch" (mostly true), "he's charismatic" (definitely true) and "he's only going to keep getting better and better" (you'd think that would be true). Well
Year 1 (age 20): 32.6 MPG, 15.5 PPG, 5.7 APG, 37-37-82%, 14.5 PER
Year 4 (age 23): 36.2 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 40-38-82%, 16.1 PER
So he's barely improved in four NBA seasons? That's weird. Wait, I'm getting flashbacks to another overrated lefty point guard who peaked in his first four years, never improved, ended up getting overpaid and started tailing off in Year 5 uh-oh wait a second GOOD GOD, THAT'S DAMON STOUDAMIRE'S MUSIC!!!!!!
Omer Asik: Such a shame that Chicago couldn't afford to keep him. We need to figure out revenue sharing once and for all — the Bulls shouldn't be penalized by playing in a tiny city like Chicago. By the way, congrats to Omer for edging out Nikola Pekovic and Nikola Vucevic for the Tommy Heinsohn Award, given annually to the foreign dude whose last name was mangled in the most ways by the majority of NBA League Pass announcers.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: How did the no. 2 pick from last year's draft not make the top 50? According to HoopData, MKG averaged 7.8 shots and made 3.5 of them (45 percent). More than half came at the rim (including 63 percent of his makes). Beyond 3 feet, he attempted 3.5 shots per game and made 0.9 of them (27 percent). That makes him the winner of the first-annual Kirk Goldsberry Award for Most Frightening Shot Chart. Good God, look at this thing!
(Translation: Love MKG's energy, love his character, love his athleticism but if you're a perimeter guy in 2013 who can't shoot from more than 2 feet, your team isn't winning with you unless you're Plastic Man or Spider-Man. Could MKG be another victim of the Curse of Sam Bowie? Check this extended footnote for details.)10
Paul Pierce (no. 24 last year): Our toughest omission. Two players are carrying the Old Man's Pickup Game torch in the NBA right now: Andre Miller (little-known fact: He shuttles back and forth in a time machine between 1973 and 2013) and Pierce (still in full command of his array of herky-jerky drives in traffic, pull-up 3s, push-off dribble drives and carefully constructed off-balance 20-footers). It's Year 15 and he's still cranking out 18-6-5s and doing Paul Pierce things. Think how poorly traditional small forwards aged over the years (Jerry Stackhouse, Caron Butler, Metta World Peace, Glen Rice), or how quickly they lost "it" (James Worthy, Scottie Pippen, Glenn Robinson), or how hard it was for them to crank out 80-95 games year after year after year without breaking down (Bernard King, Grant Hill, Dominique Wilkins). Pierce has been remarkably
and over everything else, that's why he's headed to the Hall of Fame, that's why he goes down as one of the best Celtics ever, and that's the biggest reason why Knicks fans are secretly frightened of the Celtics in Round 1 even if they haven't looked good in six weeks. But I've been doing this top 50 since 2000; it took Pierce until now to drop out. He outlasted T-Mac, Vince, Chauncey, Elton, Francis, Baron, Bibby, Jamison, Marion and everyone else drafted in the late '90s except for Duncan and Dirk.
Last Pierce note: He earned my third-team All-NBA forward vote because it was an especially weak year for forwards, but also because he earned it. After Rondo went down in late January, Boston revamped its offense and ran the lion's share of it through Pierce. His numbers from that point on: 18.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 6.1 APG, 46-42-78 shooting splits. For the season, the 2013 Celtics were 5.9 points worse per 100 possessions with Pierce on the bench. Throwing in his leadership, defense and crunch-time responsibilities, I thought he was the league's sixth-best forward this season — trailing LeBron, Durant, Carmelo, Harden11 and Blake Griffin. Go ahead, send me nasty "You're such a homer!" e-mails. I don't care. YOU CAN'T BREAK ME. Paul Pierce deserves to be on that All-NBA third team.
Without further ado, our top 50 for the 2013 season.
GROUP K: "No Thanks — We Don't Want Him to Come Back and Haunt Us"
50. Greivis Vasquez
Whoops, too late for Vasquez and the Grizzlies! A short list of Vasquez's accomplishments in the last eight months: won the undisputed "best Venezuelan basketball player ever" title (supplanting the immortal Oscar Torres); finished second for the assists title and dished out the most assists (704); won my vote for Most Improved Player; turned "Pondexter straight up for Vasquez" into one of the sneakier one-sided NBA trades of the 21st century; served as a decoy/distraction for that ghastly Austin Rivers pick;12 and replaced Dwyane Wade as the quality NBA player with the most frequently misspelled name.
49. Jimmy Butler
48. Chandler Parsons
There isn't a better cost-effective DTA (defenses, 3s, athleticism) guy than Butler right now. If you want to make the color drain from a Bulls fan's face, just quietly mutter to him, "Man, I love that Butler-Deng combo — can you imagine if you had a healthy Derrick and your cheap owner hadn't stupidly let Asik leave? You guys would be LOADED." Meanwhile, Parsons has been doing an eerie Ryan Anderson impersonation for one-eighth the price. Even better, he inspired this e-mail from Nick in Bloomington:
"I've been thinking of an idea for a TV show that would air during the NBA offseason. It's a sitcom called Launchpad, and it stars Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and James Harden as three buddies who all live in a Houston apartment together and Omer Asik as their wacky neighbor. All my friends say that they would watch the hell out of this show."
How did Nick miss out on a "with Dork Elvis as their landlord" joke there? The sabermetric Stanley Roper! He could have cracked jokes like "I don't know what's later — Chandler's rent checks, or Chandler's help D on corner 3s!" and then turned to the camera for the extra laugh. I'd totally watch Launchpad as an animated series. Maybe there's still time.13
47. Klay Thompson
His nickname should be On Paper, because he's everything you'd want from a 2013 perimeter guy ON PAPER. (See how that worked?) That includes size (he's 6-foot-7, which allows him to guard both perimeter spots and even log some small-ball minutes at the 4), a cool name (he should just wear "Klay" on the back of his jersey Fast Break–style at this point) and 3s (he launches 6.4 a game and makes 40 percent of them). Catch Klay on the right night and you'll say, "WHOA! Who is that guy????" If there weren't a 68 percent chance that he's submitting a deer-in-the-headlights performance in the Denver series, I'd have him ranked higher.14
46. Andre Drummond
To recap: The 2012 lottery teams showed the appropriate amount of Drummond-related caution; he fell the appropriate number of spots (to no. 9); landed on the perfect team (Detroit); and quickly elevated himself beyond "massive project" status to "legitimate shot-blocking/rebounding/high-flying game-changer of the bench" status. His per-36 minute numbers: 13.8 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 60.8% FG and 37.1% FT, but still! I can't forget seeing him smiling sadly on draft night with one of those beaten-down looks on his face, like he was thinking, It's OK, I'm gonna try hard in the NBA, I'm not gonna let you down, I'm a good guy, I swear! Hard not to root for him after that. And by the way? That Drummond-Monroe foundation is pretty nice, right? I fully support any NBA team that builds around players named after iconic sitcom characters from my childhood.
45. Enes Kanter
44. Jonas Valanciunas
Fun little battle of promising/crafty/athletic big guys who are either wildly overrated or wildly underrated within the league (depending on who's talking). Kanter produced nearly every time Utah played him big minutes (including last month's eye-opening 23-22 game against Charlotte); that's the biggest reason why the Jazz will probably sign-and-trade Al Jefferson this summer. He also inspired this thought-provoking e-mail from Patrick in Memphis: "If you wanted to jeer Enes Kanter, are you going with the anus or penis pronunciation? I feel like it could go either way."
As for Valanciunas, the promising Raptors big man who's been averaging a 15-7 since mid-March, here's a true story: When Sam Presti was quietly shopping James Harden last October, he called Toronto to feel out a Jonas package. And got rebuffed. Quickly.15 Let's give Jonas the edge over Enes if only because Weezer never wrote a song called "My Name Is Enes."
43. Kenneth Faried
Our youngest winner of the David West Award,16 given annually to an under-the-radar, undeniably lovable player who generates so much "underrated" buzz that he inadvertently becomes a little overrated. I love Faried from the cost-effective energy/rebounding/athleticism standpoint, but the "Next Dennis Rodman" stuff needs to stop. Young Rodman was one of the league's most destructive players ever, someone who grabbed 10 rebounds a game in the '89 playoffs (in just 24 MPG!) while defending everyone from Jordan to Magic to Worthy. I'd describe Faried's defense as "half-decent." It's no contest. None of this is Faried's fault, but I'm already dreading the inevitable Rodman comparisons in the playoffs. Please, everybody, no.
42. Tobias Harris 17
Now here's someone who is underrated! Let's quickly recap the last two months for your average Bucks fan.
• Mid-February: "J.J. Redick! Woo-hoo!!!! Let's just hope that Harris kid doesn't come back to haunt us."
• Mid-March: "I don't care how well Harris is playing — I still like the Redick deal for us."
• Late March: "We need a new GM."
• Early April: "I'm not looking at Orlando's box scores anymore."
• April 10: Best described with this clip:
41. Derrick Favors
Since the All-Star break
Player A (age 21): 28 games, 25.4 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 49.3% FG
Player B (age 23): 26 games, 25.4 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 53.8% FG
Player A: Favors. Player B? Faried.
(You know where I'm going with this, right? Derrick Favors UNDERRATED!)
40. Hasheem Thabeet
40. Jrue Holiday
Had him ranked 12 spots higher in February and then the Sixers fell apart and briskly completed their "How One Risky Blockbuster Trade And Three Seemingly Minor But Definitely Dumb Free-Agent Signings Can Completely Murder Any And All Momentum Of A Feel-Good Playoff Team" cycle. That reminds me: Kudos to Doug Collins for keeping one of my favorite streaks alive — he's never coached a team for longer than three years! I think that makes him the Elizabeth Taylor of NBA coaches. I can't wait until he takes a job that's the equivalent of Larry Fortensky. Remember Larry Fortensky? Anyone? Check out his hair! It's magnificent! I couldn't be happier to introduce you to Larry.
39. Boogie Cousins18
I'm sitting here in the Boogie Bandwagon with some of his family members, a few of his buddies in high school, a couple of his old Kentucky teammates and John Wall's face on Skype. There are only like 20 of us left. Three years into the Boogie experience, here's what we're getting: 17 and 10 every night; 47 percent shooting (subpar for a low-post guy); some of the most lackadaisacal/atrocious/mindblowingly bad pick-and-roll defense you'll ever see; lousy body language; a few blowups and tantrums, followed by seemingly sincere public apologies to whomever may have been offended; and many more losses than wins. Where are you going if he's your best guy or your second-best guy? Here's your answer: the lottery.
I know all of this.
But I've also been following the NBA for too damned long. It's nearly impossible to find big guys who can run the floor, rebound, pass and score down low. How much can you blame on Cousins, anyway? Here's what Sacramento offered him these past three years: shoddy coaching, an inept front office with no plan, broke/negligent/incompetent owners, a franchise in flux, a Seattle move looming, a never-ending slew of lawsuits and press conferences, and a roster of me-first pickup players and Good Stats/Bad Team guys, none of whom had the chops or the wherewithal to make Cousins better. There's only one way Boogie's situation could have been worse: if the Kings hired a training staff that urged players to eat fried food, smoke cigarettes, quit stretching and switch from coffee to cocaine. And actually, they may have done that and I just missed the story.
I'm still betting on Boogie, but really, I'm betting on history. C-Webb needed Sacramento. Spree and Bernard needed New York. Z-Bo needed the Grizzlies. Sheed needed the Pistons. Rodman needed Jordan and Phil. Iverson needed Larry Brown. Rick Barry needed Al Attles. Derrick Coleman never found what he needed, and that proves my point, too. The belated success of an NBA head case hinges on the city and the situation. And it usually happens later in his career, after he's blown it somewhere else. It's going to happen for Boogie at some point I just don't know when. But it's happening. Did you see him tear up the Clippers on Wednesday night in what may have been Sacramento's final home game ever? Thirty-six points, 22 rebounds, real passion spilling out of him on every possession. That game was everything I ever wanted from Boogie Cousins. I still believe. I'm keeping my bandwagon seat.
COMING NEXT WEEK: PART 2