Hello? Hello? Is anybody reading this? Doubtfulâ€¦
Personally Iâ€™m going to be at the store buying lots of meat for the BBQ in about a half hour. Not much time for hoops after that.
It may only be Peter Vescey but we have a pretty significant trade rumor to report today. Supposedly the long rumored Earl Watson deal may come to pass with a few more players involved. Specifically Vescey reports that Steve Francis may be sent to Denver with Earl Watson to Seattle, Nene and a hodgepodge going back to the Magic. What I donâ€™t see is the why behind this one. If giving up Francis youâ€™d think that the Magic would at least ask for Andre Miller, or that they might want Watson in the deal to replace Francis in the lineup. Sending Francis for basically Nene and Reggie Evans just seems questionable to me. Oh Wellâ€¦Itâ€™s worth mentioning anyway.
Now onto the main topic of todayâ€™s discussion: Why exactly are we so bad?
When last yearâ€™s team rolled into a NW Division title I could not exactly put my finger on why they were so good. Some of the major statistical indicators (like Point differential) clearly showed that we should not be as good as we were. Often I would watch a game, not be terribly impressed, yet find that we were right in there for the win. Even today I could not tell you exactly what facet of our team led to so many great wins.
So today I look at the team and see a number of bright spots. Robert Swift and Johan Petro are exceeding all expectations, Bob Hill in my opinion is doing a very good job with the team, and Rashard Lewis is playing at a level above his all-star season of last year. So why are we losing so many games?
This article is intended as a question, not to provide the answers because if I had them Iâ€™d be making a lot more money than I am right now. For the purpose of discussion here are my theories:
When the decision was made to allow Nate McMillan to depart I could see some of the logic behind it. I was a huge critic of Nateâ€™s after the 03/04 season when he simply botched the rotation. While I admired everything he did during 04/05 I could not comprehend making him the third or fourth highest paid coach in the league at that price.
6 months later and I cannot decide what the biggest mistake was, letting McMillan go or hiring Bob Weiss to replace him. As mentioned I am really happy with the direction Hill is taking this team. However it is not translating into wins. I think the damage was done under Weiss and they are unlikely to recover anytime this season.
2) Lack of Production at the PG and PF position:
Luke Ridnour has been brilliant in several games this year. Incidentally we have won those games. For a great chunk of the season he has been inconsistent to just plain bad. I donâ€™t know how or why but both Ridnour and Collison have been great disappointments this season. If you want to go down the list of players at those positions, Flip Murray, Rick Brunson, Reggie Evans, Vladimir Radmanovic, and Danny Fortson it is hard to find many bright spots. What this team needs is to trade for a solid backup at PG, draft of a stud PF next year, and Ridnour and Collison to get their acts together as a starter and backup respectively. Until those things happen the team will continue to flounder.
Last season I pointed to the departure of Brent Barry as an indication that management was tanking the season. There is no better way to undermine a team than by shortchanging the PG position. This year they either chose to do that, or they had way more faith in Ridnour than they should have. Luke is the hardest worker on the team, and I expect him to work it out eventually, but he needs some help. Heâ€™s physically outmatched at times and we need a guard who can spell him for long runs.
3) Youth Babyâ€¦
Iâ€™ve had LONG standing arguments with fans who argue that in order to eventually be successful the franchise has no choice but to tear down completely. Get a bunch of young players, and build through the draft. The funny thing is that none of them are here today praising management and offering kudos for adopting their plan. Itâ€™s a funny thing how winning is always a plan and losing an accidentâ€¦
My main beef with those arguments is that it is a lot harder to build your way out of the youth slump than many people acknowledge. Just take a look at those Bullâ€™s who are building their post-Jordan championship on the back of top picks Elton Brand, Jay Williams, and Eddy Curry. Once you go this route you need a lot of luck or else youâ€™re looking at a 7+ year rebuilding project if not longer.
Despite having Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis returning as their core this year a much larger burden has been placed on young players. We often forget that Damien Wilkens and Nick Collison are in only their second years, Robert Swift and Johan Petro essentially in their first. That is 4 players out of a 9 man rotation who have 2 years or less experience. It shows when we essentially play good teams to a standstill for 3 quarters of a game, yet hand over an 18 point lead during a 7 minute stretch. Young players simply donâ€™t have the ability to bring it consistently for a full 48 minutes.
Swift is a perfect example of why young players can look good but still manage to lose games. Had I told you we would have a 7â€™1 center playing well, averaging nearly a double double as a starter, and blocking 2-3 shots a game I think we all would have expected the team to win most of those games. However when that center is in his second year he still has a number of small game flaws that are too easy for the opposition to exploit. It was not an accident that Erick Dampier had a breakout game last night. Swift still struggles to put offense and defense together at the same time. It is somewhat an either/or proposition with him at the moment. The same theory applies to knowing when he should aggressively show towards the ball or linger back on his man. He has trouble not doing one or the other and needs to learn to mix them up on a play by play basis. It is not one big thing with Swift, rather a compilation of multiple little things, all of which combine to equal a loss. That is not an indictment of Robert, rather a commentary on young players throughout the league.
In a perfect scenario Collison and Ridnour come around, the team drafts Sheldon Williams or some other stud at PF, and we combine all those players to get a nice veteran/youth mix going into next season. There is still time to have a team build around Lewis and Allen with the young players as complimentary pieces.
What do you think is to blame for this seasonâ€™s terrible play?