• At this point, you’re basically not allowed to talk about the Lakers without offering up your favorite hypothetical Pau Gasol trade. It’s no longer a matter of whether Pau is good or not (he is, insanely so) or whether he’s being used correctly in Los Angeles (he’s not, but he could probably put more effort into accepting other systems, because dammit, Pau, 2010 is gone, deal with it) as much as it is classic Laker rhetoric – this is a franchise that either wins championships or brings in better players, and there is no option C.
Here’s the thing, though: you’re not getting a better player than Pau. There are somewhere between 10 and 25 of those in the entire league, 2 of them are already on the Lakers’ roster, and the others are not going to be available via trade for Pau’s declining play and hefty contract. No, not even if you throw in Darius Morris. So even if you accept the notion that Los Angeles has to improve its roster (personally, I’d do nothing until the Nash-D’Antoni combo gets at least as many games as the Nash-Mike Brown combo), it’ll be in the form of depth and fit, not talent.
And it’s this point where the Pau talk boggles down, for me, because the candidates are slim. Ideally, L.A. would want knockdown shooters who don’t need the ball (hear that, Josh Smith rumors?), specifically at the 4 spot, but those aren’t too readily available. The Hornets should want no business with moving Ryan Anderson, a 24 year old efficiency-maven, for the aging Gasol, and Andrea Bargnani is such a downgrade in talent that I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle. If only Ersan Ilyasova were still alive.
• Speaking of fake trades, I think it’s time we got together as a society and thought about trading Tiago Splitter. It’d be something of the Houston-Omer-Asik mold – take a guy stuck on the bench with great per-minute numbers and very little playing time, gave him as many minutes as he can possibly handle, and profit. Splitter is hovering around 19 and 10 per 40 minutes and a TS% of 64% for the second straight season: he could be a major asset for a team desparate for some scoring in the frontcourt, like Charlotte, Cleveland or Milwaukee.
Of course, the problems with Splitter are defensively, which is why the Spurs aren’t giving him those major minutes in the first place. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why it is exactly that San Antonio’s D goes to the tank when Splitter is on the court – he’s big, he’s strong, and while he’s not exactly a Noah/Garnett/Horford brand of omnipresent, he’s fairly mobile. You see flashes – he really stood out to me cutting off multiple Leandro Barbosa drive against the Celtics, for instance – but despite the strong system and Pop’s guiding hand, it never truly materialized in San Antonio.
I could see both Splitter and the Spurs benefiting from a trade in which he gets a bigger role and they get a defender. A deal involving compatriot Anderson Varejao would be a Spurs fan’s dream (and frankly, Kyrie-Dion-Tiago would create one of the league’s funnest offense-only squads), but I would classify it as wildly unrealistic. Instead, I’d look at defensive stalwarts with low asking prices, such as Gustavo Ayon or Chuck Hayes. Regardless, with Splitter on the last year of a sub-MLE deal, this could be an interesting situation to monitor.
• I thought Jason Kidd was done last season and hated his signing, going so far as choosing him for worst newcomer in ESPN’s preseason polling, so you better believe I’m shocked by this development, but the Felton-Kidd two point guard lineup has been phenomenal so far. I’d still argue this has more to do with spacing and limiting turnovers than VETERAN LEADERSHIP, but hey, I’m already down in this fight.
Anyway, Kidd is now shelved for the forseeable future with back issues, and as deftly noted by Kevin Pelton, the Knicks really missed him against Brooklyn. Against Milwaukee, though, New York managed just fine, by going with – you guessed it – a two point guard lineup! Pablo Prigioni isn’t the shooter Kidd is, both in accuracy and willingness to shoot, and he’s turned the ball over on almost a fifth of his possessions so far. That number will have to go down if he continues to get major minutes. But he’s looked great running the pick and roll (which bodes well if Amar’e eventually joins him on the second unit), and the presence of another ball-handler does wonders for both Felton’s play and the team’s ball movement. More Prigs, please.
• Anthony Davis is injured and it sucks. Luckily for the Hornets, while they’ve been missing their star rookie big, they’ve getting some instant offense from their rookie guard. Brian Roberts is scoring just over a point every two minutes, is a scorching 40.9% from three, and is just a really enjoyable watch. Why, did you think I was talking about a different instant offense Hornets guard?
• George Karl is still hesitant to play JaVale McGee major minutes. I get it – he still has issues everywhere on the court, he’s impossible to pair defensively with Kenneth Faried (who Karl clearly prefers), and he gets winded very quickly. But it should be noted that this season, JaVale is finally having a positive impact on the Nuggets’ defensive rebounding.
Last season, the Nuggets had a 70.6% defensive rebound rate with McGee on the floor, and 74% without him. This is counterintuitive for an athletic freak of McGee’s stature, but it shows you how deep his issues truly are, and how often he chases highlight blocks at the expense of a proper box out. This year, though, the Nuggets are boarding 73.5% of opponent missed shots with McGee on the court and just 72.1% without. While it’s too soon to say if this is all McGee or if lineups with Faried at center and a smallish power forward are skewing the results, it’s another positive sign that McGee is salvageable. #TEAMPIERRE
• Tobias Harris is playing fairly well for the Bucks. He’s shooting 55.3% from the floor and 35.3% from three and is rebounding very well for a small forward. He’s been losing a lot of minutes to Mike Dunleavy, which is hard to complain about since Mike has started the season really well, but I’m definitely very encouraged about both his future and his present.
One thing, though: more post ups, less spot ups, please. Harris is much bigger than most of the wing guys that are covering him, and had very good numbers in the post last year – mySynergySports.com had him at 84th in the league. This year, though, he’s only posted up 8 times through 12 games, with almost a third of his shots coming as a spot up shooter. He’s actually exceeded expectations in this regard, shooting 43% on spot up threes, but this isn’t his forte and it’s iffy at best as a long term strategy. Post up Tobias!