Tag Archives: Kevin Garnett

Making Sense of Trade Deadline MADNESS

This past Thursday was the most amazing trade deadline in years for us basketball junkies. So much occurred in the 11th hour before the clock hit 3:00 PM EST. Twitter was a tweeting as deals were being reported left and right and everything was coming at us at once. All of this was really hard to digest right away, and still a few days later it’s not entirely clear what every team was thinking. So here’s your guide through what actually went down, and why.

Before we get to the “nitty-gritty” and the game of “point guard roulette” that was played, lets quickly recap all the minor trades that transpired. I’m going to skip over the really inconsequential moves because nobody wants to hear my rambling thoughts on Pablo Prigioni going from New York to Houston, or why Ramon Sessions was traded for the 147th time. Here we go…

Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas from Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers

Why did it happen?

The Celtics have been pretty fond of Isaiah Thomas dating back to last off-season. Danny Ainge saw an opening to get him and in exchange gave away one of their many future 1st round picks. The Celtics are the most “un-tanky” of all the “tankiest” teams in the league (those are words now). Boston is really not helping themselves only being bad enough to secure the somewhere around 11th pick in lottery. Suns pick up a future asset and cut their losses with the ill-fated Thomas signing.

76ers trade K.J. McDaniels to Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and 2015 second-round pick

Why did it happen?

K.J. McDaniels is on a goofy one year deal and because of his play this year some team is likely to give him an offer sheet that the Sixers aren’t interested in paying. Further, many in Philadelphia are saying that Sam Hinkie doesn’t really want to deal with K.J.’s agent after botching the initial contract negotiations. Plus the Sixers really like Isaiah Canaan and have tracked him since last year’s draft, and now have an obvious void at PG. Houston grabs another wing player who can defend really well and could see minutes in the playoffs.

KG minny

Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young

Why did it happen?

Flip Saunders is a genius, and when I say genius, I mean he makes other GM’s look like geniuses. T’Wolves traded a first round pick for 50 games of Thad Young, and then traded Thad so they could have a family reunion with the corpse of KG. Now they may want to extend the contract of said corpse. Flip you continue to amaze us all.

Trail Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a lottery-protected 2016 first round draft pick

Why did it happen?

Blazers get a key pickup in Afflalo who can provide scoring off the bench, something Portland needs desperately. Only costs them a future first rounder, and likely a pick that will land between 22-30. Nuggets who are now in a rebuild, acquire an asset.

All of this brings us to one of the biggest trade deadline clusterf&*%s we’ve ever seen…let’s dive into it.

In three-team trade, the Thunder acquire Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Jazz for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett and two draft picks (one from the Pistons); Oklahoma City also receives D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit for Reggie Jackson.

Why did it happen?

Let’s start with the Jazz. Kanter publicly announced he wanted out, Utah obliged and picked up some future draft picks. The Jazz are eager to start the Rudy Gobert era, and losing Kanter probably won’t haunt them. Detroit upgraded the PG position in hopes to squeeze into one of the final playoff spots in the East this season and prepare for the future. Reggie is for sure an upgrade from Augustin, and they could choose to resign him this off-season as an insurance policy if Brandon Jennings recovery is stunted. But that is something Stan Van Gundy will have to attend to later. They desperately want to make the playoffs, that’s why the deal went down.

Which brings us to OKC, who is a clear winner in this trade. They discarded an unhappy Reggie Jackson for a low post threat in Kanter, as well as some solid bench pieces in Augustin, Singler, and Novak. This gives OKC a really deep roster which could spur them to a title run this year. Augustin can definitely hold his own as a backup PG; Kanter at times is a very gifted low post scorer and may command double teams on some nights. They also acquire two lights-out three point shooters that could hit some big shots during the playoffs with so much defensive attention constantly going towards Durant and Westbrook.

goran dragic fox sports

In three-team trade, Suns send Goran and Zoran Dragic to Heat in exchange for Danny Granger and two draft picks, while also acquiring John Salmons from Pelicans; New Orleans gets Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams from Miami.

Why did it happen?

Dragic was emphatic over the displeasure he had with the Suns front office, and basically forced Phoenix’s hand to deal him before the deadline passed. Pat Riley savvily stole Dragic for essentially nothing: some fringe NBA players and future first round picks that Riley himself will probably never be in office to select. Miami’s league-worst stable of point guards was their one true weakness now that Hassan Whiteside has emerged as the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.

Acquiring Dragic, who was second team All-NBA last season, was such a huge acquisition for Miami that for a short 24 hours they perhaps were a dark horse title contender before Chris Bosh’s scary blood clot issue was discovered. But Miami will likely be able to resign Goran during the offseason and could potentially compete in 2016. More importantly, Bosh will be okay. So the Suns acquire more future picks and rid themselves of an unhappy Dragic. They also receive Danny Granger and John Salmons, who both could be waived or just wither away on the bench for the rest of the season. New Orleans get a warm-blooded backup PG in Norris Cole, which is something they need if they are to beat out OKC for the eight spot, though it is highly unlikely. Jrue Holiday’s injury is taking a turn for the worse, and you really can’t have Tyreke Evans playing 40 minutes a night at the point.

In three-team deal, Bucks send Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Suns in exchange for Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; Additionally, Phoenix sends their protected 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers to 76ers, and Philadelphia sends Michael Carter-Willams to Milwaukee

Why did it happen?

This was clearly the most shocking trade of the whole deadline. The Bucks imploding their frontcourt and trading their leading scorer during a playoff run is not a strategy many teams subscribe to. The Bucks must have felt that impending restricted free agent Brandon Knight was worth more to the open market this summer than he was to their organization. Milwaukee is not interested in paying a dollar figure potentially between $12-15 million that Knight will command this summer. So instead they swap in Michael Carter-Williams who is at least under team control for two more years.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.34.25 AM

The problem is they’re swapping Knight for possibly the worst shooter in the entire league. They do gain a 6’6″ point guard and now have a stable of players who are extremely long and can defend multiple positions. Jason Kidd likely sees a lot of himself in MCW and must feel that he can work with him to fix his woeful jump shot.

The Bucks definitely improve on defense, but will now really struggle to score the ball in the halfcourt and don’t really have someone to go to in crunch time. That will really hinder them this season, but going forward with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, they will surely be an interesting team to watch. They also acquire Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to add more bodies to an already deep bench.

The Suns get a pretty good replacement for Goran Dragic in Brandon Knight. Dragic is much better than Knight, but Knight may fit better into the Suns guard dominated offense. Knight is much more a combo guard than Dragic was and can be a prolific scorer. The duo of Bledsoe and Knight seems like a more natural fit than the Bledsoe and Dragic duo, because Knight can easily transition into the 2 spot. They painted themselves in a corner when they alienated Dragic and were forced to deal him and try and get some value before he became a free agent this summer. Phoenix really screwed this up, but Brandon Knight could pay dividends for the Suns eventually.

What won’t pay dividends is the idiotic move to trade the Lakers top five protected pick to Philadelphia. It’s just insane to let that pick go. They must have proposed multiple deals not involving the Lakers pick before they eventually caved to Milwaukee and Philadelphia’s demands. Losing the pick is bad, but losing Dragic and getting nothing return is worse. So they downgraded from Dragic to Knight and let go of an asset that had the potential to land them a future star this summer. Wow. That’s some Flip Saunders-like ineptitude.

So here’s what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie were thinking when they dealt away the “current” face of the franchise. The Sixers are not in the business of trying to become average; they’re trying to reach greatness. To the Sixers, MCW was just an average prospect who may have hit his ceiling. They did not view him as a future cog going forward; he plays the deepest position in the entire league and is 100% replaceable in their eyes.

Another reason for ditching MCW is that his numbers are inflated because of the run ‘n’ gun style the Sixers play, they have more offensive possessions than most teams. He also constantly has the ball in his hands and only shoots 38% from the field, and 26% from three (I just threw up in my mouth reading those numbers). His numbers are just awful by any standards for a starting guard in this league.

The Sixers want to develop a team around stars and MCW is never going to be one. By acquiring the Lakers’ protected pick, they are just giving themselves another opportunity to hit the lottery and draft a potential building block. They don’t really feel like they are taking a huge step back by shedding MCW either. By draft, trade, or free agency, the Sixers are constantly seeking the right opportunity to nab a superstar. Hinkie himself is one of the guys who orchestrated the James Harden trade. That is a type of scenario that they will be looking for moving forward, besides just drafting talent. Remaining flexible by staying way under the salary cap and gathering tons of valuable assets is what will make the Sixers a desired trade partner when a star from another team becomes available.

It’s not often those types of draft picks like the Lakers’ become available. It has the potential to be great, and the Sixers were selling high on MCW. Especially considering he’s a PG who can’t shoot and whose only viable trait is his height. All of this trying to acquire and develop around stars is easier said than done, I realize. But what the Sixers want to do is build something that will last not just a few years, but possibly for a decade or longer. The Sixers management is dedicated to building something special and you can begin to see through the mist if you squint really hard. The Hinkie strategy may seem outrageous to many and logical to few, but on Thursday they made the easy decision.

The Trade Machine Diaries, Part 1

The ESPN Trade Machine has been a great innovation for avid basketball fans like us. If only real trades were able to go down so easily and without everyone’s consent like in your 2K franchise. I tried my best to come up with 15 realistic trades with all 30 teams involved. So when I say “go” everybody grab a dance partner and make a trade…go!

(Disclaimer #1: because you can’t swap draft picks in the trade machine, I ad-libbed and traded picks based on what I thought was fair value. Disclaimer #2: You may or may not be aware that I’m not a real NBA GM, so what I thought was fair value is subjective. Enjoy.)

Atlanta Hawks/Phoenix Suns

Atlanta sends Pero Antic and a future second round pick to Phoenix for Gerald Green

Right now Atlanta has a decent squad, I think ownership’s main focus is just getting into the playoffs and trying to generate some extra revenue as honest as that sounds. (Editor’s note: the Atlanta Hawks are likely to change owners in the near future after this summer’s very weird scandal). Paul Millsap and Al Horford are a great frontcourt and Jeff Teague is really good at times. They could use another scorer out on the wing though. Kyle Korver can fill it up, but it’s hard to get any consistency out of him; DeMarre Carroll is also a really nice role player. But Gerald Green can be asked to score 15-20 points a night for the Hawks, which is something they lack out of the two or three spot. The reality of this trade is that both Green and Antic are expiring deals, and the Suns might have a real concern about trying to resign Green, if they actually want to keep him. The Suns also just gave PJ Tucker and a new deal and drafted TJ Warren in the 1st round this year. Green is definitely expendable.

Boston Celtics/Sacramento Kings

Boston sends Rajon Rondo to Sacramento for Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, and a future top three protected first round pick

This would be a perfect move for both teams. Danny Ainge should really be on the phone 23 hours out of the day trying to get rid of Rondo before he becomes a free agent. If the Celtics get absolutely nothing for Rondo, they are insanely stupid. We know Sacramento is willing to make a splash, and this move might actually make them a contender to get into the playoffs. Celtics would get young assets and a future pick. The Kings would get a true facilitator and someone who could make DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins even better (that’s a scary thought for the Western Conference).

Brooklyn Nets/Indiana Pacers

Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett and a second round pick to Indiana for David West

It’s crazy to think that last year we thought the Brooklyn Nets would be able to compete with Miami for the Eastern Conference title. Oh, how quickly things can change in the NBA. I don’t think anyone still believes they can compete, but the reality is that the Nets are still probably bound for the playoffs. Deron Williams has been playing much better than last year, and Joe Johnson is still a very gifted scorer. If Brook Lopez can stay healthy they still may have a slim shot at making the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers could easily be sellers come the deadline and David West could be the first guy they relieve themselves of. The Nets could really use an upgrade from the walking dead that is Kevin Garnett. West is a proven guy come the postseason and could really complete this Nets squad and make them a headache for other teams in the playoffs. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and David West is a pretty formidable foursome. Pacers meanwhile acquire Garnett’s expiring, and could use the extra cash to put more pieces around Paul George upon his return. Also, losing West will clearly help the Pacers lose more games and yield them a higher lottery choice.

Charlotte Hornets/Detroit Pistons

Charlotte sends Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and PJ Hairston to Detroit for Josh Smith

This trade I admit is a little bit of a stretch, but it also makes sense for both teams. It’s not a secret the Pistons and Stan Van Gundy have become very disenchanted with Josh Smith. It’s also obvious watching Josh Smith play that he is simply not a small forward. This trade would send Smith to the Hornets where he could play power forward for them and stretch the floor creating space for Al Jefferson. The Hornets have invested a lot in Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker this offseason, if Charlotte doesn’t make the playoffs it would be a huge disappointment for the front office. Adding Josh Smith would really create an offensive juggernaut, if they can become a cohesive unit before season’s end they would have a real shot at a playoff series victory. In return Detroit gets a few young assets including MKG and Cody Zeller. Kidd-Gilchrist might benefit from a change of scenery and Zeller is a fundamentally sound scorer who could develop under great tutelage from Stan Van Gundy. Detroit also sheds Smith’s bounty of a contract. It may be a long shot, but this deal has me pining for a Josh Smith/Al Jefferson frontcourt.

(Editor’s note: If SVG pulled this off, I would move to Detroit and join a Van Gundy cult. Josh Smith’s contract, style and attitude are terrible. I would rather have MKG or Noah Vonleh than him on my team).

Center swap? Highly unlikely, but Portland would love it.
Center swap? Highly unlikely, but Portland would love it.

Chicago Bulls/Portland Trail Blazers

Chicago sends Joakim Noah to Portland for Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright and a future first round pick (lottery protected)

I realize this move may be unpopular with the (D)Roses and Thorns faithful, but just hear my explanation before you excommunicate me. Derrick Rose’s and Pau Gasol’s health is a real concern, it doesn’t really seem like the Bulls are going to be able to make a real run at the title as is. Noah is almost 30 and has been banged up himself; if a willing suitor comes along looking for a center the Bulls would really have to consider. Noah has a costly contract, and the looming Jimmy Butler deal is not going to weigh favorably on the Bulls salary cap. This trade enables the Bulls to take on three expiring deals and a future first rounder. Even if you swap Robin Lopez for Noah, I don’t think this necessarily takes the Bulls out of playoff contention if they’re close to getting a spot at the deadline. Thibs will for sure get the most out of his players, this includes Robin Lopez. The Trail Blazers will get a legitimate defensive stopper to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. Noah will help the Blazers get past the first round in the playoffs once again, and potentially win another round. Noah’s passing ability will also make Aldridge and Dame Lillard better as well. The Bulls have certainly gotten the best years out of Noah; the Blazers are hoping for a couple more.

(Editor’s note: NOOOOOO STOP IT)

Cleveland Cavaliers/Minnesota Timberwolves

Cleveland sends Dion Waiters to Minnesota for Corey Brewer and a second round pick

The displeasure that LeBron James shows for Dion Waiters is painfully obvious, and as we all know, LeBron is the real GM of the Cavs. So GM LeBron decides he’s had enough of Dion and sends him to a city that’s even colder than Cleveland. It’s a disappointment for the Cleveland front office that this is all they’re receiving for the former #4 overall pick Dion Waiters. But they’re clearly “all in” this season, and if swapping Corey Brewer for Dion Waiters will make them a better team and more formidable in the playoffs, this a deal they have to do. The Timberwolves on the other hand get another young Cleveland asset, and they are hopeful they can squeeze any remaining potential Waiters has out of him–but with Flip Saunders calling the shots that’s pretty doubtful. Eventually Waiters will hook on somewhere that utilizes him properly. He can really be a spark off someone’s bench where they ask him to be a pure scorer when he’s in the game. It won’t be in Cleveland and it certainly won’t be in Minnesota, but the kid has talent.

Miami Heat/Houston Rockets

Miami sends Norris Cole to Houston for Clint Capela and Nick Johnson

This trade is really simple for both teams. Listen, I can’t be expected to produce blockbusters every time. Houston isn’t necessarily desperate for a PG, but they could really use an upgrade for their second unit. That is something Norris Cole has proven he can do for the last three seasons. Isiah Canaan has been a good surprise for Houston, but he can’t be expected to deliver in the playoffs. Norris Cole could really be a valuable piece for Houston come April. Miami has really gotten a steal in Shabazz Napier. Between Napier and Mario Chalmers, the Heat are pretty much set at PG. Trading Cole for some young assets like Clint Capela and Nick Johnson isn’t too shabby of a deal.

PART 2 OF THE TRADE MACHINE DIARIES

2013-14 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

(image via brooklynbugle.com)
(image via brooklynbugle.com)

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m excited as hell about the NBA season. After the Finals end, I spend a long time obsessing over hoops, but eventually football starts. For a few weeks, it’s easy to forget about the NBA as we watch juiced out maniacs try to concuss each other every weekend.

Alas, the preseason is now just a couple weeks away and the Bulls open the season in Miami in a little over a month. I’ll be predicting each division’s standings as we approach the opening tip of the 2013-14 season. First up, the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. (Note: I won’t be including predicted records because when the math inevitably adds up wrong I won’t be able to sleep. I’ll just be ranking the teams.)

No new Nets, no new Nets, no no new.
No new Nets, no new Nets, no no new.

1. Brooklyn Nets (Last year: 2nd)- The Nets made the biggest splash this offseason by pulling off the impossible, yet again. After making moves to bring in Joe Johnson’s Contract last year, Russian playboy Mikhail Prokhorov pulled off an incredible trade with Boston to bring in future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Nets gave up nothing of value, and even helped their long-term (key word: long) cap situation by getting rid of Gerald Wallace. They topped that off by signing the extremely useful Andrei Kirilenko for way below market value. Low enough that some were speculating about AK47 and Prokhorov’s ties in Mother Russia. Regardless of whether or not you believe the conspiracy theories, Brooklyn got a lot better and deeper. Anything less than top three finish in the East will be a disappointment, and Pierce and KG are aching for one more ring.

JR3

2. New York Knicks (Last year: 1st)- My fellow DRaT writer Stavi made some waves yesterday with his bold prediction that the Knicks would finish under .500. While I wouldn’t go that far, the Knickerbockers are definitely due to fall off a little from last year. Then, the oldest team in NBA history surprised everyone by winning 54 games. However, the core is another year older and bringing in Andrea Bargnani will only serve to create a logjam among New York’s big men. JR Smith is out for at least a month with a knee injury, and suspended his first five games when he’s able to return. This team still has too much talent to self-destruct completely (unless Carmelo gets hurt for an extended period) but I can’t envision a scenario where they climb back to 54, or even 50 wins.

I would watch a sitcom about Rudy & DeMar.
I would watch a sitcom about Rudy & DeMar.

3. Toronto Raptors (Last year: tied 4th)- This is where the Atlantic Division starts to get poopier. Toronto’s biggest move last year was to bring in Rudy Gay, and it’s a questionable one. However, reigning GM of the Year Masai Ujiri was lured away from Denver over the summer and has already made an impact. Somehow, Toronto pilfered a first round pick from the Knicks for a player they were considering amnesty-ing (Bargnani). Not long after, Detroit offered to take Rudy Gay off Ujiri’s hands but he curiously declined. I thought for sure the Raps would jump at that chance, but Ujiri has earned the right not to be judged on his decisions immediately. Regardless, they’re a very average team with two wings who do the exact same thing in Gay and DeMar DeRozan (four capital letters in one name? Really?). If everything goes right they could sneak into the playoffs, but that would say more about the depth in the Eastern Conference than the talent in Toronto.

MarShon is not looking great.
MarShon is not looking great.

4. Boston Celtics (Last year: 3rd)- Riggin’ for Wiggins baby. Or whatever we’re calling it these days. Since the second KG and Pierce were shipped to Boston for a bunch of nothing, it’s been clear as day the Celtics are tanking away the 2013-14 season. And for good reason: why limp into a first round slaughter from LeBron or D-Rose when the 2014 draft looks so promising? Boston accurately realized what it had to do, and got started but hoarding draft picks from Brooklyn. Seriously, they’ll have two first rounders in three of the next four years, and the opportunity to switch with the Nets in a few years. This team is set up perfectly for an epic rebuild. Furthermore, they hired Butler boy genius coach Brad Stevens, which is just perfect. Stevens can struggle as he learns the NBA strategies because the team doesn’t expect to compete for at least two or three years. I love what they’re doing, even if it’s hard to watch.

I mean...
I mean…

5. Philadelphia 76ers (Last year: tied 4th)- The Sixers are the only team doing a better job tanking than Boston. They got things started by moving Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum, who played zero games last year. New management came in and knew what they had to, shocking the NBA world by moving All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first rounder. Now that’s how you jump-start a rebuild! Now, Philly is set up for a top three pick from itself and a likely low lottery pick from New Orleans in a stacked draft. On top of that, rookies Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel will have plenty of opportunity and zero pressure in their first season. Philadelphia is playing the long game, and it’s a beautiful thing.

2013-14 League Pass Legends: The Brooklyn Vets

 

Pierce-Garnett-y-Terry-nets

Brooklyn Nets

After making the much anticipated move into the House that Hova Built, the Nets season played out pretty much like everyone would have predicted. A group of talented, yet ultimately bland guys coasted to the fourth seed in the East, only to get knocked out of the first round of the playoffs despite having the three best players in the series. There was a lot of criticism directed at the Nets last year for perhaps not being the most motivated or intense team in the league.

But this offseason was an exciting one for Brooklyn. No one is going to accuse this team of being gutless this season after the mega trade that brought Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Certified Crazy Person Kevin Garnett to the Nets. They also let go of interim coach PJ Carlesimo, an understandable move after he willingly played 3-on-5 in the playoffs last year as the Bulls completely ignored Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans. In his place, the Nets hired the newly retired Jason Kidd to be the team’s head coach.

Why am I excited to watch a lot of Nets games this year? The answer is simple: No team in the league has as many questions surrounding it then Brooklyn. Will they be able to stay healthy? Will Deron Williams and Garnett get along? Will Williams, who is such a stubborn asshole that he forced Jerry Sloan into retirement, get along with a coach who is certain to be hard on his point guard? What kind of a role will Paul Pierce fill on this roster? Do Garnett and Brook Lopez have anything at all in common?

No team has a higher ceiling and lower floor than the Nets. They could finish second in the East, keep Pierce and Garnett fresh for the playoffs by giving extra minutes to Andrei Kirilenko, Andre Blatch and Reggie Evans during the regular season, and become true title contenders when springtime rolls around. But at the same time, this team is really old. They have seven (eight if you count Jerry Stackhouse) players on the roster who are over the age of 30. A couple of injuries, paired with the natural erosion of skills that comes with age, and this team could be a complete mess.

However this Nets season shakes out, I’ll be watching.

Jake Weiner has his eyes on Rip City

Tyler Geocaris can’t wait to see the Pellies

Go Big Or Go Home: Why The Clippers Are Not Contenders

BG-UPSET

Lets do an exercise where everyone says a list of teams they think have a realistic shot at winning the title next season.

(wait 45 seconds)

I’m assuming your list looks fairly similar to mine: Heat, Bulls, Pacers, Nets, Thunder, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets, Clippers.

Of those 8 teams, I personally think the Clippers have the smallest chance of making a serious run at the finals next season, and the reason for that is a lack of players on the roster who are good at defense. Defense, as you may recall, is what teams spend half of the game doing. It happens when the other team has the ball. The goal of defense is to prevent the other team from scoring.

The backbone of any great defense is a big man who can patrol the paint and make players think twice before trying to force up an inside shot. An agile, smart big man is also a valuable resource in guarding pick and rolls, the most frequently ran play in the NBA by a lot. Depending on the scheme, an able bodied center can either hedge the pick to force the ball handler to change direction or can effectively hang back to prevent the roll man from receiving a pass.

Right now the players on the roster who can defend power forwards and centers are:

Blake Griffin

Deandre Jordan

Ryan Hollins

Byron Mullins

Matt Barnes (maybe if you’re really desperate)

The team is also apparently interested in bringing back Lamar Odom, much to the delight of candy distributors in the city of angels.

Looking up and down that list, there does not seem to be a lot of inside presence on this Clippers roster. Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan, the two stars of Lob City, have not developed defensively the last two seasons the way the team would have liked. In March, Grantland’s Zach Lowe chronicled the defensive issues that had plagued the Clippers for much of the season. His main point was that there were frequent communication issues between Griffin and Jordan that led to teams getting open looks near the rim. Griffin and Jordan get all the credit in the world for being incredible athletes, and they deserve it. No big man tandom is more terrifying in transition. Just ask Brandon Knight.

But in the NBA, being a freak athlete is simply not enough. To be a truly great team player and defender, a player must not only think about himself and his own man. He needs to be cognizant of the other nine guys on the floor, what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are, and what the rules of his teams’ defensive scheme require him to do in any given situation. All those rim rattling slams Griffin and Jordan have thrown down are worth only two points each, and unless they start to mature and buy into a defensive system, they can get used to five more years of second round exits.

In all fairness, Blake and DeAndre have played the last few seasons for Vinnie Del Negro. Del Negro has developed a reputation as a “let em play” type coach, which is a nice way of saying he has no idea what he’s doing out there. I don’t know how much time he puts into making sure his hair looks so fucking perfect every damn day, but he probably should have diverted some of that energy to coaching. It would not be crazy to suggest the lack of defensive development shown by Griffin and Jordan has simply been due to a lack of direction.\

So now in comes Doc Rivers the coach, who formed a reputation as being a defensive schemer thanks in large part to former assistant and current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Even after Thibs left for Chicago, Boston remained top defensive team. The reason? Kevin Garnett. While the principals of Thibideau’s overload scheme are still practiced by the Celtics (and a bunch of other teams as coaches start to adopt this strategy that works to eliminate corner threes and anything going to the rim), Rivers has relied heavily on Garnett to be the anchor of the defense. With Garnett on the floor last season, in which the Big Ticket turned 37, the Celtics held opponents to an offensive rating of 99.3. With Garnett on the bench, the Celtics oppenents ORtg soared to 108.3. While Rivers is certainly an excellent coach, it is worth asking if his status as a defensive guru is a little unworthy.

The Clippers have made a lot of noise this off season, bringing on Doc to coach, resigning Chris Paul, and swinging a trade that landed JJ Redick and Jared Dudley. But it has been the more quiet moves that should be the most unsettling to Clippers fans. They resigned Ryan Hollins, who is just does not possess any skill that would make him an effective basketball player other than being seven feet tall. They also brought in Byron Mullens, a player who averaged nearly four 3pt attempts per game despite shooting a lowly 31% on those attempts. They also gave up Caron Butler in the three team deal that brought in Redick and Dudley. Butler is a capable defender and above average three point shooter who will certainly be missed on this team next year. While Matt Barnes seems ready to take a larger role on the team, his success has always come in limited minutes.

The Clips could trot out an interesting super small lineup of Paul-Redick-Dudley-Barnes-Blake for short stretches, a lineup that would be a nightmare for opposing defenses. But it will also require Griffin to step up his game on defense or else they will get torched with a group that small. Blake certainly has the pedigree to be a game changing defender. We all know how athletic he is and how high he can jump. If he can channel that athleticism towards the other side of the ball he will morph into an MVP candidate.

But in a league where small is sexy, the Clippers will likely have to go through Memphis or San Antonio during the course of a deep playoff run. After getting beat up and out worked by the Grizzlies in the first round this year, nothing the Clippers have done this summer makes me think that they aren’t in for another beat down should the teams meet in the post season again.

For the first time in the history of humanity, there’s a lot of title talk in tinsel town that doesn’t have to do with the guys in purple and gold. But unless Doc Rivers is able to completely revamp the defensive culture on this team, the talk about championship contention will remain nothing but talk, a cheap commodity in life and especially in the NBA. I have no doubt that the Clippers will be a top four team in the West when the regular season comes to a close. But without polished interior defenders, Blake Griffin and company will be spending June on the couch.