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Mamluk
11-12-2006, 12:42 PM
http://www.hoopshype.com/columns/caste_hans.htm

In NBA caste system, it's good to be "untouchable"
by Dennis Hans / November 10, 2006

http://www.hoopshype.com/wade_celebr.jpgThe NBA is rightfully proud of its missionary role in spreading the game of basketball to the four corners of the earth. But international influence can be a two-way street, and in recent years the NBA has absorbed and replicated, perhaps unwittingly, the worst excesses of one of the world’s worst systems: the caste system of India. A league that once was an equal-opportunity meritocracy where every player, regardless of position, had a fair shot at greatness, now features a rules regime and style of play that grants privileges to perimeter players while rendering interior players – even Shaquille O’Neal (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/shaquille_oneal.htm) – nothing more than dime-a-dozen, foul-plagued grunts.
In the dishearteningly resilient caste system of India, “Untouchables” are, in the words of a 1999 Human Rights Watch report (http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india/), “the lowest of the low.” Numbering 160 million people – one sixth of the population – they’re “discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection.”
In the caste system of the modern NBA, however, Untouchables are the highest of the high.
The NBA’s Untouchable caste came into being at the start of the 2004-05 season, when the league responded to the very real problem of excessive grabbing and holding by going too far in the other direction, making it a foul merely to touch offensive players on the perimeter. The rule change has dramatically increased the effectiveness and statistical output – not to mention market value – of a certain class of players to such an extent that historians are likely to place asterisks next to their scoring marks in each of their untouched seasons.
Thus, comparisons of such Untouchable greats of today as Dwyane Wade (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/dwyane_wade.htm), LeBron James (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/lebron_james.htm), Kobe Bryant (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/kobe_bryant.htm), Tracy McGrady (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/tracy_mcgrady.htm), Gilbert Arenas (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/gilbert_arenas.htm) and Allen Iverson (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/allen_iverson.htm) with their hand-checked counterparts of yesteryear – e.g., Jerry West (http://www.hoopshype.com/general_managers/jerry_west.htm), George Gervin, Oscar Robertson, Paul Westphal, World B. Free and Michael Jordan (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/michael_jordan.htm) — can be made by observation only. My eyes tell me that there are fabulous talents in every decade, including this one. Still, the wildly different playing conditions – including the absurd number of steps and hops after picking up the dribble the modern guys have been granted – invalidate statistical comparisons.
Another privileged NBA caste, the “Bonus Babies” (BBs), are awarded an extra point for most of their field goals – despite the fact that they only shoot when wide open and rarely are capable of creating a shot for themselves. Many BBs, including Steve Kerr (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/steve_kerr.htm), Damon Jones (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/damon_jones.htm), Matt Bullard (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/matt_bullard.htm), Jason Kapono (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/jason_kapono.htm), Richie Frahm (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/richie_frahm.htm), Tim Legler and Kyle Korver (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/kyle_korver.htm), might never have played a minute of NBA ball in a non-caste league (though Korver is finally starting to develop the well-rounded arsenal he would have mastered in college if he hadn’t grown up in the stultifying trey era).
BBs have been around since 1979, when the NBA instituted the three-point field goal. But they’ve taken a giant step up the caste ladder the past two seasons in conjunction with the Untouchables, who now have a much easier time “driving and kicking” – penetrating the no-touch defense, forcing other defenders to react, and then passing out to a rested and waiting BB for an easy three-point shot. That’s why today’s trey attempts are easier and more plentiful than in the pre-2004-05 period – and why so many of these fortunate, one-talent BBs are highly efficient (if not prolific) scorers.
UBB EQUALS MVP
The most privileged of the modern NBA players comprise a subset of the Untouchable caste: the UBBs, or Untouchables with Bonus-Baby range. Start with ball-handling brilliance and sports-car maneuverability in a touch-free environment, add oodles of bonus points from his own treys and those of his spotting-up BB teammates, and it’s easy to see why the value of a UBB has soared to the stratosphere.
The UBB formula transformed Steve Nash (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/steve_nash.htm) – an aging occasional All-Star and defensive liability – into a two-time MVP. It has made Chauncey Billups (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/chauncey_billups.htm) – who never made an All-Star team in the hand-check era though he probably should have been a reserve once or twice – a legitimate MVP candidate. It may well do the same in a season or two for Jameer Nelson (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/jameer_nelson.htm).
But enough about the winners in David Stern’s unholy caste system. It’s time to look at the losers, the lowest of the low, the “Disposables.”
Disposables used to be called “centers,” as they were the center of attention in bygone days, the hub around which the offense revolved. Today, the duties of many (not all) Disposables are largely confined to setting picks, flopping, committing intentional fouls to prevent easy baskets and creating block/charge collisions. This results in an astronomical fouling rate and frequent games where they’re limited to 10-to-25 minutes. You can’t count on them for 30 minutes, let alone the 40 an Untouchable can easily log without foul-trouble worries. So a coach needs a few Disposables at his disposal.
FORTUNATE DISPOSABLES
The transformation of this position from center to blocking sled is actually a blessing for many Disposables, who otherwise would rarely get off the bench or might never have been invited to training camp. Some have physical tools but are skill-deficient and remain so year after year, thanks to incompetent or negligent coaches. Some have so-so coordination or are otherwise athletically limited. Yet you’ll often see them in starting lineups or as rotation regulars, mocking the once-valid boast that NBA hoopsters are “the greatest athletes in the world.”
Consider the Collins twins, Jason (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/jason_collins.htm) and Jarron (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/jarron_collins.htm). On offense, their job is to be run into. On defense, their job is to be run into – and act like that even when barely touched. They can’t make plays with the ball, though Jarron, at least, is a decent mid-range shooter when left alone. They are reasonably mobile as Disposables go, but they have so-so reflexes, are slow off their feet and barely elevate when they do jump. Consequently, they are poor rebounders and woeful shot blockers.
In a meritocratic, non-caste league the Collins twins would be lucky to make a team as the 15th man. In the modern NBA, they're effective players. The same bizarre system that over-rewards perimeter talent does the same for interior no-talents. Their myriad limitations are minimized because no-perimeter-touching allows an offense with a perimeter star to be effective with a stiff on the floor. Because the NBA rewards floppers and late-arriving help defenders with undeserved charging calls, grants six fouls to every player without regard to how few minutes he averages, and rarely imposes a harsher penalty for obvious intentional fouls (committed with great frequency by those without the ability to make a play on the ball) than for unintentional ones, a defensive stiff or trio of stiffs often can be just as effective as a quick, agile, crowd-pleasing swat-and-deflection machine.
So even though a Collins-style Disposable maintains a bottom-rung caste status as an unglamorous grunt, like the one-talent Bonus Baby he’s mighty fortunate to have an NBA job.
UNFORTUNATE DISPOSABLES
Another segment of the Disposable population is not so fortunate. It has never been more difficult for low-post players to put up numbers. Because of the way they and their defenders are coached, foul trouble is a constant for the likes of Shaq, Yao Ming (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/yao_ming.htm), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/zydrunas_ilgauskas.htm) and Eddy Curry (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/eddy_curry.htm). Thus, they don’t get enough court time to put up anywhere near the number of shots of the high-scoring Untouchables, and none of their un-fouled field goals are worth three points. They’re further hampered by zones and double-teams, and they both suffer and benefit in varying degrees from sumo-style low-post combat.
While Untouchables pile up 28-to-35 points-per-game seasons, Yao is the only Disposable who’s a good bet to average 20 in 2006-07.
As for Shaq, who even at 34 is by far the most gifted big man in the game, his rapid decline is a combination of poor coaching, the Untouchable takeover, worse-than-ever free-throw shooting and poetic justice. Let’s not forget that for several seasons he was the NBA’s premiere privileged character, allowed to dislodge defenders and camp in the three-seconds lane. He still has those privileges to a degree, but today he’s more likely to draw a foul for bulldozing or be victimized by a flop. His minutes plummeted to 30.6 per game last season because of those whistles as well as unnecessary fouls he committed on defense after Pat Riley turned him into “Shaq Doleac.” All the block/charge collisions the still-spry Shaq is foolishly creating means more fouls and pine time, and fewer points and rebounds. If the trend continues he’ll soon be saddled with this sad moniker: “The Disposable Diesel.”
As we’ve seen, the modern NBA dramatically under-values or over-values many of its players, depending on the whims of the league’s bigwigs. But is there any caste that is properly valued and for whom statistical comparisons with their forerunners are valid? Yes.
The Masters of the Midrange, men like Elton Brand (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/elton_brand.htm) and Kevin Garnett (http://www.hoopshype.com/players/kevin_garnett.htm), eschew bonus points and special privileges. When Brand and Garnett venture into the low post, as they sometimes do, it’s as skilled artisans, not bulldozers. Brand is a power forward with a scoring style and repertoire that’s somewhat reminiscent of two elegant small forwards of the eighties, Bernard King and Alex English. All play or played a timeless, non-bruising style that needs no special treatment to be effective. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to say that about all NBA players.

JayRedd
11-12-2006, 12:53 PM
Decent read, even though I disagree with many points.

Would be better with paragraphs. Because, like Shaq, I feel a little cross-eyed currently.

Pitons
11-12-2006, 02:07 PM
There is logic. Yes, there are privileged players in the NBA, because NBA tries to make SUPERSTARS and sell it to the world. It's more "profitable" to sell one player with 30/10/10 stats than ten players with 12/6/3 each.

There are many talented players in NBA and there's a bit of help to "untouchable".

But that help is not that huge imo and it shouldn't be.

NBA is a combination of sports and business. That's all.

Pitons
11-12-2006, 02:17 PM
Btw, that's not a very big deal imo, because effect of "untouchables" is much less than "referess, help to better Euroleague team win against "worse" team and necessarily in the end of the game (if it's possible) if margin is about equal".

Why less?

Because in all NBA teams there are SUPERSTARS and so it's about equal. In Euroleague there are "better" and "worse" teams. That's much worse imho.

Anthem
11-12-2006, 03:40 PM
Btw, that's not a very big deal imo, because effect of "untouchables" is much less than "referess, help to better Euroleague team win against "worse" team and necessarily in the end of the game (if it's possible) if margin is about equal".

Why less?

Because in all NBA teams there are SUPERSTARS and so it's about equal. In Euroleague there are "better" and "worse" teams. That's much worse imho.
Could you expound on this a little bit?

I don't watch much Euroleague, and I'm not sure I'm following you.

Pitons
11-12-2006, 06:00 PM
Could you expound on this a little bit?

I don't watch much Euroleague, and I'm not sure I'm following you.

Well, there are rich clubs ("Panathinaikos", "Maccabi") and not that rich, but quite good teams (I mean which can challenge like "Olimpia" or "Zalgiris") in the Euroleague. Also those rich have more impact and more chances to win in a close game (against "worse") because referees are always at their side (making very questionable decisions). I have seen many of such games in the past years. There were even rumours that there were some kind like "Serbian basketball mafia" which tried to help serbian and "Panathinaikos" coach Zeljko Obradovic in earlier years. Dunno if that's true. Also there is a nice story how Yugoslavia won Euro championship in 1995 (Europe zone head was serbian).

I don't know how about this season. And I somewhat understand - rich clubs spend much money, so they have to succeed and don't have to loose to "worse" team if it's possible. But that's not fair. But who cares.

That's why I love NBA's current system on players wages. That's why all the clubs are more or less competitive. There aren't super team with Wade, Lebron, Yao, Shaq, Kirilenko, Boozer on one team. And that's good.

Mamluk
11-13-2006, 03:37 AM
Well, there are rich clubs ("Panathinaikos", "Maccabi") and not that rich, but quite good teams (I mean which can challenge like "Olimpia" or "Zalgiris") in the Euroleague. Also those rich have more impact and more chances to win in a close game (against "worse") because referees are always at their side (making very questionable decisions). I have seen many of such games in the past years. There were even rumours that there were some kind like "Serbian basketball mafia" which tried to help serbian and "Panathinaikos" coach Zeljko Obradovic in earlier years. Dunno if that's true. Also there is a nice story how Yugoslavia won Euro championship in 1995 (Europe zone head was serbian).


I haven't noticed it that much. I can't remeber in Euroleague anything like Heat-Dallas finals last year, in term of questionable calls.

It is true, however, that there are many floppers and good actors in Europe, and the best of them are in the rich teams. Rich teams flop more, and that could make a difference in a close game.

But that's it, I won't go with any conspiracy theory here..............

Mamluk
11-13-2006, 03:42 AM
That's why I love NBA's current system on players wages. That's why all the clubs are more or less competitive. There aren't super team with Wade, Lebron, Yao, Shaq, Kirilenko, Boozer on one team. And that's good.

Yes, Europe should have this too, but only when they reach the level of NBA (in terms of money, talent).
Until then - European basketball must grow, and environment of "wild capitalism" is the best choice.
Some teams lose, some teams manage to get nearly the budget of an NBA team, but that's growing pains.............. Once we have 10 teams with over 40 mill budget, we can impose salary caps.

Pitons
11-13-2006, 06:13 AM
I haven't noticed it that much. I can't remeber in Euroleague anything like Heat-Dallas finals last year, in term of questionable calls.

It is true, however, that there are many floppers and good actors in Europe, and the best of them are in the rich teams. Rich teams flop more, and that could make a difference in a close game.

But that's it, I won't go with any conspiracy theory here..............

I couldn't see the Heat - Dallas finals, so I don't know about that. Maybe someone who had seen could tell more.

However I remember when Lakers - Blazers played in conference finals in 99-00 (4:3 had won lakers) and Shaq sometimes has had privileges to push his opponents and 3 seconds violation in his pocket.

Talking about Euroleague. Yes I think that rich clubs have more chance to win in that rare close game against not that rich and not that influential teams with a help of questionable calls.

But this season has just begun. I hope attitude had changed.

Pitons
11-13-2006, 06:25 AM
Yes, Europe should have this too, but only when they reach the level of NBA (in terms of money, talent).
Until then - European basketball must grow, and environment of "wild capitalism" is the best choice.
Some teams lose, some teams manage to get nearly the budget of an NBA team, but that's growing pains.............. Once we have 10 teams with over 40 mill budget, we can impose salary caps.

10 teams? What championship would be with only 10 teams?

There are 24 teams in the Euroleague now. And it should be about the same amount in the future. And I see only ~ 10 rich clubs enough which could make it in the near future.

Maybe with larger investmenst in basketball that could be done more quickly, but as His Highness Soccer is ruling...