Is There Substance to Different Styles?
On Monday Kobe Bryant passed Jerry West on the all-time scoring list, which you knew if you have a pulse and watched anything remotely sports related yesterday because it saturated the airwaves and headlines. On Monday Kevin Garnett also passed Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list, which you had absolutely no idea about unless you were paying a lot of attention or happened to read deep into an article that didn't mention it at all in the headline.
I blogged Monday night about how nobody in the media seemed to see the obvious parallels between the two accomplishments. When I started writing this article I expected to rail against how lopsided the media treatment is for Garnett vs Bryant considering how similar they are in caliber. But the first comment in the linked blog above put me on a different path. This is what Million-Dollar-Sleeper had to say about it:
"the nba makes more money off Kobe".
This simple and obvious statement got me thinking beyond KG and Kobe, and into the archetypes of successful basketball. Does the NBA make more money off of Kobe because he's the best, or because he's the most marketable? I've written before that whether or not Kobe is the best, he is the player whose game most resembles Michael Jordan's, and since Jordan was considered the best then some kind of transitive property Kobe is as well. Is this true? Is there a certain archetype that is just inherently the best? For instance, does Kobe get more credit and face time than Garnett or someone like Tim Duncan because his style of play is inherently better? Or is it just about the money?
Kobe is obviously in the Jordan archetype: the dominant scoring wing that can also play periods of swarming man-to-man defense. This is the assassin, the player that scares you when he has the ball in his hands because you expect him to make every big shot. This guy has an aesthetically pleasing game, is easy to point to as "The Man" because his effect on the game is obvious and easy to see. This type of player is a fan favorite, is extremely marketable, and as Million-Dollar-Sleeper points out, makes a lot of money for the league.
Garnett, on the other hand, is currently in the Bill Russell archetype: the dominant defensive presence and team leader that also is the unheralded facilitator of the offense. This type of player is a defensive intimidator that not only directly prevents opponents from scoring, but also prevents many more points by making opponents THINK that they will stop every shot. And unlike the Ben Wallaces of the world, this player is also hugely important to the offense due to excellent passing, unselfishness and an understanding of how to get teammates involved in ways that suit their strengths. This guy's game is beautiful to the basketball purist, and his impact on the actual game is off the charts, but his importance is not always obvious to the casual fan.
If you ask anyone under the age of 40 who the greatest player of all time is, odds are that they will say Jordan. If you ask someone over 60, on the other hand, you'll hear Russell mentioned as the GOAT more often than you'd think. Similarly, if you polled the average fan most would probably say that Kobe is better than Garnett even though the advanced stats that attempt to measure impact almost unanimously rank Garnett higher over the last decade.
On the message boards many young posters think Russell was a product of his time and couldn't have the same effect in today's game, so he shouldn't even be compared to a player like Jordan. But when I look at Garnett's time in green and how it has been handled/appreciated compared to Kobe's last two years with the Lakers, when both have had their teams operating at similar levels, it makes me think. Bryant and Garnett do it in very different ways, but considering the results it's amazing that one is a poster child for the league and the other an afterthought. I wonder if at the end of the day it isn't that Russell couldn't have affected today's game as much as Jordan did, but instead whether it could be captured in a box score or Sportscenter highlight. And for that reason nobody would even realize what it was they were looking at if Russell had come along this decade.
Situations to Watch and Quick Hits
Mike Miller (57% owned): I put Miller in here purely because I answered a comment a few weeks ago by saying that I didn't see Miller's upside on a Washington team that in theory should be on a youth movement. They haven't made any big kids-first trades yet, and if for some reason they don't Miller has shown now that he is ready to be a regular 15 and seven type contributor that knocks down the trey as well.
Darren Collison (54% owned): Collison has averaged 16.5 points, 16 assists, and five rebounds in the last two games while starting in place of Chris Paul. With Paul out indefinitely, Collison gets a huge boost. He's likely already gone in your league, but if not snap him up quick.
Carlos Delfino (49% owned): Delfino was in this space last week for stepping up in the absence of Michael Redd, and he's on here again this week because he is still owned in less than half of the leagues despite now officially having the starting job and consistently putting up good numbers.
Marcus Thornton (36% owned): As mentioned above, look for Thornton to be one of those whose numbers increase to fill the void left by Chris Paul in New Orleans. He's already averaging more than 19 points and almost three treys in 39 minutes per game over the last week, and that production should at least remain steady if not increase without Paul.
Jared Dudley (17% owned): Dudley is making his career as a "Garbage Man" type that does a bit of everything, averaging 12.8 points, 6.0 boards, 3.0 assists, 2.0 treys, 1.8 steals over the last week. Dudley also showed what he could be if Grant Hill were ever forced to miss any time, scoring 18 points with 10 boards last week in the game that Hill (heel) sat out.
Tony Allen (2% owned): If Paul Pierce is forced to miss any time with the rumored foot injury, Allen would be the immediate beneficiary. In the five games he started for Pierce last month he averaged 11.6 points, 5.8 boards, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.
Article first appeared 2/2/10