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Hoops Lab: Hoops Lab-Week 16

Andre' Snellings

Andre' Snellings is a Neural Engineer by day, and RotoWire's senior basketball columnist by night. He's a two-time winner of the Fantasy Basketball Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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

  • Paul is out. Part 1: Chris Paul is out indefinitely with a knee injury, a crushing blow for those depending on his talents. In his absence, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton (see below) both look like guys that could see a big boost in production. David West could also be relied upon more heavily to score, though without Paul there to set him up he may find it more difficult to get quality shots.

  • Paul is out? Part 2: League sources are saying Paul Pierce may have a broken left foot, and Tweets from the Boston media confirm that GM Danny Ainge is unsure about the extent of the injury. If Pierce misses extended time it could have wide-reaching fantasy consequences. Rajon Rondo again gets a nice boost, as the offense runs completely through him. If healthy, Garnett would also be relied upon more heavily - but that is a big 'if'. More shots would also be available for Ray Allen, and even players like Tony Allen could find themselves fantasy worthy with extended playing time. Keep an eye on this one.

  • Millsap and AK47 flourish without Boozer: As always, with Carlos Boozer (calf) on the shelf Millsap becomes a beast. He has averaged 24 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 2.0 blocks over his last three games and makes a great play until Boozer returns. Andrei Kirilenko also seems to do better when Boozer is out as he can play more minutes at power forward. Over the last four games he has averaged 17 points, 6.7 boards, 2.5 blocks, 2.5 assists, and 2.0 steals. Just like old times for AK47, though for both Millsap and Kirilenko this renaissance only lasts until Boozer returns.

  • Billups leading without Melo: Billups was already playing at a high level, but with Carmelo Anthony (ankle) sidelined he has upped his game to 23 points, 8.4 assists, 4.4 boards and 1.6 steals in his last five games.

  • Marc again challenging Pau: Marc Gasol has two games of at least 25 points and 12 boards in his last four outings, and also has seven blocks in his last two games. Add that to Marc's Grizzlies toppling Pau's Lakers on Monday night, and once again it appears that Marc is challenging his brother for the title of "Most Important Gasol".

  • Nash's Abs hurting: Steve Nash has an abdominal strain that kept him out of practice on the weekend, and in his first game back he shot only 2-for-10 from the field. He says that it's no big deal, and he followed up that game with an 18-point/12-assist effort on 6-of-10 shooting from the field in 36 minutes of a win so perhaps he is telling the truth. But at age 35, you have to pay attention to the little injuries as it could lead to bigger problems down the line. So we may not have heard the last of this.

  • Ellis back but Maggette questionable: Monta Ellis returned last week after missing two games with an ankle injury (not the one that was surgically repaired before). He has averaged 40 minutes in the three games since and appears to be fine. Corey Maggette is a game-time decision for Tuesday after missing Monday's practice with a hip pointer. Hip pointers can be nagging injuries, and with Maggette wielding a flamethrower for the past two months it's worth keeping an eye on this.

    New Additions

    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