KFC Finger Lickin' Good Deal

#IMHO: Offensive explosions, the coaching carousel, plus Giannis and The Brow

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 9:18 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

So Mike, another week, another 50-point game. This time it was Klay Thompson, dropping 52 (on 14 threes!), last week it was Steph Curry with 51, and before that it was Blake Griffin with 50. Everybody can score, and people are getting buckets all over the League. And I know it’s early in the season, but right now teams are averaging 112.3 points per game, which is the highest points per game average since the 1970-71 season. With the way defense is being legislated these days, and the way players shoot better than ever (and take more threes), I feel like we are on the cusp of a new uber-offensive era in the NBA. Is this just a case of a small sample size? Or are offenses really going to be unstoppable?

Klay Thompson

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 11:56 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

These things go in phases. I remember as a kid watching Doug Moe’s Denver Nuggets teams torch NBA scoreboards at 126 points and 123 points per game in consecutive seasons in the early 1980s. I also recall how the game slowed to a relative crawl in the slugfests that defined the 1990s Bad Boy Pistons and Knock-You-Out Knicks. Apparently, the war on defense is the latest trend in just about all major sports. You can’t touch quarterbacks anymore in the NFL and the whistle blows if anyone breathes on someone driving into the lane in the NBA. The bar has been lowered to the point where just about anyone can drop 50 in the NBA these days. I don’t like it. We may be seeing more scoring, but not necessarily better basketball overall.

Speaking of trends, what’s with the quick triggers NBA teams are having on replacing coaches? Ty Lue was coming off four straight Finals appearances, including the last three as LeBron’s head coach with the Cavs. He was dismissed last weekend after a 0-6 start. Last season, we saw quick moves made in Phoenix, Milwaukee and right here in Memphis. Coaching LeBron can be a high risk/high reward proposition. But generally, the years you coach him tend to be the best and most rewarding of your career. The moment you’re no longer coaching him, the bottom tends to fall out. Only Miami’s Erik Spoelstra has survived a LeBron departure and maintained extended job security. Lang, are owners and GMs lacking patience or was this the right move regarding Lue?

Tyronn Lue

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 9:13 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

That’s funny – I had never really considered what happens to the coach when LeBron leaves. I guess it makes sense, though, that when the GOAT leaves your team, you probably won’t be as good the next year. I don’t know what the expectations were for T-Lue in Cleveland, but I assumed ending a 52-year-old championship curse would have afforded him more than a six-game cushion without LeBron. That being said, I’ve always really liked Larry Drew when he’s had the chance to be a head coach; he got the Hawks to the playoffs three seasons in a row, and he consistently draws up some of the best end game quick-hitter plays in the league. I hope Coach Drew gets a shot long-term there in Cleveland. And if he wants to be back on the sideline, I think Coach Lue showed everyone what he’s capable of doing.

Let’s bounce back to the Western Conference. The last preseason game we saw here in Memphis had the Houston Rockets in town, and they went ham that night, playing their starters heavy minutes and looking like the next evolution of the team that won 65 games a season ago and flirted with a trip to the NBA Finals. And then the regular season started. As I write this (on Wednesday) the Rockets are 1-5 and tied for last place in the Western Conference. What in the world is happening in Houston? Is it as simple as they just really miss Trevor Ariza? Or are the issues (and the fix) deeper than that?

Carmelo Anthony

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 11:35 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Generally, I’m not too concerned about Houston. They deserve the benefit of the three-weeks-into-the-season doubt. They just have too much talent, too many smart people in key positions and more than anyone riding on this season, barring a major injury. With that being said, though, they’re learning a valuable lesson on why you don’t mess with chemistry and just assume that all role players are created with the same Build-A-Bear materials. Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute were vital cogs in that rotation, especially defensively. The Rockets are now 26th in the league in point differential, 28th in field-goal percentage defense and also in the bottom half of NBA in turnover margin. This team was up 3-2 on the Warriors in the Conference Finals just five months ago. There’s a price you have to pay to truly compete for titles. It’s called the luxury tax. Sometimes, you tread deeply into it – even with role players. There’s no budget-conscious path to winning it all.

We’ll wrap up with this one, Lang. Both the Bucks and Pelicans play in national TNT games tonight. If you were starting your franchise today, who ya taking? The Greek Freak or The Brow? Scratch that- My question, so I get first pick. I take Giannis Antetokounmpo. Can’t go wrong with either guy. But Giannis is two years younger, a slightly better playmaker/ball-handler, can defend all five positions with relative ease and has raised his scoring level to Davis’ uber-elite level at 25 points a game to lead his team to a 7-0 start. Splitting hairs here, because Davis is a PER monster yet again, but the one thing that sets these two apart in my book is durability. There seems to be an injury scare with Davis every other week. At times, every other game. I’m right; you’re wrong. But here’s where you state your case for Davis, anyway.

Anthony Davis and Giannis

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 1:17 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

I love Giannis and think we’re still just beginning to see where his upside is going to level off. But for now, I’ll take Anthony Davis as the Yung GOAT. He made a play two seasons ago that I can’t get out of my head: He was playing defense at the free throw line. Someone pump faked him, he leapt, they drove past him and went in to shoot a layup, and while he was STILL ON THE WAY DOWN from his initial leap, he reached all the way back to the rim and blocked the shot. He’s just outrageous.

I don’t buy the talk about him being injury prone – he played 75 games each of the last two seasons, the exact same amount as Giannis logged last year. And it’s early, but The Brow is shooting over 50 percent on threes this season. Don’t forget, AD is still just 25 years old, and if the cast around him can play as well as they did during the last postseason, the Pelicans should be right back in the postseason hunt. SQUAWK! (Or whatever it is a pelican says.)

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.