Don Nelson is the 14th Best Coach in NBA History

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 30: Head coach Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors yells against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game on March 30, 2009 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 15 coaches in NBA History

Total Seasons: 30

Total Championships: 0

Regular Season Record: 1335-1063

Regular Season Winning Percentage: .557

Playoff Record: 75-91

Playoff Winning Percentage: .452

 

Why he’s great: Arguably the greatest offensive coach of all time, Nelson coached parts of 31 NBA seasons and his offense finished among the top-5 in points per possession 13 times. He did it with players in Milwaukee you’ve never heard of and he did it with superstars in Dallas and Golden State, but the one thing those teams had in common was pace.

Along with Rick Adelman, Nelson was among the first coaches to embrace pace-and-space offenses. His Warrior teams finished in the top-10 for three point attempts every season he was there and often ended up much further, and he was largely responsible for developing an offense around the greatest shooting big man of all time, Dirk Nowitzki.

Though he never won a championship as a head coach, Nelson did orchestrate one of the greatest upsets in playoff history when his 2007 Warriors beat the 67-win Mavericks in the first round. Though his offense took center stage, Nelson’s strategy to use smaller defenders on Dirk Nowitzki unnerved Dallas, proving his versatility as a coach.

Timing proved to be Nelson’s greatest enemy, as his Mavericks managed to make the Finals the year after he left but did it largely by beating an Amar’e Stoudemire-less Phoenix team in the Western Conference Finals. Had he stuck around, he may have pushed Dallas over the top against Miami. In any case, he laid the groundwork for that finals team and even the 2011 version that won the championship.

 

Why he’s not higher: Nellie’s stubbornness proved to be his undoing on multiple occasions. Had he been willing to play Chris Webber at power forward instead of center he might have been able to keep him and build the sort of contender Webber eventually found in Sacramento. It’s also fair to wonder why Steve Nash improved so significantly after leaving Nelson for Phoenix. For whatever reason, many players who seemed logical fits in his system ended up thriving without him.

His lineup choices were also often rigid and too focused on star power and offense. Veteran Antoine Walker started all 82 games of the 2003-04 season for Nelson due to his reputation as a scorer, but he posted miserable .428/.269/.554 shooting splits and was among the worst defensive players in basketball. Had he been willing to play youngsters Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard more instead, the Mavericks may have finished higher than 26th in defensive efficiency.

That was Nellie’s fatal flaw. Though he wasn’t necessarily a bad defensive coach, he was so fixated on offense that he made decisions that ultimately caused more harm than good. Had he been more willing to try to coax scoring out of defensive players, his teams might have had more playoff success and he could have a championship ring.

Holy Crap Grit and Grind is Back!

Parsons Grizzlies

Well… sure as hell didn’t see this coming. After busting out an Ozymandias quote to write a Grizzlies retrospective and predicting Mike Conley would sign with Chicago, this publication was absolutely certain that the Grit and Grind era was over and that Memphis would be in the lottery. Nope. Next year’s group might be better than ever.

If you could build the perfect player for the Grit and Grind Grizzlies from scratch you’d come up with Chandler Parsons. He’s exactly what they need, a small forward who can shoot three’s, act as a secondary ball-handler, move without the ball and play at least neutral defense. Now that they have that guy, the Grizzlies can suddenly contend again.

Their offense actually has something of an identity now, and it’s one built around actual ball movement. Marc Gasol is one of the best passing centers in basketball, and when he has the ball in the high post he now has a cutter in Parsons who can then flip the ball to the corner for an open three, make the layup himself or deliver it back to one of the bigs for a layup of their own. They can run devastating 1-3 pick-and-pops between him and Mike Conley, as both shoot well enough that they have to be guarded, but Parsons also spaces the more traditional Conley-Gasol pick-and-roll more than any Grizzly has since this group has been together. Parsons shot almost 44% on catch-and-shoot three’s last year. That’s one of the best marks in basketball.

It gives Memphis someone who can actually lead their bench unit. For years the offense died when Conley sat, and last year was no exception. Without Conley on the floor their offensive rating dropped from over 105 to 100.6. But Parsons is an actual ball-handler who can lead secondary units while Conley sits and handle the scoring load for short stretches. Heck, he can even play some power forward in a pinch if the Grizzlies wanted to experiment more with small-ball lineups.

And it makes Tony Allen playable! The last time the Grizzlies were relevant was in their series against Golden State in 2015, where the Warriors chose to defend Allen with Andrew Bogut effectively neutering the Memphis offense. But that rover strategy doesn’t work nearly as well when the other four players are legitimate offensive threats. Now they are. Parsons provides enough spacing to keep Allen’s defense on the floor, bad news for Klay Thompson, who still has nightmares about the things Allen did to him early in that series.

There are inherent risks involved in signing Parsons. His history of knee injuries is particularly troubling especially when you consider the injury problems Gasol and Conley are currently going through and how old Zach Randolph is getting. Memphis staying healthy is a long shot, but if it happens, this is suddenly one of the four best teams in the Western Conference and a team that can beat just about anyone in a short series. Remember, this core has been to a Western Conference Finals. They’ve given Oklahoma City and Golden State all they could handle. And now they’ve added the biggest free agent in franchise history, the one player tailor made to fit their specific team.

Grit and Grind is officially back. Or maybe it just never left. Either way, the Parsons addition was one of the biggest of the offseason.

If Dwyane Wade Is Really Considering Leaving Miami, Here’s Where He Might Sign

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Brian Windhorst is reporting that Dwyane Wade will field offers from outside teams when free agency begins on Friday. Obviously this publication predicted that he’d stay, but if he really is exploring other options, here are the teams he’s likely to consider:

Cleveland Cavaliers:

If money really is a sticking point then it would have to be a sign and trade, but if Wade wants to become a Cavalier there’s a very simple trade to be made:

Kevin Love to Miami, Wade to Cleveland.

Pat Riley would accept it in a heartbeat. Love fills in for Chris Bosh, but the pair could play together or even in rotation with Hassan Whiteside. Ultimately Love is just a younger star player than Wade, someone Riley would have an easier time building around. LeBron would move to power forward and either Richard Jefferson or J.R. Smith would play small forward. It’s very simple, and if Wade has his pick of any team, Cleveland is likely the choice. It’s just a matter of convincing Cleveland (i.e. convincing LeBron) to make the trade.

Dallas Mavericks:

One of the few conceivable teams for Wade that has both the cap space to sign him outright at this very moment and has enough of a reputation for winning to make it viable. Wade would hang out with Dirk and do old man things, and the Mavs would use the rest of their cap space on a center. Assuming Wesley Matthews is willing to play small forward (or Chandler Parsons returns) the roster makes a fair bit of sense.

Mark Cuban will make the call, it’s just a matter of what priority they assign to Wade. Getting a center is simply more important, so if they max out Hassan Whiteside Wade would have a slot of around $18 million left to take (again, assuming Parsons returns, there’s even more calculus involved here if he doesn’t). That’s obviously a lot of money, but Wade bristled over $20 million last season. If he wants a payday, Dallas isn’t the team.

Los Angeles Lakers:

HERE’S The payday team, and it actually isn’t a horrible basketball move. The Lakers would presumably trade Jordan Clarkson (or simply let him walk) and try to win now while developing D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram. It’s not the worst idea, giving up Clarkson might be worth it for a team that can realistically sign almost any free agent it wants. Those early playoff reps might be very beneficial for the youngsters down the line.

But they’re going to be first round reps and nothing more. Will Wade accept that? Or does he want to win another championship? He likely can’t have his cake and eat it too, if he wants a max salary the Lakers are the one of the only realistic teams that can give it to him.

Boston Celtics:

And here’s another one, and it’s a perfect fit on a one-year deal. Wade gives Boston their end-of-game scorer, but they’re deep enough that he can sit plenty of games and never play more than 30 minutes. The Celtics get to give themselves more credibility with stars next summer without sacrificing flexibility, Wade gets his payday now. The fit is nearly perfect, the only potential downside is any lingering organizational animosity over the rivalry back in the LeBron days. Otherwise, there’s no reason Boston wouldn’t chase Wade as a major piece of their offseason.

 

 

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/29/16: Tyreke to Dallas

Tyreke Mavs

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. 

 

Mavs Logo

Dallas Mavericks Receive: 

Tyreke Evans

 

 

 

New_Orleans_Pelicans New Orleans Pelicans Receive:

 Jeremy Evans

 

 

 

Why New Orleans would make this trade: Not only should they be trying to get rid of Evans from a basketball perspective, but max cap space could do a lot of good for New Orleans. If they could bring in a two-way small forward like Nic Batum or Harrison Barnes it would really solidify their lineup.

Why Dallas would make this trade: Because Evans maintains the illusion of trying to win but only has one year left on his contract. The Mavericks should be looking for short-term players so that they can more easily transition into tanking when Dirk Nowitzki retires, but at least in the short term Evans can nominally fill the hole at point guard.

Why Joakim Noah Will Sign With the Dallas Mavericks

Joakim Mavs 1

It’s always nice when a team and a player who both need to save face can find each other organically on the free agent market.

The Mavericks have won more games than anyone but the Spurs since the turn of the millennium, but no superstars want to play for them. Joakim Noah is a two-time All Star and Defensive Player of the Year, but no contending team will think about paying him. Both are going to hang out on the side of the dance floor watching their potential partners get snapped up without being able to do a thing about it.

And then hey, the Dallas Mavericks will spy Joakim Noah, two-time All Star and Defensive Player of the Year, sitting alone in the corner. And Joakim Noah will see the Dallas Mavericks, winners of more games than anyone but the Spurs since the turn of the millennium, staring quietly into the bowl of punch.

And neither will nut up and ask the other to dance until the popular players are all making our with the desirable teams in the back of Danny Ainge’s Toyota.

Poor quality of my metaphor aside, the Mavericks are going to realize a few weeks into the summer that nobody wants to play for them, so hey, adding a big name like Joakim Noah wouldn’t exactly be the worst thing. And around the same time, Joakim Noah will realize that playing for a respectable team like the Mavericks would save him from the embarrassment of being ignored for so long, so he’ll be interested. They’ll work out one of those classic one-year “prove it” deals veterans sign so often, and Noah will become a Maverick.

And hey, the basketball fit is intriguing enough. Maybe Noah is healthy and can give Dallas the defensive anchor they missed out on in DeAndre Jordan last summer. His passing certainly makes sense in a Rick Carlisle scheme. And maybe Carlisle revives Noah enough that he gets the multi-year deal he craves next summer, and the Mavericks bring in the next lost soul seeking redemption on a .500 team, as is the way of the league.

Worst case scenario, Deron Williams is probably coming back, Lance Stephenson is more than available, David Lee and Roy Hibbert are going to struggle to find teams and Joe Johnson is just itching to eat into someone else’s cap space again. The Mavericks could form a 2011 super team is 2015, and that’d be pretty neat.

Likely Contract: One Year, $7.5 Million

The Mavericks Should Let Dirk Nowitzki Sign With the Warriors

Dirk Warriors

Bay Area maven Tim Kawakami says that the Warriors plan on pursuing Dirk Nowitzki this summer, and holy crap, would that move be great for everyone.

The fit is obvious for Golden State. Dirk would be an excellent short-term sixth man they could sign without sacrificing any flexibility in reconfiguring their roster long-term. If paired in lineups with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green he’d create likely the greatest offensive in NBA history even if the fifth player was Marcia Brady.

There’s quite a precedent for older Hall of Fame big men spending their twilights collecting a final ring or two on a newer contender. Bill Walton had easily his third best season as a Celtic in 1986, and Bob McAdoo spent his final years during that same era as a Laker. Hell, Shaq spent his last few years as a hired gun. There’s major precedent for this.

Dirk has to be sick of playing with different players every season, but nobody wants to commit to Dallas. Mark Cuban is going to keep trying and failing to sign a superstar, and while Rick Carlisle could drag the muppets into the playoffs, getting knocked out in Round 1 can’t be how Nowitzki imagined spending his golden years. The Warriors offer him a chance to finish his career with some dignity. Nobody would blame him for not spending his entire career with one team. We’d all understand. He’d still be a Maverick forever.

And Dallas needs to goddamn tank. Mark Cuban has openly discussed how horrible it is to be stuck in the middle, but as long as Dirk is around that’s where they’ll be. They have too much respect for him as a player not to put veterans around him, but he’s too old for those veterans to be good enough to take them very far. They can’t tank with him but they can’t build a true contender either.

If the Mavericks are ever going to rebuild, now’s the time to do it. The 2017 NBA Draft is loaded and there are very few teams actively trying to tank. If that’s the approach Dallas decides to take, it would be enormously easy for them to wind up in the top-three next year simply due to the lack of competition. And hey, here’s the bonus: starting next season, the Mavericks are pick neutral for the first time in over a decade. They finally have all of their first round picks at their disposal. They could tank like a normal team, no harm, no foul.

The only thing holding any of this back would be loyalty. Dirk has insisted that he wants to finish his career in Dallas and Mark Cuban has been happy to let him do so. But for the first time there’s a better alternative for all sides involved. So please Mark Cuban, tell Dirk to go win another ring. Tell him that it would best for himself and for the Mavericks to just cut the cord and move on. He could still come back and retire as a Maverick afterwards, but heading to the Warriors next season makes too much sense to pass up.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/18/16: Kevin Love to Dallas

Kevin Love Mavs1

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Kevin Love Week. 

Cleveland_Cavaliers_2010.svg                                                         Dallas_Mavericks_logo.svg

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive:                                               Dallas Mavericks Receive:

Wes Matthews Jr.                                                                    Kevin Love

Chandler Parsons                                                                    J.R. Smith

Justin Anderson                                                                       Mo Williams

 

 

Why Cleveland would make this trade: You want three-and-D? Here’s three-and-D

Why Dallas would make this trade: Because Kevin Love is a cornerstone they can build around after Dirk Nowitzki retires. It would be a defensive disaster this season, but this is a trade for the next decade.

*Deal depends on Chandler Parson agreeing to a sign-and-trade