First of all I have to thank some people. All of the people over at ESPN are super nice. They understood my situation and saw my potential. They saw potential in me where others have been blind. As my blog title has informed you, I am now ESPN's top NBA columnist. Numero uno (spanish). This is something of an experiment for them - tossing me out on blogger.com to post my NBA insights. Marc Stein, ESPN's ex-top NBA columnist, said something like, "Max, you've heard of youtube and all the crazy promotional stuff going on over there. Well we would like to utilize your talents on a top secret (aside: I know it's not top secret anymore, but it was then. They said it was code Carlesimo, whatever that means. Now we continue Marc's quote:) project. What makes youtube and blogs and all that garbage so popular is that people see them as more authentic. Organic is another word you might use. You're gonna try to get that audience - the people who are on a an organic column diet." Then Marc opened his desk and took out two cigars. "It's Cuban, and I don't mean Mark," he said, offering me one. I turned down the cigar and Marc put his feet up on that same big oak desk and lit the cigar. "I, quite frankly, don't understand the appeal. We here at ESPN are normal people too." I nodded and smiled and said, "Marc, you are so right." I left ESPN and got into my '86 Plymouth Horizon with rust interior and puttered away.
My Plymouth Horizon stopped puttering at the ESPN security gate, so I ditched it. Like Eazy-E says in "Boyz-N-The Hood":
I looked at my car and I said, "Oh brother!"
I'll throw it in the gutter and go buy another
Neither he nor I threw our cars in the gutter, but you get the idea. Just like Eazy (RIP), I said something like, "Oh brother!" and decided I would have to go buy another.
I sat down outside ESPN HQ in Connecticut and wrote this column.
As Bill Simmons explained in his column yesterday, Allen Iverson is an amazing player. Bill was a little overdramatic (it's not the first time). Here are my thoughts on the situation:
Although young talent is important, you're betting on a somewhat vague future. Most NBA players have about seven years where they are at their best - something like 25-32. If you are holding on to your 20 year old hoping he'll one day be an all-star, carry your team to a championship, whatever, remember that unless this guy has proven to be a really really special talent, you are probably going to carry him on your roster for like 5 years before he's going to fulfill his potential. And that is if he can fulfill his potential at all. All that time you are holding a young player, your older players are losing value. That young player could net you a veteran star player from a team with fewer assets who really does need to blow things up and rebuild (see the 76ers. Also see Minnesota unless they are able to convince Billy King that Mark Blount and Marko Jaric are super good. I can imagine it. The guy is clueless. Then again, as Bill noted, so is McHale.).
Once your 20 year old grows up, he may or may not be the player you had dreamed he would be. Whether or not he lives up to your greatest expectations, the odds are pretty low that he will have much more trade value than he did at 20. Why? Even if he is fabulous, you will have signed him to a huge extension. You will be paying him what he's worth.
Other variables that could screw you besides the player not being what you dreamed: he gets hurt or has a psychological injury (Ron Artest), your team sustains other injuries or is unable to acquire solid talent to put around him, NBA changes rules (Ron Artest again).
Here's a list of players, 30 and under, who were heralded as great talents when they were young, now have new contracts and whose trade value is greater than it was when they were in their early 20s (I'll even include players from the 2003 draft who have signed extensions):
Elton Brand, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, Joe Johnson, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Yao Ming, Paul Pierce
And players who are now worth less:
Tracy McGrady (injuries), Eddy Curry (lazy, heart, stupid?), Tyson Chandler (offensively inept), Baron Davis (injury prone), Kenyon Martin (injuries, career may be over), Steve Francis (head problems), Stephon Marbury (head problems, lost a step?), Jonathan Bender (injuries force retirement), Stromile Swift (not very bright), Darius Miles (crazy, injuries), Kwame Brown (intimidated, not that good), Jay Williams (career ending injury), Dajuan Wagner (career ending injuries/illness), Mike Dunleavy (not very good)
Then you have absolute busts who are now out of the league in Marcus Fizer and Nikoloz Tskitishvili
A lot of the players who are big stars in there mid/late 20s today were not picked in the lottery - guys like Shawn Marion, Michael Redd (2nd round) and Carlos Boozer (2nd round). These guys didn't have any value when they were young so it wasn't costing their team anything to hold on to them.
So we have two lists, there are ten players on the first list and fourteen on the second. Right off the bat we see that the odds aren't very good that your "future star" is going to live up to the hype. Now look at that first list again - of those ten players, Joe Johnson and Jermaine O'Neal are the only ones who came into the league and were mostly non-contributors in their rookie years. We knew that if their bodies held out, they would be good. That leaves two players out of about 30 who, if they were 20 right now and were traded for AI, we could look back and say that their team should have held on to them (ironically those two players were traded when they were young, but for much less talented players than AI).
Are Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Shaun Livingston or Monta Ellis going to become the kind of player that Joe Johnson is? History tells us that it's possible but also unlikely. With the addition of Iverson, Golden State would probably be a title contender for a couple of years... once AI was done they would have a bunch of guys coming into their primes and would remain competitive. If Boston adds AI and picks up another solid veteran or two, they also become title competitors (they also must dump Doc Rivers). The Clippers and Bulls both have a buttload of talent and would be title competitors with AI - in fact the Bulls would probably become my favorite to win it all (sadly they aren't even trying to get him). In my opinion AI is worth more than just one of those players, but right now Billy King is desperate, so he could be had for any one of them. These teams need to stop hoping to steal AI for garbage because the future is full of surprises.
Other thought(s): Mike James' career will be the same as Erick Strickland's plus about 20%. They both didn't get into the league until they were like 26. They are both shoot first point guards known for defense. They both had one year where they were on a crap team and scored a lot more than you would expect. Mike James' 20% extra skills got him a long term contract, but he will never score more than like 14ppg again.
Picks for tomorrow's games:
Orlando -3 1/2 points at Charlotte------ Orlando, Dwight Howard gets up for any games against other big name big men. Today at Charlotte he will dominate Okafor and break out of the little funk he's been in.
San Antonio -7 points at Hornets------- San Antonio had a mental lapse in the first half against Minnesota. Popovich reminded them to play harder and they reacted big time. San Antonio in a blowout against an injury-riddled hornets team.
Houston +4 points at Golden State------ This one is a little tricky because you never know if that Baron Davis & Biedrins deal goes down before the game and those two don't play. I'll assume they play and the Rockets, who have been crappy whenever T-Mac is out, will continue their crappiness and will lose. It could be blowout, but Golden State has been pretty up and down so I won't predict that much.