With only two months to go before the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, the biggest off-season story remains Kyrie Irving’s desire to be traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and one Championship Ring, Irving presumably wants to escape the long shadow cast by teammate LeBron James. Assuming they can no longer coexist, who would you take? The answer may not be as easy as it seems.
Perhaps more than any other year in recent NBA history, the 2016-17 MVP Award justifiably could go to one of five different candidates. Depending on how you define MVP, you might vote for the following players.
– Best player on the best team (the most popular definition): Kevin Durant.
– Best player on any team (a.k.a. “The Best Player on the Planet”): LeBron James.
– Best two-way player on a Top 3 Team: Kawhi Leonard.
– Best statistical season for a player on a Top 3 Team: James Harden.
– Best statistical season for a player on any team: Russell Westbrook.
When you combine one of these definitions with a season that hasn’t happened for over 50 years, the winner becomes more clear cut. Well, at least my son thinks so.
Twenty years ago, the NBA celebrated its 50th Anniversary by revealing the names of the 50 greatest players in league history. In anticipation of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary, many sites are starting to compile their own rankings of top players. Given the outstanding players from the last two decades, the league easily could expand the honor to 75 players without diluting quality. At the same time, it could fix the injustice of omitting players like Dominique Wilkins and Walt Bellamy. Thanks to analysis provided by my son, Top10Busts has joined the fray with a ranking of the NBA Top 25. As a teaser, the top five are Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and LeBron James.
Going into the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cavaliers (led by 4x MVP LeBron James) and the Warriors (led by reigning MVP Steph Curry), the best series in the 2015 playoffs still has been the first round match-up between the Spurs and the Clippers. That 7-game series ended with the Clippers beating the Spurs by the score of 111-109 on a last-second shot by a hobbled Chris Paul over the outstretched arm of Tim Duncan. Despite that final play, the 39-year old Duncan showed that he still is a superstar who can compete at the highest level. With a style of play based on fundamental soundness instead of flashy highlights, Duncan is often forgotten in conversations regarding the all-time greatest players. The following post was inspired by his enduring dominance, which has only been matched by two other players in NBA history: Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Overlooked too often, Duncan is poised to earn a spot on my personal NBA Mount Rushmore.
As described in my previous post, NBA Commissioner David Stern implemented a draft lottery in 1985 as a way to remove the implicit incentive teams had to lose games intentionally in order to improve their draft status. Clearly, Stern was a genius because the accusations of teams tanking have been removed from the game. Actually, not only have the accusations increased over the years, but also the league’s handling of the lottery system has led to conspiracy theories that the process is rigged (e.g. the bent envelope resulting in Patrick Ewing going to the Knicks). Whether fair or not, the NBA has a shoddy reputation regarding the integrity of its draft process. Perhaps more accurately, replace the “odd” from shoddy in the previous sentence with the cousin from the Adams Family (i.e. replace “odd” with “itt”). Either way, the NBA Draft seems to create enough controversy year after year for it to be considered a bust in its own right.
With respect rankings on this site, I have tried to distinguish between absolute and relative failures. In my mind, the former describes a bust while the later describes a bad draft pick. Based on that distinction, Darko Milicic might be best described as a tweener. In retrospect, Milicic should have stayed longer in Europe prior to jumping into the NBA. However, thanks to an overzealous agent, excessive media hype, and a league willing to change its rules, he entered the draft as an underdeveloped 18-year-old. The following post explores Milicic’s disappointing career in terms of being a bust as well as a bad draft pick. As a tweener, Milicic doesn’t quite qualify as a Top 10 Bust. Yet, he still earned an Honorable Mention.
If you were interested enough to search for and find this site, you already know about the failure of Darko Milicic as an NBA player. However, you may be less familiar with the media hype that transformed the unproved Serbian player into the 2nd overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. With respect to all of the participants involved in creating or perpetuating the hype, perhaps the most egregious was ESPN Draft Analyst Chad Ford. As an aside, it was recently reported that someone revised Ford’s historical mock draft rankings on ESPN’s website. Unlike the North Korean hackers who effectively caused the resignation of Sony Pictures Co-Chair Amy Pascal, this hacker was kind to Ford and only made him seem better at his job. ESPN seems to believe Ford, who denied being personally involved, so I will too because what incentive does the network have to cover up such a scandal? Whether or not he should be believed, Ford has earned an Honorable Mention in my countdown of Top 10 Busts simply for his role in the Milicic debacle.