Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Answer Man


Can he keep it up
in the road blacks?
A week ago, the D-Wade bandwagon was filled to capacity. Yesterday, people were breaking their ankles jumping off the train. The same ESPN writer who stated that Wade was better than LeBron wrote about how overhyped the Heat guard had become. My boys on PTI stated that he was no match for the Pistons' D. People were claiming the series was over. To call the media fickle would be the understatement of the century.

For more on this subject, click on the link titled "The Answer Man" on the right side of the page.

16 comments:

Adam Hoff said...

Feel free to use the original Eastern Conference Finals post to talk about the series, but we need to pay special attention to this Dwyane Wade situation. Not just the performance, but the pervasive and overwhelming insanity in the media. As mentioned on the front page, Wade was the toast of basketball after running roughshod over the hapless Nets and Wizards. Then he had a tough outing against the Pistons and everyone flamed him. It was downright bizarre. No doubt tomorrow we will find all of the Wade lovers-turned-haters turn back into lovers again. Just go to a certain gimmick on ESPN with the initials D and Q and you are sure to find praise heaped on Wade ... just 24 hours after the page's author called out the entire world for jumping on Wade's bandwagon. Then again, he started the bandwagon by saying that Wade was the best swingman in the game and the true MVP of the Heat. You try to figure out where people stand on this stuff.

Just to make it clear, my opinion of Wade is unchanged. He's one of the top 10 players in the league, a guy that single-handedly saved one of my trips to Vegas when he threw up a triple double against Kentucky in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, one of the top five finishers around the basket, an insanely clutch player, and a great guy. On the other side of the ledger, in my mind he trails LeBron, T-Mac, and Kobe among swingmen, has benefited even more than people realize from Shaq's presence on the floor and in the locker room, is limited (sometimes severely) by his inability to make three-pointers, and turns the ball over WAY too often. So whether he lays an egg like he did on Monday, or goes off like he did tonight, my opinion of him doesn't really change. He’s exciting and talented and capable of winning games single-handedly, but he also has a few major flaws.

As for the performance that spawned this rather self-indulgent rant, D-Wade was sensational in Game Two. He was raked over the coals and called out in a barrage of negative press, only to bounce back and destroy the supposedly unstoppable Detroit defense. He started by getting into the lane and dropping dimes, picked up steam with some tough jumpers in the lane, and finished with a dizzying array of open court plays, defensive gems, and slashing drives to the basket. The sequence in which he threw in a circus basket in transition, hit a pull-up J, and reached into the sky to throw down an alleyoop dunk was just insane.

Three other plays really stood out:

1. The block by Alonzo Mourning that flew out toward halfcourt and eventually was fed to Wade by Damon Jones. D-Wade was a step behind Rip Hamilton when Jones threw the pass and still managed to fly by him, catch the ball, throw it into another gear, and then have the touch to finish at the rim while going approximately 145 miles per hour. His acceleration is breathtaking and was on complete display on that sequence.

2. The incredible blocked shot of Billups' three. That was going in. You know it and I know it. But Wade - who had momentarily stopped to complain about a missed call – got his hand back in the game at just the right time and made an incredible play. The combination of guts, timing, and athleticism that it took to block that shot cannot be overstated. Huge play.

3. The two free throws to close it out. As impressive as all the freakishly athletic plays were, hitting those two freebies said just as much about Wade's game.

Hats off to Wade for bouncing back from a dismal Game One performance. He’s a great individual and it is terrific fun to watch him grow on the grandest of stages (say that in your best Bill Walton voice). Now get ready for everyone to jump back on the bandwagon.

Finally, I just want to say what a relief it is that Coach K doesn't look at himself as just a basketball coach. He looks at himself as a leader.

Jack Wang said...

Good post and good points. Wade's performance last night was fantastic, and while I agree that he is not quite up to the level of Kobe and Lebron, he has surpassed T-Mac considering all of the factors. T-Mac is an objectively better athlete (probably top 1 or 2 in the entire league) who can finish at the rim and has range beyond the three point line. However, Wade is a much better passer who plays with better control, and makes his teammates better than T-Mac does (because of time spent in college maybe?). T-Mac is still learning how to elevate his team, which he showed signs of this year. That this is only D-Wade's second year makes D-Wade's abilities that much more impressive.

Apparently, American Express originally wanted to hire Larry Eustachy for that commercial. He was going to say that he's more than a coach, he's also a friend and will consider an open relationship. Natty Light was a co-sponsor.

Adam Hoff said...

Jack, nice post. Loved the Larry E. drop. As for Wade being better for T-Mac, that is the kind of valid debate that ESPN should focus on, not whether or not you'd rather have Wade over LeBron, or whether Wade is the best player under 6'10" in the league. Just as I suspected, all of those ridiculous polls and discussions were renewed today as if Monday's disaster had never occurred. Never mind that these pundits ripped Wade in between their bookend lovefests.

As for Wade vs. McGrady, I still go with T-Mac. The first reason is something that you correctly identified and the second reason pertains to something that I think you might have misfired on.

Reason #1: The Three Point Shot. Love it or hate it (the underdog's on top), the three is a huge part of the game. Wade simply can't make them, which is problematic both during the course of a game because he can't stretch the defense, and down the stretch when the Heat need three's to make a comeback. Just look at the way he froze in Game One. He was wide open and Miami needed a three and he passed to a double-teamed Eddie Jones. I love Wade and appreciate that he doesn't force up the long ball if he can't make it, but his lack of range has to count against him, especially when you compare him to McGrady. T-Mac is deadly from the perimeter and opens up so much for his teammates because of the constant threat of the jumper. Just compare Wade's inability to "pull a Kobe" (by sprinting down the court and pouring in threes when his team is trailing) to McGrady's 13 points in 34 seconds against the Spurs earlier this season. T-Mac hit four three's (one of which was a four-point play) in that stretch, something that Wade simply can't do. In fact, just think of it this way: McGrady hit four treys in 34 seconds, Wade hit four treys in the first four MONTHS of the season.

Reason #2: Turnovers. Both players have the ball in their hands all game and are very good at creating for themselves and for teammates. T-Mac usually throws over defenders while Wade drives and dishes. I call them a draw with a slight edge to Wade because of his quickness and superior ability to beat people off the dribble. However to say that D-Wade plays "with more control" is way off. McGrady rarely makes a bad decision, seldom forces a pass into traffic, and does a terrific job protecting the dribble - all things that the younger Wade still struggles with. T-Mac was uncharacteristically sloppy in the playoffs with 3.7 turnovers a game, but was still way better than Wade's ghastly 5.1 per. During the season, McGrady committed 120 fewer turnovers than Wade while playing 216 more minutes. Great minds (yes, that's us) can differ, but I'm surprised that you would list ball control as an advantage for Wade, when in reality it appears to be the biggest weakness in his game.

Anyway, great post. Let's get some more action here, people. Weigh in. Do you like McGrady or Wade better as the third best swingman in the game?

Jack Wang said...

What I mean with "plays in control" is that Wade understands his limitations. He doesn't have the freakish abilities of T-Mac, but he realizes this and doesn't try to do things he can't do. T-Mac's so good that he'll try to do too much sometimes. There's no real stat that measures this, but the best representative would be field goal percentage. Wade averaged 24.1 ppg this year to T-Mac's 25.7, but while shooting 47.8% to T-Mac's 43.1%. Wade scored only 149 less total points, while taking 335 less shots. That tells me that Wade is more efficient, plays within himself, and gets to the line for easy points.

You are correct about the turnovers though. It's hard to argue with the turnover stats. Wade did turn it over a lot this year (second most in the league). In fact, T-Mac does edge Wade in most of the major statistical categories, and he made huge strides this year to becoming a better team player. But given the choice now of who to take now, I would still pick Dwayne. He's only in his second year, he's already been past the second round of the playoffs, and seems to have a great head on his shoulders. And boy is he handsome.

Where is everyone anyway? I can almost hear virtual crickets chirping...

Reed said...

I am leaning toward Wade being better than T-Mac, but I think that might be just because he's still playing, so it is easier to get sucked in to what he's going out there on the court. I remember being wowed by Tracy in the first round and I think it would have been hard to even consider Wade being better then. But now the Rockets are eliminated and Wade is getting all the air time. Plus, anytime you have this whole debate right after a dude goes for 20 in the fourth quarter, it is going to be hard to go against him.

After reading both of the "contributer's" entries, I think you are both right about Wade being more in control. He commits more turnovers and stupid mistakes, but he takes better shots than Tracy, so it is sort of draw.

Sorry to Mr. Adam Hoff, but I'm going with Wade. But no way would I take him over LeBron - the 40% who voted for him on that ESPN poll are on crack.

Reed said...

Ah, just saw that the "out of control" comment was clarified somewhat. So yeah, the shooting thing is big. Playing under control is more than just hanging on to the ball.

Sorry to repeat stuff - didn't see that last post.

Adam Hoff said...

I'm loving this debate. Good counter with the FG%, but I think I can still disprove the theory.

First, Wade had the luxury of playing with Shaq, so he gets much easier looks. Beyond that, you can't just look at FG% without factoring in the THREE POINT SHOT. There's a reason the trifecter (nod to Dickie V there) is so valuable ... it's worth more points. Even though Wade shoots a significantly higher percentage from the field than T-Mac, they are almost equally efficient with their shots. Look at the numbers:

If you pull out free throws so that you are just measuring the result of each field goal attempt, you can see that T-Mac is averaging nearly as many PPFGA (points per field goal attempt) as Wade. McGrady took 1,660 field goals and scored 1,572 points on those attempts for a ratio of .946 PPFGA. Wade took 1,318 shots and scored 1,272 points for a mark of .965. Still a tick better, but not nearly as drastic as the FG% disparity.

(By the way, just for the record. LeBron was better than both of them with a terrific mark of 1.008, second among all 23+ scorers behind only Amare's unbelievable 1.121. Another fun fact about LBJ is that he had the same number of defensive rebounds as he did made free throws - 477. So there's that.)

Another way to look at it would be to create a hypothetical game in which each player took 25 field goals and no free throws. Wade would presumably go 12-for-25 and score 24 points. McGrady would only go 11-for-25, but would have hit 2-of-6 threes in that batch, coming out to 24 points.

So you can't just look at field goal percentage without taking into account the three. McGrady's work behind the arc makes him nearly as efficient as Wade from the field - all without Shaq opening up the lane.

(While we're here, one more thing that makes T-Mac better that I forgot to mention earlier: he's taller. You think Wade could have brought the ball up the court, run pick-and-rolls with Yao, been the only decent post option, AND guarded Dirk Nowitski? I don't think so.)

Jack Wang said...

I would argue that you can't pull out free throws from the efficiency argument. That completely discounts the point contributions that Wade makes from the line, which will affect the final calculation. If you use that hypothetical game scenario but include free throws, Wade would jump ahead of McGrady by more than a point per game.

Also, the hypothetical game calculation where each player takes 25 shots is pretty limited. I mean, that would lead to the conclusion that Fred Hoiberg is the best player in the league. Per game, or per 48 minute calculations are more telling.

Another knock on McGrady is his head. He has a tendency to mope if his game's going poorly, and who can forget him dogging it in Orlando.

Height can give McGrady advantages, but doesn't make him better. That's like saying because Erick Dampier is bigger than Iverson, he's a better player. You can put T-Mac on Dirk, but Wade would not be put in that situation. That's not his role on the team.

Shaq is a big factor, but Yao is as close as you can get if you want to compare. It's clearly a better comparison of post players than Shaq and the other second best center in the league Erick Dampier. A fantasy hypothetical that I would love to play out would be to switch the teams T-Mac and D-Wade play on - Wade on Houston, T-Mac with Miami. But with Shaq on the downslide, as we've seen this playoffs (and with Wade carrying the Heat), and Yao on the upswing, we'll be able to compare their abilities pretty well next year and beyond. My prediction is that next year, Wade will make an even more compelling argument that he is better than McGrady by improving his three and decreasing his turnovers. It would be great if we could compare this year, but McGrady couldn't keep his team in the playoffs. =)

Adam Hoff said...

I think we might be coming to the end of this one where we just say that we're probably going to stick with our guy to the end. I grant you that you still have to consider Wade's ability to get to the line in regard to his overall offensive efficiency; however, you stated that FG% was the best stat to prove how much better D-Wade’s "control" was this year. Looking at the total number of points scored per field goal attempts shows that McGrady is pretty much just as efficient with his attempts from the field and therefore, just as "in control" of his offensive game (more so when you consider that he commits fewer TO’s). But yeah, Wade does a little better job of drawing contact and getting freebies from the line. Chalk up getting to the line as advantage: D-Wade.

As for the height aspect, I see your point, but it doesn't mean it shouldn't be considered. Despite the fact that McGrady often lines up at small forward and Wade runs a lot of point, they are both shooting guards at heart. Comparing Iverson to Damp is apples-to-oranges, but Wade and McGrady is apples-to-apples (according to all of these ESPN polls and discussions). And the bottom line is that you can just do more with a guy that is 6'8" than you can with an equitable player that is 6'4". Iverson is my favorite player but I'd rather have a 6'10" version of him if I had the choice. I'm sure he'd rather be a 6'10" version as well. If Wade and T-Mac were exactly the same, but one was taller, you'd want the taller version. It's not Wade's fault, but it's just a fact - McGrady's height makes him more versatile, helps him get off shots, and makes it easier for him to see over the defense.

As for moping, I personally never saw it this year. Every game I watched featured an engaged and competitive T-Mac. All players are under so much pressure and scrutiny that I'm sure you could point to numerous occasions where each player let his shoulders slump (see: every game last year in Orlando for T-Mac and the thrashing that the Pistons gave Wade in early April). Could it be that you just don't like T-Mac's lazy eyes? He's always going to be one of those guys that gets unfairly labeled just because he looks so relaxed.

Finally, you are giving Yao way too much credit. He's a solid player that gets unfairly singled out by the refs, but he plays off of T-Mac, not the other way around. In fact, when they tried playing through Yao, the Rockets sucked, and they had to change their offense and put the ball in T-Mac's hands on every play. With a dinged up Shaq though, Wade is pretty much doing the same thing, so I'll relent on the "better center" factor.

Anyway, I would still take McGrady for the myriad reasons I've listed, but you really can't go wrong with either guy. Good points all around.

(And I hope that Wade hits 10 threes next game and makes me look like an idiot, because I hate the Pistons.)

Anonymous said...

My word, could you guys just shut up about this? Talk about beating a dead horse.

(It was actually a pretty good breakdown, but let it go, already!)

- Clint

Anonymous said...

Yup, you guys have about exhausted this one. Really good debate though, much better than the crap they give you on the mainstream sites.

Personally, I'm going with McGrady because he's got more experience and has shown flashes of brilliance that are rivaled by few players in the history of the game. If he can continue to evolve like he did in the playoffs, he could be the best player in the league. I know it's a big if, but I'll always take the guy with the higher ceiling. No knock on Wade because his ceiling is quite high, but McGrady might have the most natural ability in the game. Since they are about a draw right now, give me the guy with the "best case scenario" edge.

Now, fellas, how about breaking down A-Rod versus Tejada for AL MVP front runner?

Shaq said...

D-Wade, playah! D-Wade, playah!

Adam Hoff said...

Shaq, thanks for your comment - Nice to have you reading the blog.

In all seriousness, I love the reference to the "This is D-Wade, playa!" quote. Great story - when the Miami club wouldn't let Wade in without his ID and Shaq took care of things by telling the doorman, "Don't you know who this is? This is D-Wade, playa!"

By the way, what is the best way to spell the slang version of "player"? I've always gone with playa, but that is also how you spell the word beach in Spanish. Maybe play-uh? Your playah has some merit. I wish I knew the answer to this; it is going to bother me all day.

Anonymous said...

Man, did you see that awful three by Wade? The game was almost over so it didn't matter, but man, he can NOT shoot threes. That almost broke the backboard.

Adam Hoff said...

I'm happy to see that the Answer Man thread lives on. Yes, I saw that wayward hoist from Wade. You are right that it didn't matter, but it did make me wonder about something. Who are the best "One Man Comebacks" in the NBA? I'm talking about the guys that make you sweat it out when your team is up 11 with 2:45 to go, because they keep trying to get steals and keep taking it to the rim and keep throwing in threes. Here's my list:

1. Kobe Bryant. He got a ton of practice at this last year. Okay, that was a cheap shot, but he really is scary when things start getting wild. His most deadly play is grabbing the defensive board and taking to the length for a pull-up three.

2. Tracy McGrady. The 13 points in 34 seconds almost makes him number one. He's just like Kobe in his abilities: can grab boards, get steals, finish at the rim, and - most importantly - hit very difficult threes in bunches.

3. LeBron James. He almost made up a 12-point defecit in 1:45 against the Raptors - a game made even more exciting by the fact that I was watching on the Spanish channel.

4. Gilbert Arenas. So quick, so much range. His ability to pick pockets gives him that extra possession.

5. Ben Gordon. The ultimate streak shooter. You don't him getting hot when your team is clinging to a lead.

6. Allen Iverson. He can't get off the pull-up threes as easily as the guys at the top of the list, but he creates contact so well that he can slow the game down by getting to the line. His ability to score goes without saying.

7. Manu Ginobili. He can score from anywhere on the floor and probably get a few extra free throws by drawing a flagrant foul or two.

8. Reggie Miller. If this was 1997, he'd be #1.

9. Baron Davis.
10. Ray Allen

42. Dwyane Wade. He has it all except for the three ball. Which is pretty much the most important thing when you are trying to orchestrate a one-man comeback.

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