Wages of Wins 4-on-5: Powerplay edition

demar_derozan_jose_calderonEach week, Wages of Wins contributors will answer contemporary questions about the NBA (yes, these discussions will probably turn into arguments at some point). 

This week we have a special guest! Kevin Draper (@TheDissNBA) from The Diss, which has been serving up angsty NBA analysis since 2011. 

Have any suggestions for questions you want us to answer? Leave them in the comments section below! Also, for fun, tell us who you think made the best arguments. 

1. The Brooklyn Nets recently won 7 straight games. Are you buying that PJ Carleismo has changed the franchise at all in his short time as coach (he’s gone 9-2) or do you think this is a result of something else?

Andres Alvarez: Do I buy that the Nets are a playoff team in the East? Yes. Do I buy that a new coach turned it around? Not for a second. The only wins of note were against the Thunder and Pacers, which were impressive. The other wins were against the Bobcats, Cavs, Wizards (in 2OT), Kings, 76ers, and Suns. Yipes, talk about slim pickings. Arturo’s ranking has them at about 42 wins, which should make Nets fans happy, as they were in the 30s to start the season. As Reggie Evans is a heavy lifter and he’s older and underrated, I’m not sold on the future of this team.
Ben Gulker: Four of those wins were against the Wizards, Kings, 76ers, and Suns. I’d say that strength of schedule has as much to do with that hot streak as anything.
Devin Dignam:  The Nets have been 9-2 since P.J. Carlesimo took over. Six of those games were at home, five were away, so there hasn’t been a homecourt bias. But the opponents have been (in order): Bobcats, Cavs, Spurs, Thunder, Wizards, Kings, 76ers, Suns, Pacers, Raptors, and Hawks. Of those games, the only victory that really stands out is the one against the Thunder in OKC. Every other game ended reasonably given their players and prior record. I would attribute the recent turnaround to schedule and expected random fluctuation. So no, I don’t buy that P.J. Carlesimo should get the credit.
Kevin Draper: No, PJ has changed very little. The Nets have only played four playoff teams since Carlesimo became coach — a pretty easy schedule. Combined with the normal, but temporary, surge in energy under a new coach, and a bit of Deron Williams reversion to the mean and you have your explanation for why the Nets have gone 9-2 in their last 11 games.

2. Of all of the Rudy Gay trade rumors you have heard (teams mentioned include Phoenix, Toronto, and Golden State), which one would you take if you were the Grizzles?

Andres Alvarez: I would love a Rudy Gay for Jose Calderon and Ed Davis trade, just to get a DeRozan, Gay, Bargnani combo on one team. If I were the Grizzlies, I’d be pushing pretty hard for something with Jared Dudley and some cap space. It would take a little work to make the salaries work, but that could be killer for the Grizzlies.

Ben Gulker: The Toronto rumors are probably the most interesting. Memphis is already a very competitive team in the West, and if they can turn Rudy Gay into Calderon and Ed Davis or Jonas Valanciunas, they become deeper at key positions and may become a legitimate championships contender.

Devin Dignam: Being a Raptors fan, I know that the rumoured Raptors package of Jose Calderon and Ed Davis would be the best. Not only would such a trade net the Grizzlies a young, cheap, and underrated big man, but also a consistently productive PG, which is hard to find. It should also be noted that Calderon is in the last year of his deal, so whether he would be resigned (inevitably to a cheaper deal) or allowed to walk, the Griz would make out like bandits. Of course, even as bad as the Raptors’ personnel decisions have been, I can’t see the team going for that trade. The Phoenix rumours seem more likely.

Kevin Draper: None of them. I believe that the Grizzlies are one of five teams (the others being the Heat, Clippers, Thunder and Spurs) that could potentially win the title this year. Yeah, Rudy is an average player on a huge contract, but this team could win now, and shouldn’t do anything to disturb that.

3. Patrick recently did an Unsung Team post on the NBA Geek, where he named top players who are playing well but aren’t getting much credit for it. If you had to name 5 such players, one at each position, who would they be?

Andres Alvarez:
  • PG: Definitely Calderon. Can’t believe how little love that guy gets, I blame Bargnani.
  • SG: I’m gonna go with Josh Childress. I wrote a glowing review of him to start the season. He’s gotten a grand total of 100 minutes this season. His WP48 is below average, but in the 3 (3!) games he’s played over 10 minutes, he’s played well.
  • SF: I think I go with Steve Novak. Melo is getting so much credit on New York and people seem to forget they have this killer shooter in Novak.
  • PF: Easily Kenneth Faried. How on earth does he have to justify minutes? Yes, this is some homecourt bias against George Karl. But seriously, this guy is one of the best PFs in the league and I have to see him underused and called a “hustle player” by the mainstream media, who can’t read a scoresheet.
  • C: Back to the Karl well — JaVale McGee. This guy can play great and yet he isn’t seeing minutes. I’ve heard his asthma listed as a possible cause. I don’t buy it. The Nuggets invested heavily, he’s played well and is seeing the bench.
Ben Gulker:
  • PG: Jose Calderon
  • SG: Jared Dudley
  • SF: Andrei Kirilenko
  • PF: Tim Duncan. This is probably going to earn me some criticism – but let’s be honest. Who’s talking about the Spurs right now? Tim Duncan is quietly putting up another superstar season on a team that is somehow an underdog in spite of having the third best record in the league.
  • C: Andre Drummond, and it’s not close. This kid should be an All Star and Rookie of the Year… if only the Pistons would play him enough minutes.
Devin Dignam:
  • PG:  Has to be Jose Calderon here. The man brings it every year, even though no one — management, fans across the league, and even his home fans — seems to appreciate him. Almost every Raptor trade rumour of the past four years has involved Calderon in some way, and I’ve always wondered why.
  • SG: Thabo Sefolosha has been productive and underrated for five years now. Last year he was injured and didn’t play as much, so it was even easier to forget about him. He’s probably the biggest reason why OKC has done so well without James Harden (Durant being the other big reason).
  • SF: Matt Barnes is often injured and rarely starts, but for five years now he has been one of the top SFs in the NBA.
  • PF: Ed Davis. I hate to pick two Raptors, but I believe both choices are warranted. Davis projected to be a good rookie coming into the league and slipped to the 13th pick. The Raptors picked him up and since that time he has produced very well, but has been stuck behind the worst player in the league (if not all-time). Can’t get much more unappreciated than that.
  • C: Tiago Splitter. He’s now in his third year of very productive play, but plays around 20 minutes a game beside a sure-fire hall of fame PF/C in Tim Duncan. It also doesn’t help that he entered the league when he was 26 years old and didn’t play in the NCAA. And finally, playing on the Spurs never helps in the popularity department for some reason.
Kevin Draper:

4. Who is a player that you believe has underperformed this season and will become a star later in the season or seasons beyond?

Andres Alvarez: Andre Iguodala or Ty Lawson. Iguodala has played well, but below his typical level. Lawson has been missing shots. If either can return to form for the Nuggets then I’m excited. If not, I’ll look forward to another first round exit.
Ben Gulker: Greg Monroe. After very nice rookie and sophomore campaigns, Greg Monroe is slumping. He started the season terribly, and he’s gradually making his way back to expected levels of production. He has become the focal point of the Detroit offense after hardly having any plays run for him his first two seasons, and he hasn’t adjusted yet. I think he will, and when he does, Detroit will have the best starting PF/C combo in the Eastern Conference… possibly for the better part of a decade.
Devin Dignam: Without question, my answer is Ty Lawson. I expected Lawson to continue putting up the numbers he had in his previous three seasons, and even traded for him in the Win Score fantasy league. Little did I know that he’d be fighting for fantasy minutes with a similarly underperforming Isaiah Thomas.
Kevin Draper: Jan Vesely. Maybe star is going a bit far, but Vesely has always shown the unbelievable athleticism and high-energy motor necessary to be successful. As of late he has looked like he might finally be grasping the cerebral side of the game, understanding where he needs to be, and when to be there. Anderson Varejao-lite seems like a decent comparison.

5. Do you think the return of John Wall will make the Wizards significantly better?

Andres Alvarez: He can’t make them worse can he? Looking over the Wizards roster of PGs, none has played well or played many minutes. John Wall’s progression over his first two seasons (above average for a rookie, above average as a sophomore) showed promise. If he can keep up the trend, he’ll help. It’s too late to save the team from the lottery, so he may just be shut down later in the season. Also, health is a hard thing to predict, so we’ll have to see when he returns.
Ben Gulker: Significantly? No, probably not. Most players take some time to return to form after injury, and Washington has managed to get some production out of the PG spot. Their biggest problem is they have nothing behind Nene and Okafor, and on top of that Nene hasn’t played up to expectations. The other issue here is that a team with their efficiency differential would be expected to be 10-25 right now, so if Washington starts to win some of the games it may have been able to win, the team will look better — but not necessarily because of John Wall.
Devin Dignam:  I think that Wall’s return will help, as will the return of many of the Wizards’ other injured players, such as Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, and a (hopefully) healthy Nene. Cutting Earl Barron certainly helped as well. If the Wizards can figure out who to give minutes to (as in, not Kevin Seraphin) then they should be significantly better.
Kevin Draper: Yes I do. The Wizards are so historically bad at offense that even John Wall’s wholly inefficient game will improve this team. It will allow players like Kevin Seraphin and Bradley Beal to take fewer bad shots, and give the Wizards an offensive identity. Not a very good offensive identity mind you, but better than the A.J. Price or Garrett Temple led-“offenses” I have seen this season.

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