Atlanta Hawks: Size. Does It Matter?

Given Trae Young’s second half surge and early season cheat-code ridiculousness, it’s way too early to start sketching his career ceiling. I was lucky enough to snag Trae Young in an expansion team rookie draft last season and wisely designated him as a keeper. As a result, I find myself contemplating Young’s ever expanding potential. You can bet the Hawks are too. The Hawks made a bet on June 21, 2018. They concluded that the difference between Trae Young and Luka Doncic was negligible, so negligible that the extra picks they received from the Dallas Mavericks warranted moving down and passing on Doncic. It’s hard to say that they’ve been proven right given Luka’s near MVP-level play to start the season, but it’s also hard to say they’ve been proven wrong. Trae Young is one of the best passers in the known universe and he pairs that rare, ceiling raising ability with the constantly ballooning confidence that permits any human being to risk the embarrassment of a 35-foot air-ball over and over and over again.

But he’s only 6’ in socks, 6’1 3/4’’ in shoes.

How many players of Young’s relative stature have won championships as the best players on their team? Allen Iverson never did. Chris Paul? No chance. John Stockton? “Poor soul, he was just too high strung.” Steve Nash? Sadly, no. Pops Hardaway never got one. Do Bob Cousy’s really count? “Tiny” Archibald got one. Walt Frazier and Isiah Thomas each got two. Steph Curry won one without Kevin Durant.

Even with those players in mind, the list is short and mostly populated by guys who played in the 70’s and 80’s (or earlier in Cousy’s case). I don’t see the trend reversing anytime soon, either. Travis Schlenk and the rest of the Hawks front office have to be thinking about what a battered and fatigued Stephen Curry looked like in the 2016 NBA Finals. I know they aren’t skipping blissfully along, unaware of this reality because they just spent two lottery picks on high upside wing players in DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish. Trae Young’s ultimate ceiling may be ten feet “high and rising,” but wherever it comes to rest will (of course) be hindered or helped by the teammates Travis Schlenk puts around him. This is true of every great player, but it is more true of smaller, mostly one-way players of Young’s ilk—Nash, Curry, Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, etc.

In the Hawks’ very specific nightmare, Travis Schlenk is an extra in a haunted house version of 2 Chainz problematic Birthday Song video, except instead of a throng of thick women, it’s a bunch of championship winning players all 6’3’’ and taller, sporting all the bling and flash of peak Flavor Flav.

Side Note: After he dropped 42 points and 11 assists on the Denver Nuggets on November 12, 2019 Trae Young took to Twitter to clap back at his haters with the same verve he crosses defenders. Kendrick Perkins decided to round-up the ghost pepper flakes from Young’s tweets/success and pour them into Steph Curry’s metaphorical light eyes. (We need to have an intelligent conversation about Perkins’ Curry obsession.) Perkins, friend and former teammate of Kevin Durant has been on a mission to spit-shine Durant’s legacy at the expense of Curry’s since he started covering the NBA on ESPN’s platform. With KD injured and likely out for the year, he’s resigned himself to machine gunning Curry’s historical claim to greatness. One of you Warriors homers needs to stand up as a foil to Perkins thick, southern bass, his very sonorous brand of NBA evil…

Perkins worst nightmare would be an inescapable loop of a final boss style showdown against Steph Curry. Curry would always be on offense and there would be zero reasonable dribble limitations. On the big screen a loop of all of Curry’s corniest dance moves and hyper-quick cuts of extreme close-ups of his green eyes. All of the parade and championship celebration audio from the Warriors dynastic run would of course be pumped into the stadium at deafening volume.

 

Los Angeles Clippers: All Things Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers has been living nightmares for quite some time now. He’s been jointly blessed and tormented by moody, grating, genius level pass-first point guards since he was in Boston. He was at the helm of one of the sport’s worst meltdowns in 2015. Rivers suffered the indignity of having to trade for his son, either to salvage and preserve what was left of a career on the fritz, or, in a more heartwarming interpretation, because he believed he was the person best suited to maximize’s his son’s skillsets, something that would benefit his team and his son’s career. Neither one of those things happened in full. As a result, Doc Rivers had to suffer the second indignity of trading his son after signing him to a new contract at a slightly higher pay rate than might have been warranted.

*** To be honest, I don’t really care about any of the Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers history. Austin Rivers is a competent NBA player and plenty of other players have been overpaid because of a strong relationship with ownership. But I imagine the awkwardness of it all wasn’t lost on Doc’s other players, his friends in various group chats and the wider NBA watching public. I’m not sure I’d want my nepotism broadcast for all the world to see either.***

Then, November 13, 2019 arrived. Doc Rivers was incensed, accessed a technical foul and then tossed from the Los Angeles Clippers prime time matchup against the Houston Rockets. For his “stand up for my players” routine, he had to watch his son beg the referee to throw him out of the game out of the corner of his eye. Austin Rivers reveled in this opportunity like anyone who has had to endure living in the shadow of a friend or family member. The younger Rivers pumped up the crowd, he made the technical foul sign, he swung his arms in celebratory post-sack fashion, and in the end he told Doc Rivers he would call to check on him. Sports are unbelievably weird and I love them.

In Doc Rivers nightmare he just has to sit in a room with Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, and Austin Rivers for eternity.

 

Houston Rockets: The Future

The Rockets defense never improves and they fizzle out in the playoffs again.

Daryl Morey goes to sleep and wakes up in a world where no matter what he does he cannot be fired, but as a result of this unprecedented job security he’s force fed an unfiltered stream of Tilman Fertitta’s thoughts as text messages. Every single message starts with title of his book, Shut Up and Listen! In this dream world, repeated playoff failures have broken James Harden. He misses every one-legged step back three-pointer—the only shot he’s now willing to take—and Westbrook’s free-throw yips consume his entire game. The Rockets have no other choice but to trade Westbrook back to the Thunder for Chris Paul.