Your Favorite Player Didn’t Die For This

Breaking down NBA players in desperate need of either some support or liberation from the organizational Bastille that has them trapped.

Some teams have to be bad so others can be good. That is the one certainty of life. The losers have to make space for the winners. Sport rule-books, exceptions and other restrictions are overly complex, so telling who’s good and who isn’t shouldn’t be. It’s the same reason we don’t have ties in basketball. Ties are for soccer. Ties are for the English. You know what the English did? They lost the War of 1812. They’re the losers. Ties are for losers.

However, even when you’re bad, you’re still entitled to some good. No one wants to sit through 82 games of utter and total mediocrity, unless of course you’re Brooklyn fans, but that may not be a path of their own choosing. Each team should have that one sliver of hope, that one talented player that we can look at and say “maybe, maybe it’s he who takes us to the promise-land. He just needs to wait for some help. Any help. Even something that’s not help, but resembles help from a distance and after enough drinks it will do anyway.” Except, what if help doesn’t come. Do we expect these players to die for their teams even when their teams? Did they already? Did us marooning their talent on an island next to Omer Asik ruined their future? Here is a list of players who certainly didn’t want to die for this.

Anthony Davis Didn’t Die For This

I love Anthony Davis. I think of Anthony Davis as a distant relative. We’ve never met and he probably doesn’t know me, but if he needed like a kidney to live, I’d think about it. Not for long, but I’d take a significant enough pause (just long enough to be considered a pause). The NBA season just started, but Anthony Davis has already been doing his best “he who is not of this Earth” impression. Now, I am no Fox Mulder, but a stat line of 50 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, 7 steals and 4 blocks has me sitting at my desk with the thought process somewhere around “if this isn’t proof extraterrestrial life…”

Anthony Davis has always been an anatomical anomaly. He is a composition of limbs and muscles that resembles that of a deadly lizard more than it does that of a human. He is built to strike fear directly into his opponents and really the thesis statement in a long-winded 2000 word (300 run on sentence words for arbitrary length padding) essay on what a modern big man should be. He’s still extremely apt defensively, erasing shots left and right (even if you’re Kawhi Leonard).

But now he has also become the offensive weapon that’s best described as “if Cthulhu played basketball.”

Through the first three games his usage is at 38% and his averages read more like the numbers from Lost than a statistical normalcy of the NBA. He’s averaging 37.3 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocks per game. Obviously it’s a small sample size and all of that will normalize, but then again, will it? The Pelicans are 0–3, because of course they are and from what I remember the boulder Sisyphus had to carry never got any lighter either. They wasted an astronomical performance from AD in the opener against the Nuggets. Then they lost to the Warriors and the Spurs. While losing to two best teams in the NBA is expected, the stat line that reads more like a treasure map to pirate booty, longitude and longitude included, came against the Nuggets. That is a game you should be winning.

Realistically, the Pelicans can still get better. Jrue Holiday is still away and Buddy Hield can’t be shooting out of an industrial meat freezer forever, but for now, they’re leaving AD stranded. While it would be great to watch Anthony Davis have a historic season the whole basketball world needs him to have some help. We need it because we want a healthy AD, and injury is a serious risk for someone who’s health history reads like a WebMD random symptom generator. The Pelicans had one job for the past 5 years. Get Anthony Davis some help. One job! As it stands Tim Frazer is their second leading scorer and E’Twan Moore is the only other player to average over 10 points early in the season. And if you thought Frazer was the answer and always had it in him, how dare you lie to me.

DeMarcus Cousins Didn’t Die for This

I imagine that being a franchise player for the Sacramento Kings is much like being stuck on a desert island. Alone. With no food. In the scorching sun. And the only care-package that’s being dropped to you is… Sand… I don’t know if they grade it, but coarse.

DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins has lived that life for far too long. He’s been the best player on a team that’s been through enough coaches to possibly populate a small Eastern European village. He’s been the best player on a franchise that drafts players as if they’re randomizing a spreadsheet at Excel with all positions but Center removed. He’s been the one, shining, bright and slightly unhinged bright light Vivek has been trying to burn out for years now.

Cousins started the 2016/17 season with a usage around 36.7% and averaging 30 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. He’s shooting threes and doing this:

And if you think that a man that size shouldn’t move like that, join the #FreeBoogie club, there’s still space.

The problem with the Kings is far beyond personnel. That is more the consequence of a problem than the root of it. The management has been able to materialize any supporting cast around Boogie for years. Partially, that may be to Cousins’ personality, notoriously hard to please, but when you fire the only coach that was able to break through to him, you’re really not helping the problem. The Kings have insisted to continuously stand up to logic, look it in the eyes and say “you’re not the boss of me.” They are still paying the price.

First, they’re unable to recognize their team needs, trading out of the draft this year to draft another Center. On a team with three of them. Having drafted one last year. And if you think that this is insane, welcome to the diagnosis. Before re-upping on bigs, the Kings did the same in a succession of Fredette, McLemore and Stauskas. They’ve also stuck high usage guys next to Cousins who by all measures should be the facilitator and the main fulcrum of this offense. As much as Cousins is doing all he can for the Kings to win, the Kings are doing absolutely everything in their power not to.

We love you too Boogie.

John Wall Didn’t Die For This

As I watched Bradley Beal go for 5 for 17 from the field including 2 for 8 from the three, it struck me: John Wall has every reason to be mad about the money his running mate is getting. Having watched everyone around him get paid (stand up Reggie Jackson) John Wall has been somewhat adamant about maintaining that money doesn’t matter. Sure.

Wall’s frustration has to be a combination of things, partially rooted in constantly being overlooked in the “best point guard discussion,” while consistently playing at a level that deserves top 5 consideration. He finished his 2016 campaign averaging 19.9 points and 10.2 assists and so far is on pace to repeat in 2017/18. He also plays at breakneck speed, able to comfortably facilitate off the dribble or do this:

Wall’s pace keeps defenses in disarray causing frequent collapses around when he picks up speed en route to the hoop. Unfortunately, they are also paying Bradley Beal to shoot .379% from the field and .200% from three. Wall’s brand of basketball requires shoots and capable roll-men to take advantage of the chaos. Instead, the team is .244% from behind the arc (28th in the League). That tends to happen when you make Ian Mahimi your marquee off-season acquisition.

After whiffing on Durant, despite signing his old friend and iso facilitator Scott Brooks, the Wizards were left without much of a plan about how to make this team work. Perhaps the hope was that one year removed from their last Playoff appearance Washington can normalize, except that a variety of other teams either didn’t get worse or added significant pieces to get better. The Wizards are stuck in place choosing to invest into a hopeful conflict resolution between their two start guards instead of figuring it out how to finally make it all work around John Wall. For now he remains a top 5 point-guard on what’s increasingly looking like a bottom five team.

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