Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: Raymond Felton. Two games after sustaining a left-hand contusion, Felton looked like his shooting paw had been fitted with the Infinity Gauntlet. He poured in 27 points (10-of-20 from the field, including 6-of-10 from deep) and seven dimes. Carmelo Anthony owes this guy a car.
LVP: Dwyane Wade. Most players would be escorted out of the arena before they could muster a minus-33. As has been the case lately, Wade (13 points on 3-of-13 shooting) seemed to rely on a periphery of way too many mid-range jumpers.
That was ... cartoonish: After sinking 19 of 36 from beyond the arc in their opening-night Miami thrashing, the Melo-less Knicks set South Beach on fire to the tune of 18-of-44 3-pointers -- eight of which came during a key third-quarter blitz.
Recap | Box score
MVP: O.J. Mayo. He was in Phoenix over the summer during his free agency tour. Thursday night, he made sure to remind the Suns' front office what they could have had at shooting guard. The Mavericks' big offseason acquisition finished with 23 points, five rebounds and five assists. Mayo also hit the game-winning jumper with 34 seconds to go as Dallas snapped its three-game road losing streak.
LVP: Michael Beasley. Before Thursday night's game, Alvin Gentry mentioned the team might 'tweak" their lineup in the coming days -- a move that would more than likely send Beasley to the bench. If the Suns' contest against the Mavericks was in fact his final audition as a starter, Beasley did little to gain his coach's trust with yet another uninspiring performance. He finished with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting and did not play after the 7:24 mark of the third quarter.
That was ... encouraging: Markieff Morris did his best to promote Zach Randolph's MVP candidacy in Phoenix's loss to Memphis Tuesday night. But the second-year forward rebounded quite nicely -- both literally and figuratively -- in front of a national television audience against Dallas. Morris recorded his first double-double of the season (15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds), thanks in large part to nine first-quarter rebounds.
So Far, It's Money Well Spent
One of the most nerve-wracking things a team can do is make a long-term commitment to a player. If it doesn't work out, it's left with negative value in the form of a contract nobody wants, often having to pay in cash or draft picks or taking on an equally unappetizing deal to be rid of it.
It's one thing if you're spending the money on a sure thing -- such as Miami with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Go ahead, set off some fireworks. But in most cases, it's not nearly as much of a slam dunk.
Nonetheless, the offseason becomes a groundswell of optimism in NBA offices, and every year, countless big-money deals go down for non-superstars. Two days ago I detailed how some of those already have gone horribly wrong, focusing on players getting paid for the first time.
The good news, however, is that the contract-year phenomenon isn't much of a factor for players who already have seen the big money. And the other good news is that some guys are immune to its effects. For that reason, we've seen several long-term deals that have worked out well for the teams handing them out.
Analyzing Melo vs. LeBron
ESPN The Magazine
He's an assistant coach on one of the top staffs in the league, not a rabid fan deluded by love for his team. So his words should be taken seriously. And after studying both the Heat and the Knicks, he told me this week he'd take the Knicks in a seven-game series.
When I mentioned this to a longtime Eastern Conference scout, the scout didn't fall out of his chair. While he wouldn't go as far as the coach, he did say the Knicks are "absolutely a legitimate threat" to dethrone the Heat.
The Knicks, who visit the Heat on Thursday night in Miami, have lots of things going for them but none bigger than Carmelo Anthony. One major reason the Knicks have a chance to beat Miami is Anthony, who is on my short list of early-season MVP candidates, plays LeBron James better than any other swingman in the league.
No one outplays LeBron, whose versatility enables him to affect the game more than any other player in the league. Most guys, in fact, get dominated by him. But not Anthony. While he may not pass and defend as well as LeBron, he comes closer than anyone else to matching James' production.
NBA Video Channel
Trade Possibilities For Pau Gasol
The problem of trading Pau Gasol can be explained by using a line from Business 101:
Buy low, sell high.
Right now, it's hard to imagine Gasol's trade value ever being lower. To illustrate how far his stock has fallen, let's play our favorite comparison game of Player A versus Player B.
Consider these two big men:
Age: 32 | Contract: 2 years/$19M annually | 2012-13 averages: 12.6 pts, 8.8 rebs, 42 FG%, 14.9 PER
Age: 31 | Contract: 3 years/$15.7M annually | 2012-13 averages: 13.7 pts, 9.1 rebs, 46 FG%, 16.7 PER
On the surface, which of the two players would you prefer? Of course, we're leaving out some pretty important variables including defense, passing and injury status. But play along for a minute. You might feel like Player B is the better asset on the surface, because he's more efficient, younger and cheaper salarywise. The length of the contract isn't ideal, but you might be able to bite the bullet for the younger player. Player B actually looks somewhat palatable.
Give It To The Big Man
Guess who returned home last week?
For the first time this season, Carmelo Anthony played more minutes at small forward than he did at power forward, as Knicks coach Mike Woodson was forced to tweak his lineup because of injuries suffered by first Jason Kidd and then Raymond Felton. Thus Anthony did not qualify for the weekly Barometer leaderboard or next week's projections. It's a consequence sure to upset fans across the Big Apple.
Woodson didn't exactly go traditional, giving Steve Novak the bulk of the minutes at the 4. In fact, you can argue over who is actually playing the 4 when Novak pairs with Anthony. In our coding system, it's Novak. In reality, it's a debate of semantics, but the coding is based on usage in past seasons. Either way, Novak was on the floor to space the offense and did so brilliantly. In three games, Novak made 14 field goals -- all from behind the arc.