My Favourite NBA story

LSU head coach Dale Brown would never forget his 1985 scouting jaunt to Germany.  

Always on the lookout for undiscovered talent, coach Brown had traveled across miles and oceans to an American army base in West Germany.  The country was still living in the shadow of the Berlin wall which stood sentinel between the nation’s two halves.  It was at this army base that Coach Brown hoped to find fit, disciplined, young men that he might be able to mould into basketball players.

The journey had been rough and coach Brown was tired.  On his arrival at the base he fully intended to meet with the commanding officer, get permission to scout his soldiers, and turn in early.  Basketball had not yet fully formed internationaly, and Brown was convinced the trip was more trouble that it was worth.

He was brought through the camp by two armed guards and was ordered into a large, green meeting tent.  There he was sat down in front of Sergeant Phillip A. Harrison and a few of his men.

As it turns out Sergeant Harrison could not have been more welcoming.  He happened to be a basketball fan himself.  Growing up in New Jersey in the 50s and 60s, the Sergeant considered himself to be something of a witness to the birth of modern ball.  

They shook hands, and Coach Brown was given leave to stay as long as he liked and full authority to scout any of the soldiers

Brown rose to leave, but before he’d even crossed to the door, something caught his eye out of the corner of the tent.  Leaning shyly against the far wall was one the biggest men Brown had ever seen.  Being a head coach at a top tier basketball college meant Coach Brown had seen his fair share of large guys, but this man was different.  Standing 6’9 and built like a house. His attempts to look inconspicuous could not be more pathetic.

Brown walked directly across the room and looked up.

“Well what unit are you in, son?”

The man laughed.  

“I’m thirteen.”  Was his reply.’

Coach Brown will never forget the day he discovered Shaquille O’Neal, but little did the coach know that Shaq had been preparing to meet him too. 

He had heard through Sgt. Harrison (O’Neal’s stepfather) that a top tier college scout was coming to poke around the base days before.  Already a force to be reckoned with on the local courts, Shaq was eager to earn a name for himself in America and decided he had to study up to leave an impression on the incoming scout.

He had looked in the dictionary to find a word he believed sophisticated enough for a top tier University.  Not yet the master of syntax we know he’ll become, the word Shaq picked to impress America was “extremities” .

As Dale Brown felt his hand disappear in Shaq’s mitt, Shaq leaned down and asked.

“Could you send me some exorcizes so I can strengthen my lower extremities?”

Even then Shaq was making us laugh.

A few months later, Shaq got some video tapes in the mail.  With them came a letter from Coach Brown;

“These will help strengthen your upper AND lower extremities.”

Shaq never forgot that day.

The two stayed in correspondence for years afterwards.  Long before Shaq was shattering backboards and topping high school recruiting charts.

Sure enough, four years later Shaq attended Louisiana State University on a full scholarship.  He led them to a conference championship in 1991 averaging 28 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks a game.  He recalls how many scholarships he was offered coming out of high school and that’d he’d picked LSU not just because it was a great school, but because the coach had already been a mentor for so long.

When Dale Brown died in 2013, Shaq remembered the man with these words.

“He believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.”

What you missed in the Raptors’ Preseason

            In case you missed the Raptors first two preseason games there have been some promising signs from our beloved ball club.  Firstly, (and I know this is what you were all worried about) the 2021 slogan is good.  The organization is pitching “A New Chapter” as this season’s catch phrase and I gotta say they hit the nail on the head.  Half of our 2019 championship core is gone, and with Lowry aging and the team shifting its identity younger it definitely feels like we’re turning the page in the book of Raptors basketball.  Now, shifting gears from that title team might not seem like a good thing but that’s why I’m watching preseason.  I want to know who’s gonna be special for us this year, who will take a leap, and who will help write this next chapter of Raptors history.

The Big 3

            Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first.  Lowry hasn’t yet played in preseason which is no cause for alarm.  The team hasn’t released a statement about specifically why they allowed Lowry to remain in Tampa during this road trip, and while our first reaction might be to worry about his health it’s more likely they wanted to rest their 35-year-old 6-foot point guard.  Kyle’s got a lot of miles on those little legs, and he doesn’t need to get himself all worked up playing Nate Darling and Xavier Sneed.

“Kyle enjoys his golf. Have fun not being in Charlotte buddy.”

            Siakam and VanVleet have been their usual awesome selves.  It’s too early to guess what the season has in store for them but I will say this; in preseason the difference between the shmucks and the established NBA guys is obvious, but the difference between shmucks and the stars is even more so.  You can check a preseason box score see Giannis have a casual 28 and 12 in as many minutes.  They don’t have to work against this level of competition, they dominate just on instinct.  That said, I noticed some of that with Siakam and VanVleet in these preseason games.  Watching them nonchalantly manhandle the Hornets’ third unit doesn’t necessarily spell playoff success in June, but it hammers home their place near the top of the league.

The Other Guys

“I love all Australians”

            Norman Powell, Aron Baynes, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Chris Boucher.  

Norm is the only one of those guys who’s had experience playing key minutes for a contending team (Baynes has had a little bit in Boston but shhhh!).  Davis, Thomas, and Boucher are about to transition from gravy to being the potatoes of the Raptors’ meal.  This is the first real test of their mettle and it’ll be interesting to see how they step up.  I love Aron Baynes, but part of why is because he knows who he is.  He’s established, so for better and for worse he’s not gonna surprise anyone.

            With Norm nearly doubling his scoring output last season it’ll be interesting to see what he’ll be able to do playing a more run & gun style.  Both the Raptors and Norm Powell were devastating in transition last year, the team lead the league in transition attempts and Norm shot 57% on the fast break.  With the injection of more Boucher (a faster big than Ibaka was) and the addition of Malachi Flynn (a rookie and true backup PG who doesn’t have to worry about pacing himself) we could see Norm out running even more.

            Terence Davis’s success in this preseason has had me banging my head against the wall more than once.  He’s looked so good!  I want to like him!  Damnit!  Why did he punch that girl in the face??  Did he take a second to think about the incredible offensive flexibility of a Flynn, Davis, Powell bench backcourt before he started swinging??  No, he didn’t!  Fuck!

            So far in preseason, Boucher has been exactly who I thought he was.  He’s got a lot of raw ability and not a clue what he’s doing out there.  He’ll swat someone’s 3-point shot away then run the break like a gazelle then dunk on your head. He’ll have everyone thinking; “Wow!  Look at Boucher go!” but then he’ll fall for 4 pump fakes in one possession, get outmuscled on the boards, and provide no creative help to his teammates because his picks provide much resistance as a damp tissue.  What’s annoying is that people notice his highlights, his faults are much more important to team success and simultaneously much easier to overlook.  Don’t fall in love with Boucher’s highlights, I’m telling you.

            Let’s talk about something a little cheerier.  Matt Thomas.  I love this guy.  In a vacuum, he is (and I say this without any exaggeration or hyperbole) one of the greatest shooters I’ve ever seen.  Remember in the 2019 Finals when every time Curry or Klay Thompson shot the ball you freaked out because you just assumed it was going in?  I’m starting to get a little bit of that with Thomas.  Yes, I’m a bit ahead of myself here, but let me just share this with you:  Here’s a quote about defending Kyle Korver 

            “-he may average 12 or 15 points, but you have to guard him like he averages 40.”

Now, I looked around on the internet for two hours and I couldn’t find who said it but I believe that that is what we’re getting from Matt Thomas.  He won’t floor you with the raw numbers, but he will strike fear into our opponents, and it will make our team better. 

The Big Questions

            If you learn anything from watching preseason learn this.  Malachi Flynn and OG Anunoby are going to be the two guys who make this season.  As a rookie, Flynn has a great defensive mind stellar passing instincts and is already a dynamite shooter. Even still, his greatest skill is his feel for the game.  Thus far he hasn’t just been running backup point for us he’s been leading the bench offense.  He makes plays, understands the pace of the game, and is always in complete control.  That’s vital for any winning point guard and is extremely rare to see in a rookie.

            OG might be the key to this whole season.  I’ve talked before about wanting to see him improve his ball handling and assertiveness, and I want to see him create for himself more.  I’m not saying he should be the focal point of the offence or anything, but if he really becomes a threat to create we can then run a closing lineup of Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Anunoby, and Siakam.  Five guys who can play on and off ball, defend at a high rate, and score from all three levels.  I want OG to take that next step and be an option with the ball in his hands and it looks like Coach Nick Nurse has been thinking the same.  In preseason, Nurse has been running OG as the lone starter with the second unit, giving him more touches and offensive opportunity.  With it he’s shown a lot of promise.  I know it’s still a small sample size but watch this;

That’s exactly what I want to see from him. We know he can play off-ball and shoot the 3, I’m not asking him to iso like James Harden here, I just want him to step into the limelight and take full advantage of his abilities. I’m telling you, OG is the key.

2020 NBA Free-Agency

            Just when we thought we were going to have a quiet NBA offseason, 2020 flipped us off and tore us a new one yet again.

            “2020 is undoubtably a weaker draft class.”  – Chris Vernon, the Ringer NBA Show

            “There aren’t really a ton of star free agents to chase this offseason.”  – Zach Lowe, ESPN

And they’re probably right, but you can’t say it’s been boring.

            While there hasn’t been one blockbuster move or free agency signing (think Kevin Durant in 2016 or LeBron in 2010), it feels like every team has been making these modest to medium-sized moves to improve their rosters this year (if that’s not on brand I don’t know what is).  There’s so much to talk about and I want to get to it all, so I’m just gonna list it by team and spit all my thoughts onto this Microsoft Word document.  So you can pick and choose what you want to read based on the header.  Ok?  Ok.  Lovely.

The Los Angeles Clippers

            They lost the 6th man of the year, but I actually think they got a little better.  Harrell was fun and funky and dunky and worked really hard but when you’re best big is 6’7, can’t shoot, and can’t play defence what are you really doing?  With Ibaka now rounding out their starting five at centre they get 90% of Harrell’s production with 160% of the fit.  Ibaka can space the floor for Kawhi and Paul George and can hang defensively with the star bigs in the West.  This is going to be a big year for the Clips because of next summer.  Remember, Kawhi and PG are free agents next year, if the team underperforms again this playoffs then we may see this era of Clippers contention come to an anticlimactic conclusion.  Call if they can commandeer Caruso, Conley, or Clarkson, someone to complete their backcourt and make it more competitive.

The Phoenix Suns

            Everybody’s just happy the Suns are a playoff team again.  I loved Devin Booker at Kentucky, I’m glad he’ll be able to compete in the playoffs.  Ayton and Bridges and the rest should continue to improve.  Chris Paul should do Chris Paul things.  Perfect.  Great.  But what is this team really?  A 6th seed?  A 5th seed?  I know the Suns deserve something resembling success, and by all means they will get it this year, but it’s a move to the middle.  Moves to the middle make me nervous.  As of now I’m happy for Booker and the Suns, but I’m keeping an eye on the situation for sure.

The Los Angeles Lakers

            The rich get richer.

            As a proud member of the L.B.J.G.O.A.T community I recognize that I’m politically inclined to love the moves the Lakers made this offseason.  I see that, and I check my bias at the door.

            That said, this may be the savviest offseason an NBA team has had since the Toronto Kawhi summer of 2018.  Every move here has been great.  For starters, they picked up 6th man of the year Montrezl Harrell.  While I was vocally sceptical about Harrell when he was with the Clippers, it always had more to do with what was being asked of him than his actual abilities.   He cannot be the best big man on your team.  He just can’t.  Luckily, the Lakers don’t have to worry about that.  Now they can start a frontline of Harrell and Anthony Davis, two super mobile, athletic, bigs who can create their own looks and roll to the rim.  Harrell will be able to play more power forward this year, which will make his lack of rim protection obsolete, and Davis’s shooting will allow for a non 3-point threat in Harrell to stay on the floor without sacrificing too much space.

            Next, my favourite move of theirs, getting Dennis Schroder.  Don’t ask me how they were able to pry a 20 ppg scorer away from the Thunder for Danny Green and a lousy pick, but Schroder will be the most important player on the Lakers not named LeBron of Davis.  He’s the perfect score-first guard to play off a ball-dominant distributor like LeBron, and his shooting must be respected creating more space for the two stars. One question I have is the defence.  In the NBA, Schroder’s defence has been inconsistent at best, but when he was being scouted overseas his most intriguing skill was his defence.  Perhaps in the Lakers’ system, without carrying so much of the offensive load, Schroder can revive some of that defensive flair.

            The other, smaller transactions were re-signing Markieff Morris (who they underpaid), and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who they overpaid), getting Wesley Matthews from the Bucks (great 3&D wing), and replacing Dwight Howard with Marc Gasol.  Now, I love Marc Gasol, but Lakers fans talk about this signing like they just got ‘08 Pau back.  Marc was not good last year with the Raptors, and while he’s certainly an upgrade over Dwight and should thrive in a lesser role distributing for the superstars in L.A., let’s not get ahead of ourselves on this one.  He should be a really good backup big, but I don’t think he should be on the Lakers crunch-time lineup.

            If everyone stays healthy, the Lakers should be a wide favourite to win the title.

The Milwaukee Bucks

            They got Jrue Holiday, HURRAY.

            Yes, Jrue is an amazing player.  He’s a borderline all-star who can help any team playing any style in any situation.  Having another star level player in the lockeroom never hurts, but if I’m being brutally honest (and I’m always brutally honest) I don’t know how much better this move makes the Bucks.  They basically lost two of their best shooters (Wesley Matthews and George Hill) which will only make life harder for Giannis and Mike Budenholzer’s system, they picked up two C- level guys in Bryn Forbes and Torrey Craig, and are suddenly leaning a lot on the development of Donte DiVincenzo? (who I like, but jeez).

            As far as Holiday goes, yeah, he’s an upgrade over Bledsoe but he also possesses a lot of the same drawbacks.  The defence is great, the shooting is solid at best.  I know the advanced metrics love him, and I like him too, for real I do, but he’s not the kind of point guard I would pick to play next to Giannis.  It looks to me like the Bucks improved their 3rd guy and weakened their 4 through 10.  They still might be the favourites in the East, but they’re still a step behind the Lakers and Clippers in my mind.

The Atlanta Hawks

            Their top seven is:  

Trae Young, 

John Collins, 

Danilo Gallinari, 

Clint Capela, 

Bogdan Bogdanovic,

Kevin Huerter.  

            With the exception of Capela, this is one of the worst defensive rosters I’ve ever seen.  The Hawks are gonna be really fun to watch.  I’m excited to see them compete for the playoffs as they finish games 160-168.  

Look at that number and think about it.  Would you be shocked if you checked your phone one night and saw that on the game recap?

The Portland Trailblazers

            Bringing back Melo, having Nurkic and Collins back, adding Covington and Derrick Jones Jr.?  All good moves.  It keeps the Blazers firmly in the playoffs.  Could they win the West?  No.  Could they fall off completely?  No.  So what’s happening here?  Sometimes you just have to enjoy success.  There isn’t always a Kawhi Leonard to bring in and steal a championship with.  Fellow Raptors fans, I guarantee you that if not for the Kawhi deal we would be looking like the Trailblazers right now.  There’s no shame in being solid, so before you rag on them for being a team with a hard ceiling remember that they have a hard floor too.

Charlotte Hornets

            Ummmm, what?

            I understand that being the NBA equivalent of a bathroom garbage bin for 22 years can’t be fun, but screwing yourself for the next four for a shot at the 8th seed is not helping matters.  Yeah, they got a guy with high upside in LaMelo Ball and yes P.J. Washington had a promising rookie year, but do the Hornets really think they’re going to be making splashes with two guys younger than Jaden Smith and a ticking time bomb like Hayward?  They’re paying him 30 million a year.  That’s the kind of money you give Utah era Hayward, and even then that’s generous.

            Ok, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.  Let’s say LaMelo Ball is the rookie of the year and P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges get better and Hayward returns healthy and to peak form.  Then what?  Are you better than the Pacers?  The Hawks?  Even if everything goes right for Charlotte it still amounts to nothing.

The Philadelphia 76ers

            Love it.

            No disrespect to Elton Brand, but the speed and apparent ease with which Darryl Morrey fixed the 76ers is not a good look.  They turned Al Horford’s stanky contract into a 3&D grownup in Danny Green, they turned Josh Richardson’s lower body into a sniper in Seth Curry, and they drafted an awesome, tough as nails guard in Tyrese Maxey.

            When this season is over, we will finally know if Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid can coexist on a basketball court together.  Darryl Morrey has built the perfect situation for them to succeed with shooters, defenders, and adults in the room, now the ball’s in their court (pun intended).

30 thoughts for 30 picks

  1. Timberwolves:  Anthony Edwards

            This is probably the right pick for them.  They couldn’t take Wiseman or LaMelo Ball because they have KAT and D’Angelo Russell playing the same positions, and there isn’t really anyone else who fits the T-Wolves’ bill like Edwards.  I’ve never liked guys who have an 85-15% athleticism to skill ratio, but the potential is definitely there.

2. Warriors:  James Wiseman

            I’m glad Golden State didn’t try to get too fancy with this pick.  With Klay Thompson injured again it makes sense for the Warriors to take a swing on a prospect with the upside of Wiseman.  He’s raw and inexperienced, but with Curry feeding him in the Warriors’ system I expect Wiseman to have a really good rookie year.  Athletic monster.  Could easily be the best player in the draft.

3. Hornets:  LaMelo Ball

            Again, not a huge fan.  His ego and his dad are immediate red flags, but for a team like Charlotte who’s just looking for an offensive identity LaMelo is the perfect pick.  Playing for the Hornets, he’ll put up big numbers as the whole offence flows through him Harden style, except they will lose over and over and over again.  The Hornets are one of the few teams who have my blessing to take LaMelo Ball

4. Bulls:  Patrick Williams

            Ummm, ok.  I know Chicago is drafting for the future and not the present but Patrick Williams is a stretch, especially with guys like Okoro and Avdija on the board.  The positives?  Williams is the 2nd youngest player in the draft with elite size, athleticism, and the makings of 3-point range.  The negatives?  He came off the bench his freshman year at Florida State and averaged 9 points.  Patrick Williams is the Marvin Williams of this draft.

5. Cavaliers:  Isaac Okoro

            Good pick.  Solid player.  Good defender.  Good roll player.  This was a no risk low reward pick by Cleveland.  I don’t know where this selection takes the team but it’s not an embarrassing move.  Don’t know why they didn’t take Avjida here.

6. Hawks:  Onyeka Okongwu

            Might be a little redundant next to Clint Capela, but Okongwu’s gonna create a really nice defence/offence frontcourt with John Collins.  This might be more of a system pick by Atlanta than someone with unlimited potential, but with Trae Young as the conductor of the team, a nice rim runner/rim protector is a good choice at pick 6.

7. Pistons:  Killian Hayes

            Perfect.  This is the right pick.  The Pistons need a creator, someone with the potential to be the lead guard on a playoffs team.  I would’ve accepted Tyrese Haliburton here too, but Hayes has a little more scoring upside which works for Detroit.  Expect to see Derrick Rose being shopped around now.

8. Knicks:  Obi Toppin

            NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO NO NO!

            Just when I thought the Knicks were getting smart for a change, they go and do this?  I was praying they take Tyrese Haliburton here.  An outstanding playmaker with 3-point range to set up R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson while being able to move around off the ball.  Instead, the Knicks take yet another power forward who can’t shoot from 3, can’t play defence, and can’t make his teammates better.  This just means another year of my man R.J. Barrett having to slog through 3 help defenders because everyone on his team plays like it’s the freaking 70s.  

I’m like Lewis Black level upset about this.

9. Wizards:  Deni Avdija

            About time!  Deni fell far enough and this is a great pick for Washington.  He was my favourite player in this draft, and he goes to an organization that despite sucking last year has the exoskeleton of a playoff team.  Playing with all-stars Wall and Beal will help him adjust to the league and focus on his off-ball play and shooting (something he’s shown flashes of but nothing consistent yet).  With this pick the Wizards just went from 12-8th seed range to the 10-6th seed range.

10. Suns:  Jalen Smith

            This is higher than I thought he’d go but this is a great pick by the Suns.  Just another modern NBA player for Chris Paul to feed.  Smith’s greatest strength is his ability to space the floor at the 4 or the 5 position, so while there were probably more talented players left on the board there wasn’t anyone bringing Smith’s skillset to the table.

11. Spurs:  Devin Vassell

            Spursiest pick ever here.  Another low-risk low reward, 3-and-D type who won’t be an all-star but won’t be a bust either.  I thought the Spurs might want to gamble on someone who could make a splash for them but Vassell was right if they didn’t want to risk wasting a pick.  

12. Kings:  Tyrese Haliburton

            I don’t know how I feel about this.  Haliburton was my favourite guard in the whole thing and while I think this was a great move by the Kings, I kinda bummed that we won’t get to see Haliburton with the ball in his hands.  I think that backing up De’Aaron Fox (who I like) or playing the two-guard is a waist of his passing talents.  Still, kudos to the Kings for taking the best guy available. 

13. Pelicans:  Kira Lewis Jr.

            Smart to get another guard after shopping Jrue Holiday.  Young, with a lot of tools and work to do.  Lewis Jr. should be a good fit next to a point forward like Ingram, or when Lonzo goes cold scoring.

14. Celtics:  Aaron Nesmith

            Good size and experience, Aaron Nesmith was the most efficient shooter in college hoops last season with an insane 52% clip from deep.  This isn’t a bad pick by Boston, but I’m surprised they didn’t pick up Cole Anthony (who had already fallen) to play backup to Kemba Walker, or a rim protector to round out their frontcourt.

15. Magic:  Cole Anthony

            Weird fit, but this is undoubtedly the best guy available here.  He’ll probably take some minutes away from Markelle Fultz but maybe that’s a good thing?  Anthony had an underwhelming season at North Carolina but it was mostly due to his injuries and weak supporting cast.  I like his style, he’s a really good guy and has a little VanVleet in his game.  Cool hair too.

16. Trail Blazars (traded to the Pistons):  Isaiah Stewart

            Detroit gets a player with similar strengths to Andre Drummond.  A sort of bruising, inside center.  Stewart is big at 250 lbs but is a bit more mobile in the open floor at 6’9.  Not a bad trade for a team looking to rebuild.  The Pistons sort of need everything though, so…

17. Timberwolves (traded to the Thunder):  Aleksej Pokusevski

            Damn!  I wanted him on my Raptors.  I love the Timberwolves taking him here and I love the Thunder trading for him.  Poku is the weirdest prospect in the draft with maybe the highest ceiling and lowest floor.  Playing for a young rebuilding team like the Thunder is great though because we’ll be able to see what he is right away.  I’m excited to watch him play alongside SGA and the rest, hell I’m just excited to see him on the floor.

18. Mavericks:  Josh Green

            An ideal athlete at 6’6, Green will never be a star in this league but what he will do is perfectly compliment Luka Doncic.  The Mavs were defensively bankrupt on the perimeter in these last playoffs, matching up Seth Curry on Kawhi straight up.  With Green, Dallas gets a multi-positional wing defender who thrives without the ball in his hands.

19. Nets:  Saddiq Bey (now on the Pistons)

            Another solid defensive wing.  Another guy who won’t be a star.  Another guy who won’t flame out.  Cool.

20. Heat:  Precious Achiuwa

            This is the kind of player that lucked out because he was drafted by the team he was.  A bruising, mobile athlete, Achuiwa shows a lot of the same physical gifts that we love in Bam Adebayo.  On a lesser team he might never develop a real jump shot, never have his very particular strengths harnessed and emphasized.  He’ll get all the goods in Miami.

21. 76ers:  Tyrese Maxey

            Love this pick for them.  Tyrese Maxey has that Marcus Smart/Kyle Lowry/Patrick Beverly pit-bull energy on D.  The Sixers were an incredible defensive team last year at almost every position, the only thing they were lacking was a stopper at point.  Maxey will slide in perfectly there.  For a team restructuring their identity, having one more dog in the lockeroom can only be a positive.

22. Nuggets:  Zeke Nnaji

            Another talented pick, Nnaji’s energy on the boards and soft hands inside make him a dangerous double double man, but my concern is the fit with Denver.  His shortcomings lie on the defensive end, and I thought that if the Nuggets wanted to target a big then they would go for a rim protector (something Jokic is not).  What I see here is Mason Plumlee insurance.  If Plumlee walks in free agency then the Nuggets will be able to slide Nnaji in the backup 5 spot.

23. Knicks:  Leandro Bolmaro (traded to the Timberwolves)

            Looks like Manu, plays like Manu, is he Manu?  No, but he does have the same twitchy, unselfish, euro-style Manu Ginobili brought to the table.  Just another high ceiling guy for a Timberwolves team swinging for the fences.

24. Bucks:  R.J. Hampton (traded to the Nuggets)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – OCTOBER 26: RJ Hampton of the Breakers makes a lay-up during the round four NBL match between Melbourne United and the New Zealand Breakers at Melbourne Arena on October 26, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

            Really good pick up here.  I’m surprised Hampton fell this far, and while his stats in New Zealand aren’t eyepopping, you have to consider the lesser role he had playing for a competitive team in a top international league.  Hampton has the size to become a pest defending opposing lead guards, which will take the pressure off Jamal Murray to defend the point guard loaded Western conference.

25. Thunder:  Immanuel Quickley (traded to the Knicks)

            At least the Knicks have one guy who can shoot.

26. Celtics:  Payton Pritchard

            Celtics get a smart, reliable guard here.  Might not see time in the rotation but should be a good piece in case the lead backcourt has injury trouble.  I’m surprised they didn’t take Tyrell Terry here.

27. Jazz:  Udoka Azubuike

            Gobert insurance as a defensive force in the middle, Azubuike should work well with Mike Conley in the pick and roll with his blistering screens and rim running.

28. Lakers:  Jaden McDaniels (traded to the Thunder)

            Long, rangy stretch 4.  Just another young peace for the Thunder.  McDaniels was highly regarded out of high school and has higher upside than most at this point in the draft.

29. Raptors:  Malachi Flynn

            In researching Malachi Flynn, I was really impressed by his passing and shooting stroke ( a little John Stockton in him).  He’s a really solid all-around point guard.  Passes, shoots 3s, defends really well (positionally), and is a solid ball handler.  The only issue is that he probably won’t break the rotation that much.  He’s too small to play the 2 guard, and between Lowry and VanVleet there isn’t much undersized point guard time to go around.  I understand taking a sound fundamental guy like this as insurance for VanVleet in free agency, but I wish the Raps took a swing on a more hit or miss guy in the front court.  They need that now without Gasol.

30. Celtics:  Desmond Bane (traded to the Grizzlies)

            A savvy, athletic, senior wing; Bane should fill the Grizzlies need for a backcourt defender.  He should be able to help their young core succeed immidiatley.  This a smart pick for a smart team.

Masai Ujiri’s plan for the 2022 NBA Title

Raptors fans, we haven’t felt like this in a while.  We were spared asking ourselves “what went wrong?” last year, because it didn’t.  We reached the mountain top.  Now however, we find ourselves back with the rest of the league.  Climbing.

            The key difference this offseason is that we have a clear plan.  This is the second of a three-year mission.  As soon as Kawhi left, Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri triggered ‘Operation: Freak’.  A massive free agency ploy based around financial Jerrymandering, nationalism, and espionage.

            Of course, I’m talking about the impending free agency of Giannis Antetokounmpo.  The Raptors have been highly speculated to be one of Giannis’s the top tier suitors, but that’s just it, it’s all speculation.  Still, every move between now and the summer of 2021 has to be made with acquiring Giannis in mind.  So as we go back to the drawing board, we have to think about our plan for tomorrow.

That said, we have some decisions to make.

            This is a sneaky big summer in terms of roster construction.  We have 5 notable free agents looking for a bag of cash, some of whom we should be chasing, and some not.  Here are the names; Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and most notably Fred VanVleet. 

Who do we keep?

Fred VanVleet:

We all know how valuable Freddy is.  An elite point-scorer who can play on and off ball, space the floor as well and anyone, and annoy the hell out of any opposing offences with his average of 1.9 steals a game (3rd in the league).

            I’m sure we’re all thinking this but I’ll say it anyway; we have to keep VanVleet.  This is the exact kind of point guard every team is looking for, for all the reasons we mentioned before but also because the swath of elite point guards the NBA had a few years ago has been quietly drying up.  He’s entering his prime, and I know we just watched Kyle Lowry put together the best individual playoff run of his career but the man is still 34.  He’ll be 36 by the end of ‘Operation: Freak’ and I’d rather invest in a 26-year-old than a 34-year-old long-term.  

            Fred VanVleet has become one the top guys of this year’s, albeit weak, free agency class, which means that we’ll have to put together a pretty serious package to keep him.  In my opinion, Freddy-V will be making between $18-25 million annually for the next few years.  I know it looks like a lot, but this is why we have money right?  Who are we saving space for if not guys like VanVleet?

Serge Ibaka:

While the stakes and potential salary isn’t as a high as it is with Fred VanVleet, our intentions around Serge are more nuanced.  

            He just put together the best statistical year of his career, he’s already making $23 million a year and he’s going to want a contract resembling that.  So can we afford him, and Siakam, and VanVleet, AND Lowry, AND still go after Giannis?  Probably not.  But the way we keep him in-house while still having our options open in 2021 is to sign him to a 1-year deal.  We’re not chasing anyone bigger than Fred this offseason, but we still want to be competitive short-term.  So let’s give Serge as big a contract as we can this season so that when we’re trying to make it all work with Giannis and Lowry next year maybe Serge will be willing to take a pay-cut.  If not, Giannis will take a lot of his minutes anyway.

Who do we cut?

            Here.  I’m about to get Marlo from The Wire level ruthless for a minute.  We gotta let Chris Boucher, Rondae Holis-Jefferson, and Marc Gasol walk.  

            Why?  

  1. Boucher is fun and funky and dunks a lot, and that looks awesome until you realize that he’ll be 28 next season and that his unpolished game doesn’t spell potential, it just means he’s unpolished.  
  2. I’ve always loved Rondae’s effort and defensive versatility but call me when he can make a jumper.  Or a free-throw.  Or a layup.
  3. Gasol breaks my heart because I have a soft spot for any chubby, unselfish, Spanish dude, who can win Defensive Player of the Year with a 18-inch vertical leap.  Still, we gotta let him go.  We can’t risk paying him any more than the minimum, and to be frank, he’s not good enough anymore to warrant big money.  Gasol was a great player but he’s gotten old, and it’s time to admit it.  With him gone, we’ll also be able to officially offer Serge the starting 5 job, something he’s talked about wanting for a while now.  I wish Marc all the best in Spain, he’s earned a mojito.

            Good?  Good.

Let me lay the whole thing down brick by brick so you can see what I’m talking about

2020-21:  

  • We basically have $78 million wrapped up for next season in Siakam, Lowry, OG, Powell, Terence Davis, Stanley Johnson, and Matt Thomas.  
  • Serge, Rondae, Gasol, Boucher, and VanVleet are unrestricted free agents.
  • We let Boucher, Rondae, and Gasol walk.  That leaves us with roughly $30 million in cap room ($50 million hard cap).
  • We offer Fred VanVleet a long-term deal that’s $18-25 million annually.
  • That leaves us with $5-12 million to offer Serge.  We can free up another $3 million if we dump Stanley Johnson (pleeeeeeeease!)
  • Remember, we have our pick!  So we either draft a wing (Tyler Bey) or big (Jalen Smith) to back up OG or Serge.
  • We sign either a scoring wing (Deandre Bembry, Rodney Hood, etc.) or a rebounding big (Tristan Thompson, Kyle O’Quinn, etc.) depending on who we draft.
  • We really commit to Terence Davis and Matt Thomas as our backup guards and stagger them with Lowry and VanVleet.
  • We lock and load.  We’re a strong playoff team, but not title contenders (yet).

2021-22:

  • Lowry’s a free agent, Powell’s a restricted free agent, ideally Serge is a free agent.
  • We have basically $50 million on the books for the 2021-22 season.  Just Pascal, Freddy, and Matt Thomas (add $11 million if Powell picks up his player option).
  • That leaves us with $45-55 million in salary cap to throw at Giannis, OG, and a 36-year-old Lowry.  With another $20 million in wiggle room.
  • Give $35 million to Giannis and split the rest between Lowry and OG (around $13 million each give or take).  We may have to pay the luxury tax, but who cares it’s not my money.
  • We’ll have to let Serge walk, but it’s ok, we’re giving a lot his minutes to Giannis anyway. 
  • We probably won’t be able to keep Terence Davis if Powell picks up his player option, but unless Davis becomes better than Lowry or OG then that’s what’s going to have to happen.

            If operation “Freak” is accomplished to full capacity, then for the 2021-2022 season the Raptors would have a starting five of:  

G) Lowry

G) VanVleet

F) Anunoby

F) Siakam

C) Giannis

with a bench of

point guard X, 

Matt Thomas, 

either Powell or Davis, 

draft pick X, 

and a big man off the scrap heap.  

I need a shower.

            I get that it’s a lot of speculation.  A lot can change.  A lot can happen.  Giannis might re-sign with the Bucks, Freddy might leave the Raptors, the city of Toronto could be completely desecrated by a hostile alien invasion.  There’s a lot up in the air.  But this is Masai Ujiri’s vision for the future, and if it works, we’ll be champions again in less than two years.

What does the 2020 title mean?

            With this exceptional NBA season finally coming to a close, it’s made me wonder how best to write about it.  Better and more informed writers than myself can report and question and debate this whole thing, but what can I do?  I can speak as a fan with a little more interest information than the rest of you. 

.

What does this mean for the NBA?

            Some people have argued that due to the exceptional circumstances of an extended season and the NBA bubble, this Lakers title should have an asterisk next to it in the annals of history.  Some have argued that because the tensions of the bubble essentially broke the L.A. Clippers (NBA title favourites) it caused the path to the championship to be easier for the Lakers.  While others have argued that because of the wear and tear from their own bubble experience, the Lakers’ championship should be held in even higher regard than a ‘classic’ NBA title.

            I think these are both dead wrong.  The whole point of this bubble was to finish the NBA season.  Not to create something like it, not to try and weasel out some cash my upholding their TV contracts, this bubble was created to finish the 2020 NBA season.  If we start trying to add footnotes to it, whatever stance you have, you’re delegitimizing everything the league accomplished.  When we look back at these playoffs ten years from now, we’ll remember the exceptional circumstances, but if we try and make the argument that this title was any less or any more than titles prior, then the bubble didn’t truly work.  A championship is a championship is a championship, no matter the circumstances.

,

What does this mean for the Heat? 

            What this Finals run tells the Heat is that they’re capable of beating anyone.  They’re tough, they’re young, and they’re only going to get better.  Bam Adebayo is a 23-year-old all-star, Tyler Herro is a 20-year-old rookie who won his team playoff games, Duncan Robinson is a rookie (granted, an old one), Kendrick Nunn is an all-rookie, they have a strong supporting group, and a top end star in Jimmy Butler.

            The Heat’s core is only gonna go from great to exceptional, but the real X-factor here is one Giannis Antetokounmpo.  The frontrunning teams in the Giannis sweepstakes are the Raptors, Warriors, Bucks, Mavericks, and Heat.  Keeping cap room open to go after Giannis will affect how the Heat try and re-sign Goran Dragic, but with this playoff run in the bag the Heat suddenly vault from a real-estate destination to a basketball destination as well.

            Miami has overachieved this year, that not only buys them confidence in themselves but credibility across the league.  I’m very interested to see how they follow this up next season and how their young core will continue to grow.

.

What does this mean for Jimmy Butler?

            I’m not sure if he’ll ever reach these heights again.  He’s 31, he’s never been one of the seven best guys in the league, he doesn’t really have that one exceptional skill to carry him past his prime.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy Butler never makes the Finals again.

            I don’t know if you can tell but I’ve never been a huge fan of Jimmy.  His whole winner/tough guy thing seemed blown out of proportion when he was demanding to lead his teams, but then leading them nowhere.  I obviously remember rooting against him in the famous Philly-Toronto series in 2019, but even then, I was more scared of Embiid and Simmons.  To me, Jimmy Butler always seemed like a tough hang.  He’s a guy who thinks he’s as good as the LeBrons and Kawhis, and he just isn’t.  He will give those top tier stars a good fight, but in the end he’ll lose.  Every time.

            That said, this Finals run validates a lot of what Butler’s been preaching all these years.  He was screaming and screaming at us that he’s good enough to be the best player on a Finals team and now he’s proved himself right.  He was incredible in the series with the Lakers, no question.

            Now, granted he still lost.  He went toe to toe with LeBron and lost, but that’s ok.  So what you’re not LeBron James?  Nobody is.  The underlying point is this; after game five I remember turning off the TV and thinking to myself ‘damn, Jimmy Butler is a Hall of Famer’.

            That’s what these Finals mean to Jimmy Butler.  It’s the difference between a Hall of Fame career and not, and that’s pretty F-ing big.

.

What does this mean for the Lakers?

            For the Lakers, this gives them a shot at the title every year until LeBron retires.  No matter who you put around him and Anthony Davis as a supporting cast, those to stars shine so bright you’re always gonna be in the mix.

            The league will probably become more competitive next year.  The Nets will presumably become title contenders with the return of Kevin Durant, the Clippers still have Kawhi and Paul George, the Warriors get their core back, the Nuggets are getting better, Giannis is still Giannis, it’s gonna be good.  The difference is now that the Lakers are on top they’ll be able to attract roll guys who’re ring chasing.

            This year’s free agency class is pretty weak, but it has a bunch of veterans who I don’t think would mind living in L.A. and winning every night.  I expect the 2021 Lakers will actually be stronger than the 2020 Lakers.  Imagine giving Kyle Kuzma’s spot to Danilo Gallinari, or giving the Javale McGee minutes to Serge Ibaka?  Scary to think about this team getting even more dangerous.

.

What does this mean for LeBron?

            When he upset the Warriors in 2016, I thought he became the 2nd greatest player of all time.  Over the next three years he cemented his place at number two, highlighted by highlights, crazy stats, and two Finals appearances in in 2017 and 2018.  The former of which he would have won if they weren’t playing against the greatest NBA team ever in the ’17 Warriors, and the latter of which was with a horrendous Cavs team made up of nobodies and a past-his-prime Kevin Love.  The fact that LeBron was able to take that ’18 Cavs team that far proves that he’s the surest Finals appearance ever.  What I mean is if you have a prime LeBron on your team, nine times outta ten you’re making the Finals.  He could take the Garbage Pail Kids there.

            This year, LeBron won his 4th title and his 4th Finals MVP.  Only Jordan has more.  Here’s a quick list (note that you don’t see Bill Russell because the award was founded in 1969):

Michael Jordan:  6x Champion, 6x Finals MVP

LeBron James:  4x Champion, 4x Finals MVP

Magic Johnson:  5x Champion, 3x Finals MVP

Shaquille O’Neal:  4x Champion, 3x Finals MVP

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:  6x Champion, 2x Finals MVP

Tim Duncan:  5x Champion, 3x Finals MVP

Kobe Bryant:  5x Champion, 2x finals MVP

Larry Bird:  3x Champion, 2x Finals MVP (should be 3)

Kevin Durant:  2x Champion, 2x finals MVP (should be 1.  Ooooooh oooooooh oooooh)

            I like the listing of Finals MVPs because it helps to contextualize a star’s roll on a title team.  There have been some exceptions (Andre Iguodala in 2015, Cedric Maxwell in 1981) but the Finals MVP usually goes to the best player on the winning team.  When comparing players of this caliber, rings become very influential in your argument, but with this trophy we get a way of comparing those rings.  Robert Horry has 7 championships but 0 finals MVPs.  Why?  Because he was a good roll player who happened to play on some exceptional teams.  But that’s obvious.  Where I think the nuance of the Finals MVP is shown is with guys who grew into stars on already contending teams.  The best example of this is Kobe Bryant; he won 5 titles and two Finals MVPs, does that subtract from the 3 rings he won playing behind Shaq?  No.  But it does let us know “Hey, this guy wasn’t the best man on the team for those titles.”  I think that matters.  That said, LeBron has been the unquestionable #1 guy on all of his Championship teams.  

            Before, I was firm in my belief that LeBron was comfortably the 2nd greatest player of all time, now I’m less confident.

Top Dunk by Franchise (East)

For those of you who missed last week, we’re going through every NBA franchise and ranking the best dunk from their history.  Last week was the West, this week is the East.  I rank these by use of my handy dandy Dunk-O-Metertm.  A scale of my own invention created for the sole purpose of determining the awesomeness of a dunk through the use of these five factors:

  1. Altitude of the dunk:  Pretty straight forward, the launch point of the dunk, how high the guy gets off the ground, how high his hand is over the rim, etc.
  2. Size in relation to dunkee:  How many inches is the dunker giving up.  A point guard dunking on a center gets a higher rating than a center dunking on the point guard.  Size matters guys.
  3. Amount of contact:  Literally just eyeballing how much the dunker is getting hit.  Is it wide open?  Is someone contesting the dunker, or is the defender hacking the shit out him?
  4. Showmanship:  Any spinning, cocking, reversing, windmilling, ally-ooping, or stylistic frills of any kind
  5. Any pertinent background information:  Was the dunk actually important to win the game?  Was their beef between the dunker and dunkee?  Was there any trash talking, savagery, or disrespect before or afterwards?  You get it.

I’ve also included some bonuses.

And-1:  +1

In the playoffs:  +1

Technical foul called:  +1

            Delighted to meet you, overjoyed, enraptured, entranced.  Are we ready? Yes?  Good.  In we go.

.

Wizards:  John Wall behind the back lefty

.

          .

.

.

.

  This was a fine move.  The fake was probably better than the dunk.  The most impressive thing was the end-to-end speed of a prime John Wall.  It was mostly just a normal dunk though.

            I can feel I’m talking myself out of this pick right now.  I’m sorry, the Wizards just haven’t had a lot of great dunkers (or basketball players) in their history.  So…there you go.

 Altitude of the dunk:  7/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  6/10

Showmanship:  9/10

Any pertinent background information:  5/10

Dunk rating:  33

.

Celtics:  Tatum on LeBron

.          

.

.

.

  I remember watching this when it happened, and it was interesting because of the back and forth narratives it created.  The Celtics were a young team overachieving in the playoffs with their star in Kyrie Irving sidelined with an injury. LeBron had manhandled the entire Celtics team, single-handedly beating them into submission over six games.  In game 7, LeBron looked like he was about close it all out when Jayson Tatum, a rookie at the time, drops this hammer on the King’s head.

            It wouldn’t be enough to finish off the Cavaliers, but this was the signature play of a playoffs that put Jayson Tatum on the map.  He had had a strong but pretty quiet rookie season up until that point (14pts, 5rb), but it was in this series, absent Kyrie, that he started to show the kind of two-way scorer he would become.

Altitude of the dunk:  7/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  8/10

In the playoffs:  +1

Dunk rating:  36

.

Magic:  Shaq brings it all down

.          

.

.

.

  It’s really what it looks like.  Shaq went to the rim with more power than any player in NBA history and the result is him snapping the metal stanchion in half like a carrot.  The league never anticipated a man of his size and speed terrorizing their equipment the way he did, and we see here that cutting costs on those backboards was a bad idea.

            Now, Shaq claims he was doing it on purpose.  He claims that earlier that season the Nets’ Derrick Coleman had dunked on him, so he had vowed that next time he was gonna “tear the whole thing down.” I’m not sure if that makes it better or not, but I don’t know that it really matters. It’s still the most brutal display of force the NBA has ever seen and he was only 20 years old at the time.

Altitude of the dunk:  6/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  10/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  36

.

Hornets:  Larry Johnson dunks on Cliff Robinson

      .    

.

.

.

  I think Zion Williamson is the long-lost son of Larry Johnson.  In his younger days with the Charlotte Hornets, Johnson attacked the rim, jumped off two feet, and dunked with the same shamelessness Williamson does today.

            This move in the open court is great because it’s just that, shameless.  You see this a lot with young guys in the league, they’re green and cocky and have athletic superpowers.  A young Blake Griffin attempted to dunk on everything he saw, same with Derrick Rose, and here we see Larry Johnson, who looks at the 6’11 Cliff Robinson and decides,

            “I think I’ll go over him.”  

Who does that?

            Another thing I love about this is how far back Robinson falls after he got postered.  I’m sure it has something to do with Larry Johnson being a human wrecking ball, but Cliff Robinson also sells it to the crowd.  That’s classy.  Not a lot of guys can recognize when they got postered that badly and take it that well in stride.

Altitude of the dunk:  7/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  9/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  37

.

Hawks:  Dominique Wilkins ends Bob Lanier’s career

.            

.

.

.

I still haven’t decided who’s the greatest dunker of all-time but Domonique is definitely in my top 5.  For this move, poor Bob Lanier was near the end of his storied career.  He was at the point as an old big man where he’s been sapped of his speed and his vertical, all that was left was his bulk and his old school jump hook.  

            Wilkins dropped baseline from the post and scooped the ball down to his chest as Lanier came to help.  He then hung in the air, and as he was beginning to dip back to earth, he reached back and dunked it behind his head.

            This move was like lightning striking an old oak tree.  Lanier was the tree, Dominique was the lighting.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  5/10

Dunk rating:  37

Dunk rating:  37

.

Nets:  Vince Carter over Alonzo Mourning

        .

.

.

.

    It pains me a little to say that Vince’s best dunk came while he was on the New Jersey Nets, but in a career of full fabulous dunks, this is the big one.  Literally.  I put a lot of emphasis on contention and contact when I’m rating a dunk, which can put acrobats like Vince at a disadvantage.  However, this tomahawk on the head of two-time defensive player of the year Alonzo Mourning had all the contact you could want.

            Even the move to get into the lane is great.  Vince catches the ball on the left wing, does a behind the back dribble to escape the defender closing out, then rushes towards the rim, jumps with Mourning, except Vince just decides he’s going to stay up there in the air while Mourning crashes down to earth.

            Vince reaches back and spikes the ball over his own head and Mourning’s for the best in-game dunk of his career.

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  37

.

Bucks:  Giannis vaults Tim Hardaway Jr.

           .

.

.

.

 In the pantheon of incredible NBA athletes, a guy literally nicknamed ‘The Freak’ is probably going to do some whacky stuff, but still, hurdling a 6’5 man completely by accident is pushing it.

            On this lob dunk, Giannis takes three enormous strides towards the hoop and taking off before realising his manhood is brushing the top of Tim Hardaway Jr.’s forehead.  It was like watching a giant bird take off.  He bats his wings a couple times ‘whump whump’ and then gives one more ‘WHUMP’ before swooping into the sky.  We’re always going to compare this dunk to Vince Carter’s (6’6) legendary vault of Olympic France’s Fredrick Weis (7’2), and while Carter’s was better, that shouldn’t subtract from what Giannis did here.  It was, for lack of a better word, freakish.

            The one turd in this delicious punchbowl is that Kris Middleton completely, no doubt, 100%, travels before throwing the lob pass.  Go back and watch it again, he takes four steps.  It sucks because he’s not even doing anything tricky here!  He’s just throwing a pass to the most athletic man on the planet and – aww whatever, it’s fine, nobody cares anyway.

Altitude of the dunk:  10/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  5/10

Amount of contact:  6/10

Showmanship:  10/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  37

.

76ers:  Dr. J rocks the baby

.          

.

.

.

  You have to remember that back in 1983 nobody was dunking with the level of flair we’ve come to expect from the Aaron Gordons, Zach Lavines, or Derrick Jones’ of the world.  So, while you might look at this move and think ‘it’s not as showy as the contest dunks today’, rocking the cradle like Dr. J did here was about as flashy as it got.  The Dr. was a New York streetball legend and pulling this dunk out in game was about the showiest trick in the book.

            You can only rate these things in relation to their pears and the league at time, but for context I’m going to try and make a modern equivalent to this masterpiece of a dunk:

            Imagine Kawhi Leonard stole the ball from Marcus Smart and gets out on the break down the floor.  He picks it up at just inside the 3-point line with Smart still riding his hip.  Kawhi feels his man there but still takes off from outside the key.  Then, as Smart contests him at the rim, Kawhi continues to rise and does the Vince Carter ‘elbow’ dunk, in game, while in motion, well defended.

            That’s what the rock-a-baby dunk was in the year 1983.  A dunk contest level dunk in game, on the head of an all-world defender in Michael Cooper.  Also know that the 76ers would go on to sweep the Lakers five months later in the finals, so while this wasn’t a playoff game, it was close.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  6/10

Showmanship:  10/10

Any pertinent background information:  7/10

Dunk rating:  38

.

Pacers:  Paul George spikes the Birdman

.           

.

.

.

 For those of you who remember, this was Paul George’s equivalent to the Tatum dunk.  It was a young player in the middle of a transformative series stapling it into history with one awesome highlight.

            The actual dunk itself is really aesthetically pleasing.  Paul George is one of those guys who just looks like an NBA player.  Tall and bouncy and coordinated, he just has all the right technical quirks.  In this case, it’s the athleticism to punch it on a 7-footer in the playoffs, and the style to put a little extra sauce on the play. Watch the clip back very closely, George pulls his hand back away from the rim real fast after putting the ball home.  Almost like he was grabbing a hot pan without knowing it.  I don’t know why, but I love the way that looks.  It’s subtle, but it really does make the dunk look like a roundhouse punch.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

And-1:  +1

In the playoffs:  +1

Dunk rating:  39

.

Pistons:  Grant Hill on Alonzo Mourning

.          

.

.

.

  I had never seen this dunk before researching for this blog post.  It’s a shame really, it has everything the fans would want; drama, violence, all-stars, trash talk, and two of the leagues smartest, nicest guys trying to kill one another.  It’s perfect.

            I think the reason this has become lost and forgotten to time is because the two guys involved have.  Grant Hill and Alonzo Mourning were two of the best players of the late 90s.  Athletic and electric, both were 7x all-stars, Hill has five all-NBA selections highlighted by a first team selection in 1996, beating out guys like Scottie Pippin (think about the year Scottie had in ’96).  Alonzo Mourning is a 2x Defensive player of the year, and from 1997-2001 only Shaq was better at the center position.  We talk about how everyone is underrated all the time, but these guys need more recognition. That’s just a fact.

            Back to the dunk in question.  Alonzo Mourning sets a hard screen on Hill, who rather than see his man get the easy jumper decides to grab Mourning around the waste and drag him to the floor.  Mourning actually smacks his head on the court and gets up mad.  The two go at it a bit and have to be separated, so tempers were running high already.

            Literally the very next play, Grant Hill isolates on the right wing, fakes out his Dan Majerle, and dunks all over Alonzo Mourning’s face, and one, and Mourning just walks away, defeated. This was about as personal as personal can get.  It was like a movie the way the two plays happened in succession like that.  The dunk itself was good, the theater around it made it incredible.

Altitude of the dunk:  7/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  10/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  39

.

Knicks:  John Starks on the Chicago Bulls

.           

.

.

.

 If there was one constant in the 90s it was the Knicks getting their asses kicked by the Bulls every Spring.  This was the one exception.

            John Starks is one of the NBA’s feel-good stories.  According to legend, he was bagging groceries before he got the call up from the Knicks and he never looked back.  His rise from nobody to somebody to body to body with Michael Jordan is a reason to bet on some of the undrafted talent every year.

            For this dunk, he’s 6’3 going up against the 6’10 Horace Grant with MJ as the help man.  He’s also using his left hand.  Undrafted guys, undrafted. 

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  9/10

Amount of contact:  6/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  9/10

In the playoffs:  +1

Dunk rating:  39

.

Cavaliers:  Ricky Davis (oh shit!)

.          

.

.

.

  Poor Nash.  He gets the business end of a botched charge attempt and gets Ricky Davis’s Ricky Davis to the face.

            The dunk was great, what made it legendary is Davis’s reaction.  The NBA usually tries to keep the players’ swearing to a minimum, but you don’t need to be a genius to read his lips on this play.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  9/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  40

.

Raptors:  DeMar DeRozan wins it over Tolliver

.           

.

.

.

 This is a slightly controversial pick.  I know Vince Carter is the better dunker, the better player, more famous, but we’re ranking the individual dunks here not the player, or their entire body of work.

            I remember watching this with my dad late on a Wednesday night.  The Raptors were playing against a sub-par Pistons team that always seemed to give us trouble.  Blake Griffin was eating us alive.

            Down by one with ten seconds to go and no timeouts, DeRozan gets the ball full court and slowly dribbles it up.  It was like watching an engine rev as he slowly picked up speed with every step.  Around our own 3-point line the Pistons’ Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith try to press but they get caught on a backscreen by Kyle Lowry.  DeRozan takes off. Now running full tilt down the floor leaving his double-team in the dust, DeRozan picks it up from the free throw line and jumps from the dotted line.  Anthony Tolliver sees DeRozan with a clear path to the hoop and rather than give up the dunk, he fouls him hard on the arm taking the chance at a missed free-throw.

            DeRozan takes the hit and throws it down anyway.

            I remember standing up and yelling at the TV like an ape.  I didn’t care how loudly I was swearing or that my little brothers were asleep upstairs.  Sometimes ‘Holy Shit!’ is the only thing to say, and my dad didn’t give me any grief over it.

Altitude of the dunk:  7/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  10/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  40

.

Heat:  The King’s Revenge

.

.

.

.

I love this dunk.  Not just because knocking anyone over while in air is impressive, not just because Jason Terry laid there on the ground like a wounded animal, but because this was a fully provoked attack.

            Let me take you back to the spring of 2011.  The LeBron James Miami suffered a brutal upset to the more experienced and better constructed Dallas Mavericks.  This is the worst finals series of LeBron’s career, he played bad, no other way to say it, but to add insult to injury the Mavericks put their two smallest men to defend him down the stretch.  J.J. Barea (5’10) and Jason Terry (6’0) outplayed LeBron on the world stage, and Terry in particular wasn’t shy about reminding him about it.

“He can’t hang with me!”  Was his constant refrain.

            By the time LeBron executed this dunk, he was a champion, in the middle of this 4th MVP season, and a fully formed basketball body and mind.  Everyone, including LeBron, knew he was five times the player Jason Terry ever was, but the man just couldn’t let the slight go.

            After jumping out of the building and knocking Terry flat on his ass, LeBron took one step over towards his lifeless body to quiet any doubt about the anger behind this move. It was his version of Bird’s “Merry f-ing Christmas”, or Ali’s “Say my name”, or Will Hunting’s “How d’you like them apples?”

            Jason Terry has been more respectful since.

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  9/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  9/10

And-1:  +1

Technical foul called:  +1

Dunk rating:  41

.

Bulls:  Pippin over Ewing

.          

.

.

.

  This is the greatest dunk of all time.  

I mean it.  It’s in the playoffs, a foul was called, a tech was called, it’s an all-world level athlete dunking on the best player on the other team who’s also a 7-footer, both of them are hall of famers, and it’s about as disrespectful as a dunk can be.  Scottie Pippen stands over Ewing after ripping out his soul, then turns to Spike Lee and gives New York the it’s worst beating since the Smallpox pandemic.

If anyone ever asks you about the so-called rivalry between the Knicks and the Bulls, just show them this clip. It explains it all.

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  9/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  10/10

And-1:  +1

In the playoffs:  +1

Technical foul called:  +1

Dunk rating:  46

Best Dunk by Franchise (West)

            One of my proudest inventions as a basketball writer is my personal Dunk-O-Meter.  It’s my system of rating and ranking a dunk on a scale of 1-10 through five contributing factors:

  1. Altitude of the dunk:  Pretty straight forward, the launch point of the dunk, how high the guy gets off the ground, how high his hand is over the rim, etc.
  2. Size in relation to dunkee:  How many inches is the dunker giving up.  A point guard dunking on a center gets a higher rating than a center dunking on the point guard.  Size matters guys.
  3. Amount of contact:  Literally just eyeballing how much the dunker is getting hit.  Is it wide open?  Is someone contesting the dunk, or is the defender hacking the shit out him?
  4. Showmanship:  Any spinning, cocking, reversing, windmilling, ally-ooping, or stylistic frills of any kind
  5. Any pertinent background information:  Was the dunk actually important to win the game?  Was their beef between the dunker and dunkee?  Was there any trash talking, savagery, or disrespect before or afterwards?  You get it.

I’ve also included some bonuses.

And-1:  +1

In the playoffs:  +1

Technical foul called:  +1

            So, here’s what’s going to happen.  Over the next two weeks I’m going to look back at history and rank every franchise’s best jam.  I’m gonna to break it up by conference because I don’t think you want to read a 6000-word blog post about random dunks.  We’re gonna deal with the Western Conference this week, so buckle up, Shawn Bradley I’m looking at you.

.

Jazz:  Donovan Mitchell puts it back

            This was the move that officially put Donovan Mitchell on the map.  He’s listed as 6’1, for this dunk he ran in from the weak side, took off from the restricted circle, launched himself three feet off the ground where he caught the ball behind his head and spiked it in net.

            Nobody really got dunked on here, there wasn’t any trash talk or showboating, this was just a pure display of athleticism.  Kudos to Mitchell here for doing it against the Lakers and fellow rookie Lonzo Ball.  Lonzo was the fan favourite and league darling at the time and Mitchell clearly had something to say about it.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  6/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  5/10

Dunk rating:  34

.

Spurs:  DeRozan on his old team

            The Spurs don’t get a reputation as a fundamental focused team by having a long list of flashy dunkers in their history.  In researching the dunk candidates for this team, the pickings were pretty slim.  Nothing immediately came to mind except for this standard, yet classic tomahawk jam by DeMar DeRozan on his former teammate Chris Boucher.

            Even though this is full chest to chest poster, it’s still very Spurs-esque in how there’s no extra sauce, no trash talk, and no real anger.  All I can say is that this is one of those situations where a guy gives it a little extra juice vs. his old team.  Not everybody does it, but here are some guys who do.

DeRozan vs. Raptors, Kawhi vs. Spurs, Vince Carter vs. Raptors, LeBron vs. Heat, Darko Milicic vs. Starbucks Baristas

Altitude of the dunk:  6/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  7/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  34

.

Kings:  Derrick Williams over Biyombo

            Derrick Williams has done two things over his NBA career, dunk and disappoint.  When Williams was scouted out of Arizona, what immediately stood out was his size and athleticism.  Athletics may be the easiest thing to judge from a scouting point of view, but it becomes nothing without the proper skills to go with it. Well, there isn’t a lot of skill on this play, but there is athleticism, so it fits Williams to a ‘T’.

            Here’s we see the Hornets switch on an Andre Miller/Derrick Williams pick n’ roll.  Miller threads the needle on the lead pass and Williams packs one over top of Bismack Biyombo. He does a cliché flex and scream to tell everybody what just happened.  I don’t blame him, it was a great dunk, it’s just sad that this was the high point of his basketball career.

Altitude of the dunk:  6/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  9/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  34

.

Pelicans:  Kirk Snyder dunk on Von Wafer

One of the great, lost dunks of the 2000s, maybe because nobody watched the Pelicans/Hornets back then, and even those who did didn’t watch Kirk Snyder.

            With a name that sounds like he just walked out of Zabar’s and a career that spanned 3 years, 2 trades, and 4 different franchises, Snyder doesn’t have a lot to keep himself in circulation 13 years after his retirement.  If not for this hammer on Lakers’ wing Von Wafer.

            New Orleans stole the ball from Andrew Bynum and got out on a 3 on 2 break.  An old Speedy Claxton does a shuffle pass to Snyder on the left side, and Snyder jumps as high as he can towards the basket. Now, Snyder hangs on the rim afterwards, so I can’t give him the nod for a full jump-over-a-guy dunk, but he did jump high enough so that Von Wafer was eye level with his nuts.

            Another great part about this dunk is the sound.  You can hear the dull CLANG of the ball hitting the back of the rim and Kirk Snyder’s muffled roar over the explosion from the crowd.  Remember, this was the year the Hornets temporarily moved to Oklahoma to escape Hurricane Catrina.  It’s plays like this from that OKC crowd that would earn them their own team two years later.

Altitude of the dunk:  10/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  35

.

Timberwolves:  Kevin Garnett dunks on the Tower of Bradley

            Kevin Garnett is one of those guys who you don’t realise is as strong as he is.  Because he’s long and lean it’s easy to mistake Garnett for skinny, but this power jam on the 7’6 Shawn Bradley proves that he’s not only spry but can pack a punch.

            This is one of those moments when the big gets caught on a late rotation and the roll man is already airborne by the time they get contested.  Still, Bradley is tied as the 3rd tallest player in NBA history and averaged 2½ blocks a game for his career.

            I think the best part about this move is how Garnett not only dunks on Bradley, he bowls him over.  He throws down with such force that he knocks the big man off balance and to the floor.  Guys, turns out Kevin Garnett is pretty strong.

Altitude of the dunk:  7/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  9/10

Showmanship:  6/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  36

.

Grizzlies:  Stromile Swift over Yao Ming

Go to the 3:31 mark of this video: 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZghWav2tC0

.

            There haven’t been a ton of highflyers in the Grizzlies’ short history, but Stromile Swift was one of them.  An athletic 6’9 PF/C, Swift is best known for his criminal record, which happens to include this assault on Yao Ming.

            Any time you dunk on a guy 6’10 or taller it’s noteworthy, but if you happen to catch one of the true giants of the game, it’s even more so.  Appropriately nicknamed “The Great Wall of China”, Yao was a clean 7’6 and was known to bully guys the size of Shaq.  This was not someone you wanted to challenge at the cup.

            The reason I love this particular dunk so much is because despite Yao’s size it was clearly a conscious decision by Swift to go at him.  Usually when a guy that big gets dunked on it’s off a switch or as the help defender.  The dunker beats his man, goes for the flush, and the center rotates too slowly and gets one punched on him.  Not here.  

            Swift gets the ball at the right elbow and faces up Yao, he then takes two dribbles, hop steps, and goes up with two hands off two feet and puts it down.  

            This was not Yao getting caught under the rim, this was Swift seeing his defender, recognizing that the man is seven-foot freaking six, and being like; “Yeah, let me try this real quick.”  That takes balls.

Altitude of the dunk:  6/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  9/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

.

Grizzlies:  Stromile Swift over Yao Ming

            Go to the 3:31 mark of this video  

            There haven’t been a ton of high flyers in the Grizzlies’ short history, but Stromile Swift was one of them.  An athletic 6’9 PF/C, Swift is best known for his criminal record, which happens to include this assault on Yao Ming.

            Any time you dunk on a guy 6’10 or taller it’s noteworthy, but if you happen to catch one of the true giants of the game, it’s even more so.  Appropriately nicknamed “The Great Wall of China”, Yao was a clean 7’6 and was known to bully guys the size of Shaq.  This was not someone you wanted to challenge at the cup.

            The reason I love this particular dunk so much is because despite Yao’s size it was clearly a conscious decision by Swift to go at him.  Usually when a guy that big gets dunked on it’s off a switch or as the help defender.  The dunker beats his man, goes for the flush, and the center rotates too slowly and gets one punched on him.  Not here.  

            Swift gets the ball at the right elbow and faces up Yao, he then takes two dribbles, hop steps, and goes up with two hands off two feet and puts it down.   This was not Yao getting caught under the rim, this was Swift seeing his defender, recognizing that the man is seven-foot freaking six, and being like; “Yeah, let me try this real quick.”  That takes balls.

Altitude of the dunk:  6/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  9/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  36

.

Suns:  Tom Chambers flies

            Two things stand out about this dunk

  1. This is one of those highlights where it doesn’t look real.  If Tom Chambers told me he had a wire harness on when he made this dunk, I’d probably believe him.  The man is 6’10 and had his chin over the rim and his knee on Mark Jackson’s face.  People shouldn’t be able to jump that high
  2. I hate to take this angle but screw it.  The Caucasian man is not really, shall we say, a high flyer.  This dunk changes the old phrase ‘white men can’t jump’ to ‘white men can’t often jump’.  I’m just saying it’s not something you see every day.  I’m gonna stop now, I’m gonna stop now, I’m gonna stop now.

Altitude of the dunk:  10/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  5/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

Dunk rating:  36

.

Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr. slings it on Julius Randle

            To fully appreciate this dunk, you have to have been watching this game.  I had the good fortune to be tuning in right as it was happening, third quarter on, in the background of a restaurant.  Don’t ask me why they were showing the 2018-19 Mavericks/Pelicans game, must’ve been a quiet night.

            Less than a minute before the Dennis Smith play, the Pelicans’ Solomon Hill had a pretty strong dunk of his own when he got out on a break and put it on Maxi Kleber.  A literal minute later, Luka Doncic got trapped in the backcourt but managed to find Dennis Smith Jr. on a cut down the middle.  Smith takes one dribble and then cocks the ball back as far as he can without dislocating his arm.  The 250-pound Julius Randle comes to help on D, but too late.  Smith is already in the air there’s no turning back now.  Any time someone cocks the ball back that far it’s impressive, but all that extra power you rip from doing it is usually for show.  To do it in the half court and to have it land?  That’s like the windmill punch from a cartoon right in Randle’s face.

            You gotta watch this sequence in real time because the highlight real won’t do it justice.  It was almost the very next play.  That’s how you know that this dunk wasn’t just a guy trying something out, Smith was getting revenge, and then some.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  7/10

Dunk rating:  38

.

Rockets:  McGrady gets Shawn Bradley too

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  9/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

In the playoffs:  +1

Dunk rating:  39

It’s weird. For a 7’6 guy, Shawn Bradley really gets dunked on a lot.

,

Nuggets:  J.R. Smith flies

Don’t be totally fooled.  The contact on this dunk is exaugurated because Gary Neal tries to take a charge and falls down.  I’m all for trying to draw the charge when you see someone taking it hard in the paint, but it can be misleading when trying to rate a dunk.

            We get a break here because the contact is not the most amazing part of this dunk.  J.R. Smith leads the ball up the court, almost casually, then on the left side he does a quick push-cross to get Manu Ginobili off him.  He then takes off from the dotted line, or free-throw line, or 3-point line, I don’t know.  It could have been from anywhere.

            Announcer Kevin Harlan summed it up best immediately after the play with these words; “J.R. SMITH!  We just saw a man fly.”

Altitude of the dunk:  10/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  39

.

Trail Blazers:  Drexler dunks on Bill Cartwright in the finals

            One my favourite things about this jam is that the dunker sees a 6’11 man in front him, knowns he has two teammates to pass the ball to for easy layups and decides that the best option is still to jump over the guy and put it down himself.

            Clyde Drexler gets a lot of criticism for his finals series against Michael Jordan in 1992.  Yeah, Clyde gets his ass handed to him by MJ, but so did a lot of people in the 90s.  Drexler has become one of the most underrated stars of that decades, which I think is strange considering his playoff success (he did manage to get to the finals), and his catalogue of highlights and dunks.

            Back to the dunk in question; Drexler takes it baseline on John Paxson but gets blocked at the rim by Horace Grant.  The Bulls trigger the fastbreak but Scottie Pippen gets his pocket picked by Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth picks it up and leads the ball back down the floor in a 3-on-1 retaliation on Bulls center Bill Cartwright.  Duckworth feeds it to Drexler at the top of the arc, Clyde sees the two teammates running with them, decides they’re a soft option, and jumps from the dotted line to slam it on Cartwright’s head. Foul is called.  Drexler gets high fives from his bench.  Oh, and did I mention he attempted this in the FINALS?

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  8/10

Any pertinent background information:  6/10

And-1:  +1

In the playoffs:  +1

Dunk rating:  40

.

Lakers: Shaq assaults Chris Dudley

            If we’re talking about the pantheon of disrespectful dunks, this one has to be mentioned with the top of the top.  Here we get an unfiltered view of the brute force a prime Shaquille O’Neal brought to the table, and how even the 7ft, 235-pound Dudley was reduced to a prop when guarding him.

            It starts like any other post possession; Kobe tosses it down to Shaq on the low block, Shaq takes three rhythm dribbles, then drop-steps right knocking the defending Chris Dudley off balance.  

            Here’s where it gets good; Shaq goes up with two hands and does his signature ‘pull on the rim and kick up your knees’ thing.  This move is so powerful that the already wobbly Dudley has no chance to keep his footing.  All he can do is hang on to Shaq for dear life as he gets tossed around like a maraca.  

            After dunking on the next four generations of Dudley’s, Shaq then proceeds to shove him to the ground.  Note that this wasn’t some weaselly elbow when the refs weren’t looking, this was a full-on, arms-extended, open-palm shove.

            Dudley crashes to the floor, gets up upset, whips the ball at Shaq’s head, and gives him some choice words.  Double tech on Shaq and Dudley.  Single greatest dunk sequence in Lakers history.

Altitude of the dunk:  6/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  6/10

Amount of contact:  10/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  10/10

Technical foul called:  +1

Dunk rating:  40

.

Warriors:  Baron Davis over Andrei Kirilenko

            It’s rare to get a poster this nasty from a guy who’s barely taller than Ashton Kutcher, but in the early 2000s Baron Davis was maybe the best point guard-dunker around.  Like Russell Westbrook 1.0, he would attack his defender like a tight-end on the run and explode to the cup with force.  

            This move on the defensive minded Andrei Kirilenko was the best of Davis’s career.  Beating his guy to the hoop and putting it down as Kirilenko rotated was one thing, Davis got fouled and finished while giving up 6 inches to his man.

            The unintentional comedy of this dunk is the trash talk that came after.  After smashing it on Kirilenko, Davis turned around, lifted up his shirt, and showed all of Oracle Arena his dad bod.  I don’t know why he did it, I don’t know what he was trying to say by it, but I love it all the same.

Altitude of the dunk:  8/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  9/10

Amount of contact:  8/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  7/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  40

.

Clippers:  Blake Griffin (oh me, oh my)

            Blake Griffin may be the all-time league leader in dunker scale points, but this is the crown jewel in his collection of posters. 

            By this point in his career Blake had already established himself as a world class dunker who automatically struck fear into every rim protector when rolling to the hoop.  In this case, Chris Paul and Blake run a slip-screen play and Paul drops a bounce pass right in Blake’s pocket.  Kendrick Perkins sees Griffin in the launch position and (all credit to Perk here) decides that rather than get out the way like a sane human being, to hack the shit out of Blake.

            Blake cocks the ball back as far as he can, takes a full shove to the chest, turns 180 degrees and throws it into the net.  It was the best power dunk of the best power dunker this century.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  7/10

Amount of contact:  10/10

Showmanship:  7/10

Any pertinent background information:  7/10

And-1:  +1

Dunk rating:  41

.

Thunder:  Shawn Kemp over Alton Lister

            The catch was great, the dunk was better, pointing at Alton Lister may have been the best part.  It was Kemp letting the fans, the media, the players, and Lister himself know; “Look at that!  Look at that guy!  I just did that to that guy!  Damn!”

            For those who don’t know, a young Shawn Kemp was the most athletic forward of the 90s.  He could run the floor like a stag, jump like a stag, and father children like a stag.  He fell apart as his career went on, but here we see him in his prime.  His 1991-97 stretch was really incredible.

            Another important piece of this all-time play was how it made Alton Lister famous.  Plays that are so famous they make their victims famous deserve extra credit (think Fredrick Weis, Tyron Lue, Timofey Mozgov, and Craig Ehlo), and this is definitely one of those.

            Kemp catches the ball at the 3-point arc, he takes one dribble in, two enormous strides towards the hoop, cups the ball, cocks it back, and knocks Alton Lister to the ground as he completes the greatest dunk in Western Conference history.  Boom.

Altitude of the dunk:  9/10

Size in relation to dunkee:  8/10

Amount of contact:  7/10

Showmanship:  9/10

Any pertinent background information:  10/10

Dunk rating:  43

.

.

Tune in next week for the East!