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Week One: The NBA Hipster
Who will make the playoffs? Which rookie will have the best career? Will the Wizards make the playoffs before Snooki becomes a grandmother? These are all important questions that we at the Academy try to tackle through serious analysis. However, once in a while it’s nice to take a step back from the intensely analytical atmosphere in order to indulge in the mind-numbing madness of pop culture. Enter the “Weekly Pop-10”, your newest guilty pleasure addressing all things entertainment.
Over the last few seasons the media has become increasingly aware of the “NBA Hipster”. While the description certainly fits some players, not every fashionista is a real hipster. Not that that’s a bad thing. In fact, true hipsters hate nothing more than being labeled as such. This week, we will be analyzing the style of 10 NBA players to determine whether or not they really are an “NBA Hipster”.
10) Tony Parker
Why? The 30-year-old Frenchman shows promise in his thick-rimmed court goggles, but there are a few reasons why he just doesn’t cut it. First, his eyewear serves an actual function. Second, his marriage to Eva Longoria was way too mainstream. Too bad she sponsored Heineken Light instead of PBR.
Hipster Scale: 36/100
9) Amar’e Stoudemire
Why? Bear with me on this one. Although many consider Amar’e to be one of the biggest hipsters in the league, I beg to differ. Aside from the trademark thick-rimmed glasses, the Knicks’ big man actually looks too good to be a real hipster. While his outfits may be outrageous at times, they tend to tie together. I’d be less surprised to see him in GQ than a coffeeshop.
Hipster Scale: 44/100
8) James Harden
Why? Born into the NBA alongside Westbrook and Durant, Harden was destined for hipsterdom. But with a beard like his, the phenom’s hipster status stands on its own. Oh, and that photo was totally taken from a Mac.
Hipster Scale: 84/100
7) Michael Beasley
Why? But what about the glasses? The crazy t-shirt? The self-obsession associated with taking self-pics in the mirror? Surely Beasley should qualify as a hipster. Well, not exactly. A scenester, yes. A hipster, no. The bright colors in the shirt and glasses, and the way the picture was shot are all indicative of “scene” (the pointless spawn of “emo”). Come on, get your trends straight.
Hipster Scale: 24/100
6) Nick Young
Why? That shirt.
Hipster Scale: 67/100
5) Kevin Love
Why? Though not always committed to the role, the picture above is proof that Love is capable of epitomizing “hipster”. The moustache. The glasses. The irony that this wimpy looking guy is actually a beast. It all fits. In fact, throw in some ear gauges and he’s a dead ringer for half of downtown Annapolis.
4) Rajon Rondo
Hipster Scale: 74/100
Why? When Rondo first entered the NBA in 2006, he was pretty underground. The 21st pick in the draft started only 25 games his rookie season. Nowadays, the on-court moves of this NBA champion are less predictable than a Gary Busey interview. And although he looks more like a pro skater than a hipster (or an NBA All-Star for that matter), Rondo’s “yes” verdict is more about playing differently than dressing differently. And for Rondo, different is good.
Hipster Scale: 71/100
3) Ricky Rubio
Why? This is a tricky one. He’s got the beard, he’s got the hat, and he’s got the glasses. Must be a hipster, right? Nope. He’s just European.
Hipster Scale: 40/100
2) Baron Davis
Why? The mark of a true hipster, Baron Davis dressed like this before it was cool. While some players rock thick-rimmed non-prescriptions, beards, or beanies, Davis commits to all three. The 33-year-old guard is the godfather of eccentric NBA style.
Hipster Scale: 91/100
1) Russell Westbrook
Why? If it weren’t for Westbrook, NBA fashion would be much less…ridiculous. And if “unconventional” is what you are looking for, then the 24-year-old star rarely dissapoints. If not, then too bad. Because when you are a top player on a top team, the rules don’t apply. That’s the difference between “silly” and “trendsetter”. Consider how MJ’s desire to wear baggier shorts forever changed the NBA uniform. If the desire had belonged to, say, Michael Ruffin instead, we’d still be stuck with short-shorts.
Hipster Scale: 94/100
But what about…
Glen Davis? 60/100. Javale McGee? 54/100. Andre Igoudala? 68/100. Lebron James? 52/100. Kevin Durant? 75/100. Steve Nash? 88/100. Carmelo Anthony? 56/100. Dirk Nowitzki? Just European. Joakim Noah? Just weird.
Picture from TheScore.com
Before getting into it, the picture above is of Pacers PG George Hill, former Wizard Adam Morrison, and Timberwolves rookie PG Alexey Shved. If you’ve never seen him play check out this video.
I’ve spent the last week scouring box scores, consulting friends, reading biased commentary, and assembling a list of the most underrated players in the NBA.
At the end of the day, the biggest problem I encounter is determining an objective system for evaluating players. Since a player’s rating is a mixture of statistical averages, efficiency, public opinion, media coverage, contract size, the ability to make enough flashy plays to fill a 2 minutes YouTube, the marketability of player’s team, off-court antics, endorsements, a clutch factor, big wins, Black Swan scoring sprees, and an emotional “gut” feeling, some player become overrated, others become fairly rated, and a bunch of unfortunate over performers become underrated.
With all of this to consider, it still doesn’t account for another odd phenomenon: overrated underrated players. These under-appreciated studs play well for a period of time, while not getting the recognition they deserve, only to have a number of commentators select them as underrated and then another set of commentators designate them as overrated.
The point of a most underrated column is to direct your attention to a number of over performers who are playing well. If one of these players has been selected by another columnist, direct your animosity towards me and not at the player. It’s not his fault everyone thinks he is playing better than expected or has been flying under the radar for far too long.
Since there is considerable vagueness in designating a player as underrated, I have devised a tiered approach modeled after Bill Simmons’ famous Annual Ranking of the NBA’s top 50 players:
Group I: “I Would Never Have Heard Him If I had Not Written This Column”
Group H: “I Didn’t Know he Still Played”
Group H: “You’ve Probably Never Heard of Him, but You Would Want Him On Your Team”
Group G: “I know Who He Is, but I Didn’t Know He Was Good”
Group F: “He Would Be Fairly Rated If He Was Paid More”
Group E: “He’s Had Some Great Games, but But Still Has More to Prove”
Group D “Solid Starter Flying Under the Radar”
As an undersized power forward, Booker’s strengths are usually considered to be his work ethic: hustle, aggression, effort. The qualities that keep plays alive with offensive boards and put-back slams. While I agree with this general assessment, I would argue that his work ethic is not a substitute for talent. The 25-year-old is more than capable of hitting deep twos and fade-aways, make smart passes, and take over games when given the chance. Although an injury has prevented Booker from being 100% all season, his potential was evident in numerous games last season. In the Wizards’ only game against the Lakers last season, Booker filled the box score with 18 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Wizards to a victory after trailing by 21 in the third quarter.
How does a player with the 10th highest PER get less than 20 minutes per game? By startingbehind the player with the league’s 5th highest PER, that’s how. Backing up the Chris Paul, the NBA’s best point guard, limits the role of this would-be starter. Despite averaging only 18.4 minutes per game, Bledsoe collects nearly 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and one and a half steals while shooting 50% from the field. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to play alongside supersub (and likely this year’s 6th Man award winner) Jamal Crawford, but Bledsoe’s play is consistently impressive regardless of the lineup. Look for the 23-year-old to be starting on a new team by next season.
Group C: No Love For Defense
Group B: “Seriously Under Appreciated”
Although McGee may have fit well on such a list while playing for the Wizards, the 6’11’’ center has been a strong performer for the Nuggets thus far. McGee averages 11 points on 60% shooting, 5 boards, and 2 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game off the bench. In fact, McGee’s PER of 24.23 is 7th in the league, suggesting the “goofball” is starting to play with, dare I say, maturity and focus.
Group A: “How is He Not A Perennial All-Star?”
Christian Peterson/Getty Images
Tonight the Memphis Grizzlies (15-6) take on the Chicago Bulls (13-9).
Expect a defensive struggle. The Grizzlies and Bulls are 2nd and 3rd in points allowed, respectively.
Still without injured point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been limited in offensive productivity. They are 25th in points per game, despite being 7th in rebounding. Led by SF Luol Deng (18 points and 7 rebounds), PF Carlos Boozer (14 points and 10 rebounds), and C Joakim Noah (14 points, 11 rebounds) the Bulls have gotten off to a solid start this year.
The Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the NBA and have had success on offense and defense. In addition to having lockdown defender SG Tony Allen, Memphis is led by SF Rudy Gay (19 points and 6 rebounds), PF Zach Randloph (18 points and 13 rebounds), and C Marc Gasol (15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists). They are 14th in points per game, 14th in rebounding, and 20th in assists.
Memphis is a 6.5 favorite over Chicago.
Box score notables:
- At the end of the third quarter, Memphis led 61-53.
- SF Luol Deng (11 points and 4 rebounds), shot 4-17 from the field.
- SG Wayne Ellington added 11 from the bench
- PG Mike Conley led the team in scoring with 17 points.
- Memphis won the rebound battle 51 to 39 and shot better from the 3 point line 6-11 (54.5%) versus 2-11 (18.2%).
Grizzlies cover the spread: 80-71
Damian Lillard is one of the NBA’s fastest rising stars. Averaging 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and shooting 42.6% FG, 36.6% 3P, and 84% FT, Lillard is a prolific scorer and effective distributor. (If you have never seen him play before be sure to watch the video below.)
Coming into the season all eyes were on Anthony Davis. First pick in the 2012 draft, NCAA champion as a freshman at Kentucky, olympic gold medalist, and proud owner of one of fiercest unibrows in sports the attention was well deserved.
As a four starter at Weber State, Lillard flew relatively under the radar. In his senior year, he averaged 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists, while shooting 46.7% FG, 40.9% 3P, and 88.7% FT.
While his shooting percentages have been lower in the NBA than in college, his passing has improved: 2.10 assists/turnover versus 1.73.
At 10-14 the Lakers have gotten off to an unimpressive start.
With losses to the Kings (3-8), Magic (6-10), and Cavs (5-17), it is clear that changes must be made if the Lakers are going to compete for their fifth championship in ten years.
Few would have expected a team with so much star power to be anything less than dominant. Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard have a combined 8 NBA Championships, 35 All-Star appearances, 3 MVPs, and 2 Finals MVPs.
Many columnists have argued that all of the Lakers’ problems will be solved when Steve Nash returns from his breaking his left leg. Nash is a 38-year-old defensive liability who will need months to develop a rhythm with his new teammates.
Sure, Mike D’Antoni’s offense is ideal for him, but offense is not where Los Angeles needs significant improvement. They are 7th in points per game (101.7) and 21st in points allowed (99.4).
In addition to Nash’s medical woes, the Lakers have a number of players suffering a variety of injuries. Gasol has been out for eight games with knee tendinitis in both of his kness. PG Steve Blake is undergoing abdominal surgery. Reserve PF Jordan Hill has a herniated disk in his back. Dwight is still far from 100% after his offseason back surgery. Kobe Bryant suffers from back stiffness.
Talk about the Bad and the Ugly.
Despite their shockingly poor start, the Lakers can’t lose to the Wizards, right? I mean, what better team to turn things around against than the team with only 3 wins in 19 games? Unfortunately for the Lakers, this is exactly the kind of game the Wizards have a tendency to steal. That is, games the Wizards are expected (even more than they usually are) to lose. When expectations are low, so is pressure. And when pressure is low, the Wizards are capable of playing a solid game of basketball.
Sure, both teams are under at least a degree of pressure to turn around underwhelming seasons. However, the expectations are considerably higher for the Lakers. Consider which team’s struggles have been most shocking. Is it the play of the Wizards, who ahve advanced past the first round of the playoffs one time in the last 30 (!) seasons? Or the Lakers, who have only missed the playoffs five times in their 64-year history? Although it is arguable that stars like Kobe play best under pressure, the opposite can be said of the Wizards – low stakes and low expectations are prerequisites for wins in DC. Just ask the Heat, who have lost three straight against Wittman’s team.
Consider last season. Why did the Wizards end 2011-12 on a six game win streak? Because once you have locked in the second-worst record in the league, the expectations are low and the stakes are lower. Why not beat the Bulls in Chicago, and the Heat in Miami? In fact, the Wizards topped the Heat twice in less than a week, handing the soon-to-be champs their biggest loss in the season finale.
Sure, playoff-bound teams rest their stars more often as the season draws to a close. But the Wizards’ performance against top teams does not just apply to these games. In fact, the 2011-12 Wizards beat the Lakers and the Thunder as well.
Perhaps the Lakers will figure things out as the season moves forward. However, tonight will not be the night when they take a step in the right direction. And although headlines will read “Lakers fall to lowly Wizards” and “Wizards shock Lakers,” the result should come as no surprise.
Wizards 99, Lakers 95