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Denver Nuggets Over Rated / Under Rated

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Adam takes a look at what is over rated and what is under rated this week in the NBA and for the Denver Nuggets. Topics include the art of "spin," the Happy Birthday song, and player rankings

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Under rated - The art of "spin"

For all of his perfect answers and incredibly detailed perspectives on every question the Denver media threw his way, Michael Malone still put Tim Connelly in a bit of a pickle during yesterday’s press conference when he let it slip that Jusuf Nurkic probably wont be ready for the start of the season.  It seemed like that was private knowledge and I’m guessing by their reactions that it would have been easier for all involved if Malone would’ve been more careful with his words in that situation.

But Connelly dodged the misstep with an incredible array of spin moves.  First, he made a joke of it, asking Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, "Is he on your fantasy team, Chris?" Then he sells it as "He’s ahead of schedule," adding "I think he’s kind of been a step ahead the whole process."  Since the timetable for his return to the court was never officially stated by the front office, this may or may not be true.  Remember, it’s not a lie, if you believe it!  Finally, Tim closes it all out with an ambiguous time frame that is uninformative, yet feels informative. "We’ll have a more clear timetable as preseason progresses."

That’s some White House press secretary level spin right there.  Not only is Nurkic okay, he’s ahead of schedule!  Spin is a very under rated skill for an NBA general manager. 

Under Rated - Basketball guys that know math

Analytics have been a point of controversy in the NBA world over the least several years and I’d attribute a large portion of that to a fundamental aspect of how their impact is discussed.  In short, analytics are most useful when a basketball guy can under stand the math, than when a math guy can under stand basketball. 

In other words, the real value in analytics is how they are applied. Who better to know how they are applied than basketball people?  Coach Malone probably doesn’t know what a regularized adjusted plus minus (RAPM) is or how it is calculated but he certainly knows a lot of about what types of things are and aren’t valuable in basketball. Being a basketball guy that has the ability to understand just enough of the nerdy math side to understand the most basic substance of a stat is much more valuable than having an incredible understanding of a stat and just enough knowledge of basketball to apply it. 

Over rated - The Happy birthday song

The happy birthday song is a tradition that everyone in America participates in yet no one stops to think about why, on just one occasion, we all feel the need to embarrass ourselves in a feeble attempt to sing an annoying song. Seriously, on no other occasion do we feel compelled to sing in public except for on people’s birthdays.  It’s a weird tradition and if you are half as neurotic as I am, it’s an uncomfortable 20 seconds or so for the singers and the person being sang to. 

Only about 10% of the general population is NOT tone def and anytime that you get a group of 6 or more people together to sing an improvised tune it always go poorly. No one begins the song in the same key so the first bar is always people looking around trying to figure out which key everyone can agree upon and the third line always goes to a note higher than anyone in the room is capable of hitting. Restaurant employees are the worst at singing the song, partially because they never care enough about singing to some stranger and giving them a free cupcake in the hope that you’ll increase your tip from 15% to 20% because they serenaded you an uncomfortable song.

I wish we could end this tradition all together but traditions die hard and in 3000 years when every facet of our society has evolved into something unrecognizable, the only remnant of 21st century culture will be the happy birthday song.

Over rated - Questions on leadership

I’ve been to media day two years in a row now and in both events, leadership has been the magic buzz word.  What is your leadership style as a coach? Who is the on-court leader? Are you a better leader now than you were last season?  Leadership is like the holy grail of media day.

Don’t get me wrong, leadership is an incredibly valuable thing for a basketball team.  But when has talking about leadership ever revealed anything about a team?  Last season, Brian Shaw brought Ty Lawson to Broncos practice for a quick lesson in leadership, taught by professor Peyton Manning.  I think we can safely say that the 2-hour trip to dove valley was a failed course for both player and coach. 

There are certainly qualities of leadership that can be discussed and it is a tangible thing in most cases.  However, asking a player if he will be a better leader is like asking a player if he is going to try hard.  Of course they are all going to say yes.  Of course every player and coach and GM is going to talk about the improved leadership of the team or how player x is going to step up and take on a leadership role.  None of that matters any more than asking if a player is going to make more shots.  The real leaders will be revealed through training camp, through games, and through adversity. 

Properly rated - Player rankings

Every year ESPN sets the twitterverse afire by ranking almost all of the players in the NBA.  Every year there are dozens of controversial picks.  Why is Dwight Howard outside of the top 10?  Why is Kobe Bryant in the top 10? Is Draymond Green really better than Carmelo Anthony?

The very idea of ranking players in a team game, on their individual merits, is nonsensical.  This is especially true when comparing players across eras.  Is Michael Jordan better than Lebron James?  Ask any true NBA fan and they will almost certainly have a very passionate answer and you will be incapable of changing their mind no matter what arguments you make.

And you know what?  That’s all awesome!  That’s part of the fun.  Basketball is inherently complicated to quantify.  It’s an individual sport yet a single player can have a dramatic impact.  Subtle changes to rules, rosters, or environments can have wildly unpredictable effects on the outcome.

Sure, it’s a losing game if you think that perfect argument or that perfect stat is going to prove your point, but friendly arguments over player x vs. player y are part of what makes the NBA such a fun sport to talk about, 24/7/365. 

Also, Steph Curry is better than Chris Paul.  That’s just a fact.