Open Floor

Basketball is Back and More Gruesome than Ever

By J. Patrick | (10/22)

“Open Floor” is a week-to-week column that examines the events from the past week in the NBA world, and other things loosely related to it. Sometimes we may examine games, plays, players, injuries, contracts, fights, social media, whatever. It’s an open-ended column, so, as Kevin Garnett would say, “anything is possibllllllllleee!”

Sickening Injuries already Ending Seasons

Oh. My. God. If you, like me, were watching the first NBA game of the 2017-18 season, Tuesday night, you saw what should be the most gruesome injury of the year–and what could be the most gruesome injury you may have ever seen on a basketball court. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and do not watch the replay–it’s, no doubt, one of the few times where I have deeply regretted HD television. Here’s a quick recap to save your lunch:

Five minutes into the first quarter of the first game, Gordon Hayward leapt toward the opponent’s basket, aiming to catch and perhaps dunk a lob thrown by fellow, new Celtic, Kyrie Irving. The pass, however, was a bit behind Hayward, who was challenged in the air over the paint by LBJ and Jae Crowder. Enduring a hard foul in-flight, Hayward was knocked off axis enough to land so awkwardly that–without using too much medical terminology–his ankle was nearly torn from his leg. Consider this, too: in the live replay, I unfortunately noticed that you could actually hear the man’s leg break before the cameras cut to a close-up they had no business displaying.

For my part, I almost threw my beer against the wall as I screamed and cringed, like when salt is poured on a snail or slug. For his part, Hayward screamed in agony as medical staff set his leg on the court. It was truly gut wrenching. Hayward is in all likelihood done for the season, and the Celtics status as a contender are almost completely over too. There’s a sadness in the northeast I can sorta feel in eastern North Carolina.

While there (strangely) seemed to be some slight optimism that Gordon would return near the end of the season, Lin’s diagnosis and long term expectations were much easier to figure out. In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter against the Pacers, Lin landed awkwardly along the baseline after fighting for a rebound. When he went down he was visibly shaken. He began to cry and was shouting, “I’m done, I’m done!,” as he was taken off the floor. It came out later that night that he tore his patellar tendon, the tendon that holds the kneecap in place, and spans from the bottom of the quadriceps on the femur down to the top of the tibia. Most tendon tears are horrible, painful injuries. Usually for the patellar and achilles tendons you can hear a loud pop when it tears. The Nets will have to rely on younger guys like Caris Levert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Isaiah Whitehead to grow into a larger role now, much like last year, when Lin missed most of the season.

A Mixed Bag from the Rookies

The Good

Lonzo Ball got off to a rocky start in his debut against the cross gym rival Clippers. Any game is going to be tough when you have a bulldog like Patrick Beverly latching onto you. He ended the night with 3 pts, 9 rebs, 4 asts, 1 blk, 1 stl, and 2 TO’s. His second game however, was much better. Then again, they were playing the Phoenix Suns, arguably the worst team in the association. He closed out Saturday’s contest with 29 pts, 11 rebs, 9 asts, 1 stl, and 4 TO’s.

Others who impressed: Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Milos Teodosic, and De’Aaron Fox

The OK

The Phoenix Suns’ first-round pick in this years draft, Josh Jackson, is up for debate. On the one hand, he hasn’t had any eye opening statistical production or highlight plays, but, on the other hand, he does pass the eye test. He seems to have an incredible feel for the pace of the game and how to keep it flowing; and he may be a better passer than advertised–he has a knack for finding bigs under the rim when he is contested on drives, and he’s strong enough to whip it back out to the perimeter for an open 3-pointer. The most immediate take I have is that he’ll more than likely have an up and down rookie season, as do many promising youngbloods.

The Bad

Poor, poor Markelle Fultz. If his free throw shooting form wasn’t bad enough, his production from the line is even worse (6-12 through 3 games and an air ball on one attempt). He’s done a nice job of penetrating in the paint, but has been virtually non-existent in every other facet of the game. It makes you wonder how bad the shoulder issues really are.

Yo … Who’s this chick Sophie Dossi?

At halftime of the Clippers-Suns game, I just saw this girl Sophie balance on a balance beam and shoot a bow and arrow and hit a target … WITH HER F**KING FEET. I’m still feeling amazed and impressed–and, truthfully, somewhat aroused–at the thought of a woman hitting a deer with a bow and arrow, using only her feet, while doing some other gymnast shit. Here’s an older clip of her doing it.

Week 1 Revenge Games

  1. Rubio vs the Timberwolves
    • Probably the lesser thought of revenge games this week. Rubio (19 pts, 5 rebs, 11 asts, 2 stls) had a good outing, but it wasn’t enough to push the Jazz past the Wolves, thanks to a buzzer beater by Wiggins for the win.

  2. Carmelo vs the Knicks
    • Melo had a very Melo-ish game in his first time facing the Knicks (22 pts on 8-20 shooting). He did hit the first bucket of the game, and he seemed re-energized when he did. Melo is going to have a lot of fun in OKC this year, I can feel it.

  3. Cavaliers vs. Boston (and Kyrie)
    • This game was already derailed by the Hayward injury, but Kyrie (22 pts, 4 rebs, 10 asts, 3 stls) did his best to put the team on his back and carry the C’s to victory. As usual, however, King James (29 pts, 16 rebs, 9 asts, 2 blks) was there to ultimately save the day and propel the Cavs to victory during the closing minutes of the 4th quarter.

  4. Dwight Howard vs the Hawks
    • Dwight had a great game in his return to the ATL, putting up 20 pts and 15 rebs. He did, however, commit 6 TO’s, but that’s okay, because he pulled off some vintage-Dwight shenanigans when he kissed a ref on a bogus call.

Lil’ Jon Did Pregame Intros for the Kings Opener

If you needed (or were searching for) a reason to watch the Kings this year (which you probably weren’t), this may be what you were looking for.

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The Process (Feels More like a Gamble)

By J. Patrick
October 16, 2017

Joel Embiid has up-ended the actual process of NBA teams signing young players.

embiid

Prince Embiid (Source: The Ringer)

Okay, so here’s my issue with cliches. It may be the same one felt by you, dear Reader. But I hate the fact that they are exactly what they seem to be. These phrases and idioms are cliche because they tend to fit, but that simple fit can rob the circumstance of depth and meaning.

By definition, a cliche is a phrase that is used to describe something, but is used to the point where the usage causes the original context of its meaning to become lost, or undermines the power behind the statement because of frivolous use. In short, it’s an overused statement. The worst are usually those that hold the least amount of uniqueness, yet they still somehow achieve the right balance of relatedness and relatability.

Insert Joel Embiid. While any number of cliches can be used to describe him or his situation–or the 76ers’ situation in the aftermath of signing him to a (mind blowing) max extension of $148 million dollars, for the next five seasons–it looks, from the cheap seats, entirely unique. Like, mystical or borderline supernatural (or unfathomable, to some). There have been similar circumstances (which we’ll cover) in the past, but there seems like very little precedence for “The Process” and the shockwaves rippling across the league in the aftermath of his explosion.

So, let’s use this to explore what I was saying about cliche phrases. We can run through some classics. They’re basically flat platitudes, and, in some ways, they do effectively describe some elements of the situation in Philly. The issue is that none of these, on their own merits, perfectly fit the situation in question.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

When we say this, we usually end up considering the actions that someone did not do, instead of the actions that have actually occurred. What if we were to apply the literal translation of this to Joel Embiid?  The argument might be something like this:

For 31 games and 25 minutes a night, Embiid averaged 20.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, and 2.5 bpg while shooting the ball at a 44.6% clip from the field and a 36.7% clip from deep. While his shooting % could (and will have to) improve, his numbers are not bad at all. In fact, they’re incredible for a first year player. Whether you want to label him a rookie or not is an entirely different matter, but it is still pertinent to note that this is in fact, his first season.

If this is the basement level production you can expect from him, then what would be a better indicator of a best case scenario? The best case scenario would have him completely healthy, with no minutes restrictions. That happening is essentially a fairy tale, but for arguments sake, let’s indulge. A better indicator of what he might be able to accomplish at full strength are evident in his per 36 minutes numbers (if those ever existed for him, which they won’t). But since there is only one center that averaged more than 36 minutes per game last year (KAT), we’ll just take the total minutes per game (mpg) from the top five centers in the league and average them together. Why would we do that, you ask? Because Embiid, when fully healthy, would be a top five center in the league. No questions asked.

The top five centers combined comes out to an average of 33.8 mpg. A couple simple math processes later, and his per 33.8 minutes numbers would look like this: 26.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.2 spg, and 3.3 bpg.

Those numbers scream, “Best fucking center in the league, hands down. Fight me.” Those numbers alone suggest we’re looking at a top-five player in the league. But as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than adjusted projected per 36 minutes stats in a fairy tale scenario.” I think it’s something like that ….

Further, it cannot be ignored that when this phrase (actions speak louder than words) is usually deployed, we focus more on inaction than legitimate actions, or a lack thereof. It would only be fair to do so here, and it is imperative to do so when we consider that Joel Embiid has only appeared in 31 games in three years. And that’s where this cliche rings most true: Joel has to prove that he can stay on the court and be healthy, get consistent minutes on the court, and do it consistently in order to live up to this contract, even though, in this case, his action has outspoken his lack of action and most of his twitter.

There have been plenty of cases where a player’s durability has been suspect. Said suspect player is then somehow given a max extension. Fans and media harshly questioned the move, but, three years later, the deal looks more like a home run. I bring this up because it needs to be said–evaluating healthy talent is hard enough without trying to find the most effective way to measure the risk and durability associated with a player known to be a steady injury concern. Embiid’s situation is still different than most of those cases, and as I stated earlier, we’re getting there. Just trust the process. Winky blinky.

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

Perhaps the most obscure on the list with regard to how often a circumstance arises when this is applicable. The biggest issue with the case at hand is that I’m not really sure the grass is very green on either side. The one Philly is currently standing on looks like late-fall/early-winter-semi-brownish-the-grass-is-dying type grass: If they don’t sign him, then “the process” is officially over, and the team will be without a Center, which would effectively end any hope of them winning more than 28 games this year, and possibly for the foreseeable future. If they had decided to wait until the end of the season to resign him, he’d have become a restricted free agent, which would open up the floodgates for financially irresponsible franchises like Brooklyn or Sacramento to raise the stakes to $200 million. Even if they did resign him at that point, it would severely limit the money they would eventually have to give guys like Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, and maybe even Robert Covington.

Plus, if Joel does stay totally healthy, no one should realistically expect him to play more than 65 games for the next 2-3 years, and possibly even over the next 5 years–the total length of the contract. That’s almost the best case scenario, and that isn’t the most promising of situations.

You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Yes, you can, and, yes, you should–they same way you should at least partially judge a record. Obviously you shouldn’t prematurely judge someone you don’t know, and especially so if done in a negative way, for no reason at all; but, what you absolutely shouldn’t do is remove all intuition and reasonably drawn conclusions in your efforts not to evaluate something unfairly. Otherwise, just because a stranger carries around a blood-soaked axe doesn’t mean it was used to kill people, so you should, of course, walk right up and make a new friend, am I right? But then, some cases lend themselves to this figure of speech more than others.

In sports, I think it’s extremely fair to go against this cliche and judge a book by its cover. Hard. Normally, it really bites you in the ass when you don’t. Without going into too much detail (out of respect to the dead), look at Aaron Hernandez. A troubled young man with a history of negative stains on his record with psychological testing, who confirmed the troubling state of his mental, and who was also eventually charged with murder on three different counts. His impact on the image of the NFL will never diminish in its severity. And maybe most incredibly, that impact is not even limited to his violent past with his recent posthumous diagnosis of CTE. But let’s examine a couple less severe cases–ones that are NBA-specific.

Look at Chandler Parsons  or Danilo Gallinari. Two guys who were either traded (Galo) or signed to a new team (Parsons), who also have had some serious injury issues leading up to their switching of teams. Parsons never lived up to expectations in Dallas, and, so far, he has been a no-show for the one year he’s played in Memphis. Note: Parsons received a max contract (which he never should’ve gotten). Galo, by contrast, was traded to Denver in 2011, and this is what his Games Started stat line looks like since then:

2011-12: 43

2012-13: 71

2013-14: 0 (Out after ACL reconstruction)

2014-15: 59

2015-16: 53

2016-17: 61

Those are incredibly concerning numbers, and nothing else needs to be said about it. And the long and short of it is that, to Joel’s immense credit, those guys don’t have Joel’s talent or potential.

Would you sign Galo or Parsons to a long-term contract? Nope, didn’t think so, and if you would, you need your brains examined. In scouting, whether or not you want to, you must judge a book by its cover, otherwise you’re risking costs in time (and money) that are likely to be high, even if/when you’re right.  

You Can’t Please Everyone

Joel Embiid is probably the happiest man on the planet right now, and can you blame him?? Just take a look.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes you Stronger

This is the most erroneous of the cliches on this list. I don’t know about you, but I would imagine that Joel’s injury-laden past hasn’t made him stronger at all. If it did, then he would be the world’s strongest man at this point, and the Superfreak, himself, Rick James would still be alive today. Prince and Bowie, too. RIP.

Time is Money

When was the last time it wasn’t? … But more to the point, what is the right ratio and when do you shake on a deal? It’s got existential connections and potential, but these NBA administrators have to seriously learn the right ways to value a minute, to value 48 minutes. And if Embiid shaking up some of the NBA’s talent-development/reward process is not quite enough, just consider his new contract in this light: Joel is getting paid $148 million, essentially, off a 31 game resume–in other words $148M for 787.4 minutes. If you feel like becoming even less comfortable, that alone breaks down into a future pay rate of $187,960.38 per minute.

Consider this, too, for record and for contrast: Andrew Wiggins, who might owe some gratitude to Embiid’s deal [1], will now be getting paid the same amount off of a 245 games sample size, 8,862 minute sample size. Is time really money? If it were, Embiid wouldn’t be getting paid the same amount of money as Wiggins. Availability should really be valued more than it is, because ya’know … Time is money (at least it certainly should be here).

Better Safe Than Sorry

There’s an element here that is at times contradictory (in and of itself) to the “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” cliche, but it’s applied differently–more to judgement than decision-making–and it seems to be one phrase we often deploy to discourage a subject (perhaps ourselves) from playing too fast and loose, from being too risky.

The most pertinent question is how it applies situationally, and, in this case, believe it or not, signing Embiid to an extension may actually fall under the “safe side” of the mantra. There are, of course, prime examples of why that may not be the case it seems (i.e., Parsons and Gallinari), but I’d argue that those guys never had the potential that Embiid has. A better comparison would be guys like Bradley Beal and Steph Curry.

Consider that both Curry and Beal have had to deal with their share of serious injury concerns (Steph’s ankles, Beal’s torn/broken whatever), and both were still given expensive (and questionable) contracts. In these cases, contrasting those of Parsons and Gallinari, both Curry and Beal have managed to stay pretty healthy while filling the potential that they’ve always had. Looking back, Steph making roughly 11 million per year for the last three seasons seems highly trivial now, even though it was a much riskier call at the time it was made. Last offseason Beal was given a 127 million max extension despite only having one season where he played more than 63 games (out of four years). Last season, he played in 77 games and averaged 6 ppg more than his previous season high.

All of this is to say that, despite only playing 31 games in one season, through the first three years of his career, the gamble on Embiid does actually seem worth its while. He should play in more than 31 games this year. Even if he doesn’t average better stats, the case could be made that it was still worthwhile. The opportunity is there for Embiid to be worth more than this contract is worth some day. Everything rests on the health and availability of The Process. Even still, the potential is too great to pass up on. I can already hear 76’ers fans saying it already:

“Damn you, Joel Embiid–defier of logic, defier of gravity, crown prince of Philadelphia.”


NOTES

  1. It’s unclear if and how much this is the case. A Wiggins extensions was discussed a few times over the first ¾ of the offseason, but it still feels a little crazy to assume Embiid’s new deal didn’t somehow motivate Minnesota’s front-office to action, even a little.

 

(More) NBA Preseason Chatter

By H. Hart & J. Patrick
10/15/2017

The NBA 2017-18 season begins tomorrow night, and we, here at The Informed Spectator, are beyond excited. Check out our general sports podcast, the MVP (streaming for free on our official SoundCloud). And for our fellow hoops junkies, we’ve started an NBA-specific podcast–another feature element on TIS’ growing podcast network. It’s here, and we’re already working on more material to help you stay informed!

In our second episode of The Dish (linked directly below), we take a look at the projected over/under for each team in the NBA’s Western Conference–aka the “Bestern” Conference.

The Dish #02

Additionally, as with the first episode, we made our own predictions for the number of wins we expect each team to accumulate through the season. Below is another at-a-glance look at some of the basic information around the O/Us (and projected final conference position) for each team side-by-side with our projections/predictions.

Again, we imagine this will be as fun to revisit at the All-Star Break as it likely will at the end of the season. [Note: In a couple cases, one or both of us chose the Over or Under more for argument’s sake than actual feeling, and these are denoted by a boldface type.]

Western Conference O/Us + Predictions

nba western conference

Team Last Season O/U (Rnk) JP HH
DAL 33-49 35.5 (12) Under Under
DEN 40-42 43.5 (6) Over Over
GSW 67-15 67.5 (1) Over Over
HOU 55-27 54.5 (2) Under Over
LAC 51-31 43.5 (7) Under Under
LAL 26-56 33.5 (14) Over Over
MEM 43-39 38.5 (10) Over Over
MIN 31-51 46.5 (5) Under Over
NOP 34-48 40.5 (9) Under Under
OKC 47-35 52.5 (4) Over Under
PHO 24-58 28.5 (15) Under Under
POR 41-41 40.5 (8) Over Over
SAC 32-50 29.0 (14) Over Over
SAS 61-21 53.5 (3) Under Under
UTH 51-31 38.5 (11) Over Over

 

NBA Preseason Chatter

By H. Hart & J. Patrick
10/11/2017

If you’ve been paying attention at all to sports, we’re at a point in the year where you really need multiple televisions and dependable high-speed internet connectivity to make sure you don’t miss something exciting or even incredible. MLB playoffs, NFL season heating up, the NHL season is getting started, and the NBA preseason is full-steam ahead. The NBA 2017-18 season begins next Tuesday, and we at The Informed Spectator are beyond excited about that. In fact, if you’re a fan of our general sports podcast, the MVP, we’ve been teasing our development of an NBA-specific podcast for TIS’ growing podcast network, and it’s finally here.

The Dish #01

In the first episode of The Dish (linked above), we take a look at the projected over/under for each team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Additionally, we made our own predictions for the number of wins we expect each team to accumulate through the season. Below is an at-a-glance look at some of the basic information around the O/Us for each team, and we have also recorded our projections/predictions for each.

We imagine this will be as fun to revisit at the All-Star Break as it likely will at the end of the season. [Note: In a couple cases, one or both of us chose the Over or Under more for argument’s sake than actual feeling, and these are denoted by a boldface type.]

Eastern Conference O/Us + Predictions

article-2015-nba-eastern-conference-team-by-team-preview-xl

Team Last Season O/U JP HH
ATL 43-39 27.5 Under Under
BOS 53-29 53.5 Over Over
BKN 20-62 26.5 Over Over
CHA 36-46 42.5 Over Over
CHI 41-41 22.5 Under Under
CLV 51-31 54.5 Under Under
DET 37-45 38.5 Under Under
IND 42-40 30.5 Over Over
MIA 41-41 42.5 Over Over
MIL 42-40 46.5 Under Under
NYK 31-51 30.5 Over Under
ORL 29-53 30.5 Over Over
PHI 28-54 40.5 Under Over
TOR 51-31 47.5 Over Under
WAS 49-33 48.5 Over Over

Irving Roulette

From Believe-land to Achieve-land to Leave-land?

July 24, 2017

By J.  Patrick & H. Hart

If someone handed you a six-shooter loaded with one bullet, would you take your chances? If you have a brain, the ultimate decision should be a “hard pass.”

kyriegonext

If you’ll be patient, walk with us through the following (unintentionally dark) situational metaphor:

You’re the GM or President of Operations in Cleveland. From out of the offseason chaos theories, Kyrie Irving decides to request a trade, and now you’re handed a gun. Here, Irving is the loaded ammunition and your Cavs (with Kyrie) are the gun. The empty chambers in the drum represent possible “Irving destinations.” And Kyrie has found his way into the “Cleveland chamber.”

There are an interesting number of positive odds that a good trade can be arranged, but there are several plausible possibilities that project results which range from being a serious playoff contender to merely treading water as a gasping-for-air team. As such, to return to the metaphor, there are a number of chances where the trigger gets pulled and the return doesn’t necessarily alter current, future Championship predictions. And this is (or should be) the real point of concern: there are not many REAL trade possibilities that end with a better Cleveland right now. And this is really where our metaphor breaks down because a Cleveland destination doesn’t require pulling the trigger.

Note, however, we still find the gun and Russian roulette metaphor to be a decent representation for the probability the team could trade Kyrie and end up as good a (if not a better) title contender than last season’s squad. After some analysis, though, your correspondents would argue that despite all available chances to succeed, there’s no reason to see if you deserve something you can already enjoy. It’s kind of a singular scenario in its strangeness: the idea that a team that is a strong betting-favorite to make the NBA Finals (again) might also accidentally need or choose to hit the reset button two months before the next season (on the back of this trade request and rumors that LeBron may be gone after next season) is a rare scenario, and that it could happen is mind-blowing.

To us, no matter the “latest strife by Lake Superior,” there are too few reasons to pull that trigger. Trading Kyrie will most likely result in two casualties: the current edition of the Cavs and whatever squad receives the “second-coming of Melo.” Really, the Cavs are the holders of the power to hurt themselves more than any team with which they’d be making a trade. The answer is to keep Kyrie by assuring him he’ll get better treatment (hard eyeroll) this season and retake the leadership role in Cleveland when King James abdicates that throne. Further, keep in mind that this is not just a convenience to shit on Kyrie, or to say that it should be assumed that any non-Cleveland team, should they be given the chance to add Kyrie, will end up dead in the water if they do it (though, depending on the recipient, they certainly might be).

Simply put: Kyrie Irving alone doesn’t make you a title contender, and if he’s the best player on your team, you might not be better than a hopeless 7th- or 8th-seed. Irving is a good scorer with a great handle. He’s definitely a top-ten point guard in the league (he arguably makes the top-five’s fifth slot, but that’s a hard argument to sell without pushback), but that’s where our analysis tells us that’s not enough to carry any team the way Irving has said is his desire. Kyrie isn’t bad by any means, but there is sufficient evidence to argue that he’s not a top-three point guard in the league, nor is he really a top-five point guard. Kyrie was amazing in the postseason this past year, and he is definitely one of the most exciting players to watch, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s one of the best in the game.

There are a lot of bubble guys fighting for that last spot based off the numbers, so here’s a quick way to clarify Kyrie’s production compared to his counterparts: take their points, assists, rebounds, steals, and blocks, and combine them. In fairness, this is a tool similar to the “42 club” that Bill Simmons created to help quantify a measure for greatest seasons ever–note that this is a very useful metric–but we’re not using that lens; we’re exploring a basic number for a player’s general, per-game production. Plus, adding in steals and blocks will give us a more complete picture:

Steph’s number is 38.4.
John Wall’s is 40.6.
Westbrook’s is 54.7.
Isaiah Thomas’s is 38.6.

Kyrie’s number is 35.7.

Consider also, the calculation for several other guards with similar (or better) numbers:

Damian Lillard- 39
Kyle Lowry- 36.0
Chris Paul- 34.4
Eric Bledsoe- 34.1
Kemba Walker- 34

Just based on that perspective and those numbers, it would be fair to say Kyrie is the 7th best point guard in the league. That’s up for debate, of course, and is really more of a matter of opinion on how to build a team–it’s also something to go further into within a piece more specific to that topic. However, what really makes Kyrie an interesting case is that the he may actually be a better basketball player than a point guard.

We know that sounds strange, but if you think about how a traditional point guard runs the court and helps to create offense. Kyrie doesn’t really fit that mold. Kyrie is a hooper. A big baller, if you will. He’s a bucket-getter. That’s what he’s known for. He’s a pure basketball player in the simplest form. As such, calling him a point guard is actually more of an injustice than an accurate evaluation. Like The Beard in Houston, Kyrie is more of a shooting guard with a great handle; he just runs the point because–like some leadoff or “clean-up” hitters–they can handle the part, but mostly that’s just where the coach placed them in the lineup (perhaps out of a lack of better alternatives).

That being said, if you’re looking to add Kyrie to your team, it would make sense that you need another ball handler just as capable, if not more capable, of setting up the offense. I’m sure Kyrie can do it, but we all know LeBron is the one that sets the table in the half court set, and 5.8 assists per game doesn’t make that any more comforting. You would need someone with a similar skillset to ensure that you get the best version of Kyrie, otherwise you’re getting a guy who would just bring the ball down the court and play iso-ball all day. We’ve seen that movie far too many times with incredibly gifted scorers like Carmelo in New York, Durant and Westbrook when they both played for the Thunder, any team with Joe Johnson on it, and countless others over the years. Charles Barkley refers to it as “Hero Ball,” and it can be just as infectious as the opposite of that–a selfless, passing-oriented attack, like the sort deployed by the Warriors (in a way that has strongly impressed upon the rest of the league and challenged fogies who complain about the NBA being just one all-star being selfish–no direct, intentional sleight toward the Kyrie situation).

Pause for a moment. Let’s look at a new hypothetical, to consider something we just pointed out: Now, you’re the President of Operations for any one of the possible Irving destinations. If you decide to bring Kyrie on, you’ll need to compliment his talents with someone who has skillsets that are similar to LeBron’s when it comes to ball handling and facilitating.

Think about that. You need someone similar to LeBron in order to maximize your team’s potential. Someone like, say, LeBron fucking James. Remind us: how many players in the league are frequently compared to LeBron?

And this also raises two important questions: a) Who has a “Bron-esque” player AND the need for a top-10 point guard that has been vocal about running the show?, and (really the more interesting question) b) What more could you want in a teammate than LeBron?

And this is the most alarming thing about this whole situation. It’s not that Kyrie wants to be an alpha-baller, or that he wants to play in a different situation; it’s the fact that he doesn’t want to play with LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world–the greatest basketball player of his/our generation (at least). He hasn’t come out and directly said he doesn’t want to play with LeBron, but he asked to be traded away from a situation in which he would play with LBJ. We don’t view it as an insult; Kyrie wants to be the guy–it’s a common trait within the greatest athletes–and as long as LeBron is in Cleveland, the city’s allegiance is to King James. In a nutshell, at least one take-away from all this is that Kyrie has decided he would throw winning out the window if it means his stats are better and more people recognize him. If winning isn’t your absolute highest concern, then you may be in it for the wrong reasons. Huge red flag. Spectator Scouting Report: too much potential sacrifice and liability.

Even if Kyrie were to be traded (and it seems inevitable now), there are very few teams in the league that not only have the assets to trade for him, but also have the pieces to make him want to go there in the first place. And you really open up a can of worms if you think about it from the Cavs’ perspective: Who do you target? Where do you send him? Do you ship him out west where you’ll only play him twice a year? What pieces does LeBron want? Will they be enough to keep the Cavs relevant in the title discussion? Do you trade K-Love next if you ship Kyrie out? Would it even matter anyways? There are so many questions to answer it’s frightening. The biggest one of all, really, is what do you do that suits LeBron and gives you the best chance of keeping him moving forward? There are many many signs that point to LeBron leaving anyway, but if you let Kyrie go, LBJ’s departure is almost inevitable. Your only hope would be to get back pieces that compliment him now, that would be there for the next few years, and would give them depth, flexibility, and most importantly, prospects to build on moving forward.

If it sounds like a really tough mold to fit, that’s because it probably is. So, for S’s & G’s, we’ve been discussing the options, so we’ll run through a list of potential suitors we believe might be able to find the right chemistry with Kyrie.

Before we get started, though, let’s make one thing clear: we know there’s a short list of teams that he wants to play for, but if it doesn’t make sense for him to go there, they don’t make the list. … Here, we’re talking about teams like San Antonio, where the potential interest or lust may remain unrequited due to a lack of reasonably valuable, trade-worthy assets. This is fantasy as close as we can walk the line between dream and reality:

The Kings

There have already been a few reports about the Kings being and not being interested in Irving. The Kings were the first team that came to mind when the news broke that Kyrie had requested a trade. It could make some sense, too, for both teams. The trade that would make sense for them would read something like ordering a breakfast sampler. Here’s how it could go down: some combination of 1st- and 2nd-round picks over the next three years (eggs), either De’Aaron Fox (pancakes) or George Hill (waffle); then you choose your meat: Hield (sausage), Willie Cauley Stein (bacon), or Skal Labissiere (country ham, we like ours super salty); then you might choose a young player/veteran combo in Harry Giles (hash browns), Frank Mason (grits, it’s all southern on this side), or Malachi Richardson (oatmeal or cream of wheat, for the yanks); and finally you’d select a type of bread to fill out the sampler: here, for Irving, you could probably get Zach Randolph (cheddar biscuit, again, we all southern over here), or Vince Carter (whole-grain toast), or Kosta Koufos (toasted english muffin, for a weird nod to Europe).

Going through the full order, the smart GM would “order” something like this: 2018 first rounder (top-5 protected), 2018 & 2019 second rounders, De’Aaron Fox, Skal Labissiere, Harry Giles, and Kosta Koufos.

We don’t expect it to happen, but we’d sure as hell enjoy seeing it. Sacramento is one of the few teams with the necessary need and enough assets to offer Cleveland for the exchange.

Phoenix Suns

Much like the Kings, it doesn’t make perfect sense for Kyrie to join the Suns. Also like the Kings, the Suns have a bunch of assets they could unload for the star point guard. It would start with a straight-up swap of Kyrie for Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe and LBJ would be a fun duo to watch, and it would also help the Cavs save some money. Then you would throw in Phoenix’s 1st-round pick this year, and maybe Miami’s 1st-rounder that the Suns’ own. The Cavs could also save even more money by shipping out Shumpert, too, and picking up T.J. Warren and Davon Reed as replacements. Throw in either Alex Len or Alan Williams and you’ve got yourself a deal!

Of course this won’t necessarily make the Suns a playoff team, so it wouldn’t really work out, but don’t tell us that Kyrie and Devin Booker wouldn’t be possibly the most exciting backcourt to watch in the league.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets might actually be a decent fit for Kyrie. They have two solid bigs who don’t demand the ball, and, if they were to add him, they would absolutely be in position to make the playoffs. A Kyrie-Millsap-Jokic “big three” doesn’t sound bad at all. In order for that to happen though, the Nugs would have to give up a good chunk of change. Two 1st-round picks are gone, and maybe a 2nd-rounder or two. Probably something along the lines of either Murray or Mudiay, with Murray being the preferred one, we sure. Then, the Cavs could start targeting more depth by looking at Jameer Nelson and maybe Wilson Chandler (they’d have to include one of their other big contracts in order to make cap space, though). You could probably also get away with snagging Will Barton or Malik Beasley too.

Of course none of this will be enough to entice LeBron to stay in Cleveland, but it would certainly give them something to build on in the future.

Minnesota Timberwolves

We don’t like the idea of Kyrie playing for Minny, but we’re not holding our breath either because it’s not clear that Thibs likes it either. We’ll humor Kyrie though, and play out one of his scenario’s. Obviously there would be a player swap of Kyrie for Jeff Teague. Then the T-wolves would have to throw in two or three 1st round picks because they don’t necessarily have a ton of assets to give up. If we were the Cavs, we would ask for their 2019 and 2021 1st-round picks considering their 2018 1st-round pick is top-14 protected, and a Kyrie-Wiggins-Butler-Dieng-Townes line up should not finish a lottery team. We’d also ask for Justin Patton, the Timberwolves first round selection this year.

This is definitely not what LeBron wants because it doesn’t help him win next year, and it doesn’t necessarily set the Cavs up for the future, so this doesn’t really work.

Miami Heat

This would be an interesting one. First, you’d want to trade Kyrie for Goran Dragic, who would work really well for the Cavs. He’s a great pick and roll guy who might actually inflate K-Love’s stats. Dragic is also an underrated scorer (he averaged 20 ppg last season). Next, you need to clear out some cap space and gain some young assets in the process. We’d also trade either Shumpert and/or Korver for Justise Winslow, if the Heat are willing to part with him. If not, then Rodney McGruder and Josh Richardson would be on our short-list. Throw in their 2018 2nd-rounder and their 2019 and 2020 1st-rounders, and this deal is starting to take shape.

This doesn’t necessarily give the Cavs more of an edge, but it definitely isn’t a huge fall out. In a perfect world, the Cavs would go after Kelly Olynyk, and have the most awkward tension in the frontcourt with him and Kevin Love. That would be amazing.

New York Knicks

The Cavs have two different paths they can go down: the first one involves going young, and essentially letting go of LeBron, because they won’t have the assets to help them win right now. The second path is a huge gamble, and it involves Melo.

If they go young, then Frank Ntilikina is the first piece of the trade. If you’re letting go of Kyrie, you might as well get a young PG prospect in the process. Next we’d get some insurance and go for Damyean Dotson, the team’s 2nd round pick this year. Mindaugas Kuzminskas would also be a nice piece to throw in. Then, if we’re the Cavs, we’d try and own the Knicks first round picks for the next two or three years and have them send two or three second rounders as well. This is New York we’re talking about, so anything is really in play as long as they remain as dysfunctional as they have been.

The Melo route opens up a whole other set of scenarios. If Melo goes to Cleveland, then they would almost certainly have to trade K-Love. If that were the case, then the Cavs might not be in that bad of shape moving forward. Between him and Kyrie they would almost certainly have four to six mid to high first round selections over the next two or three years.

There are obviously some other teams in play that aren’t mentioned here, like the Spurs (one of Kyrie’s preferred destinations). These are the teams that make the most sense though. While many of them are extremely exciting in theory, they don’t really make a whole lot of sense. Most of them end with the Cavs being in worse shape this year, losing LeBron after this upcoming season, and being in rebuild mode for the next five or six years, at the very least. This brings us back to the Russian Roulette analogy.

Making any of these trades is a gamble. And with the signing of Derrick Rose (1 yr, $2.1M) it seems almost inevitable that one will happen, you might actually be shooting yourself in the foot (or the head, in this case). Trading Kyrie almost automatically erases any shot at a title the Cavs have, which is the only reason LeBron is still in town. If Kyrie wants to be the man so bad, why doesn’t he just wait until LeBron leaves? Then, not only does he have his own team and some good supporting pieces already in place, but he’ll also have the city of Cleveland on his back. While Cleveland itself isn’t the first city a superstar athlete wants to be in, there’s no denying the Cleveland fanbase is amazing, particularly once they’ve accepted you as their guy.

It’s a weird catch-22 with the current tension. Letting Kyrie walk doesn’t sound like a fun proposition, but trading him away could make the Cavs situation go from bad to worse. Also, any team that takes him on is essentially putting their eggs in one basket. If Kyrie comes to town and fails to take a team on his back to the playoffs, then that franchise could ultimately be the one shooting themselves. And as a fantasy GM, we’d argue that taking on Kyrie might be too risky of a proposition for almost any team.

This leads to our final point: If getting rid of Kyrie doesn’t help LeBron or the Cavs out, if he can have his own team next year when LeBron presumably leaves, and if it isn’t worth the trouble for the team taking Kyrie on, then who wins this situation? It seems like no one really does, and when you play Russian Roulette, you don’t really win either. Just because you didn’t die doesn’t mean you gained anything either, except maybe a new appreciation for the life you have. Just because you have five chances to live and only one to die doesn’t mean you should take any chances in the first place. There are a number of better ways to remember how to feel alive, and any of those will nicely remind Irving remember where the “I” is in “team.” It’s gonna be a lot of therapy either way.