Saturday, October 19, 2013



Yo...I work a lot...and I keep almost dying, so yea...that coupled with my desire to listen to an album more than a few times resulted in this delay.

I can't even lie...when I first heard that Pusha T was going to release a solo album, I wasn't really excited for it.  Malice (I'm not calling you "No Malice" my dude) was always my favorite of the duo, so if one of them was to drop a solo album, I would have preferred it to be Malice.  Then I started to hear the work that Pusha was releasing with Kanye...he was spitting some dope shit.  "Runaway" was probably my favorite track off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and he had a number of very good feature verses on Cruel Summer and other rappers' albums.  The hype was slowly building, then the album got this point, I was wondering if his buzz would be completely gone before he dropped the album, when suddenly...the album got a set release date.  It got leaked and he was on The Combat Jack ShowJuan Epstein, and even Elliott Wilson's web series, so it was obvious that My Name Is My Name was on the way.

Now again, even though Pusha's guest verses were all pretty good, I wasn't too excited about this album...just from his solo work, I wasn't really into Wrath of Caine or Fear of God or Fear of God II, so I wasn't too sure what to expect from My Name is My with some trepidation I listened...

At least this wasn't his idea...

From the album cover to the beats, to some of the hooks, Kanye's influence on this album is evident.  He's probably the only artist who would do some shit like have the bar code of the damn album as the album cover.  When you listen to "King Push," you're very aware that Kanye's fingerprints will be on the record...Pusha T noted himself that he thought the beat was for a Kanye record.  That being said, despite my overall "meh" feeling on Yeezus, "King Push" is pretty damn good.  Starting the album with that set the expectations a little higher than I initially did.  When I heard the next track, "Numbers on the Boards," sample "A Million and One Questions/Rhyme No More," I suddenly felt like I had been underestimating Pusha T.  That's an excellent way to start your debut solo album...what followed was not so excellent.  While some tracks, like "Sweet Serenade" and "Let Me Love You" aren't necessarily bad, others like "Hold On" and "Pain" sound dated.  By the time the album picks back up with "Who I Am," you're in no mood for Big Sean's shenanigans and overall poor rapping.  At a sparse 12 tracks (about 46 minutes), Pusha encounters the dilemma of not having a lot of material AND having a chunk of said material be subpar.  The key to creating an album that's less than 50min long is to fill it with only good to great songs; there's no room on an album of that length for shit like "No Regrets" or "40 Acres".  Furthermore, there are a TON of features on this album.  Maybe it's a result of him being part of a duo for so long, but it felt like he didn't think he could carry a track on his own.  Half of the features weren't even rapper verses, but I mean...what happened to rappers being able to just rap and do a hook on their own?  Of course the worst part of that is the two tracks that he didn't have a feature on ARE TWO OF THE BEST TRACKS OF THE ALBUM.

That being said, there are some really great moments on My Name is My Name.  In the wake of "Control," Pusha gets an excellent verse from Kendrick Lamar on "Nosetalgia" (accompanied by a minimalist video that seems more like something from Odd Future than from the guy who did this) and the aforementioned "King Push" and "Numbers on the Boards" are excellence.  However, when you consider that Pusha T has been in the game for a decade as part of The Clipse, you can't really judge his debut the way you would an artist who is truly new onto the scene.  There's no clear radio grab here, which as someone with an established fan base (as well as someone who is under Kanye) Pusha can afford more so than a Kendrick or a Wale if he wants to reach a larger audience.  He also didn't have to worry about getting intricate production or focusing on the topics that mainstream rappers do.  The freedoms that his status afforded him allowed him to craft an album that is fairly simple in terms of production (with the possible exceptions of "Hold On" and "No Regrets") and lets his lyrical style shine through.

Similar to Kanye's Yeezus, the first couple of tracks do get you more excited for the rest of the album than you should be, considering the rest of the album, but also similar to Yeezus, there are a few exceptional tracks.  Overall, it's a slight disappointment for me, considering that all of the buzz that I had heard regarding the album was that it was near a classic...people that have been lambasting music all year long were telling me that this album was the Album of the Year, so when I got into it I was expecting to hear Album of the Year quality all over the album.  Despite the underachievement (I actually feel like Wolf might be the rap album of the year), this is a solid initial entry in the Pusha T catalog.  I don't know how long he'll be rapping solo, but this was a good start.

Rating: 3.5/5

Standouts: "Nosetalgia," "King Push," "Numbers on the Boards"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Draking Bad know what...I can't

You know...for all of the talk about Drake being manufactured and fake and effectively...created to blow up, I can't imagine that many people thought that he would reach this level of success.  What level of success, you ask?  In 2012, Drake made over $20 million, 6th among hip-hop artists, moguls, etc.  The 5 above him read as a Who's Who of contemporary hip-hop; beatmaker and product peddler Dr. Dre, shit-talker and label head Puff Daddy, label head and hip-hop king Jay-Z, beatmaker, artist, and overall madman Kanye West, and Lil Wayne, Drake's boss.  Say what you will about the hip-hop produced by those individuals, but they are all very successful.  For Drake to be among them, even for a year, is simply amazing for a Canadian child actor.  Regardless of how you think he came to prominence, he really is a hip-hop success story.  And if you've ever watched his interviews with people he chooses to open up to, he really does seem like a decent individual.  I have no hate for Drake.

That being said, clearly I am out of the loop here. I've heard that everyone from random Twitter users to Bomani Jones to fucking Big Ghostfase likes this album.  I'm hearing it's his best work ever...I'm hearing he isn't doing as much singing...I'm hearing the bars are harder...all of this stuff.  Look.  I liked So Far Gone. I loved that shit.  Going back, I liked Comeback Season and I liked a lot of his pre-Thank Me Later features.  However, even with all of that...Nothing Was The Same is more of the same Drake.  He blurs the line between rapper and R&B artist.  He cries about old relationships.  He cries about current relationships with family members.  He is a very good rapper when he raps, but that's ~55% of the time.  Like I said before, I like Drake as an artist.  He has released some very good work (somehow neither of his albums qualify as such in my opinion) and it's obvious that he's a very talented individual.  I've always said that his talent at utilizing soundscapes is close to unmatched; the only artists I can think of who are at his level at creating works with a consistent sound are Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky.  Kendrick uses 40 as well, so that's understandable, and Ross happens to be able to utilize a lot of different sounds and still sound at home.  A$AP Rocky really is the only other rapper I can think of whose sound is fairly uniform and who sounds good while utilizing it.

Now to me, Take Care is Drake's best studio album.  Is there a lot of singing?  Yes. Is there a lot of whining?  Yes.  However, the soundscape crafted by 40 and Drake is spectacular.  Maybe you don't like Nicki Minaj or Rick Ross, but...both "Make Me Proud" and "Lord Knows" are at the least good.  "Lord Knows" may have been the best beat of 2011, to be perfectly honest.  If you can't forgive "Practice," I can understand...that was an atrocity.  There are a number of pretty bad moments on Take Care.  Even with all of those...I still have it as his best official studio album.  Again, maybe I'm just missing something, but anyway, let's get to NTWS.

As I stated before, despite the title Nothing Was The Same, there is nothing dramatically different between Drake's product here and on prior albums.  There IS an improvement in the rapping...he really is a very good rapper, and there are new flows on this album that remind you that he IS still quite young, and he is dedicated to improving himself as a rapper, despite seeing himself as more than a rapper.  There are some pretty good moments on here; from a rapping standpoint, both "The Language" and "Too Much" are high points.  Even when he slips into his comfort zone of pseudo-R&B (which actually, now that I'm thinking about it, is actually closer to what I'd consider R&B than the shit that I can't even listen to from Trey Songz, Chris Brown, etc.), there are moments that don't disappoint; "Wu-Tang Forever" (despite the title) and "Hold On, We're Going Home" fall under this category.  However, one of the things I've always said about Drake is that he never releases "bad" music.  If you rated every song he's done from Thank Me Later onward from 1-10, you come out with A LOT more in the 6-8 range than you do the 1-3 range.  On this album, he puts out some poor shit...I never want to hear "305 to My City" or "Own It" again in my life.  Sonically, the album is a rehash of the sound that made Take Care so easy to listen to, but done less effectively.  Like Rick Ross, the sound that was fresh a couple of years ago has gotten fairly played by now, and from an artist who has spoken frequently on wanting to do things differently and constantly evolve, it's particularly disappointing.

For a 3rd album from someone who wants to be in the Kanye West conversation for best overall catalog, this is a subpar effort.  Compared to Kanye, Drake was already playing from behind; College Dropout and Late Registration are classics, Thank Me Later was a disappointing debut and Take Care was a solid sophomore effort.  He falls further behind on album 3, as Graduation, despite my misgivings, is a pretty good album and better than Nothing Was The Same.  The sad thing is that Drake really is talented.  Even though he can't sing, he does recognize how to harmonize, he's a very good rapper, and the combination of he and 40 really does work excellently in general.  However, even with all of that in his corner, this is the second disappointing album that he's produced out of 3 attempts.  That's not a good success rate, especially not for someone with his resources and skill set.  I listened to an interview recently during which he basically said that Kendrick, despite putting out an excellent debut album, would have to make multiple great albums to be considered a great artist.  In my opinion, Drake has yet to craft an album as good as good kid, m.A.A.d city, so what does that mean for his aspirations?

Rating: 3/5

Standouts: "Wu-Tang Forever," "Hold On, We're Going Home," Too Much"

Random note: Drake also said he's proud of his work with Jay-Z...I really hope Jay-Z isn't proud of his work with Drake.  Two of the more talented artists today continuously put out bullshit.  Nothing they've done together touches any of the high points of Jay/Kanye or even Drake/Wayne.  Stop working together if you're gonna drop bullshit.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Look at this nigga Gunplay smfh

I won't lie, I've been pretty disenchanted with the rap game's been difficult to get in a zone to listen to and review music on a consistent basis.  Whereas last year had an abundance of great work, this year has felt...bland, routine, and repetitive.  The Jay album was decent to listen to, but not anything really worth writing about...just more high class raps from a man who seems increasingly bored with rap, despite his interest in it.  The Kanye album was pretty interesting, but between all of the Kim Kardashian news and his fights with the paparazzi, I was honestly almost Kanye'd out.  I listened to it, but it had too many throwaway tracks for a 10 track album IMO.  Long.Live.A$AP. was released so close to the end of 2012 that I basically treated it like a 2012 album, and I dunno...even though while thinking about the albums of this year I remembered some albums that I liked (Tyler's Wolf, Earl's Doris, and Freddie Gibbs' ESGN came to mind), I just haven't really felt inspired to write.

That being said, one of the few rappers that I'll be here for for at least another year is Rick Ross.  Despite his misstep last year with God Forgives, I Don't, his run from Deeper Than Rap to Rich Forever put him in my top 5 contemporary rap artists.  He simply put out a lot of quality work, as did the artists on his Maybach Music label.  While this didn't translate to high quality studio albums (Dreams and Nightmares was a disappointment, as were Ambition and The Gifted, even though I didn't mind the latter as much), my hope has always been that each artist would find a way to reconcile his personal style with the production that you gain access to through working with Rick Ross.

One of the solid points of the Maybach Music run has been the Self Made compilation series.  Overall, they have been very enjoyable, even if Vol 2 was fairly redundant in terms of subject matter and beat selection.  Given how much I liked Vol 1 and Vol 2, along with my respect for Ross as an artist and an exec, it only made sense that I'd give my thoughts on the latest installment, Self Made Vol. 3.

What you did there...I see it.

In an interview with Vibe, Wale noted that while "my album is my brainchild, [but] Self Made is Ross' brainchild," and this is apparent throughout the album.  The airy sounds from The Gifted are largely absent from the album, and the beginning of the album has that Lex Luger-popularized sound along with subjects typical of a Ross project; cars, drug dealing, and a hood lifestyle.  That being said, the tried-and-true method, while slightly played at this point, is still listenable.  "Levels" has been getting play in the streets for a while, and "Stack on My Belt" is basically "600 Benz," which was a solid track.  I could do without the Boosie feature (#KeepBoosie), but "The Plug" was a pleasant surprise, as was the intro by Lil' Snupe, the recently slain 18 year old rapper who was signed to Meek Mill.

While Meek pretty much shares the sound of Ross' street records, there are moments where the album strays into territory occupied by the label's other rappers; "Black Grammys" sounds like it's straight off The Gifted, and "Coupes & Roses" reminded me why I was excited for a Stalley album release.  The obligatory "let's let Omarion get his sangin on" tracks are here, and again, they aren't bad.  Despite having a roster full of rappers, Vol. 3 still enlists the efforts of others, with some surprise features...I'm not sure if anyone was expecting Lupe to be on the album, Hit-Boy makes another appearance, and Fabolous drops some...forgettable bars.  On a bright note though, we get another (increasingly popular) Ric Flair sample on "Bout That Life"...I don't think I'll ever tire of those.

One of the good qualities about Ross is that while he's the rapper who dropped "B.M.F." and "MC Hammer," on the same album he dropped "Aston Martin Music" and "Tears of Joy"; he's got a diverse soundscape.  On Self Made Vol. 3, this works to his favor as he can appear on "Poor Decisions" with Wale and Lupe, "The Great Americans" with Gunplay and Rockie Fresh, and "Stack on My Belt" without any of the appearances coming across as awkward.  Vol. 3 as a whole follows this, despite one of my complaints about it; the transition to the Omarion tracks is abrupt.  The transition out of the tracks jumps directly into the first Rockie Fresh track, which, while dope, isn't what you're ready to listen to after Omarion.  For someone whose string of high quality work made a point of having great sequencing, that was a surprising mistake, but in general, the album flows well.

Overall, the album is a fairly solid work, but nothing too spectacular.  Some of the tracks are retreads of earlier work; "Stack on My Belt" is particularly bad in that regard.  The bangers on here don't match up with "Ima Boss" or "Tupac Back," but I can see "Stack on My Belt" getting some street play.  The quality tracks on here are actually pretty good, even if there aren't really that many of them.  The production is solid, the raps aren't bad, and none of the features step on each other's toes.  All things considered, there are a LOT of rappers on this album (over 10), but Ross has a knack for tying all of these voices together.  When gathering this many rappers for one project, that may be all that one can ask for.

Random other note...the extended "Maybach Music" drop is fucking wack.  Definitely don't need that, the original was that cooked crack.

Rating: 3.5/5

Standouts: "Black Grammys," "The Great Americans," "The Plug"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Future



Nah, this isn't about Future hahaha...I'm not on that wave.  I DO, however, routinely listen to young/new rappers.  I'm always impressed by the level of talent of some of these younger rappers, and it's great to know that rap isn't necessarily in bad hands.  I get put on by random people (the homie Big Ghostfase put me on to Kembe X for example) or random people just find me.  This guy falls in the latter category.  Big Bad Baragon is a rapper/producer from Newburgh, NY.  You might know him from his appearance on BET's Freestyle Friday last year, but if you're like me and don't watch didn't.  After checking out some of his shit and talking to dude though, I decided to give his new project a listen.

Just from the cover, you can tell the guy has some hip-hop pedigree. Those are some CLASSICS.  I'm already fucking hyped!

1. Intro - Typical intro shit...but yo...the production...I'm a little more hyped.

2. Papi Balboa - Yooooooooo the Godfrey-sounding nigga had me rolling!  Baragon uses a couple of flows on this one, and the wordplay is nice.  I fucks with it!  He takes jabs at himself regarding the Freestyle Friday loss, and the nerd shout-out via the DBZ reference is greatly appreciated.  If the rest of the tape is like this, I'm going to be bumping this for quite a while.  - 4.5/5

3. Call from YL - Interlude shit

4. I Wanna Be a Rapper - Some old-school sounding production here...kinda puts me in the mind of some DOOM shit to be honest.  This one's got some social commentary...kinda surprising to hear from someone so young, but he's quite polished with it.  The hook is kinda meh, but overall, I fucks with it - 3.5/5

5. Angie - This kinda sounds like something you'd hear Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) rap to.  I fuck with the backpack vibe, and it's fucking rare to find a young/new rapper who can do romantic tracks.  Baragon shows off his flexibility here; he's already done a typical rapper shit track, a socially conscious rapper, and a love track, and that's just the first 3 rap tracks.  He keeps it short and to the point..."Angie, will you marry me?" - 4/5

6. Romeo and Juliet - As you can tell from the title, another romantic probably recognize the snare (and if you don't....ugh).  This really sounds like something you'd hear on an album rather than a mixtape...I've liked the production thus far, but this one really sounds a slight cut above the rest in terms of quality.  I like this one, even if I wanted to hear...nvm.  - 3.5/5

7. Call from Madi - Another interlude...this one is fucking hilarious hahahaha "What're you up to?" "Oh you know, watching porn"...with the girl watching porn lol

8. So Good - This sounds a little like something you'd hear Ghostface use.  Going to be honest, I didn't look at the complete title of the mixtape, so I was surprised to hear another love track...for the most part, I think that that's a bad look (look at Game's R.E.D. Album or Wale's Ambition to see examples of this done poorly).  Putting it in the middle though, and splitting it up with interludes makes it so you don't get love overload, and you can appreciate each track.  Still a little too much romance for a cynic like me, but this bumps. - 3.5/5

9. Deep Cover (845-Mix) - BRUH.  Alright, this shit right here, nigga?!  This is why I listen to rap, man. Baragon does this track justice with some slick words here - "Think of the penalties and all the men'll be dead or in penitentiaries by that you're 23!" Dog.  Man, I love this one. I was sitting at work getting mad work done with this on repeat without even realizing I was being so damn productive.  - 5/5

10. Pink Matter Interlude (Ft. Dreadful Controversy) - Hahaha, he really started this track with a "no homo." Terrible. I forgot how dope the instrumental to "Pink Matter" was though.  I'm glad this didn't turn into another ode though, haha...this shit is funny as hell though.

11. 8:45 in Newburgh (Ft. Don Phenom as Fee Diddy) - No one can say that Baragon disgraces the instrumentals he selects. This shit is fire!  I'm not sure who exactly he's railing at here, but yo..."What kinda lyricist is worried about appearances?  Well it's clear these niggas here cuz they was weird in the gutter with brothers who suffer from mothers who handed them everything that they wanted cuz their daddies done abandoned them!  Now they wear girls' pants, I understand; when their father left the fam, he took the chance to be a man from them!"  YO. - 5/5

12. Call from Vicki - I'm kinda mad this beat wasn't used for a rap...but this interlude is also entertaining

13. Chill With Me (Ft. Renee Francisco) - Doesn't this kinda sound like some Comeback Season Drake shit?  Dope.  Another love track, but goddamn, another track that belongs on a damn album. Ayo when the album coming out?  Nah really, but when the album coming out? - 4/5

14. B.O.N.G. (Ft. Jean Paul Viteri) - Yooooo Jean Paul tried to eat Baragon on this one, I wouldn't be pleased hahaha.  That aside, another great beat selection!  I haven't listened to O.P.P. in a minute.  The FUNNY shit is raps about bagging other niggas' girls, but then basically his entire crew doesn't do it, hahahaha...btw this is clever as fuck - "I eat if she's bad...I call it junk food" - 4.5/5

15. Outro (Ft. Jacob Kondrath) - Basically an outro, but there are a couple more tracks

16. Hustle (Ft. NaCir Jahmill) - Another one with some social commentary, you've probably heard something similar to this, but again, the production is pretty damn good.  Not gonna lie though, Ace Hood basically killed the phrase "Hustle Hard" so I don't care to hear that ever again - 3/5

17. Gotta Win (Ft. Kool G. Rap) - The surprise of the tape!  Kool G Rap!  Baragon holds his own with a fucking legend in Kool G, which is amazing in and of itself.  Going further, by the end of this track, you don't think of this as a Kool G. Rap track...which the vast majority of younger rappers definitely couldn't do.  Nice little extended phone line at the end as well.  Nice way to end the tape. - 4/5

Overall, I really like this tape...I've been listening to it on repeat since I received it, and I find something new every time I listen to it.  It's always nice to hear good new rappers, and I'm slightly encouraged by the fact that: A. He's from New York, and B. He's already able to get Kool G. on a track.  I'm looking forward to another (less romance-focused) tape.  Lots of entertainment value, lots of replay value, some good production, and plenty of BARS.

Rating: 4/5

Standout tracks: "Deep Cover," "Papi Balboa," "B.O.N.G."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Brick Wall? Part 1


Pretend I haven't gone two months without a blog post.  Pretend that I'm not a lazy ain't shit nigga who's been busy with work, gym, and thirsting on Twitter. Can't do that?  Shit.  Anyway, I've been watching a lot of basketball lately, yet still missing a bunch of games.  I refuse to watch Wizards games as they occur due to my superstitions (shut up), so I end up watching them after the fact.  This just in: John Wall's on a tear.  How much of a tear?  In the last 9 games, Wall is averaging 25.0ppg/9.3apg/4.9rpg/2.0spg on 56/64/83 splits. YO.  He's hit as many 3s during this stretch as he did all season last year, which brings me to my first point of this post:  Can you really judge someone's shooting ability based on .6 shots a game?

I didn't watch every 3-pt shot Wall tossed up last year, but with such a low frequency, I'd imagine there were some that were taken at the end of the shot clock, some taken at the end of quarters, and maybe even one that was taken in an attempt to draw a foul.  His first season gives us much more useful numbers IMO, and even though they're still shit (29.6% from 3...), they're much better than the 7.1% he shot last year. Additionally, the fact that even during his rookie year he shot less than two 3-pt field goals a game shows that he knows it's a bad shot for him; this isn't Monta Ellis.  I of course agree that for Wall to be a superstar, he will have to shore up his jumpshot; part of why Rondo isn't a superstar is the lack of a reliable jumper. One of the ways that Irving > Wall is his VERY reliable jumpshot, and if Wall wants to make that jump to "elite PG" status, that's just one step he'll have to take.

That being said, Wall has shown considerable improvement from last year to this year, ESPECIALLY when you consider he missed the first 33 games of the season due to a knee injury (which I never hear any Wall detractors bring up).  How much improvement?  Well in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, here are Wall's jump shot percentages:

From 10 to < 16ft - 33.7%
From 16 to < 3pt - 30.2% (He took more shots here than anywhere else but the rim, which is ridiculous)
From 3pt - 7.1%

Overall, he was 28.5% on jumpers

Wall's jumper's spirit partner

ABSOLUTELY DREADFUL all around. Not only did he shoot terribly from 3 (despite taking few shots), he took almost as many shots from the worst location (16ft to < 3pt) as he did from every location excluding the rim combined.  TERRIBLE.  Now for the 2012-2013 season:

From 10 to < 16ft - 36.7%
From 16 to < 3pt - 40.1%
From 3pt - 31.0%

Overall he is 38.9% on jumpers

Still not stellar numbers, but a jump of over 10%. This brings him closer to company such as Stephen Curry (43.5% on jumpers), Kyrie Irving (43.3%), and Chris Paul (44.1%), all point guards who are acknowledged as good shooters.  He's shooting better than Ty Lawson (36.5%), Deron Williams (38.3%), and Jrue Holiday (38.7%). Again, not excellent, but great improvement for someone who was LAUGHABLE as a shooter last year.  He's still taking too many long 2s, but if he can continue to improve from that range, it won't be a terrible shot.

So basically: YES, John Wall had a shitty shooting year last year, but so did a lot of players during that lockout season. He also was able to play every game and was on an absolutely terrible Wizards squad. I'm cool with how he did last year, especially since this year shows he's made an effort to improve his jumpshot.

Another oft-brought up aspect of Wall's game is his susceptibility to turnovers.  I will always acknowledge that Wall has a "pace" problem.  He's only really got one speed, and his desire to make the flashy play often results in turnovers (he's averaged 3.7/game over his career).  That being said, outside of Chris Paul, let's look the turnover rate this season for ball-dominant, high assist percentage point guards (including Wall)

John Wall - 8.7 assists/36min; 44.7 AST%; 3.9 TO/36min; 18.0 TO%
Rajon Rondo - 10.6 assists/36min; 50.0 AST%; 3.7 TO/36min; 22.6 TO%
Greivis Vasquez - 9.7 assists/36min; 45.8 AST%; 3.3 TO/36min; 18.6 TO%
Tony Parker - 8.2 assists/36min; 40.4 AST%; 2.8 TO/36min; 12.6 TO%
Ricky Rubio - 8.9 assists/36min; 38.8 AST%; 3.7 TO/36min; 22.4 TO%
Russell Westbrook - 7.7 assists/36min; 38.3 AST%; 3.5 TO/36min; 13.4 TO%
Jrue Holiday - 8.0 assists/36min; 38.6 AST%; 3.6 TO/36min; 17.4 TO%

Now I didn't put Kyrie Irving here because his 31.2 AST% is lower than the 38% cutoff that I had, but you can see that Wall's turnover numbers are about average for point guards that assist at such a high rate.  Wall's AST% is higher than all of these point guards outside of Vasquez and Rondo, and his TO% is actually LOWER than all of these outside of Westbrook, Holiday, and Parker.  He's in pretty good company as far as that goes.  AGAIN, I'd be the first person to concede that he has to work on his pace and his turnovers.  It isn't some ridiculously terrible thing though.

I've also heard some people discussing Wall as a potential bust...which is ridiculous to me.  If not for Blake Griffin and a ridiculous 20/10 rookie year, Wall is likely the ROY. Last year he put up comparable numbers to his rookie year, despite a hectic lockout season.  Right now, Wall is averaging 16.8ppg/7.6apg/1.4spg.  Taking the lowest common denominator of his points, assists, and steals per 36min, the only players to average 15.6/7.9/1.4 per 36min for their first 3 seasons are Phil Ford (who completely fell off after his 3rd season partially due to injury), Tim Hardaway (a multiple All-Star), Andre Miller (another All-Star), and...John Wall.  If you make the criteria 16/8/1.4 per game, the only players with multiple seasons within their first 3 years are Damon Stoudamire, Kenny Anderson, Hardaway, CP3, Magic, Pooh Richardson (another flame-out), and John Wall.  Those are nice co-residents, and that's even acknowledging that he hasn't improved quite as much as some of his fans and detractors have hoped.  Numbers that less than 10 players have replicated can't be bust-worthy, can they?  I wouldn't say he's a top 10 point guard as of yet (partially due to an abundance of point guard talent), but he's far from trash.  His affect on the Wizards has been quite palpable; without him, they were 5-28...with him (even with injuries to other players), they're 21-16.  His return has improved the play of Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal, and helped bring their defense to top-10 status.  While their offense is still pretty bad, it's not as if they have a multitude of offensive weapons.

I was listening to Blake Griffin on The Champs Podcast by Neal Brennan (check that out btw) and he mentioned that he was getting killed during his second season for not having a complete game (including a jumper, true post moves, etc.).  I can see how a player like Blake (or John Wall) would get irritated by the constant nitpicking.  In Blake, you had a player who averaged 20/10 for his first two seasons in a league with very few 20/10 guys period.  In Wall you have a player averaging 16/8, which are pretty good numbers for a  young point god.  Yes, Blake lacked (lacks?) a reliable jumper and is a bad free throw shooter.  Yes, Wall could stand to improve his jumpshot and pace.  Neither of those deficiencies make either #1 pick a freaking bust.  Blake was lucky enough to get a bona fide superstar as a teammate in Chris Paul.  Wall was flanked by post-PED Rashard Lewis, JaVale McGee, Swaggy P, and Andray Blatche.  Let's not act like he had some great teammates.  Now that he has quality locker-room guys (and indeed a bit of talent), the Wizards have shown marked improvement.  In my Eastern Conference preview, I predicted that the Wizards could get the 8th spot if they weren't...the Wizards.  The Wall injury at the beginning of the season pretty much confirmed that they're the Wizards, but since Wall's return, they've been an above-.500 team. The current 8 seed in the East is below can do the math.

So basically, YES, Wall has any other NBA player.  He's only 22 years old, and still has time to improve further.  I'm not worried about Wall being a bust, and when you take into account his athletic abilities, it's not a stretch for him to jump into the top-10 PGs next year (for the record, my top-10 right now in no order is CP3, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, Kyrie Irving, Mike Conley, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo, and Derrick Rose...the last two are obviously assuming they're at least 75% of their prime selves).  Part 2 will be about the John Wall/Max contract extension discussion.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


We'll never see this again :-/

Daily Japanese lesson: Kotaeru = to answer

I was born in Washington, D.C. and spent most of the early part of my life in nearby Capitol Heights, MD.  Before I moved to Greenbelt and started watching the University of Maryland, I was a big Georgetown fan...Allen Iverson and Victor Page were household names.  Needless to say, I was a HUGE Allen Iverson fan throughout his Georgetown years, and well into his years as a Philadelphia 76er.  If you rooted for the underdog or the street guy or the little guy, you rooted for Allen Iverson.  Generously listed at 6'0" tall, he played with a fire and heart that was close to unmatched.  I will forever remember this graphic being displayed in the 2001 NBA Finals

You could say whatever you wanted about him not being a team player or being a heistbox or whatever, but dude was committed to playing and sacrificing his body for his team.

No matter what you think of Allen Iverson as a person or a player, there is no denying his influence on the game.  From the beginning of his career he was an impact player, winning Rookie of the Year honors while averaging 23.5/7.5/2.1 and playing 40(!)min a night.  We all remember the infamous crossover on Michael Jordan...

In the 4 years after Jordan's 2nd retirement, Allen Iverson led the league in scoring average 3 times.  In the 2000-2001 season he led the 76ers to the NBA Finals, earning MVP honors and leaving us with another classic

For all of the on-court heroics and spectacular moments that AI gave us though, what he's perhaps best remembered for is...

Not simply the CLASSIC "practice" rant, but everything that went along with it (I'm curious if he realized that the laughter during the interview was more at him than at what he was saying)...some fans are too young to remember the time in which Iverson played, but if you wanted to point at anything that you felt was "wrong" with the league, Iverson was the poster child.  Tattoos?  Check.  Durag?  Check.  Cornrows?  Check.  The cocked fitted hat?  Check.  White tees and baggy jeans?  Check.  A rap album littered with "nigga" and "faggot"?  Check. Iverson was everything that Michael Jordan's clean-shaven image wasn't.  You could see his influence on other players in the NBA as well, and his "jack it up" mentality definitely contributed to a number of children growing up playing basketball "the wrong way."  As David Stern cracked down on the league (dress codes, etc.) you could see that the NBA was no longer a place that welcomed the likes of Allen Iverson.  Indeed, as he said in the below interview, he effectively ended up leaving (or being kicked out) of the NBA rather than change who he was as a person

Today I heard a story about the Dallas Mavericks making AI an offer to join their D-League team...AI predictably refused, basically saying it wasn't for him.  This is right in line with his refusal to be a bench guy, commenting that an MVP doesn't come off the bench.  For the most part, this is true.  Since I really started watching the NBA, the MVPs were...

Michael Jordan (a starter for the vast majority of his career)
Charles Barkley (a starter even in his twilight)
Hakeem Olajuwon (a starter for most of his career)
David Robinson (a starter for all but 2 games of his career)
Karl Malone (a starter for every post-rookie season game)
Shaquille O'Neal (a starter for the vast majority of his career)

And the current guys like Nash, Dirk, LeBron, Rose, Kobe, etc. are all still starting whenever they aren't injured.  When you add the fact that AI won 4 scoring titles, it's pretty understandable that 1. He wouldn't want to come off the bench, and 2. He wouldn't want to play in the D-League at all.  This is the #1 overall pick of the same 1996 NBA Draft that spawned Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash.  His career averages are 26.7/6.2/2.2.  He's got the 2nd-highest career playoff ppg at 29.7ppg.  He's won 4 scoring titles.  Led the league in steals 3 times.  Led the league in minutes per game 7 times, and averaged 41mpg.  Ray is coming off the bench, but we saw the uproar that it caused when he was asked to come off the bench during his 16th season for Avery Bradley, and I'm sure that even now he struggles with coming off the bench, even if it's for Dwyane Wade.  As long as Kobe is getting 38min a night and starting in the NBA, there's no way you can really expect AI to think he should be in the D-League.

That being said, there's a reason why Kobe has scored over 30,000 points and AI capped out at a little over 24,000, despite having a higher per game average.  Ironically, a major part of that is practice.  Kobe practices...a lot.  He spends enormous amounts of time improving and perfecting his game, as well as making sacrifices to stay in top shape.  This is why he's still leading the Lakers, despite being 17 seasons in (plus 7 Finals trips).  Allen Iverson, for all of his heart and determination, never developed a reliable jumpshot, couldn't stay healthy most seasons, and is undersized while being slower than he was in his prime.  Without any video of Allen Iverson going up against NBA competition in 2013, it's unlikely that a team would spring even for a 10-day contract.  Most of the older players in the league, whether it's Rasheed or Kurt Thomas or Jerry Stackhouse have an advantage over AI: size.  Size will always be wanted, as seen by the Heat signing Juwan Howard last year and Birdman this season.  If AI had a serviceable 3 ball like Stackhouse or even just had an abundance of energy and maybe 85% of his old speed, like a Nate Robinson, he might be able to convince a team to take a chance on him.  As it stands now, though, he's an old, undersized, temperamental player with 3 years of NBA rust on him.  The odds just aren't that high for him to be allowed to jump back in the NBA.

Which brings me to an Allen Iverson fan, I think that he's got to do whatever it takes to get back in the league and have a proper send-off.  When he showed up in Philly during last year's playoffs, amid speculation about his finances, that crowd showed him a TON of love...Philly is the type of city that respects someone like Allen Iverson.  I think most fans of that era would love to see AI in a 76ers uniform (even though they've got plenty of guards in Holiday, Turner, Young, Wright, Richardson, etc.), but what about Allen Iverson joining the Atlanta Hawks?  They just lost Lou Williams and I'm pretty sure Lou and AI are cool with each other, maybe Atlanta takes a chance on AI as a backup guard.  At the end of the day though, unless AI can prove that he's not merely a shadow of himself (which for all we know, maybe he's having a Tim Duncan/Kobe Bryant revitalization) he won't be getting any starting nods in a league with an abundance of talented guards.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Middle of the Season

Title was a Meek reference...

Sup?  I've been slacking is my custom.  It's a combination of year-end/year-beginning/month-end work bullshit, getting back in the gym after getting bored with Insanity, and spending time with various people.  Just a lot of stuff.  I've been watching a lot of basketball though (and taking an almost perverse joy in watching the Lakers lose in an embarrassing manner), so I DO have some mid-season thoughts.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 NBA All-Star starters

NBA All-Star 2013

My first thought is I'm pissed that I can't go down to Houston for the game due to work.  My second thought is that I'm not terribly upset with the choices.  That being said, I am annoyed at a couple of things.

Eastern Conference

Let's start with the good here. LeBron, Anthony, and Wade have all been very good this year; the former 2 are MVP candidates, and for all of the talk about Wade declining, he's still producing 20.8/4.7/4.5 on a TS% of 57.8 (his PER is 23.8, above Kobe's).  Rumors of Wade's demise are greatly exaggerated, and in a conference where the best teams have mostly had sub-par guard play, it makes sense that he's starting.  It's hard because we expect so much more from Wade, but he's probably still the best SG in the league.

Now for the bad.  Kevin Garnett is great.  People forget that part of the reason Kobe was only the best player in the league for a couple of years is that KG was the best player in the league for a couple of years.  Even now, in his 18th season, KG is arguably the best defender on his team.  If Garnett doesn't play well, the Celtics will not get far in the playoffs, period.  That being said, 14.7/7.2 are not All-Star starters numbers, period.  I was pissed at Roy Hibbert getting an All-Star spot last year, and Garnett doesn't get an exception for his past glory.  A number of bigs were better qualified, including...


Chris Bosh is averaging a modest 17.3/7.2/1.4, but on an excellent TS% of 60.6.  Outside of LeBron, he's been the most consistent Heat player this year, and he's arguably had to make the most sacrifices/changes in this Big 3 experiment.  Dude can still ball, as Denver learned in the 3rd game of the season.  We underrate him, but if he was leading a team, he'd be a 20/10 guy easily.  The coaches rectified this mistake by voting him in as a reserve.

Fucking lol'd.

Yup, Mr. Spray Paint-Hair is actually playing pretty well this year, averaging 16.1/10.0 while helping anchor a Bulls team still without their best player, former MVP Derrick Rose.  While I predicted Chicago would get the 5th spot this year, there were others who felt they wouldn't be able to stay in the playoff hunt without Rose.  They currently lead their division and are a few games out of 1st place in the East.  Boozer is a huge part of this, as is...


Joakim is one of those players whose numbers don't tell the entire story.  12.2/11.0/2.1 are pretty good numbers for a center these days, but the fact that he plays 38min a night (when he had been playing ~30min a night before this season) is testament to how hard Coach Thibodeau is riding Noah.  He leads the defense, period.  His effort is never in question, and the team largely follows his example.  Like Bosh, Noah was voted in as a reserve by the coaches. 

I'm speechless.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is still in pretty good form this season, averaging 12.1/10.9/1.1 while sporting a sizzling TS% of 69.7 (which is DOWN from last year!).  The best pick-and-roll finisher in the league today is still a huge part of what the Knicks do; he's arguably an anchor for the Knicks both offensively and defensively.  For those of us who grew up watching basketball in the 90s, numbers like 12/11 aren't that impressive; we saw the Ewings, Robinsons, Shaqs, Hakeems, etc., not to mention the plethora of power forwards.  However, at some point we have to get over the fact that bigs today can't hold a candle to those of the past, and from there appreciate what we do have these days.  Tyson Chandler is a perfect example of what a team wants from their center today, and I'm really surprised that Knicks fans didn't vote him in; luckily the coaches had more sense than the fans.

I'm astonished as well, Brook.

The biggest snub on the East, IMO, is Brook Lopez.  His presence on the Nets fits his frame; you could argue his absence was the largest factor in Avery Johnson's firing.  I've heard some people say that the lack of Nets selected for the All-Star team was a show of solidarity for Avery,'re going to punish Brook for that?  In case you were wondering, Brook's PER is 4th in the league, only know, 3 MVP candidates (LeBron, Durant, and CP3).  His numbers are impressive, especially considering he only plays 29min a night (18.6/7.4/2.1), and the team is 24-11 with him, 2-5 without him.  His rebounding could use work, but a PER of 25.4 is ridiculous. Melo is having an MVP-candidate season and his PER is lower than Brook's.  A travesty, especially considering the effort the Nets and the NBA have made to make the Brooklyn Nets the new hotness.  Embarrassing.

Then there's the selection of Rajon Rondo.  Rondo is a very good example of why we need to watch the games instead of simply looking at stats.  His numbers are good; 13.7/11.1/1.9 are very solid...but when you watch the games, you see he just doesn't take over games the way you want your best player to.  His assist total is inflated by unnecessary passes when he has easy looks at the basket, he avoids contact so he doesn't get to the foul line, and while his mid-range game is better than it has ever been, it's still not something that teams are threatened by.  Additionally, his team isn't exactly overperforming; despite picking up Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, and despite Paul Pierce's recent performance, the Celtics were hovering around the .500 mark when voting finished.  If we're going to ignore a team's record when considering who is an All-Star, then I can think of a number of perimeter players equally qualified to be on the team.


Jrue Holiday has done his best with a team missing arguably arguably the 2nd-best center in the NBA when healthy.  His numbers are great, 19.0/9.0/1.4 would be appreciated on any team.  He's the lead guy on a team just trying to stay afloat until their star big returns, and his team's record really isn't that terrible when you consider they also lost two pretty big parts of last year's team.  Coaches agreed with this and voted him in as a reserve.

Yup, you're down 10 again.

I was not a Kyrie believer.  When he was drafted by Cleveland as the #1 pick after only playing 11 college games, I thought that Cleveland had gone crazy.  That being said, I'm a fucking idiot. Yes, Cleveland is 12-32, tied for the most losses this season...but Kyrie is far from being the problem.  He's been spectacular, averaging 24.0/5.6/1.8 on 47/40/85 splits.  I used to think John Wall was a better player, but Irving is such an outstanding shooter (while Wall is a pretty poor one) that despite Wall's athleticism, I have to give it to Kyrie.  In my opinion, if we were going to ignore records, then Kyrie should have had the starting spot at PG for the East.  Again, coaches agreed that he should be on the All-Star team, and they voted him in.

The Rondo selection isn't anywhere near as egregious as the Garnett selection, IMO.  He's still a top PG despite his flaws, and he's played at an above-average level.  My biggest gripe with his selection is that his team has been mediocre, so there's no way that it should have had 2 starters.  Rondo starting alone would have been fine, and I would have been OK with Paul Pierce being a reserve selection.

Western Conference

Again, let's start with the good. Chris Paul is the best PG in the game, and has played like it.  His team is currently the 3rd seed in the West, and even that is partially due to him being injured for the past few games. They ran off a 17 game win streak and at times looked like the best team in the NBA.  He deserved the starting spot.  While Blake Griffin's numbers have been down, this is partially due to his minutes decreasing.  If you've watched the games, then you've seen an improved mid-range game, passing ability, as well as defensive commitment.  With Kevin Love injured, Dirk working himself back into prime condition, and the advancing ages of Garnett, Duncan, Z-Bo, etc., Griffin is in the argument for best all-around PF in the game. He deserves his spot.  Kevin Durant...I don't have to get into why he deserves it...which brings me to my issues.

People have been bitching about Dwight's lack of efficacy this year, despite him leading the league in rebounding.  Personally, I think he's been fine considering he's recovering from back surgery and has been dealing with a shoulder injury.  16.7/12.1/2.5 is a line that most centers would love to have...but Dwight has been better than this.  His team is currently 7 games below .500, and his numbers outside of rebounding probably don't justify him being voted in over some of the following:

You got selected. Thumbs up indeed.

People have really wanted to throw Tony Parker over Tim Duncan in the MVP talk, and for the life of me I can't understand it.  The Spurs go where Tim Duncan goes, period.  17.5/9.8/2.7 sounds good, but when you consider it's coming in 30min a night, that's excellent production.  And his team?  The Spurs are currently the 2nd seed in the West, effectively even with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Coaches voted this perennial All-Star into the game.

Friends!  Ones you can depend on!

It's really difficult for me to separate Z-Bo and Marc Gasol.  While Z-Bo cleans up on the boards, averaging 11.5 rebounds/game, Marc Gasol, despite the numbers, is probably the best center in the game right now.  That's right, a man averaging 13.3/7.5/1.8 may very well be the best center in the game.  Again, you've got to watch the games.  His passing and defense are keys to Memphis' success, and when combined with Z-Bo, they make the best big duo in the league today.  If I was voting for someone to start in place of Dwight, I'd probably select Marc, but the selection of Z-Bo by the coaches doesn't make me mad at all.

This just looks weird.

The argument against David Lee has always been that his numbers are meaningless, but now that he's on a team that's winning games, it's impossible to argue against the sole 20/10 guy for most of this year (he's currently at 19.7/10.7).  His health and presence on this team (combined with a teammate who I'll mention later) have been a large part of why the Golden State Warriors are currently 5th in the Western Conference. I personally would have selected him over Dwight, considering his team's record, and the coaches indeed selected him as a reserve.

"That guy's got problems"

Yup, that's DeMarcus Cousins.  Why is he there, you say?  While I wouldn't select him over Dwight, 17.9/10.6/1.5(!) is pretty good for a big.  His FG% is pretty poor for a big, but man. DeMarcus is the epitome of the "if he ever gets it together mentally" player.  Even with all of his on-court issues, he's been very productive, albeit for a bad team, and I've got to wonder if all he needs is some veteran guidance.  This is an All-Star talent, despite him not making the All-Star team.

And then there's...

He's slowly going insane.

Kobe Bryant has been very good this year.  Despite his steady slide in production, he is still at near-career-best shooting efficiency numbers.  That being said, his team is still 7 games under .500.  If we're going to put on airs about how we won't select a Monta Ellis (for example) because his team is doing poorly, why in the world are we giving the 11th seed in the West 2 starters?  At least Boston's the 8th seed in the East.  While I'd sooner remove Dwight from the starting line-up than Kobe, there are some other guards I would have rather seen in the starting line-up.

This guy...

The first Russell W to recently take the sporting world by storm is still a beast.  Filling in the playmaking gap left by James Harden's departure, Russell is again among the league leaders in assists per game; he's averaging 22.6/8.3/5.3/1.9 on admittedly poor shooting efficiency.  His detractors will always point to the number of shots he takes while being a teammate of the best scorer in the league, but without Russell's aggressiveness, Kevin Durant would not perform at the level that he does, period.  Westbrook deserved a starting spot IMO, and the coaches made sure he was in the ASG.


It's not just because we're rocking similar beards...James Harden, despite his recent shooting slump, has been pretty damn good in his new starting role.  He's currently averaging 25.9/4.5/5.5 and has led the Rockets, who most of us thought would be pretty bad this year, to a 24-22 record and the current 8 seed in the West.  He leads the league in FT attempted and FT made, and is pretty much the reason the Houston offense clicks.  Coaches voted him in, and he'll basically serve as the host for the All-Star weekend.


In a pretty odd occurrence, Stephen Curry has been mostly healthy this year, playing 40 games at 38min a night.  In an equally odd occurrence, he's been shooting better from 3pt range (45%) than from 2pt range (42%).  He's a really good shooter, so I'm expecting his FG% to go up, but 20.9/6.5/1.7 is pretty good.  The other part of why Golden State has done so well WITHOUT Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry deserved at least an All-Star nod, and he's pretty much the biggest snub on the Western team.

You're still a fuckboy for this shit.

I know I basically shat on Tony Parker earlier, but man.  Tony Parker is good.  Very good.  The numbers aren't eye-popping; 19.8/7.5 are good, but Jrue Holiday's look better, for example.  Then you look at the 33min/game he's playing.  AND the 52/39/81 splits.  AND the fact that his team leads the league in wins.  Then you realize...yo, Tony Parker is playing pretty damn well.  His PER of 22.9 is even with Russell Westbrook's, and his TS% of 58 is higher than Kobe's, Wade's, and Stephen Curry's.  Since he's a Spur, he'll never get the fan vote, but I wouldn't have been mad at him starting at one of the guard spots either.  Coaches voted him in as a reserve.

Personally, I believe the All-Star Game is an opportunity for good players on bad teams to get some recognition of their skills.  As such, I don't have a problem when that happens.  That being said, I feel like I often would hear that certain players shouldn't get All-Star recognition because of how their teams had performed (see: Ellis, Monta).  I can also understand when someone says that an All-Star player should be able to make his team a good team (even though we have clearly seen cases where that simply isn't true).  All I ask is that we keep the shit consistent.  It's irritating when good players (see: Curry, Stephen) are snubbed because they aren't that well known, despite their team doing's even more irritating when players get voted in due to name recognition more than for their play (see: Ming, Yao).  Admittedly, in the Western Conference, both Kobe and Dwight have put up solid numbers, but I can't think of any reason for Kevin Garnett to be in the All-Star Game over Brook Lopez, even if the coaches are voicing their disapproval of what went down in Brooklyn.  Let's try to do better.