Unpopular Opinion: Fan Fuel Edition

If you’ve been on Twitter the last few weeks, you’ve more than likely seen the “unpopular opinion” trend all over your timeline. The basis is pretty simple – a user asks their followers to share an unpopular opinion about a normally popular subject. Being the trendy fellas we are, our Fan Fuel writers have some unpopular opinions of our own to share with the world. Without further ado…

Jackson Harris – Kobe Bryant is Not an All-Time Top 10 Basketball Player

Before I begin, let me present you with this: according to Basketball Reference, there have been 4,510 players to have played in the ABA and NBA. That means the top ten players of all time are considered to be in the 99.7783 percentile of all basketball players to have ever played the game. That’s a very small margin of error. There is nothing wrong with being in the top twenty, or even top fifteen, all-time basketball players. In fact, it’s an incredible feat that should be nothing but celebrated. HOWEVA (*Stephen A. Smith voice*), Kobe Bryant is not one of those top ten all-time basketball players. Allow me to explain.

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If I’m going to go down this road, I had better list MY personal top ten basketball players. In kind-of-specific order, they are…

(1.) Michael Jordan, (2.) LeBron James, (3.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, (4.) Wilt Chamberlain, (5.) Shaquille O’Neal, (6.) Tim Duncan, (7.) Bill Russell, (8.) Magic Johnson, (9.) Larry Bird, (10.) Karl Malone

I could have posted that list alone and everyone would have yelled at me, but I have brought receipts. I imagine the “RINGZ” crowd will be the first in my mentions, seeing as how Kobe Bryant was in fact on five teams that won championships. However, I would argue that Bryant was the best player on only two of his championship teams (and 2010 is debatable if we really want to get into the mud – Pau Gasol was incredible in the playoffs). Shaquille O’Neal was arguably the most dominant basketball player of all time during the Lakers back-to-back-to-back championship years from 2000-2002. Seriously – did you know O’Neal averaged 35.8 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks per game in those three finals? That’s absurd. To Kobe’s credit, he averaged 22.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game those finals himself. Those are great numbers, but it seems pretty obvious to me who was Batman and who was Robin on those squads.

“But Jackson, you idiot, Kobe Bryant is third all-time in points! He scored over 33,000 of them. He scored more points than everyone on that list up there besides Kareem and Malone!” He sure did, friend. You know what else he did? He shot. He shot A LOT. He also missed a lot. In fact, Bryant retired having missed more shots than anyone in NBA history (14,481), almost 2,000 more than the second-most on the list above (Karl Malone missed 12,682 shots in his career). For his career, Bryant was a 44.7% shooter from the field, lower than everyone on my list sans Bill Russell (44.0%), whose eleven rings and 22.5 rebounds per game give him the nod for me. For comparison, Bryant’s career 44.7 FG% is 1.2 percent higher than current Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook’s career FG% of 43.5, and trashing Westbrook’s efficiency is Basketball Twitter’sTM favorite argument as to why he did not deserve his MVP award last season, when he averaged a triple-double. So which one is it, kids?

One more point before I go: in the three seasons between the Shaq-era and Gasol-era Lakers, Bryant’s Lakers teams posted a whopping 49.2 win-percentage, and never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Just a little food for thought for the “Kobe never needed to form superteams to get a ring” crowd.

There you have it, folks. Feel free to yell at me on the internet.

IS THIS YOUR GOAT

Peter Mitchell – The OKC Thunder Need to Trade Russell Westbrook

WHY NOT? The origin of Russell Westbrook’s catchphrase came in summer 2016 after signing a 3-year, $85 million dollar max contract. The proud – yet reeling – post-KD Thunder fanbase got exactly what they wanted – a hero to embrace for the future.

And a hero is exactly what they received. The man many call “The Brodie” delivered an unforgettable season and earned 2017 MVP honors. Westbrook paid homage to fellow west coast native Ice Cube by “f***ing around and dropping” a ridiculous line of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game, making him the first player to average a triple-double for a full season since Oscar Robertson in the ’61-’62 season.

However, I am going to tell you WHY Westbrook’s time in OKC should be coming to a close. That same season the Thunder lost in a gentlemen’s sweep to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference First Round. It was clear that reinforcements were needed.

During the 2017 offseason, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti pulled off two blockbuster trades to acquire Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The new “Big 3” Presti assembled had an up-and-down season and again… was bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

Should Thunder fans give up on Russ just two years since life after KD? YES.

Two straight first-round exits and a failed attempt at forming a “Big 3” this year are your main reasons why. Russ’s flashy numbers are nothing more than that and do not seem to translate to postseason success. Paul George would reportedly ‘love to remain in OKC’ but is likely to be the third All-Star in just six years to leave OKC without getting anything in return (James Harden & Kevin Durant). Carmelo Anthony is a shadow of his former self and his propensity to take catch-and-shoot 3’s was probably one of the most frustrating things to watch I have ever seen. I am 100% convinced that the Men In Black duplicated Klay Thompson’s brain and placed it inside of Melo’s head. After shooting 40.4% from the field and 35.7% from behind the arc, I would argue that Melo’s contract ($28 MILLION NEXT YEAR) is the worst in the NBA. The only thing that makes it better than Ryan Anderson’s is that it’s only one year compared to Anderson’s two.

Long-story short, the Thunder have limited assets, are cap-strapped by Melo, and don’t have good enough pieces around Westbrook to contend. Jerami Grant should have started over Melo all year long and earned himself a hefty pay raise after sparking the team’s Game 5 comeback against the Jazz this postseason. But the team simply cannot afford him anymore and would be foolish to dive deep into the luxury tax to bring back a team that can’t make it past one round in the playoffs.

The Thunder’s greatest asset is Westbrook. Rumors surrounding Westbrook and the Los Angeles Lakers have circled for years, and Magic Johnson’s side would appear to be one of the most likely suitors for such a deal. Something including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma could be a possibility. A deal like that would give the Thunder three high-upside players to build around while giving the Lakers a superstar to try and match with LeBron James in free agency.

Trading Russ before he starts making over $40 million a year is the best chance Oklahoma City will have at contending in the future. The Brodie’s staggering numbers simply do not translate to postseason success, so WHY NOT blow it up, start fresh, and avoid being a perennial NBA cellar-dweller when Westbrook walks in 2023… for nothing.

Jackson Stoever – DeAndre Ayton Should Not Even Be On the Table for the Suns at 1

Before I even get into this, let me say I have been screaming Westbrick is the problem and not the answer for years. You’re welcome Peter.

Now on to Phoenix and Ayton.

Let me first start by saying that if Phoenix were to go big at first overall, Mo Bamba and Marvin Bagley will both be better NBA players than Ayton. If you watched the game against Buffalo you should be on the same page. DeAndre Ayton is a great player and talent, but he will never be an All-Star or franchise cornerstone. I doubt he ever has a season averaging north of 18 and 10, or ever wins a ring (unless he’s on the bench).

The Arizona team he was a part of was loaded with talent. They found a way to tremendously underachieve and get knocked out in the first round of the tournament. Myself and many others considered them a lock to make the Sweet 16 and thought they could even be considered favorites to come out of their region. I know college is not the NBA and Buffalo was just one game. But open your eyes, people. This guy is not Wilt freaking Chamberlain.

There are three major red flags for me here. First is his motor/effort. Yes, he had great numbers, but he visibly took plays off on occasion. In combination with that, he lacks the killer instinct that is required to be a great NBA player. The second red flag is his wingspan. It is damn near a whole foot shorter than Mo Bamba’s. Bigs who have a wingspan that is the same as, or shorter than their height have not fared too well in the NBA. Think about the historically great big-men like Malone, Hakeem, Kareem, Wilt, Mutombo, Shaq, Chuck, Duncan and so on. All of them have incredibly long arms that helped make them elite defenders or scorers or both. I seriously can’t think of a single center that was vastly successful in the NBA with a wingspan of 7-foot or less. The third red flag is his leadership. Ayton looked as if he could not have cared less at times during games (especially the big ones). He never seemed to be rallying the team or pushing guys to be better. This guy is not your number one pick. End. Of. Story.

Mediocre at best is the only way I can describe the last decade for Phoenix. They have been so bad recently, Peter even tried to call them the Browns of the NBA (which 1, isn’t true and 2, is borderline idiotic) but he does have a little bit of a point. The last time they weren’t atrocious to watch they had an elite ball handler running the offense and shooters surrounding him in the mid-late 2000’s.

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There is one way to end this spell of let-down seasons and proclaimed tanking. That is by finally finding a franchise Point Guard. The last time they were relevant they had one in Steve Nash. They got out and ran on the break frequently and let 3-pointers fly on a level that the Rockets, Warriors, and many other teams around the league are still trying to emulate. New coach Igor Kokoskov has publicly said they want to get back to that breed of basketball. Phoenix is also rumored to be heavily pursuing Houston Rockets Center Clint Capela in free agency, who helps create spacing by being a nightmare on the pick-and-roll.

Drafting a big first overall is not going to change anything. Over the last couple years with their lottery picks the Suns have taken nothing but forwards and big-men. You’ve already got Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler, and Alan Williams occupying the front court. Why add another big body and further the logjam that is already there? The only way that would make sense is to trade at least two of the four bigs off. Now, if they were to do that and acquire a second top-10 pick, then maybe it would make sense to consider taking a big first.

Phoenix is lacking a premier ball handler to run the offense and Luca Doncic is the answer. For pete’s sake he is going to be playing under his former coach and already being called “the Euro LeBron”. It is almost as foolproof of a selection at one as it can be. Also take a look at available free agents. There are tons on tons of options at 4 and 5 (Capela, DJ, Boogie, Gordon, Randle, Nurkic, Mirotic, etc.) and damn near nothing to choose from at guard. CP3 and maaaaybe Marcus Smart would be the only options. But Chris Paul (who is ring chasing) will not take his talents to Phoenix under any circumstances. Their other options would be retaining Elfrid Payton or signing Isaiah Thomas to a stupid huge deal…. And please don’t try and tell me either of those moves would result in a playoff appearance in the next five years.

All of the signs point to Luca Doncic being the best, and damn near only option for the Phoenix Suns at one. Only a borderline blockbuster trade (or two) could change that. I highly doubt it happens, but if Phoenix does go Ayton with the first pick, they could trap themselves in an even longer cycle of mediocrity.

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