Stuck in a Kwame Brown Moment
In Vanity Fair, Kurt Anderson controversially writes that we’re stuck in the cultural moment of the 90’s. The damning piece reminded me of Warriors fandom, which often feels like a dreary groundhog day of underwhelmed low expectations, dating back to 94.’ The “We Believe” run was a refreshing day dream, but fans were quickly returned to this grim, repetitive slog.
I naively hoped a big Chris Paul trade could usher in a new cultural moment. Such a move would have announced a serious Lacobian intention to set sights higher than “eighth seed.” But the Warriors wouldn’t part with Curry, the NBAleans Hornets wouldn’t part with Paul, and Paul wanted no part of the Warriors.
It all fell apart so quickly. “Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul?” diminished into “Well what about Deandre Jordan?” Suddenly, the Warriors had lost their amnesty and gained back only Kwame Brown for seven million dollars.
I’m with the howlers on this one. Many smart writers argue that Kwame is underrated on account of his draft-selection punchline status, that Warriors fans are overreacting based on his name. I would argue that the punchline remains hilarious, even divorced from context.
I just flatly disagree that GSW needs Kwame’s defense, because I’m not sure he possesses the relevant skills. The consistent defense of Brown is his “post defense” ability, but I fear that we’re in a post-post-defense world. This is an era where Al Jefferson can’t convert the NBA’s best post moves into genuine stardom, and where the excising of illegal defense has permitted teams to swarm slow drop-steppers.
I would posit that shot-blocking rim-stalkers (Tyson Chandler anyone?) are the biggest defensive impact players, followed by athletic rovers who cover the pick-and-roll (Nene anyone?). Those skills are so paramount to big man defending that crediting Kwame’s “post-defense” might be akin to recommending a doctor on account of penmanship. Kwame’s defensive plus-minus is far from impressive. I don’t think this is coincidental.
And his offensive game? Well, he shoots free throws like Biedrins and plays offense like Biedrins shoots free throws.
I also disagree with the notion that GSW simply had to fill this role, that Kwame was the only man up to the task. Quoting Hollinger’s encyclopedic knowledge of marginal lugs:
“Kyrylo Fesenko is a better defender than Brown and will end up costing about a quarter the price. Reggie Evans is out there, too, for perhaps a third the cost. Shelden Williams, Aaron Gray and Jason Collins signed for the minimum; Darnell Jackson is still hanging out in Europe waiting to get the minimum. Alternatively, Mehmet Okur is eminently acquirable in a trade; I’d imagine Ian Mahinmi is, too. In other words, Kwame Brown and Sam Dalembert were the “only” centers left only if you constrained your thinking to 2010-11 starters who were unrestricted free agents.”