Before we reach the conclusion of an amazing, memorable NBA season, let's take a quick pre-Finals look at NBA-related people who either improved their stock, or lowered their stock.
Stock Up, Anthony Davis
I cringe every time I hear that LeBron James is the best player on the planet. With all due respect, Anthony Davis isn't just good — he's absolutely transcendent. The last month of the season, Anthony Davis looked so good that it'd be shocking if he wasn't the love child of LeBron James and Tim Duncan. He's that good.
Even against the mighty Warriors, he was completely up to the task, showing off the guard skills and slick jumper that simply have no place in a seven-footer's body. And he's still growing. I'm desperately hoping the Warriors can win their share of titles before (A) this guy comes of age, and (B) his front office gets a clue. Then again, I just heard a Tom Thibodeau to New Orleans rumor, and if that goes through...#RIP-AD will become a thing.
Stock Down, Winning Coaches
Was it the Warriors firing Mark Jackson? Was it the Grizzlies terminating Lionel Hollins? Was it the Nuggets throwing George Karl the deuces? Whatever started it, coaches are no longer beholden to their won-loss record. It's culture fit, playing nice with management, and a willingness to embrace modern basketball.
The past season has seen winning coaches like Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, Monty Williams and Mike Malone all lose their gig — and some made more sense than others. While this represents a dramatic shift in the way the league thinks, it's also a pretty blunt reminder that coaches can't expect to hide behind their winning percentage. And that means even more coaches, once hailed as great on the basis of their winning percentage, are falling in the gun sights of an increasingly analytical, progressive league. Doc Rivers: this probably means you should brush up your resumé.
Stock Up, "Jump Shootin' Teams"
Remember when like seventeen people thought Charles Barkley was spot on? Now that number is down to one, going on zero. This year's final four saw four of the best five three-point shooting teams in the league participating. And the fifth member of that quintet was the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that certainly could have been there. Three point shooting is simply a part of basketball. Refusing to embrace or experiment with the long ball is hoops suicide.
Stock Down, Phil Jackson
The eleven-fingered Zen Master couldn't possibly have picked a worse time to jump on the Barkley bandwagon, offering up his embarrassing tweets about...who knows what. Hey Phil, know what analytics and stat nerds have to say about three point shooters? Stephen Curry is heavily favored to be the Finals MVP in a league you finished 29th in. Yeah.
NBA analysts give me some diagnostics on how 3pt oriented teams are faring this playoffs...seriously, how's it goink?— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) May 10, 2015
Stock Up, Rim Protection
Unbeknownst to some fans, the common thread in many of the league's most successful teams this season? Rim protection. Mark Jackson's most overrated player still anchored the defense of every single legitimate contender — and was a glaring hole for many non-contenders. How can a team build a quality defense without a goalie defending the easiest shots? It's unnecessarily difficult.
If you don't have a serious rim protector who can wall off penetrating guards while manning up on an opposing center, you're kind of screwed. And that makes Festus Ezeli's continued development (not to mention stellar play from Timofey Mozgov, Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan) so relevant to the league's future. Expect to see guys like Nerlens Noel and (thinking ahead) Karl-Anthony Towns get absolutely paid in the near future.
Stock Down, Kevin Love
This feels really unfair, because it's not like Love asked for Kelly Olynyk to go pull the arm off another human being 40 feet from the play for no reason. And yet his injury allowed Tristan Thompson, offensive rebounder extraordinaire, a chance to shine. While this has, perhaps, allowed the Cavaliers offense to devolve into an iso-heavy offense that lives on extra boards, it has allowed the national media to put Kevin Love out of sight and out of mind.
Now Love, a free agent with a one-year player option, has to play a potential lose-lose game: exercise his player option to recuperate from shoulder surgery, but find himself losing minutes to Tristan Thompson. Or he can decline his option, and see how much executives have cooled on him following a productive, but somewhat turbulent season that saw his fit in Cleveland, at times, called into question.
Stock Up, Washington Wizards
The Wizards absolutely smangled the favored Raptors, and could've quite possibly peaced-out the 60-win Hawks were it not for an unfortunate John Wall cracked wrist...which he heroically played balled through. Randy Wittman discovering the art of coaching late in life allowed an intriguingly good Wizards team to basically play opossum on the entire league. And don't forget Paul Pierce doing Paul Pierce things, including an all-time great cliff hanger buzzer beater in an elimination game and the best on-court post-game interview of all time...
Let's just say this: if I knew I had to root for an eastern conference team next year, I'd already have my jersey by now (that classic jersey looks sweet, too).
Stock Down, Joakim Noah
It was just getting sad this season. A year ago, Joakim Noah might've started for every single team in the NBA. By the end of the playoffs, it wasn't certain that he belonged in the league. A pileup of injuries, and a complete lack of confidence on offense derailed the former defensive player of the year. Let's hope that Noah can get it back together this off-season. These playoffs would be a cruel sendoff for such a great player.
Stock Up, Superstar Rap Legend Lil' B
Sending a warning to lebron James Kyrie jr smith and iman shumpert yall stealing swag Lil B cooking dance what yall doing #warned - Lil B— Lil B From The Pack (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) May 27, 2015
THANK YOU BASED GOD #WGBC
Stock Down, Arrogant Celebrities
Stock Up, Playoff Harrison Barnes
Just pretend it's the playoffs every game, dang it! The pride of Ames, Iowa looked like the next Michael Jordan in game five, stepping up to put the Houston Rockets away. He showed off his much-improved jumper, and at times resorted to it too often. But when he was driving, lunging and flying over defenders, he certainly looked the part of the kid who was once considered the best basketball prospect in the world.
Whether it happens in Golden State or elsewhere, Harrison Barnes is too good a kid, and too talented a player, to finish as a mere role player. There's something much bigger under that stoic smirk, and it would be a shame if we never saw him again.
Stock Down, Goonery
Just make it stop, please. I love a tough game, but we can do without intentional elbows, ankle twists and arm pulls. That, we can all agree on. And although some incidents were worse than others, virtually everyone was guilty. The Warriors, the Cavs, the Hawks, the Celtics, the Rockets...no one was innocent. Except maybe the Toronto Raptors (they didn't bother anybody).
Finally: Stock Up Forever, Riley Curry
Because you knew this was coming.