The Whiteboard: Friday mailbag on the Heat, poutine and point guard prospects

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It’s Friday, which means mailbag day! Hit us up on Twitter and let me know what I got wrong.

Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) asks: “Favorite basketball movie?”

I remember loving Blue Chips as a kid but it’s been a long time since I’ve watched it and I’m not sure how well it holds up. Honestly, it’s probably He Got Game. It has some tremendous flaws, Denzel Washington’s acting is incredible but Ray Allen‘s is definitely not and the whole narrative feels both absurd and forced. But the actual basketball scenes are incredible and beautiful. I’m not sure I’ve seen any other theatrical film that even comes close in capturing what a real basketball game looks and feels like. The opening credits are visceral and the scene where Allen and his high-school team (which includes NBA players Travis Best, John Wallace and Walter McCarty) plays pick-up is just remarkable. The transitions between regular speed and slow motion, the Aaron Copeland classical soundtrack. It’s perfect.

Brandon Jefferson (@jefferson_hoops) asks: What is the basketball equivalent to a well-cooked plate of poutine?

Poutine, if you’re not familiar, is a French-Canadian delicacy — french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy. It may sound weird but it is, without equivocation, a culinary masterpiece. One of the primary advantages is the versatility. It works as a low-quality, fast-food style dish and it can be dressed up all the way to fine-dining versions, with real value added. In terms of how it actually eats, it’s a souped-up version of cheese fries with the twist of curds giving the cheese a bit more body and interesting texture and the gravy adding warmth and umami.

So, a basketball equivalent … let’s go with the 2012-13 Miami Heat. This was the version of the team that had fully grown into and accepted their identity as a small-ball menace. Their starting lineup featured Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh, a slightly smaller pairing for that era. But their second- and third- most-used lineups featured Bosh and Shane Battier in the frontcourt. They needed that epic shot from Ray Allen to secure a title but this was arguably the most powerful iteration of the Heat, the team that ripped off a 27-game win streak in the back half of the season.

LeBron James was the french fries, the body, the crispiness, the base on which everything else was built. Dwyane Wade was the curds, salty and squeaky, getting just a bit soft around the edges. Bosh was the gravy, keeping everything covered in flavor. Also, this team had Joel Anthony, a Montreal native.

Chris Manning (@cwmwrites) asks: Would Michael Jordan be extremely online or not on social at all if he were playing today?

He would definitely have social accounts but I don’t think he’d actively post at all, leave that stuff to the brand managers. He was a private person and even if he was acclimated to this era where trading privacy for fame was more normal, I don’t think it would hold much appeal for him. However, he’d definitely be reading ALL the mentions and channeling that fury on the court.  Dropping 57 points on the Philadelphia 76ers because @CheezSteak420 said: “Jordan ain’t about this life.”

Paul Centopani (@PCentopani) asks: How do you rank the point guards in this coming draft?

I will admit that draft scouting is not my forte and my assessments are heavily influenced by the talented draft writers I follow and edit here at The Step Back (Trevor Magnotti, Jackson Frank, Ben Pfiefer, Zach Hood). The list below is also slightly tinged by just the particular skill sets I find interesting, not just how good they might be. Obviously, positional designations are fluid, especially as players transition from college and European leagues into the NBA but I’d go something like this:

Tier 1:

Tyrese Maxey I just like his energy. It would be nice if he could shoot and it sounds like he may be, functionally, more of a 2-guard but getting after it on defense and just running through brick walls on offense is an aesthetic I can get behind.

Killian Hayes People whose opinions I respect say he’s the best point guard in the draft. He’s also 6-foot-5, that’s fun.

Tyrese Haliburton — He’s also 6-foot-5, sounds like a remarkable passer, generates a ton of defensive events (4.9 blocks plus steals per 100 possessions) and generally sounds extremely unorthodox. I like seeing new things in new packages.

Tier 2:

Cole Anthony He had a miserable year at North Carolina but there were some extenuating circumstances. He’s probably not the player everyone thought he was as a high-schooler but there is still plenty of talent. I like the idea of watching him figure out how to evolve to make it work at the next level.

Tier 3:

Kira Lewis, Theo Maledon, Nico Mannion ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Matt Moore (@HPBasketball) points out: Had this discussion with @HickoryHigh but Alonzo Mourning vs. Dwight Howard is a lot closer than you would imagine.

This is a statement not a question but I think it deserves some follow-up. For my Dwight Howard FAQ, I had to rank him among the NBA’s greatest centers (I settled on 10th — right behind Patrick Ewing and right ahead of Bill Walton.) I was double-checking my reasoning with some folks in Slack and Matt urged me to reconsider my placement of Alonzo Mourning, who I hadn’t even really considered in the same tier as Howard.

Ultimately, I’d still place Howard higher but Matt is right that it’s a lot closer than I thought. Even if you just consider their primes (through age-28 seasons) Mourning has the edge in both points and blocks per 100 possessions, with Howard holding a fairly significant lead in rebounds and field goal percentage. Mourning won two Defensive Player of the Year Awards to Howard’s three. I don’t remember Mourning’s game being quite as striking as Howard’s but his impact certainly measures up even if the aesthetics and athleticism don’t. And honestly, that may be more of a personal mental blindspot — watch this.

I’m willing to admit that I probably underrate Mourning and overrate Howard.

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