Weird Weekly Prompts #6: Grand Theft Aaron


This writing project is courtesy of everyone's good friend Angelo. I'll let him describe it:

A friend challenged me to a writing contest. The basic premise is that for two months, she will send me a writing prompt twice a week. 750 word response. I will do the same with her. The point is to get some experience/feedback writing a bunch of different, unusual things with odd prompts that you don't expect. Would you be interested in doing one a week for the rest of the offseason?

Fun times in Cleveland today. (Cleveland!) He's posting his on Goodspeed and Poe, everyone's favorite blog. I'm posting my contributions on Gothic Ginobili, everyone's favorite basketball. No, I didn't mean to type "basketball blog." Gothic Ginobili is not a blog. Gothic Ginobili is a basketball. If you disagree with this particular assessment, you just haven't experienced this place properly yet. Here are the previous prompts:

Here's this week's prompt.

• • •

PROMPT #6: GTA: Grand Theft Aaron. As my life right now is primarily composed of Breaking Bad re-watches & playing GTA 5, the topic of crime is foremost in my mind. What would it take for you, Mr McGuire, to abandon your life of statistical analysis & turn to a life of crime? What would your crime of choice be? Would you go all Walter White and enter the drug trade? Take after Trevor Phillips and become a complete psychopath? Or perhaps would you use your statistical prowess in some sort of white collar endeavor?

To a certain extent, crime is often precluded by a sort of moral code. Dexter Morgan's code made sure that he only killed serial killers and his popular eponymous television show. Walter White constantly states that he's willing to give up everything to save his family -- whether or not you believe him is another matter, but there's a stated code to the way he acts. Avon Barksdale's code precludes him from ordering a hit on the Lord's day of rest. John Marston commits his crimes for his kidnapped family. Et cetera, et cetera. Criminals in popular fiction almost always have some sort of warped morality play in their wheelhouse. It serves two purposes -- it allows the criminals to justify their actions and allows the mass audience to find some tiny common ground with a criminal they'd normally detest. For the purposes of this question, though, I'm trying to get to the bottom of the first purpose. What crimes, exactly, could I justify to myself if I had to try?

Let's start high and descend slowly. First, we'll start with the highest crime of all: domestic terrorism. And the answer to that is an obvious "no." It breaks morality on several levels. It kills innocent people as well as any guilty people who happen to be in the vicinity, it causes massive property damage, and can serve as justification for misguided mass military action. That's decidedly beyond my ability to justify. There is no cause I can think of that would make domestic terrorism something I could live with. What about the individual pieces of domestic terrorism? Property damage seems like an easy "sure, I could do that!" crime until one really starts to ruminate on the consequences. Who pays for rebuilding property you destroyed? Depending on the property, it could be any number of people who aren't at all responsible for ill action towards anyone. And even if crooked insurance companies are paying out for your damage, the inconvenience to everyone caused by the damage can often be entirely too much. (Seriously, have you ever lived near a place that was recently vandalized and is undergoing massive repairs? It sucks!) And if you're destroying a little mom-and-pop store, your act of vandalism may very well be enough to put them out of business and on the street. Smooth move, Ferguson.

Then there's the obvious biggie -- murder. Could I actually kill someone? I'd never say never, but I'd deem it highly unlikely. Look: I still feel a twinge of guilt every time I recall making fun of a kid in elementary school. Even for the most grotesque of individuals, there are still a few people on Earth who care about them. Mothers, brothers, sisters, lovers. A murder you get away with is still a murder that leaves family and friends grasping for reasons why it happened. Could I live with that on my conscience? Not sure. And we're talking about a life of crime, here -- I'm just talking about a single murder. Perhaps I'd go Walter White on life and stop caring about murders after I commit my 5th. But I feel it's far more likely I'd make a mistake disposing evidence or turn myself in out of guilt.  I can only imagine being okay with murder in cases of extreme self defense -- that is, a position where family or self is being mortally threatened and the only way out is to kill the threat who's looming. Or someone who threatens my livelihood in such a way that would destroy everything I've worked to achieve.

So, yes. Maybe I could murder under the proper circumstances. Still, that doesn't mean I'd be able to murder lightly. And there's still the matter of finding a criminal livelihood that would be even remotely possible under my personal moral mores. That leaves one criminal potentiality: white collar crime. There are a lot of ways to go about that. Fraud, money laundering, covert heists. But every action runs up against a serious problem, for me -- I have no desire whatsoever to harm those less fortunate than myself. If I feel the need to steal when I already have more than the people I'm stealing from, I'm putting them in a legitimately impossible situation. I'd feel guilty as hell. The unfettered avarice you need to feel to steal from the less fortunate disturbs me. Could I live with that? Probably not.

But then there's the other side of stealing -- skimming from the rich. But then you're faced with yet another moral quandary. Is it all THAT much better to steal from richer people, if you aren't keying in on those whose fortunes are largely illicit? There's a large chance I'm stealing away well-earned money that people worked extremely hard to cultivate. Is that really worth it? Professional money laundering is an easy white-collar crime tactic, but then you're simply enabling all the crimes listed above that I am morally uneasy on. At what point would I turn to a life of crime? I'd assume I'd need to have exhausted every possible means of legal living, and I'd need to have people who depend on me financially. That way, I could feel less conflicted about stealing from anyone. But then I'd be working with zero resources. How do you start a life of rewarding white collar crime with zero resources?

... okay, you know what? Angelo, I think all I've realized from this prompt is that I'm by far the worst criminal ever. But it's okay, I finally figured out my calling. When I was a kid, I kinda liked politics. Really wanted to be Sam Seaborn. Let's say THAT'S how I get into a life of crime -- I sign on as a starry-eyed speechwriter for an idealistic world-builder. I get elected to public office and gradually lose my principles a la Thomas Carcetti. I steal from the government by offering up terrible contracts for kickbacks and regulations that cause incredible cronyism. I retire and become a lobbyist trafficking in war machines. Beautiful, simple, completely believable. Classic story.

Thanks, Obama.

this is bad on many levels

• • •

Just a programming note -- our normal basketball-heavy content will begin anew this October. Get excited!

Weird Weekly Prompts #5: Halloween Follies

dr mcninja

This writing project is courtesy of everyone's good friend Angelo. I'll let him describe it:

A friend challenged me to a writing contest. The basic premise is that for two months, she will send me a writing prompt twice a week. 750 word response. I will do the same with her. The point is to get some experience/feedback writing a bunch of different, unusual things with odd prompts that you don't expect. Would you be interested in doing one a week for the rest of the offseason?

Fun times in Cleveland today. (Cleveland!) He's posting his on Goodspeed and Poe, everyone's favorite blog. I'm posting my contributions on Gothic Ginobili, everyone's favorite basketball. No, I didn't mean to type "basketball blog." Gothic Ginobili is not a blog. Gothic Ginobili is a basketball. If you disagree with this particular assessment, you just haven't experienced this place properly yet. Here are the previous prompts:

Here's this week's prompt.

• • •

PROMPT #5: This is the time of year when I really start gearing up for Halloween. Despite what many adults would say, Halloween is easily the best holiday of the year. Shitty horror movies are on TV all the time, you can binge eat candy without any of your coworkers guilt tripping you and talking about the "paleo diet", and pumpkin flavored everything is everywhere. It's the greatest. That said, the best part of Halloween is easily the Halloween party and the corresponding costumes. And that brings us to your prompt, Aaron. Give us all a brief history of the Halloween costumes of Aaron McGuire. What are you most proud of? The most ashamed? Have you ever seen a costume that brought a tear to your eye? Any that made you shudder in fright?

A brief history of my Halloween costumes is just that: brief. For someone that's as huge of an unrepentant nerd as I am, I've never been one to really go all-out and create a super-intricate Halloween costume. I've been content to linger with the unwashed masses, reveling in our completely unremarkable costumes and leaving the truly impressive stuff for others. Most of my costumes were so unremarkable as to be totally forgettable, and I honestly can't say I remember what I went as for most of them.

The ones I remember include:

  • Age 5: Waldo from Where's Waldo. (There are some really adorable pictures of this one.)
  • Age 6: Steven Spielberg (Yes, I went as a famous Jewish filmmaker as a 6-year-old. Classic Aaron McGuire.)
  • Age 9: Obi-Wan Kenobi (The cloak from this one formed the basis of every costume I wore for the next 5 years.)
  • Age 17: Dr. McNinja (From the webcomic, unexpectedly titled The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.)
  • Age 21: Scarecrow (From Wizard of Oz. Girlfriend went as Dorothy.)

That's all I really can recall, which is both the sign of someone who really didn't put a wealth of effort into the craft and a sign of someone who didn't have particularly good ideas to begin with. At least I didn't ever go with any of the classics (Frankenstein's monster, zombies, warlocks) -- I would've probably made a mockery of them, and if you're gonna make a mockery of a costume you might as well keep it relatively off the beaten path. I added a photograph of my Dr. McNinja costume to the front of the post, as well as a photograph of my scarecrow costume to the bottom. As those are by far my two best ones, you can make your own silent judgments on the rest of them from there. In terms of pride and shame, I'm a bit proud of the Dr. McNinja costume simply because it was a cheap-yet-fun costume that I thought I executed reasonably well with scant little money to spend on it. Using my Obi-Wan Kenobi cloak for five years of costumes would be my biggest source of shame -- few things are more shameful than Halloween half-measures, and recycling a costume for that long is the king of all half-measures.

As for the costumes of others, that's another admittedly scant subject for me. When I was in college, I somehow managed to be working on Halloween night every single year. The night I was Dr. McNinja, I didn't even go out -- I stayed in and handed out candy while my parents had a relaxing night with the X-Files movie and my brother trick-or-treated with friends. There was only one particularly costume-filled Halloween night, and that was the time I went as Scarecrow, traveled back to Chapel Hill, went to one a Halloween party thrown by some of my UNC friends. If you aren't familiar, UNC's Franklin Street goes nuts on Halloween. They rope off several blocks and it becomes a gigantic outdoor party, one of drunk heckling and costume admiration all around. While I've only been there once, I have to admit, it was pretty fantastic. The creativity was incredible. Costumes I can remember off the top of my head include:

  • A living set of Tetris pieces, occasionally being lifted up and placed atop each other.
  • One man went as a giant (and semi-functional!!!) Connect Four board. Rajon Rondo would've freaked.
  • Scrabble tiles. (Carved ones, too -- not just flimsy cardboard crap, they actually carved out life-size scrabble tiles.)
  • Some frat boys went as a centaur. Wouldn't have been notable, except it looked exactly like the Alex Rodriguez centaur that everyone knows about. Which is, you know, completely 100% perfect.
  • Seven people fully painted themselves the seven shades of a rainbow. Pedestrian, right? Wrong -- they moved in complete concert with each other, never breaking character as a living rainbow for over an hour.


Look, Angelo. I'm not saying that you need to make a point to come to Chapel Hill just to see their Halloween celebrations. I'm just saying that exact thing I just said I wasn't saying, you know? I am not enticing you to come to Chapel Hill, except for the part where that is exactly what I'm doing. The decision is entirely up to you, although there is a clear delineation between right and wrong in this specific case. No judgment here, except the judgment I am making right at this very moment on you as a human being. Feel free to do whatever it is you want to do, as long as whatever you want to do intersects with exactly what I have outlined in this confusing paragraph.

... Happy Halloween!


2013 Tiers of Interest: The Most Interesting Team in the World (Part II)

I think this is the 3rd time I've used this in a GG article. There's a reason for this. -- Aaron

Bonjour, readers. Welcome to the first -- and perhaps only! -- edition of the Gothic Ginobili Intrigue Rankings! Why? Because regular power rankings are boring, that's why. It's a lot more fun to rank to teams by how interesting they are rather than how good they are. At least for me. What makes a team intriguing, other than my personal whims? A big part of it the distance between a team's ceiling and its floor. If I can pick a team's win total within five games without thinking too hard about it, that's not a particularly interesting team. If I can look at a team and see 30 and 50 wins as being equally possible, that's a lot more fun to think about. Relevance also matters, although less so. I try not to go strictly by ability, but if I know a team is going to be awful and it's just a matter of how awful they'll be, they will likely linger towards the bottom of the list. Above all else, this is a list about how fun a team is to think about, and whether or not I think they'll be interesting to follow in 2013-14. Now that that's set up, let's dive into the second half of yesterday's list. Rather than an ordinal 1-30 ranking, I've compiled a list of roughly ordered tiers corresponding to various levels of interest.

• • •


Miami Heat

I had to put the Heat in the top half of this list because... well, they're the Heat. Their mere existence piques one's interest. Still, it's basically the exact same team every year at this point. Beyond their ridiculous streak last season, they weren't nearly the compelling story they were in 2011 or 2012 -- a title gives you carte blanche to rest your guys and take your foot off the gas. Hard to really blame them, but it made them inherently a little less fun. And the continuity is ridiculous.When you're invested in multiple superstars, you're pretty much stuck with that roster. The question of whether or not any team can make the Finals four years in a row at a time where the league is so competitive is the most fascinating question here. The Heat would be the favorites against any team in the East right now, but can they get through all of them? Last year, the Heat didn't face a real challenge until the Conference Finals, and they were taken right to the razor's edge by the Pacers and the Spurs. Now that the Bulls are back in the mix, the Nets got considerably better, and whoever represents the West should remain as stout a challenge as last year's Spurs -- whoever they are. The pressure could be a bit much. The possibility of Greg Oden becoming a serious contributor is a mildly entertaining sub-plot. Considering everyone they've trotted out at center over the past five years, he was easily worth the risk.

San Antonio Spurs

Some signings are interesting solely because of the team making them. If Marco Belinelli signs with the Bucks or the Raptors, no one gives a crap. If he signs with the Spurs? Genius! Bon vivant! The perfect fit! Pop is going to get SO MUCH out of him! ... Of course, for all the mocking we'd like to do of the predictable narrative, all of that is probably true. That's San Antonio for you. Anyway, the Spurs are a lot like the Heat, only a little more interesting because of the "how long can they possibly keep this up?!" factor. They seem like a lock for a playoff spot, and they're one of this season's 5 or 6 teams with a serious shot at a ring. But maybe that's the problem. Right now, everyone but a few quiet doubters fully believes that the Spurs will contend this year, especially with Kawhi Leonard gradually taking Manu's spot in the Big 3. It would be sort of amusing -- and classic Spurs misdirection -- if the Spurs finally ran out of steam the one year people stopped expecting them to die. Still, seems rather unlikely. They'll probably win another 55-60 games, take down another top seed that receives far more hype, and bow out gracefully after winning 2-3 rounds of playoff basketball. Sunrise, sunset.


New York Knicks

You know what's really funny, given all the hand-wringing people do about New York? The Knicks have made the playoffs three years in a row! Think about that. They were one of the worst teams in the league for almost a decade, but they've reached a reasonable amount of sustained success. They'll probably make the playoffs again this year, too. Four in a row! That's almost half a decade of sustained success. The problem? They've done it in such an impressively dysfunctional way, where all of their flaws are readily apparent the drama gets leeched of the proceedings. The Knicks are always fun, but it's kind of a circus of a team. And it's tough to root for that, sometimes. Andrea Bargnani seems like a semi-risky signing at first glance. But the expectations for him are hilariously low, and they gave up virtually nothing to get him. It's hard to see him not being a somewhat valuable bench player, so it may turn out to be a low-risk, high-reward move. I didn't mind the Metta signing either. Yeah, he's old, but he's coming off his most productive season since 2008-09, and he'll love every minute he gets to play in New York. The Knicks will be pushed this season, no doubt -- the Pacers, Bulls, and Nets will likely all pass them in record, and there's always the potential for a massive implosion. But chances are high that they won't be a tranwreck, and they'll be a fun story all the way from opening night to their 2nd round swan song.


Houston Rockets & Brooklyn Nets

I talked a lot about both of these teams in my last article, but essentially each of these teams are interesting because they've gotten themselves to a point where the idea of them winning a title doesn't seem completely off-the-wall. That's not to say it's LIKELY, mind you... just that the notion can't be laughed off. While signing Dwight Howard comes with a lot of potential pitfalls, the Nets actually took the bigger risk here. They basically have a two year window to win a title. After that, KG and Pierce will be gone or nonfactors, Joe Johnson will be in his mid 30s, and Deron/Brook will be their last two pieces of any real consequence. This is why the trade for KG, Pierce, and Jason Terry was panned by some. But I encourage the skeptics to look at the smaller picture: for the next two seasons, the Nets will be a force to contend with. That's at least worth something. Right? As for the Rockets, they may benefit this season from a surprising lack of hype. The Dwight signing itself received a ton of press, but once he officially came aboard, there have been very few articles talking up a potential dynasty in Houston, perhaps because Big Twos and Big Threes are so common that the formation of another one just isn't that big of a deal anymore. In any case, the Rockets will be very good team that will nonetheless face some big questions. Will Dwight get his 2008-11 form back? Can he play with Harden? Can we play with Asik? [ED. NOTE: I usually edit out typos, but I can't edit this one out. The childlike innocence of the question "can we play with Asik" is just too much. Thanks, John. Thanks for brightening our day.] Can Jeremy Lin run this team? Is Chandler Parsons a potential All-Star? Should be fun to watch, all things considered. We're in new territory, for sure.


Oklahoma City Thunder

I won't spend too much raking them over the coals for the Harden trade. It seems like everyone in the world has, and I have little to add. Still, with Kevin Martin leaving, this team is officially a two-headed monster, and it'll be interesting to see if Durant and Westbrook are enough to guide this team to a championship without a particularly stout of a supporting cast. Serge Ibaka is a force on defense, but he hasn't become the All-Star the Thunder thought he would when they chose him over Harden. And after that? It's slim pickings, and it remains to be seen if this team is still a favorite or an also-ran in a conference chock-full of both. Even if Westbrook-Durant is a better duo than Dwight-Harden, the Rockets may have the superior cast surrounding them. And that's where OKC's intrigue comes in -- if they can win the West at a time when so many teams appear better constructed, Durant's legend grows further. He'll officially be entering LeBron territory. Don't rule out this possibility.

Los Angeles Clippers

There's a metric ton of hype around this team, especially when you consider the fact that they a) lost in the first round last season, b) are the Los Angeles Clippers, and c) didn't get a great deal better in the off-season. The excitement over re-signing Chris Paul has drowned out the reasonable concern that they haven't really done anything worth noting with Chris Paul yet, and that he's still never played for a team constructed well enough to get past the second round. The Clippers could provide an all-time answer an immortal question this year: how much difference can a coach makes, really? Doc Rivers is an immeasurable upgrade over Vinny Del Negro, and that may be the difference needed to get them over the hump. Replacing Eric Bledsoe with the guy who lost his job to Mike James is a considerable downgrade, but replacing Tuff Juice with Jared Dudley -- who FINALLY gets to be on a good team! -- might make up for it. The talent level is roughly equal, and it's all about whether Doc is good enough to get this team past the other star-studded squads in the always-brutal West.


Chicago Bulls

One of the most fascinating things about last season was the how the identity of the Bulls changed without Rose in the lineup. In the past, when he missed a few games, they would try to replicate his production by committee, and essentially play the same way, With Rose gone for a full year, the Bulls had no choice but to become a completely different team. Joakim Noah became the leader, and their brutal defense replaced Rose as the star of the show while Nate Robinson did a surprisingly excellent job of replacing Rose's energy. It makes you wonder how they'll operate with #1 back at the 1. Will they essentially go back to playing the way they did before he went down, or will elements of Rose-Lacking Bulls infiltrate the genetic makeup of the Rosebud Bulls? It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see Noah continue to pay a bigger role, as Rose's unofficial sidekick. Meanwhile Jimmy Butler's presence will allow Luol Deng to get some rest, if Thibs is smart, and quite possibly make him expendable. The questions of whether Rose will be his old self, how the team adjusts to his return, and whether or not Deng becomes trade bait are all enough to make the Bulls a surprisignly intriguing team going into next season.


Washington Wizards

These next three are very much joined at the hip, as they're all young squads looking to sneak into the playoffs this year. The Wizards are the team I have the most doubts about, personally. They played .500 ball in the second half of last season's action against a not-particularly-easy schedule, and they would figure to be at least that good this year. Right? But it's hard to be confident. The Wizards are hoping the John Wall who showed up January was the real John Wall, and all of his earlier problems were simply side effects of him adjusting to the NBA and we won't see any of them ever again. Might be the case, but I wouldn't say for sure. The Wizards are also counting on Martell Webster to be just as productive as was last year, which seems like a risky proposition given that he'd been a scrap-heap amnesty guy on the cusp of retirement. We also don't know how healthy Bradley Beal will be, or if he's the potential superstar so many think he is. So yeah, there are a few big issues, but the Wizards should still be a fun energetic team. Hopefully, they'll frighten the establishment a little bit.

Detroit Pistons

I get why the Pistons went for Brandon Jennings -- he's young, and he might be a better player than his last few years in Milwaukee suggest. Still, I wish they had brought Calderon back. Sure, he's older, but during his brief time in Detroit, he was ridiculously amazing. He shot .527 from the field and .520 on threes. He took 98 three-pointers with the Pistons, and he made 51 of them! And the Pistons replaced him with a dude who struggles to shoot 40 percent? Is youth really that important? That gripe aside, I still really like this team. Josh Smith and Andre Drummond on the same team makes me wonder if @Jose3030 is secretly in charge of personnel decisions for the Pistons, and Greg Monroe finally has some talent around him. I still don't know they'll space the floor (another reason why they should have re-signed Calderon), but this team is easily good enough to sneak into the first round and give Miami or Chicago a good scare.

Cleveland Cavaliers

As for the Cavs, their big problem is injury potentialities. Bynum was the ultimate high-risk high-reward individual signing, and frankly, I thought it was a good move. We all know what his problems are, but if he's on his game, the Cavaliers could become really scary really fast. Honestly, if Kyrie, Varejao, and Bynum all end up staying healthy, I'd put the Cavs ahead of every team in the east except for the Heat, Bulls, Pacers, and Nets. And they could leapfrog one or two of that group, with some fortuitious injuries to those four. Obviously, that's a budget-of-The-Lone-Ranger sized if, but that's what puts a team near the top of the intrigue rankings. The Cavs could give the Heat a brutal second round push... or they could win 30 games. Who knows! The journey there should be a lot of fun, regardless. It doesn't hurt that they have Kyrie Irving, who is effectively a league pass alert unto himself.


New Orleans Pelicans

No team -- not even the Cavs -- had a bigger high-risk, high-reward offseason in its totality. Bynum is individually a bigger high-risk high-reward signing than any of the New Orleans signings, but New Orleans had SO MANY OF THEM! The Pelicans decided to go after Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, and try to get them to play with Eric Gordon. Woah! Just, woah! There's so much potential here, but it's hard to know if any of them will live up to it or if they'll complement each other's play in any tangible way. Still, if this arrangement works, it's hard to dislike what the Pelicans have put together. Anthony Davis could yet emerge to be a superstar, and the Pelicans are trying to surround him with as much talent as possible. They'll either be an unwatchable mess, or the team that the Western Establishment is deathly afraid of drawing in round 1. So many possibilities.


Golden State Warriors

Ethan Sherwood Strauss put it best -- it would not surprise me if the Warriors make the finals, miss the playoffs, or do anything in between. Steph could get hurt again. They could painfully regress to the mean if they don't win as many close games. Harrison Barnes might not be productive of the bench. David Lee could emerge as the odd man out, forcing the Warriors to trade him. And yet, if it all works out, this team could beat anyone in the league. Stephen Curry is more dangerous than Walter White when he gets hot, and it doesn't usually matter how you guard him -- he'll get the shot anyway. Curry plays with a freedom, with a reckless abandon that is glorious to watch, and impossible to defend. If he stays healthy, he'll be a superstar. Plain and simple. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson is the perfect sidekick for the Best Backcourt Ever. If you double team Steph, you leave Klay open, and he can murder you. And neither one of these guys has reached their full potential yet! Meanwhile, Iguodala was a cosmically brilliant signing that should do a lot to fix their defensive struggles, and give them yet another three-point shooter. There all sorts of reasons why this might not work out, but if everything congeals together, this team will be a rampaging beast capable of destroying everyone in their wake. In the meantime, they've earned the top spot in this list. And I can't wait to see them work.

• • •

Once again, disagreements are prime to be registered in the comments below. Hope you enjoyed this ranking exercise. Join me next week when I rank which team eats the most satisfying lunches, probably! [ED. NOTE: Do not join him for this. It will not happen.]

2013 Tiers of Intrigue: Let Loose the Bucks of War (Part I)

larry sanders show

Bonjour, readers. Welcome to the first -- and perhaps only! -- edition of the Gothic Ginobili Intrigue Rankings! Why? Because regular power rankings are boring, that's why. It's a lot more fun to rank to teams by how interesting they are rather than how good they are. At least for me. What makes a team intriguing, other than my personal whims? A big part of it the distance between a team's ceiling and its floor. If I can pick a team's win total within five games without thinking too hard about it, that's not a particularly interesting team. If I can look at a team and see 30 and 50 wins as being equally possible, that's a lot more fun to think about. Relevance also matters, although less so. I try not to go strictly by ability, but if I know a team is going to be awful and it's just a matter of how awful they'll be, they will likely linger towards the bottom of the list. Above all else, this is a list about how fun a team is to think about, and whether or not I think they'll be interesting to follow in 2013-14. Now that that's set up, let's dive into the list. Rather than an ordinal 1-30 ranking, I've compiled a list of roughly ordered tiers corresponding to various levels of interest.

• • •


Milwaukee Bucks

I originally had this team a few spots higher, but when they traded for Caron Butler last week, it served as a well-timed reminder of just how mind-numbingly dull this franchise is. They replaced their starters at three positions, but I'm not sure it'll have even the slightest impact on their win total. Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight and Monta Ellis for O.J. Mayo are both largely lateral moves, and Caron Butler's most attractive quality is his ability to be utterly average. The Bucks front office is too afraid of sinking into the abyss to give itself a chance to become serious contenders. They tread water every single year, hell-bent on boarding a train that leads nowhere. They'll win 35-40 games in the Eastern Conference for next 30 seasons. We all know this.

Atlanta Hawks

Meet the new Hawks -- same as the old Hawks. They're perpetually competent in the least interesting way possible. [ED. NOTE: Hey, Horford's pretty good! ... Okay, starting to see your point.] There was brief talk that the Hawks might get CP3, Dwight, or both. Those were the days. When that fell through, we thought the Hawks might blow it up, and try their luck in the lottery. Nothing doing. Instead, they brought back Jeff Teague and replaced Josh Smith with Paul Millsap, leaving them in effectively the exact same place they were last year. The difference? With the Cavs, Pistons and Wizards all looking to take huge leaps, it might not be enough to squeak into the playoffs anymore. This could be a good thing for the league -- I'm of the view that we could be better off if the Hawks fall into the more useless end of the lottery. Who REALLY wants to watch them lose to Indiana in six completely unwatchable games yet again?

Toronto Raptors

Had the Raptors made their big gamble -- the Rudy Gay trade -- in this fast-receding offseason, they might be a bit higher for me. But we already watched this for 10 weeks, and it's unlikely this team is going anywhere other than a first-round exit. Gay has always had more potential than actual ability, and for six and a half seasons, Grizzlies fans talked themselves into believing he was a potential superstar. When the team thrived after getting rid of him, it probably shouldn't have been all that surprising to anyone. Kyle Lowry is a similarly pedestrian star. He exhibits consistent yet brief flashes of brilliance and every team he's on starts to think he might be an All-Star. Never seems to happen. Neither of these quasi-stars can really carry a team, and the Raptors will hang around 0.500 this year. It should be their best season since Bosh left, but it still leaves them with a wispy future.


Philadelphia 76ers

If the only criteria for my intrigue was the carnival sideshow factor, the Sixers would be much higher. I honestly can't see a scenario where this team wins 20 games. Their point guards are Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten. They're combo guards. J-Rich might not play all year. No one knows when Nerlens Noel will be back. This team has a real shot at being historically awful, which can be interesting if you're into bad horror movies where the ending is telegraphed in the first scene. [ED. NOTE: Hi, Angelo!] If they don't finish with the worst record in the NBA, Thaddeus Young deserves a Nobel Prize. In what, you ask? I have absolutely no idea. Just give him one. The only interesting thing I spy here is the possibility that they break their own franchise record for losses in an 82-game season. Woo-hoo!

Phoenix Suns

Do you think anyone bought a Caron Butler Suns jersey? In the entire world? ... someone had to, right? That guy has my deepest sympathies. This is another team that won't start contending for relevance until they get a new piece in next year's lottery, and they're the odds-on favorite to finish last in the West. For a second straight year, I remind you. The most intriguing thing about this team is how they handle the Bledsoe-Dragic situation. Does Dragic's seniority earn him the starting gig even though Bledsoe has more potential? Do they possibly both start, with Bledsoe at 2-guard? That could be fun to watch. Kinda. Either way, this is gonna be a pretty awful eason. On the plus side, those new uniforms are pretty spiffy. [ED. NOTE: That is the most generous use of the word "spiffy" I have ever read in my life. Good job, John.] I feel like the Suns had to change uniforms; their previous digs reminded everyone of the Seven Seconds Or Less era and watching Michael Beasley and P.J. Tucker wear them was just depressing.

Utah Jazz

Much like the Sixers, the Jazz have embraced the idea of sinking to the bottom. They still feel like a better team, and almost certainly a more interesting one. Trey Burke seems like a considerably more exciting rookie point guard than Michael Carter-Williams. You get the sense than Trey could light up the highlight reels while the Jazz drop 60-65 games, but there's always the possibility that he has the type of year Lillard had last year, shining incandescently as he carries the Jazz to semi-competence on his lonesome. When Jefferson and Millsap were around, we praised the backup bigs and talked how they could start for a fair amount of teams. Now, we get to see if that's actually true. Derrick Favors feels like a potential breakout player, though I'm far more apprehensive about Kanter, who's game feels a bit unpolished. Also, Gordon Hayward might be their top scoring option. What? The overall picture feels like an enjoyable, fun team that will get annihilated on a regular basis. Which isn't super intriguing to me, although you're welcome to disagree.


Sacramento Kings

When it was decided that the Kings would stay in Sacramento, I was happy. While I have no connection to California's capital city, I appreciated their love for their perpetually disappointing team. As a lifelong Buffalo Sabres fan, I can certainly relate. That said, I despair of the missed opportunities had this team gone to Seattle. Seriously: THEY DRAFTED A GUY NAMED MCLEMORE! How perfect would that have been to christen the new Seattle Supersonics? Is there any way a McLemore and Macklemore joint ad campaign wouldn't have have been plastered all over Seattle's billboards in an alternate universe? Anyway, all jokes aside, these guys should be reasonably enjoyable even if the depth of the West prevents them from having any NBA class mobility. Greivis Vasquez gives them their first real point guard since Bibby laced his work-boots, and McLemore was a steal at No. 7 with the potential to become an All-Star. Still, I feel like DeMarcus Cousins has gone from potential franchise player to albatross. No matter how good his numbers are, no one really believes in the guy -- except Jacob Harmon, kind of. But only sorta. Some other team will offer him a deal next summer, and the Kings will probably rejoice being rid of him.

Orlando Magic

How bad do you think Jameer Nelson feels right now? Oladipo is capable of playing the 2 or the 3. But the team doesn't want to bring Afflalo or Harris off the bench. Their solution is to start Oladipo at the point, even those he's never played it before, and send poor Jameer to bench because he's just that expendable. I hope he gets traded to a contender before the deadline, though I can't imagine who'd actually want him. They should still try. It's the least they could do. This team should carries some intrigue because they have a lot of talented young folks, and there's the slight possibility that they could exceed expectations and hover around the 8-seed. Still, between Oladipo playing out of position and the team's dreadful finish last year, I see the Magic as a team that loses a lot of entertaining games. They'll starts contending again in 2014-15. Join us then.


Minnesota Timberwolves

Could the T-Wolves be good this year? Absolutely. Could they make the playoffs in a middling-low seed, and give a favorite like the Rockets or the Clippers a serious run for their money? I'd have to say it's possible. But after what happened the last two years it's getting increasingly hard to trust this team. Rubio and Love are their two most essential players, and it appears they're both made of glass. Maybe they stay healthy this year and Minnesota becomes a scary team. But I wouldn't bet on it. I've been burned too many times before to commit to that. Still, picking up Kevin Martin was the best signing that nobody's talking about. Assuming he returns to the starting lineup, he and Rubio could be a deadly pairing. Imagine the spot-ups! Their ranking boils down to trust for me. This team has a boatload of theoretical talent, but I just don't trust them.


Boston Celtics

What's fascinating about this team to me is that Rondo may very well be able to carry them an 8-seed... even though that's the last thing the front office wants. For a team that ostensibly appears to be tanking for a lottery spot, the Celtics may have to deal with the problem of not actually being that bad. For one thing, if Rondo is healthy, it's hard to see them not winning at least 30 games. And the supporting cast is nowhere near as awful as you might think. Marshon Brooks is quite undervalued at this point -- while most believe he had an off-year, his dip in numbers was primarily attributed to playing fewer minutes. His per-36 averages were actually better! I'd be surprised if Kris Humphries is that bad for a second straight year, considering he averaged a double-double in 2011-12. Even Gerald Wallace looked a little better as the season progressed. You get the feeling this team really WANTS to be terrible, but may be stuck being mediocre. [ED. NOTE: Just wanted to register my paramount disagreement with this one. The Celtics will have a gimpy Rondo for half a season, and their big man rotation is INCREDIBLY thin. Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries may very well be playing big minutes at center for the hapless bunch. Even if they get bounce-back seasons from both of them, neither of those players have ever been a regular center. There's a reason for that -- THEY AREN'T GOOD AT IT. Without even a pretense of having a man in the middle, their defense will be awful and Rondo's hardly known for inspiring offensive over-achievement. Absolutely disagree that this team comes within sniffing distance of an 8-seed. And now that I've proclaimed this in a public forum, they'll win 40 games and finish with a 9th seed. It's just how these editor's notes work. --Aaron]

Charlotte Bobcats

There are too many good teams in the East for the Bobcats to be viewed as a playoff team with any legitimate chance, but they're worthy of a second look if little else. If I had to pick one team to be this year's version of the Golden State Warriors, I'd go with the Cats. We all know Al Jefferson can't play defense, but let's keep an eye to the context: HE'S REPLACING BYRON MULLENS! Imagine if Nick Young was a center. Okay, stop imagining, I see the blood too. Why did I tell anyone to imagine that? Jesus. But that's all you needed -- now you have an idea of what playing Byron Mullens is like. This might be the biggest upgrade at any position that a team has made this offseason. Should be good for 10 more wins right there. The intrigue here comes from the possibility of their young talent coming together sooner than most would expect, and looking like a poor man's version the 2009-10 Thunder. Like the Celtics, if this team wants a prime lottery pick, they might suffer from being too good. Unlike the Celtics, they're trending upward already, so the situation would be a lot easier to deal with.


Indiana Pacers & Memphis Grizzlies

Here's where the difference between "intriguing" and "good" comes into play. Both of these teams will win a ton of games this year. A Memphis/Indiana finals isn't the most likely scenario, but you'd be hard pressed to find a serious hoops-head that would pish posh the potentiality. Despite that contention wrinkle, it's hard to get particularly excited about either one unless you're a diehard fan. They both play slow, ugly, defensive-grit basketball that wins games instead of hearts. Neither team made any particularly drastic roster changes in the off-season, either -- that keeps the intrigue lower than it perhaps could've been. That said, each of them got a tiny bit better with the moves they did make. Luis Scola is a considerable upgrade over Tyler Hansbrough. Yes, he struggled in Phoenix last year, but he was playing for one of the least inspiring teams of all-time. Being part of a contender should provide him with some motivation. Meanwhile, Memphis flipping Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos was a fantastic move. Not only did it solve their problem of having three power forwards and one center, there's a decent case to be made that Grizzlies now have the best center in the league and the best backup center as well. This should free up some playing time for Ed Davis, whose talents were largely wasted in his first half-season with Memphis. They also signed Mike Miller, who will do virtually nothing in the regular season but provide a requisite payoff in the playoffs. Neither of the teams made huge, attention-grabbing moves. Still got better. Just... not more interesting, really.


Denver Nuggets

Everything that happened to the Nuggets this off-season leads me to believe they're going to take an enormous step backward. They fired George Karl, and they were unable to keep Iguodala. Both seemed like admissions of defeat, as though this team decided that after losing to the Warriors in the first round there was no way their current core was going to achieve anything significant. Better to just blow it up before wasting any more time, right? And yet... when I look at this team, I can't completely write them off. They could 55 games again for all I know. Or, they could win 35, and the sink to the lower depths of the Western Conference. So, really... why not have them higher than this? Because teams who are trending upward strike me as more intriguing than teams who are trending downward. One last thing: can someone can explain the Nate Robinson signing to me? Please? They already have two point guards! When that happened, I froze up for hours in frozen wonderment -- had I missed Andre Miller's retirement? Was I that out of touch? I quickly realized that was completely impossible. Every NBA writer in the world adores Andre Miller, and his retirement would have sparked about 500 tribute pieces. I have legitimately no idea how this team is going to use Nate, and that alone makes them reasonably interesting.

Los Angeles Lakers

In every sport there are certain teams who win so often that even when they're going through a rough patch they still inspire fear. Even though everyone expects the Steelers to be mediocre this year, I still get nervous when I see them on the schedule. That's how the Lakers are. I know they're supposed to be awful, but I just don't trust them. It seems like too much went wrong last year, and we're basing our expectations on what may have been an anomaly. If Kobe's gone for a huge chunk of the year, they'll be terrible, mostly because Nick Young will be their starting 2-guard. But if the Mamba shows up on opening night, this team is at least a little bit frightening. Really, 95% of the intrigue here comes from figuring out what Kobe is going to do, while other 5% is for the question of whether Cryptkeeper Nash starts getting assists again, or if he's decided that he's better off just letting Kobe handle everything.

Dallas Mavericks

When mulling over the Mavs, it's easy to think about the disappointments. They didn't get Dwight, Deron Williams, or CP3. It's easy to think of them as losers. But this team had a surprisingly decent off-season anyway! The Calderon signing represents a huge upgrade at point guard. Calderon will never be a superstar, so it's easy to forget that he's an excellent shooter and a fantastic passer. Also, THIS TEAM STARTED MIKE JAMES LAST YEAR! ON NATIONAL TELEVISION! WITH EVERYONE WATCHING! Replacing Mayo with Monta feels like a lateral move, but Monta is a little bit more exciting, and Dirk's excited to see him. Here, he gets to work with a pass-first point guard, and the presence of Dirk as the main scoring option will take a lot of the pressure off him. This team is intriguing because virtually no one thinks they can do anything more than challenge for the 8-seed. But... if their off-season moves pan out, their ceiling might be considerably higher. Also, Dirk was really amazing at the end of last season. Really freaking phenomenal. Like, the return of 2006-07 Dirk. It may have been an anomaly, but if Dirk returns to his prime form for a twilight candle-flash year, this team becomes a huge sleeper. If I had to pick one under-the-radar team in the West to surprise everybody and make the second round, I'd probably take the Mavs.

Portland Trail Blazers

Last year, the Blazers achieved one of the most unique accomplishments a team can pull in the NBA: they won 33 games despite literally not having a bench. How this team was so competitive despite having only five players that could actually play NBA basketball boggles the mind. Their core five were good, mind you, but seriously! They only had five players! How did they win so many?! Anyway, a ton of people are high on the Blazers this year, but I have my doubts. The possibility that Damian Lillard has already reached the peak of his powers looms large, LaMarcus Aldridge is constantly brought up in trade rumors, and it just seems like this team has a lot more cracks than anyone wants admit. Their intrigue comes from the possibility that Lillard hasn't hit his ceiling yet, that C.J. McCollum will be a great contributor right away, and that LaMarcus Aldridge will have a bit of a bounce-back after a slightly disappointing last year. And I'm not really positive about any of those things. But hey. At least J.J. Hickson won't be their center anymore, right?

• • •

The next part of this series comes tomorrow. Join us as we finish the list off and run down the most interesting 13 teams in the league. If you'd like to register profound disagreement with the opinions expressed herein, there's a comment section below. On the other hand, if you'd like to register BROFOUND disagreement with the opinions expressed herein... there's a comment section below, brah.

HoopIdea: The [REBUILDING] tag

tanking state warriors

Tanking exists to avoid contraction. Can we be completely upfront about that? If we didn't have a system that could bail out a team that is legitimately doing horrible, then teams that are horrible would tend to remain horrible. And teams that remain horrible are the first in line for contraction, relocation, and long-term disrespect and franchise deflation the likes of which tanking strategically can never bring them. Sure, horrible teams would have some natural pressure towards the mean and 41 wins, but in the "meantime" would also have plenty of opportunities to fall into historic and un-climbable holes.

Fundamentally, this is a worse state of affairs than what we have now. If we did something to eliminate tanking, then we might have teams competing hard for 1,230 games today, this season, but teams on the verge of historical, long-term awfulness would tire out as the lack of cushioning their bad seasons would begin to wear them down. A bad team might even over-play its best players and trade assets to the point of injury and be left with nothing, even if all the stars would have otherwise aligned. You can't simply eliminate tanking and leave no options for the teams with bare cupboards. That said, tanking is a problem and it hurts to watch those teams. And it's a negative externality: teams may pay a price when they tank, but a tanking team hurts the league as a whole more than the team loses itself.

So, after thinking on it for a while, I've come up with an interesting idea that could retain the opportunity-for-betterment that tanking brings without sabotaging league-wide play. Let's talk about the "Rebuilding Tag."

Continue reading

Weird Weekly Prompts #4: Moosepocalypse Now


This writing project is courtesy of everyone's good friend Angelo. I'll let him describe it:

A friend challenged me to a writing contest. The basic premise is that for two months, she will send me a writing prompt twice a week. 750 word response. I will do the same with her. The point is to get some experience/feedback writing a bunch of different, unusual things with odd prompts that you don't expect. Would you be interested in doing one a week for the rest of the offseason?

Fun times in Cleveland today. (Cleveland!)  He's posting his on Goodspeed and Poe, everyone's favorite blog. I'm posting my contributions (apparently!) on Gothic Ginobili, everyone's favorite basketball. No, I didn't mean to type "basketball blog." Gothic Ginobili is not a blog. Gothic Ginobili is a basketball. If you disagree with this particular assessment, you just haven't experienced this place properly yet. Here are the previous prompts:

Here's last week's prompt. (We gave ourselves a week off due to labor day weekend getting up in our business.)

• • •

PROMPT #4: You are the head of programming at the Syfy channel. In recent years, the Syfy channel has discovered the formula for made-for-TV movie success; washed up stars from 90's television shows and ridiculous monsters. Unfortunately, after the successes of films like Sharktopus, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, Sharknado, Dinoshark, Spring Break Shark Attack, Sharks in Venice, and Ghost Shark, the public is beginning to sour on films involving the aquatic predators. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find the next big thing in Syfy entertainment. The one catch? The financiers have refused to fund another film involving sharks. Without sharks, what creature will the film revolve around? What will it be called? And finally, what washed up star will play the lead?


That's sharky? That's malarky. You speak, we hear. SyFy's new intellectual property is poised to blow any residual shark-tinged viewer fantasies out of the water, and begin a new age of made-for-TV faux-horror. We know you don't want sharks. We don't either. And though our viewers would disagree, they're just in denial. You know that, we know that, end of story. Sharks are old hat. Old, profitable, fearmongering, classic, and totally unremarkable hat. Those are the kinds of hat they are. Those are not hats I would like to wear, and I am incredibly fashionable. I bet they aren't the kinds of hats you want either. Instead of those outmoded tams, we put on some thinking caps. Really classy. And we racked our brains til' the ribs were jealous. And after all that, we came up with an idea that really pops. Absolutely guaranteed to open your hearts, minds, and -- most importantly -- wallets.

Prepare yourselves... for "Moosepocalypse Now."

As the maiden installment, Moosepocalypse Now represents the first salvo in what's sure to be SyFy's next big faux-franchise. The sea is dark and mysterious, with briny depths unknown and horrors unseen by man. But that reliable spookiness is exactly why our next property can't come from the sea -- it's too expected. Too vanilla. Too boring. Instead, we're taking our cue from the frigid hinterlands, and our animal from a too often slept-on time bomb. Have you ever thought about just how easily a moose could murder you, your wife, and your infant daughter? Have you ever considered the dire threat they could pose to humanity, if only they felt the need? I assume you have not. Please peruse this list of True Moose Facts, and try to keep your creeping terrors at bay.

  • Bull moose antlers can span up to six feet wide. If sanded to jagged edges, that's a living chainsaw.
  • A fully-grown moose can weigh up to 1500 pounds. That's not a typo. If two of them teamed up, they'd outweigh most sedans.
  • At full stride, a moose can run 35 miles an hour. You can get speeding tickets at moose running speed.
  • Moose can swim at 6 MPH. Think you can get away from a killer moose by jumping into the water? Think again, fatso! (Sorry. Your weight is a sore subject. I'll keep that to myself.)
  • Despite their size, due to large hooves and deft feet, a moose can travel silently through snow, underbrush, and muskeg. Metal Gear Solid 5 -- Solid Moose Strikes Back.

And that all ignores the fact that the moose may be the strongest animal on the face of the earth -- their legs are only thin on appearance, their muscle mass is legendary. The moose race -- if they ever woke up -- represent a huge danger to society at large. And that's exactly what we plan to film. In Moosepocalypse Now, FBI agent Kelsey Fringmann (played by Anthony Michael Hall, known for his work in The Dead Zone, Edward Scissorhands, The Breakfast Club, and vanishing into the ether after The Dead Zone concluded) investigates a series of strange happenings in Maine. Gruesome bloody massacres, people with their heads crushed like soda cans, cars stomped and thrown into rivers, buildings trampled. Nobody knows what could possibly be causing it.

anthony michael hall

The first act covers both their investigation and a mirroring thread in Russia. The caretakers of Russia's moose conservatory (led by Yakov Dramadov, played by Anton Yelchin) have noticed a spate of odd behavior from their formerly docile moose population. They're getting hyped. In the movie's suspenseful middle-act, the moose revolt in Maine and Russia, leveling towns and producing large-scale destruction the likes of which no military unit has ever seen. It's revealed that Russian testing of a new chemical agent has mutated hundreds of Russian specimen into super-mutant moose warlords, 7000 pound behemoths that are virtually impervious to bullets and possess the speed and intelligence to outsmart and destroy tanks and helicopters. These super-moose agents have developed a telepathic link to the planet's moose population, inciting them to revolt and instigating a mass takeover of the northeastern United States, Canada, Russia, and Alaska.

In the movie's final act, the super-moose warlords -- now firmly in control of St. Petersburg and Moscow -- are inching closer to figuring out Russia's nuclear launch codes, with every intention of carpet-bombing the civilized world with nukes and leaving the noble moose as Earth's last remaining sentient species. It's up to Agent Fringmann and Dr. Dramadov to unite the gene sequences from two improbably similar USA/USSR testing sites to produce a moose-targeting biological weapon that will kill off the super-moose warlords and save humanity. Will they succeed? Will the moose reign be thwarted? We don't know, because we actually haven't written a script yet. What, you think we actually write the scripts for these things before we start production?

Shut UP, dude, that's ridiculous.

Coming this fall to a SyFy near you: MOOSEPOCALYPSE NOW. Don't miss it.

--  GERALDINE Q. MEGABUXX, SyFy Head of Programming