Andres Nocioni Is Ruining the NBA (by Being So Much Better Than Everyone Else)
In his big prediction column this week, CNNSI writer Chris Mannix touted the Chicago Bulls as the team to beat for this year's NBA championship. Vegas has them at 8-to-1. If Miami comes back weaker--O'Neal one year older and Wade, let's face it, due for an injury--Chicago becomes the team to beat in the East.
Taking Ben Wallace from division rival Detroit simultaneously added interior defense and toughness while neutralizing the Pistons as a threat. Hinrich takes good care of the ball and knows when to take over games. The players have bought into Scott Skiles' half-court ball control philosophy. Plus, they only got better by picking up Tyrus Thomas in the off-season. I still don't like Ben Gordon, but whatever. The Bulls look good.
What Mannix fails to emphasize is the importance of one sleek, 6'7" Argentinian by the name of Andres Nocioni. Allow me to use a random personal note to illustrate how much I love this guy:
I play a lot of basketball video games, and I'm pretty good at fantasy mode. Using the Hornets or Celtics, I trade players I don't like, change schemes, bring down the salary cap. But I'm not one of these guys who throws the kitchen sink at the Rockets to get T-Mac or anything like that. I go after people who fit my system. Players whose values and techniques reflect the ones I cherish myself (and players I think are cool/unintentionally funny). Every season, no matter which squad I start with, I make sure I have the following guys on my bench:
Chris "Birdman" Andersen- PF (temporarily sidelined)
Jon "Bloodbath" Barry- SG
Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen- PF
And now...Andres Nocioni- SF
(You don't have to be white to be on my team, but it seems to help.)
Barry's nickname is Bloodbath because I dress him up head-to-toe in red accessories, and I shoot daggers with him from the corners. Also, I still live with my parents.
You, sir, bird among men, will be missed.
Seriously though, few players are in a better situation than Nocioni. He fits into every setup the Bulls need. Let's say Tyrus Thomas is more NBA-ready than I expect him to be, and the Bulls want to start him at the three. Nocioni instantly becomes a change-of-pace sixth man that can give the team looks Thomas can't--outside shooting, playing the passing lanes. Thirty-seven-year old P.J. Brown will definitely need to be spelled from time to time, and Nocioni provides the versatility to switch over to power forward. He can play equally well on the court with Brown, Thomas, or neither. Quick, name a forward in the East agile enough to cover Tayshaun Prince and strong enough to defend Rasheed Wallace, which might end up being important to do.
As far as I can tell, playing with Ben Wallace will work out for Nocioni either way. His rebounding, especially offensive rebounding, has been steadily improving, and it will be impacted by playing with Big Ben. Either extra attention paid to boxing out Wallace will lead to more rebounds for Nocioni, or Nocioni won't be relied upon as much on the boards and will be free to knock down open jumpers on kickouts. Other people might argue that Wallace will "teach" him how to rebound or something because he's so good at it, but those are the same people who thought George W. Bush would be a good president because he could call up his dad for advice. I guess I'm building an argument though, so, chili, throw that one in. Wallace will give him those valuable rebounding tools he doesn't already have.
You say the Bulls need hard-nosed defense and toughness? In his old Spanish league, he played the refuerzo position, which is a place on the bench reserved for an enforcer. Basically, he got paid to be a John Chaney-esque goon. Go look at his stats. Gee, why did he only play 81 games his NBA rookie season? Oh, because he got suspended for a flagrant and intentional foul on Dwyane Wade to which I wish I had a YouTube link. You know that part I wrote earlier about Miami being the main competition and Wade being due for an injury? Makes sense now, doesn't it? That's good writing, podnuh. Toughness paragraph officially proven.
Pace this: in 04-05 he poured in 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in a shade over 23 minutes a game. The next year, with a few more minutes a game, he jacked that up to 13.0 and 6.1 (Efficiency rating: +14.2). So yeah, that means if he continues this trend, he'll be putting up about 75 and 28 by the end of the decade, which would be some kind of a record if he wasn't still playing in a league with LeBron James.
You know how when a player didn't go to college his stats read "School: St. Vincent-St. Mary High"? The only thing harder than that is when you're not from the US and that line just reads "School: Argentina." Like, yeah, M.F., I learned ball on the streets of South America. That's not even anything like a school and doesn't make sense, but they put it on that line anyway. Bottom line is that's where I rep. I'll shit on you!
Furthermore, like I said, he played 81 games his first season and 82 the second, so durability isn't a question. People in Chicago will be talking about him as if he's Bill Brasky by January.
Nocioni: catch the fever.