Tribute to Phife Dawg – NBA Player Analogy Form

Tribute to Phife Dawg, who love the NBA

April, 2016
Around 10 years ago I created this logo after naming my fantasy hoops team “A Tribe Called Evil.” The good vibes from Tribe have always seemed to help, and it’s time to return the favor.

Below are 10 excellent songs from A Tribe Called Quest, with 38 players who mesh with Phife’s lyrics. Of course we’ll talk about the league’s top players (Steph, LeBron, etc.), but we’re also including youngsters who really impressed and players who exceeded expectations. These guys were the biggest difference makers of 2015-16.

Award Tour (1993)

Let’s use “Award Tour” to kick off our 2015-16 regular season “awards” of sorts. If you owned Midnight Marauders, then you probably remember its awesome cover art, which featured lots of different faces from the early 90’s hip-hop world, from Tribe’s East Coast brethren such as Chuck D, Grandmaster Flash, De La Soul and Beastie Boys, to West Coast luminaries like Too Short, Del the Funky Homosapien, Souls of Mischief and The Pharcyde.

This is an odd music video for the mere fact that Trugoy from De La Soul is covering his right eye the ENTIRE time while singing the hook, for reasons unknown. Q-Tip’s verse isn’t that memorable, although I’ve always loved the part: “Who can drop it on the angle, acute at that. So, do that, do that, do do that that that.” In Phife Dawg’s verse, we get a taste of his love for sports metaphors, as well as a message for any potential haters out there.

So for this song we talk about five guys with proven track records, who’ve been making their mark in the NBA for the past decade or more. These players warrant respect for their continued success, and if you want to try to diss them, you won’t have much ground to stand on…

[Verse 2: Phife Dawg]
Coming with more hits than the Braves and the Yankees
Living mad phat like an oversized mampi
The wackest crews try to diss, it makes me laugh
When my track record’s longer than a DC-20 aircraft
So next time that you think you want somethin here
Make something def or take that garbage to St. Elsewhere

LeBron James (13th season)
25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 52% FG, 76 GP

It’s easy to take LeBron James for granted, as he’s played at such a high level for such a long time. He just wrapped up his 13th regular season, is trying to reach the NBA Finals for an impressive 6th straight year, and if he finishes 2nd or 3rd in this year’s MVP balloting, it would mark his 8th straight year in the Top 3 (with four MVP trophies). And due to Kyrie Irving sitting out the first couple of months and Kevin Love semi-struggling once again, James wasn’t allowed to take many nights off this season.

This past season LeBron reduced his 3-point attempts in order to pump up his scoring efficiency, and he ended up averaging 25+ points on 52% FG or better for the 4th time in his career. This puts James in company with Shaquille O’Neal (9), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (8), Karl Malone (8), Adrian Dantley (6), Charles Barkley (5) and Michael Jordan (4) as the only guys to accomplish this feat four or more times (min. 50 games played). I’d say LeBron’s track record is pretty stellar.

Chris Paul (11th season)
19.5 points, 10.0 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.6 threes, 46% FG, 90% FT, 74 GP

Paul had a slow start to the season, posting a mere 17.0 points, 8.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 threes on 46.1% FG shooting over his first 15 games. Sure, those are solid numbers for the average starting point guard, but a far cry from the “Point God” numbers that we’ve come to expect from this longtime fantasy stud. The slow start was largely a result of CP3 deferring to Blake Griffin early on, but all that changed when Griffin went down with a quad injury in late December.

Once the calendar changed to 2016, Paul flipped a switch and went back to being his Point God self, posting 20.8 points, 10.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.9 treys on 47.4% FG after Jan. 1st, despite opponents not having to worry about guarding Blake Griffin for most of those games. Paul finished the season ranked 3rd in steals and 4th in assists per game, essentially the 9th straight season he’s ranked in the Top 5 in both categories (technically, he didn’t qualify for the steals leaderboard in 2009-10 due to missing 37 games), to go along with nine straight All-Star team appearances. That’s a remarkable level of consistent excellence, and there are only a handful of point guards with a longer and more prestigious track record.

Dirk Nowitzki (18th season)
18.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 threes, 89% FT, 75 GP

On the surface, Dirk’s 18.3 points per game may not seem much more impressive than Kobe’s 17.6 ppg. But while Bryant was focused on self-aggrandizing, Nowitzki was focused on leading his team to the playoffs, a goal that he accomplished for the 15th time over his last 16 seasons! Despite playing with numerous banged up teammates throughout the year and being 37 years old himself, Dirk managed to stay relatively healthy and practically willed Dallas into the postseason.

As for Dirk’s scoring exploits, he now ranks 8th All-Time in combined NBA/ABA career points with 29,491 (Moses Malone and Julius Erving rank below Dirk in terms of NBA-only points scored, but it would be a discredit to them to exclude their ABA numbers). And in terms of scoring efficiency, Nowitzki still possesses strong career marks of 47.4% from the field, 38.1% behind the 3-point arc, 87.9% from the foul line and a 58.0% True Shooting Percentage. Not to hate on Kobe, but his final career marks of 44.7% FG, 32.9% 3P, 83.7% FT and 55.0% True Shooting simply aren’t that impressive.

Paul Millsap (10th season)
17.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.7 blocks, 47% FG, 81 GP

Don’t worry, Paul Millsap is used to being overlooked and underappreciated. The undersized big man fell to the 47th pick in 2006, and he’s quietly evolved into one of the league’s most versatile and consistent players on both ends of the floor. This season his 3-point accuracy dipped, but he more than made up for it by posting career-highs in boards, blocks and assists.

The huge shot-blocking spike was quite surprising, as he went from ranking 43rd in blocks per game (.95) in 2014-15, to 9th in blocks per game (1.72) and 5th in total swats (139) this year. To understand Millsap’s toughness, durability, defensive tenacity and unselfish ways, consider that he just became the 6th player in NBA history to record 700+ rebounds, 260+ assists, 130+ steals and 130+ blocks in the same season (Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Sam Lacey). When going against Millsap, you better bring your A game.

JJ Redick (10th season)
16.3 points, 2.7 threes, 47.5% 3P (led league), 89% FT, 75 GP

Smart NBA fans know that JJ Redick is a proven winner, a sneaky scoring threat and a dangerous 3-point shooter, but did you know that Redick has now made the playoffs in ALL 10 of his NBA seasons (while playing for three different teams), and that he’s made 38.8% or more of his 3-point attempts in eight of his 10 seasons? Yes, JJ has a pretty stellar track record, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Redick did miss a few games due to back spasms in November, which happened to be his lowest scoring month at 13.6 ppg. But after that his back seemed fine, as JJ essentially had a three month hot streak from December through February, dropping 17.5 points and 2.9 treys per game on a blistering 49% 3P accuracy over a 40 game span. So while fans of opposing teams may try to diss Redick for his lack of hops or his Duke pedigree, JJ usually gets the last laugh.

Jazz (We’ve Got) (1991)

Now let’s jump to Low End Theory with this 2-for-1 special video. ATCQ had no problem embracing their jazzy roots and influence, so much so that they named this first song, “Jazz (We’ve Got).” This slow jam is a great head nodder, and it’s placement near the end of the album (track 11) was a great contrast to their frenetic album closer “Scenario” (track 14).

From Phife’s perspective, Low End Theory was his favorite album because it was his “coming out party,” since he only rapped on 4 of 14 tracks on Tribe’s debut album. All throughout Low End you can hear how hungry Phife is to showcase his skills, while letting everyone know that he’s come to “wreck shop.” How much did I love this album? Well, when I created my eBay account many years ago, I chose this as my username: low-end-theory.

Since Low End dropped in 1991, let’s start by giving props to three players who were born in 1991 and just had the finest seasons of their young careers…

[Verse 2: Phife Dawg]
I sing, and chat, I do all of that
It’s 1991 and I refuse to come wack
I take off my hat to other crews that tend to rock
But the Low End Theory’s here, it’s time to wreck shop
I got Tip and Shah, so whom shall I fear
Stop look and listen, but please don’t stare

Kawhi Leonard
21.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, 1.8 threes, 51% FG, 44% 3P, 87% FT, 72 GP

Kawhi is down to be observed and respected, but please don’t stare, because he doesn’t play for the fame and attention. Leonard plays to win, and we’ve seen the Spurs’ #1 disciple grow considerably year after year. This season Kawhi took a big step towards reaching his full potential, and the rest of the league has good reason to be scared, because he’s still just 24 years old.

After making just 1 trey per game and shooting 35% on threes in 2014-15, Leonard made it a point to improve that aspect of his game. He did so in a major way, making 1.8 treys per game and trailing only Redick and Curry in 3P% this year. Kawhi’s improved accuracy from outside made him a more potent scorer overall, and the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t hurt his stats one bit. The only negative was that Leonard still missed 10 games due to rest/injury (his 72 games played was a career-high nonetheless), but on a per game basis Kawhi was more valuable than LeBron this past season. Let that sink in…

CJ McCollum
20.8 points, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.5 threes, 83% FT, 80 GP

Let’s rewind to September, where RotoEvil subscribers should have noted the following:

McCollum will be a useful fantasy option for those three categories (points, threes, steals), but his upside is even higher if he can start to dish out more assists, attack the basket more frequently and knock down more of his free throws. His NBA career marks of 69% FT shooting and just 2.7 FTA and 2.3 assists per 36 mins are not promising, but CJ got to the foul line 6.7 times per game in college while shooting a sweet 82.5% FT, and he handed out 3.4 apg his junior/senior seasons. As you can see, not only is McCollum ready to have a breakout year, but his fantasy upside is even higher than most people think.

Fast forward to today, where McCollum just won the Most Improved Player award and helped lead the Blazers to a surprising postseason berth. CJ improved across the board, finishing Top 10 in both total threes and 3P%, Top 20 in scoring, Top 30 in assists and Top 50 in steals and FT%. After barely playing his first two seasons in the league, McCollum is now a budding star who shows no fear when going against the league’s elite.

Khris Middleton
18.2 points, 4.2 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.8 threes, 89% FT, 79 GP

At first it looked like Middleton was going to be a disappointment for the Bucks, as he scored just 14.3 points per game on 40% FG shooting over his first 18 games. But things started to click for Khris in December, and it helped that Milwaukee’s other guards missed so many games due to injury (Michael Carter-Williams, Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo and Greivis Vasquez all played in fewer than 55 games), forcing Middleton into major minutes (7th in the league at 36.1 mpg).

But Khris improved in all facets of the game, from being a primary scorer (20+ ppg in both January and February), to drawing more fouls and converting (around 4 FTA per game on 89% FT), to creating offense for his teammates (nearly doubled his assists with 4.2 per game) while being a menace on the defensive end (17th in steals per game, including a 23 game stretch where he racked up 64 steals). It’s pretty crazy to think this is the same guy who scored just 13.2 ppg as a junior in college, but it shows how Middleton’s hard work is paying off.

Buggin’ Out (1991)

Since “Excursions” (track 1) was essentially a Q-Tip solo, “Buggin’ Out” (track 2) was Phife Dawg’s first song on Low End Theory, and it’s a banger. This is easily one of my favorite Tribe songs and I’ve decided to pair it with Stephen Curry, the league’s reigning two-time MVP. Why is this a good fit? Well, Phife immediately proclaims to be the “Five Foot Assassin” in this song, just like Steph is the “Baby-Faced Assassin.” And Phife proclaims “styles upon styles upon styles,” and if you wanna diss him, “you still don’t know the half.”

That sure sounds and smells like “Spicy Curry” to me, on the court at least. Despite Charles Barkley trying to label Steph as one-dimensional (CB: “He’s just a great shooter”), real basketball observers can see how he’s so much more than that (more on that below). And anyone who had the #1 pick this year and chose Anthony Davis should also take note, as Curry was clearly the MVP of 2014-15, and likely would have replied, “you still don’t know the half” if you told him that you planned on taking AD instead. Because the 2015-16 version of Curry was twice as nice as last year, and those who opted for Davis paid a painful price.

[Verse 1: Phife Dawg]
Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this?
The five foot assassin with the roughneck business
I float like gravity, never had a cavity
Got more rhymes than the Winans got family
No need to sweat Arsenio to gain some type of fame
No shame in my game cause I’ll always be the same
Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have
You wanna diss the Phifer but you still don’t know the half
I sport New Balance sneakers to avoid a narrow path
Mess around with this you catch a size eight up your {ass}

Stephen Curry
30.1 points (led league), 5.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.1 steals (led league), 5.1 threes (led league), 50% FG, 45% 3P, 91% FT (led league), 79 GP

Yes, Curry’s 3-point shooting this season was at a ridiculously high level. His 402 made threes was a whopping 40% increase over his previous record of 286 treys, and many of his makes were from well behind the 3-point line. It got to the point where the only way Steph could impress us was by banking in or swishing these beautiful half court shots.

But SC30 is more than just a shooter, he’s a ball-handling wizard who controls the tempo on offense, he’s an unselfish leader who’s great at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, he’s as crafty and intelligent as Chris Paul + Steve Nash in their primes combined, he’s a tough-minded warrior with the strongest will to win and the utmost confidence, and as Coach Nick points out in this excellent breakdown, Steph is an elite defender as well (styles upon styles upon styles). Even his towel tossing was bonkers! Steph is basketball’s golden child, and we’re blessed to bear witness.

Isaiah Thomas
22.2 points, 6.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.0 threes, 87% FT, 6.6 FTA, 82 GP

Phife Dawg always embraced his short stature, just like the 5’9 Isaiah Thomas, who became a 1st time All-Star this season. Rather than shying away from contact, Isaiah has always liked attacking the basket (the five foot assassin with the roughneck business), and this year he earned more free throw attempts than guys like LeBron, Lowry, Lillard, Melo, Wade and Curry. Thomas finished 11th in scoring and 15th in assists per game, leading a potent Boston offense that ranked 3rd in pace, 5th in scoring and 6th in assists.

Durability is important and Thomas played in all 82 games this year, which was icing on the cake for all of his fantasy owners. One must also be able to adapt, and after struggling in his first two playoff games this year (12-36 FG), Thomas erupted for 42 points and 5 treys on 12-24 FG. While guys like Damon Stoudamire, Michael Adams, Terrell Brandon and Calvin Murphy all had strong careers, Isaiah Thomas is on pace to become the greatest player ever under six feet tall (listed height). I’m guessing that Isaiah made Phife proud, and vice versa.

Jrue Holiday
19.5 points, 7.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 1.4 threes, 87% FT after Jan. 1st

Holiday fell far in many drafts due to concerns about his leg injuries, which limited him to just 40 games played in 2014-15 and 34 games played the year before. Sure enough, Jrue missed several games early on and played under 21 mpg in November, but his minutes started to ramp up after Christmas. The Pelicans desperately needed more from Jrue, due to Tyreke Evans being ruled out for the season and Eric Gordon, Norris Cole and Anthony Davis also missing numerous games.

So his minutes and touches continued to rise, and if were patient with him, Holiday returned excellent value from January through March. Unfortunately his season was cut short due to an orbital fracture, limiting him to just 65 games played. But otherwise it was an encouraging season for Jrue, whose bugged out eyes kind of remind me of Phife.

Check the Rhime (1991)

“Check the Rhime” is another Tribe classic, with several layers of sweet sampling. The back and forth intro sets the stage for Phife to let his words rip, and if “you say his style is wack that’s where you’re dead wrong.” Phife Dawg’s battle rapping background is quite evident in these lyrics, and yet he’s still spreading peace and positivity (to those who aren’t wack punks).

One line that stands out is, “I love it when you wack MC’s despise me,” as it makes me think of star athletes who are despised by many fans, yet they seem to relish in that hatred. Kobe Bryant was like this, and James Harden is too. I’m a big-time Harden hater, and yet I respect and acknowledge that he’s a really good offensive player who stuffs the stat sheet.

[Verse 2: Phife Dawg]
You’d be a fool to reply that Phife is not the man
Cause you know and I know that you know who I am
A special shout of peace goes out to all my pals, you see
And a middle finger goes for all you punk MC’s
Cause I love it when you wack MC’s despise me
They get vexed, I roll next, can’t none contest me
I’m just a fly MC who’s five foot three and very brave
On job remaining, no home training cause I misbehave
I come correct in full effect have all my hoes in check
And before I get the butt the jim must be erect
You see, my aura’s positive I don’t promote no junk
See, I’m far from a bully and I ain’t a punk
Extremity in rhythm, yeah that’s what you heard
So just clean out your ears and just check the word

James Harden
29.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 2.9 threes, 86% FT, 10.2 FTA, 38.1 minutes (led league), 82 GP

I’m not sure how positive Harden’s aura is, but he does have a “middle finger” attitude and plenty of fans outside of Houston who despise him. But the dude knows how to score, as he ranked 2nd behind Steph in scoring average, 4th in threes per game, and 1st in both free throws made and attempted this season, while making over 84% of his freebies for a solid 6th year in a row. I think he’s a poor team leader and a lazy defender, but James did rank 6th in assists and 16th in steals as well, while playing in all 82 games and leading the league in minutes played. Not bad Harden, maybe you “ain’t a punk” but you still seem self-absorbed.

Can I Kick It? (1990)

ATCQ’s first album was People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, and one of the highlights was “Can I Kick It?” The song was recorded in 1989 when the guys were just 19, with a young Phife Dawg reppin’ an Atlanta Braves jersey and a Georgia Tech hat (in the Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson days). Members of De La Soul can also be seen in the video, with the guys literally kicking around the word “it.”

Figuratively, point guards are asked to penetrate and “kick it” to their teammates, while acting as a floor general (studio conveyor) to keep things flowing. So for this track we examine a few point guards who exceeded expectations in 2015-16, helping their teammates get easier baskets while providing leadership on the court.

[Hook: Phife Dawg]
Can I kick it? (Yes, you can!) (x7)
Well, I’m gone (Go on then!)
[Verse 2: Phife Dawg]
Can I kick it? To my Tribe that flows in layers
Right now, Phife is a poem sayer
At times, I’m a studio conveyor

Rajon Rondo
11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds, 11.7 assists (led league), 2.0 steals, 72 GP

There were plenty of reasons to be wary of Rondo heading into this season (injuries, age, declining stats), especially after his bad breakup with the Dallas Mavs. But if you had asked Rajon, he probably would have told you it was the perfect scenario for him. The Kings gave Rondo a fresh start, and he got to play for a coach (George Karl) who loves to push the pace and give his point guards freedom to make plays, while teaming up with one of the league’s most talented big men (DeMarcus Cousins). Rajon was also well aware of all his haters and skeptics, plus the fact that he could earn a big contract this summer if he had a strong season. So Rondo stuffed the stat sheet for Sacramento, leading the league in assists (his 11.65 apg the highest average since Rondo also averaged 11.70 in 2011-12), ranking 7th in steals and grabbing more rebounds than any point guard not named Westbrook. If you rolled the dice on Rajon on draft day, you got a superb value pick.

Kyle Lowry
21.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.1 steals, 2.8 threes, 81% FT, 6.4 FTA, 77 GP

Last summer, JJ Redick had an epic reply to this offseason Instagram photo posted by Kyle O’Quinn: “Bro is that Kyle Lowry???” Indeed, the former version of Lowry was always pretty stocky, but he slimmed down last summer in preparation for 2015-16. Even in preseason you could tell that the new and improved Lowry was ready for a strong year, which is why we named him one of our leading “Career Year Candidates.” And Kyle delivered big-time, setting career-highs of 21.2 points (14th), 2.1 steals (4th), 2.8 threes (5th) and 6.4 FTA (16th), while leading Toronto to their best record in franchise history (56-26).

Kemba Walker
20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.2 threes, 85% FT, 81 GP

Charlotte’s offense was much-improved this season (9th in Offensive Rating, up from 28th the year before), and Kemba Walker was their unquestioned leader. His scoring climbed from 17.3 to 20.9 ppg (17th) and his 3-point shooting improved immensely, going from 1.4 threes on 30% 3P to 2.2 threes per game on 37% 3P. And despite the additions of Nic Batum and Jeremy Lin, his assists didn’t fall. Walker also missed just one game due to injury and often scored clutch baskets for his Hornets, leading Charlotte to their best record since the 1999-2000 season. Kemba finished 2nd for the Most Improved Player award and was a Top 20 fantasy player this season, easily outplaying his Average Draft Position (ADP).

Ish Smith
14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals in 50 GP with 76ers

The often overlooked Ish Smith has already played for NINE different teams over his six NBA seasons. Smith went undrafted in most leagues, but he was a hot pickup early on due to the Pelicans’ injury woes, then once Norris Cole got healthy and Ish’s playing time plummeted, Smith was sent back to the waiver wire in most leagues. But right before Christmas the 76ers traded for Ish, and he immediately became Philly’s starting point guard. On the 76ers he received over 32 minutes per game, allowing Ish to rack up steals and assists, with solid points and rebounds as well. He may be small in stature and has bounced around the league, but Smith plays with lots of confidence and poise, and there’s a steady flow to his game.

Scenario (1991)

Low End Theory ended on an energetic high note thanks to this posse cut featuring Leaders of the New School. Phife Dawg kicks “Scenario” off with a Bo Jackson rhyme and a *Batteries Not Included shout out, both perfectly relevant for 1991. The Di-Dawg informs us that he’s put in the work, and now it’s time for him and his crew to get PAID!

For many listeners this song was an awesome introduction to Busta Rhymes, whose booming voice and unique delivery helped him stand out. We have a player comparison for Busta below, but for this song we focus on players who are unrestricted free agents this summer, and are sure to “get the loot” after having strong seasons. Also peep the remix!

[Verse 1: Phife Dawg]
Heyo, Bo knows this, (What?) and Bo knows that (What?)
But Bo don’t know jack, cause Bo can’t rap
Well what do you know, the Di-Dawg, is first up to bat
No batteries included, and no strings attached
No holds barred, no time for move fakin’
Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon
Brothers front, they say the Tribe can’t flow
But we’ve been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe, so
Sleep if you want, NyQuil will help you get your Z’s, troop
But here’s the real scoop
I’m all that and then some, short, dark, and handsome
Bust a nut inside your eye, to show you where I come from
I’m vexed, fuming, I’ve had it up to here
My days of paying dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (Yeah!)

Kevin Durant
28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks, 2.6 threes, 51% FG, 39% 3P, 90% FT, 6.9 FTA, 72 GP

Durant bounced back in a big way this season, scoring 28+ ppg on 50% FG or better for his 3rd time in the past four seasons. This puts KD in scoring company with Michael Jordan (6), Wilt Chamberlain (6), Shaquille O’Neal (5), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5), Karl Malone (4), Adrian Dantley (4), Larry Bird (3) and Alex English (3) as the only guys to accomplish this feat three or more times (min. 50 games played). For the season Durant ranked 3rd in scoring, 9th in threes per game, 3rd in FT% and 5th in free throws made per game. He also pulled down a career-best 8.2 boards and blocked 1.2 shots, trailing only Jerami Grant and Giannis among small forwards.

Most importantly Kevin sat out just 10 games, three of which came during the final two weeks of the season. That’s a big step up from the 55 games he missed last year due to foot and ankle injuries. And it came at the right time, as KD is entering free agency (and unlike LeBron, there’s a decent chance that he’ll leave his current team). Right now Durant is trying to lead OKC back to the NBA Finals (where they lost to Miami in 2012), but very few believe the Thunder will knock off BOTH the Spurs and Warriors. Can he help them pull off the impossible?

Al Horford
15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.1 threes, 51% FG, 80% FT, 82 GP

When Horford signed a contract extension in 2010, it was for $60 million over five years, or $12 million per season. But now that the salary cap is soaring and Big Al is in his prime, look for Horford’s salary to roughly DOUBLE when he signs a new deal. The veteran is coming off his most well-rounded season yet, thanks in large part to refining his shooting touch and expanding his range. After making a mere 21 threes over his first eight seasons combined, Al drained 88 treys in 2015-16, showing how he’s adapting to today’s 3-point happy game.

Horford also shot a sweet 80% from the foul line and handed out 3+ helpers for the 2nd year in a row, differentiating himself from fellow free agent big men such as Drummond, Howard and Whiteside. And he was especially valuable this season because he played in all 82 games while getting 30+ minutes per night, something that only four other players accomplished.

Hassan Whiteside
14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.7 blocks (led league), 61% FG, 73 GP

Much like how Busta Rhymes stands out in “Scenario,” when you watch the Miami Heat play Hassan Whiteside makes you take notice. Thanks to his ripped physique, super long wingspan and impressive athleticism, Hassan is evolving into one of the league’s more dominant centers. Whiteside plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he seems to release some anger every time he throws down a dunk or blocks a shot. And Hassan had plenty of dunks and blocks this season…

Whiteside finished 4th in dunks with 148, just behind Nerlens Noel for 3rd place (DeAndre Jordan was 1st, Dwight Howard 2nd). And on the defensive end he easily led the league with 3.68 rejections per game, becoming just the 3rd player since 2005 to average 3.6+ bpg (Serge Ibaka, 3.65 in 2011-12 and Marcus Camby, 3.61 in 2007-08). There are some questions about his lack of maturity and focus, but make no mistake, this big man is going to bring home the bacon this summer.

Marvin Williams
11.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 1.9 threes, 40% 3P, 83% FT, 81 GP

It seemed like Williams was on the downside of his career after scoring a meager 7.4 points per game on 42% FG shooting in 2014-15. But Marvin put in serious work in the offseason and bounced back with perhaps the finest season of his career. Knowing that he had to become a more potent 3-point threat, Williams launched from behind the arc with much more confidence in 2015-16, setting career-highs in both threes made (152) and 3P% (40.2%), well above last year’s marks (95 threes, 35.8%).

The veteran forward also pulled down a career-best 6.4 boards per game, despite playing far fewer minutes than he did in his early days with Atlanta. Interesting timing for Marvin’s turnaround, as the upcoming free agent is now set to cash in for being an experienced “glue guy” who can stretch the floor and won’t complain or make too many mistakes. Williams went undrafted in most fantasy leagues, but he turned out to be one of this year’s most pleasant surprises.

Kent Bazemore
11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.5 threes, 82% FT, 75 GP

There wasn’t much hype around Bazemore before the season began, which is why he was one of our “Deep Sleepers for 2015-16,” where we suggested:

The Hawks don’t have an obvious replacement for DeMarre Carroll, but it’s looking like Bazemore is their best option, especially with Sefolosha at less than 100%. Kent’s long arms and athleticism allow him to defend bigger players, and he’s an emerging 3-point threat (36.4% 3P last year) who will get more shot opportunities this year. After three preseason games, Bazemore is averaging 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, .7 blocks and .7 threes in just 20 mpg. Watch Baze closely if he goes undrafted.

If you were paying attention and either picked Bazemore at the end of your draft or added him early in the season, you were rewarded with sneaky valuable fantasy stats. Before the All-Star break KB averaged a solid 12.4 points, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.6 treys on 45% FG and 83% FT shooting. Those are Trevor Ariza-esque numbers, but at a much cheaper price tag. Yes, Bazemore did fade a bit down the stretch, but given his age (26) and career progression, he’s set himself up nicely to get PAID this summer.

Oh My God (1993)

Busta Rhymes makes another memorable appearance here, despite simply repeating, “Oh my God, yes, oh my God” over and over. But his hook works, and the horn and bassline samples keep this song fresh and flowing nicely. Unfortunately, the “funky diabetic” line is all too real, as Phife was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1990, needed a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008, and died on March 22, 2016 due to complications related to his diabetes.

But on this track Phife calls himself “Mr. Energetic,” and in his prime he never sounded lazy or hesitant on the mic. His rhymes were full of swagger and his voice full of conviction, and I can think of a few players who fit this description. These guys have relentless energy on the court, so let’s call them the Phife Dawgs of the NBA.

[Verse 2: Phife Dawg]
Trini gladiator, anti-hesitater
Shaheed push the fader, from here to Grenada
Mr Energetic, who me sound pathetic?
When’s the last time you heard a funky diabetic?

Russell Westbrook
23.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.3 threes, 81% FT, 7.2 FTA, 80 GP

Given how frequently we see Russell Westbrook throw down ferocious dunks, it’s surprising that he only had 69 slams (less than half of Antetokounmpo) in 80 games played this year. But in terms of ferocity per dunk, Westbrook is the unquestioned league leader. Blessed with a relentless motor, Russ flies around the court at max speed, only hesitating to fool defenders into thinking he’s ready to slow down. And when Russ doesn’t have the ball he’s easily the league’s top rebounding guard, thanks to crashing the boards with his awesome combination of intense desire and perfectly conditioned fast twitch muscle fibers.

Westbrook’s 18 triple-doubles this season were the most since Magic Johnson had 18 in 1981-82, and before that Wilt Chamberlain. And for the naysayers who’ve always criticized Russell for shooting too much, he did a fine job of quieting that noise by dishing out a career-best 10.4 assists per game (2nd behind Rondo), while also improving his ast/to ratio considerably (2.44, up from 1.96). To improve his efficiency RW cut back on his long twos, raising his 2-point percentage from a poor 45.7% 2P in 2014-15 to a rock solid 50.3% 2P this year. Westbrook is already a proven Top 5 player, and he’s still getting better.

Draymond Green
14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 threes, 49% FG, 39% 3P, 81 GP

In today’s NBA, the ultra-versatile Green is the ideal big man, capable of guarding any player on the opposing team while fulfilling a variety of roles on the offensive end. Not only did Draymond lead all forwards in assists (a title long held by LeBron), but he was 7th among ALL players in that category! The unselfish Green is always looking to hook his teammates up, either with precise passes or solid screens. This season we also saw him become a serious 3-point threat, improving from 34% to 39% from behind the arc.

As for Dray’s toughness and value on the defensive end, words and stats wouldn’t do it justice. And don’t forget about Dray’s durability, as he’s missed just seven games over his four NBA seasons. So how many players in NBA history have recorded 750+ rebounds, 500+ assists, 100+ steals, 100+ blocks and 100+ threes in the same season? ONE, Draymond Green. Just like Phife he’s a unique individual, and to say that he has lots of confidence and energy would be an understatement. Listen to Dray’s recent interview with Bill Simmons to get some deeper insight into Green’s relationship with Curry and the Warriors’ team mentality.

Will Barton
14.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 threes, 81% FT, 82 GP

Casual fans don’t know who Will Barton is, because they probably don’t care about the Denver Nuggets. But when Will’s on the floor he’s easy to notice, thanks to his long and lanky frame combined with high energy plus athleticism. Barton has a bounce to his step and plays with lots of swagger, and at 25 years old is entering his prime years.

Will played in all 82 games this year, but he started just once. That doesn’t seem to bother him, because Barton scored 15+ points off the bench a whopping 38 times this season. He finished 4th in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting (behind Crawford, Iguodala and Kanter), but was surely penalized for playing on a bad team. Barton is ready when called upon, and if extra scoring is needed that’s not a problem. Case in point Will’s December, where he averaged a sweet 20.8 points, 6.8 boards, 3.1 dimes and 2.3 treys in under 33 mpg, while shooting 47% from the field and 83% from the foul line. Quite simply, if you drafted Barton in the last round or swooped him up early in the season, you got one of this year’s finest “bang for your buck” guys.

Electric Relaxation (1993)

If you’re interested in “exploring the DNA of music,” you should definitely check out For example, this page quickly shows us how the drums from this Brethren song and this epic Blue Note Ronnie Foster song come together to create the chill vibe for “Electric Relaxation,” which provides the perfect backdrop for Q-Tip and Phife to talk to some honeys. Right away Phife lets it be known that he doesn’t discriminate when it comes to skin color or ethnicity.

As such, for this song we focus on international players who made a big impact this season. These guys are all pretty young and most play “above the rim,” so their futures look bright and you’ll definitely want to keep a close eye on them.

[Verse 1: Phife Dawg]
I like ’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian
Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation
Told you in the jam that we can get down
Now let’s knock the boots like the group H-Town
You got BBD all on your bedroom wall
But I’m above the rim and this is how I ball

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece/Nigeria)
16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4 blocks, 51% FG, 80 GP

Antetokounmpo’s parents moved from Nigeria to Greece in 1991, and Giannis (born Dec. 6, 1994), didn’t even start playing basketball until 2007. Less than a decade later and he’s already one of the league’s top players. He plays “above the rim” too, as his 141 dunks this season was 6th best, highest among all guard/wing players. Giannis got off to a solid start (16.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, .9 steals, 1.1 blocks in November), but that was merely the tip of the iceberg…

With his more traditional guards (read: 6’6 and under) missing numerous games due to injury, coach Jason Kidd started to increasingly lean on Antetokounmpo as his #1 playmaker, a move that unleashed “The Greek Freak” and allowed his talent to really shine through. His post All-Star numbers were staggering: 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.9 blocks, 51% FG, especially considering he’s only 21 years old. And there’s plenty of room for improvement, as Giannis barely shot over 72% from the foul line and was 28-109 on threes (under 26% 3P). Once this guy refines his shot and becomes say, a 35% 3P and 77% FT threat, the rest of the league will be shaking in their Nikes.

Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)
14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.1 threes, 84% FT, 72 GP

Once Phil Jackson selected Porzingis with the 4th pick in last summer’s draft, he was immediately placed under the microscope for Knicks fans and many other fans around the world. Kristaps began to impress right away. In November he showed how useful his 7’3 frame is around the rim (9.9 boards and 2.1 blocks over 15 games), then in December/January he really showed off his 3-point shooting ability (1.3 treys per game on 37% 3P over 31 games). He did struggle a bit down the stretch (under 40% FG in March), but it was still a very encouraging season for the 20 year old. Given his shot-blocking ability and sweet shooting touch, Kristaps’ fantasy ceiling is very high. New York lovingly embraced Porzingis this season, and I’m sure that Phife Dawg approved as well.

Evan Fournier (France)
15.4 points, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.0 threes, 46% FG, 40% 3P, 84% FT, 79 GP

Orlando missed the playoffs for their 4th straight season, and they dealt with numerous injuries to key players. But this young Magic squad showed solid progress (35-47 record, up from 25-57 the year before), and Fournier ended up being their most reliable and consistent player. The 23 year old started the season strong (17.8 points, 2.5 treys on 42% 3P in November) and was awesome down the stretch (17.9 points, 1.9 treys, 49% FG after the All-Star break), while missing only three games all season. France has produced some very good NBA players (Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Ian Mahinmi, Rudy Gobert), and Fournier is keeping that tradition alive.

Gorgui Dieng (Senegal)
10.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.2 blocks, 53% FG, 83% FT, 82 GP

Dieng had a slow start, posting just 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in under 21 mpg over his first 17 games. As a result Gorgui was dropped in some leagues, and smart managers pounced. Sam Mitchell finally came to his senses and started to give Dieng more playing time, and from December 1st on GD averaged an improved 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in nearly 29 mpg. But the bulk of Gorgui’s fantasy value comes from his ability to grab steals and block shots on defense, while posting strong shooting percentages. How solid was Dieng in these areas? Well, he was the only player to grab 80+ steals and block 80+ shots while shooting over 50% from the field and over 80% from the foul line this season, and he cleared all four benchmarks with room to spare.

Nikola Jokic (Serbia)
10.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 50% FG, 81% FT in 55 starts

Jokic made die-hard NBA fans take notice after his Nov. 18th performance against the Spurs, in which he amassed 23 points, 12 boards, 3 blocks and no turnovers, while sinking all six of his free throws and his only 3-point attempt. Nikola was pretty up and down during the month that followed, but around late December he started to play more consistently, earning a permanent spot in Denver’s starting lineup. Jokic isn’t a big-time rim protector (he didn’t block a single shot in 43 of his 80 games played), but he has a nice handle, a soft shooting touch and he loves to pass the rock. Nikola had 22 games this season where he handed out four assists or more, despite playing 28+ minutes in only ten of those games. That’d be impressive for ANY big man, let alone a 21 year old rookie from Serbia. Given his size and refined skill set, Jokic could have a long Vlade Divac-esque career ahead of him.

Dear Dilla (2014)

In this interview from 2012, Phife talks about the profound impact that Jay Dilla had on his life. A couple years later he released this heartfelt tribute song to his fallen friend, featuring a lovely Dilla-inspired beat and some great visual effects. In “Dear Dilla,” we hear Phife reminisce about the good old days, while voicing his displeasure over the current state of music.

But from a basketball standpoint, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Phife was NOT dismayed by today’s current crop of young players in the NBA. There’s no way he missed Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine battle it out in one of the finest Slam Dunk Contests ever last February, and surely he found some of these other youngsters to be fun and refreshing as well. The following players were 20 years old or younger when the 2015-16 season began, and they all made a major impact in fantasy leagues.

[Verse 2]
Beatwise, you still that cat which most shit be measured
I’m that MC known to share his displeasure
With the route the game was taking, how mundane things have gotten
You know music on a whole, nevermind just hip hoppin
I’m in the club three hours and change
DJ spinnin Top 40, we be hearin all day

Karl-Anthony Towns
18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 54% FG, 81% FT, 82 GP

Despite being 19 years old on opening night, Towns played like a veteran from the get-go. Possessing excellent size, polished skills and a sweet shooting touch, KAT became just the 8th player in NBA history to average 18+ points and 10+ rebounds while shooting over 52% from the field and over 80% from the foul line (joining Anthony Davis, Pau Gasol, David Lee, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, Larry Bird and Bob Lanier), and was the first guy to accomplish this feat in his rookie season.

Towns also ranked 11th in blocks per game (1.68) and 6th in total blocks (138) thanks to playing in all 82 games, and only Drummond and Westbrook recorded more double-doubles. Karl-Anthony was one of this season’s finest value picks, and he’s played his way into 1st round consideration for 2016-17.

Myles Turner
12.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks over final 42 games

Turner was quiet for the first half of 2015-16, as he broke his thumb in Indiana’s 9th game of the year and didn’t start playing meaningful minutes until mid-January. But if you picked Myles up in time, you were rewarded with solid big man stats the rest of the way. Considering Turner didn’t even turn 20 until late March, he was awfully impressive for a teenage big man.

Myles has a nice face up game and smooth shot release, suggesting that his 73% FT mark as a rookie may improve and he’ll possibly become a legit 3-point threat moving forward (3-14 on threes this season). But Turner is also very long and athletic, and he was one of only 10 players to post a block rate over 5% this past season while swatting over 50 total shots. For comparison, Turner’s 5.1% rookie block percentage is slightly lower than the career marks of Anthony Davis (5.7%) and DeAndre Jordan (5.3%), but higher than the career marks of proven shot-blockers Dwight Howard (4.4%), Andrew Bogut (4.3%) and Robin Lopez (4.2%).

Devin Booker
17.4 points, 3.5 assists, 1.5 threes, 85% FT in 51 starts

Booker played sparingly to start the season, and for good reason, as he was the youngest player in the league (turned 19 on Oct. 30th). But after Eric Bledsoe suffered a torn meniscus in late December, Devin got a chance to prove himself. The Suns started to give him all the minutes that he could handle, then Brandon Knight went down and Booker was suddenly their #1 scoring option.

As one might expect, D-Book had some shooting struggles (just 40% FG and 29% 3P after the All-Star break), but he posted a robust 22.4 points and 4.9 dimes per game in March and did a great job of attacking the basket, drawing fouls (5.6 FTA in March) and converting around the rim (64% for the season on shots within 3 feet). Booker gained valuable experience and provided his fantasy owners with a big boost down the stretch, and given his young age, this kid’s future looks very bright.

Jabari Parker
16.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 50% FG over final 48 games

Many fantasy owners shied away from Parker on draft day, as he had ACL surgery in December of 2014 and was still recovering to start this season. Sure enough, Jabari sat out 6 of Milwaukee’s first 11 games and averaged just 23 mpg in November. But that number rose to 27 mpg in December and after Jan. 1st his minutes restriction was lifted, as Parker played 35+ mpg the rest of the way.

Jabari still isn’t much of a 3-point threat (just 9-35 on threes this season), but perhaps that’s a good thing, as he prefers to slash to the basket for high percentage dunks instead (only 6 players had more dunks than Parker in 2015-16). It’s also important to note that Jabari was able to thrive as Milwaukee’s #3 scoring option after the All-Star break (ahead of Greg Monroe). With Middleton proving to be a potent shooter/scorer and Giannis evolving into a stud playmaker, Parker can let the game come to him, and he’s talented enough to take advantage.

Aaron Gordon
11.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .9 steals, .7 blocks in 37 starts

Fantasy owners had high hopes for Gordon to start the season, but new Magic head coach Scott Skiles wasn’t ready to give Aaron major minutes right away. So Gordon posted just 7.2 points in 20.3 minutes in November and a mere 5.5 points in 16.5 minutes in December, which prompted him to get dropped in many leagues. But Aaron’s minutes started to climb in January, and those who added him found themselves a sweet free agent pickup. With Tobias Harris and Channing Frye being shipped out of town in February and stud big man Nikola Vucevic getting hurt in March, Gordon was able to become more of a scorer down the stretch, posting 12.0 ppg on 48% FG after the All-Star break. The youngster’s shooting touch is still shaky and he should be capable of better steal and block rates, but there’s a lot to be encouraged by.

Zach LaVine
17.3 points, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.4 threes, 47% FG, 44% 3P, 81% FT in 33 starts

LaVine got a few starts early in the season due to a Ricky Rubio knee injury, but Sam Mitchell quickly moved him back to the bench, insisting that Zach play the backup point guard role. This limited LaVine to just 10.3 points in 21.7 minutes over the month of January, with less than one trey per game. But patient owners were rewarded, as Zach played major minutes in February, March and April, while getting more time at his natural shooting guard spot. As a starter he shot threes with excellent accuracy (2.4 treys on 44.4% 3P), which is very encouraging given his freakish athleticism. Zach also reduced his turnovers considerably, a positive sign.

Both Gordon and LaVine are so young and have so much raw talent that they’re oozing with upside. They need more time to refine their skills and harness their abilities, but 2015-16 was a step in the right direction, and basketball fans will be giddy when these kids start realizing their full potential. If it sounds like we’re referring to them as young mutant superheroes still learning their powers, well, DID YOU SEE what they did in this year’s dunk contest?!?

Nutshell (2016)

Both Phife Dawg and J Dilla are no longer living, but thankfully they made one last gem together, and “Nutshell” was released just after Phife’s passing. Here we see the Five Foot Assassin still in peak form, pulling no punches with his poetry. Verse one has some nice lines, such as, “Unrelenting, unscathed, uncontrollable. Unpleasant one, problem with me? Feelin’ is mutual.” But verse two is where Phife opens up a bit, as he talks about having to refocus and redefine himself, which is what happens when you’ve been in the hip-hop game (or anything, for that matter) for 30+ years.

So for our last song we connect the dots to players who had to re-establish themselves this season, for various reasons. They’ve clearly had to reanalyze their game, while working hard in the offseason to improve and re-emerge.

[Verse 2]
Peep the rebirth of the reborn as I rebuild
Reconnect with this rebel, redefining raw skill
I realign, readjusted, refocused
Reanalyzed what’s real versus bullshit
Had to refuel, reactivate to re-emerge
Re-evaluate, recalculate, bitch I return
Redefine, re-energize, get reacquainted
Read ’em kids incorporated, roots we made it

Paul George
23.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.9 steals, 2.6 threes, 86% FT, 6.5 FTA, 81 GP

Over the past couple years, no NBA player had a harder comeback path than Paul George. If you recall, on August 1st, 2014, while scrimmaging in Las Vegas, George suffered a compound fracture of both bones in his lower right leg, one of the most gruesome and painful looking basketball injuries ever filmed. He did return last season to play in six games, but we all know that wasn’t the REAL Paul George.

It’s hard to imagine how many hours of physical rehab and training Paul had to endure in order to play at an elite level again, or the emotional pain and mental hurdles involved. But George got through it, and as part of his re-emergence, changed his jersey number from #24 to #13, becoming PG-13. And it didn’t take long for PG-13 to re-establish himself, as he averaged a whopping 29.5 points and 3.8 treys on 49% 3P shooting in the month of November, to go along with 8.2 boards, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals. He dropped a 48 point, 8 trey game on the Jazz in December and a 45 point gem in March on the Thunder. Sure, George had a prolonged shooting slump in between, but the Pacers played him a lot of minutes given that he sat out nearly the entire 2014-15 season. Paul George is back to being an All-Star and he’s about to enter his prime years (turns 26 in May), and that’s really all that matters.

Nicolas Batum
14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 threes, 85% FT, 70 GP

Nic Batum was born and raised in France, and lived there until the Portland Trail Blazers drafted him at the age of 19. He played seven seasons for the Blazers, establishing himself as a well-rounded swingman who could do a little bit of everything. But he also battled nagging injuries from time to time, and scored just 9.4 ppg on career-lows of 40% from the field and 32% from three in 2014-15. So the Blazers traded him to Charlotte (for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh) last June, a major cross country and cross conference move for Batum.

But Hornets coach Steve Clifford welcomed Nic with open arms, telling him he’d be a focal point of their offense. So Batum redefined himself this season, posting career-highs of 14.9 points and 5.8 assists per game, while shooting better from behind the 3-point arc and having to guard their opponents’ top wing players most nights (due to Kidd-Gilchrist’s injuries). He helped Charlotte make the playoffs and win 15 more games than the season before, and is now due for a huge payday in free agency.

Jae Crowder
14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.7 threes, 82% FT, 73 GP

Crowder was a 2nd round pick in 2012, and 2nd rounders have to work just a little bit harder to stay in the league. It may also take them longer to find their NBA niche, but once guys like Jae find it, they’re great at returning new and improved come October. Let’s get reacquainted with RotoEvil’s preseason thoughts on Crowder:

When talking about Jae Crowder, a great place to start is his jersey number. Because when you’re an NBA player and you wear #99, you’re making a statement that you’re a little different than everyone else, which Jae seems to embrace. Now I haven’t watched football in a long time, but I sure as hell remember how intimidating Warren Sapp was in his #99 jersey. And Crowder’s chiseled 6-foot-6, 235+ pound frame is very reminiscent of a physical football player.

After playing low key minutes off the bench for Dallas, Crowder finally saw major rotation minutes after being traded to Boston last year… One area where Crowder shines is on defense, as he has the strength and bulk to match up with many power forwards, but the quick feet and low center of gravity to stay with many swingmen. He also has quick strong hands, as evidenced by his 1.6 steals per 36 minutes for his career. When playing only 16-20 mpg those steals aren’t very useful, but if Crowder earns a 28+ mpg role this season (quite possible), he’ll quietly crack the Top 40 steals leaderboard.

#99 best showed off his ability and potential in this game 3 playoff matchup vs. LeBron and Cleveland. Crowder played 31 minutes off the bench that game, scoring an efficient 16 points on 5-6 FG shooting, 2-3 threes and 4-5 from the foul line, to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Sure, LeBron still posted 31 points and 11 boards in 42 minutes that game, but Crowder didn’t back down or show any fear when they were matched up with each other, similar to Jimmy Butler in the 2013 playoffs (before JB’s Most Improved Player campaign last year). That type of performance is what earned Jae a fresh $35 million contract in the offseason, and it’s the perfect stepping stone for him to have a Career Year in 2015-16.

Well did ya listen to us? Crowder posted career-highs across the board, and not only did he rank 14th in steals, but he was one of only 10 guys this year to grab 120+ steals while draining 120+ threes. The others are mostly stars (Curry, Kawhi, Harden, CP3, Lowry, George), showing how far Crowder has come.

A Tribe Called Evil

Eric Wong – Played in 23 fantasy basketball leagues this season
1st place: 8 times, 1st in 8 of 23 leagues = 35%
2nd place: 7 times, 1st/2nd in 15 of 23 leagues = 65%
3rd place: 4 times, 1st/2nd/3rd in 19 of 23 leagues = 83%

Basketball, STATS and hip-hop history
Why not more articles from me, it’s a mystery
During the NBA season I’m focused, watching Curry, Klay and Bogut
Plus 29 other teams cuz I love this game, I’m not a homer
Always watching hoops, managing my fantasy teams properly
Since I invest fees to make more money back, they’re viewed as my properties
So how did my teams do this year? I blew ‘em out the stratosphere
Over $50K in prize winnings, fantasy b-ball profiteer
To be clear I do it for the challenge, the scrilla comes second
But makin’ a livin’ from watching hoops is pretty nice I reckon

So big ups to Curry, Kawhi, Giannis and Westbrook
Draymond, Lowry and Towns, McCollum maybe my best look
Early pickups like Bazemore, Will Barton, Jae Crowder
Made winning some of these leagues hah, a no doubter
1st or 2nd place in over 60% of my leagues
While helping RotoEvil nation also achieve
Mostly success, sometimes pure domination
Causing our competition lots of frustration

But let’s take it back to Phife and that Tribe Called Quest
I could always bump their music when feeling too stressed
Mourned Phife Dawg’s passing, but guess what news next hit me
Found out we were living in the same damn city!
It’s a pity we never met but I saw him perform in ’98
And A Tribe Called Evil shall live on to celebrate
Phife’s toughness and swagger, his originality
Plus his vast hoops knowledge, our commonality
The Di-Dawg impacted so many, such as Scott Van Pelt
Felt the need to pay tribute, yes this is heartfelt
Eternally grateful, because you blessed my life…

Rhyme in Paradise Phife!
Like what you see? Email me:

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4 years ago

You’re nothing short of brilliant brother. We’ll pour out a lil liquor for Phife while watching one of these Warriors games and blasting his beats. Beeeeeeooooooup!!!

Donald S.
Donald S.
4 years ago

DOPE! I’ve only been following you for about 3 or 4 years but THAT was your best piece!!!

4 years ago

Great write-up E – one of the coolest articles I’ve ever read!