Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Basketball IQ

For my first entry, I've chosen a basketball topic that I enjoy enough to blog about: the basketball IQ of a player.

You hear that term a lot. I think it's perhaps the single most important quality in today's NBA player. There is a fine line athletically between Kobe Bryant and Corey Maggette -- in fact, almost no difference. What makes Kobe so much better than Corey? Basketball IQ. Not to diminish ability: no doubt that there is a wide gulf between LeBron James and J.J. Barea. But, as someone wise once told me as I lined up for a bicyle race against guys who had bigger lungs and stronger legs than I did, "It's not always the strongest guy, but the smartest, who often wins the race". Let's start with that thought.


In my lifetime, the smartest players to have laced them up are Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Also possessing the NBA's equivalant of a genius IQ would be Michael Jordan, John Stockton and Tim Duncan. There are others, but let's use these five as an example of The Gold Standard. Not that these guys never committed a turnover or made a mistake, they just made fewer than the rest. These five also were able to elevate their play and thought process during the most high-pressure moments. Each of these Gold Standard players exhibited the same abilities and instincts. They all had/have that innate sense for when to pass and when to shoot. They could all make the great pass. They could all make the big shot. Not freaking out at crunch time is huge when determining a hoops IQ.

The smartest players are always able to think two or three moves ahead of the opponent, and all of these players had/have that. That's how you win a chess match, and that's how you win a basketball game. It's the reason Larry Bird was a good defender and rebounder: he was always two or three steps ahead (mentally and thus physically) of everyone else on the court. Magic and Stockton could see passing lanes that most point guards couldn't even dream about.

Jordan aside, none of these players were ever considered overly physically gifted. Duncan is not the quickest/strongest big man. Stockton was small. Magic was slow. Bird was slow and pasty. But their basketball IQ's were through the roof. Jordan knew when to give it up at crunch time to John Paxson. Magic knew when to toss the baby hook. Only Bird could have stolen that ball against Detroit. Duncan plays defense through fundamentals and thought process to the point of perfection. Opponents hated playing Stockton because they couldn't stand the way he guarded them, which on the surface never made sense because he was tiny and (relatively) slow.


Thinking a few steps ahead of your opponent is maybe the most important, but not only factor that makes up a players basketball IQ. There are many other factors, such as the ability to deal with teammates, coaches, and refs. Knowing how to practice. Knowing how to live your life away from the court so that it doesn't interfere with your play (diet, rest, focus). And of course, simply knowing the game inside and out...from the fundamentals, to being able to read and react to a defensive set, to knowing how much time is left in a possession or a quarter. A lot of this sounds basic, but you would be amazed at just how few players can think about all of these things simultaneously each trip down the court.


All of this brings us to our home team and their IQ. For years, I've preached about the collectively low basketball IQ of the Mavericks, and how that needs to be addressed. Finally, this off season, Mark Cuban agreed with me. He told us on our radio show just before the season started that one of the biggest differences between this year's Mavs and past teams would be a higher basketball IQ. Good! So, has that really been the case?

The addition of Jason Kidd two seasons ago helped this team -- a ton. I rank Kidd as one of the smartest players in today's game. He would be just below genius level, in my book. I've seen a couple of brain-fart moments at the end of big games, and that keeps me from putting him at the Magic/Bird level. But he instantly raised the Mavs basketball IQ when he joined the team. He makes Magic-like passes. He is still a good defender at age 37 because he knows where to be, knows how to play the passing lanes, and knows what his opponent is thinking. I love watching Kidd play. He gets it. On the Lewis Terman IQ scale, Kidd would fall into the "very superior" category.

Of the other regulars on the roster, I would put Dirk one level down, but still at "superior." He has grown into a very smart player. He still struggles defensively night in and night out, and there is no reason for that. That's what takes his ranking down. He's every bit as physically gifted as Larry Bird, so there is no reason he couldn't defend like Bird. Comes down to basketball IQ. Plus, I'm not always comfortable with his decision-making down the stretch, although it's much better now than it was a few years ago. But, in general, he's a smart-to-very smart player.

The next level on the Terman scale is "average." This is where we find most of the Mavs. Terry, Barea, Dampier, Gooden -- all average. I also put Shawn Marion at this level. He's a pretty smart defender, and also has a decent offensive sense. But I still wonder about the intangibles. Someone close to the Suns recently told me that many on that team say Marion routinely vanished at crunch time, especially in the playoffs. That's low basketball IQ stuff. So his grade is balanced by the good and the bad.

So are the Mavs smarter this year? Maybe, but it's not necessarily by addition. I think it's by subtraction. No Josh Howard. He's basically not played this year, and that's a good thing for Dallas. Howard has, in my opinion, one of the lowest basketball IQ's I've ever seen. The stupid passes, stupid shots, stupid birthday parties, stupid things that come out of his mouth, etc. Is there a worse player on the team to be inbounding the basketball at crunch time? No player has done more to damage the Mavericks on and off the court since the Miami series than Josh Howard. On the Terman scale, he ranks in the "feeble-minded" category. Unfortunateley, he will be a big part of this team, if healthy, going forward.

I would rather have Bob Ortegal playing 2-guard for the Mavs in the postseason than Josh Howard. At least Bob knows how the game is supposed to be played.


That does it for my first-ever blog. I'm certainly not the strongest or smartest blogger in the race, but I've got a lot of basketball thoughts bouncing around in my little brain, and I'll try to post them here from time to time. Or maybe not.

Since I've never blogged before, I don't really know how to end this. So I'll go with the old standby:

The End.


  1. Well said Jr. Making my freshman baller read it.

  2. Very nice inaugural blog entry.
    Is there anything below "feeble-minded"?
    I'd like to nominate, "Full Retard".

  3. Nice job Junior. I suggest marathon training tips for a future blog. After all, you are a BQ'r.

  4. If I drop a heinous enough comment, could I qualify for "You're an ass if.."?

  5. Not sure I entirely agree that the mavs are better off without Howard. Basketball IQ aside (which is the entire point of the blog post here), there is NO ONE on this roster that can do the things he does on the court. Athletically he is better than Marion at this point in his career, and after Marion, there is a tremendous drop off. Yes he has the occasional bonehead play, but what he brings to the table (when healthy, and that is the large caveat to everything i am saying) is unmatched by any other mav. As low as his IQ is, I'll take the occasional bonehead play in return for his ability to dominate for stretches like he does, mainly due to the lack of anyone else on the roster to compete on an athletic level like he can. Show me another option and I'll consider it.

  6. Where would you put Roddy Booby-wah on this list? (I realize he's still got a long way to go developing as a player, just curious)

  7. Good read...especially the parts about the Great Tim Duncan. It started whipping me when you got to the Mavs portion though...I hope Cuban dies in a fire.

  8. Glad you are doing this, Junior! No knock on Sports Sturm, but his stat soaked filibusters are just too dry. You really fill a needed void with this venture. GO SPURS GO!

    Sideshow Bob

  9. I have no comment on the post, but I'll post anyway just so your e-peen can grow bigger than Sturm's.

  10. If ortega gets hurt can I get some P.T.

  11. For your next post, can you hook-up with Dr. Carlton Maxwell and co-discuss what it means to be a female obliviate?

    I have a couple of YAAI given to me by two female obliviates this week I'd like to share.

    You're an ass if you leave the typewriter keystroke audio turned on and at full volume on your iPhone while you pound out a War and Peace email, all while sitting in a doctor's office waiting room with other people who have no desire to hear how fast you can type with one-finger. I don't know what's worse, you or the lady hacking up a lung next to you.

    You're an ass if you cut into a left turn lane at the last minute because you forgot to plan accordingly. And then you further assify yourself after making said left turn by coming to a complete stop 10 ft into the turn just so you can attempt to cross a double yellow, a line of cars and dually truck with a camper who obviously can't go anywhere because of the red light they have that afforded you the green. All this so you can get into a gas station to go buy your virginia slims and michelob ultras. Meanwhile the line of cars extending behind your stopped ass grows exponentially into the intersection while we wait for the light to change just to make room for you to cut through the line of cars that wasn't moving and had no space for you in the first place for your illegal ass turn. Don't mind the left-turn 50 ft ahead where you could have U-turned and not been a bother to anyone. I never should have let you into the turn lane in front of me to begin with, does that make me the root ass?

  12. This proves global warming is a lie... Thank you Junior for your hard work on exposing this scandal.

  13. I would say that your popularity as a blogger is at an all time high.

  14. I like to party... Do you like to party? Wanna party?

  15. Hey Junior, nice first post- I would like to nominate Hakeem Olajuwon for consideration. He was great with positioning and smart finesse play, taking down Ewing, Robinson, and a much bigger Shaq on his way to 2 championships. Agree fully on Howard, his biggest asset, the athleticism, continues to take hits with each injury and his now advancing age anyway. I look forward to your blog about the "evolution" of the athlete so I can loudly and definitively discredit it.

  16. Dude, I already read this. How about some fresh material? Geez.

  17. Thanks for all of the feedback. Yes, I will probably blog a time or two about running and/or cycling in the future. Other sports, too, as long as there is something that really lights my fire. Not sure how often I will post, but I'm already in my sports laboratory working on a Kevin Durant thought, as well as a Dirk theory. I think each will blow the roof off of the sports world.

  18. I can't believe the liberal sports trolls from the Left Coast still call themselves real Americans!!!!!!!!!! Go back to the Sports Communist country you came from
    WHY DO YOU HATE SPORTS-TICKET AMERICA?!!!!!ObamacARE IS THE worst thing EVER.Can't you see global warming is a scam by jet-flyin' Al Bore? LOL IMHO STFU

    George D.,

  19. Check your basketball history IQ. Paxson not Paxon.

  20. Nice work, and welcome to the blogging world.

    A suggestion:

    Make it shorter, I stopped after paragraph 4.

    Rock me.

  21. Oops! Thanks jschaff. Correction made. I'm just not used to having to spell check. I swear I read over it 100 times, too. Much easier to just open my mouth on the radio and make noise and not have to worry about grammar and such.

    And to poopsandwich (I went to school with a poopsandwich. Are you the same guy?), I'm afraid some of these might be a bit long, but that's why I started doing get all of my thoughts out. Hope you can hang in there with me.