[Basketball Cards]: The Best Basketball Card (Insert) You’ve Never Heard of

With the resurgence of basketball cards recently I thought it was perfect timing to share what is, in my humble opinion, one of the coolest basketball cards ever. Technically these were just inserts in the 1969-1970 Topps set, but the illustrations are priceless. Lets hope that Topps thinks of doing some throwback version of this with current players–especially one featuring Tacko Fall that is yard stick-length [cue canned laughter].

Here’s the lowdown on the rulers inserts via Cardboard Connection:

“The Rulers were an insert in the 1969-70 Topps basketball set, landing one per pack. Due to their size, they were folded three times to fit them into the packs. Fully expanded, they measure 2 1/2 by 9 7/8″.

Although the 1969-70 Topps Rulers Basketball checklist goes up to number 24, there are only 23 cards in the set. Top players include Lew Alcindor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. Card #5 was slated to be Bill Russell. However, he retired and the card was canceled.

What’s instantly noticeable about the inserts is the caricatures of the featured players. They’re very different from the usual photos usually used on cards. If you go back to when images were painted, those took a more lifelike approach. If the NBA wanted to make a cartoon back in the day, these are the sorts of designs you might expect. They’re both bright and fun, something that’s backed up with the background colors.

The player’s name and team are noted in an oval that overlaps the image. The ruler also marks the height. 1969-70 Topps Rulers are blank on the back. Because the inserts are printed on thin paper, they can be increasingly brittle.

1969-70 Topps Rulers are somewhat overlooked today. Their non-traditional size may be a turnoff to some. And while not readily available, they can be tracked down with a little work and at reasonable prices given their age.”

1969-70 Topps Rulers Basketball Checklist:

1 Walt Bellamy – Detroit Pistons
2 Jerry West – Los Angeles Lakers
3 Bailey Howell – Boston Celtics
4 Elvin Hayes – San Diego Rockets
6 Bob Rule – Seattle SuperSonics
7 Gail Goodrich – Los Angeles Lakers
8 Jeff Mullins – San Francisco Warriors
9 John Havlicek – Boston Celtics
10 Lew Alcindor – Milwaukee Bucks
11 Wilt Chamberlain – Los Angeles Lakers
12 Nate Thurmond – San Francisco Warriors
13 Hal Greer – Philadelphia 76ers14 Lou Hudson – Atlanta Hawks
15 Jerry Lucas – Cincinnati Royals
16 Dave Bing – Detroit Pistons
17 Walt Frazier – New York Knicks
18 Gus Johnson – Baltimore Bullets
19 Willis Reed – New York Knicks
20 Earl Monroe – Baltimore Bullets
21 Billy Cunningham – Philadelphia 76ers
22 Wes Unseld – Baltimore Bullets
23 Bob Boozer – Chicago Bulls
24 Oscar Robertson – Cincinnati Royals

Buy 1969-70 Topps Rulers inserts on eBay

[NBA Draft]: Mock Draft Comparison, January 2021

A comparison of 2021 lottery picks from the January mock drafts posted by Jeremy Woo at Sports Illustrated, BR’s Jonathan Wasserman, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, and our friends at Tankathon.

 SI
(1/20)
 BR
(1/14)
 Tankathon
(1/21)
 Athletic
(1/8)
1.
DET
Cade
Cunningham
1.
DET
Cade
Cunningham
1.
DET
Cade
Cunningham
1.
OKC
Cade
Cunningham
2.
SAC
Evan
Mobley
2.
TOR
Evan
Mobley
2.
MIN
Evan
Mobley
2.
NYK
Jalen
Suggs
3.
CLE
Jonathan
Kuminga
3.
WAS
Jonathan
Kuminga
3.
WAS
Jalen
Suggs
3.
CLE
Evan
Mobley
4.
GS
Jalen
Suggs
4.
GS
Jalen
Suggs
4.
HOU
Jonathan
Kuminga
4.
DET
Jonathan
Kuminga
5.
WAS
Jalen
Green
5.
OKC
Jalen
Green
5.
SAC
Jalen
Johnson
5.
CHA
Jalen
Green
6.
CHI
Scottie
Barnes
6.
CHI
Ziaire
Williams
6.
TOR
Jalen
Green
6.
SAC
Ziaire
Williams
7.
OKC
James
Bouknight
7.
MEM
Scottie
Barnes
7.
NOP
Ziaire
Williams
7.
GS
Scottie
Barnes
8.
NYK
Jalen
Johnson
8.
CLE
Jalen
Johnson
8.
CHA
Scottie
Barnes
8.
SAS
James
Bouknight
9.
CHA
Ziaire
Williams
9.
NOP
Moses
Moody
9.
CHI
Jaden
Springer
9.
CHI
Corey
Kispert
10.
GS
Greg
Brown
10.
OKC
Kai
Jones
10.
OKC
James
Bouknight
10.
MEM
Jalen
Johnson
11.
ATL
Corey
Kispert
11.
SAC
Keon
Johnson
11.
OKC
Corey
Kispert
11.
ORL
Keon
Johnson
12.
OKC
Marcus
Bagley
12.
NYK
James
Bouknight
12.
ORL
Moses
Moody
12.
WAS
David
Johnson
13.
MEM
Moses
Moody
13.
DEN
Franz
Wagner
13.
NYK
Daishen
Nix
13.
OKC
Moses
Moody
14.
NOP
David
Johnson
14.
HOU
Sharife
Cooper
14.
DEN
Keon
Johnson
14.
NOP
Kai
Jones

References:

Bleacher Report [Jonathan Wasserman]

Sports Illustrated [Jeremy Woo]

The Athletic [Sam Vecenie]

Tankathon

[NBA Draft]: 2022 ESPN/Draft Express Mock Draft

PICKPLAYERTEAMPOS
1. NYKChet HolmgrenUndecidedPF/C
2. CHIPaolo BancheroDukePF/C
3. CLEJabari SmithAuburnPF/C
4. DETAdrian Griffin Jr.DukeSF
5. OKCYannick NzosaUnicaja MalagaC
6. MEMPeyton WatsonUCLASF
7. ATLPatrick BaldwinUndecidedSF/PF
8. CHACaleb HoustanMichiganSF/PF
9. SASJaden HardyUndecidedSG
10. MINOusmane DiengINSEPSF
11. GSWTerrence ShannonTexas TechSG/SF
12. SACJean MonteroGran Canaria U-18PG/SG
13. ORLJosh PrimoAlabamaSG
14. WASFedor ZugicBuducnostSG
15. PORKennedy ChandlerTennessee*PG
16. DENJustin PowellAuburnPG/SG
17. INDOchai AgbajiKansasSG/SF
18. UTADJ StewardDukePG
19. PHIJosiah JamesTennesseeSG
20. NOPChristian BraunKansasSG
21. BOSJoel AyayiGonzagaPG/SG
22. BKNJustin LewisMarquetteSF/PF
23. DALCaleb LoveNorth CarolinaPG/SG
24. OKC (via PHX)Moussa CisseMemphisC
25. TORJosh GiddeyAdelaide 36ersSG
26. OKC (via LAC)Trey MurphyVirginiaSG/SF
27. HOUTaevion KinseyMarshallSG
28. MIAAllen FlaniganAuburnSF
29. CLE (via MIL)D.J. CartonMarquettePG
30. LALMojave KingCairns TaipansSG

Reference: https://www.espn.com/nba/insider/story/_/id/30613411/nba-mock-draft-top-prospects-breakout-candidates-2022

To read: https://www.espn.com/nba/insider/story/_/id/30738024/nba-draft-stock-watch-breakout-high-school-stars-watch

[Trade Talk]: A Lesson Learned From the Hayward/Bagley Conundrum

Gordon Hayward. Marvin Bagley. Charlotte Hornets. Sacramento Kings. 4 very short sentences that don’t have much in common at first glance. But if we take a closer look we see that these two may be having a similar, and quite unpleasant experience.

Hayward, after being a prize free agent signing by the Boston Celtics in 2017, was set up to be the 2nd option behind PG Kyrie Irving on a revamped roster that was destined for a Championship run. Five minutes into his first game as a Celtics, he broke his foot landing on a failed alley-oop attempt and was out for the rest of the season. By the time he came back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum had moved up in the pecking order–plus Hayward had to ease back into form. At the start of the 2019 season, Hayward finally was playing like his old self and with Kemba Walker in the fold, Kyrie and Al Horford out, and Tatum and Brown continuing to improve. Fast forward a few months Hayward suffers a broken hand, missing six weeks and derailing any momentum he had, and then sprained his ankle in the 1st round of the playoffs versus Philadelphia. Coming back from each those injuries, he suddenly became fourth or fifth option–even behind Marcus Smart in many games, whose offensive production had improved post-World Championships.

Similarly, Bagley has had an injury-riddled first 2 years in the league, only having played 75 games, and never quite been able to stay on the court long enough to get into a rhythm on what was looked like an up-an-coming Sacramento Kings squad along with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. In Bagley’s rookie year he started 65 games and was normally 2nd option on offense behind Hield. But fast forward two years and a lot of underachieving, roster churn in typical Kings fashion, and the emergence of Fox offensively–plus lucking into Tyrese Haliburton in the draft, and Bagley is now 5th option all of a sudden, playing only about 25 minutes a game and little to none in crunch time. Needless to say he is quite displeased. And so is his father.

What is the lesson to be learned from these parallel stories of highly skilled players who suffered from so many injuries and were unable to fulfill the lofty expectations that their franchises and fans had for them: *Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary for all*. Exhibit A: Hayward who signed a huge deal with the Charlotte Hornets this offseason, even with the Celtics offering to pick up his player option for $34.1 million in 2020-2021, immediately went back to looking like Gordon Hayward of old, back as 1st option on a young Hornets squad desperately needing leadership and playmaking, and in the first 12 games is averaging 22/5/4. And his usage rate is back up to where it was when he left Utah (see usage splits below from NBA.com).

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So what will the Kings do? Have they learned this lesson from having watched it with Hayward and move Bagley while he still has some value? Will they stubbornly keep him and hope he accepts his role knowing the backlash they will receive if he is jettisoned after having chosen him over Hall-of-Famer Luka Doncic? Will teams want to trade for Bagley with the baggage he may bring in addition to knowing his rookie deal will be up soon?

Bagley has a lot of talent and may just need a change of scenery to reemerge as a high quality starter in the league, and teams like Charlotte, Washington, Dallas, San Antonio and Oklahoma City all look like candidates who have the trade capital and incentive to make a deal for the young PF/C.

What trade would you like to see? Here’s a couple I liked via TradeNBA:

[Quotable]: Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill on Why Ben Simmons May Actually Be Missing Time for the Sixers

Ben Simmons

In the January 11th, Posted Up pod with Chris Haynes, Yahoo Sports colleague, Vincent Goodwill comes with strong intel on what might really be happening with the Ben Simmons situation in Philly after a bizarre sequence of events where Philly was undermanned for Sunday’s game vs. Denver, placing Simmons on the injured list with a sore knee at the 12th hour, and then being fined $25,000 by the league the next day for doing so. Was he suspended by the team? Is he actually injured? Is he about to be traded for Harden? You decide:

The 76er’s decided that night [after Seth Curry being pulled from the 2nd half of game vs Knicks due to a covid-19 test that came back positive] we are going to stay in New York while everything gets sorted out. What I have gathered was that Ben Simmons left New York that evening. he left New York and went to Philadelphia. Gotta…you know…apparently probably hired a driver from a service…..the team clearly found out. Here’s the one thing that we do know, Chris, because of the restaurant protocols and everything else that certain restaurants in places that you can’t go to. There are no restaurants in New York City that are approved [by the NBA], so if a team is staying in New York City they need to stay there. Apparently Ben Simmons said, ‘nah, I’m out’…I’m headed out, got a driver, went back to Philly. I believe the team found out. And I believe team security, as you know, team security knows these things, they’re like the CIA, you know what mean? They know what the writers are doing. This is like some serious stuff. So, they find out, Ben Simmons has to come back…and ‘magically’ he ends up on the injury report the next day, not playing’. Who knows how you want to connect the dots.

[Quotable]: Zach Lowe on Steph Curry and the Difference Between Superstar ‘Floor Raisers’ and ‘Ceiling Raisers’

Very interesting question’s raised by Zach Lowe on the December 28th Lowe Post pod with 538’s Chris Herring, as they analyzed the early season struggles of the Golden State Warriors and what category of superstar player Steph Curry fits into:

The referendum on Steph is gonna be if the Warriors are just bad, right? The referendum is gonna be: LeBron’s teams are never just bad. Kevin Durant‘s teams are never just bad. Kawhi Leonard‘s teams are never just bad. James Harden is…James Harden can go to strip clubs 80 nights a year and he’s a walking playoff birth. It doesn’t matter — he’s a walking playoff birth. Why are Steph’s teams bad? If he’s a 2-time MVP, I don’t understand–why are his teams just bad? We’ve seen other players like Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have bad teams in New Orleans. So that’s the discussion that’s going to happen, and I think part of it is, lets TBD the whole thing, we don’t know if they’re bad yet. And we have seen other superstars helm bad teams before, but we don’t know if the Warriors are bad yet.

I do think there’s a lot of truth to the floor raiser vs. ceiling raiser player archetype–that Steph’s skills are such that he can take an okay team and a good team and make them a supernova, but he’s maybe even less equipped than a guy like Russ to take a bad team and make them mediocre through sheer physicality. Like, why can’t you give the ball to Steph 20 feet from the rim in the triple threat possession 50 times a game? Well, he’s a pretty skinny dude and do you want him getting destroyed at the rim to get you 14 free throws a game? Can he do that every night? I don’t know, but I do know that his version of that is: I got two people on me 30 feet from the basket and if you give me anybody who I can pass to that can make the next play, we’re going to be alright.

The Distillery’s Slightly Prestigious 2020 Podcast of the Year Award Winner

After much debate, our esteemed panel of NBA die-hards have selected The Hollinger & Duncan NBA Show as Hoops Distillery Podcast of the YearTM award for 2020, a prestigious award that is much sought after by podcasters worldwide. Throughout what proved to be a surreal and unforgettable year in this world we call earth, as well as the 2020 NBA season, with COVID-19 delaying play from March to July, the bubble, ever-changing rumors, news updates, rumors, NBA calendar changes, and a bizarre November draft and free agency, John Hollinger and Nate Duncan did a stellar job of corralling everything we needed to know and think through into a digestible and highly entertaining format. But what really sets this show apart from others is their in-depth analysis which is always at a very high level rarely heard elsewhere–and geared towards the intellectual fan without going overboard on salary cap or advanced metrics. Whereas many pods go a couple layers deep analyzing key news, team building, or trade rumors, they are able to go many layers deep looking at topics from the perspective of a fan, NBA insider, front office executive, owner, player or agent. That versatility combined with their basketball IQ and knowledge of all 30 teams is astounding and they truly have a pulse on everything that’s happening, which makes it so much easier for the many different levels of fan from all over the world to avoid doing the work it takes to attempt to stay in tune with the ever-changing NBA world. 2020 was an incredibly challenging year to cover, but also an amazing one with oodles of content once the bubble plan was in place. Bravo to these guys for going above and beyond to get the job done and help us all be informed and entertained throughout!

Superlatives for 2020:

Best pod chemistry: The Lowe Post and/or The Full 48 with the combo of Zach Lowe and Howard Beck

Most entertaining from a fan’s perspective: The Mismatch with Kevin O’Connor and Chris Vernon

Pod that you’re most likely to go back and re-listen to: Book of Basketball podcast with Bill Simmons

Podcast host with the most well-thought-out takes: Ben Golliver on SI’s Open Floor NBA Show

Pod most likely to make you feel guilty if you missed it: The Woj Pod with Woj

Best in-depth NBA draft coverage: Chad Ford’s NBA Big Board

Best Produced: No Dunks Podcast

Most laugh out loud funny: Knuckleheads podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles

[Quotable]: ESPN’s Jonathan Givony on Haliburton Pressuring Lottery Teams Not to Pick Him

I’m seeing a lot of frustrated fans asking ‘why didn’t WE draft Tyrese Haliburton?!” but they don’t seem to understand how his agent warned lottery teams NOT to pick him so he could end up in Sacramento. I think the reporting from Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) on this episode of the Lowe Post podcast may have slipped through the cracks on a lot of post-draft analysis by fans and writers alike:

People are like, how did Haliburton fall so far?!… a lot of this was by design. The consistent theme that I kept hearing in the pre-draft process from agents was, “I hate the teams that are drafting in the top 10. I don’t want my guys with any of those franchises.” And so, they were very selective with who got medicals and they were openly telling teams, “don’t take my guy, please.” So I think, that is a big reason why Haliburton ended up going 12. He… he could have gone 6, I think, had he wanted to, but he was open to, you know, “let me sacrifice $7, 8 million because I think it’s going to end up working out in the long term with Sacramento”… and Zach, how many times can you say a player wants to go to Sacramento?! It’s incredible!!”

[NBA Draft]: Mock Draft Comparison, December 2020

A comparison of 2021 lottery picks from the ‘way too early’ mock drafts posted by Jonathan Givony at ESPN/Draft Express, BR’s Jonathan Wasserman, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, and our friends at Tankathon.

 ESPN
(Oct. 2019)
ESPN
(Nov. 2020)
BRTankathonAthletic
1. CLECade
Cunningham
Cade
Cunningham
Cade
Cunningham
Cade
Cunningham
Cade
Cunningham
2. CHAEvan
Mobley
Jalen
Green
Jalen
Green
Jalen
Suggs
Jalen
Green
3. NYKJalen
Green
B.J.
Boston
Jonathan
Kuminga
Evan
Mobley
B.J.
Boston
4. MEMZiaire
Williams
Evan
Mobley
Evan
Mobley
Jalen
Green
Jonathan
Kuminga
5. PHXTerrence
Clarke
Ziaire
Williams
Jalen
Suggs
Jonathan
Kuminga
Keon
Johnson
6. WASJonathan
Kuminga
Jalen
Johnson
Usman
Garuba
Jalen
Johnson
Evan
Mobley
7. CHIJalen
Johnson
Keon
Johnson
B.J.
Boston
Moses
Moody
Ziaire
Williams
8. OKCUsman
Garuba
Scottie
Barnes
Jaden
Springer
Scottie
Barnes
Terrence
Clarke
9. ATLGreg
Brown
Jonathan
Kuminga
Jalen
Johnson
James
Bouknight
Scottie
Barnes
10. SACB.J.
Boston
Caleb
Love
Ziaire
Williams
Jaden
Springer
Usman
Garuba
11. MINCaleb
Love
Josh
Christopher
Moses
Moody
Day'Ron
Sharpe
Jalen
Suggs
12. DETIbou
Dianko Badji
Juhann
Begarin
Keon
Johnson
Daishen
Nix
Caleb
Love
13. NOPKeon
Johnson
Daishen
Nix
Greg
Brown
Corey
Kispert
Daishen
Nix
14. NYK
(via DAL)
Juhann
Begarin
Usman
Garuba
Terrence
Clarke
B.J.
Boston
Keyontae
Johnson

*Note: No mock drafts published yet from SI’s Jeremy Woo, NBA Big Board’s Chard Ford, or The Ringer’s KOC

References:

Bleacher Report [Jonathan Wasserman]

ESPN/Draft Express [Jonathan Givony/Mike Schmitz]

The Athletic [Sam Vecenie]

Tankathon

Also worth checking out:

Sports Illustrated: Jeremy Woo’s First 2021 Big Board

The Ringer: J. Kyle Mann on Prospects That You Should Know About

[Quotable]: Ryen Russillo on Adjusting Expectations for a League Without a Big 3

Great point worth taking note of from Ryen Rusillo on the recent Bill SimmonsOver/Under Mega Preview‘ pod on why we need to adjust our perspective after the last season’s shift away from the trend of franchises fighting to build super teams in order to win championships:

We spend a lot of time, if we had doubts about the Lakers, asking who the 3rd guy was all the time. If you look around the league right now, we kept asking ‘who’s that 3rd guy’s gonna be’, because of who Golden State was, then because of who the Miami Heat were, and then what Cleveland was once they brought Love in and returned there with Kyrie. There’s not really that 3 that scares you anymore. So, we kept looking at the Lakers wondering who the 3rd piece was, like it was mandatory to consider you a real title threat to have that third guy. You don’t really need it. You don’t really need it, because you’re not facing that Heat team, you’re not facing that Warriors team, or even that Cleveland team when things were right in ’16. So, it’s an important thing to remember about all of these teams chances. Stop using the ‘where’s the 3rd guy’ argument against us. And that was the lesson in the Lakers last year.