It's a holiday weekend and everybody is supposed to enjoy themselves, right? So for one weekend only, I'm going to put aside any and all justly-deserved criticism of our beloved Wonder Twins and actually list all the reasons I like them (besides them still wearing the good guys' uniform).
There are a lot of things to admire about Zach's game. First of all, simply the fact that he's playing it is something. There are a ton of 6'8" (or less) power forward tweeners ousted on their rumps every year. And it's not like Zach has a naturally athletic body. But he's not only on a team, he's leading one. Right there you know he's something special. The key to his game is his prodigious ability to score. He's very light on his feet for a guy that carries a few extra pounds, which allows him to get to the bucket on a variety of spin moves. The minute you think you've made the right move defending Zach in the post is the exact minute you're in the most danger, because he's just going to switch it up and put it over or underneath you. To this he's added an impressive face-up game out to almost 20 feet. That means he's one of a pocketful of guys in the league that you can truly say can't be shut down. He therefore commands frequent double-teams which is generally a good thing for his teammates. The other world class aspect of Zach's game is his offensive rebounding. When he thinks he has a chance to score on a put back he's magic. There is nothing more unique, pure, or instinctive about his game than his ability to grab a ball in traffic and get it back up near the hoop as many times as it takes to go in. Maybe nobody in the league is consistently better at that particular aspect of the game than him. And again, this is for a guy who's short for his position and doesn't have great leaping ability.
Unlike many hulking behemoths in the league today, Zach is a master at using his body. When he's on he'll get in between you and the play and you won't get by him. He'll bump you out on offense and be past you before you recover. He may not look like it, but he's an athlete that way. And this skill wasn't that obvious when he came into the league. It's something he learned along the way, which highlights another positive aspect: he's put in the time it takes to be good at his craft. He's not cruising by on natural gifts alone. He listened to coaches, he practiced, and he became very good at the aspects of the game he saw as most productive. All of his coaches in his first four years agreed on that. It's a big part of how he pushed Rasheed Wallace for that power forward spot and eventually made him (theoretically) expendable. The other leg to his power game is his upper body strength, which he's also worked on since he came into the league. Through the chest area few players are more powerful.
Before all is said and done Zach should be a 10,000 point guy in this league, and not everybody can say that. Other than losing a little quickness in his spins, his skills should not diminish too much with time.
Unlike Zach, Darius Miles is all about athleticism. The guy is a freak. His lateral movement on offense is just scary sick. When he goes off the dribble he gets by anybody, anywhere. He runs like a gazelle and leaps like a puma. His freaky long arms are his calling card and his dunks are nothing short of inflammatory. He has the ability to rebound the ball on one end, run the length of the floor, and finish or pass on the other. When he is able to play off the ball on defense he is capable of disrupting the opposing team single-handedly. There's nothing prettier than watching him sneak off his man and swat away a driver in the lane, unless maybe it's seeing him catch up to a fast break and elevate to send the ball flying back in somebody's face. He has a nice little turn-around post-up move that nobody (but him) can stop and he's developing a jumper from the elbow that's becoming more consistent the more he takes it. His career 47% shooting clip is pretty impressive for a guy who doesn't bank on any sure moves. His scoring average has trended upward since he entered the league. His production may not be as level as you'd want, but it's guaranteed that nobody wants to draw the assignment of guarding him.
So there you go...my ode to our problem children with nary a word of negativity anywhere. Aren't you all proud of me? Would that every day could be so positive.
Hope everyone has a great weekend.